#The French Painting That Shook The World
Chloe: The French Painting That Shook The World!!! (Educational Art Video)
Amnesia (Book Three)(Part Three)
It had been very empty. Maeryn had no idea what to do with herself. When Felix told her Alec was dead, she was empty. But she had noticed something else as well. She no longer felt loyal towards Aro as she used to feel. She guessed because he was dead and now the Volturi had no longer a leader. As a matter of fact, it no longer existed . Her whole coven was gone in just mere hours. She was one of the remaining ones alive, but she knew she was hunted on. She had to be alert, but at the same time she wanted to end it all. Perhaps it was alright if the Romanians came back for her, to kill her off. At least then she would be with Alec, even real hell would be better than staying here without him. Empty.
“Maeryn, come on. You have to hunt.” Felix said. Maeryn just laid on her side like she had been for the past three weeks. She never moved. The thought of hunting made her throat dry and burning with the desire, but she couldn’t feel the mental energy to get up. “If you hunt I will have a surprise for you. Come on. It will be fun.” Felix said. Maeryn sighed, her first sigh in three weeks, and finally sat up.
“Fine. Let’s go then.”
Drenthe had many forests, and many ways for people to get lost and not be found. So they started the hunt. They soon found two hikers with their dog. A woman and a man. The thing was, Maeryn didn’t feel that comfortable killing anymore. She took a closer look and realised these two humans looked a lot like her birthparents. The woman had thick, black, curling hair that fell beautifully around her pale, oval face. Her eyes where as green as the forest around her and she was thin and short. The man on the other hand was tall, he had a slightly tanned skin and had deep blue eyes. His hair was graying but streaks of his dirty blond hair was still visible. He was well build, maybe slightly overweight but due to his tall figure, his extra weight was well spread over his body. And then there was their little dog. A beautiful, blond Labrador. His coat was shiny and had different shades of yellow. His beautiful brown eyes showed he loved life, and he was curious for the different smells he smelt on the trees and the sounds he heard. Of course his hearing was much better than a human’s hearing, so he had heard the deer a couple trees away, but he didn’t even think twice about leaving his humans.
“Ready?” Felix whispered. But Maeryn couldn’t do it. She shook her head no and ran off. Why she couldn’t do it was simple. It would feel like killing her parents all over again. Of course she knew this wasn’t her parents, but they looked so much alike that she couldn’t even bear the thought. She came into a meadow and collapsed onto the ground, her arms hugging her body, sobbing dry tears. Dry tears for Alec, and for her parents she had totally forgotten about the past eleven years. She had learned that humans are worthless. They had no greater purpose than to feed on. And for a very long time she believed it. But now, she was doubting herself. She made the decision to at least no longer kill innocent humans. Only the trash. No one would miss them. No one.
Felix ran to her and gently placed a hand on her shoulder.
“Are you alright?” he asked. The same phrase he had been repeating lately, trying to help her at least continue her life the best way she could without her mate. Felix never had a mate so he wasn’t very familiar with the feeling himself. Of course he had seen the impact it had on Marcus but he never could imagine the feeling of losing your other half.
“They looked so much like my parents, Felix. So much. Even the dog resembled my old dog. I just couldn’t. I simply couldn’t.” she said. Felix sighed.
“Come on then. Let’s go to Amsterdam and grab some pimps and junkies. How about that?” he said. Maeryn nodded her head and followed Felix to the Dutch city of sin.
Maeryn groaned in satisfaction as she dropped the pimp on the ground, completely drained from his blood.
“Feeling better?” Felix asked. Maeryn nodded her head.
“Much better. So tell me, what is the surprise? You have my full attention.” Maeryn
said as Felix and her made their way back to the cabin.
“Well, how about a little revenge?” he asked, a huge smirk plastered on his face. Maeryn looked at him confused.
“What do you mean by that, Felix?”
“I mean that I happen to know that Vladimir and Stephan are here, in the Netherlands. They are in Rotterdam trying to gain more vampires for their new forming reign.” Felix explained. Maeryn stopped dead in her track and smirked.
“Let’s go then.”
Maeryn followed Felix and soon a huge mansion came in view. It was white, with a black roof. Ivy was growing on the sides of it, leaving the windows open. There was a huge fountain before the entrance and a fence that protected the property. Maeryn and Felix climbed over the fence and quietly made their way into the mansion. Maeryn felt her energy flowing back through her body. The thought of killing her mate’s killers was exciting and the thought of their dead was very satisfying indeed.
Felix killed the guards before they could alarm the owners and Maeryn quietly climbed into the attic. The attic was empty, apart from a few very old paintings in paper wrap to protect them from the damage of time. Maeryn walked around the mansion and found that the owners where not home yet. So Maeryn decided to be dramatic and grabbed a bag of blood from the fridge and poured it in two of the remaining wine glasses.
“Better have a drink while we wait.” She said as she gave Felix a glass. Felix chuckled and took the glass, quickly taking a sip.
“Hmm, AB. And quite a good one that is. No traces of alcohol, nicotine or drugs.” Felix said. Maeryn took a small sip and the cooled liquid quenched her thirst slightly. She indeed could taste that the blood was really clean. It was delicious. She quickly took another sip and sat down on the sofa chair. She crossed her legs and waited patiently while playing with her glass, occasionally taking a sip.
Then the moment came where the two vampires had been waiting for. Stephan and Vladimir walked in, ready to attack. Without a doubt had they smelled the two hostile vampires on their property and they were very cautious. None of them possessed any special talents and Maeryn was sure to kill them quickly with her gift.
“Welcome home gentleman. Drink?” she asked as she poured another bag of blood into the last two remaining wine glasses. The two vampires where frozen in their place.
“Oh come now. I first like to have a small chat over a drink. We have much to discuss.” Maeryn said as she stood up, grabbed the two glasses and held them out for Vladimir and Stephan to take. They hissed slightly and Felix cracked his knuckles.
“If you’d like to live, you will take that drink and sit down.” He said threatening. Vladimir and Stephan shared a quick look before they took the glasses and sat down on the couch, opposite of the sofa. In between the sofa chair and the couch was a coffee table made of glass. “So, now that we can have a polite conversation, I would like to ask you a few questions. First off, where are Tanya and Kate?” Maeryn asked, taking a small sip of blood from her glass.
“They are dead. We disposed of them. Weird ones with their weird diet. They are quite a shame to the vampire world.” Vladimir said. “Hmm. Too bad.” Maeryn said and she let a short silence fall between them. The tension was clearly feel able in the room but no one dared to break it yet.
“Who where your allies besides them and who survived?” Maeryn asked after a few seconds.
“Basically everyone who also was there the 31st of December back in 2006. Except for the Cullens. They refused to play a part in this war. I guess they never did any of us any harm, so we let them be.” Stephan said.
“For a coven of that magnitude, they are sure very peaceful. They just wished to live in peace.” Vladimir said, admiration gleaming slightly through his words. So Cullens had no part in her mate’s death.
“How many survived?” Maeryn asked very calmly.
“Almost no one. The amazon clan went back to their home afterwards, along with the Irish coven and French coven. Gerratt is still out there.
We have no idea what happened to him. He fled after Kate died, after first putting his head back on his body, of course.” Stephan said quickly, feeling the threat growing. Maeryn nodded her head and took another sip of her blood. The two vampires on the couch hadn’t even drank a single drop of blood. They knew that the chances of survival was slim.
“Hmm. It is sad actually.” She said calmly. Stephan and Vladimir shared a look of fear before Vladimir softly asked.
“That your answers where not really satisfying. Meaning I will make your death as slow as I possibly can.” Maeryn stood up and dropped the glass, spilling blood on the white, fluffy carpet that laid beneath the coffee table. Vladimir and Stephan hissed and jumped up, but Felix grabbed both of them and made them kneel down, just like Kate made Alec kneel down when they killed him. Maeryn smirked and watched the two vampire’s struggle under Felix’s strong grip.
“So, who will have the honour to live the longest? After all, you will go down in history as the last, remaining member of the Romanian coven. Exciting, isn’t it? Knowing that a coven who survived for centuries is about to end, for good. Oh, how I am going to savour this moment for the rest of my existence.” A small, girlish giggle escaped Maeryn’s lips. But it did not sound pleasant at all. No. It sounded evil. This was the giggle of a woman who was about to avenge her mate. “Well, let’s see. Stephan you held me down while Vladimir here ripped Alec’s head off. So I guess it only seems fair that he will get the honour, don’t you think?” she asked in a sugar sweet voice. Stephan growled and tried to break free of Felix’s grip but to no avail. Maeryn smirked.
“Now them. Let’s really get down to business, shall we Stephan?” Maeryn said as she held her hand out in front of her, her hand open. She felt her rage fill her body, making it feel warm as her gift slipped through it to the palm of her hand and fingertips. She locked her gift on Stephan’s body and kept him there. Very slowly, she closed her hand, feeling his life flow out of his body and into her hand. Stephan was barely alive, cracks forming all over his body and face. Maeryn felt his life in her palm, and she slowly closed her hand completely, crushing his life and his body. All that there was left was a pile of ash.
Maeryn smirked, feeling very satisfied as she turned to Vladimir. The one who had done the deed and had ripped her mate’s head off. He looked at the pile of dust that had been his most loyal companion for centuries just mere seconds ago. And he knew that it would not take long before he too would lay in a small pile of ashes. Vladimir realised in that moment that he had killed the wrong mate. Maeryn was still fairly young, but the love she had for Alec was amazingly large. Vladimir knew that there was nothing he could do about it and closed his eyes. He imagined that he would soon lay back in his beautiful mate’s arms. The one that had been taken away from him many centuries ago. In the last battle with the Volturi before only Stephan and he where left. Vladimir slowly felt the cracks forming, he felt them breaking every limb in little pieces. It hurt really bad. Not even vampire venom was this painful. He could feel every little crack from, and then the most painful moment of his life happened, but shorty is was all black around him as his body was no longer more than a pile of ashes.
Maeryn felt really satisfied and Felix smiled.
“Come on. Let’s go. Oh, and remind me to never get on your bad side.” Maeryn laughed.
“So are you sure? We could travel together if you’d like?” Felix asked. Maeryn had decided she wanted to see the world for her own. She wished to be alone for a while. Maybe a few decades.
“I am sure Felix. I need this. Besides, I will make sure to contact you as much as I can.” She promised. Then, Felix did something he had never done before. He carefully hugged her small frame. Maeryn was shocked but slowly responded the hug by wrapping her own arms around his waist.
“Be careful out there. I
will miss you little one.” He said as he brotherly placed a kiss on top of her head.
“I will miss you too.” She said before letting go. She gave him one last smile and then she ran off. Off to see the world for her own.
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we’ll see if this even goes through because tumblr loves to send asks into the void but here we go .
i just wanted to say that i absolutely adore your headcannons and your writings ! i check your blog daily and i read your nedcan fics like theyre the daily newspaper . no like , it’s a legit problem , i come back to those fics like they’re a drug . but anyways , keep doing what you’re doing man , best of luck to you .
😭❤️️😭❤️️😭 THANK YOU. Oh my god. I have had this in my box so long but I wanted to put some new nedcan out with it! Since that's your favorite. Without further adieu. Oh and this is an astrolabe.
Of all the reactions Matt has had to gifts over the decades, the panic is new. He usually gets a painfully earnest grin for the yearly tulips, that were, for the first 40 years, always as surprised as genuine. The leatherbound set of Dutch language classics of literature he's gifted piece by piece for birthdays and other minor holidays are always taken with a thank you, excitement to take another piece of the artistic puzzle from Jan, that Matt has normally had to pry from taciturn hands in three am conversations after too much jenever. They take up a proud space on Matthew's official study in the capital, visible in photos.
Matthew takes gifts of food, sex, and warm drinks with a pleased hum and grateful thanks. An electric blanket was a good one too. Warming him up is about the same as melting the polite anglo veneer with foreplay. Sex was a great thank you. There have been other things too. Stupid material gifts. A radio, a coat, hand warmers, vases for the tulips Jan always brings. But now Matt is trembling, an antique astrolabe in his pale hands, eyes looking watery.
"Do you not like it?" Jan asked, his heart beating in his throat because Matt doesn't tear up. He's had his head slammed so hard into the ice he cracked his hockey helmet and skull and not shed a tear. His heart regularly tries to tear itself from his chest with a referendum and there are no tears. Jan wants to snatch the instrument back, but Matt's holding it like a baby bird in his hands. He wonders if he's stumbled on some imperial trauma, induced being raised as the second son of Arthur the maritime power of an empire.
"You said no big gifts!" Matt blurted. His face is fucking devasted.
"I didn't spend anything!" Jan said, trying to close his hands around Matt's but he tugged away, shoulders going high around his ears, the fierce, dramatic kind of embarrassment Matt saves for the little things that normally humiliate him, like being human or tying his bootlaces in public.
"It's four hundred years old!" He said and it sounded like he was losing the fight to not cry.
"So are you!" Jan said. This year's tulip festival was no particularly round number, but it was 400 years since the settlement of Tassoudac, and he thought it had been sweet.
"I know!" Matt's breath was fast, not quite a hyperventilation but that too quick in-and-out of anxiety. "Jan!"
"What?" Jan demanded. "What, Matt?"
"You made this?"
"The year you were born,"
And then the gulping breathes heaved out in a halfassed sob. "That's too much,"
Jan sighed and tried to explain himself without using math. Matt was challenging like that. No amount of "I just thought it would look nice on your desk, symbolic but also very professional,"
There were more tears, and one actually worked its way down his cheeks. Jan scrubbed it away with one figure and Matt shuddered again. Really, he was too sweet for someone who could slapshot a man to death.
"Goddamnit, Matt," Jan said.
"I got you a BONG," Matt and gave a quiet half a howl. The astrolabe wobbled in his hands. "You don't smoke half as much as I do! But it was pretty, and you said no big gifts! So I thought it would be fine. I'm so sorry,"
"I'm sure it's beautiful! I love good glassware! My queen goes crazy for all the 'odd vases' I've got sitting on the mantel," Jan chuckled.
"I got you a bong," Matt looked like he wanted to bury his face in his hands. His ears had gone a pinkish red that was steadily turning purple as his blood pressure rose. "Oh my god I'm such a moron, I got you a bong,"
"Hey," Jan said, pulling him close. "You know I love it when you don't spend money,"
"I spent money!" Matt said miserably. "But I didn't spend any thought,"
"Matt, it's your big birthday," Jan said, pulling a hand back into Matt's curls in the way that calmed him, Matt looked up, still emotional but tears trying up. "Not mine."
"It's not like we even know that's my birthday," Matt said. "It's a stupid anniversary to celebrate,"
"I don't think so. Hmm. Fifteen ninety-nine," Jan said softly, finger-combing between spirals absently. That had been a good year all things considered. "It was my second expedition to Indonesia, I came back with six hundred thousand tonnes of pepper, half as much in cloves and nutmeg each. Pietersz the Elder painted 'Poor Parents, Rich Children.' and Balen the Elder painted 'The Judgement of Paris,'"
"Is that the one with the cherubs and boobs?" Matt asked. Jan chuckled.
"Yes," He said, smiling. "Balen was Flemish but his tastes were very... French,"
"So are yours," Matt said, sticking a tongue out at him like a five-year-old. A rare playful moment from him. Jan snorted at him. Matt wasn't wrong. He was healthier than he'd been in years now and between the bronze-gold hair, fine features, and pink cheeks from the wine they'd gotten into, Matt looked like some idealized French vision of a peasant. But not a real one, one of the ones in paintings of fantasy worlds where no one had died of fever or starvation, crops never failed and everything was cream, honey, and summer strawberries. He looked at the astrolabe in Matt's hands. "Do you know how to use it?"
Matt shook his head. "I know thats the 'mater,'" He said, pointing to the disk of the astrolabe. "And thats the tympan, and the rete," He fiddled with it gingerly, afraid of breaking it.
"Good," Jan said. "That shows the scales. It'll tell you how far north you are,"
"Oh," Matt said, voice thick with emotion. "Thats... fitting,"
"It is. And you know, I made it in 1599, but I was still using it the first time I came to the New World,"
"You had to get yourself a piece of the action," Matt sighed, the old frustrated sigh of having been born how he was, a snow shadow of Alfred. "Everyone did,"
"America wasn't for me," Jan said and craned his neck to kiss Matt's hairline. "Canada though... eventually turned out perfect for me."
Matt flushed and protested like he was too delicate for praise just now. "Jan,"
"And that took me to you for the first time. You should have it. You're the north. It might bring you somewhere you need to be someday. Like how it brought me to you,"
"Jan---" Matt sighed and turned on his side on the couch, resting a cheek against Jan's clavicle, cool even through his shirt. "God I---"
"Yeah," Jan said, taking the astrolabe from Matt's hand and putting it on the table and kissing him. Matt's mouth was quickly heading south and words didn't have to pass between them for the meaning of their ten thousand tulips to be clear as dawn. "Me too,"
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His Muse (Part 2)
Once again, thank you @quantumlocked310 for your stunning moodboards 😍
Pairing: Painter!Hvitserk x Plus Size!Model Reader
AO3: amyponders || Spotify Playlist
Chapter word count: 2.3k
Fluffy request sent by @artemiseamoon. I really really hope you enjoy this thing I cooked up 💗
Inspired by these paintings: “The Three Graces” by Rubens & “Danaë” by Klimt + Orazio Gentileschi + Artemisia Gentileschi
A/N: This Hvitserk and the one from Spin the Bottle are cousins I SWEAR. Thanks to this pendeja @xbellaxcarolinax for being the best beta
Warnings: slow-burn (so slow the one-shot turned into a two-shot lmao), fluff & romance, light angst, body image/insecurity issues, nudity (*gasp*), mildly sexy times near the end, possible bad French + my nerdy Art Historian side going wild + me sucking up to Rubens + disregarding “The Three Graces” painting’s actual location lol (it’s @ El Museo del Prado, in Madrid, in here it’s wherever you want it to be, but don’t tell my Grad Advisor)
Taglist: @xbellaxcarolinax, @flowers-in-your-hayr, @solinarimoon, @flokisdaughter, @alexhandersen-marcoilsoe-fandom, @punkrocknpearls, @pieces-by-me, @belovedcherry, @riverkloss @grimeundglow, @quantumlocked310, @lordsexmachine, @mrsalwayswrite, @istorkyou
Over the course of his semester, you visited Hvitserk’s house frequently, at least two or three times per week. Being nude in his presence became easier. Or rather, you became accustomed to his intense gaze cascading over your frame to study every corner of your body.
It was also becoming easier to ignore the sparkle in his eyes that he couldn’t hide well enough. There was something about your sessions that often made him anxious and it turned his cheekbones to fire no matter how many times you stripped naked in front of him. But shrugging off all of those things had become second nature by now.
His brothers came to say hi often and they slipped out of the garden obediently whenever Hvitserk was about to start painting. The pay was good, and the company was even better. Plus he always got top marks whenever he painted you. He was so happy about it that he’d started calling you his muse.
Not once had he made an attempt to touch you inappropriately. Instead, he liked to make conversation while you two spent the hours together. Hvitserk was an expert at making you laugh out loud which made it hard to hold a pose but he was patient and docile around you. He simply smiled proudly and waited for you to compose yourself — as if he were in no rush to finish.
Sometimes, after your modeling session was done for the day, he’d tell you to stay and have dinner with his family. And other times he’d invite you to come along with him to watch a film or drive aimlessly around town. So over time, you two had formed a gentle friendship.
Things were going well career-wise for you as well. You scored photoshoots on the regular and even a semi-professional catwalk. But eventually, Hvitserk asked you to renounce your other modeling jobs, offering you three times the pay for half the work you did elsewhere — and your company on certain social events — which you accepted dumbfounded.
Rubbing shoulders with wealthy art collectors, gallerists, and art connoisseurs was a different world altogether but it was pleasing to see them immediately recognize you and sing praises to you, Hvitserk’s muse.
Everyone, even his siblings —“Hey, Hvitserk, your muse just arrived!” — called you that now.
•• ━━━━━ ••●•• ━━━━━ •••• ━━━━━ ••
“How did you end up in this fancy art school?”
“I never told you?”
You shook your head slightly trying not to break the pose.
“Well, as you know, my dad’s an entrepreneur. Mom’s a socialite, although I’m not sure that qualifies as an official job.” He chuckled as he impastoed creamy paint on the canvas with a blade. “Ubbe’s a corporate lawyer. Bjørn’s a marketplace trader and Ivar’s a competitive swimmer. I’m sort of the odd one out. Never had a career before this. Just the artistic kid straight out of rehab and into art school.” Hvitserk looked away from his canvas and to your face to take in your reaction but it was carefully subdued.
So it was drugs. You always had a feeling something traumatic had happened in Hvitserk’s life — his family seemed to often skirt around the subject — but he never told you and you never asked.
“Mom suggested it.” He shrugged. “I think she just wanted to brag to her friends about having a painter son...”
Having interacted with his cultured and stylish mother on numerous occasions, you were under the impression that she would absolutely suggest something like that. Aslaug seemed like the kind of woman who would be proud of having an artist as a son. While many students faced the opposite problem, Hvitserk was well-off enough that the riskiest profession seemed like a hobby. His money afforded him that luxury.
“...which I guess is better than crying over a dead son,” he muttered more to his own ears than yours but you still heard it.
Even though you were there to be observed and not the other way around, you used the moment where Hvitserk scraped away at his canvas, momentarily absorbed in the task, to take a long good look at him.
Something about his face told you he had lived a lot, gone through a lot. Nobody that looked that serene had arrived at that state without going through their fair share of hell. Despite how young he was and the kindness that seemed to inhabit him, the faint presence of his demons still lurked behind the stormy green of his irises.
And yet, you could see a lingering sweetness to him in the way that he spoke and moved — which revealed a gentle soul. He was making a conscious effort to do better, to let his good side win. And so, he was nothing short of a contradiction.
“Are you comfortable in that position?” Hvitserk nudged his chin towards you. “We can take a break, doll.”
“It’s... o-kay. I can hold on for a while longer.” You had your legs bent to the side as you sat on the edge of the fountain. Your spine was contorted in a tense unsupported position and the rough hard stone was torturing your buttocks. But he really needed to finish this painting before today’s session was over so you didn’t complain.
“Do you think you can put your hand in front of your breast?”
You tried to follow his orders.
“No, not both breasts, just one.” Hvitserk patted his paint-crusted hands against his apron. “Can I touch you for a second?”
“Like so.” The airy grasp of his fingers was so light that if you weren’t following his movements with your eyes, it would make you doubt he was even touching you. Hvitserk set up your arm the way he wanted it and walked back to his easel. Some long minutes later, he sighed and tilted his head. A smile was etched on his lips and he had that look that you adored seeing on his face.
Not only did it make your stomach flutter but it was a tell-tale sign that the painting was done.
“Can I see?”
“Of course. It still needs some light retouching but... come here.” Hvitserk presented his color-stained hand to you, fingers gently wiggling in the air. You entwined with his hand the hand that wasn't pressing up the bathrobe haphazardly to the front of your curvaceous body.
As you stood next to him, he sat down on the stool he so often ignored and you gravitated towards his body. Without stopping to think too much about it, you reclined an elbow on his shoulder blade and set your knee on top of his thigh.
His left arm quietly surrounded your naked hips to pull you in completely and you sat down on Hvitserk’s lap to admire the version of you done by his masterful brushstrokes.
The action felt natural, easy. Your bare skin welcomed the texture of his clothes; the sensation was thrilling. And Hvitserk’s taut muscles were still miles softer, warmer, and more welcoming than the other places he had you sit on for hours.
“What do you think?”
“Only because you are.”
Your head snapped to peruse his loving face. Hvitserk looked absolutely drunk in you and your heart pounded against the jail of your ribs as if it was angry that it couldn’t escape its prison. You smashed a hot-blooded kiss to his cheek that he grinned over.
And from then on, whenever he finished painting you or even if he simply just wanted your opinion, he would pull you into his lap. And each time, his breaths would be deep and steady, and his grip on you unwavering.
•• ━━━━━ ••●•• ━━━━━ •••• ━━━━━ ••
“What do you mean by ‘go elsewhere’, Hvi? I thought Ivar was coming down to observe and try his hand at sketching again?”
“Oui, ma petite, mais ton copain veut t'emmener dans son lit aujourd’hui.” Ivar appeared out of nowhere and joined the conversation speaking perfect French and wiggling his eyebrows for no good reason other than bragging, probably. [Yes, my little one, but your boyfriend wants to take you to his bed today.]
“Hvitserk n'est pas mon copain...” Saying those words aloud hurt a bit so you scrunched your forehead and smiled confusedly to conceal it. “Et qu'est-ce que son lit a à voir avec nos séances de peinture?” [Hvitserk is not my boyfriend… And what does his bed have to do with our painting sessions?]
Ivar bobbed his head in approval. “Ton français n'est pas si mal…” [Your French is not so bad.]
“Merci! J’ai pris quelques leçons à l'université.” [Thank you! I took a few lessons in college.]
“Guys, English, please.” Hvitserk interrupted.
“You should get him to practice before he forgets entirely.” Ivar jerked his head toward his sibling.
“What Ivar means…” Hvitserk treated him to a death glare. “...is that I was thinking of a change of scenery. You know that I’m working on finishing my first solo exhibit, right?”
“Of course, Hvi.”
“Well, I believe the crowning piece should be a reclining nude. And my bed seems way more comfortable than some cushions in the garden. I could get the servants to set up a bed there but what would be the point of that? I could just take you up instead.”
Hvitserk studied you as if expecting you to put up way more resistance but you trusted him. What did it matter if you stripped down in the garden or in his room? Besides, your butt needed a desperate break from the itchy grass and the harsh stone you always sat on.
“Let’s do that then.”
•• ━━━━━ ••●•• ━━━━━ •••• ━━━━━ ••
Lying back on Hvitserk’s bed was the closest you’d ever been to touching a cloud. His silky-smooth golden sheets clung to your body at strategic angles to turn you into a sensual goddess; Danaë reinterpreted.
It was heavenly.
He’d asked for your permission to rearrange the rich sheets over your limbs and hips and to tangle them deep between your legs. You trembled at his weightless fingers and a moan rose up from your chest to drown in your throat.
It was erotic.
He stood in front of the canvas with his back to the open door of his private balcony. The entrance let in the natural light which illuminated you but it still wasn’t any more lustrous than his forest-green eyes. His gaze was incendiary. No matter how many times he saw you, he still looked at you with reverence as if you were a mirage on the brink of disappearing.
It was all-consuming.
That’s why when he set down his brush dripping with viscous paint you thanked all the gods in all the heavens for his yielding surrender. He’d had enough; you could tell, even before he opened his mouth to confirm your suspicions.
And so had you.
“I can’t do this anymore. I’m sorry.”
“Do what, Hvi?” You sat up in bed and folded your legs to the side. You needed to hear him say the words out loud.
“Look at you for hours every day and pretend that I’m not dying to be with you, Y/N.”
“Then what are you still doing over there? Come here and show me what you’d like to do to me, Hvitserk.” Your voice sang in a sultry tone. Your eyes remained locked on his in the galvanizing silence that followed your invitation.
In the end, he hurried towards you and sat in front of you to kiss you. His mouth was bliss incarnated, his hands rushing to leave chromatic stains on your pillowy flesh. He cradled your hips, then your waist, then your face. It was hard for him to pick just one spot and stick to it, but you needed him all over all at once so you didn’t complain.
You lifted his splattered shirt off of his slim torso to feel his naked chest coalescing with yours. His weight was a welcomed pressure on your body. Hvitserk kissed your cheek sweetly and pressed his forehead against your temple with closed eyelids.
Then, he muttered very lowly, almost as if he didn’t want you to hear: “If you want me to stop, this is your chance to leave.”
You shook your head and he sighed deeply in relief.
“Will you let me love you then?”
“Of course.” You smiled because his tone carried a light childlike wonder. You clutched his jaw to make him look at you. “Why are your eyes closed?”
He opened them but glanced down to your lips, refusing to make eye contact with you.
“I know your body like the palm of my hand.”
“Not all of it. Not yet.”
“At this point, little angel, I just need to feel you.”
With hands snaking down the interstice between your bodies, you gripped him, his flesh felt blazing hot and smooth between your fingers. “Then feel me.”
He groaned deep and slow for as long as you stroked him but you stopped for fear of tipping him over the edge too soon, which he then professed had been his fear all along.
“I feel like if I open my eyes to look at you, I won’t last long,” Hvitserk confessed while burrowing his nose against your neck to puff out thick breaths against the dip at the base of your throat. “Least of all when you touch me like that.”
“Neither will I.” You let him know.
His lips curled into a shy side smile. “You don’t mean that.” He shook his head incredulously, voice soft and even as always.
“Do you want to bet?” You giggled brightly. He had no idea of the things he did to your body, but you were about to show him.
“No, I just want to make this last.”
“Well, if we fail…” You crushed his lips in a reassuring kiss. “...we can always try again… and again.”
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spill tab and the Friends Making Her Dreamlike Music a Reality [Q&A]
Photo: Jade Sadler
From working as a merch manager to becoming a full time artist, spill tab, the moniker of Claire Chicha, has a unique perspective that clearly shines through her music. With the release of seven tracks during quarantine, it’s been an interesting ride for the singer, songwriter, and producer.
Nevertheless, spill tab and her main collaborator David Marinelli have been channeling uncertainty into music, from releasing her debut EP Oatmilk to experimenting sonically on her 2021 release, “PISTOLWHIP.” We got to chat with Claire about songwriting in multiple languages, navigating being an artist during a pandemic, and her newest dreamy release, “Anybody Else.”
Let’s start off by chatting about your new song “Anybody Else,” which is definitely a sonic departure from your previous release. How did the process of making “Anybody Else” differ from “PISTOLWHIP?”
spill tab: I think, in general, it's always a little bit different. I work mainly with my collaborator, David, and he is just so flexible and talented. We always try to have as much fun as possible making songs. With “Anybody Else,” we were just fucking around with the idea of this ‘70s or ‘80s kind of vibe. I was going through this phase where I was singing like an ‘80s frontman on everything. I just started singing the melody to the chorus and he was like, “Oh, wait, that’s kinda sick, let’s expand on that.” So we kept building it out and then it naturally had the form of feeling like a retro vibe. We didn't want to force it out of that, so we left it that way.
One of the standout elements of your music is the unique production; how do you feel the added production elevates your songwriting?
I think the reason why it works and is additive instead of just present is because I'm working with a really good friend. David is one of my best friends and there’s a lot of trust and time that's been spent together. We just understand each other's tastes and preferences. It makes it so much easier to have a successful session. It translates that the production is a huge part of the song that ebbs and flows with the lyrics and the metering of the words, where it doesn't feel like it's just an instrumental that I top lined.
Tell us a little bit about the creative process between you and your main collaborator, David Marinelli.
We started making music one summer while I was still living in New York but I was in LA visiting. When I left, the only way we could successfully continue working together was sending each other stems. For a long while we would just send ideas back and forth. Like for example, I think “Santé” was just a baseline that I sent to him and “Cotton Candy” was a song that I'd written on the uke and then brought to him. Now that we live in the same city, it's still back and forth but we're just in the same room. It definitely, as a result, made me a better producer. I still track and comp all my own vocals, and I'm getting into the production side of vocals. I think it all came out of the fact that I just had to in the beginning. It's been super rewarding and David has been so supportive and helpful.
Something that stands out about your discography is the cover art, which is so different for each track. Could you tell us about the inspiration behind the single art for “Anybody Else?”
As of recently, because it gets busy, the cover art has come from a moment of, “Oh, shit, we need cover art.” I'm sure a lot of artists can relate. The “Anybody Else” cover art came about when we were editing the video and I got an email from my manager. He was like, “Sick, let's submit the song and the cover art next week.” We were watching that orange scene in the video during the second chorus where the lighting looks so sexy. Jade, my friend who’s a visual artist, said “Why don't we just pull this still for the cover art?” My other friend Gabby is a sick graphic designer, so we sent her a couple of stills to choose from. I love leaning on the women in my life, they’re all so talented. It's such a nice way to get back in touch and catch up with the people that I used to be really close to in New York. Everyone's so busy, but when it's about work it gives you an excuse to spend an hour or two talking.
Since you were the merch manager for Gus Dapperton’s 2019 tour, has that given you a different perspective as a musician?
Definitely yes, but I wish it came from a place of you know, “I'm an artist but I want to be humbled by the work of a day to day industry person.” I was so broke, just out of college, and was blessed enough to get this job offer from Gus and his tour manager Mac. I did not know what I was getting into and it happened to be one of the sickest experiences of my entire life. I was downright shook by how kind, down to earth, and smart everyone on that tour was. It definitely gives you appreciation for every job, no matter how small or large. I feel like artists always get so much appreciation and there are so many harder jobs that get a little bit overlooked. It was nice to get that perspective.
We have to talk about the fact that you write in multiple languages. How is your writing process different when writing in English versus writing in French? Is it different at all?
Since it's my first language, I try to carry my emotions and experiences through the vehicle of the English language. But with French, it's a different tool or paintbrush that I get to paint with. I love the way the words sound, I love the stories I can tell. It’s definitely more abstract, the stuff in French, because it just sounds cooler. French is so sexy and badass and it's so much fun to step into the shoes of a different character.
It's such a flex, being able to write music in two different languages.
Honestly, sometimes I forget that I write in another language. I've not been doing it as much and should definitely, like, get back on my French bullshit.
How has the pandemic impacted your songwriting process and the overall experience of making music?
I mean the pandemic gave me my career in music because, a little over a year ago, I wasn't doing music full time. It was a hobby and something I was aspiring for, but I wanted to tour manage. That's what I wanted to do with the next couple years of my life. And obviously the world stopped, which gave me the chance to just write. It gave me the chance to work a lot with David and hone in on my songwriting and production skills.
Now that shows are slowly starting to come back, are there any venues that you’re most looking forward to playing in the future?
I really love this venue Baby’s All Right in New York. I’ve been to some of my favorite shows at that venue, like Still Woozy. I'm trying to push out that venue at some point.
At this moment, which artist would you want to collaborate with the most?
Alice Phoebe Lou is super tight. I love her songwriting, it’s so haunting and beautiful. She has a song called “Only When I,” which I love. Also, there's this French band called L'Impératrice, they make the sickest music ever.
What's next for 2021? Can we expect a full project or are you just taking things day by day?
Absolutely taking things day by day. I might just move to the Dominican Republic and start a coffee farm or something. I look back to two, three months ago and I’m like, “What the fuck? That felt like a year ago!” It feels like so much is happening at a very fast rate with everything opening up in the world. I have no idea, but I'm excited to see what happens.
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Cut You Down to Size
AYO its Day 1 of the MGI Trope Tussle! I’m representing Team Enemies-to-Lovers! Lets Get It!
Damigami 5.5K words Oneshot, no warnings apply
Alfred signs Damian up for his school's fencing club. There he meets a red clad demon with a sabre.
Day 1 prompt: My name is unimportant— you, tyrant, will die today by my blade.
without further ado:
This was stupid. Damian could not understand Pennyworth’s logic behind signing him up for his school’s fencing club. He was a trained assassin, studying under the world’s greatest swordsmen, and no one at his school would be able to keep up with him. He was miles ahead in terms of technique and experience. So why on earth would he subject himself to this asinine, idle waste of time on a Saturday?
“Remember, young master, it is important to your father that you enjoy hobbies more suitable for others your age. All your other siblings have activities to distract them from the eccentricities of their nighttime activities.” Right, that’s why. Pennyworth spoke as if he were reminding an imbecile how to not walk into oncoming traffic and his tone grated on Damian’s nerves. “Don’t pout, Master Damian, it is unbecoming. Besides, it would make your father proud if you were able to blend in with other teens.”
He most definitely was not pouting but he could agree that making his father proud and not compromising their identities were important. His weary sigh was the only answer he gave to Pennyworth before stepping out of the car and entering the school gym. He squared his shoulders and adjusted the gym bag before striding to the gathering of other students on the mats. They were all in varying degrees of proper white fencing gear, a sharp contrast to Damian’s black uniform. He stood off the side, waiting for the instructor and pointedly ignoring the stares of the other students. Their attention was meaningless and Damian hoped they wouldn’t turn his presence into some spectacle.
The minutes ticked by, and his patience withering away with it, before the gym’s double doors were booming open. In walked the club’s instructor followed by what looked like another school’s club and instructor trailing behind her. Damian counted at least ten students, white uniforms perfectly in place with their array of masks tucked under their arms. However, one of those students caught his eye. The striking red uniform stood out against everyone else’s and the square to their shoulders spoke of confidence not unlike his own. A small part of Damian wonders if any of that confidence was well earned but the larger part of him knew that regardless of how good they thought they were, they were still no match for him.
“Good afternoon, everyone!” The crisp voice of his instructor echoed in the now silent gym as she commanded everyone’s attention. She looked rather pleased with herself and continued to speak, addressing the Gotham students. “As you can see here, I have a visiting school’s club with me, so please join me in welcoming Francois Dupont’s fencing club, who have come all the way from Paris to practice with us.”
A half hearted applause was all the reaction she got and it was at that point that Damian tuned out the rest of her introduction. His mind had wandered to less menial things, waiting for his time to show his more than impressive skills.
He was brought out of his musings by the shrill of a whistle and was staring face to face to a rather short girl from the French club. She was looking up at him with wide blue eyes before darting away to look over the other students pairing up. Her eyes had focused on a tall blond and his Gotham partner and Damian swore he saw her swoon. Great, a scatter-brained lovesick fool was his first partner. Clearly the universe was punishing him for transgressions he was not privy to. Before he could pass further judgment on his partner, she peered back to him and spoke in soft English.
“Hi, my name is Marinette. Nice to meet you!” She tried to sound confident but her awkwardness betrayed her and the hunch in her shoulders were telling. Alfred had taught him some manners, however, so rather than ignore her as he was wont to do, he greeted her with his name and ended the conversation there. She looked ready to speak again but was cut off by another harsh blow from the whistle.
“Alright, everyone. This is just a warm-up match. Nothing too fancy and remember the rules.” The French instructor’s accent was thick and he spoke with equal robustness to match the Gotham instructor. The two made quite the pair.
He faced his partner again and put enough space between them. They both put on their masks and were poised at the ready. Her pose was amateurish but definitely better than the others he’s caught in his periphery. The cry of ‘en garde’ sounded and Damian did not hesitate to try and score a point. Emphasis on ‘try.’ While if this were a real duel Damian would have won with no hesitation, he found that he didn’t need to hold back as much as he would if she were some of his classmates. Her technique was still sloppy but at least she showed potential.
The warm-up ended with Damian scoring three points in succession but there were, admittedly, some close calls. Next, they were rotating partners and Damian was partnered off with the blond from earlier. This close, Damian faintly recognized his face and verbalized as such. The sheepish scratch behind the blond’s neck was unexpected as was the declaration that he was a fashion model back in Paris. Adrien Agreste the boy had said. Damian then chalked up his previous partner’s behaviour to nothing more than to a silly celebrity crush. No further thought was put into their dynamics as the call for positions was announced.
This duel went slightly differently than Damian had expected. Like his previous partner, Agreste was much better than first impressions would suggest. While his previous partner had poor technique with intuition to back her up, Agreste had acceptable technique with his own personal twist. Agreste backed each strike with an edge that spoke of more roguish practice. It was almost entertaining but still no match for Damian superior skills. Perhaps he could convince his father to send him to Paris for the summer if this was the kind of students the city produced. This duel ended in three points in Damian’s favour as well but he conceded a point to Agreste who got a lucky strike in. Both boys took off their masks and shook hands as a five minute break was called. As Damian turned to reach for his water bottle on the bench, Agreste approached him with a heavy hand on his shoulder.
“I saw your match with Marinette,” he spoke with nothing short of excitement and slight wonder. “She’s new to the club but she’s a quick learner. I’m glad she joined and she seemed to enjoy warming up with you! What do you think?”
Maybe Agreste was the adoring fan in their dynamic. Any more brightly, and the boy’s green eyes would be sparkling like fireworks as he continued to wax poetics about the short girl. That of which got annoying pretty quickly.
Another whistle, that French coach was rather annoying with the damn thing, was blown and the students made their way back to the mats. A new rotation was called and Damian was finally paired with the red fencer who caught his eye earlier. In contrast to his previous partners, this one stared at him with poorly hidden, yet unprovoked, contempt. The furrow in her brows and slight downturn in her lips was a mirror to Damian’s own expression. The air between them was charged as they both assessed each other. Neither spoke but neither was paying detailed attention to the instructors. Issuing a silent challenge, Damian tilted his head back to stare the shorter girl down by the tip of his nose, smirking at her increasingly furrowed expression. He scoffed at her as the call for putting on their masks was issued.
“Damian,” he said at last, getting into the starting position.
“My name is unimportant— you, tyrant, will die today by my blade.”
Not even Damian’s brothers were that theatrical; his sister? Maybe. And perhaps Todd, but that’s irrelevant. Was she for real or was this a taunt that got lost in translation? Just who was she? From an outsider’s perspective, the two of them painted quite an interesting picture, posed in their black and red uniforms, a vision against the whites of their clubmates. The air was rich with their slowly growing disdain for each other. The instructor’s voice of ‘en garde’ was drowned out by their hurried movements.
It didn’t take long for Damian to deduce that his opponent was undoubtedly the best of the French group. Her moves were punctuated with needle-like precision and each attack was laced with slowly growing malice at the challenge. Damian didn’t have to hold back nearly as much as he had, once again, underestimated his opponent. There’s a lesson to be learned here but he would never give Pennyworth that satisfaction. The butler’s smug grin and echoed voice of ‘you are not nearly as infallible as you believe, Master Damian’ arose in his mind and the irritation at the notion was channelled directly into his current duel. He struck out with more aggression than he initially had intended to but, as it had put his opponent on the defensive, he wasn’t going to rear his anger in. Instead, he let it fuel his movements more, pushing his opponent off the mat as they danced across the floor.
This only spurred his nameless opponent on more as she matched him strike for strike in equal aggression. Damian wasn’t sure if it was due to his sudden tunnel vision but he could have sworn that the world narrowed to only the two of them, the clash of their weapons being the only sound he could hear. Time faded into nothing and all his focus was on parrying and attacking and lunging and parrying again in a vicious cycle. Points were earned back and forth but no time was called in between to award either of them. This wasn’t a match for points. This was war. A battle to the death issued by the red demon before him. She was no longer just a practice partner or an aggravating opponent. This was his enemy now. Damian would not fail. Damian Wayne doesn’t lose after all.
The shrill of a whistle had the two freezing in place. Giving himself a few seconds to collect himself, Damian felt as if he was coming out of a haze. He watched as the red fencer before him relaxed her posture and turned to face the French coach. Taking off his mask and catching his breath, he noticed that the two of them held the collective attention of the two clubs.
“Now THAT is fencing!” The French coach’s boisterous voice echoed in the gym and was accompanied by his harsh clapping. His two previous practice partners were equally as enthusiastic but subdued in their applause, sporting matching grins at the red fencer. Damian could only glare at the students, refusing to acknowledge his opponent.
The rest of practice went on as such for the next hour but none of the other French fencers captivated him like the first three. They must have had private tutors as they were obviously a cut above the rest. Practice ended without much fanfare and Damian found himself waiting for Pennyworth outside the school gates as the French class were loading their bus. He only caught the tail end of the slight murmurs of conversation but Damian caught the Agreste boy referring to the red fencer as Kagami. Hmm.
Pennyworth pulled up shortly after and once he was inside the vehicle, Pennyworth didn’t hesitate to question him about the experience.
“There was a visiting French club. They were lackluster and struggled to keep up with me even with me holding back.” He refused to look the old man in the eye, glancing a knowing smirk on his aged face. “Three of them showed promise. But I was still superior in every way.”
“Well then, I hope they didn’t tire you out completely. I believe we are expecting some of those same French students over for dinner this afternoon.”
“Pardon?” Damian could not be bothered to compose his irritation at Pennyworth’s brazen declaration. Why was he just learning about this now? “Any idea who exactly will be joining us?”
“I believe Madame Dupain-Cheng, Madame Tsurugi and Mister Agreste all agreed.” Agreste? The model boy. Damian was willing to bet that Dupain-Cheng was the short girl from the warm-up as the two seemed fond of each other. That would probably make Tsurugi his red opponent, Kagami. But that begs the question why they were invited to dinner. Schooling his expression and gaining some more composure, Damian addressed the butler again.
“Any reason why those students in particular?” Aiming for an aura of nonchalance, he continued. “It’s quite the coincidence as those were the three French students I mentioned showing promise. Why were they invited?”
Pennyworth saw right through him and casted a humoured glance at his reflection in the rearview mirror.
“Oh, I would say that Madame Tsurugi shows more than just promise, Master Damian. She is an Olympic hopeful after all.” That… That makes sense Damian supposes. It would definitely explain her confidence and skill. But she still irritated him.
“And what of the other two?”
“Those two would be Madame Tsurugi’s closest friends. Their club is here on a Wayne Foundation sponsorship and your father personally invited Madame Tsurugi to dinner.” Pennyworth paused as he turned into the manor gates. “She and her mother agreed to the invitation on the condition that the young lady’s friends be invited as well. I see they have left quite the impression on you.”
“They require further judgement,” and the conversation died there.
Ignoring the crowd of his siblings upon entering the manor, Damian went straight for his room to research more on his new rival and company.
After two hours of constant research, he was reluctant to admit that the three were rather accomplished in their own rights, and that he had completely misjudged them. Dupain-Cheng was a talented baker and designer and was indeed a fast learner, only officially being in the fencing club for two months. She was also in a new relationship with Agreste. That explains the sappiness and nauseating shower of compliments. Agreste himself was a budding pianist on top of his modelling and fencing prowess. He even featured in some gigs by a local popular band. Tsurugi was more than just an Olympic hopeful, coming from a famous line of fencers and kendo masters back in Japan. She has a roster of competitions won and is currently holding three world titles for her age group. He supposes that that’s quite impressive. But it still doesn’t supersede his training. Would it be improper to challenge her to another duel when she arrives? Probably.
Checking the time, he realized there was forty minutes until dinner and only ten until the three guests arrived. He freshened up his appearance and changed out of his fencing gear into more appropriate attire. He headed down to the foyer to wait with his siblings in greeting their guests. Cain stood next to him and gave him a quick once-over glance. She didn’t say anything but her giggles did not bode well for Damian.
The door was being held open as their three guests walked in and they all wore matching expressions of surprise as their gaze landed on Damian. They greeted his father and each of his siblings, exchanging quick hello’s before the Agreste boy regarded Damian.
“Hey! You’re that guy from the fencing club.” All eyes were on Damian in an instant, his siblings wearing various ranges of delight.
“Yes, he is that guy from the fencing club. Tell us everything,” Todd interjected. He swung a casual arm around Agreste and began herding them further into the manor towards the drawing room. Before Damian can begin to preserve his reputation, Todd and Agreste were already in deep conversation with random input from Dupain-Cheng and Grayson. Tsurugi hung back from the herd and was thanking his father for the invitation. Her calm, withdrawn voice was very different from the scorn she was showering him with during their duel. She caught him staring at her and just ignored him, brushing past him to follow quickly behind the others. He caught his father’s eye and regarded the man silently. Even when maintaining public appearances, his father never did anything without reason. So what was the value in inviting some French kids his company was sponsoring? Olympic grade or not, it was still uncharacteristically more involved than other other company sponsorships in the past.
What was his father’s angle here?
He hoped it didn’t involve playing nice with Tsurugi because her frigid disposition is more trouble than it’s worth. The karma is not lost on him.
Entering the drawing room, he walks into the middle of Agreste illustrating the nature of his duel against Tsurugi. He added unnecessary flourish, making the match seem more grandiose than it really was. He would deny any and all effort exerted as that was a sign of weakness. Damian was not weak.
“I’ll have you know,” he began, collecting their undivided attention, again. “The match with Tsurugi was child’s play. I only entertained her for so long because I thought she could provide some real competition. Clearly, I was mistaken,” he said, like a liar.
“I am more than just competition.” Tsurugi had stood from her place on the sofa to try and face him on even ground. She was still shorter than him but the intimidation was rolling off her in waves. “I will prove to you that I am a worthy opponent.”
That was an invitation for a rematch if Damian’s ever heard one. As he was about to accept the challenge, Pennyworth entered with an announcement of dinner, guiding everyone into the appropriate dining room. His siblings rushed for various seats, splitting up their guests and mixing them in with their chaos. The seating arrangement his siblings had orchestrated had him sitting directly across from the current bane of his existence. The two regarded each other silently, trapped in their own quiet bubble separate from the ruckus of the table.
The dinner was wonderful, as usual, and conversation was as normal as this family was capable of. Except for the intense staring contest he was engaged in with his enemy. She was civil, cordial even, with the rest of the family, sharing jokes with Cain and Thomas with no issue and handled Todd’s annoyance with grace but she couldn’t get a reign on her disdain for Damian. He faintly noticed her two friends exchange curious glances with each other. He paid them no mind; his attention lying elsewhere.
“So, Kagami,” Drake’s voice cut through the loud atmosphere, silencing the table. “You mentioned earlier that you will prove to Damian that you’re a worthy opponent. How do you plan to go about that?” He tried to go for casual but he failed and Damian knew he was doing it just to get a reaction out of him.
“A battle to the death of course,” she was quick with her reply and her tone had no hints of humor. She means every word of that statement. Equal expressions of shock were on his family’s faces, no one knowing what to say. A distasteful snort from the blond cut through the air.
“Kagami,” her friend, Dupain-Cheng, had cut in with a slight chuckle, “I don’t think they know you’re joking.”
“My apologies, then.” Her lips were curled in a faint smirk and then she said, “While I initially had all intentions to contest his false assessment, over the course of the dinner, I have concluded that he is someone not worth the effort.” She took a sip of her drink, completely ignoring the uproar of taunts and jeers his siblings threw his way.
Damian was not going to take that insult sitting down.
“That’s it, Tsurugi,” he rose from his seat, the scrape of the chair on the hardwood floors hushing the peanut gallery. “You wanted a duel, I’ll give you a duel. A clash of swords seems fitting, don’t you think?” He felt quite satisfied with himself, so much so he was completely ignorant to the whispers of his siblings with their guests. His attention was solely on the red demon.
“While I can’t persuade you both from not doing this,” his father’s tired voice was firm and imposing; he looked like he’s aged a few years since the start of the evening, “I must insist on using only the wooden practice swords you have. No real blades allowed. Am I understood?”
It wasn’t really a question as there was no room for refutation but Damian was grateful his father didn’t try to put a stop to the entire thing anyways. A challenge was issued and Damian was going to see it through.
After Pennyworth cleared the table and set about doing other chores, they made their way to the manor’s gym with the exclusion of his father. A mat was already laid out and he went to retrieve the practice swords. They were fashioned to mimic his katana and the familiar weight was comfortable in his grip. Tsurugi was surveying the wooden blade and assessing the balance of the handle before setting into a comfortable starting stance. They weren’t bound by fencing rules this time and he felt the lack of restrictions to be freeing. Grayson had declared himself ring master and was counting down to start them off. Drake was holding a camera, most likely recording, and Todd was conspiring with Dupain-Cheng and Thomas in the corner. Agreste and Cain were observing like normal people—Damian failed to see them silently exchange some cash— and he ignored them all to focus on the foe before him.
Grayson’s call for ‘go’ set them off like steam engines, their swords crashing into each other in heavy strikes. Using his advantageous size, Damian pushed back and swiped for her legs. She blocked the attack, sword intercepting his, swinging her back leg behind her to kick at his chest. He recoiled at the contact and the pressure of her boots before aiming a broad sweep over head, bringing his arms down in a wide arc. She blocks that as well, but was brought down to a knee, all her focus in holding her blade across the palm of hand. She pushes against his force and rolls under his blade, tucking herself into a ball before uncurling behind him. Her next strike is aimed for his back but Damian is quick on the defensive and knocks her blade away before stepping into her space. His shoulder clips her chin and he takes the opportunity to elbow her below her chest. He swings around to strike her down but she ducks and swipes at his legs. He jumps over the arc of her blade but isn’t prepared for the kick in his chest as he lands.
He steps back a couple paces to get air back in his lungs as Tsurugi gains her own bearings. They’re both breathing heavily and the gym is silent save for Todd’s inappropriate wolf-whistle. Ignoring him, as usual, he focuses back on his opponent. On the subtle rise and fall of her shoulders, her lean but firm arms holding the sword out pointing at him. Her short bob is in disarray and her brown eyes burn into him like molten lava. Her stare is intense and almost freezes him completely in place.
A second ticks by. Then another. The entire room feels like a stifled exhale, cautious not to disturb the fragile atmosphere. The energy is broken by a charge from Tsurugi as she strikes across his chest, colliding with his blade. Their swords are crossed and they both lean into the push, faces mere inches apart as they try to get the upper hand. Neither was budging, willing to submit to the other.
Damian found himself revelling in the intense focus of her gaze. Even growing up in the League, his mentors always held back, not wanting to accidentally kill their master’s heir. His siblings were no better, always underestimating him, never taking his challenges seriously. But Tsurugi? She matched him blow for blow without hesitation. Without fear and without judgement. The lack of threat of death hanging over him made the fight that much more enjoyable. If he were anymore focused on his own expression, he would have found a smile, not a smirk or a half-hearted grimace, but an honest-to-god smile. A grin even.
Tipping the fight in his favour, he aims a kick to Tsurugi’s knee, and turns out of their lock of swords. Feeling emboldened, he takes to taunting his opponent.
“You know, you are a lot better than I thought you would be,” he swings his sword around aimlessly, waiting for her to get up again. “But you’re still no match for me.”
Rather than respond, Tsurugi swipes up at him, both hands on her sword hilt, in a broad arc. Her body follows through with the motion, with her back leg sweeping the floor gently, her back to him by the end. Damian sees the opportunity and lunges to attack her now open back. He’s almost flushed against her with his sword about to press into the curve of her spine except his swing is intercepted by his opponent's block. She had anticipated his move and swung her arms over her head, carrying the blade behind her to protect her. Damian’s blood runs white hot with the shame of falling for her feint. Still held in this position, Tsurugi casts a smirk over her shoulder, head tilted back towards his chest. The position, with the exception of their swords, has them appearing to be in a dance, with his partner—no, opponent— ready to be spun out in a graceful turn.
“Are you sure?” her voice was rough with exertion and tainted with glee, “You seem to have failed to gain any substantial upperhand.” She kicks back into his shin and then steps out of his space, spinning under her arms, keeping her sword against his. Now facing him directly, Damian can see the fire shining in her brown eyes, ablaze with excitement and ferocity.
“Don’t think yourself so high and mighty,” he started to step to his right, trying to prepare for another attack but she matched him in moves and now they were slowly circling each other.
“Ironic coming from you, I’m sure.” Her tone was flat but her eyes glimmered with amusement. Her blade shifted ever so subtly, pointing further down Damian’s body, aimed directly for his stomach. Damian takes a chance and steps into her space, left arm gradually inching towards her sword hilt. Using his longer legs, he sweeps one under her stance, hooking his ankle around hers.
It happens in slow motion. Or at least, it felt like it did. He’s bringing his leg back towards himself, knocking her off center, balancing on an unsteady leg. He’s grabbed her sword hilt and is pushing her arms and the sword above her head while his own sword slides to place against her throat. He pushes further into her space, leaning over her and bending her back, almost chest to chest, nose to nose with his sword in the breath between them. Their precarious position cants them completely off balance and she’s fallen with him on top of her. Her arms are pinned firmly above her now, her grip on her sword long forgotten, and Damian’s weight is balanced on his knees, preserving any dignity he has left. They’re still so close to each other, the weight of his blade gingerly pressing into the lines of her neck. Her head is tilting back, a futile attempt to escape him and once she acknowledges that, Damian can feel the muscles in her arms relax beneath his vice-like grip. They’re staring at each other, and Damian finds himself not wanting to look away.
In his seven years of living with his father’s family, he never understood how his father could casually welcome thieves and assassins into his bed. How his brothers surrounded themselves with people equally dangerous. How his sister would challenge an opponent she knew she couldn’t beat. How they could all flirt with danger and not even question it. Now he understood. It was a heady rush, like a freefall without certainty of a parachute or a net. It was an addictive type of excitement to come face to face with someone who doesn’t look at him with fear but with equal competition. He could get used to this.
A click of a camera shutter and Pennyworth’s attention-grabbing ‘ahem’ brought him out of his own head. He saw Tsurugi blink herself out of a similar daze and look towards her friends. Finally registering their compromising position, Damian began to extract himself from her. Now standing, and trying to tidy his appearance, he tossed his wooden sword to the side and extended a hand out to the still lying girl.
“I win,” he says, and the taunt falls flat even to his own ears. He clears his throat and tries again. “You are a decent opponent. It was an honor to go against someone of your caliber.”
She accepts his offered hand and as he’s pulling her up, she takes the opportunity to pull him in closer.
“I admit defeat,” her eyes are still intense but softens as she continues speaking, “and there is clearly more I can learn from you. The club is in Gotham for two more weeks for the competition next week. I am willing to have you as my teacher if you accept.”
A pretty pink blush colours her cheeks and Damian can feel his face match hers in intensity. Before he could answer her, her blond friend interrupts them, cutting into their little bubble.
“That means she’s asking you on a date.” His hands are cupping his mouth like a megaphone and he stage whispers for all their captive audience to hear. “Say yes.”
His siblings are eyeing between him and the French teens like they’re spectating an interesting tennis match. Not given the chance to answer, again, Cain replies for him.
“He says yes. Next Friday, after school.” Her reply is curt but the curl of her lips illustrates her delight in the entire situation. His cheeks are even warmer now and he still hasn’t stepped out of Tsurugi’s space and were they always standing this close?
Looking back to Tsurugi he sees that her attention is still on the others and her face is graced with a gentle smile.
“I accept your offer,” her head swivels back to him as he speaks, and there is a slight glimmer to her eyes, hope dancing in pools of warm chocolate. “If your friend was right about your true intentions, then I accept that offer. There is a lot I could learn from you as well.”
“Yes, and I am also available on Friday if your sister is to be believed.” Her hushed voice is drowned out by the uproar of his siblings and he catches a glimpse of Dupain-Cheng jumping in place.
“I can’t believe he actually said yes.” Thomas.
“I can’t believe she’s actually into him,” Drake.
“I had good money on him making a fool of himself, shame.” Todd, who then gets elbowed by Grayson. He ignores them all, staring down at the increasingly embarrassed girl before him.
He goes to speak but a pink blur is knocking Tsurugi on the ground in a heap of limbs. They’re giggling and babbles about double dates filter through so he doesn’t worry too much and then a weight settles on his shoulder, surprising him. Agreste had somehow snuck up on him and was patting him in a false sense of comradery.
“Well that was an interesting turn of events. They grow up so fast,” he fake sniffles, wiping nonexistent tears from his eyes. Damian is not fond of the familiar theatrics. “I agree with your siblings, I didn't think you would agree. Especially with the looks of bloody murder you were giving us during practice today.”
He scoffs and lets the subtle accusation roll off his back. Agreste continues as if he weren’t interrupted.
“Clearly you two flirt the same way. Violently.” He’s cut off from speaking as Tsurugi had hit him with one of the discarded swords from her place on the floor.
“At least I don’t hesitate or dance around my intended target like a fool, like you two,” she was pouting but her voice held traces of humour and inside jokes that had Dupain-Cheng whining like a child and Agreste acting all sheepish.
“Yeah, okay, that’s fair but can you blame us?” Agreste went ignored as everyone devolved into laughter at their antics.
Damian chanced a glance at Tsurugi to see her very comfortable with Dupain-Cheng’s weight on top of her, laughing at Agreste’s expense. She must have felt his eyes on her and glance at him shyly, laughter dying to a small smile on her lips.
Damian thought to himself that Friday couldn’t come fast enough.
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Clueless Part 1
Peter tapped his freshly manicured french nails on the marbled countertop. Italian music was softly playing on the stereo near the fridge, the TV in the living room across from where he stood was playing the muted news. Another attack in Manhattan taken care of by the red robot that everyone is calling IronMan.
Peter huffed and looked over the dieted food for his dad he had just packed for his lunch, and waited for the coffee to be done pouring. “Daddy! Hurry up you’re gonna be late for your meeting!” Peter’s dad, Tony Stark, was a world-renowned businessman/engineer.
And Peter was his ‘infamous child prodigy’, is what Dr.Strange, his dad’s close friend, likes to call him. Peter was the popular kid at school, the one who knew how to dress amazingly enough to be on the cover of ELLE with his famous everyday outfits, the kid that had all A’s and was on the honor roll each year and won many science conventions first place awards; and yet he was still known to be the most liked and admired at school.
Peter bit his glossed lips while examining his manicure, thinking about the dinner tonight that he had to go to with his dad, something about ‘linking up with old friends. Tony came into the room through the arch and was fixing his tie while looking at his watch.
“Pete don’t tell me you made that crap diet food for me today, I’m gonna have a long day of meetings and a burger already sounds amazing for lunch.” Peter scrunched up his freckled nose in distaste at the grease patty his father called heaven.
Peter poured his dad's coffee in a stainless steel coffee cup. “Daddy you know Dr. Strange said that it’s the best way to help if you want to live past fifty.” Tony rolled his eyes and took the packed food and coffee cup anyways. “So now you're going to listen to whatever that man tells you?” Peter pecked his dad’s cheek, rubbing away the gloss smudge with his thumb with a fond smile.
“I’m gonna listen to any man with a Bachelor's degree daddy.” His dad smiled fondly and hugged his son. “That’s my boy.” And before Tony left through the archway to the foyer he turned around and looked Peter up and down.
“You and the girls plan something for after school? Because you know we’re going out tonight kid.” Peter looked down over his clothes for the day. A Versace dual print button-up that reached down midthigh with white shorts. And a white Gucci belt to cinch his waist to show his figure and his white leather Prada pumps with his Speedy Bandouliere 25 to tie everything together.
“We’re matching today and it was Nat’s turn to pick the designer, and I know dad all you’ve been talking about is this dinner.” Tony hummed and sipped his coffee, rolling his eyes at his son’s attitude but, never-the-less hugged Peter and both walked out to the front of their round-about cobbled driveway and both went into their respectable vehicles.
Once Peter rolled up to Natasha’s giant house with the same green patch of luscious grass and beautifully cut bushes around the property with giant gates at the entrance, Peter honked twice, and while waiting he checked himself out in his bedazzled hand mirror.
His curls for the day were in wet-styled auburn curls and his eyes were glossed with a wet shine and blush blended perfectly into his tan skin from his dad’s last business trip in Mexico. Peter smiled at the enchanting memory of mimosas being handed to him on the beach with the sound of waves crashing in the background and oiled pure white skin under the blazing sun and the sound of beautiful Latino music playing at the beach’s bar behind him.
Peter remembered the dream-like Hispanic men lounging around him in swimming shorts and glorious brown skin and bright white smiles. His dad finally enjoyed his time without work or stress at the bar, smiling and laughing with beautiful Latina women.
Peter snapped out of his loving memory when Natasha jumped in the front seat of his white topless jeep.
“Hey Pete, hurry so we can get to Shuri’s house, I don’t want to hear her complain about being late to class.” She rolled her eyes lovingly and looked at herself through the front seat mirror and pushed up her curls.
He snorted at Nat's teasing and pulled away from the curb. “You know that outfit will catch Steve’s eye right?” She looked me up and down with a devilish smirk on her red painted lips, Peter always did admire how she pulled off red so damn well.
Peter looked over at her once they hit a red light. “Every outfit I wear catches that man’s eye, Nat.” Then another burst of laughter came out from both of them.
Once Peter pulled up to Shuri’s house, he already knew she was gonna give them hell for the time.
Peter absentmindedly looked at the time on the jeep, only ten minutes ‘till the bell rings, they’ve got plenty of time. Shuri came in the car with a flourish of the door slamming shut and a huff that came from her lips. While Peter was pulling away from the curb he looked in the rearview mirror and smiled at Shuri.
“What’s got you in a fit S?” Shuri flung a strand of her box braid behind her shoulder in annoyance and sulked in the back with her Prada handbag clutched in her lap. “T’Challa was actin’ lame this mornin’, only because I asked him why he was acting out last night with his friends,” And once Shuri started talking about her brother, both Natasha and Peter tuned in, even when they arrived in the school’s parking lot, the deets on T was always juicy.
“Get this guys I overheard T talkin’ about you Pete and how he’s surprised your daddy hasn’t sent you to a catholic school already because he and his friends think you're easy, then somehow that turned into a convo on how he would totally--and I quote--"Tap that ass".” She said this conversationally while all three of them were walking towards the school with their heels clicking and bags in hand.
Peter gawked and Nat let out a snort. “Okay, but doesn’t he know that Pete is a total virgin?” Nat brought up while Peter was minutely speechless for the first time in forever and then he snapped back to life. “What a skeeze.'' Both girls nodded in resolution and then they split for class once they got into the school’s hallway.
At lunch Peter walked to his and the girls' table in the middle of the outside cafeteria with a lime popsicle in one dainty hand, sucking the tip of the icy treat while soaking in the glances he got from his peers. Peter sat with a flourish and waved at the girls in greeting.
“Pete whatcha doing tonight I wanna see if you could go shopping with us.” Wanda leaned forward with her chewing gum on one finger while she chewed on her apple slices.
Peter pouted, “Sorry Wand, I got this dinner thing with my dad and his friends tonight.” Wanda gave a humph and hunched her shoulders. “You know I find it weird how Pete’s dad is an actual DILF and his friends are just as fine.” Shuri brought up, which got the girls around the table nodding in agreement. Peter rolled his eyes and flipped Shuri off when she broke out laughing.
Lunch had just begun but usually, Steve would be right next to Peter with his macchiato in hand. “Looking for your boy toy?” Shuri swirled a baby carrot in the dollop of the ranch she only treated herself to once a month.
Peter grimaced and shook his head indifferently, sucking the treat back into his mouth with an eye roll from his friend's laughter. Peter knew that Steve had it for him and was at his beck and call even if he acted like he was just doing it to be nice.
Peter rarely felt guilty for using his crush to his advantage but he also explicitly told Steve that he wasn’t looking to date anyone. Besides his father would go ballistic on him, he distinctly told him he wasn’t allowed to date anyone, and I quote, ‘until you find a guy who has his own business that I can buy and make sure that I have control over him’.
Peter was drawn out of his thoughts when he realized there was a shadow cast over him. Peter turned and titled his head up, there standing was his saving grace in the hands of his best friend. “One almond milk macchiato with no foam and two shots of espresso for my very beautiful best friend, Peter Stark.”
Sam by Steve’s side made a face and looked at Steve hurt, “I thought I was your beautiful best friend.” Steve ignored him though and smiled beamingly at Peter’s plucked arched eyebrow. “You gonna give me it or are you also my handler.” Nat by his side snorted and shook her head. “Not until you look at my outfit Stark.” Peter rolled his eyes with an apathetic air to him.
Peter didn’t like playing Steve’s silly games, but he still wanted his coffee and he wanted it now. So he let his eyes roam up and down Steve’s body. A Classic Damier Pique polo and nice fitted dusty blue slacks. He wore a smirk on those lips every female seemed to love and his blonde hair was slicked back with a pair of black Gucci sunglasses on his head.
Peter furrowed his brows and glared at Natasha who was pointedly not catching his eyes. “Did Nat tell you we were matching with Louis today?”
“Just took a wild guess, cuz I know she knows what I like on you.” Peter rolled his eyes and feigned a vexed look. “You know I told you I can't have you flirting with me Stevie, I'm not allowed to date.” Steve shrugged his shoulders and handed over Peter’s drink.
“You know you can't keep me away from you, doll.” Sam scoffed next to him and shook his head, walking away from the situation and heading towards the benches where their friends stood.
“You better follow your only source of affection before he decides to not hold your hand anymore when your feelings get hurt.” Peter waved his hand in a dismissive way and turned back to the table.
Steve shook his head, even though Peter wasn’t paying any more attention to him. Sometimes Steve wishes he could just smack the sense into Peter that he would do anything to be with him. Maybe instead of a smack, it’d be a kiss.
At Eleven Madison Park, Peter dined with his father, Rhodey, and Dr. Banner. The bright smiles and charisma felt like second nature to Peter, he was taught great mannerisms by his Nonna and Nonno when he used to stay at their condo in Malibu while his dad was out on business trips.
“Listen, all I'm saying Tony, is that Pete has the credentials to be a part of my branch.” Bruce held his hands up in surrender. Peter sipped the glass of champagne idly, pretending that he wasn’t the face of this conversation.
“Oh trust me, I know my genius son has the credentials to be a part of any big business. But I rather him not work for anyone,” Tony cut a piece of steak with vigor and popped it in his mouth.
“Besides he’s too much like me, he wouldn’t listen to you Bruce, he likes challenges.” Bruce laughed and shook his head, looking over at Peter with a smile.
“The kids gotta start somewhere Tones.” Rhodey pointed out with a raised brow, his eyes going over to Peter where he was cutting a sliver from his seasoned lamb. “Jeez, Rhodes you say it like my son can’t start out big.” Tony lifted his wine glass to his lips with a stubborn glint to his eyes, he always did get protective of his son.
“I never said that-” Rhodey was cut off by a phone's ringtone chiming. Tony grunted and pulled out his stark phone with an annoyed air to him. Rhodey looked over to Peter and gave a pleading look, “I never said that Pete.” Peter laughed under his breath and lifted his champagne flute towards Rhodey in a tribute to his faith in the man. “I know Rhodey.”
Rhodey smiled and saluted his glass back, sipping his white wine and looking over at Bruce trying to not grimace at his meal. “Whoever thought to themselves that, “oh yes lamb's tongue sounds like a great meal to serve” should be in prison.” that got Peter smiling wider and knocked the toe of his heel to Bruce’s shin lightly, playfully.
The rest of the dinner was spent with laughs and more teasing, but soon rolled into business talk like it usually trickled into with every event they go to. But before his dad started going on one of his rants on his current projects, Dr. Banner quickly set his wine glass down from lifting to his mouth and hurriedly said: “Maybe we shouldn’t get into details while Peter is still here?”. The words make Peter stop mid-bite and look up from his plate to see the shifty eyes of one Dr. Banner and Tony Stark. Rhodey seemed just as confused and paused in his own autopilot of taking a sip from his tumbler. But before Peter could try and butt in and demand a reason, the waiter came by and asked if they would like any dessert, to which Peter got distracted by his father shoving a menu of the small assortment of desserts the restaurant served. Tony knew his son had a thing for sweets and got lost in his own world easily once he focused on something else. One point to daddy Stark and zero to the poor spawn of the billionaire.
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If you look back on the other V3 Talentswaps, you would know that each talentswap has a different character be the assassin in disguise! Now it’s Myth’s turn to be on the chopping block! Introducing Myth, the Former Ultimate Inventor/Assassin!
BACKSTORY AND TALENT
For the majority of her childhood, Myth was merely a normal girl (albeit with an innate talent for drawing and mechanics) with a normal family life. When Myth was 11, her family managed to afford a trip to Europe. But while on the trip, Myth was kidnapped by a group of infamous Ukranian mercenaries, known as the Yastrub, much to the crushing despair and confusion of her parents and elder sisters. From there, the mercenaries forced her to craft weapons for them to carry out their fanatic assassinations, and even forced her to carry out assassinations herself, in which one even led to the lost of Myth’s left arm. When Myth was scouted for Hope’s Peak, she was given the fake title of Ultimate Inventor, to cover up her real talent of Ultimate Assassin, with most of her class, barring a couple of them, not knowing the truth behind her. Myth hopes that, by chaperoning this year’s Ultimates and Jr. Ultimates, she will be able to reform herself as a hero, after years of being a villain.
Wyre Anon, Former Ultimate Pianist
Ever since they were children, Myth and Wyre were practically inseparable. When Wyre got the news from Myth’s parents about Myth’s disappearance, she was shook to the core, and has been reduced to a traumatised and withdrawn shell of their former self, with their days being spent constantly holed up in their room and composing despairful pieces. Now that Myth is back and attending Hope’s Peak along with them, Wyre is currently using their compositions to help Myth through her past traumas, while keeping Myth’s true talent a secret from the other members of both their class and later, the Kibo-Con.
Outfit: Longer and somehow even messier hair, music hairpins, a black hoodie with piano keys on the sleeves, a black and white version of Kaede’s skirt, white socks, black slippers.
5C-4R (aka. Scar), Ultimate Robot
Originally manufactured for the purpose of caring for and entertaining children, 5C-4R has both a “chuuni-mode” for braver children, and a “mama-mode” for more timid children. Myth’s inner child and tech geek truly flourishes when it comes to interacting with 5C-4R and learning all about her various functions, and 5C-4R is all too happy to brag about her various functions. Unfortunately for Myth, because 5C-4R has a built-in lie detector, she was able to uncover Myth’s assassin past with ease, and now 5C-4R is determined to protect the traumatized baby, despite Myth insisting that she is fine.
Outfit: Pale skin and black and purple armor-like plating, with matching joints, scarf from original design.
Fusion Anon, Ultimate Adventurer
Famous for running the travel blog, “Travelvia”, Fusion has become famous for traversing about every corner of the globe and trying their varied delicacies. Because of all the traveling he does, Fusion is very wise, sage-like, and almost paternal in his interactions with others, and all of the other Anons have called him ”Dad” at least once, Myth included. Myth loves to listen to Fusion passionately lecture others on the languages, delicacies and intricacies of different places, and in exchange, Fusion loves to hear about Myth‘s technological expertise. If only Fusion knew the reason why Myth always skips the Ukraine seminars.
Outfit: A blue parka with white fluff on the inside, a red scarf that covers his mouth, blue and red mittens, brown cargo pants and brown and grey steel-toed boots, glasses from original design.
Fusion Anon II, Ultimate Maid
As the only child of a poor family, Fusion II took up various odd jobs to help her family out, with a maid for an influential family being her most successful stint yet. Despite Fusion II’s sarcastic and seemingly rebellious attitude (think Geoffrey from The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air), she is one of the most efficient maids that her affluent clients have ever had. Fusion II may have cleaned Myth’s dirty room once, but that doesn’t mean that she didn’t throw shade at Myth later for the inventor’s sloppy habits, all with a completely straight look on her face. Fusion II also makes a mean latte, complete with elaborate latte art. The latte helps Myth get through the day.
Outfit: A black and white French maid dress with a white headdress and black stockings and Mary Janes.
Just Anon, Ultimate Magician
Despite never appearing on a stage, Janon has become famous on the internet for his magic tricks and illusions. Janon and Myth have quite the beef with each other, with the cynical and villainous magician clashing heavily against the optimistic and heroic lady of science. Janon often tries to force Myth to invent things that do things for him, but Myth has a couple of secrets held above Janon’s head: particularly his soft spot for both children and rabbits, despite his self proclaimed reputation as a dark and evil sorcerer. If only Janon didn’t have her assassin past suspended over her head as well, somehow.
Outfit: A black magician hat with pink bunny ears, a black cape, formal wear from his original design.
Sparkle Anon, Former Ultimate Artist
Famous for both her bright and flashy pieces and her equally attention-grabbing personality and fashion sense, Sparkle mainly specializes in painting sculptures and interactive art, always topped off with her signature splash of glitter. Myth and Sparkle quickly bonded over their similar talents, similar theatrical personality and even collaborated on a couple of mechanical and interactive art pieces. Because of the unpredictable nature of both of their talents, their labs have a tendency to get messy on days the two girls collaborate, much to the dismay of Fusion II. Myth only hopes that her new friend doesn’t catch wind of her past.
Outfit: The same outfit only with art supplies strapped to her outfit, and paint and glitter splattered on her outfit.
Egg Anon, Former Ultimate Tennis Pro, and Wet Sock, Former Ultimate Detective
Famous in the crime busting industry for their strategic prowess to an almost scary degree and their equally scary cursed comments, Egg is the brawn of the duo and Wet Sock is the brains of the duo. it’s truly shocking how much they know about the criminals around them, and Myth is most definitely no exception. Wet Sock knew that something was fishy with the inventor, from the moment that they met her, and now that the twins figured out the truth, they are holding the ugly truth over Myth’s head in exchange for her becoming Egg’s tennis training partner. Myth lives in constant fear of this fearsome duo.
Egg’s Outfit: A green sweater vest over a white dress shirt and a red tie, tanned cargo shorts, white socks, and green and white tennis shoes.
Wet Sock’s Outfit: The same as Egg’s outfit but with long sleeves and pants.
Curious Anon, Jr. Ultimate Entomologist
Having grown up in a family that was dedicated to the life sciences, of course Curious was going to end up following in their footsteps, with entomology being this child’s top speciality. Curious’s calm and placid personality means that they can attract study subjects (aka. insects) just by standing still. Their passiveness means that they would also just let insects bite them, which means that they have an immunity to a variety of poisons. Myth just learned that fact yesterday, and ever since that, she gained a newfound respect for this real-life Disney Princex. Their merciful attitude helps matters as well.
Outfit: The same outfit from their original design, but with a green gardener’s cap and matching gloves.
Anon Nerd, Former Ultimate Supreme Leader
With an organization that was formed all around the world, Nerd has a dominant attitude and really hates being wrong. If anyone even dares to speak out against him, he will burn them with the Scouter Of Truth. Myth and Nerd regularly engage in scouter-to-scouter combat, much to the dismay and fear of the other people in the Kibo-Con. But deep down, Nerd is a strict and easily-angered, but stellar paternal figure, particularly for the Jr. Ultimates. Everytime Nerd sees Myth sacrificing sleep for work, he always has to scold her and drag Myth away from her drawing board and into bed.
Outfit: Black robot-esque armor, red cape, scouter from original design.
Eldritch Anon, Ultimate Astronaut
This young astronomy prodigy known as Eldritch Anon has but one end goal: to shoot for the stars and destroy any alien life, before they destroy us. Myth tried to bond with Eldritch over their similar hero complexes, but Eldritch seems to know the truth behind Myth, for she is already subjected to accusations of being an assassin, which is right on the mark, but is met with disbelief and mocking laughter for the people who don’t know the truth yet. Myth just wants to be friends with Eldritch, and for Eldritch to realize that, while she might be an assassin, she has long since reformed from her life of crime.
Outfit: A galaxy hoodie over an Area 51 t-shirt, galaxy leggings, white boots that add to his height.
Dream Anon, Ultimate Aikido Master
Having originally started out as a member of the aikido club at her middle and high school, Dream quickly rose through the rankings and became one of the best aikido champions for her age, catapulting her aikido club into stardom. Dream’s childish and energetic personality made Dream sort of the aikido club’s mascot. Those same personality traits made Dream endearing to Myth. Ever since Dream heard Myth’s dream of becoming a hero, Dream decided to dedicate herself to becoming Myth’s sidekick. Myth swears that she would go into cardiac arrest from Dream’s pure sweetness.
Outfit: A white hakama top, short pink hakama pants, knee-high white socks, brown sandals.
Iris Anon, Jr. Ultimate Child Caregiver
Originally taking up babysitting jobs to earn some extra pocket money, Iris quickly realized that she loves seeing the smiles of children, and started to volunteer at children’s hospitals and orphanages. Despite being a child caregiver with a stellar maternal instinct, Iris is still a child, being superbly clumsy and optimistic to an almost stupid degree. Iris’s experiences with taking care of children extends to stubborn inventors who wouldn’t go to bed. Iris may not have realized the truth about Myth just yet, but even if she knew, Iris would still love Myth regardless. After all, the past is the past and people can change and move on.
Outfit: Many hair clips in her hair, a black jacket with garish neon patterns on the front over a pink dress, a matching neon fanny pack, dark grey stockings, red Mary Janes, colorful bandaids all over her hands and legs, glasses from original design.
Purple Anon, Ultimate Cosplayer
Garnering fame on the internet for her elaborately-designed costumes of characters from various video games and anime, Purple works day and night to make the costumes accurate to their animated counterpart. While Purple may seem more outgoing when in-costume and in-character, Purple’s personality does a complete 180, when out of a costume, being very timid and hiding behind large objects. For some puzzling reason, Purple speaks with really archaic terms that Myth has trouble understanding, requiring other Anons to translate for her. But according to Fusion, Purple is an indefinitely kind soul.
Outfit: Outfit from original design, but with pins in her beret instead of a feather.
This series centers around a former assassin trying her best to reform herself with the help of the eccentric personalities surrounding her, while preventing other Anons from outing her.
Inventor/Assassin!Myth wears an improperly-tucked-in white dress shirt, a pink bandana tied around her neck, brown gloves that hide her prosthetic arm, a purple jacket slung over her shoulders, blue pants with a tanned belt, and grey and pink boots that up her height to (5,6). On her shaggy and pigtailed head, Myth wears brown and yellow goggles and a pink scouter.
After being forced into and eventually busted out of a life of crime, Inventor/Assassin!Myth seeks to turn over a new leaf, complete with a new personality. As opposed to the cruel and merciless girl she was when the Yastrub indoctrinated her, Inventor/Assassin!Myth is rather loud and theatrical, complete with a hero complex, acting like a Super Sentai hero or a hammy anime protagonist, a bit like Kaito. Inventor/Assassin!Myth may disregard her own hygiene and sleeping schedule to work on her latest blueprints, but she is still an intelligent, optimistic, kind-hearted and supportive girl, who would gladly give you the clothes off her back. Although, she would probably go and invent a machine to give the whole world clothes. Inventor/Assassin!Myth has a lot of baggage to open up, despite her insistence that everything is fine and dandy.
I’m sorry for giving you such a traumatic backstory, Myth. But I hope you like the talentswap regardless! Let me know what you think of the talentswap!
Okay but I love that Inventor/Assassin!Myth is bent on becoming a good person :)
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17 for willex?? your writing is AMAZING
You’re too sweet and I am definitely still taking requests! I bumped yours to the front of my list, though, because of the new Booboo pictures today inspiring me ;)
I am apparently incapable of writing short things.
From this - “Ok, well... fuck”
Taglist: @screamin-amuseum @thedepthsofhell @iridescentkippen @owenmercers @oldsmobile-hotdogs @phanhowell @williexmercer @lyxchen @chickwiththepurpleguitar @sk8rwillie @mynameisntluke @julieandthequeers @fairylightsandrainydays
Alex was convinced the universe was conspiring to end him right then and there.
Because otherwise, why would the stars align perfectly at that exact moment and have him walk in on Willie, standing shirtless in the middle of the studio, their hair done up in two neat french braids. Their attention was on something on the floor, a canvas splattered with paint, and they were holding a cup and a paintbrush covered in red paint.
He kept going back to the braids, though. And the lack of a shirt. Willie was gorgeous, no matter what, but this? Alex’s mouth felt like it was filled with cotton balls as he stared, no doubt gaping. With their hair up like that and no shirt, he could appreciate the way Willie’s muscles rippled as they whipped the paintbrush, sending a splatter of paint across the canvas. Alex gulped, unable to drag his eyes away.
Willie turned, then, their face lighting up. There was a splatter of paint across their upper chest, and Alex’s brain shut down. There was only Willie, standing there, tucking the paintbrush behind their ear, looking at Alex as though he was the center of the universe.
(But really, that was impossible, since Willie was the centre of Alex’s universe)
“Hey, Hot Dog,” Willie said, their voice light and airy.
He swallowed, trying to remove the lump in his throat. “H-hey,” he said, stumbling over the word. “You’re, uh, painting?”
“Yeah,” Willie replied, shrugging a bare shoulder, drawing Alex’s eyes down to their bare chest once again. “It’s been a while, and I was feeling artistic. I’ll clean up when I’m done, though.” Their eyebrows knit together on the last part, and Alex quickly shook his head.
“It’s fine!” he blurted, trying desperately not to stare at Willie’s chest.
“You good?” Willie asked, putting the cup of paint down and stepping closer. “You look a little nervous, there.” As they got closer, Alex felt the entire world slip away until it was just the two of them, Willie reaching out and putting their hands on his shoulders.
“I, er…” Alex started, finding it increasingly difficult to form words. There was a small curl that had pulled loose from the braid near Willie’s hairline, and all he wanted to do was reach out and smooth it down, but that would involve touching Willie, and he couldn’t do that, not when Willie was smiling at him, looking like that, their thumbs gently caressing his shoulders.
“You’re adorable when you’re bluescreening,” Willie quipped, starting to run their fingers up and down Alex’s arms, dipping up under the sleeves of his t-shirt, making him shiver. He didn’t even blink at the unfamiliar word, taking it as some modern concept he hadn’t yet been introduced to, instead focusing on the fact that Willie’s bare chest was inches from him. “Alex, talk to me.”
“Okay, well… fuck,” Alex managed to say, his hands finally finding their place on Willie’s hips. “You’re here, looking like that, and I… you…”
Willie giggled, his expression fond. “You like it? I always do my hair up like this when I’m painting. Keeps it out of the way.” Their fingers settled on Alex’s biceps after dislodging the paintbrush from behind their ear and dropping it to the floor.
“Oh,” Alex replied simply, his hands sliding around Willie’s hips and finding the back pockets of their pants. “And you’re not wearing a shirt because…?”
“I feel more free this way while I’m painting,” Willie replied, nudging their nose against his. “You should try it some time.”
“N-not wearing a shirt?” Alex asked, the temptation to close the gap and kiss them growing stronger by the second.
“Mm, that too.” There was a cheeky note to their voice. “I’d like that. But I was talking about painting.”
“I, er…” Alex started, feeling Willie’s fingers on his skin. “Yeah. Okay.”
Willie’s lips curled. “Awesome. Now… when do I get to see you without a shirt?”
Alex’s brain shut down again, and Willie took that exact moment to lean in, capturing his lips in a sweet kiss, their fingers in his hair. In turn, Alex’s hands moved of their own accord, roaming up Willie’s back, exploring the expanse of bare skin available to him.
The kiss deepened, Willie pressing closer to him. There was something different about it; they had been mostly fleeting kisses until now. Now, it was as though Alex couldn’t get enough of them, of their lips, of everything Willie.
“Dude, get a room!”
He pulled away abruptly, his skin flushed, his heart pounding. Willie’s eyes were averted as they held their hand to their lips, turning away from the door to the studio. Alex turned, shooting Reggie a look.
“Don’t look at me like that!” his friend quipped, his eyes darting between the two of them, a knowing smirk on his face.
“Get out,” Alex replied, wrapping his arms around himself.
Reggie chuckled, turning and, mercifully, leaving.
There was a period of silence during which Alex kept running through thoughts in his head, mortified at having been caught, wondering if the moment had passed and he wouldn’t get the opportunity to kiss Willie like that again.
“You’re thinking too loud,” Willie murmured, reaching out and taking his hand, leaning in and pressing their lips against his, a brief, fleeting kiss that made the world fall away and left Alex convinced that Willie was the only person in the universe.
“Amazing,” Willie finished, raising a hand and cupping his cheek. “And something I definitely want to do again.”
Alex nodded. “Yeah. Me too.”
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invisible string | g.w
The concept of soulmates and true love had always perplexed you, especially as someone whose parents talked about love like it was the loch ness monster. Your parents were two lit matches when you were growing up and the leaking gas surrounding them was their marriage. Even at seven, you weren't surprised when your mother disappeared in the night, leaving you brokenhearted and determined to not return to your daydreams about a prince sweeping you off your feet. You were truly the world's youngest pessimist, turning your nose up at the girls chasing boys for a kiss and keeping away from the rowdy boys kicking a football around the park.
Many would think such a bitter young child, kicking rocks into lakes and getting nauseous from fairytales, would want someone realistic to hang around. You agreed, thinking that you'd want someone just as angry at the world to stand in the kilometer-wide fields of wildflowers and scream with you. Then faith played a cruel, unusual card that tossed you into the path of George Weasley.
George Weasley had just turned ten when the two of you crossed paths, his legs were carrying as far away from his mum, who was yelling at him and Fred from turning Ron's teddy into a spider... again. He supposed it was his fault when he absolutely plowed into you, a nine-year-old reading on the dry ground, but, you weren't exactly nice enough for him to admit that.
"You absolute idiot, dear God, you nearly knock my damn teeth out," you shouted, brushing off the kicked-up dirt from your clothes.
George stared at you, his eyes wide as the words left your mouth- he rarely heard his parents curse, much less a little girl. In his defense, the only little girl he was around much was Ginny, and while she had a foul temper it rarely involved cursing.
"Well? Aren't you going to apologize?" You looked at him impatiently, maintaining contact with his brown eyes. He was an odd-looking boy, tall and lanky, while also drowned in ragged clothes that looked more like a cloak. "Well? Dear Lord, I don't have time for this."
It didn't take long for George to find his words, somewhat less stunned and, perhaps at that moment, purely intrigued. "Oi, wait up," George shouted, taking the few strides it took to end up beside you.
"Oh, how marvelous- you talk," you deadpanned, mimicking a tone that your father frequently used with you when you said something unintelligible. "Quit following me, Red."
"Well, I have to call you something, don't I?" You were halfway home at this point, and you weren't particularly fond of being home so soon or letting the boy know where you lived. You dug your heels in the dry ground, stopping so abruptly George was nearly two steps past you when he noticed.
"It's George- George Weasley," the redhead greeted, sticking out this pale freckled hand as he'd seen many adults do. You reminded him of an adult, and he frankly, couldn't help but want to make a good impression (well, good second impression). "I live at The Burrow- the slightly leaning building with the large garden."
You stared at the boy, dirt smudged on his nose and an odd shine in his eye. You knew the exact building he was talking about- your father frequently talked about how much of a monstrosity it was and how it brought down market value. Secretly, you thought it looked like something out of Alice in Wonderland, but you never mentioned it.
"Y/N, Y/N Y/L/N, but you hardly need to know my name," you replied cooly, an involuntary shiver running down as you realized you sounded just like your dad. "I should get home, and so should you to the, er, Burrow."
"Why? It is a Thursday, and it is hardly nine."
"School- my dad doesn't let me stay out this late on a school day," you shrugged, pushing through the knee-high foliage and towards your modest home. "Goodbye, Goerge."
"Goodbye, y/n/n," George shouted back, turning back to his own house deciding that he couldn't keep following you all night. "I'll see you tomorrow?"
His question was left unanswered, but the next evening, he found you sitting in the same spot as the night before with a different book and what looked to be a small smile.
Life seemed to get easier from that moment on- a sort of routine springing from the odd encounter. At a certain point, you almost forgot that he didn't seem to be quite normal, and at a certain point, he almost forgot that you were quite normal.
"You have to let me meet your mum and dad," George pleaded, following faithfully behind you as you collected flowers you planned on pressing and drying out. "I'll let you meet my mum and dad, but I'd have to warn you that dad gets a bit mad when muggles visit."
You stopped in your tracks, turning towards the redhead, who frequently let odd vocabulary slip around you. "Is that some sort of code? What in the world is a muggle?"
"Nothing, but now that I think about it, we should just go to your house," George quickly corrected, handing you the bunches of flowers he was holding for you. "Now would be nice- I have to use the loo."
You picked the petals off one of the wildflowers, silently deciding he could come into your house just to use the loo. "My mum isn't home," you began slowly, watching the redhead light up. "Hey! Don't get all grinning- you are only going in to use the loo. Come on, Red, we haven't got all day."
The two of you hiked in silence, the heat of summer beating down on the two of you. It didn't take long to arrive at your house, a small building that was considerably less eccentric than The Burrow. "Take off your shoes before you enter the house," you whispered to the redhead, slowly opening the creaky front door and guiding George inside.
George didn't have any expectations, except maybe someone homely and vibrant like his own home. Your home, however, was alien compared to The Burrow. The walls were painted white as if they were to remain completely sterile, and the furniture looks as though it were incased in some invisible plastic. "Where's your room?" George asked, unable to help himself from wondering if the entire house was this way.
"Nice try, Red," you hummed, tossing the flowers in a small box near what you considered to be your side of the couch. "Loo is to the right with the white door."
George walked down the halls, his eyes focusing on all the small details of the house. Frankly, there weren't many- a few family pictures of a man and your familiar face, but never a mum. George kept quiet, questions piling up before reaching for the doorknob of one of the many white doors. By the time he had slipped in, he realized it most certainly wasn't the loo.
"Did you find- oh, you went to the left," you spoke softly, your words fading as you joined the redhead in your room.
"It's nice," George commented earnestly, running his pale fingers along the edge of your posters. George meant it, enjoyed the seemingly human-ness of your room compared to the rest of your house.
Your bed was pushed to the end of the room just under the window, and your walls were painted in a bright yellow. It looked completely normal and youthful, but George still felt something was off. "I thought you said your mum just wasn't mum- she doesn't even look like she exists."
You messed with the end of your shirt before silently walking over to your mirror, pulling out a few small polaroids from the small space where the wall and mirror didn't touch. "She isn't home- she's in London with her boss and his kids. She's a researcher for a pharmaceutical company," you handed the prized possession to George, who was as quiet as when you first met him.
"She looks like you," George said simply, setting them back behind the mirror.
"Yeah, she does," you replied, a sense of solidarity forming between the two of you. "Here, we can play some board games."
There was something untouchable about your friendship with George, even as the boy seemed to mysteriously leave you without much warning and no communication. You didn't blame him though, knowing that older boys rarely wanted to hang out with childish girls- something your father reminded you when you told him about your friendship with George. George certainly didn't blame you because frankly there was bound to be the distance between you when a whole world you didn't know about sat between the two of you.
By the time, George left for Hogwarts the second time, you no longer felt like something was keeping you in England. Your protests about your father taking a promotion in France slowly stopped until you were clearing out boxes and moving on with your life. The two of you rarely talked at this point, yet, when you got a letter inviting you to some school for witches and wizards in France, he was the first person you thought of.
You didn't write to him though- not because you weren't sure how a letter addressed to The Burrow would arrive at its intended destination, but because you've seen what secrets can do to a relationship. You kept to yourself about it, letting go of George and attempting to embrace the world that now kept the two of you apart.
"Delphine, you honestly believed that Bulgaria would win? Ha- I laugh at you," you giggled, wrapping an arm loosely around your Ombrelune housemate at Beauxbaton. "Very poor judgment, my love."
The blonde shook her head at you, nudging your shoulder gently and pointing towards a group of celebrating Irish. "Why don't you go over there, you Brit," Delphine teased. "Honestly, y/n, in France your accent is hardly noticeable, but the minute we take a portkey over here you're incomprehensible."
"It's the Devon accent, m'love," you grinned, jumping as the sound of an explosion boomed behind you. "Delphine, something is happening- look over there."
Something was happening- the cheerful noise of celebration quickly turned to screams of terror. Delphine held you closely, mumbling senseless French into your ear as the two of you attempted to navigate the crowd.
"Targeting muggleborns and muggles," a nearby voice shouted, eliciting more panic from the crowd and you.
"Delphine, you need to head somewhere else- to the forest," you shouted, pushing away the blonde. "You can't be near me if they somehow find out that I'm-I'm-"
"No- I don't leave your side," you blonde interrupted, holding tighter onto your arm as her petite frame pushed against the crowd.
You nodded your head, the two of your holding onto each other as the sea of fear and chaos stirred around you. Your feet were nearly brushing the edge of the forest when you saw it, a familiar grouping mop of red hair and brown eyes. You felt yourself slip away from the fear and reality of the nightmare you were living as you ran towards the slowly disappearing boy.
"Y/N? Where are you?" Delphine screeched, quickly finding your arms again and pulling you back toward the wooded coverage. "You can't just run off- come on, let's find my Papa."
You nodded your head, your eyes still pinned on where you swore you saw the boy that spent hours with you in the Devon fields of wildflowers. Delphine repeated your name tugging on your arm relentlessly until you were finally compliant and focused back on the present.
The horrors of that night quickly reminded you of your place in the wizarding world, sparking anger that reminded you of how you felt as a child. Anger for finding a place that finally made you let go of your bitterness towards the world, only to find a new bitterness. A bitterness that revolved around the two worlds that you were equally torn between, both filled with people that mattered to you. It drove you partially to madness, but mostly to the notion that you wanted peace in at least one of your worlds.
That night sparked more than anger, and it showed in the work you began to put out at Beauxbaton. You refused the trip to Hogwarts for a Triwizard Tournament, instead choosing to spend hours studying for your exams. You spent nights hunched over a desk, learning how to get where you wanted to make the changes that you wanted to see in the Wizarding World. You sacrificed going back to your childhood home with your dad, and in the end, your chooses landed you a spot in the French Ministry.
"Fleur, I'm doing what I can to get you some people from the French Ministry to help, but frankly, most don't see this as their fight," you argued back, resting your head against your arms. "I know that you're keeping safe in that cottage until you're needed, but it would help if you could reach out to some alumni. The minister doesn't want government workers getting involved and they're hesitant to go against his indirect orders."
"We need you to win, love. Delphine died for this cause, and I know that many know many others. I have to go, but please, help us," Fleur whispered back, using the muggle cellphone you gave her. Perhaps it put you at risk, but with your very public stances for better muggle-magical relations, you were hardly concerned about that. "Goodbye, and I'll let you know when things worsen."
You hung up the phone, the familiar aching of your head returning and you drafted your speech to help get the British ministry back where they needed. "How did it get this far?" You asked yourself, holding the quill to the tan parchment. Your eyes were weighted down with dark bags, and your hand was heavy from hundreds of writings that were turned down the moment you mentioned war.
You set down the parchment, your eyes scanning your messy desk until they landed on two small polaroids- one with your mum and one with George. The two of you were so young, and now at nineteen with blood on your choices and ministry desk, you craved innocence. You craved the way that George made you forget the worst parts of life- you craved your youth.
You remember Fleur's call like a nightmare, her voice high and desperate for you. You always wanted to go back to England, to your home, but not like this. Not with your hands shaking as you attempted to tell your dad goodbye, and not you sending a letter saying 'I love you' to your mum. You arrived at Hogwarts with tears in your eyes as you walked into the battlefield that had children already lying dead before you. You arrived at Hogwarts with a wild, unkept fury that you'd been holding deep within as a kid.
"Stupefy." The words left your mouth just as easy as any bout of laughter. The world came crashing down with each cut, curse, and scream from yourself and the children that fought around you.
Then, it ended. The fight was over, and the blanket of grief replaced the anger. The loss of innocence settled in between you, a nineteen-year-old cradling the fourth-year who fell at the last minute, and the others around you. There, at that moment, everything you felt dissipated leaving you with nothing but loneliness.
"You were so good," Fleur mumbled, holding your face as someone lifted the child out of your lap. "So good. You did so great, m'love."
Fleur continued to whisper French nothings into your ear as you sob over some child you didn't know. As you sob over the lives lost, and the feeling that you could've done so much more. "I can't go back to the ministry," you sniffled, rubbing the tears off your cheeks. "I begged for their best duelers, and they said they couldn't provide it because they could die. How- how can I go back to a government like that."
"Shush, come back here with Bill and me. Bill's father works in the ministry, and we can find you someplace," Fleur cooed, lifting you off the ground. "Let's go find Bill."
The two of you trudged through the ruins, past the families that were mourning, and into the great hall where everyone was together. Delphine talked about how everyone at Hogwarts was separated from each other, but you would've never known. People were all together crying, hugging, and what you assumed to be contemplating.
You sat down at the nearest table, your knees crying for rest and your body begging to sleep. "Thank you," you mumbled to no one in particular- perhaps, even the fate that once brought you and George together. You never really believe in luck or fate, but here, in the moment, it felt fitting.
"Y/N?" You turned around slowly, your mind working faster than your body. "It's you- you're here."
George Weasley. In all of his glory and grief, the redhead stood before you, radiating the feeling of home. He looked nearly the same, minus his one ear slightly uneven with the other, and a weak look of disbelief on his face.
"Quit following me, Red," you breathed, jumping from the bench and wrapping your arms around him.
"What-what are you doing here," George mumbled into your head, his arms squeezing you as if he didn't believe you were entirely real.
"You didn't think you could be all magical without your best friend- I got my letter to Beauxbaton a day after I moved to France," you explained, pulling away from the lanky redhead. "I wanted to tell you, but I-I thought you were a pas de magie. A-a, what's the word you used to call me?"
"A muggle? You thought that I was a muggle? I used to make you show me how to use a can opener for entertainment," George chuckled in disbelief.
You looked down at your shoes, slightly embarrassed you never connected the dots. "I just thought you were the homeschooled type," you replied half-heartedly. You looked around quicking sobering up from the high of seeing George. "Did-did you lose anyone?"
George looked at you, a tight smile on his lips. "No- Fred, you remember my twin, right? He, um, is getting taken to St. Mungo's, and they are talking amputation of his right leg. He'll-he'll be okay."
You nodded your head, wiping away a tear that fell down George's cheek. "We'll be okay, George."
The aftermath of the war resonated with the wizarding world- you saw it first-hand in England after you moved back home. You supposed that it was a process of healing, knowing that you had to go through it yourself. Your heart aches for the families, for the Weasleys, who watched Fred have to go through relearning how to live his life.
The war brought so much darkness that stained the lives of many, creating nightmares that still crept into everyday life. The war also brought you back home- back to George, who suddenly found himself ten years old again and madly in love.
"You can stay here longer," George protested, grabbing the Daily Prophet from you. You had been searching for a place that wasn't George and Fred's flat for much longer than you cared to admit. It should've been an easy task, but there always seemed to be something missing.
"I can't mooch off of you two forever," you hummed in response, grabbing a piece of toast from the table. "It's bad enough that I haven't decided whether or not to take that position in the ministry."
"Boring," Fred sang from the bathroom, a toothbrush hanging from his mouth. "Just work for us- you're doing a brilliant job helping us with keeping the books. We'll hire you on full time."
You shook your head at the redheads, who looked at you with identical begging looks. "I want to do something I love, and while I love you guys, I don't love your business half as much as you do. I was thinking I would get a better offer from the ministry than basically a glorified paper-pusher. No matter- I guess I could open up a magical firm, and practice some magical law."
"Boring," George teased, knocking knees with you under the table.
"What what do you find fun?" You questioned, cocking an eyebrow.
"Having you live with me," George answered immediately, his face turning red as Fred not-so-subtly coughed out, 'whipped.'
"I like living with you, too, George," you whispered, placing a hand on top of his. "I mean it- coming back here to be with you makes me feel like I'm nine years old again."
Fred shook his head at the two of you, an obvious smile painted on his lips and he left to open the shop. Fred had put up with a lot since the Battle of Hogwarts, but the worst thing was seeing his brother so helplessly in love with someone who felt the same way.
"I meant what I said about you staying longer, or even forever. Think about it, y/n," George said, turning towards you. "You think everything is wrong with those flats you've looked at. Don't you think that deep down you just want to stay here- stay with me, and, er, Fred."
You shook her head, the familiar warm feeling you got from George settling in your chest. "I-I don't know," you admitted, wringing your hands. "I just don't want to-to get attached."
"What's so wrong with getting attached," George mumbled, grabbing your hands and gently holding them. "Y/N, I am so attached to you, and I have been since the moment I ran into you. Just stay, and- and, we'll figure out a way to make this work."
"You can't make two people work out," you chuckled, sliding your hands out of George's and getting up. George mirrored your actions and stepped closer to you, reminding you of the way he used to follow you around as a kid. "My mum and dad tried-"
"No, they didn't and you know that."
"We're not them," George stated adamantly. "We're not them because somehow through all of this confusion, all of this fighting, all of this hate and anger- we found each other again. There's an invisible string tying us together, and that's how I know we're not them."
"I don't believe in soulmates," you mumbled, suddenly aware of how close George was.
"You used to not believe in magic," George replied nonchalantly, using his index finger to raise your chin. "You used to not believe in dragons, in flying, in teleportation. Most of all, you used to not believe in having a best friend, but I changed your mind about that. Y/N, let me change your mind about soulmates."
You closed your eyes as George pressed his lips against yours, evoking a feeling that couldn't be put into worlds. It felt like collecting flowers with him, dancing with Delphine, and winning the war. It felt like coming home after years of running, but it mostly, felt like George Weasley loving you infinitely.
"Not soulmates," you corrected, pulling away slowly and out of breath. "An invisible string."
Sketch me ‘til forever
✧･ﾟ: *✧･ﾟ:* *:･ﾟ✧*:･ﾟ✧
I am a simp for these boys. That is all.
This is kinda angsty but not really, but I just wanted to write a paint me like one of your french girls kinda of thing, so here we are lol.
✧･ﾟ: *✧･ﾟ:* *:･ﾟ✧*:･ﾟ✧
✧･ﾟ: *✧･ﾟ:* *:･ﾟ✧*:･ﾟ✧
The sound of the fine tipped pencil on parchment paper was calming as you read your book. Nothing was as calming and quiet as when you sat on the cool ground with a good book and Albedo behind you, sketching anything he deemed worthy. Usually it was a hilichurl or two, maybe a large snowy mountain that glistened in the afternoon light of the sun. You weren’t sure what it was exactly he was sketching this time, but the way he fervently stroked lines onto the paper, you thought it was something he was particularly passionate about.
Slowly closing your novel, you scooted in your makeshift seat and stared at him, though he didn’t see you watching him, didn’t even look up to you. “Al.” You called out, but was ignored.
“Albedo.” You said his full name this time, a little louder too. And this time he heard you, flinching and stopping his ministrations. Albedo didn’t say anything, but you knew he was asking what was wrong, with his eyes. “What are doing over there that is making you concentrate so hard?” You asked, getting up to see for yourself.
Albedo shifted his eyes uncomfortably, holding his sketching notebook to his chest closely. “It’s not of your concern.” He muttered to you, and you could have sworn he was blushing.
“Oh, don’t give me that. Whenever you become this invested in something, you want to tell the whole world about it. Let me see, Al, I’m curious.” You stated trying to look over his shoulder, but he just tucked the notebook further into his chest, making sure you couldn’t see an inch of it. “Come on, please?” You begged this time, leaning into his back and wrapping your arms around his middle, cuddling into him.
It was a trick you had learned that worked like a charm when you wanted Albedo to do something for you. Was it a tad bit underhanded? Maybe, but it was a win win for both of you, so you couldn’t be bothered to care.
Squeezing lightly, you grumbled into his back. “Why won’t you show me?”
“Because, it’s a bit embarrassing.” He replied, bopping the back of his head onto yours. You sighed into his shoulder blades, contemplating on what your next move should be. Going right for the notebook would upset him, so that was out of the question. You could persuade him with his favorite treat, or bargain and get him some new art supplies of he showed you. Yeah, that could work, you thought to yourself crawling around so you were in front of Albedo now, your arms still around him.
But when he saw your pleading eyes, even before you could persuade him, he huffed out an amused chuckled and looked down to the notebook. “Okay, I will show you, but don’t tease.” He told you. You smiled, glad you wouldn’t have to spend money on expensive art tools, and let go of Albedo so he could show you what he has been making.
It was surprising, when you saw a figure that looked almost identical to you, sitting in the same position you were in before. The lines he made created soft edges so that it seemed like you were glowing, your face has an expression of peace, tranquility. It was probably the book that made you look like that, but the way Albedo captured your face like so, made you wonder why he didn’t become a professional painter. There was so much thought and love into the drawing, it almost took your breath away. “I was having a hard time trying to figure out what I wanted to draw,” Albedo said with clarity, looking between you and his drawing, “and when I saw you with your book, my chest tightened and I just had to sketch you.”
“...Why? I wasn’t doing anything particularly enchanting.” You muttered, a withering laugh escaping your lips. Albedo stared into your eyes, moving between them as he tried to find the right words. And when he did, he put the sketchbook down, setting it next to him and gently clasped your cheeks in his hands. Moving close, just enough so that your vision was filled with only his eyes, face, lips. Him.
“When I saw you, that look on your face, the wind tussling your hair, the sunlight making a halo around your body, I couldn’t stop myself. You say you aren’t enchanting, and yet, to me, you are the most enchanting and mysterious of all.”
“Albedo, I’m just human, I am not even a rare species to be found.”
He shook his head, pulling you ever so closer. “No, you are completely ordinary in every sense of the word.” You opened mouth to call out his contradiction, but he put a finger to your lips and continued, “What makes you so mysterious, special, in my eyes, is the feelings you make me feel. Emotions that I never knew I had. And in that moment, my emotions were so overwhelmed, bursting at the seams, and I had to sketch it before I exploded.” He was near whispering by now. Your nose was touching his lightly, and it took everything in you to not kiss him then and there.
“I wanted to have something of you, something eternal, something I look at when you are gone and not near me. I--needed something so that if one day you are gone from this world--from me--”
“Then, I will never forget you. And I will never forget to love you.”
Those words were like twin daggers piercing into your heart, making it bleed pain and achiness, that of which you have never felt. You took his hands in yours and squeezed them tightly, and you felt pressure under eyes, trying to fight the tears. “That will never happen.” You rasped out, your throat hurting. “We live a long long life together, you and me. Us. Together. Forever.”
You saw him shake his head, and you squeezed his hands harder. “No. No. We will. I will make it happen.” The finality in your voice cause Albedo to swallow whatever he was going to say, and he smiled only for second before landing a gentle onto your lips. Sweet bliss; that is what is always felt when he kissed you, and you could only respond in kind, angling your head to deepen it, your heart pounding.
One, two, three kisses, with no signs of stopping. With each peck becoming more heated. You pushed Albedo back down to the ground, your knees laying purchase on either side of his hips, and continued kissing him until your lungs were on fire, and with a groan you begrudgingly pulled away. He looked back to you, panting, his eyes full of love.
It was too much to see, and if you looked even one more second you knew you were going to burst into tears, the ones you were trying so desperately to hold back. And so you hid into his chest, nuzzling into his neck so he didn’t see them fall.
Of course, Albedo felt them, but he didn’t say anything, only pet your hair as you silently cried.
He would never forget you, he wouldn’t allow himself too.
As you sobbed into his shirt, he held you closer, wrapping himself around you, as if to protect you from the harm that he knew will come for you. From what harm? He didn’t know yet, but he knew it was something. Something that always worried you, but you never told him about. He knew not to pry. But he didn’t need to know, because you were here, with him, now. In the present.
And so, he will never forget.
And will forever love you.
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Neptunian Maximalism - Solar Drone Ceremony - an album-length psychedelic doom metal ritual, enhanced by wailing sax (I, Voidhanger Records)
The Arkestra returns! One year after the release of “Éons”, a monumental triple album that shook up the entire metal underground in 2020, Belgium's mysterious collective known as NEPTUNIAN MAXIMALISM embarks on a new cosmic trip through the lands of drone doom metal, free jazz and psychedelic music... and this time you will be eyewitnesses of such a grandiose musical quest! Recorded live in Brussels in March 2020 and wrapped in a stunning cover painting by French master Hervé Scott Flament, “Solar Drone Ceremony” is a 53-minute audio-visual odyssey documenting a band at its maximum splendor, working at full steam to pierce the veil of our narrow world and open new vistas on lush mental landscapes.
Available as a limited LP + DVD edition, the album is a remaking of the title-track from the band's first EP, “The Conference of the Stars”, here radically transfigured and expanded into something new, summing up NEPTUNIAN MAXIMALISM's style and adding to it not only the energy and intensity always palpable during a live show, but also an esoteric, immersive visual dimension that proves all the creativity these electric shamans are capable of. From the smoky drone metal of Sunn O))) to the mystic ruminations of Sun Ra and the space accelerations of Hawkwind, “Solar Drone Ceremony” is a dark psychedelic ritual for the modern times, a ticket to ride for today's psychonauts.
Guillaume Cazalet (CZLT) - amplified guitar, vocals
Jean Jaques Duerinckx - baryton sax and sopranino
Didié Nietzsch - digital soundscape, spectral
Reshma Goolamy - amplified bass guitar
Joaquin Bermudez - amplified guitar
Romain Martini - amplified guitar
Lucas Bouchenot - percussions
Stephane Fedele - drums
Alice Thiel - synth
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Saturdays were always family days in the Maximoff household. Wanda and Vision tended to let their six-year-old twins, Tommy and Billy, dictate their activities. The boys had completely different interests, yet always participated in the other's idea. It always warmed Wanda's and Vision's hearts when they saw Billy try his best to keep up with Tommy when they played football, or when Tommy stuck his tongue out with concentration when Billy wanted to paint pictures. They were a handful at times, but they wouldn’t change them for the world.
Vision had taken the twins downstairs to start breakfast while Wanda took a few minutes to herself to get ready. She sat down in front of her vanity and took her long strawberry blonde hair out from its top knot, running her fingers through the strands and shaking it out of the mould it had made. She picked up her brush and was just about to put it to her hair when she heard three timid knocks on her door. Vision’s knocks were tender but still had more force behind them, while Tommy’s were rapid and usually didn’t stop until she answered the door. Which left only one of her boys.
“Come in, Billy” she called out, turning her head when her youngest poked his head around the door.
“Daddy said to come tell you breakfast is ready.” His little grin with his front top two teeth missing melted Wanda’s heart every time.
“Thank you sweetie, tell daddy I’m just doing my hair and I’ll be down.” She expected him to leave, but instead he opened the door wider and walked in, watching as she started to brush the long strands.
“What are you doing with it?” He asked, curious as to what his mum could do with her hair that he couldn’t with his.
“I’m going to braid it on both sides, remember how I had it last week when we went to the park?” She asked, and he nodded his little head while watching her hands in earnest.
“Can we learn how to braid your hair? It looks like fun” he asked, almost shy.
“Of course you can, have you not picked what you want to do today then?”
“Tommy wants to cook paprikash tonight, but I haven't picked anything” he told her, and for a moment Wanda’s heart skipped at the thought of Tommy wanting to make food from her hometown. With them only being six, their dinners usually consisted of typical American foods, but Wanda liked to bring part of her culture into mealtimes every so often. She didn’t add any spice into it, but the boys loved “Sokovia Nights”.
“If you want to learn how to braid mummy’s hair, then you shall learn.” She tapped the end of Billy’s nose with the back of her hairbrush and revelled in the giggle he let out. She put a couple of hairbands on her wrist and dug out an older hairbrush she had in a drawer before taking her son’s hand and heading downstairs.
“I was about to send out a search party for you two” Vision joked as he placed the pancakes in the middle of the table. Tommy was already sitting at the table, his legs swinging frantically as if he needed to keep moving. “Just like his uncle” Wanda would say to herself, softly smiling at the memory of her brother. He would have loved her children, and it did make her sad to think they will never know him.
Wanda quickly tied her hair back into a bun and walked over to Vision, his smile always making her knees weak.
“Good morning, darling” he greeted her and bent down to give her a kiss.
“Morning, sweetheart” she gave him one more kiss before joining her boys, the family of four tucking into their breakfasts.
After the dishes were cleared and Billy had told Tommy what they had planned, Wanda grabbed a pillow and sat on the floor with her back resting against the sofa. Tommy and Billy took their seats above her, one at each side, and Wanda tried to split her hair down the middle as even as possible without a mirror. Each of her boys had a brush in one hand and took her hair in the other, beginning their work of combing out the knots. Vision just chuckled at the sight as he settled into the nearby armchair, watching Wanda try and cover a wince as Tommy pulled too hard at times. On one occasion she sharply inhaled through her teeth and little Tommy caught on, leaning over and pressing a kiss to her head.
“Sorry, mummy.” The gesture was so sweet Wanda suddenly didn’t care if he pulled all her hair out, reaching behind her to pat his knee.
“It’s OK baby, you’re doing so well”
Once they had brushed her hair, Wanda brought up a tutorial on how to braid hair. She originally wanted to french braid her hair before Billy decided he wanted to learn, so instead she opted for a regular braid to start them off. Who knows, they might upgrade to a french braid and she could have personal hair stylists at her beck and call in the near future.
“So it’s like a pretzel twist” Tommy decided after watching the video, causing both Vision and Wanda to laugh.
“Yes, Tommy, like a pretzel twist. But mummy’s hair is more delicate than dough OK, so be gentle” Vision explained, and Tommy nodded with a frown forming between his eyebrows. They got to work, asking for the video to be played over and over again to make sure they were getting it right. Billy had seemed to grasp the concept, his little fingers spread wide and managing to hold all three strands between them. Tommy on the other hand, was getting annoyed and let out a little huff.
“How do you hold it again?” he asked, clear frustration in his voice and he leaned over to watch the video on his mum’s phone. He wouldn’t give up though, Tommy Maximoff never gave up. This was also this twin’s chosen activity, and they made a deal to always give their all for one another.
“Here buddy, how about I help you” Vision put the newspaper he was reading to one side and walked over, gesturing for his eldest to move in while he took a seat behind him. He took the right hand strand so Tommy was left with one in each of his. “Is that easier?”
“Very. Thank-you daddy” he grinned up at him, a bottom left tooth missing, and got to work.
Wanda’s gaze was on the TV, but her mind was elsewhere. The feeling of pure joy filled her as all three of her boys worked on her hair, mumbling to themselves as they dealt with the task. She could already tell her hair was going to look a mess; feeling Tommy already halfway down her hair while Billy had barely made a start, but Billy’s side felt tighter than Tommy’s. But she didn’t care, they wouldn’t leave the house, her boys would feel proud of their accomplishment, so it was a win win.
Sure enough, she had two braids that didn’t even look related: one started higher, the other was looser, and the hairbands were uneven. But she gasped with delight when they brought the mirror in front of her, pulled her boys into a tight hug and thanked them both for their fine work.
“You look beautiful” Vision complimented her, chuckling when Wanda gave him a sweet smile that she used when something wasn’t done to her liking but didn’t want to hurt someone’s feelings.
“Thank you. Maybe a bit of practice is needed though” she giggled, and kissed him tenderly.
They then spent the afternoon split: Vision sat with Billy as he read through one of his books while Wanda sat on the floor with Tommy and built the latest LEGO set he had. But they soon got towards dinner time, and Wanda called the boys to the kitchen to start preparing for paprikash. They all put on their aprons: green for Vision, pink for Wanda, blue for Tommy and red for Billy, before they went to their stations and got to work. Although it was still a while before dinner, the couple had quickly learned that cooking with two young children added a significant amount of time to the preparation of their food. They made a vow to always start at least an hour before they normally would after making the grave mistake to have a pizza night and ended up eating at ten o’clock, the boys practically asleep in their food.
Wanda and Billy started on the paprikash itself, and she stood behind him as he stood on a stool and carefully guided him to chop the onions. They started off OK, but when they got to the second one Billy let go of the knife and onion and pulled his sleeves down, wiping his eyes profusely.
“Honey are you OK?” Wanda asked, putting the knife down and turning her son towards her. His eyes were red raw and tears were streaming down his face.
“I forgot onions make you cry” he said, and laughed at the idea of food making his eyes water. Wanda giggled with him, her own eyes stinging but not reaching tears just yet. Suddenly his eyes lit up and he jumped off his stool.
“Back in a minute” he called out as he ran upstairs, Wanda left bemused as she watched his retreating figure before she turned back and started to heat up the pan.
Meanwhile, Vision had taken up the kitchen island with Tommy to make the dumplings, trying to guide his son to gently pour the flour out into the bowl.
"Go a bit slower, son. That's it, wait no too much-" he was cut off by a dull thud.
“Whoops,” Wanda heard behind her before Vision’s belly laughter filled the room. She turned around and was met with a cloud of white and two figures covered in flour.
“It wasn’t coming out fast enough” Tommy tried to justify, but it just caused Wanda and Vision to laugh even harder. Luckily, most of it went on their aprons, but their faces and hair were a lost cause. Vision lifted Tommy over the sink and shook his hair out before he did the same, deciding to sort themselves out once the dumplings were made.
“OK I’m ready!” Billy announced his presence, which again sent Wanda and Vision into a fit of laughter.
“Billy, what-” Vision tried to ask, but his laughter overtook his words.
“Onions will not make me cry” he declared, hand on hips, with his swimming goggles covering his eyes. "Why are your faces white?"
"Your brother decided to wear the flour rather than put it in the bowl" Vision said between chuckles, moving back to help clear up the mess on the island.
"Come on then onion slayer, let's show them who's boss" Wanda held out her hand, pulling Billy close to her and helping him back up on his stool.
A few more ingredients made it to the floor rather than the pan, but they eventually got the food cooking. They moved bath time to before dinner so that they could get the remaining flour out of Tommy's hair, soon deciding that everyone should take a shower and eat dinner in their pyjamas.
"Thank you boys, this is delicious" Vision complimented his sons, smiling proudly at them.
"We did good, Billy," Tommy held his hand up and high-fived his brother. "We should do it all the time." Wanda shared a look with her husband before smiling that sweet smile.
"Maybe sometime soon" she told them, seeing Vision hide his smirk with his glass. They cleaned the dishes and settled down on the sofa, not wanting to send the boys straight to bed after eating. The adults sat in the middle, Wanda flanked by Tommy and Billy snuggling into Vision's side, both fighting sleep. Wanda's fingers trailed absently through his dark locks, the motion calming her just as much as him. She looked over at Billy, his little fist clutching tightly at Vision's sweater while her husband's larger hand ran up and down Billy's back.
Saturdays were definitely the best days in the Maximoff household.
Dedicated to @ashyblondwaves 💕
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Giselbert was Christened with Holy purpose. For his life, he would be pledged to the bright cause of protecting, serving and healing every Holy Roman pilgrim stepping fourth into Jerusalem. He was born to protect Karl and his people, to serve his sick, and to house his fatigued after harsh seasons of travel… Until he reached the physical age of four.
Becoming an underling of the Hospitaller, he never felt like he would fit in. Yet when he left, and his knights formed their own Order, only then did he realize just how blessed he was. His legs shook as they journeyed north, closer to Karl’s land, yet still somewhat eastern. He asked if he were to be a healing knight. Would he be serving Karl’s people after heathens’ attacks so close to his home? They simply laughed at him, handing him a sharpened blade, saying “surely prevention is better than a cure? Come now, child. You have the eyes to do it.” And then they guided his hands into the heart of Old Prussia. And they called the now sobbing little boy Marian – after Mars, the pagan god of bloodthirsty war.
For years, he had blocked out all bad feelings. His soul had hardened with every swing of the sword and blow to the head. He became an ace, a feared warrior, even though he still looked like a child. By the time he first met Francis, he had almost entirely forgotten who he once was. “Marian?” The older boy held his stomach as he laughed. “A bit of a girly name you have there, huh?” Marian gritted his teeth. How dare he. “What are you talking about? No it’s not!”
“Oh, but yes it is! Where I am from, it is a Christian girl’s name. It means bitter, which you very well seem to be. It also means sea, which I suppose makes sense…” Francis looked at the muddy ground with disgust. “You are living on wetlands after all. It is the perfect girl’s name for you.” How enraged could one young warrior be? He swung his fist at Francis, but he easily dodged. They had no swords drawn here. They were supposed to be speaking on friendly terms. So Marian could not kill out his woes. He covered his face, and nearly screamed. Instead another sound came out; the bitter groan of a child in mourning. “Oh, please do not fret,” Francis continued, and his voice was tinged with shock and slight concern. “You are a devout Christian, are you not? Are you not more happy to have your namesake attached to the Mother Mary over some awful pagan deity?” And Marian looked up at him, his horrified eyes widened as he took a step back. The Mother Mary. He hugged himself. She was his patron saint, didn’t he remember? He never vocalized this to Francis, or anyone else for that matter. But from that day onwards he would cling to the thought of her so strongly. And for the first time in a while, in her imaginary embrace during the darkest of his nights, he was overcome with all his bad feelings, and he sobbed himself a bitter ocean until he fell down into sleep.
But there were too many negative emotions. He had to drown them out in other ways. He had to enforce baptisms. He had to set fires to places and ransack communities. By that point the red in his name had overtaken him. There was terror down every trail. Corruption in ever crevice. His men would tolerate working with pagans, and would sometimes attack other Catholics. All for the power game. All for the thrill, that short sweet release from the guilt he would run from feeling. He had lost his Holy reason. He hadn’t seen Karl in years. Things no longer felt so bright. He felt blind to his true purpose, his true calling in life. All he saw was red, and all he craved was the brutal spilling of blood and the voluptuousness of victory. Rebels rose up – some his own people. People who still had a conscience, who knew what was right and what was wrong. He crushed them, like the so-called left-handed Devil’s child others claimed him to be. They regrouped, reorganized, allying themselves with his enemies, and attacked again. But this time, with Poland and Lithuania there, they smothered him. And as they held his face into the wet dirt, into the water-ridden flatlands he called his beloved home, bitter tears fell down his face, and he remembered whom he once was before all this began.
Years after being subdued, Protestantism became his second chance. When his Duchy years commenced, his name changed along with his religion. It was a relief to be called by his Christian name once more. Or, at least the modern version of it. Gilbert: it retained strong symbolism. He had turned back to God, back to his original pledge to protect, serve and to heal others. He kneeled before the cross. He clasped his hands and said a little prayer. It wasn’t too late. He could still be saved. The old establishment around him was gone, shattered and dismembered after decades of rotting to the core. The layman preferred Protestantism, a fresh new start for all, and for the first time in his history, most of the people who lived on his land shared their faith with him. Who knew it would take a new peace, and not years of oppression, for the common man to finally abandon his pagan ways and embrace the Lord as Gilbert once did. As he had begun to again. For it was his time to repent, and live once again like Jesus, as a healer. Now life was simple. He built trust to avoid cries of witchery. He lived on farms as the neighbourhood’s healer. A young boy working by his own decree, and his own opinion of the German-written Bible in his hands, not some foreign Pope’s Latin dictation. He managed to see Karl only once again during this era of transformation. The boy he was born to protect hadn’t aged a day, and didn’t recognised him, but Gilbert certainly had, and he certainly did. Only when he mentioned he was once Marian did Karl’s eyebrows raise, and the little boy started shouting at him, and shunned him for his change in faith.
The preteen heretic only had a few years of peace, however, until he was plucked like a herb from his apothecary and sold like cattle to Brandenburg. He begged to stay, in fear of being a kingdom like the rest. In fear of living under an absolutist monarch, much like living under the Pope yet again. His people craved he stayed a humble fief of Poland, and he fought for their say, yet he still wasn’t listened to. The Electors of Brandenburg already inherited his dominion long ago, and he was the perfect bargaining chip to simply sell off to them entirely. And thus, the young reformed farmboy was thrust into the world of higher politics, eventually elevated into being a kingdom to give Brandenburg more power, and forced to enter the realm of archangels – the domain of greater nations – without any choice. A lowly, pitiful demigod once living under Martian commands, now shakily standing by the semi-deities of higher diplomacy. Oh, how could he play this awful ungodly game he had never even seen before? How could he survive when the older ones laughed and gossiped, discreetly calling him weak, effeminate, witch-like and pink-eyed behind their very own blood-soaked hands of hypocrisy during those awful ballroom parties? How else was he endure it if he did not enforce his own aggressive politics?
Drenched in purple like half the color in his eyes, he sat in a big room being watched and worshipped in a way he hadn’t seen since he gave up that name. After seven years of war, he had become a young man of great renown. A nation with power, with a say on the international scale. Oh, who was he again? He turned his head to see Old Fritz, whom he had learned to love, sitting beside him. He leaned on his shoulder as he asked him the question. His human, a man so cynical of religion, simply replied with “whoever you wish to be, mon cher.” Gilbert closed his eyes. Despite being so worshiped now, his roots were still looked down upon, were they not? And the other archangels’ cultures would always be far more revered. He looked out to the distance. There was a painting on the wall, in some fancy French style. He sighed. French again huh? Not German. It was a painting of the Mother Mary, it seemed, the woman who was once his patron saint and part of his namesake. The woman who he still looked to for guidance, for some odd reason. For some strange higher purpose, or so he felt. He leaned forward and squinted, curious. Wait. He could never really see very well, especially when it came to objects from far in the distance. So he stood up, and walked to her. His vision slowly became clearer, sharper even. And he could see a man in her arms now. Oh. It was her broken son. Her greatest love, her sacrifice to humanity; Jesus Christ of Nazareth. Her family, her baby, touching him and mourning him as if she could heal him and bring him back to life herself. His eyelids felt heavy, and he looked down on the ground, then turned back to face his king. “They say Karl is falling sick yet again, have you heard? Please, let me see him. Maybe I can bring him comfort. Help him heal a little.”
When the Napoleonic Wars broke out, Gilbert fought as he had always known himself to fight, like a Martian. And Karl fought as he had always known the boy, like a child. However, it seemed fighting style need not matter in these wars, for both were wounded greatly either way. They were humiliated, the both of them. And it made Gilbert so angry. But what he wasn’t expecting, was for Karl to show up at his doorstep one day, soaked in blood and battered with wounds, begging for his assistance. And in those few seconds when the small boy collapsed into his arms, he knew his dark red revenge had to be postponed for the sake of his higher purpose, the very pledge he was Christened with.
Decades of healing, laughing and telling stories by Karl’s sickbed had healed their estrangement. The boy trusted him. And his Catholic pride was not so great that he’d refuse to fall into his ow family’s arms. Gilbert accepted him, and helped him. After all, he was born and named to serve him. He tried his best, at first thinking things were going easy. Maybe he could even joke and convince the boy that Protestantism was the way to go. But then infections came, and swept the both of them from under their feet. Nations couldn’t get infections. They couldn’t catch the sicknesses of humans. Everybody knew that. The boy was going to die. He was going to dissolve in Gilbert’s spare bedroom. And he couldn’t stop it. He was forced to watch the very child he was born to protect perish in his own house. He couldn’t freak out. He couldn’t do that to Karl, who was so subdued and miserable. So he read to him. He kept him hidden from the rest. He gave the boy… parenting. He gave the boy a childhood. He brought home toys and presents. The Brothers Grimm published a few short stories. He soothed the child who he had always strived to show affection for, and who had learned to love him in return. He didn’t whimper until Karl let out his last breath, and then Gilbert collapsed as he cradled the corpse of Holy Rome and sobbed bitter tears, enough to fill an ocean. It was the closest he had ever felt to Mary, the Mother of Jesus. The child he was Christened to serve and protect was gone. He could barely stand living without his first purpose.
After gathering all other German personifications, they all agreed with his diagnoses. Holy Rome was never coming back. The infection was the teller. He had lost his nation status, and was to dissolve the same way a diseased human figure would. Stern faces watched over his grave as the poor boy was buried slowly, and Gilbert was forced to stand off to the side. Many blamed him for not fighting hard enough. He was supposed to be a warrior, wasn’t he? Well, why were his politicians so focused on eastern politics over the threat of France? Why hadn’t he put in much of a fight? Oh, he simply never knew that France would have it in him to… No, no it wasn’t his fault! Why was he blamed for Francis attacking Karl? Or Karl attacking Francis? It wasn’t his fault! It couldn’t be… it couldn’t… It… made Gilbert go mad with grief. Mad with loss. Angry? No, insane. He dug the body up after three days, after all the other Germans had left and he wouldn’t feel the shame of running into any of them. And he, like some sort of crazy desperate pagan, used all the medicines and stitching and hacking he’d ever known to try and bring that dear little boy back to life.
And, soon after, risen from the ashes of the Holy Roman phoenix, a new boy opened up his eyes. Hallelujah! Gilbert’s hands shook. He touched the boy’s cheek with his sweating fingers. He rocked back and forth as he asked Karl how he was feeling. How his miracle boy was feeling. Yet the boy did not remember him. The boy remembered nothing. Gilbert had brought back a blank slate. Oh mein Gott. A blank slate. But the boy suddenly looked scared, and he reached out for Gilbert, asking for comfort. Gilbert couldn’t help but embrace him, and hold him tight. Telling him everything would be alright, and that he loved him so dearly. This time, Gilbert made a new pledge to God. He raised the bright young boy as his own, with discipline and with the arts and heights of German culture. He made it so the young boy felt loved very much and was treated with tenderness, while also thought of by others as a land of poets and thinkers, as Madame de Staël had once stated.
He united his child's peoples, making the boy the new Holy Roman Empire. But this time far, far more united, made into one out of Martian blood and iron. Made strong and secure, named Ludwig Karl for the famous wars that shaped him, and for the cultures he inherited from the boy who came before him. He made Ludwig’s security and respect his new purpose in life, for how else does one show love to another? Gilbert did not know, until the Great War knocked him down from his conceited crusade. And Gilbert was forced to learn that while his baby may be a phoenix, he himself was an uneasy Icarus.
Far more humbled than before, especially after Ludwig started suffering from shell shock, Gilbert took it upon himself to read more into the science of the mind. After all, he was a healer. And yet he couldn’t wrap bandages around his baby’s mental wounds. At some point, he picked up a book on psychoanalysis. Freud, huh? He frowned as he read through his theories, noticing the constant references to water and bitterness, remembering the horror and the shame of his Teutonic days. So, the ocean was connected to the womb, motherhood and creation, in his symbology? Those with such a maternal namesake would be expected to raise their child with such soft and tender care... Gilbert threw the book down to the ground and covered his eyes as he cried, for some reason so angry. So his Marian virtues had been double-sided all this time, huh? They were never separate from each other, they were always attached… But how could that be so? How could he be half Mars, and half Mary at the same time?
Could a man of war and bloodshed really also be a man of loving parenthood and the greatest of sacrifices? Could one person really be blended into such a paradoxical oxymoron, some sort of twist of fate where their singular identity had such juxtaposing components melded into one?
Well, yes. And for a time, his name was Marian.
This isn’t beta-ed so please go easy on me 😅
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Centre Stage - chapter 8
A bit of a change of scene for this chapter - it’s now Virgil’s turn to get a bit of attention and start getting to know Cat.
Massive thanks are due to the wonderful @willow-salix for her betaing prowess, and to @misssquidtracy for listening to me complain about it.
As always, the whole thing is available on AO3 here.
“Virgil,” Lily called, running up behind him as they crossed through the giant space directly behind the Royal Opera House stage and grabbing his hand to get his attention. “Come and look at this. It’s the set for The Nutcracker.”
“That’s right,” Cat smiled, as Virgil turned, his eyes wide as he took in the massive ornate staircase and walls that towered over them, amazed that he had been so engrossed in conversation with Lily’s mom, Karen, that he had managed to miss spotting them himself. “That’s the Kingdom of the Sweets in Act Two.”
“I knew that already,” Lily informed her earnestly. “We saw it last year and I recognised it from then.”
“Not much gets past you does it?” laughed Cat, her eyes sparkling in amusement as Karen shook her head, suppressing a small laugh at her daughter as she did so.
“No, everyone says I’m very observant,” Lily informed her, confidence oozing out of her now that she had something to focus on, despite having been slightly overawed by the dancer when they had first met at stage door only twenty minutes before. “And look, there’s the Christmas Tree, and the big wheelchair from the battle against the mouse king, and the gingerbread house.”
Allowing her to drag him behind her as she pointed things out, Virgil smiled at how different she was from the little girl who had clung to him, terrified and whimpering for her mum as her home burned around them, a collapsed roof beam blocking their way to safety. He’d never admitted it to anyone but, while they were trapped together waiting for Gordon to arrive, there had been more than a few moments in which he had worried that the outcome might be very different. Trying to distract her as they sat in her bedroom, wet towels blocking the worst of the smoke from entering, he asked about the multitude of ballet posters on the wall and was surprised when she lit up and seemed to enter another world, talking animatedly about her trip to see the Royal Ballet the previous year and how she wanted to be a ballerina when she grew up.
Her passion for it had shone through and that, combined with her bravery in coping with the rescue, made him want to treat her to something special so, as soon as he had been able to, he had contacted Cat to see if there was anything she could do. He had to admit that both she and the company had really gone above and beyond what he had expected, and the fact that Lily had insisted that he accompany her on her special day had made his heart swell.
Her excitement was infectious, and Virgil could feel himself getting caught up in it as he looked around, seeing bits of sets from various different productions all stacked up together, awaiting their next turn on the stage. The space was enormous, much larger than he had imagined it to be based on his previous experiences of being backstage in a theatre during school productions. He’d enjoyed helping to build and paint the sets for those, but the craftsmanship that clearly went into what he saw in front of him made them seem amateur by comparison, the thought making him smile as he realised that, of course, they were.
What looked like a Victorian street scene stood off to one side, attracting his attention and, as Cat talked through The Nutcracker sets with her other guests, he wandered over to take a closer look. Scrawled writing on the back of one of the pieces told him that it was from Act Two of the opera La Boheme, and he lightly ran his fingers over the paint, marvelling at the level of detail that was there, especially as it would never even be visible from the auditorium.
The sight reminded him vividly of an argument he’d had with his art teacher about just that, where he had wanted to make everything as realistic as possible but was told not to bother because it wouldn't be seen anyway. Despite the fact that nearly fifteen years had passed since then, part of him dearly wanted to take pictures and get back in touch to show that he had been right all along, but somehow it didn’t really seem worth it. He was vindicated and ultimately, that was all that mattered.
He could feel the buzz of creativity throughout the whole building as he stood there, dancers making their way past him in costume on their way to the stage for the matinee performance that was already underway. He longed to sit quietly, soaking it all in but as Lily bounced over to him and took his hand, once again dragging him behind her as they made their way up to the rehearsal studios, he was shaken out of his reverie and reminded why he was there in the first place.
Maybe if he spoke to Cat nicely, he thought, she’d let him come back himself another time and truly get to explore and experience all that the theatre had to offer.
Settling down on seats at the front of the light, airy studio as the dancers conferred with their coach before beginning the rehearsal, Virgil could feel the excitement continuing to radiate off Lily in waves. She was fidgeting in her seat and had been told more than once to sit still but neither he nor Karen were certain that she’d be able to manage it.
Cat, her dance partner, Mark, and the man who had been introduced as their coach, Alexander, moved around the space, marking out what Vigil assumed were bits of choreography. Words of their discussion floated over to him but much of it seemed to be both technical and in French so he quickly gave up trying to make sense of it and sat back to take in the experience instead.
Despite his interest in the rest of the scene before him, his eyes were repeatedly drawn to Cat as she worked, her serious demeanour in contrast to the fun, playful girl that he’d seen when she was on the island. He had no idea why, but now that she was changed into her leotard, tutu and pointe shoes, it had given him a totally different perspective on her, as if his brain had previously not quite put two and two together and realised that she was actually at her place of work and would naturally be dressed accordingly.
It was a regret of his that circumstances had meant he’d not managed to spend more time with her when he had the chance, especially given the apparent seriousness of her developing relationship with his brother. Being allowed to meet one of Scott’s partners was a new experience for all of the family, and getting to spend time with them one to one would have been unthinkable up until now, so this was completely new territory for him. His protective streak for his older brother was well known but Scott’s uncharacteristic openness about her and the way he lit up whenever her name was mentioned made him think that she was perhaps someone who would be around for the long haul and that he should make the most of this opportunity to start getting to know her better.
Movement beside him as Alexander sat down brought him out of his reverie and he looked up just in time to catch Cat flashing him a smile as she and Mark took their places for the start of the Grand Pas de Deux. As the music started, he watched in amazement as she transformed from the woman that he knew into a regal fairy, dancing with her prince. On the stage, he could imagine how effortless it would look but in the confines of the studio, there was no question over the amount of sheer grit and determination it took to get through. The slow movement was followed immediately by two solos and then a coda, and by the time it was over, he could see both dancers dripping with sweat and breathing heavily as they took the applause of their small audience. The fact that they were still on their feet made Virgil fairly certain that both dancers were superhuman. However, the panting heap on the floor that followed their bows suggested that they were, in fact, just like everyone else.
“Very good,” called Alexander as they struggled back onto their feet at the sound of their coaches' voice, catching their breath in preparation for whatever would come next. “Take a moment and we’ll go through a few corrections.”
Virgil smiled at Lily, getting as much enjoyment out of watching her, as she looked on in rapt attention as correction after correction was given out, changing the inflection of a gesture here and the tiniest hint of a movement there. It was painstaking work and, as each adjustment was given and worked through by Cat and Mark, he became more and more aware of how much of a perfectionist Cat must be. He had to admit, she even put Scott to shame.
“Right, we’re not going to run it again so I think it’s time for our newest Sugar Plum to show us what she can do,” Alexander turned to Lily who jumped up straight away, so desperate to join in that she had already put her ballet shoes on in preparation.
“I’ve been practising the Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy,” she told him excitedly, speaking so quickly that it was hard to keep up.
“How wonderful,” Cat jumped in with a smile. “If you’re willing to show us, I’d love to see it. It’s a really difficult solo and I always love seeing how other dancers interpret it.”
Lily beamed and quickly nodded her assent, pride radiating out of her at the suggestion that her dancing was on a par with the two experienced professionals, as she ran up to the back of the studio to take her place.
“Are you ready?” Cat asked, smiling at the enthusiasm and confidence in the young dancer, knowing that she’d have absolutely gone to pieces if given the same opportunity when she was that young.
With a nod of confirmation from Lily, the music started, familiar strains of Tchaikovsky filling the studio. With no hesitation, the young dancer moved through the dance, her natural ability shining through. The fact that she kept to a comparatively small area in the studio told Cat that she had likely taught herself the dance in her own home rather than working on it with a teacher in a larger space.
A smile passed across Cat’s face as she watched her, reminded of all the times that she had studied recordings again and again, learning the dances by herself and dreaming of the day that she would get to perform on the stage instead of in her bedroom. Sitting forward to watch her critically, Lily’s lack of formal training was clear but, given her age and obvious talent, she knew that there was absolutely no impediment to the girl having a successful career if the right opportunities were made available to her.
“That was fantastic,” Cat declared as Lily’s applause died down. “You really danced that beautifully.”
“I agree,” Virgil concurred. “I think it’s a tough call to decide who did it better but I think Lily might have just nudged it. Sorry Cat.”
“I’d agree with that,” Mark chipped in. “It was a close call but I think Lily had a softness to her that you don’t have yet Cat.”
“Well, I guess I’ll just need to work on it a bit more then, won’t I?” smiled Cat, thoroughly enjoying the confidence that was shining out of the girl. “Now, how about we teach you the start of the adagio and you can dance it with Mark?”
“Really?” Lily cried, her eyes lighting up.
“Really. I’d be honoured to be the prince to such a beautiful Sugar Plum Fairy,” Mark said, stepping forward with a bow, making Lily giggle.
“But if I dance with him, who’s going to dance with you?” Lily asked, turning to Cat, her forehead creased in worry.
“Nobody, but that’s OK. I don’t mind,” Cat replied with a smile.
“I think you should dance with Virgil. He could be a prince for you,” Lily continued, fixing Virgil with a pleading look that he knew he was powerless to refuse.
“I’m not sure Virgil really wants to be a prince,” Cat replied gently, looking over questioningly at him, surprised to find that he was already taking his shoes off in preparation.
“I wouldn’t be so sure of that,” he replied with a shrug, a grin creeping over his face. “Today is all about Lily, so if the young lady wants me to dance, then I shall dance.”
“OK then,” Cat laughed, turning back to Lily and ushering her into the centre of the studio where Mark was waiting for her. “Well then, Lily, it looks like you’ve found me a new prince so you don’t need to worry about me.”
Cat held out her hand to Virgil, tugging him into the centre of the studio and helping him to organise himself into the closest approximation he could manage of the starting position that Mark was already demonstrating.
“So, the first four counts of four are really just the preparation, so take that time to walk around in a small circle, stepping up into fifth position on demi pointe in the final one as Mark bows to you,” Cat began, directing Lily around the space. “Then you want to take a step towards him, back up into fifth position croise, holding his hand for support and then use that front leg for a developpe devant. Good, just like that. Now, bring that working leg back through retire and into attitude derrière. While you’re doing that, Mark is going to spin you around slowly OK?”
Cat demonstrated the sequence to Lily, using Virgil as her partner, effortlessly maneuvering him into place with a gentle, but firm, guiding hand and verbally running through the steps once again, more for Virgil's benefit than Lily's, then returning to assist her and Mark.
Lily nodded, hanging on every word as the two dancers fussed around her, correcting her position and making sure she was comfortable.
“Once you get there, put your hand on his shoulder, and use that for balance if you need it while he lets go of your other hand so you can untangle it after the turn,” Cat continued, watching with critical eyes as Lily tentatively reached up and placed her hand on Mark’s shoulder, looking back over to Cat for confirmation once she had done so. “That’s perfect. Now he’s going to promenade you around so just hang on and try to keep your balance while you hold that position. Let him do the work.”
“Do you understand a word they’re saying?” Virgil asked quietly, shuffling closer to Lily’s mum, Karen so he wasn’t overheard.
“Not a single thing,” she smiled, glad that she wasn’t alone in being baffled.
“I hope you’re paying attention, Virgil,” Cat called over, somehow having developed eyes on the back of her head. “It’s going to be your turn next.”
Virgil jumped guiltily but grinned as he returned to his designated position with a cheeky, "Yes, ma'am."
“So, what made you want to do this for a living?” Virgil asked, gesturing to the studio as Cat pulled on a tracksuit over her rehearsal clothes, their time in the studios having come to an end.
Lily and Karen had been whisked off for a tour of the theatre now that the matinee had finished, after which they were being treated to a meal and tickets to the evening performance of Coppelia. Mark had already left for another rehearsal, leaving just the two of them until Scott and Selene arrived for dinner later.
“It was my grandma,” Cat told him with a small smile, standing and shouldering her bag. “She brought me to see Swan Lake here when I was six and from then on I couldn’t imagine not being a part of this world.”
“Aww that’s lovely,” Virgil grinned, remembering all the things he'd done with his own. “Grandma’s are the best.”
“They sure are,” Cat nodded, holding open the studio door and ushering Virgil out into the corridor, making their way down to her dressing room. “I couldn’t stop talking about ballet afterwards so she started sneaking me to classes. My mum didn’t approve and thought it was a waste of time but if Grandma paid then she was happy to go along with it.”
“I’ll never understand why people think the arts are a waste of time,” Virgil commented, remembering well how he felt his love of painting had been treated at times.
“Me neither,” Cat agreed. “They can give kids so much freedom of expression and a confidence that they don’t get anywhere else and it really annoys me when art and theatre get dismissed.”
“I can relate to that,” he nodded. “So, did you go to classes all the way through school then? I don’t really know how it all works I’m afraid.”
“I wouldn’t expect you to,” Cat reassured him, suppressing a grin at the appreciative glances that were being thrown an oblivious Virgil’s way as they dodged around a group of dancers heading back from the stage. “My dance teacher suggested I audition to become a Junior Associate of the Royal Ballet School when I was eight and when I got in, Grandma snuck me up to London for my class every Saturday morning, bless her. Then, when I got into the school at eleven, she took on my mum and stepdad and convinced them to let me go.”
“Were they not keen on the idea?” Virgil asked, knowing that Cat didn’t speak to any of her family and wondering if that might have had something to do with it.
“You could say that,” Cat laughed, opening the door to her dressing room and ushering Virgil inside. “They hated the idea of fee-paying schools and thought that full time training at that age was a waste of time. After a lot of arguing, they told me that if I took the place, I wouldn’t be part of the family any more and that they’d do what they legally had to until I was sixteen but then I’d have to figure it out for myself. Grandma reassured me I’d always have a place with her so I went, but she passed away when I was halfway through my first year and I was pretty much on my own after that.”
“That’s terrible,” Virgil gasped, wondering how anyone could be so callous to their own child.
“Yeah, it wasn’t ideal,” Cat agreed with a shrug as she dropped her bag on the floor and took her seat at her mirror, gesturing to Virgil to take his pick of the other seats scattered around the room as she did so. “Luckily, Penny had taken me under her wing by then so I was OK in the end, but it wasn’t great.”
“Do you have any contact with them at all any more?” Virgil asked, intrigued enough to ask despite his uncertainty about whether he was treading a little too close to the edge of what was acceptable or not. From what he’d seen so far, she seemed very open and willing to answer anything, but he knew only too well that appearances could be deceptive.
“My mum occasionally comes crawling out of the woodwork when she wants something,” Cat shrugged, pulling pins out of her hair and shaking it out so it tumbled around her shoulders. “I’ve not spoken to my stepdad since I was sixteen, thank God, and my real dad walked out when I was five. I don’t even know if he’s still alive or not, so he’s not in the picture either. I don’t have any brothers or sisters that I know about either, so I’ve probably got the easiest family history to trace ever.”
“It’s quite the difference from our family,” Virgil mused. “Obviously we lost our mom when we were all quite young, but at least we had Dad on our side until we were mostly grown. It was tough after his accident though, and Scott had to take on a lot.”
“Yeah, I can’t even imagine how hard that must have been for all of you,” Cat sympathised. “I think it was probably easier for me because I always knew that it was coming so I was able to prepare myself for it.”
“Well that’s one way of looking at it,” Virgil laughed, amazed at the relentless positivity that Cat seemed to exude about what must be the darkest moments of her history. “Changing the subject slightly, can I ask you something?
“Ask away,” Cat invited, taming her hair into a long plait as she watched him in the mirror, wondering what was coming her way next.
“Does it cost a lot to become a dancer?” he asked tentatively, knowing that finance was not always something that people were comfortable talking about. “It’s just that, when we were waiting for Gordon to dig us out, Lily told me that she wants to be a ballerina but her mum had said it was too expensive for her to go to a proper ballet school. I wasn’t sure what she meant at the time but I assume she was talking about one of the full-time ones?”
Cat sighed, knowing only too well that funding was a massive issue for the arts in general but ballet was a profession that needed specialist training from a young age that not everyone could afford.
“Unfortunately, depending on her circumstances, she may be right,” she agreed reluctantly. “Local ballet schools are fine for the first bit of training and for dancing for fun, but for most kids, if they want to be a professional, then they need to go to one of the big residential schools and they can cost a fortune. I was lucky enough to get a scholarship but there aren’t many of them to go around so a lot of talented kids never even get the chance.”
“That’s such a shame,” Virgil sighed, his brain immediately kicking into gear to think up ways that he could help.
“Yeah, it’s something that’s bothered me for years,” Cat agreed, happy to find someone to talk to about a subject close to her heart. “I wouldn’t be sitting here if I hadn’t had the financial help, but the reality is that someone else probably lost their chance at being a dancer because it was given to me instead. I’ll never know who it was and whether they made it in the end, but I’ve always felt a bit guilty about it and it pushes me to be the best I can to prove to the people that made the decision to give it to me that they made the right choice.”
“Well, I don’t think anyone can say you’ve not made the most of it,” Virgil laughed, taking in the multiple production posters hanging on the walls, many featuring pictures of Cat, staring back at him.
“I hope not anyway,” Cat smiled, unable to hide the hint of pride in her tone. “It just seems a shame to me that training can’t be on merit alone. I know it costs a lot and that the schools need to make money to survive, but it’s not right that so many are excluded just because it’s beyond their families' means.”
“I’d agree with that,” Virgil nodded. “Is there not much help available from the government?”
“Not in this country anyway,” Cat shook her head sadly. “Places like Russia are different, but here there’s a definite lack of funding for the arts in general, not just ballet training, and I guess it’s not a very glamorous investment for private firms. For every Darcey Bussell or Margot Fonteyn, there are plenty who never make it through so it’s not something that’s going to give a guaranteed return.”
“Yeah, I can see why a lot of companies might not go for that,” Virgil mused, a germ of an idea starting to form in his head.
“Plus, having a scholarship puts a lot of pressure on kids,” Cat added as she watched Virgil closely, curious as to what he was thinking, having seen the same look on his brother when he was planning something. “It’s something I thrived on but not everyone does. But it’s a real shame for Lily if she’s not going to be able to pursue it. From what I’ve seen today, she’s got real talent and a good eye for detail, that’s almost as important.”
Before Virgil could reply, a loud chime from Cat’s phone interrupted them, announcing the arrival of Scott and Selene at the stage door. Hurrying out of the room to meet them, Virgil’s mind continued to turn over the information he’d been given, a more concrete plan beginning to coalesce.
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chapter thirteen: the boys next door
That initial journal stayed under the cushion even when Sam had gone home with the new journal tucked under her arm, and it stayed there as the month progressed along and she made more and more art in those pages. She had to put it all in by the middle of March in order to start school come the fall of that year, and given she had no exact income at the moment, she needed to hustle along with the journal to earn a grant for herself. Ruben and Esmé lent her a bit of money for the first month's rent, but after that, she needed to move it forth with her artwork.
The drawing of Frank and Charlie gave her enough of a boost to continue onward.
But she thought of the man in her dreams, the man with the white streak at the crown of his head.
She wondered about that streak in his hair, if it was something powerful and loaded with all the mental power she could ever imagine. Indeed, at times when she lay down at times at the end of the day, she envisioned him on the back of her eyelids. The streak was so familiar, and so bright under the hazy light of the dreamy sun. She brought her gaze down to his body and he faded out into nothing with the rest of the dream world. She would reach out to feel him and yet he always faded out to nothing.
Even without feeling him, she knew he was soft. Soft and gentle to the touch, as if she tried to touch a low cloud. Sam needed to feel him out some more before she could give him a drawing in her journal. She did however make portraits of Aurora as well as one of her parents based on a framed photograph that Ruben sent her, and Charlie and Marla, the latter of whom took a photograph of themselves embraced in a hearty open kiss.
She had taken out a few sets of pencils from her bag, colored pencils for Charlie and Marla, and the soft gray graphites for her parents. Charlie's wavy dark hair, much like Frank's hair, had so much texture and so many shades of golden and orange all around the crown, and yet his face was a bit fuller and rounder, and the cleft in his chin was extra prominent from the shadows around them. Marla's orange hair shone so bright in the camera light and the pink and blue streaks resembled to little neon lights: a little bit of the white pencil in the middle of those stripes to give them an extra sparkle. He had kept his lips pursed even with the smile on his face, and his skin had such a soft little blush to it.
The drawing of them took her a whole afternoon: she had sat down with it the first thing in the morning, and yet the over hanging possibility that she couldn't even so much as pay her rent pervaded her every thought. The possibility that she could wind up like one of those homeless men down in Brooklyn by all those music shops loomed over her head like a heavy dead weight: no money for Emile and he would have to show her the door, not even after three months of living there. She had no idea if the whole shindig with Stormtroopers of Death would hold any water given that was more of a straight up demo tape on the side of the main endeavor than anything. If something did come out of it, she hoped that Charlie and Scott kept their word and she found herself walking along with a slice of that delicious pie herself.
She held onto the colored pencils as if they were the rungs of the ladder in the fire escape next door to her. Charlie's olive complexion in contrast to Marla's milky skin. It all melted together into a cocktail right before her eyes. Every stroke of the orange and the gold, every time she blended it all together with the edge of the white pencil. It was all bringing her closer to staying there in the apartment complex.
Within time, she signed her initials at the bottom of the page. She dared not date the drawing, lest someone in admissions ask her about it and come to the realization that it was a rush job on her part. She made herself dinner and then stayed up a little bit later to work on the drawing of her parents. She had Ruben and Esmé's heads sketched out and part of their hair filled in with the firm graphite when she felt her eyelids drooping at the realization that she had been drawing all day, away from the world and the hearty spring rain outside her window. She kept the drawing out on her desk before she switched off the light and crawled into bed.
The mysterious man in her dreams appeared once again, and that time, he had crouched down next to the edge of the cliff, which right next to the house. The wind billowed his otherwise black hair over his head and he kept his hands pressed to the cold dark earth underneath him. He squinted his eyes against the burning sun behind him; Sam glanced to her left to behold the sight of the house, a dilapidated two story with a hideous faded pea green paint job and a shingle roof with most of the shingles missing. Her eyes wandered up to the chimney, which was nothing more than a metal tube of the same green color; behind that was a pair of filthy skylight windows. She lowered her gaze to the front doors, a pair of French doors with broken glass and something dangling from the shards near the top of the door frame. The porch looked as though it was about to collapse if the earth shook a little too hard.
But he crouched down at the end of the pathway in front of her; to his left was a series of low scraggly bushes, each of them without their proper flowering. It was springtime and yet nothing was blooming. Meanwhile, behind him stood the steep drop and she couldn't hardly see anything else beyond that. Mere bright white light courtesy of the midday sun.
She lifted her gaze to the sky: not a single cloud in the vast blue canopy over her head. The sky never appeared more blue than it did at that very moment. A weeping willow stood behind her and she had no idea where the next noose would appear on the branches.
The sun shone down on his white streak and his handsome face. He was like a ghost, the ghost of a young men she had neither met, nor touched, nor felt for herself, and she wanted him for herself. His slender knees only appeared to be more slender from his dark jeans, and his little body seemed large and small at the same time. A tall boy and yet he seemed so small and helpless at the same time.
A pained droning caught her ear and she turned her head again. Something big, blue, metallic, and conic spiraled out of the sky to her right. He turned his head for a look himself.
It was an airplane, or so she believed it to be: it resembled an ocean buoy but with narrow wings on its body. A stream of gray smoke billowed out from between the tail fins.
He turned his head to the opposite side as it tried to catch itself. His eyes widened at the sight of it.
“Get away from there!” she called out; her voice echoed out over the canyon before them, and yet it sounded as though she stood underwater. But instead, he stood to his feet and he darted up the path towards her: his jet black hair streaked behind his head like the wings of a bird. That white stripe burned in the hot sun behind him, and he skidded to a stop right before her.
Meanwhile, the airplane had lifted and adjusted itself over the far side of the porch but it stalled right over the railing. She had no idea if there was someone on board it, especially since it looked so small. It dove nose first into the side of the cliff, right where he was squatting, and it burst into flames. The scraggly bushes around it ignited: it was going to become a brush fire soon enough and burn the house down.
“You've got to help me,” he begged her; he called her name but he sounded so far away from her, even though he stood right before her. “Help me put this out!”
“Where's the shovel—” she wondered aloud. She turned her head again and she spotted the heavy wooden shovel leaned against the low brick wall. She picked up and she forced the head of it into the dirt before them, and she hurled the thick heavy clods of dirt onto the raging flames. He had run to the far side of the property in search of the fire hose.
“You gotta help us!” he cried out to the street. “You gotta help us! This place is gonna burn to the ground if we don't have the water!”
Sam continued to dig into the earth and hurl dirt onto the flames. It helped a bit, but a fire hose hooked up to the hydrant outside of the property would do the trick given it was a gasoline fire. So much fire for such a tiny little plane. Gasoline burned onto the dry brush against the tapestry of the blinding sun before her: it all burned so bright and powerful that it began to choke her.
“Where are you, little man,” she pleaded as her arms ached from the incessant digging. “Where are you, baby—” Her arms were sore and tired from the whole thing, and the vast amount of sweat which drenched her back only made the matter more agonizing. He was nowhere to be seen, and the fire continued to burn away at the brush.
That was when she woke up, cozy, warm, and dry under the safety of her blankets. Her fingers on her left hand tingled and her left shoulder ached. She had been laying on that side for so long. She rolled over onto her back and took her hand out from under the covers, and she shook her hand about to get the blood flowing once again. She then lay her arm atop the covers so she could feel the cold of the apartment around her.
Yet another dream where she saw that man with the fear of god in his eyes. Afraid and in a vulnerable place. She opened her eyes and gazed up at the pitch dark ceiling over her: the only light emanated from the amber street lights outside.
The entire building was silent except for the heavy rain on the roof. She sighed through her nose and she thought of her parents.
That drawing of her parents!
Night still kept in place outside, and yet time was of the essence. She pushed back the covers and slid out of bed. Using the ambient light from the street, she made her way over to her desk and switched on the little light on the side. She shielded her eyes with her hand and blinked several times until they adjusted to the shock of the pale yellow light.
She gazed on at the photograph Ruben had sent her: the black and white shot of the two of them after he had taken Esmé to a secret place and asked her to marry him, with her arms around his shoulders and her head leaned against the side of his. She had always wanted to have someone propose to her that same way: out in the wilderness and with no one else there to disturb them. It was one of those things that seemed so romantic and far removed from the world.
But for the time being, she was bunked away in her room in the middle of the night, with a graphite pencil in hand and her journal plunked open before her. Her tired eyes took glimpses at the photograph so she could feel it down to its very core and transcribe it all onto the smooth white silken paper.
She thought of the dream she had had, and how it all felt the most real of all the dreams she experienced with the mysterious man with the white stripe in his hair. Her arm still ached from laying on her side for so long, but she swore she and him were fighting off a fire together. She swore she heard his name, she heard herself say his name aloud to him, but it all faded out into a fog with the fire and the intense sun on their backs.
Sam picked up the thicker graphite for their dark heads of hair and the rich shadows all around Ruben’s round face and nice neck. She held the pencil on its side for a bit of smoothness on his skin and the bones all inside: she held it the same way for Esmé‘s thick dark hair and the round shape of her face. The grains of the paper held the graphite as if they were little pools of water.
The sound of the graphite’s edge filled her ears to the point it stopped being a noise. Everything else fell away into total silence and she was left alone with the journal and the photograph before her.
Before she knew it, she was met with the first kisses of the golden morning sun outside her window. The bitter Northeast cold had finally cleared away for the first little seedlings of the springtime: the near black rain clouds hung over the New York skyline like a heavy blanket, while the sun shone so bright through the windowpane next to her. Sam lifted her head from the drawing and she was met with the fierce light of the sun: the dream was still fresh in her mind as she signed her name at the bottom of the page.
She leaned back in her chair and gazed on at it.
She kept making Esmé‘s right eye too large and thus she had to cover most of her bottom eyelid with extra graphite. She hoped the admissions people would overlook the fact that she overworked it a bit. But every time she glanced away from it and returned to it with fresh eyes, she grimaced at the fact it looked as though her mother had been punched in the face.
Sam fetched up a sigh and stood to her feet to put on a small pot of coffee. Marla and Aurora helped her buy a coffee maker for herself the weeks prior: there was only so many times she could run downstairs and wake up Frank for a cup of coffee. He always greeted her with a smile and a good morning, but she knew that if they were to go tour in the coming months along with her attending school, she had to do something while she still had time.
As the coffee brewed away in the kitchen, she returned to her journal and a brand new page. That mysterious man in her dreams still stayed firmly in mind. She could see him. She could feel him. Even if he didn’t exist, she could feel him.
She had that other drawing of him in her other journal, but she needed to see him in physical form. It was going to drive her insane if she did nothing about it.
She picked up the hardest graphite and sketched out his head. That crown of dark hair complete with that shock of white over his forehead. She closed her eyes to see him again, crouched down low to the ground, and his slim body the darkest spot against the otherwise bright sun. She could make out the shape of his lanky arms and his large hands, the latter of which he kept on the ground.
She closed her eyes again to see his face. The coffee maker let out a soft ding but she was more focused on him. His deep set eyes and his prominent nose and cheekbones. Everything about him stood out the more she thought about him.
She rounded out the drawing with a bit of extra shading near his shoulders. She gazed on at him, right into his ghostly eyes and his faint face. She would have to return to him after her cup of coffee and a bite of breakfast.
Within time, Frank had showed up to her front door with a green flyer in hand.
“What’s this?” she asked him: she recognized the name of Metallica near the top of the paper, but the other names were complete unknowns.
“It’s actually a flyer for something completely different, but Stormtroopers are playing at that venue tonight,” he explained.
“I was just gonna say, the date on this is wrong, too. This came and went!”
“Metallica is going to be there, though,” he pointed out as he never changed his expression. “They’re here in New York to discuss their new record with Jon.”
“Already?” She was stunned.
“Yeah! Welcome to the world of albums, Sam babe.”
She brought her attention back to the flyer for the club name: L’Amour, down in Brooklyn.
“They played here back in January,” Frank continued as he took his seat on her couch, “like right after when we first met, but—”
“You didn't tell me 'cause you didn't know me that well yet,” she finished for him.
“Exactly!” He raised his eyebrows at her. “Well, now that we have a little relationship of sorts between us, I think it's time we introduce you to the guys.” That smile full of star’s teeth crossed his face.
“Are they even here yet?” she eagerly asked him.
“I think they are. I dunno if they're going to be there tonight or not, though. But yeah, they're literally like the guys next door to us. Well—” He shrugged his narrow shoulders. “—I shouldn't say 'literally'. They're from your neck of the woods, as I'm sure you know.”
“But they might as well be the guys next door to us,” he continued. “They've rehearsed with us, they've discussed touring with us, and they've jammed so many times 'round here and over in Jersey. They might as well be from around here.”
“All of us hailing from California hangin' out with New Yorker boys,” she remarked as she ran her fingers through her dark hair.
“The coasts united,” he declared as he folded his hands together before him. “United and coming together under the realm of music.”
He dropped his eyes to her bedroom doorway.
“What’chu thinking ‘bout?” she quipped.
“Your art,” he replied without hesitation. “How it’s gonna go places.”
“We can hope that,” she noted.
“I know for a fact it will. It’s unique enough—it’ll be everywhere before we know it.”
She thought of that mysterious man in her journal. She needed to finish him and bring him to fruition when she found a moment.
“So are we gonna hitch a ride with someone or take the subway there?” she asked him.
“Yeah, we’re definitely gonna hitch a ride with Aurora and Marla,” he answered with a little nod of his head. “There’s no way all of us are gonna go there via the subway. I should probably tell you that we’re gonna be leaving at about three, give or take. It’s only an hour drive but Charlie and Marla are both scared shitless of traffic.”
“So plenty of time to get dressed and have something to nosh on,” she added as she glanced over at the time on the microwave.
“Exactly! I’ll give you some privacy, too—“ He stood to his feet and he ambled over to the door.
“See you in a bit, Frankie,” she called after him. Once she was alone again, she darted into her room to shade in that drawing. There may not be another chance to do so with that mysterious man.
The heavier graphite flowed onto his hair: she drew around the shock over his forehead, and she would have to save it for the harder graphite. His deep eyes gazed back at her as she used the sharp tip of the softest graphite to bring them forth.
A thoughtful little Mona Lisa smile and smooth silky skin on his face and neck later, and she had him right there on the paper.
She stared at him in silence. She had him right there before her, out of the realm of the dream. Even after the other drawings she had made and a few other ones she was to make in the coming few days, she knew that one would be the centerpiece of it all. When she signed her initials at the bottom of the page, she titled it “the man from beyond the veil.”
Without wasting any more time, she set down her pencil and she crossed the room to her dresser.
It was an overcast but warm spring day in New York City and thus she put on a pair of little yellow shorts and a black sleeveless top: this club was an unknown to her, but she had a hunch it was going to get rather warm in there that evening.
Within time, she slung her purse over her shoulder and headed on downstairs to meet up with Frank, Charlie, Aurora, and Marla. They piled into Aurora’s car and took the long drive down to Brooklyn.
At one point, Marla rolled down the window and peered up to the afternoon sun in her sunglasses.
“Beautiful day in the neighborhood!” she declared over the roar of the traffic.
She tucked her head back into the car and smoothed down her orange hair with one hand. Sam tipped her head back and took in the cool breeze through the open window.
Charlie air drummed to a beat he had written for the new record, and he even began banging his head at one point.
“Easy there, Char,” Frank advised him, “remember the last time you did that while we were driving?”
“Almost went off the road,” he recalled. “Still—I got the music in me, though.” He kept on air drumming, even as they went around a corner and crossed over into the heart of Queens. Frank peered into the rear view mirror at the three girls in the back seat, and then he fetched up a sigh.
Within time, they reached Brooklyn and Frank brought them to the tiny club that was L’Amour, and at that point, the sun hung low in the sky. Almost showtime.
Indeed, Sam spotted four men congregated near the side door, each of them with heads of long lustrous hair.
“I assume that’s Metallica,” Aurora remarked.
“That it is, Aurora babe,” Charlie answered with a little smile on his round face. They took to the parking spot right in front of them, and they climbed out one by one.
“Frankie and Charlie,” the brown haired boy greeted them when they came within earshot, and he peered over his black horn rimmed sunglasses at the three girls behind them, “and three female specimens!” He spoke with an odd accent, and not one native to the Northeast, either.
Frank put his arm around Aurora.
“Ladies, these are our friends—James—” He gestured to the tall boy with the long golden blond hair down past his shoulders. “—Kirk—” The baby faced boy with the head full of rich black curls. “—Lars—” The short boy with the round face and feathery brown hair who greeted them. “—and Cliff.” The extra tall boy with the long smooth hair down to his shoulders.
“And guys, this is Aurora, Marla, and Sam,” Charlie followed up.
“Always nice to see some girls every now and then,” James declared in a big booming voice and with a nod of his head.
“We’ve getting a lot more ladies in our crowds, though,” Lars pointed out.
“Well, you guys don’t really wanna mess around with these girls, though,” Frank said, “they were there when Charlie, Scott, and Billy recorded the tape for Stormtroopers.”
“They’re our first V.I.P.s,” Charlie added with a wag of his finger.
“We’re not worthy, then,” Kirk said with his arms outstretched, which brought a giggle out of both Sam and Marla.
“Drinks on us, too,” Cliff followed suit, and he reached behind him for something: a big wide brimmed felt hat, which once he put it on, made him look like a real life cowboy. He led them all into the tiny club behind them: Sam gaped at his literally bowing his head before he stepped inside. She moseyed up to Lars, who has taken off his sunglasses and revealed to her big bright green eyes and a tiny pockmark under his right eyebrow.
“I really like your accent,” she told him, “where are you from?”
“Denmark,” he replied, “I moved here to the States about five years ago.” He turned his head towards her. “I originally came here to play tennis.”
“How'd you get with these guys?” she asked in a low voice.
“Let's just say that—magic happens when you branch out and seek out new horizons. I put an ad in this magazine called Recycler in search of a guitarist to jam with and James and his friend Ron just so happened to see it one day.”
“What happened to him?”
“Ron? He couldn't take it, so we sought out Cliff up in the Bay Area—we were based out of Los Angeles at the time.” Lars guided her to the small wooden table on the side of the room; Marla lingered back with them while Aurora followed Charlie and Frank to the far side of the room, the site of the low dim lit stage. James and Cliff towered over each of them.
“By the way, if anyone asks, Metallica is my band,” he said in a low voice. “James found me.”
“James found you,” Sam echoed.
“James found you,” Marla followed up.
“James found me and then we found Cliff and—Kirk took the place of Dave, our original guitarist, from a fellow Bay Area band, Exodus. He's been with us only two years at this point.”
“What happened to Dave, anyway?” Marla asked him as she tugged down the hem of her camisole, and then she pressed her hands to her hips as she stood before the edge of the table.
“He was a bad drunk,” Lars explained, “like really bad. Well, we're all into our vodka and beer and everything, but he goes absolutely ape shit with it, though. I wanted to give Dave another chance at it after we gave him a warning but, at that point, we already had Kirk on the phone and ready to jam with us down in New Jersey. We gave him a bus ticket back to L.A. and—he has a band with him now, though. Uh—Megadeth, they're called.”
“Sounds more ferocious than Anthrax,” Sam remarked.
“Yeah, I guess it's—named after the magnitude of a nuclear explosion. Real twisted but fascinating at the same time.”
“So he was a bad drunk?” she asked him with a raise of her eyebrows.
“Oh, yeah. James, Cliff, and I, too much vodka and we turn into clowns. Dave? He got violent and admittedly a little terrifying. In retrospect, I don't want any of us to be around that. I don't know about him, but that's how I feel, though.” He turned his head to Marla.
“Have a seat,” he encouraged her, and she lunged behind her for a chair from the closet table.
“Marla—Taylor, right?” He gestured to her.
“Yeah. From Hell's Kitchen.”
“And I'm Sam Shelley from California,” Sam followed up.
“Ah, a California girl yourself! By mere circumstance we were all drawn together. Now, Marla, I know you're an artist just from what Charlie told me, but what about you, Sam?”
“I'm an artist, too.”
“And according to Frankie and Charlie, she's going to go places with it, too,” Marla added with a twinkle in her eye. Lars flashed Sam a grin.
“I'm curious now,” he admitted.
“Well, my journal is back at my place up in the Bronx,” she pointed out, and she couldn't resist the mirrored grin on her face, “but you oughta come on over at some point, though.”
Lars flashed her a wink and within time, the waitress came on over with a round of drinks courtesy of Cliff. Within time, more patrons came into the club to see Stormtroopers of Death for their first gig, or so Sam thought.
“So where's Charlie at, you reckon?” Lars asked Marla.
“I dunno,” she confessed with a shrug of her bare shoulders, “he went backstage and that's about it. I haven't seen him in over an hour, I just realized. They're going on soon, I know that much. Like in twenty minutes, give or take.” She tugged the bottom hem of her camisole again before she stood to her feet.
“Want me to watch your things, girls?” Lars offered. “I have no problem doing it.”
“Please,” Sam said with a gesture back to him. She followed Marla across the dark floor to the side of the stage, across a series of cables strewn about the floor, and into the narrow backstage area. Charlie staggered towards them with his hair disheveled and his shirt pushed up his body; at some point, he had changed his clothes for show time. Even standing several feet away, Sam could smell the vodka on his breath. He hiccupped and shot out one hand before him.
“Sorry—I'm drunk,” he sputtered.
“Obviously.” Sam chuckled but she stifled it once she realized he had to go onstage soon. Charlie fell right onto the seat of his pants and he gasped at the feeling. He looked up at Sam and Marla in a daze: the color had left his face and his lips were so dry and parched from the alcohol. He showed them a sickly little smile and he reached out for them.
“Help me out here, Sam—” Marla grunted, and the two of them held onto his hands and yanked back. He almost yanked them back onto the floor next to him, but Sam buckled her knees and they pulled him up off the hard floor. He clutched at his brow to steady the feeling in his head. He reached out with his other hand to steady himself. Marla put her arm around his back, while Sam took to his right side to ensure he would stay standing. She eyed the figure of Darth Vader on his shirt, and the whole thing behind Stormtroopers of Death, the thing Frank had told her in the two months before, popped into her mind.
“Charlie, what's going on with Stormtroopers of Death?” she asked right into his ear. But the man had had his share of alcohol, that even standing right there next to him, she knew he didn't hear her.
“CHARLIE!” Marla shouted over the wall of noise around them.
“Huh?” He lifted his head for a delirious glimpse over at her.
“Sam wants to ask you a question!” she declared. He turned his head in Sam's direction.
“What's going on with Stormtroopers of Death? I got my grant for school but I'm still short on money, though. I have to pay back my parents and pay my rent.”
“Oh, we're goin' on tour next month,” he blurted out. “I was gonna tell ya but—” He hiccupped and bowed his head. “—it just kinda happened all at once.”
“You mean it?” She gasped and grinned at him.
“Oh, yeah. I dunno if I was allowed to even tell ya or not, but—yeah. We're gonna play here at L'Amour starting next month. We get paid and you do, too.” He showed her a sickly grin but she could care less if he was inebriated. Sam flung her arms around him which took him aback.
“Oh, yeah—yeah, I love you, too.” His hands caressed up her back, but then his body shuddered and shook.
“Are you okay?” she asked him as she stood back to look right into his face. The color had long left his face, but in its place came something that was the color of old wet paper.
“Oh—” he moaned out, and he pursed his lips together.
“Over here, Charlie,” Marla guided him towards the door behind them; Charlie turned away from Sam and he pushed open the door. No sooner had he pushed it open when he vomited onto the sidewalk outside.
“Oh, jeez,” Sam winced at the very sound of it.
“Yeah,” Marla agreed as she hung right next to her. “When'll these boys learn that drinking's not good for you?”
“Hopefully soon,” said Sam as she adjusted the strap of her bra. “I'd hate to see their beautiful bodies get all ravaged by too much booze.”
“Beautiful bodies?” Marla chuckled.
“Yeah. When I was drawing you and him for school, I couldn't believe how gorgeous his hair is. I made that drawing with colored pencil, too, so it was all full and lush, rich with texture. Also—” Sam glanced around to ensure they were alone there. “—keep this between you and me.”
“Yeah, yeah,” Marla nodded her head; Sam extended her pinky finger for her to take, and they linked fingers together. The rich dark red garnet on her index finger glittered under the backstage lights.
“When they were recording Stormtroopers of Death, and Frankie and I were in that closet,” Sam recalled, “he let me feel his hair and his scalp. Like legitimately run my fingers through his hair so I could feel it better before I got down to brass tacks with the drawing.”
Marla gaped at her.
“Really?” she lowered her voice down enough so they would remain out of earshot.
“Yeah. It was—it was something.” Sam folded her arms across her chest.
“What's it like?”
“A lot like Charlie's. Full and lush, but smoother, though. I can tell Charlie's got a lot more curling going on and a lot more split ends, too.”
“Oh, yeah, he does.”
“But Frankie's hair is like—I wanna say silky. I almost didn't want to stop doing it, and I knew he didn't want me to stop, either. Like he was really enjoying it.”
“Like a little too much?” Marla chuckled at the sound of that.
“Yeah...” Sam's voice trailed off, and she leaned her head to the side a bit; Marla turned around so she could see Charlie still at the door. He tugged it closed and very slowly and cautiously, he shuffled around and pressed his hands to his hips. His mouth hung agape and even from a distance, they could smell it on his breath. At least the color returned to his face.
“Would you like a drink of water?” Marla offered him.
“Please,” he begged her. “Please, please, please, god, please.”
“I'll be right back,” Sam told them with a raise of her finger. She doubled back to the side of the stage to fetch a glass of water for him, but something caught her foot. She glanced down at the cables on the floor. She had no idea where they led to, but she tripped.
She landed hard on her knee and yelped out in pain. Lars said something from across the room. Sam wriggled her foot from the cable but the whole space was dark, and not enough light to give her any sort of help. Her knee and her ankle throbbed in pain: she tore at the cables and she finally managed to break free. But when she stood to her feet, she lost her balance.
She fell to the floor once again and grimaced from the pain. Marla and Charlie were nowhere to be found.
“Are you alright?”
She looked up to find Joey over her. She rubbed her eyes with her free hand to make sure he wasn't hallucinating.
“Are you alright?” he asked her again, but that time in a hushed voice, to which she locked onto his handsome sun kissed face. Stray tendrils of that jet black hair dangled down from the side of his head like the tentacles of an octopus. The blue white light from the ceiling overhead shone on the crown of his head and on part of his face: his brown skin glowed within the soft light all around them. His slim little body loomed over her; she kept her hand pressed on his lower leg as if she was about to lose him.
She gazed up into his brown eyes, extra dark against the blue and white around them.
“Yeah. I'm more than alright, actually.” The words left her lips even as her leg ached. He showed her a sweet little smile, complete with a row of crooked little off white teeth. She spotted a small gap in the left side, like his teeth never came in properly when he was growing up.
“Here, lemme help you—” He held onto her hands and tugged her up onto her feet. Her left knee and ankle seared in the pain but she managed to stand on both feet. He kicked a bunch of the cables away from her so they could have a path to the light.
“Let's go over here,” he coaxed her. “It's quiet and calmer.” Joey put his arm around her shoulders to help her into the next room. He guided her away from the darkness and towards a spare door on the side of the room. Inside of there was a low comfortable looking chair and a footstool. Joey helped her to the chair; he kept one hand on her shoulder and he let her sit down on the soft cushion. He nudged the footstool closer to her.
“Here—” He reached down with his hands under her ankle, and he hoisted it up onto the top cushion. Sam shifted her weight and she pushed herself back into the chair. He stood over her to make sure she was comfortable.
“Thank you, Joey,” she breathed out to him.
“Can I get you anything?” he offered her. “A pack o' ice? A little drink of water?”
“Both of those, please,” she grunted from the pain. “My purse, too—Lars has it.”
“Okay, I'll be right back,” he promised her in a gentle voice. He ducked out of the room, and in turn left her alone with her throbbing ankle. Sam fetched up a sigh and rested her hands on the arm rests. Her heart pounded in her chest, even though the adrenaline began wearing away. The pain was almost too much to bear for her even as she held perfectly still and kept her leg in place on the foot rest.
She pinched her eyes shut and leaned her head back onto the top of the cushion. She hoped that Charlie would keep his word and she would see a paycheck in her near future.
She opened her eyes to find Joey at the doorway. He had put her purse over his shoulder and he cradled three water bottles in his arms.
“I wasn't able to find any ice, but this bottle right here is extra cold, though.” He set the middle bottle onto her ankle. The bite of the cold sent a chill up her spine, and yet it soothed the pain within seconds. He then handed her the bottle in his left hand, and she couldn't get the big drink of water into her mouth any quicker.
“Uh, let's see—” He peered about the room for something, and he set her purse down on her lap and he kept the third bottle for himself. He darted behind the chair for something and he emerged with a mirror in his free hand. Joey kept the door open and propped up the mirror on the far wall of the room.
“Show's gonna start in like two minutes,” he told her, out of breath. “We don't want ya to miss it, though.” He ducked towards the door again.
“Joey?” she called after him, to which he turned around for a look back at her, complete with his dark eyebrows raised in question.
“Thank you,” she told him in a broken voice, and he showed her a modest shrug of the shoulders.
“I saw ya fall,” he said, “and Marla and Charlie were nowhere to be seen and a lot of people were comin' in, too. I told Lars about it and he went 'oh my god! I hope she's okay' and I told him you were, and then I just came back here. But—let's try not to let this ruin the night, though.” He winked at her and she showed him a smile in return.
“If you need anything, I'll be right next to this door, okay?” he said to her.
“Yeah, of course.”
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Heard By The Silence Of The Wind (A Name)
The Unusual Tenants Of Flat 6b
18th September 1970
The world felt like poetry, not rhyming, but swathed in the beauty that poetry could be. The windows were all open, except the kitchen one which was stuck fast. Tompson leaned against the side of the calm armchair, Seaswitch’s armchair, legs like train tracks pointing away from him, all train tracks pointed away- that was the beauty of them. A promise of the possibility of escape. But Tompson did not want to escape. Not today. And never, never like Seaswitch who seemed to want to escape the precautionary confines of his skin, flesh, muscle, bone. Tompson would never allow it. There was no music, only the sighing of the wind, which seemed to brush silence over the land with a motherly, calming touch. It felt like a crime to speak, a sin, but he had to know. But not now, perhaps later. He could wait for a while. Until the beauty of the world faded to a manageable hum, until the sounds of traffic breached the isolation. He could wait for a while. Allow the peace to take him
No more silence. The world returned in earnest. Seaswitch had piled his duvet on the floor and flung himself across it, looking like a debauched figure from a painting Tompson couldn’t remember.
“I thought you were asleep.”
The silence returned but it was not as peaceful as it was. It would never be so again. He’d allow himself to ask. He might even get a response.
“Why are you called Seaswitch?”
There was a pause but Seaswitch couldn’t avoid the question. There was nothing but silence between them and silence had always been a weak barrier. “Because it’s my name.”
Tompson refused to give up. “It’s not your first name, and your surname’s Seaswitch-Barnes so... Why take Seaswitch?”
Another pause, but this seemed to be filled with something other than silence. It was a long evening. The time of day tainted the world. “Barnes is my father’s name. I refuse it.”
“But... Why not go by your first name?”
“Because I don’t.”
Well that was helpful. “What even is your first name?” Tompson had never heard Seaswitch referred to by anything other than “OI”, or half of his surname. Occasionally a Mr was thrown in front of it.
“I’m not going to tell you that.”
“Well, someone’s gotta know.”
A sigh. It could have almost been the wind. “If you want to find out that badly, then look on my tombstone when the day arrives. I don’t quite think that my blessed lack of identification will escape the administrative arms of Death.”
Tompson frowned. He couldn’t think properly. The words in his head felt too simplistic after the depth of the poetry. He didn’t like when Seaswitch talked about his own funeral. It was ridiculous- it wasn’t like it was a wedding.
“If no-one else knows your name, and you don’t talk to the people that do, er. Words. ... Then it might as well all be for nothing. Like your identity only half exists. Like... Like you are only heard by the silence of the wind.”
Seaswitch snorted, his lips stained with port. “You read too many poetry books. It’s probably the absinthe.” Seaswitch had been given a bottle of Absenta Montana, which he’s re-gifted to Tompson. Seaswitch couldn’t bear the taste of aniseed.
The silence returned. The green bottle was in the kitchen. Tompson hadn’t had much. Didn’t like to mix it with Valium. Rarely had Valium. Didn’t like to mix it with life. It reminded Tompson too much of his mother- loving but distant, like there was some great canyon between them that could never be breached. Never be breached. Like the subject of Seaswitch’s first name. It would be lost to the hush of approaching night.
“Where did you go to?”
Tompson woke up again. He wondered whether confusion was an emotion. Seaswitch lay on his side this time, over his duvet, hand propping up his head like one of those French girls who seemed to feature so prominently in some art. Eventually Tompson built up the strength to reply, “I didn’t go anywhere. I'm here.”
“No, school. Where d’you go to school.”
Excercise books, coridoors, shoulders knocking into shoulders, cold, whistles- “Back in my town.”
“Not this town?”
“Course not. It was up north.”
Seaswitch narrowed his eyes, like a failed sleuth who’d taken to getting pissed on the job, “Hmmmmmm. You don’t sound too northern.”
Repressing the urge to roll his eyes- it was a bad habit, apparently- Tompson responded, with a mildly vitriolic tone that imitated Seaswitch’s usual tone, “ And you don’t sound like a farmer.”
“Touche. I went to a boarding school with vocal training. That’s why. And you?”
“Mother was from down south. Dad was Scottish. Accent training from some ex-teacher who lived near.”
A silence grew again, a fragile one, waiting to be disturbed. The wind picked up some energy, blew against the windows, whistled through the spiralling metal that formed the fire escape.
“What was your school....,” Tompson began, “What did you do in your school. Lessons.”
“A lot of things.”
“Just one, then.”
Seaswitch hesitated, thinking, appearing to actually take his request seriously for once, appearing to care. Eventually he spoke; “Latin. We learnt Latin. It was boring- nobody enjoyed it, but... I wasn’t bad at it. I didn’t even mind it that much. Boring but interesting. I even put a little effort in- which was a lot more than the other Latin students- so I became the best in the class. The most on the ball. That was why it took them so long to expel me.”
“Have you forgotten it, then? I heard without practice you lose languages.”
“No- well yes, you do forget but no. I don’t practice as such. Just... sometimes I think?”
“I don’t understand.”
Seaswitch pursed his lips, clearly regretting saying anything, but too far in to back out without suspicion. “When... When I think about things that I don’t want to, I think it in Latin.”
“You think in Latin?”
Seaswitch grunted in affirmative.
Tompson shook his head, a slight grin growing, “Show off.”
Seaswitch squeezed his eyes shut- why did they have to keep conversing? What was it all for- really? Did it matter? He sighed, “Yes, dear?”
“Piss off. How... Do you think we’ll see- how long do you think we’ll live?”
Well that certainly was a novel and totally non-depressing question. “How long do you think you’ll live?” He countered.
Tompson bit his lip as he thought, “Recon I’ll see the millennia in.”
“Hmm... Maybe I’ll last ‘til... ’80? ‘85 if I'm lucky?”
“No, I mean the decade.”
Tompson spluttered, “You think you only have ten years left?! Fucking hell, Seaswitch!”
“Well that’s a bit bloody morbid!”
Internally, Seaswitch groaned. He did not want to get into a lecture. He’d have to say something or Tompson would never stop harping on about it.
“Well, of course I’ll die. We all die in the end, nothing can stop that, nothing can change it but, I suppose there is an honour, in the manner, the time, the feeling. The same as any action.
“As a child I thought it ridiculous that for the knights in the stories, the most honourable death was on a battlefield in, quite probably, horrific agony. I thought death could have no honour. It doesn’t; only what we ourselves bestow upon it. For me, dying on the stage is the most beautiful end I could imagine for myself. Knowing beforehand that my health is not up to it, that it may well kill me, but treading the boards regardless. A passion that overcomes the fear of death. That is because, perhaps far down, that if my life ends because I pursued my passion mercilessly, hopelessly, I feel so strongly for something that I would risk death fir it; then I must have done it right. That is what comforts me. That is why I continue.”
Seaswitch didn’t look at Tompson, in case he saw that his eyes were shining. He didn’t want Tompson to see that and he didn’t want to see pity in Tompson’s own eyes. He allowed them to lapse once again into silence.
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What Remains of Troop 734 Update #1
[ID: a hazy image with a pink filter of half-open blinds behind a sheer curtain. In the center, What Remains of Troop 734 is written in bold black font. Beneath it Update - Week 1 is written in black font /end id]
Hey, hi, hello everyone!! The first week of Camp Nano has wrapped. I’m feeling pretty good about the whole process so far! I like the more relaxed pace of Camp Nano in comparison to NaNoWriMo in November. It was a quick way to burn myself out, but this is a much more leisurely exploration into a world I’ve already built whereas in November, I started from scratch. So, excerpts, taglist, and details will be beneath the cut! <3 As a head’s up, there will be spoilers for As Static, As a Whole ahead. Also, this update is LONG.
TW: blood, death, murder, zombies, and parental abuse
Chapter one begins with Reign and Rue on the run from the events of their arc in As Static, As a Whole. Their father, Raptor, has been killed by Cody and Company. Reign and Rue thank Cody & the gang, and go their separate ways. However, now Reign and Rue, who have never had freedom in their lives are stuck figuring out what to do for themselves. What happens is they steal their father’s armored RV (it is the Earth Roamer LTI, if y’all wanna see how wild this vehicle is) and drive as fast as they can in the opposite direction, like that will absolve them of something. It is a lot like that Tiger poem by Nael, age 6.
[ID: A screenshot from a book of poetry. The excerpt reads: The Tiger by Nael, age 6. From They’re Singing a Song in Their Rocket. The poem reads: The tiger. He destroyed his cage. Yes. YES. The tiger is out /end id]
Yes, that poem. These two highly traumatized kids are thrust into the wilderness full of zombies on their own and they aren’t quite sure how to process it. Sure, they were raised by two doomsday preppers, but the world seems entirely too big to be two teens on their own. The controlled environment from their bunker is gone.
[image ID: a blurry image of a car traveling in a tunnel. The headlights are on, and the photo has been tinted with a pink filter. /end id]
The world was dead. Their dad was dead. Reign and Rue felt okay, all things considered. Not much had changed in their lives. The end times had come, like their parents taught them in their bunker in the woods - one of the many properties and acres of land their parents owned. They were prepared. At least, that was what Reign told himself as they were barreling down the freeway to god knew where. Rue sat beside him in the seat, rocking herself, jiggling her leg, attempting to control her breathing.
“Fuck…fuck…don’t cry, Rue.” He found himself repeating under his breath. It was almost a prayer to keep himself breathing so he could console his younger sister.
“Where do we go from here?” She asked, watching the prisoners they had freed from their father speed in the opposite direction.
“I don’t know. As far away as humanly possible, I guess.” He replied, risking a glance to her. Her tan skin had gone ruddy, tears making her nose bright red and runny.
“Dad would have had a plan.”
“Dad didn’t have a plan since Mom was killed in that grocery store.”
Rue curled around herself. Even from the corner of his eye, Reign could see how small she looked. Five foot nothing Rue in the passenger seat trying to make herself invisible, as if the emotional turmoil of seeing their father bludgeoned to death would pass over her if she could be unnoticed. But why was she so upset? Their dad was a piece of shit. Raptor had never so much as uttered a kind word to Rue since she’d been born, so why did it matter?
He was the man of the family now.
“You wanna stop somewhere to go eat?” Reign moved his hand and shook her knee, shaking Rue out of her downward spiral.
Reign is trying very hard to keep his own anxiety at bay for Rue’s sake, but he really doesn’t realize he doesn’t have to be strong for her. She wants to be strong for him, too.
[image id: a close up of an open hand in silhouette. all five fingers are spread out and radiating like an old tape recording that has gone wrong. it looks like there is light beaming from the fingertips. /end id]
“Are you checking yourself out for the zombies?” Rue smirked, looking over at him.
“If I’m gonna have to die saving your ass, I may as well look cute.” Reign quipped, smoothing back an errant strand of chestnut brown hair.
“Do you ever wonder if our coping mechanisms are completely fucked?”
Reign opened his mouth to reply, but ignored the festering need for solace and understanding what happened to them and what will happen to them for the welcome sight of a run-down Happy Jack Burger.
“Holy shit, is that a Happy Jack Burger?” He gasped, and Rue twitched, though didn’t move. She was busy studying the map.
“You’re screwing with me.” She stated.
“I’m not.” Reign groaned.
“You are trying to get my hopes up.”
“Ruru, why would I do that?”
With a sigh, she placed the map in her lap. She was so delicate with how she handled things. Smoothing them, making sure it was just as she found it, rotating it gently until it folded into the glove compartment. When she looked up, she squeaked with excitement, whipping off her seatbelt in anticipation of jumping out of the Land Rover.
“We could have French fries again, Reign!”
“PUT YOUR SEATBELT BACK ON!”
I love this excerpt so much. I think it really sums up their relationship. They are always joking with each other, while kind of addressing they should probably address their trauma in a healthy way, but never actually doing that. Or at least, not doing that yet.
[image id: a silhouette of a man and a woman against the desert. They appear to be walking. The entire image has a pink tint to it.]
So, I decided this wip would have an entirely different vibe from As Static, As a Whole very early on even though they take place in the same universe. Asaaw has a very grungy feel, there is a darkness to it. This reflects one theme of that book, which is “who are you in the dark”. With What Remains of Troop 734, the colors are hazy and bright. I love the idea of using brightness in horror. Sometimes the horrific stuff is within plain sight, you know?
The restaurant, despite being in the center of the highway for everyone to see, seemed to be in decent condition. It was little more than a shack, enough to fit a dozen people and no more. Reign had only been a handful of times in his life, but it was one of the happiest memories he’d ever had with his father. He was with Reign just after Rue was born, just the two of them lined up with the locals (what state they were in, Reign did not know) in the dry summer heat, surrounded by the buzz of the moths hitting the bright neon lights. It was dusk, and he remembered how the colors bled into each other like a watercolor painting. If he could pick a favorite color, Reign would have said sunset.
He was so short, it was impossible to see the menu from the angle he was at. For one moment of mercy, Raptor looked down at him and smiled. Reign was struck by how human his father looked in that moment. How his father’s eyes crinkled up, how something seemed to shine there for a moment. His smile was still a hard line behind his well-maintained beard. It had been brown then, instead of the salt and pepper look he’d had going on until….well, an hour and a half ago. Patiently, he picked Reign up into his strong arms. He smelled like chew and pine. Masculinity Reign could never quite imitate. But he tried. God, did he try. The hamburger he’d ordered tasted better than any meal he’d had before or since. If he could pick a favorite food, he would have said that hamburger.
We are ending on my favorite excerpt from what I’ve written!! Reign is reminiscing about one of the few times his father showed compassion and softness. These moments are so few and far between that he clings there for dear life.
Alright - I gotta go get my words in for today! <3
taglist (ask to be +/-): @radiomacbeth, @svpphicwrites, @isherwoodj, @writerlywonders, @aphaimaniis, @dallonswords, @alicewestwater, @spencers-tomes, @ryns-ramblings, @avi-burton-writing, @haldimilks, @bijouxs, @pamsdrabbles, @kitblogsthings, @piyawrites, @sjjsalamanders, @howdywrites, @little-boats-on-a-lake, @maxgraybooks
camp nano update taglist: @woodhousejay, @ashen-crest, @sirius-xm, @isherwoodj, @girl-like-substance, @avakrahn, @write-your-own-stories, @refillablebutanetorch, @slam-dunkrai, @unholieds, @birdywrote, @dallonswords, @spencers-tomes, @isherwoodj, @avi-burton-writing, @ryns-ramblings, @florraisons, @kitblogsthings, @radiomacbeth, @svpphicwrites, @bijouxs, @aphaimaniis, @writerlywonders, @haldimilks, @alicewestwater, @piyawrites
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Enticing 3 (HS)
Summary: Harry Styles is a young billionaire and CEO of his own company. He mostly keeps to himself, he is stern and very meticulous when it comes to business. He also likes to keep his personal life very private for the sake of his newly born son Oliver Styles. It isn’t until he meets Y/N Y/L/N that everything changes. She becomes his new nanny after his previous one quits due to personal reasons. She is young, caring, and sweet. Will they ignore their feelings? Will Harry’s girlfriend accept their love and leave them? Will she be able to cope with his busy agenda? What about Oliver’s mother? Where is she? Who is she?
Author's note: Hi guys! I hope you are all doing great! Sorry, this chapter has taken me so long to finish, but I've been taking some time off for my mental health. I hope you enjoy this one! LET ME KNOW IF YOU WANT TO BE ADDED TO THE TAG LIST
Word count: 4K
Taglist: @brockdolan, @cuddlingwithharry, @harrystylesstiddiez, @gredmforge, @nahbrohq , @twpkhes, @harrys-cherriesss, @jackiehollanderr, @n0t-autumn,
He laid in bed in the quietness of his vast bedroom. He kept thinking about the nanny. He found her intriguing and very attractive and to him, that was a dangerous combination. It had only been a day and he already had her walking around the apartment wearing his clothes. He had to create boundaries for the sake of his son. He had to be more professional. At the end of the day, she was his employee.
Y/N woke up early the next morning with the first ring of her phone alarm. She knew she couldn’t afford to hit the snooze button. She had to get ready before Oliver did and so after a quick shower, she made her way downstairs. She was instantly engulfed with the prominent smell of freshly made coffee.
“Morning” Harry’s raspy voice, startled her as she poured herself a cup of coffee. He sat by the kitchen island with his laptop opened. Harry still wore what he had worn to bed. A pair of sweatpants and a white t-shirt. His hair was still messy and tossed around. He didn’t look like his usual formal self. Y/N even had to take a double-take, not believing her eyes for a second. “Did you sleep well?” He raised the cup to his lips.
“Very and yourself?” She leaned back against the counter; her hands tightly wrapped around her cup of coffee as she blew on it. “Good morning, Mrs. Johnson”.
“Morning dear. Would you like me to prepare you something to eat?” She wore a bright yellow apron that reminded Y/N of her own grandmother. She used to wear it around the house since she always spent her days cooking and baking for her family. On the other hand, Mrs. Johnson was quite excited to have another woman in the staff. The house became particularly quiet in the afternoons when Harry was at work. At least now she would have someone to talk to.
“Whatever is easier for you”
“Anything you’d like, Ms. Y/L/N” She insisted. It was her job to tend to others.
“Make her my favorite. Mrs. Johnson. I am sure she’ll love it” Harry interjected after hearing their conversation. She gave him a quick nod before getting to it.
“I was thinking of dropping by my house after breakfast. Just to pick up my things. I was wondering if I could take Oliver with me” Harry looked at the corner of his laptop screen to check the time. “I’ll be back before you know it” She added.
“That’s fine. I got a few business meetings to attend to. I’ll be back by lunch” He let her know before shutting his laptop and heading back upstairs to get ready for the day.
Breakfast had been French toast with a side bowl of fruit. Just as Harry had predicted, Y/N had enjoyed the meal. She even felt like she needed to unbutton her pants as she scrambled through the kitchen trying to prepare Oliver’s first bottle of the day.
“Should we stop by the park for a walk? It’s autumn and the leaves have started turning colors” Harry heard her say as he stood by the door. He had already watched her change him into a clean onesie. Now she carried him as she prepared his diaper bag. He doesn’t want to interrupt especially when he sees her kissing his cheeks and tiny hands. It was a sweet moment. One of those moments that you wish you could frame forever. Unfortunately, he only had a few minutes.
“Hey” He wore all black today. He looked a bit more casual than most days but still managed to look sharp and elegant. “I just came to say goodbye”
Y/N had started noticing how he always managed to make space on his busy schedule to see his son. Even if it was only for a few minutes. She smiled at Harry as she approached him and handed him his baby. She took advantage of having both of her hands-free to finish putting somethings away and zipping up the diaper bag.
“You look quite handsome,” Harry said to Oliver as he played with his hands. “Wish I could stay and cuddled you all day” He exhaled, “If you are taking him to the park, let me put the stroller in the car for you” Harry held Oliver up with his cheek pressed against his, loving the soft texture of his skin against his. It reminded him of their firsts days together when they did skin to skin.
“I can do it. Enjoy your son” She insisted but Harry wasn’t going to give up that easily.
“Nonsense. Here” She took him back and started swaying him while Harry went fetching for the stroller into Oliver’s closet. “Let’s go” He picked up the bag with his other hand and guided them out of the room. “What time are you thinking of taking him to the park?” He asked as they quietly rode the elevator.
“Mind if I join you?” A walk in the park sounded lovely. It was that time of the year when the weather was perfect. It wasn’t too hot nor too cold yet. And Harry knew the wonders that fresh air did to his mood especially when he was stressed. Y/N responded by shaking her head at him. “I’ll call you to meet you there”
Harry made sure the stroller was properly placed in the trunk of the car before strapping Oliver into his car seat. Meanwhile, Y/N sat on the driver seat, trying to get familiar with the expensive car and all its gadgets.
“Are you ready?” He asked her after shutting her door. His eyes scanned her dashboard making sure that everything was functioning correctly before letting her go.
“Alright. Keep me updated” Harry said before walking back towards his car where Daniel waited for him. She watched him through the rearview mirror getting into the car and driving away.
“Patrick?” The young nanny called out as she struggled to carry Oliver’s car seat into her apartment. She had driven extremely slow and careful. Y/N had been flipped off by hundreds of New Yorkers, but she hadn’t care.
“You are home!” Patrick Robinson was Y/N’s roommate since they had graduated. They had attended the same college and since then they had been inseparable.
Y/N took Oliver out of his seat as she settled on the couch. Just as she laid him against her chest, Patrick made an appearance wearing one of his charming smiles.
“Oh, my goodness. He is so cute! Where you get him from?” He gasped, covering his mouth his hands. His nails were painted with the obnoxious neon pink that Y/N hated. She hated the brightness of the color, but Patrick always insisted on it. Y/N was the type of woman who always painted her nails in pastel colors.
“I am babysitting him. Do you think I steal babies or something?” Patrick chuckled as he settled beside her.
“Whose child is this?” Patrick knew that Y/N had gone to a job interview, but he hadn’t gotten any further details. She had also texted him, letting him know of her whereabouts just in case he worried.
“Harry Styles” Y/N reached down and pulled a small blanket from the bag to wrap Oliver with.
“As in the CEO?” Patrick had read about him in a magazine. He had been bored out of his mind as he waited for a doctor to see him. He was no stranger to him. The article listed him as one of the most eligible bachelors in Manhattan. He was in the top three. The writer never failed to mention the estimated amount of money he earned a day and even dared list the properties her owned around the globe.
“But most importantly, this is Oliver Styles”
“You are so fucking lucky. He is yummy. Do you know if he is dating anyone?” Patrick asked as he ate his breakfast.
“He has someone. I don’t know what type of relationship they have but they defiantly fuck around”
“You have to date him. I read that he is quite the lover” Patrick winked at Y/N before taking a spoonful of cereal into his mouth. He hoped his friend finally ventured out and took a chance at romance. It had been months. And he considered it to be very unhealthy.
“I could never” She shook her head, “A man like him seeks high society women. The type of women that know what folk to use with each food. You should see his current one. She is a bitch, but she is drop-dead gorgeous”. She hated her personality, but that didn’t mean that she couldn’t admire her natural beauty.
“He is seeking a partner, bot a fucking butler” Y/N held back her laugh not wanting to disturb Oliver. “He is gorgeous Y/N. You can’t tell me that your hoohaa doesn’t get all excited when he is around” Patrick had no filter. One of the qualities that Y/N always admired from him. He would tell her the good and the bad straight up. He wasn’t a hypocrite and if he didn’t like you, he would make sure you knew.
“I don’t know. I don’t know if I am ready either” It’s wasn’t a big mystery to people closest to Y/N that her last relationship had been a mess.
Y/N’s world revolved around him. She always cared for him, but it was never enough for James. He had manipulated her and made her think that no one loved her but him. He isolated her from the entire world. After he succeeded, he cheated on her and dumped her right after it. James had even managed to steal from her. He had taken a few prized possessions and had sold them.
The money and the cheating weren’t the worst. It had been the manipulation. He made her believe that everyone was against her and that he was the only one there for her. She had said horrible things to her mother and sister because of it. And to this day, Y/N continued apologizing to them. He had driven her insane. At some point, she was unrecognizable to her friends and family. She wasn’t the sweet girl that everyone had grown to love.
“I love you, but you have to move on. You deserve someone like Styles. Someone just has hardworking and is determined like you. Plus, his baby already loves you” Patrick winked at her. They sat around and chatted for a few minutes until Patrick helped her pack her suitcases while she continued to cuddle Oliver.
“I’ll see you next weekend?” Y/N asked Patrick as he leaned against the door of the car.
“Of course. You know where to find me. Text me!” He leaned in and kissed her cheek before heading back into the building.
She made sure to text Harry before driving to the park. She was quiet as the conversation with Patrick lingered in the back of her mind. She wasn’t blind. She found him attractive, but it was her job. Her job was on the line and unless Harry took the first step, she wouldn’t dare to risk her job.
She parked the car by the upper east side entrance and started unloading. Y/N made sure that Oliver was bundled up before transferring from his car seat to his stroller. They settled down on a comfortable bench and watched people running and walking past them for a few minutes.
“You are reading Sense and Sensibility to my son, Ms. Y/L/N?” Harry appeared, holding two cups of hot chocolate. He wore a confident smile, amused by the choice of book. “I would have opted for something simpler like Dr. Seuss”
“It’s never too early to start them on Jane Austen, Mr. Styles” Y/N shut the book close and laid it beside her.
“Here. Blow on it. It’s hot” He handed her a cup, settling beside her. “Did you get everything you needed?” He had gone to the office for two meetings, but one of them was canceled.
“I did. How were your meetings?” Harry reached out, pulling Oliver’s stroller closer to him.
“Unamusing” Harry pulled Oliver’s blanket higher up to his chin hoping that he wasn’t chilly. “Do you live on your own, Mrs. Y/L/N?”
“I don’t. I live with Patrick” Harry instantly shifted his attention towards her. Surprised by her response. He had expected her to say she lived with her sister or best friend, or on her own. Anything but living with a dude.
“I am sure he is quite displeased with you living with someone else besides him” He clears his throat, leaning back on his seat.
“I am sure he’ll miss me, but it’s my job” Harry nodded with pursed his lips as he watched her drinking her hot chocolate. He knew he had no right, but he was still jealous. Jealous of her gay roommate.
Four weeks had gone by since Y/N had entered Harry and Oliver’s life. They had fallen into a routine with Oliver. He was finally following the schedule and was growing bigger by the minute. Too quickly if you asked Y/N. Oliver was the youngest baby she has ever taken care of and she already loved him to pieces. He was sweet and calm. He had started developing a personality and Y/N loved watching how he had started becoming an actual person.
A few changes had been made to the penthouse. It hadn’t been anything too big, but it had made a huge difference. The basket filled with toys in the corner of the living room and the foam floor puzzle matt was evidence that the baby existed. It wasn’t Harry Styles's bachelor pad anymore. It was his home where he resided with his son. It was where his son would grow and would take his first steps.
Harry adored what Y/N had done to the living room. The matt had been placed beside the coffee table. Y/N had even made sure that the matt was grey and white. For it to keep the color scheme of the house. He loved coming home and finding them on their tummies, laughing at one another with big smiles.
Things had been interesting between the couple. Harry had tried his best to keep a distance between them, but it hadn’t worked. Their hands would accidentally brush past each other or Y/N would meet his stare across the room. Harry had even caught her running from her room to Oliver’s in only a towel after Oliver had woke up screaming from a nap.
He had just arrived from work and had caught them in their usual interaction. Harry leaned against the frame of the door as she was found changing him. Her hands were covered with lotion as she rubbed them against the other, trying to warm it before applying it to his body. His day at work had been long. Canada was still underwater, and he still hadn’t been able to figure out what his next step was. The last thing he wanted to do was to fly over yet things were looking like he might have to. He wasn’t happy about it. And the fact that he had to fire a bunch of people for incompetence didn’t help.
She ran her hands over his delicate skin just after unbuttoning his onesie. She gently lifted him from the changing table and laid him over her shoulder. A burp cloth over her shoulder in case he drooled spit up or puked on her again. She wore her third outfit of the day. He had ruined the last two by puking while she burped him.
“Hi. How was your day?” Y/N asked as soon as she noticed his presence. She always asked about him and how he felt. This always caused a feeling to surge within him. A feeling that always spread like wildfire with him. It made him want to tell her all his worries, his fears, and his concerns. It made him want to put down the wall that he had built around him.
“Like always. Yours? How was he?” He added for safety not wanting to look like he cared too much about her.
“It was great. We went to the park and then we had tummy time” The Central Park outings had become routine. Harry had even joined for a handful of them. He enjoyed listing to her reading to Oliver. Even though he was quite sure that Oliver had no interest in the piece of literary art. “I forgot an outfit for him” She whispered under her breath.
“I’ll get it” Harry offered “What color?” He asked as he opened a drawer filled with different types of onesies.
“White or cream” Harry chuckled while shaking his head at her. He had noticed her trend of dressing him in light colors. “You realize that you have an obsession with dressing my baby in white right?” He asked as he walked back with a cream long sleeve shirt and matching pants.
“I do not! He wore black yesterday” She fired back, allowing Harry to dress up Oliver.
“He wore white too!” He had found Y/N sitting on the floor of the living room, holding Oliver while they enjoyed the sunset.
“You just weren’t there to see it!” Harry laughed as he shook his head. He lent her a hand and started putting things away and putting the dirty laundry into the basket. “He manages to look good in everything, so it doesn’t matter” Y/N kissed his cheek, getting a small smile from him before putting him over her shoulder.
“Fine. I guess you are both very cute” slips out of his mouth before he can stop it. Y/N tries her best to hide the small smile that tempted to appear at the small yet sweet compliment. Y/N took the burp cloth over her shoulder and transferred it to Harry before handing him, Oliver. “My friends are coming over for dinner tonight. I thought I would let you know” He said with his lips pressed against Oliver’s head.
“Ok. Would you like me to have dinner in the kitchen or in my room?” Her hands had fallen on her waist as she stared at both boys. Harry’s gentleness around Oliver always managed to make her heart melt.
“You are having dinner with us” Harry left the room, leaving her without words. Call her crazy but Y/N found it very attractive that he hadn’t asked her but demanded her to attend.
“Wait. What? Mr. Styles!” She called out as she trailed behind him. “Should I change then?” Y/N asked again as they reached the bottom of the stairs. Harry checked her out from head to toe without any remorse.
“You look perfectly fine to me, Ms. Y/L/N” The sweater she wore revealed her shoulders and collarbones. His eyes lingered on her soft and delicate skin, silently calling for his undivided attention. The things and the lengths he would go to get a taste of her. He cleared his throat, ran a hand down Oliver’s back before tearing his eyes away from her.
“What are we going to talk about? Babies?” Y/N followed him into the kitchen and started preparing Henry’s bottle. Harry sat on a stool as he continued to cuddle his son.
“I am sure that there is more of you than your work, Ms. Y/L/N” She felt nervous about the encounter. She prayed they weren’t like Valeria and they were genuinely nice to her. Y/N also felt like this was a step in the right direction for them. He was showing her a side of him that she never hoped she would see. She hoped this was the start of something.
“What if it isn’t interesting enough?” Patrick had kept insisting on her and begging her to take a leap of faith with Harry. He had even yelled at her. He said if she didn’t date Harry then he was going to.
“I can assure you that at least one of us will find you interesting” Harry smiled for her. She bit her lip and glanced away.
“Would you like some wine?” She asked trying to stir the conversation. She could feel the tension.
“Please” He instructed her which bottle to open from his wine collection and as she poured him a glass, he asked, “Aren’t you going to have some?” She remained quiet but reached out for another glass. She wasn’t the biggest fan of red wine and preferred white, but she wasn’t going to turn down his invitation.
Right before she could take a sip, the doorbell rang, startling them. They both held their places and heard Mrs. Johnson greet the guest by the door. As soon as she heard the pitter-patter of their shoes against the floor, Y/N turned her attention towards Oliver’s bottle.
“Hello” Michael smiled at his friend as he entered, followed by Alessandro and William. Harry greeted everyone with a quick hug while Y/N stood back and watched all three men hug him back. She was quick to notice that none of them were unattractive. They all wore suits similar to the ones that Harry wore. Michel held an orange bag while Alessandro brought a bottle of wine. William had come empty-handed.
“How are you man” William hadn’t attended the charity event that was held last month. He had been in Hong Kong during the event. He had been fixing a major problem that had occurred with the exportation of some containers.
“How was it?” Harry asked as they all stood around the kitchen island. Michael and Alessandro had already noticed Y/N. She was pulling out the bottle, careful to not burn herself or make a mess when she felt their eyes on her.
“A shit show” William chuckled; he instantly covered his mouth realizing that he had cursed around the baby. “I am sorry” He apologized as Harry moved Oliver to his other arm. “He looks big already. What are you giving him, huh?”
“You should ask, Y/N” It’s the first time that Harry called her by her first name. It felt natural. It didn’t feel right calling her by her last name especially since she was invited. He wanted to treat her like another friend.
“Milk and lots of love” Y/N’s soft voice was first heard by the men. Alessandro was the first to step up and greet her. Harry had filled them in on everything. They knew who she was and what she did to his feelings. Although none of the men had imagined the magnitude of her natural beauty. They introduced themselves before settling on the vacant stools around the island.
“Here” Michael handed the orange bag that he had carried since he had felt the office.
“Dominique Ansel? Seriously?” Harry instantly recognized the bag from his favorite bakery shop. He just refrained himself from going too much especially when he was putting in the hours at the gym with his personal trainer.
“What? We can’t treat ourselves?” Michael shrugged and turned his attention to Y/N. “Have you ever tried their desserts?” Y/N responded by shaking her head. “You are going to love them. You’ll be thanking me later” He winked at her.
Alessandro was already opening the bottle of wine that he had brought. He had even taken the liberty of pouring out the wine that Y/N had previously poured for the two of them.
“Are you fucking kidding me?” Alessandro chuckled and pulled the cork out of the bottle.
“Don’t curse around il bambino” Harry felt insulted. “It was box wine compared to the one I brought” He clapped back causing the room to erupt in chuckles including Harry.
Harry's eyes drifted back to Y/N who was shaking and testing the temperature of Oliver’s milk against her hand. He quietly made his way towards her and handed him, Oliver, knowing it was feeding time. It was just in time before Mrs. Johnson kicked everyone out of the kitchen and into the living room.
“Dinner will be ready in a few minutes”
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My Sweet Sunshine
pairing: Max Phillips × vampire!reader (gender neutral)
summary: you and max try to decide what to do during another endless day of quarantine
warnings: swear words I think, the fangs come out but its in a cute and slightly spicy context (aka no one gets hurt) mentions of blood but like,,, not in an injury context???
A/N: so I had this idea to do Quarantine themed oneshots for assorted oscar and pedro characters and I cant believe this ended up being the first one i finished. I'm working on ones for Javi, Whiskey, Poe, and Marcus Pike :)
wordcount: its short... like 800ish??
xxx xxx xxx xxx xxx
Quarantining with Max was… interesting, to say the least. Neither of you went out much during the day anyway, but now there was a 9pm curfew too, keeping you inside nearly 24/7. You and Max couldn't get sick- cause of, you know, the whole undead thing- so quarantining was a bit redundant but you did it anyway.
Max was rummaging through the fridge, poking about at the blood bags and the human foods you kept in the house. "We got any AB negative?" he asked, turning to you.
"Sorry babe…" You felt a little bad, AB negative was Max's favorite… but it was delicious, you couldn't help yourself.
"You drank it!?"
"Well you ate the last slice of raspberry cheesecake," you retaliated, giving him a bit of a glare as you stirred your coffee.
"Oh, you-" he clenched his fist in annoyance, but you could see a grin spreading across his face. "You little- you're gonna pay for this, sweetcheeks."
"Oh am I?" you snapped back, raising an eyebrow in defiance. You found that ever since Max had turned you- consensually of course- you were a lot more defiant and snippish. You supposed it was because you had nothing to fear. You were immortal, it wasn't like getting fired or kicked out of a restaurant was that devastating in the grand scheme of things. You'd be here forever, so what if you pissed off some store managers?
Max shook his head, walking over to you and kissing your cheek. His hands gripped your hips tightly as his lips trailed over your neck. In the silence of your house you could hear the sound of his fangs lowering and you shuddered as they ghosted over the place where your neck met your shoulder. He nipped ever so lightly at your skin, he wasn't using nearly enough pressure to break your skin, but his fangs were sharp enough to send a pleasurable shiver down your spine.
"Max," you warned. There was deadly power in what he was doing. One vampire biting another almost always proved fatal for the bitten, but you did trust him. Max would never hurt you.
He pulled away, pressing a kiss to the spot where his fangs had been and moving to make himself a cup of coffee. "What do you want to do today?"
You checked your watch, "It's seven o'clock at night, it's not really today."
"It's what?" You nodded, pulling the curtain back to show Max the rapidly setting sun. It was easy to lose track of time when there was no work, no sunlight, and you didn't sleep. Occasionally you would catch the news, seeing stories about this quarantine affecting people's perception of time, causing their days and weeks to blur together. You had a feeling that no one was more affected by this than you and Max. You let the blackout curtain fall back into place, drawing you back into the darkness of the room. The only lights were that of a small lamp in the living room and the display on the coffeemaker.
"Well," Max started again. "What do you want to do tonight?"
You shrugged, taking a sip of your coffee. The bitter flavor was a bit dull, just as all human foods had been since you were turned. There wasn't even really a reason for you to drink coffee, you didn't need to sleep so you were never tired. It was more about the comfort than the caffeine.
"Come on baby, there must be something you wanna do," he slipped an arm around your waist, pulling you to his side. "You maybe wanna get your old paints out? Paint me like one of your French girls?"
You laughed softly, enjoying the thought of bringing Max to life on canvas. Well, maybe not canvas. Painting would take too long. "That's actually a good idea, Max. Let me get my sketchbook."
It had been a long time since you'd touched your sketchbook, a thin layer of dust had settled onto the cover. You blew it off and opened it up to the first page, eyes tracing over the short note Max had left on the inside cover.
For you, my sweet sunshine. I'll love you until the world stops spinning. Yours forever, Max.
The words meant everything to you. It wasn't often that Max showed his sweeter side, but it came out from time to time.
When you returned to the living room there must have been something in your eyes, because Max tilted his head and asked you what was up. He was standing by the fireplace, stoking the logs to get a nice little fire going. The light of the flames danced over his face, illuminating his soft brown eyes. You stepped up to him, wrapping your arms around his middle and tucking your face into his neck. "I love you," you murmured.
Max chuckled, "okay okay, we get it, I'm irresistible." His tone was sarcastic, but you felt his arms encircle you and his lips brush against your hairline. You heard it in his actions.
I love you too.
permanent taglist: @poestardust @poe-djarin @tinyphantomsalad @thelazyhero-ttums @djarinsidebitch @patriotseli (sage I can't believe I actually remembered ur username lol)
pedro characters taglist: @blackmarketmummy @agentshortstacc @coldlilheart @greeneyedblondie44
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