#five roses made me sweat
C H 1 2 — S C E N E 1
I shoulder my duffle bag and head to the café, which is silent and blue in the dawn, broken only by the stirring of newspapers. Cold oats and coffee. A message from Mom, who gets up at seven in the morning to let our dog into the garden, him running joyfully among the seagulls fishing in ebb-tide sands for clams, beating the sky in a furious burst of wings—‘best of luck, love, we’re all so excited to see you!’ and a minute later, ‘send my wishes to your partner, too. I’m picking hydrangea’. I picture the flowers in front of our house: pale blue, dripping from the morning rain. He will love them.
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An unbreakable bond - Damiano David (smut)
As promised another Damiano smut. @hidingsikki and I keep on reading super cringy shit - we’re having way too much fun with this - so, it’s probably not the last Damiano imagine I’ll post. Enjoy my loves. xxx
Summary: Damiano eats the reader out as another contestant calls her to ask her out on a date, he makes it his mission to remind her that she belongs to him as she falls apart on his tongue before he possessively fucks her.
Warnings: 18+, filthy smut, unprotected sex, oral (m and f), basically just pwp
Pairings: Damiano David x fem!reader
The bright studio lights kept on burning down on him, making drops of sweat pool on his forehead. Damiano’s voice echoed through the arena, letting the music guide him, eyes wandering across the crowd of the other artists, freezing as his gaze fell upon her.
She was still wearing the sweater he had borrowed her this morning, though no longer was she focused on his performance but on the Finnish singer that was standing in front of her. He could almost hear her laugh, too distracted by her, the way she smiled at the man, body leaning towards him.
(Y/n) truly tried to listen to their words, the stories they were telling her, but by now her mind had already switched its focus back on Damiano, the voice that would sing her to sleep late at night as she’d struggle to relax, the voice that would engulf her as he was keeping her close, taking her to every concert he’d perform at.
The second the song ended she rose from her position on the comfortable couch, smiling at the singer as she made her way towards the man her heart belonged to.
He didn’t need to express his worries, the jealousy that kept its hold on him, hands pulling her flush against his chest, placed on her lower back. Even though they hadn’t labeled their relationship yet, both knew that they belonged to one another, not once had she doubted the love she fostered for him.
But tonight he’d make sure that she remembers who she belongs to, tonight he’d burn his silent promises into her skin, guided by the green emotion that had weaseled its way into his system.
“That was beautiful,” she toyed with the sleeves of his shirt, interlacing her fingers with his, desperate to keep him close. Damiano couldn’t stop his snarky reply from rolling off his tongue, eyes meeting hers as he parted his lips, “Well, you sure seemed distracted back there.”
He was aching for another cigarette, anything he could use to calm himself down, confused by the different sensations that crashed upon him, not used to being that hyper-focused on his surroundings.
Damiano wasn’t one to get easily distracted, wasn’t one to lose his concentration, though whenever she was close by his mind would force him to think of her, of the eyes that told a story of their own, the touches that made him feel like he was reborn after losing himself, facing heavens divinity.
She drove him crazy - in the best way possible.
“Don’t tell me you’re jealous.” (Y/n) smirked at him, hands cupping his cheek to pull him in for a kiss, running her tongue along his lower lip. Both seemed to get lost in the moment, not caring about the other artists nearby, Damiano couldn’t help but turn her towards the direction of the Finnish singer, desperately marking his territory.
A breathless chuckle left her, clearly amused by his jealousy, the possessive behavior she still wasn’t used to. Though the more she thought of it, the further her mind pushed her into a dark place, imagining the way he’d punish her, how he’d fuck her for hours, till she’d scream and cry for him.
“We’ll talk about this when we’re back in the hotel.” Damiano pressed one last kiss to her swollen lips, hands pulling her towards the exit, following his band members out into the city.
Rotterdam’s streets were too busy for them to comfortably make their way back to the hotel, forcing the five of them to keep close, pressed against one another, trying to make their way through the crowd somehow. Damiano had his hand placed on her lower back, guiding her through the city without letting go of her once. Both couldn’t wait to be back in their hotel room, ready to wind down from a day packed with rehearsals, costume fittings, and interviews.
But Damiano’s mind kept him running, still not over the intense glances, the way the Finnish guy had studied her, not understanding that she belonged to the Italian singer. (Y/n) seemed to read his mind, sensing what was going on inside his head, the uneasy thoughts that kept their hold on him, the insecurity that currently had a field day of its own.
“Talk to me,” (y/n) sat down on their shared bed, hands reaching for his frame, holding onto his belt loops. For a few moments he allowed himself to study her, the eyes he could get lost in, the hair he’d pull on as she was going down on him, the hands he’d always reach for as he felt himself slipping.
With a soft push, he had her pressed against the mattress, settling between her thighs to stare back down on her. Teasingly slow he let his fingers trace the button of her jeans, a smirk tugged on his lips, eyes finding her wide ones. Damiano tossed her trousers to the floor, not sparing the fabric another thought since his hands were already working on her shirt, desperate to get (y/n) out of her clothes.
“Colour?” His fingertips hovered over her bra straps, waiting for (y/n) to find her words, a small “green” managed to slip from her lips, eyes falling shut, allowing her body to switch its focus onto the man she loved. He kept on undressing her, staring at her like she was the finest piece he’d ever find in a museum, taking in every inch of her frame.
(Y/n) felt like she was on fire, skin tingling from his soft touches, the kisses he pressed against her throat, making his way down her body, to the spot where she needed him the most. Her clit throbbed for his touch, aching to feel his skin pressed against hers, aching for him to push her down the rabbit hole she wouldn’t find her way out of.
The moment his lips met her folds she was moaning his name, back arched off the mattress, hands fisting his black strands of hair. Damiano’s tongue ran through her slit, collected the sweet drops of arousal, circled her clit as she begged for more, though she couldn’t form another sentence to explain to him what she needed, how he should touch her to coax the first orgasm of the night out of her.
Her hands tightened their grip on his hair, eyes rolling back into her head, chasing her release. Both momentarily froze as the sound of her ringing phone echoed through the room, she mewled his name, tried to keep him from reaching for her phone but he had already grasped it as she snapped into action.
The Finnish singer was calling her, waiting for her to answer the phone as Damiano settled back between her thighs. He clicked onto the green button before placing the phone in her hand, forcing her to speak to the one that had disturbed their moment, keeping her from falling over the edge.
“Hello?” Heavy pants left her lips, eyes flickering back to Damiano’s features, watching him press his mouth against her folds once again, thumb teasing her sensitive bundle of nerves. He was punishing her for the way she had acted back there, proving to her that at the end of the day, he was the one that would take care of her trembling frame, the one whose name she’d moan.
“(Y/n), hi, I was wondering if you wanted to explore the city with me? We could-” she didn’t spare the words another thought, biting down on her lips as a silent moan wanted to claw through her, ripping her open as Damiano ate her out like a starved man. (Y/n) shook her head, trying to find some words in the cloudy mind of hers, anything she could reply with.
“I, no-” finally another moan left her, Damiano had plunged two fingers into her tightness, spreading her walls, preparing her for his cock, for the things he’d do to her, “I’m sorry, I can’t.” She had hung up before they could say another word, phone carelessly tossed to the floor, staring daggers at the chuckling singer.
He pressed one last kiss to her folds before he crawled back up her body, lips finding hers, letting (y/n) taste herself on his tongue. She gave him a slight shove, switching positions with him, naked form straddling his thighs. Her fingers undid his trousers, kept on teasing his bulge through the fabric of his boxers.
Damiano’s voice got rougher with each sound that rumbled through him, hooded eyes followed her every movement, followed the fingertips that danced up and down his hardening cock, teasing the glistening tip that was covered in precum.
“Atta girl, merda, you’re doing so well for me,” Damiano’s head rolled back, his hand combed through her hair, forcing her down further his cock, allowing himself to comfortably rest in her mouth, waiting for the wicked tongue of hers to start teasing him. No matter where they were, she’d always be right there to offer her body to him, to let him fuck his anxiety, his stress right out of him, begging her to suck him dry as the room was closing in on the singer.
(Y/n) gagged around him, tears streamed down her cheeks, fingers clawed into the skin of his thighs. His salty flavour stuck to her tongue, an all too familiar taste she couldn’t get enough of. Damiano’s hips jerked, not giving her a chance to catch her breath, lungs already burning.
Just seconds before he’d release himself down her throat Damiano let go of her hair, allowing (y/n) to rise from her position, aching to take a few deep breaths. But Damiano didn’t give her much time to catch up with him, the black painted fingernails of his dug into the skin of her waist, pulling her closer towards his cock.
With her hands placed on his chest, she sunk down on his length, head thrown back, squeezing him tight as she tried to adjust herself. Even now, after months of being around him, (y/n) still wasn’t used to the painful stretch that would shoot through her limbs, he perfectly filled her, making her feel every vein that pulsed beneath his thin layer of skin.
A soft moan left Damiano, eyes finding hers, keeping eye contact while (y/n) began to build a steady rhythm. Slowly, carefully their bodies kept on meeting, the sounds that bubbled out of her managed to put a tight smile on his lips, allowing the devil to watch the angel dance along the fine line of pleasure and pain.
“Feels so good, oh-” his hands moved up her body, cupping the breasts that were littered with marks of his, tugging on her hardening nipples, coaxing yet another moan out of her. They met in the most intimate way, he supported her movements, eyes flickering down to her core every now and then, watching his cock slide in and out of her tightness.
“You’ll be the death of me.” Damiano growled his words, upper body lifted off the mattress to pull her in for a teeth-clashing kiss. Their tongues fought for victory as she kept on riding him, falling apart on top of the Italian singer that had claimed her heart and body. Her thoughts were guided by clouds of pleasure, pushing her right into the arms of her orgasm, already too far gone due to his teasing.
“Tell me, should I punish you?” His teeth dragged along her throat, nibbling, biting, sucking on the spots that left her quivering. The “yes” she cries out sounded pathetic, desperate and lost in the rush of endorphins that flushed through their bodies.
“Maybe I shouldn’t let you cum, do you remember who you belong to? Do you even remember that you’re mine?”
She cried his name, begged him to keep on snapping his hips against hers as she was clinging onto the heavenly feeling. Damiano could tell that (y/n) was about to let go, he flipped them around, lips meeting hers as he pounded into her.
“I do, please, I’ll be good.” He replied to her stuttered words with cooing her name, pace faltering, not able to drag their game out any longer. (Y/n)’s insides churned from the intense pulsing of her walls, too forceful to keep calm, too impatient to keep on breathing.
“Of course you will be, I’ll make sure of it.” A devilish smirk tugged on Damiano’s lips, eyes glistening in delight.
“Cum inside me, please,” (y/n)’s begging filled his ears, urging the singer on to let another wave of euphoria wash through their bodies, mind and soul connected as their bodies forged an unbreakable bond. Her walls fluttered, his cock twitched, filling her with his release.
No longer was he guided by his jealousy, the anger that had simmered inside of him. His heart was beating in sync with hers, slowing down its rumbling, allowing him to rest against her body, the soft skin he’d shower with kisses, the body he’d worship till the night would fall.
*We stumbled upon copies of my first Damiano imagine on Wattpad, please be aware that I don’t allow any copies or edits of my work*
Fallen Angels: @mgkbabygirl @shrekboobies @ivelveti @honiebee @itstaylorcale @mcira @megamieversole-blog @amelia-song-pond @bwbatta
Tagging our fellow Damiano stan @firefly-in-darkness
Add yourself to my taglist
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Changing Room ~ Lee Minho [M] [Request]
WORD COUNT: 2.6K
PAIRING: Minhox Idol!Reader
GENRE: Smut, dom x dom, idol Au, Reader!Idol AU, mentions of blackpink collaboration, spanking, degrading names, pet names, fight for dominance, orgasm denial, edging, squirting,
A/N: I’m still new to writing for the reader being Dom so I hope that this turns out okay for you!!
A collaboration with one of the biggest girl kpop groups had been on your list of things to do since forever and now it was finally happening. The screams of fans could be heard all the way in your dressing room which made you a little nervous but nothing you couldn't handle, you'd been an idol for the last four years you were used to going out and performing in front of thousands of people. The door to your changing room opened and there stood Lisa smiling at you as she waited for you to get up and walk with her towards the main stage area. It was the first show of their tour and YG Entertainment decided that they wanted to start the tour off with a big publicity stunt meaning that you and the girls were going to work together and drawer a huge scene to the show.
"Ready?" Lisa questioned as she looked at you, she could sense how nervous you were about going up onto the stage but she'd seen you perform a million times and she knew that you were going to be perfect. Practising with them had been going perfectly and you were more than ready to make everything as good as it could be and more.
"More than ready," You laughed softly, picking up the black sparkly microphone that the girls had gifted to you and smiled at Lisa who was already linking her arms with yours. All five of you were dressed in all-black outfits, black high waisted shorts with black tops and black thigh-high boots, YG wanted you to look well-presented as one group.
"You remember the choreography?" Rose questioned as she handed you a small bottle of water, walking through the back part of the venue towards the stage where managers were waiting almost as anxiously as you seemed to be.
"It's in my veins," You breathed out as you looked out through a small gap to see how many people were waiting for you all and it was packed. Screaming fans with lightsticks were chanting out the Blackpink fanchant with your name added onto the end, it felt so surreal.
"Someone came to see you," Jennie cooed in your ear as she tickled your sides, turning to look in the direction she was looking you saw Minho standing there, your long-term boyfriend. The two of you had been dating for a while - much to the disapproval of both of your companies - but everything was well hidden and no one besides those on a need-to-know basis knew about the relationship.
"What are you doing here?!" You cried out as you rushed over to him, throwing your arms around his neck as you greeted him with a huge hug. The two of you didn't get to spend a lot of time together so anytime you had was precious to you both.
"I couldn't let my best girl go up and not let me watch," He chuckled softly as he left a quick kiss on your cheek, pulling away so he could take a look at you. His mouth almost fell open as he finally took in the outfit you were wearing,
"D-Do you get to keep those boots?" He questioned as he licked his lips, making you groan as you pushed him away playfully.
"Why? Are they turning you on?" You questioned jokingly only to get Minho nodding which shocked you before you let a smirk reside on your face.
"Maybe I do," You teased, winking at him playfully before going over to the girls as they got ready to get onto the lifting platform of the stage.
"Good luck! Knock them dead!" Minho screamed over the stage managers and screaming fans as he watched yo and the girls slowly rise up from the floor and the loud music began to play.
The set for Ddu-du-ddu-du was over and you were taken off the stage, sweating and panting as you made your way over to Minho who was red in the face, blushing from the performance. The whole thing had been kept a secret from him and he had no idea which song was going to be performed nor whose lines you were going to take.
"Did you enjoy it?" You giggled softly as the stage managers finally left you alone, Minho just grabbed your hand and began dragging you towards your changing room ignoring your questions as to where he was taking you. The whole set had turned him on from seeing you up there and then watching you Perform Jennie's rap which he couldn't help but find sexy. You'd nailed the choreography moving your hips in time to the music, nailing every line and making sure to play up to the sexiness of the theme the girls were going for.
"Minho?" You questioned as he roughly pushed you against the changing room door, locking it as he began kissing you roughly pulling at the shorts.
"So needy," You teased as he began kissing down your neck biting and sucking on your skin as you let out small whimpers of pleasure. There was always a power problem in the bedroom with the two of you, he was a dom and you were a switch, always finding yourself in a dominating mood after being on stage.
"Nuh-uh, I'm the one in control tonight," He told you as he pinned your wrists to the doors roughly biting down on your neck as you tried to push him away.
"No baby boy, I am." You cooed as you took his face into your hand, running your thumb over his skin as you pushed him down into a sitting position on the sofa. Minho's hands run up your thighs towards your ass but you playfully slapped them away with a smirk on your lips.
"You're so needy, kissing me like that right after I get off stage...Not even letting me shower first, dirty boy." Minho shook his head as you spoke that way, there was no way he was going to let you be in charge tonight not after watching you perform like that in front of thousands of people. The jealously was too much for him to bear as he thought about everyone that had seen you like this,
"How about you keep those pretty little boots on and nothing else," He said in a dark tone as he flipped the tables, pinning you down to the sofa while leaving small kisses on your skin as you tried not to let out signs it was affecting you.
"Where are all those moans? I know how much you love it when I kiss your neck like this." He whispered in your ear, biting down on your lobe a little as he began running his hand down the front of your shorts but you flipped him again. Straddling him as you looked down at him with dark eyes,
"That's not how it's going to work tonight baby," You ran the palm of your hand over his stomach as you lightly traced your fingertips over his abs.
The two of you continued your power play until all of your clothes were off besides your boots and his boxers, he was glowing a bright red. His back against the back of the sofa while you straddled him, hands either side of his head trapping him against the settee.
"You know you love it when I'm in control," You whispered in his ear as you ground yourself down against his hard cock, you could feel just how hard he was for you through the thin fabric.
"I-I do but it doesn't mean I want that tonight, you deserve a reward for all that hard work," As he said the word hard he pushed his hips up against your core, smirking as he saw your eyes flicker at the pleasure.
"You know you want me to buried deep inside of you, thrusting so deep you'll cry my name louder than any fans do." He chuckled darkly as he reached his thumb down to begin rubbing your bud in small soft circles, not applying the pressure he knew you so desperately wanted from him.
"So fucking wet already, such a dirty little slut." He cooed as he kept rubbing, watching your eyes the whole time as you let out breathy whimpers trying to remember what you were doing in the first place but your head was in a fog. A finger was dragged through your folds as he smirked at you, laying you down gently against the sofa as he continued to let his long fingers rub you.
"So cute how you go from dominating to my little baby in a matter of seconds," He teased as he began to kiss down your body sticking two fingers into you making you arch your back and moan loudly. Cleaning around him already as he kept his fingers deep inside of you,
"Fuck!" You moaned out as he began to pump his fingers in and out of you slowly, kissing your clit as he looked up at you with a smirk playing on his lips.
"F-Fuck Minho," You cried out as he continued to pump his fingers in and out of you at a painfully slow pace, curling them to meet the spot you needed him the most while his tongue licked and sucked on your clit as if it was his last meal. Your head was beginning to cloud over as he continued the movements, picking up the pace of his fingers when he felt you clenching around him.
"FUCK! Minho please-" You begged as you could feel the tightening in your stomach beginning to become too much for you.
"I-I'm gonna cum," You whimpered as you completely gave into him, giving him the power he'd been wanting. You wrapped your legs around his waist pulling him closer with the heel of your boot digging into him. As you were about to ride out your high he completely stopped his actions, ripping his fingers out of you and pulled his mouth away leaving you throbbing and whining.
"Minho! What the fuck?!" You cried out as you looked at him, his eyes were darkened as he pumped himself in his hand but you hissed at him. Pushing him into a sitting position on the sofa before straddling him once again,
"Has the little lady been teased too much? So close and yet so- Ugh God," He moaned out as you sank down onto him all of the way, moaning out as you rolled your head back. Your hands rested on his shoulders as you kept yourself down on top of him, whimpering out as your pussy clenched and throbbed around him from the orgasm you had been denied.
"Think it's funny, making a girl almost cum and ripping it away?" You bit down on his neck sucking softly not hard enough to leave a mark, his hands found their way to your hips and he attempted to move you but you kept yourself still. Enjoying the feeling of his cock twitching inside of you as he let out small hisses and moans,
"M-move, don't just sit there." He whispered as he tried to get you to move only for you to slowly lift yourself up so only the tip was inside of you, sinking slowly back down while maintaining eye contact with him. Something you knew drove him over the edge when you were the one in control of things, he bit down on his lip as he let out a small moan.
"Look at you...Now, who's the needy one?" You questioned as you repeated your actions, moaning out at the slowness of it all.
"F-Faster," He ordered as he looked at you, slapping your ass and grabbing a handful as you looked at him, raising your eyebrow at him.
"Faster...What?" You held still on top of him and he growled at you, his eyes dark as he stared up at you.
"Please...P-Please move faster," He begged as he rolled his head back against the sofa, crying out as you began to move your hips up and down faster, scooting against him as you began to moan out in pleasure. Your orgasm building up once again as you continued to move on him, riding him fastly and carefully as you rolled your head back. The sounds of your combined moans filled the room along with the wetness that was connecting you both.
"Fuck, baby." He whined as he rubbed your breasts in his hand, tugging on your hard nipples as he felt himself getting close each time you clenched around him.
"Oh shit," You dug your nails into his shoulder as you felt the coil tightening again, your eyes rolling back as you felt your orgasm hit you. You continued riding him as your legs twitched and your stomach tightened even more, moaning out his name loudly,
"A-Agh fuck, Baby I'm gonna-" Before he could finish his sentence you knew he was about to cum so you smirked at him quickly getting off him before he could cum and he stared at you. His cock hitting his abdomen as he let out small whimpers and whines at the cum-denial you had given him.
"Not nice is it?" You giggled as you looked at him, getting up from the sofa to change only to find yourself being picked up.
"Minho!" You cried out as he began sucking on your skin, laying you down on the floor.
"Hands and knees now." There was no soft dom-voice to him, the soft dom you knew was gone and replaced with the hard-dom standing behind you. A slap hit you across the ass as you didn't move fast enough to his liking and he smirked as you whimpered. Getting onto your hands and knees as he had ordered and looked over your shoulder at him,
"Why- Oh fuck yes!" You screamed out as he thrust into you quickly, not giving you a chance to adjust to the new angle and get over the overstimulation, all Minho cared about was getting to cum. He began to thrust into you at an animalistic speed, digging his nails into your hips as you let out cries of his name.
"Minho! Right fucking there!" You cried out as he continued to fuck into you, not slowing down for even a second as he chased after his own orgasm.
"S-Shit shit shit!" You cried out as you felt yourself pulsating around him, another orgasm building up more intensely than the first one. It felt as though your whole body was on fire and as though you were about to burst around him as he continued to thrust into you.
"You like that? Being used as my little fuck toy?" His rhythm got sloppy and you knew he was close to his release so you nodded, rocking your hips a little.
"I love it!" You cried out, nails digging into the carpeted floor as you clenched around him more until you could no longer hold it back,
"Holy shit! I'm cumming!!" You cried out as he bit down on your shoulder, smirking as he felt you clench around him before the floor got wet.
"Dirty little girl, squirting all over the floor." You were panting and sweating heavily as you noticed Minho's thrusts slow to a stop, he pulled out of you and you whined out. Pouting when you felt his seed slowly drip out of you and hit the floor. Minho lightly tapped your ass before going on the hunt for a towel to clean up with.
"We should shower before someone comes hunting for you," He told you as you laid on the floor beside the puddle of mess you had both created, you just whined in response to him as he wiped you clean.
"Come on babe," He chuckled as he helped you up from the floor, going over to the small bathroom that was attached to your changing room.
Tagline: @taestannie @sw33tnight @kneel-begyourpardon @acciocriativity @mwitsmejk @minholuvs @anxiousbobatea @justbangtanthingz
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Outlast: Revisited [Chapter Two: Waylon]
Read on ao3
Synopsis: I’m rewriting Outlast where the first game and Whistleblower are combined, Miles and Waylon are more connected, and also they kiss
Trigger warnings: Sexual assault plus everything already in the game
Subtlety was never Waylon’s strong suit.
He was good at getting himself into trouble—irreparable trouble that couldn’t be damage-controlled. He had thought he was being smart for once, that the onion router and firewall patch would be enough for him to finish up his last shift and leave the state with Lisa and the boys before being caught.
He didn’t mean to leave them.
The restraints were way too tight, and the men were only pulling them tighter. Waylon was drugged all to hell; his head was fogged and heavy, his eyes pulling closed, his entire body numb and achy.
“Open your eyes,” one of his past higher-ups purred. He was an ugly man with pronounced features, dressed in plastic, named Andrew. He’d always been condescending, a little too touchy. “You don’t have to wake up, but open your eyes.”
Waylon moaned in protest, his head dropping.
Sharp pain exploded on his cheek. He groaned and lifted his head, his eyes snapping open.
“Oh, what’s the matter?” Andrew pouted. “Somebody hit you? Here, let me help.”
His tongue scraped along where Waylon was hit, slimy and heavy and warm. It soothed the pain but made Waylon’s skin crawl as Andrew’s hand fit between his legs.
“Andrew, are you getting these alerts?”
He scowled. “Kinda busy here.”
“It sounds like real trouble.” The man’s voice barely penetrated Waylon’s drugged brain. “At the engine. They said Hope made a lateral ascension.”
That was enough to get Waylon fighting against the hold. The Walrider escaped. We’re all going to die. He blinked his eyes open, stretching them and staring at the bright light.
“Billy Hope?” Andrew straightened up, his hand disappearing. “Shit. And they’re not happy about it?”
“No,” the man said dryly.
“Shit. Shit, shit, shit. Come on.”
He left, leaving Waylon to watch the screen. The images burned into his eyeballs, dragging him further and further down into his pounding head. The pressure increased, grew tighter, bigger, pushing against his skull, his head was going to explode, he opened his mouth to scream—
His restraints popped.
He stumbled out of the chair and fell to his knees. Screams sounded behind him. Footsteps, sprinting. More yells. Something splattering. He glanced around through the glass walls to his fellow ‘volunteers—’ they all gripped their heads and struggled to their feet.
“You hear that, don’t you?” The one to his right asked blearily. “Do you hear it? Oh— AH! FUCK!”
Waylon’s eyes nearly bulged out of his head as the Walrider, black and smoky and nearly translucent, slipped into the cell and grabbed the man by his ankles. The Walrider yanked him into the air and through the vent. He was gone.
Fuck. Fuck. Waylon’s abdomen burned, his chest constricted, his heart raced. He was going to die in this cell. He was never going to see his family again, he was never going to see anything again, he was about to disappear—
The Morphogenic images flashed across his face and he fell over as his ears rang. They resembled rorschach images, beige and moving, flowing in and out of each other. He staggered, struggled back to his feet. A camcorder sat on a tripod, meant to record his reactions to the Morphogenic program. He snatched it and held it up.
Squeezing his eyes shut, panic welled in his chest, burned behind his eyes.
I fucked up. Hours could have passed, or weeks. He reached a hand up—his head was shaved like all the other prisoners, but he couldn’t remember when they did it, nor when they dressed him in the beige jumpsuit. He was reduced to 2536. Have to call for help. Lisa, I’m sorry.
If I die, I know you’ll find me. I hope you find this camera with my body. I hope the evidence on it does what I couldn’t, exposes the truth.
I thought I was doing the right thing. But I fucked up bad.
“You think you’re safe in there… wall flower… pretty flower…” A voice rasped in the darkness, growing closer. “...fucking… I’ll open you up… open you up and show you… make you purr… you wait right there.”
Waylon looked around frantically. The darkness choked him. He raised the camcorder and flicked on the nightvision, and a man appeared in the darkness—another patient. He strolled towards the control panel, glinting eyes on Waylon, mumbling to himself.
Waylon’s gut clenched. Andrew’s hand between his legs was back, and he couldn’t breathe. The minute the door opened he sprinted, out of his body and watching himself dash down the hall as the patient stared after.
He slammed the door shut behind him and skidded to a stop in the hall. Through the plastic of an examination room, three patients stood on an observation table, kicking and choking and beating the shit out of a security guard. Waylon recognized where they were now—the underground lab.
“You!” One of them pointed at him. “No observers. Come in.”
He swallowed. They were all staring at him now—five of them, actually. They shifted in anticipation, one with their arms crossed and back straight, one of them rubbing their hands together.
Waylon shook his head and ducked forward, intending to hurry down the hall and find his way out when his ears started ringing. The Walrider loomed over him, claws curled, staring Waylon down. It didn’t have a face. Waylon would give anything for it to have a face, to know what it intended.
Waylon stumbled back. It raced forward, flying towards him, arms out. Waylon whipped around and vaulted over a crate. The plastic blurred past as he skidded around the corner, the Walrider roaring behind him, right behind him, its breath was on his ear. He slammed the door.
Outside, footsteps raced past, someone yelling, “THE WALRIDER!” Their screams carried down the hall.
His vision was blurry. Sweat dripped into his burning eyes.
“Here.” One of the patients brandished a knife at him.
The guard was dead now, laying limp on the table. He was pale, his arm hanging off the edge, fingertips cracked and red. Blood oozed out of the wounds on his chest, dripped down his sides and onto the metal slab. The dim light in the room coloured him yellow. Waylon covered his mouth and looked away.
“Take the blade,” the patient demanded. “Dig around in our friend here, get a little red on your hands.” He grinned. “It’s always healthy to express yourself.” The body gushed as he slammed the knife into its chest. “You keep it bottled in too long and you might do something you regret.” Squish, squish, squish. Waylon was going to throw up.
He squeezed his eyes shut and shook his head.
“No? You’re one of those? Too good for the likes of us?” His voice rose the more he spoke. “Think you’re different. Something special. There are no observers here!”
Waylon stumbled back. The patient slammed the knife into the corpse over and over again, squishsquishsquishsquish, and everyone else just stared, just watched him mutilate the body.
“Now. Get the fuck out of here before I change my mind!”
He hurried through the other door, out into the hall, away from the Walrider. It was cluttered, shelves and boxes tipped over and clogging the path. A patient sat in a chair, head in his hands. As Waylon passed, the patient leapt to his feet and pushed Waylon by the chest.
“The fuck are you trying to go?” He demanded.
Waylon held the camcorder against himself, heart beating so hard it hurt. “Don’t fucking touch me, man!”
He stumbled back and the man followed.
“Come back here!”
The man balled his hand into a fist and whammed it into the side of Waylon’s face. Waylon gasped and raised his hands. One leg flailed out in a shitty imitation of a kick, and the patient just laughed, so Waylon ducked the next blow and shoved forward. Another hit to the back of his neck, and it throbbed as he sprinted away.
He could not fight these patients. He was weak from the drugs, from the malnourishment, from the torture. From whatever else they could’ve done to him while he was out of it—what Andrew could have done to him. If he wasn’t fast enough, he would die.
He slammed through a wooden door into a room and passed another patient hitting at— hitting at something, and ran until he found an air vent he could jump into. He grunted as his weak muscles strained, trembled, screamed at him while he struggled into the vent. He flopped onto the metal and dragged himself the rest of the way in. Just as his feet crossed the barrier, someone rushed in the room, screaming something Waylon couldn’t make out. He held his breath and stayed deadly still. They poked around, looking under shelves and in cabinets, mumbling to themself. Waylon pressed his forehead to the metal, his face crumpled. They left.
He dragged himself further into the vent. He was covered in a thin sheen of cold sweat, his hands shaking horribly. He raised the camcorder and flicked on the nightvision. Voices carried up into the vent.
“...bad idea. We get out of here through reception and let Murk Tactical clean it up.”
Stopping at a grate, Waylon turned off the night vision and zoomed into the lit hall below. Two security guards stood, looking around with paranoia as they talked quietly.
“If they get here in time,” one of them insisted, eyes wide. A smattering of blood covered his face. Waylon couldn’t help but wonder who it came from. “We need help now! If we get them on the radio, the National Guard could be here within-”
“We don’t even know if the radio works,” the other one snapped.
“It’s short wave! If the prison’s got electricity they’ve got signal. And the lights are on.”
“Murkoff has it under control.” He glared.
“Yeah, I noticed,” Bloody-Face said sarcastically. “We need to get to that radio.”
“Outside help doesn’t come without outside attention,” he whispered harshly. “You want to take responsibility for every legally shaky thing you did on the Murkoff company payroll? I know I don’t.”
Bloody-Face started to walk away. “It’s too late to worry about that. This just has to stop.”
He grabbed Bloody-Face’s arm. “You’re scared. You’re not thinking straight. Let me make something clear.” He lowered his voice and got in his face, eye-to-eye. “You try to radio outside for help, I’m gonna give you a whole new something to be scared of.”
Bloody-Face’s eyes widened. “Are you threatening me?”
Waylon lowered the camcorder as they hurried away. He panted, his breathing slowly calming down, his heart rate slowing.
There’s hope, Lisa. I’m coming home to you. I can’t die. Not before I reach that radio. They can’t cover this up now.
He would have to cross a good bit of the asylum to get to the prison. He couldn’t fight. He could barely run. He had no idea if he would survive.
But he had to try.
He dragged himself over to the edge of the vent with shaking hands, and prepared himself to jump.
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U!patton and Remus for the Remus prompt. my friend and I had an idea where Patton forces Remus to wear a muzzle so he can’t talk
Okay, I don't know how to write short prompts so I went a little overboard on this. I also threw in some protective Janus just for fun. Anyways, I hope you enjoy it! <3
Description: Remus makes his way over to the light side of the Mindscape to patch up his relationship with Virgil, but he doesn't quite make it to his friend.
Characters: Remus, Patton, Janus, Virgil and Logan Mentioned
Pairings: Platonic Dukeciet
Word Count: 3256
Warnings: Remus-Type Content (Sexual Innuendo, Somewhat Graphic Descriptions, Etc), Threats, Attempted Erasing of a Side, Swearing, Death mention, Angst with a happy ending, Hurt/Comfort, Unsympathetic Patton (Let me know if I missed anything!)
Remus poked his head into the dim, empty corridor of the mindscape, pausing to check for the other sides before tiptoeing around the corner. Any other night, he'd be making his way down the hall with cymbals on the feet and a kazoo in his mouth, but tonight was the night to be covert. For once, he was actually trying not to be noticed, and notably, he was succeeding. Which was as perfectly satisfying as his pet eldritch demon's tentacle slime, because the last time he'd made one of his more spectacular entrances in their shared spaces, the Microsoft Nerd™ had nearly blown a gasket.
He'd lectured Remus for nearly forty-five minutes about ‘optimal sleep schedules’ and ‘the importance of brushing your teeth’ or whatever the dork had been saying. Quite frankly, Remus hadn't been listening. Learning from his mistakes wasn't exactly his jam, and if nerdy Wolverine’s brain was too full of Crofter’s to have realized that, that seemed like a him problem.
Besides, that was the past. Right now, the future seemed so much juicer. His fabulously favorite emo had eased up on his prickly sarcasm enough to give him a chance to talk things out, and as ambivalent as he may pretend to be, he wasn’t going to pass on the opportunity to make amends with his old friend. He wanted to salvage any small piece of their damaged relationship, so here he was, sneaking into the light sides' half of the mindscape to duke it out with his anxious nightmare.
The only challenge left was passing the other light sides’ rooms. Virgil's room of course had of course moved to the farthest corner of their space, making it the most difficult to reach without being noticed. Of course, he could make it easy if he cut across the common room. That way, he'd miss Roman’s room entirely and the only one he'd have to worry about was—
Remus head spun on his shoulder to the sound of Patton’s voice. The usually friendly father figure's familiar voice filled the room with a soft kind of seriousness that sent shivers down Remus' spine. The chill in Patton's voice was new and unsettling, but still, Remus cracked a cocky grin as he stared into the shadows and waited for Patton's lecture. After a moment, the lamp on the far side of the room clicked on to reveal a seriously scary looking frown on Patton’s face. Remus straightened upright as a tingling of fear crept up his arms. The creep factor of the amber lighting alone would have put Remus' own efforts to shame, but this was Patton.
Pun-loving, puppy cuddling Patton.
Patty boy’s harmless.
Remus swallowed nervously before summoning up his usual carefree front and staggering across the soft carpet. “Hey, Padre. Sorry, if you were looking for a late night suck, but I'm actually in a bit of a hurry. Maybe later—”
Remus stalled at the coldness in Patton’s tone. He licked his lips. The hostility in the air was nearly palpable as Remus stared across the room, trying to get a gauge on this new side Patton. It wasn't often one of the other sides left Remus speechless, but he was unsure of how to react to such an open display of hostility, especially from the side whose entire being was rigged toward being nurturing. Oh, well. There wasn't much else for him to do and he was on a schedule tonight. Remus let out a breath, falling back on familiar habits as an attempt to cover his exit. “Don't get your panties in a bunch, Patty daddy. I know you’re not the type blow and go without a sticky emotional mess, but you don’t have to worry—”
“You’re not going, Remus.”
Remus’ grin faltered at the finality in Patton’s voice, biting his lip as he eyed the direction of Virgil's room. “Um, what?”
“Virgil’s been doing so good.” Patton growled as he rose to his feet. Remus' feet felt like lead holding him in place while Patton moved to block his way. “I finally got my kiddo realizing how toxic you are to him and I’m not going to let you play with him anymore.”
Remus' mustache twitched with displeasure at the insinuation, though a part of him wasn't denying Patton's brusque statement. “Listen, Pattycake. As well as you play the daddy dom role, Virgil asked for me to come and I don’t see where this is your business, so I'll just be—"
“Virgil needs help knowing what's good for him.” Patton continued as a deep hatred started to burn in his eyes. “and that isn't you, Remus.”
Remus brushed him off, starting towards the door. He'd only made it a few steps before Patton waved his hand the door disappeared. Defensiveness turned to frustration as he reeled on Patton. “You can't just—”
“Go back to the whole where you belong before force you into your place.”
Remus froze as Patton's stomp connected with the ground, sending a shiver across his skin as the particles of his body destabilized. A choking breath caught in his throat and his hands shot to his chest in a manic frenzy as his body solidified again. He glanced up at the dangerous sparkle in Patton's eye. Remus was alive for now, but he got the feeling Patton wasn’t done with him yet.
“Hold on, Pat. Let's talk about this—” A bead of sweat dripped down Remus temple as he began stepping away from the door. His hands lingered in the air as he tried to reason with Patton. “—I thought we were good. The human pocket protector told you it was best to play nice with me. I get you don't like me, and it don’t have to be an orgy or nothing, but you can't just piss all over the nerd's hypoth—”
Remus sucked in a sharp breath as a black, leather muzzle appeared over his face. The leather molded to his skin as his hands shot to his face in a sudden manic moment of fear. Desperately, he pulled at the leather with all the force he could muster as the glowing rage in Patton’s eyes slowly backed him into a corner.
“I'm sick of you bullying Logan and dragging Virgil down.” The lights in the room flickered as Patton cried out and shoved Remus to the ground. “I don't care what Thomas says or Logan thinks. You don’t deserve to stay. Thomas is better off without you."
Remus hesitated. His hands lingered on the muzzle as his eyes flitted the door back to his own room. He knew he could retreat to his own room, but the idea of letting Virgil think he’d stood him up gave him pause. The choice was made for him a moment later when Patton’s power vibrated in the air and Remus let out a muffled cry as he felt his being wavering. The particles of his body began to weaken and fade as his resistance crumbled. He was unable to push back or even speak as Patton started to force him into the subconscious.
“Virgil will be disappointed when he realizes you forgot about him,” Patton whispered as Remus tipped his head up to meet the horrifying smile spread across Patton's face. “but he'll understand once you’re gone. I'll make sure he knows how bad you really are.”
Panic shot to Remus’ heart as he clutched at his fading body, choking as the muzzle as it grew tighter on his lips.
“I should have put that muzzle on you years ago." Patton’s laugh cracked in his ear. “Your silence is music to my ears. Finally, we can be good. Thomas can be good without you hear to ruin—"
“Is everything okay in here?”
Remus let out a heaving breath as his body hit the ground. He clutched his hands to his body, feeling around to make sure he was still fully there as Patton's grip loosened on him.
“Mind your own business, Janus.”
“Remus is my business. You made it clear years ago that he is my responsibility.” A flicker of worry flashed over Janus' eyes as Remus glanced up to him, but his gaze remained cold and distant as he maintained eye contact with Patton. “In fact, I think I'll be taking him now.”
Remus fingers raised to his lips as Patton’s muzzle fell away at Janus’ snap. His body was numb as Janus moved between him and Patton, extending a hand down to him. Remus swayed, staring at the fury in Patton's eyes as Janus pulled him to his feet.
“You have no right—”
“I think you'll find that I'm quite within my rights to do as I please.” Janus muttered as he absently brushed the dust from Remus’ shirt and shot a deathly glare at Patton. "but if you want to test that theory, I have no problem getting Thomas involved.”
Patton growled his discontent as Janus stepped forward to shield Remus from Patton's gaze. The silence hung over them, weighing heavy on Remus' shaking body, until the air shifted and Patton took a step back. “Keep him away from Virgil or I may not be so forgiving next time.”
“Don’t worry. You've won this battle, Morality, but I hope you know that Virgil will start to question your iron grip on him eventually. I taught him better than to simply follow others.” Janus muttered bitterly. His head bowed in reluctant acceptance of Patton's good grace, though his voice remained rebellious as their eyes remained locked together. “ He will not accept your word on blind faith.”
“Virgil will learn not to question me when he realizes how toxic you are to him. He can be molded into something better, unlike the cretin you're using so much of your dwindling energy to protect.” Patton spat as he turned to the door. “Now, go back to your hole before I change my mind."
“Remus, go.” Janus shoved him to the door.
“For once in your life, don’t argue with me.” Janus muttered as he guided the shell-shocked Remus back to the dark sides' hallway. His voice dropped after a few steps and he glanced down at Remus. “Not a single word until he can't hear us. Got it?”
Remus nodded, still numb as Janus dragged him toward his own room. He could hear Janus’ breathing become heavy as he guided Remus through the narrowing hallways with an unnatural speed, not stopping until they reached Remus' black door at the end of the hallway.
“Not yet, Re.” Janus whispered as he cast one last suspicious glance down the empty hallway before shoving Remus inside the narrow door frame.
“Janus, what the h—”
Remus' diatribe was knocked out of him as Janus' body slammed into his chest. He froze as Janus' arms curled around him, unsure of how to process the man's tight grip. He tensed, ready to struggle when he realized Janus was actually hugging him.
“Are you hurt?”
“What? No—” Remus whispered. His body went limp as released him enough to look him up and down. “I'm—I'm fine, Jan.”
“I'm going kill that self-righteous bastard.” Janus seethed. His grip on Remus' shoulders tightened as he stared past Remus to the closed door. “How dare he threaten you—”
“—and especially when you were actually working to make things right with Virgil—"
“I don’t—” Remus blinked as Janus' words registered in his mind. "Wait, how did you know that's what I was—"
“I mean, where does he even get off thinking he can control Virgil's life without his input anyway?" Janus growled, gesturing abruptly to the door. "Virgil isn’t some helpless child. He’s able to make his own decisions—"
“Am I on fucking mute or something?”
“—and you!” Janus spat, gesturing towards the Remus. Remus immediately flinched at Janus' anger, though he wasn’t sure what he'd done to deserve the lying side's ire. “He could have killed you—”
"What?" Remus flailed as Janus grabbed the collar of his shirt like a disobedient child. “Hey, that's not fair! I didn’t know that Pattoncake was secretly a sadist—”
“You should have been more careful—"
Remus' head reeled as Janus spun him around, but he managed to stifle his nausea long enough to shout at Janus. “Jan—For fuck's sake, either fuck me or take my head off your fucking chopping block—”
Janus blinked, finally taking in Remus' red face as he swayed uneasily in Janus' grip. “What?”
"Listen, I like it rough and all but if I knew that you could manhandle me like that—" Remus blinked blearily as Janus loosened his grip. "Fuck the possibilities are endless, but—"
"Remus, I'm really not in the mood for your games tonight—"
“I'm not playing—Just ignore all of that. I needed to get your attention because you wouldn’t let me get a word in edgewise. ” Remus muttered, waving his hands as he found his bearings. “Jan, you—you frickin' saved me.”
"Now is the time you decide to censor yourself?"
"I'm trying to give you a compliment, Janus." Remus cut him off with a wave of his arms. "Hello, I wasn't expecting to become a damsel in distress but you make a hell of a knight in shining armor to have actually stepped in to save me.
“Of course, I saved you." Janus muttered after a moment, dipping his head in embarrassment. "I felt Patton’s emotions start to well up. I knew he was going to cause trouble and I wasn't about to leave you to his mercy.”
“What so you mean you felt him?” Remus mouth dropped in confusion.
Janus shrugged as his gaze dropped to the ground, still agitated. “I feel a lot of things Patton does.”
“But why?” Remus growled angrily as Janus clammed up. "Just spit it out already, Jan—"
“Because he's Thomas’ biggest lie.” Janus blurted out without thinking, gesturing to the door.
“What?” Remus whispered as he watched Janus begin to pace the room.
“The source of Thomas’ morality is corrupt.” Janus yelled, though he was quickly losing steam. “Not Thomas himself. God, not Thomas. But his insistence on clinging to his purity complex and thinking he can please everyone if he just tries hard enough—It's the most insidious evil that's ever taken root in him.
Remus went quiet as Janus explained and everything suddenly began to click into place.
“Thomas can't just turn his attention away from every reality he doesn't like.” Janus shrugged as he looked up at Remus. “Trying to eliminate anything uncomfortable or unpleasant in his life is a slippery slope to much more dangerous ideas.”
“Okay,sure, but this is still happy pappy, sunshine-coming-out-of-his-ass Patton. You sure you don't got a screw loose in that big brain of yours?” Remus managed to blurt out in exasperation. The scene had just played out before his own eyes, but he couldn't help that his brain turned to fuzz every time he attempted to process it. “Ya know? Maybe, we’re in a some sort of shared delusion. I mean, I know he's cute and all but now's not the time to think with your other head—”
"Remus," Janus let out an exasperated sigh as he glared at Remus. “I know you can’t help it but I would strongly prefer you think before you speak, like a normal person—”
“But, Jan. Come on—"
“His perceived innocence is part of the ruse, Remus. Why do you think Thomas' Logic is blind to his actions?” Janus muttered as his voice became nearly manic. "Why do you think his Creativity fawns over him and his Anxiety is soothed by him?"
Remus giggled as the human side of Janus' face became a brilliant shade of red. "Couldn't just be that he's just more personable than you, Janus?"
"Remus, I swear I'll strangle you myself—"
“Ya know, it's not often I'm the one fighting to talk over you.” Remus interrupted as he giggled and leaned into Janus' fury with a crooked grin. “If I knew you'd get all hot and bothered by Patty getting rough with me, I would’ve shoved my—"
“If you value your life, you will not finish that thought.” Janus muttered, pinching the bridge of his nose in frustration. “This is serious, Remus. You—You could have died.”
“Everything’s always serious, Jan-Jan. You should give yourself a break.” Remus grinned, gesturing up and down at himself. "Do I look dead to you?"
“I know, but—”
Remus' grin widened as he rambled. “I mean, I've got a plan for when the heart attack kills you and all, but I'm not like dying to use it.”
“That's not the—Wait, you do?”
“Well, yeah. I wouldn't let you go out without a bang." Remus' grin widened as Janus turned up him curiously. "Figured I'd have some fun with it and put your head under someone’s covers. It’s very Godfather-esque.”
“Huh—" Janus leaned back, suddenly contemplative to Remus' proposal. "To whom would you do this?”
“Well, not Pattycake anymore.” Remus laughed, patting Janus on the back. “Maybe, Roman though. He needs good jolt every once in a while.”
“He certainly could stand to come down a few notches on his ego.” Janus sighed, rolling his eyes. He paused, finally taking a breath as he stared at Remus unfaltering smile. “I have no idea how you're managing to stay calm after what just happened."
“Well, that's easy." Remus purred with cocky smile as he leaned into Janus. “I got my big, bad protector here with me.”
"I got lucky, Remus." Janus huffed. “If I hadn't have been paying attention to Patton's power flaring up, you would've—”
“Whatever, you felt that Patty boy was about to turn me to dust and you showed up.” Remus brushed off Janus' excuses. “That means something, Jan—Means a lot to me actually.”
Janus blinked as he looked up to the suddenly serious expression on Remus' face.
“The deadly dad freaked me out and I have to admit he had me kinda buying the story that I'm not that great of an influence on Virgil—” Remus sighed as he let his grin dropped away. “— or Thomas even, but I figure if you saved me, I can’t actually be all bad.”
“You’re not bad, Remus.”
“Yeah, well, even I need a reminder of that every once in a while.” Remus smiled. He shifted on his feet as he looked up at Janus. “So, thanks.”
“Anytime, Re.” Janus smirked at Remus' sincere smile. "I've always got your back."
“I know you do.” Remus breathed with a worried glance back at his door. “Saving me might have been the easy part though, Jan. Patton didn't seem like he was gonna let our Stormy Nightmare go.”
“Virgil will see through his lies,” Janus breathed as tasted the air. “The power's shifting and he can't hold me back forever. We aren't going down without a fight, and once Thomas sees his true nature, the game's over for Morality.”
“Well, better get cracking then,” Remus grinned. “before Patton finishes brainwashing 'em all.”
Janus nodded with a glance at the wall as a sudden chill ran up his spine. He could feel someone watching, but he supposed it didn’t matter. There was no turning back now. “Yes, Remus. I think it’s time to start pushing back.”
@justanotherhumanstuff @im-an-anxious-wreck @shadowyplaidpurseegg
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Ahhh it’s here! This is a gift to the wonderful @avenueofesc as part of the @drarrymicrofic Wheel of Drarry mini exchange. Em, you’re a ray of light on the dash, the biggest microfic supporter and an all-round hilarious person. I tried to mesh some pining, oblivious boys, and hurt/ comfort, and also threw in some Warbling Glowworms and Patronus shenanigans for good measure! I hope you like it as much as I loved writing it.
RATED T | 4k
Harry’s twenty-five, a leading Healer on the Acute Curse and Dark Artifact Afflictions Ward at St. Mungo’s, and has a sound group of friends. So why does he constantly feel like he wants to crawl out of his skin? Draco Malfoy may be exacerbating the problem…or is he?
Featuring Warbling Glowworms, bacon sandwiches, and sharp edges.
WARNING: graphic description of an injury and blood
The first time Draco Malfoy turned up at 12 Grimmauld Place, Harry was expecting it. He wasn’t particularly pleased.
“Come on Hermione, it’s Malfoy!” Ron whined as Hermione bustled about. Harry nodded from the doorway, safely out of the way of both Hermione and the Warbling Glowworms she was Levitating into various spots around his living room.
She gave them her most unimpressed look. “Honestly, you two! Wasn’t it your idea to have an inter-house reunion party, Ron?”
“Well it was technically Theo’s, but—”
“—And didn’t Harry say he’d be more than happy to have the party here because he wants this house to be filled with laughter and people?” Hermione interrupted brusquely, “And because he might be a tad lonely? No offense, Harry.”
Harry shrugged. She wasn’t wrong.
Ron whined again, but set about wrestling some more glowworms from the crate Neville had brought over earlier.
Hermione gave a nod. “Well, that’s settled.”
Which is how Harry found himself face to face with Malfoy and Pansy on his doorstep. On a Saturday night. On one of Harry’s few days off from the Acute Curse and Dark Artifact Afflictions Ward at St. Mungo’s.
“Hello, Potter.” Pansy was all angles and sharp edges, her red lipstick crisp around her sly smile and her nails tapered at the end like elegant talons. Perfect for ripping people’s throats out, Harry thought uncharitably.
An ostentatious cough drew Harry’s gaze to Malfoy, his pompous smirk the same as ever. The git.
Yet a voice in the back of Harry’s head that sounded suspiciously like Hermione reminded him that there were changes, if he looked hard enough. Malfoy had obviously just clocked out of a shift with the DMLE, his standard-issue wand holster strapped tight around his shoulders, his white shirt rolled up at the elbows. He’d loosened up since the war, his hair slightly wavy with a fringe long enough that slender fingers had to brush it out of his eyes every now and then, and his eyes—
“Did you know it’s usually polite to invite your guests inside, Potter?”
Draco’s drawl jerked Harry from his reverie, his smirk stretching wider as Pansy snickered next to him.
Harry took a deep breath, biting back a choice insult about ferrets and unwanted guests. “Of course. Come on in.”
Harry planned to spend the rest of the party staying as far away from Malfoy as possible. The problem was, Malfoy seemed to be everywhere: his cologne permeated the hallway, his laugh— raw and sharp around the edges with newness— cut through the cacophony of Seamus’ magically-enhanced sound system and the Warbling Glowworms. Harry even spied him being fawned over by Kreacher in the kitchen. Kreacher usually despised all of Harry’s guests with every fiber of his shriveled being, and made sure to broadcast it as loudly as possible when they were around.
Harry’s skin started to prickle, though from sweat or annoyance, he couldn’t tell. He retreated to the garden with his umpteenth Firewhiskey of the night, skirting around a rather preoccupied-looking Ginny and Pansy. He sought refuge with Neville and Hannah Abbott on the patio, until they started making Herbology-based innuendos that made Harry feel both clueless and wildly uncomfortable. To be fair, it wasn’t a great deal different from how he normally felt, but he decided it was best to leave them to it.
He wound his way through the garden until he came to his pond. It was the first part of the garden Harry had worked on ever since he unearthed a picture of Sirius, Lupin and his father lazing by it. The pond was luminescent with tiny water-foals, the air festooned with fireflies that dipped and danced over the dark water. Harry had grown some toadstools not too long ago on Ron’s advice, which some fairies had taken to shacking up in during the summer. Aside from their occasional laughter and jokes at his expense, it was a safe place, hidden away from the world by towering ferns. It was Harry’s favourite spot, the one where he could just sit and think and be vaguely uncomfortable in peace. Even Ron and Hermione rarely bothered him out here.
So it was utterly unsurprising that Malfoy had invaded it.
He was sitting on the stone bench— his bench, Harry’s brain supplied angrily— those impossibly grey eyes fixed on the pool, his elbows on his knees and his hands clasped together, white knuckled. The silvery trails left by the manes of the water-foals lit up his eyes in a way that Harry hadn’t seen since Fifth Year.
An age-old instinct to make Malfoy move, do something, to get under that iron-fisted, porcelain veneer, reared up inside Harry.
“I still stand by what I said.”
Malfoy jerked upright, his grey eyes wide. Harry didn’t elaborate; they both knew what he meant. Draco had filled out in the six months since the trial, but the shadows still lingered in the hollows of his cheeks, in the thinness of his hair. Harry had saved him that day, but he’d also taken the opportunity to tear into Malfoy and his family in a way that he’d never done before. The savage satisfaction hadn’t lasted long, but Harry had wanted it. Needed it.
Malfoy smirked at him, but it was softer than before. “I’d be disappointed if you didn’t, Potter.” He cast an Aguamenti, tracing the arc of the water as it caught the moonlight mid-flight before tumbling into the pond with a soft tinkle. “That’s your thing, isn’t it? Always digging your heels in.”
Harry opened his mouth to say how the pot was calling the cauldron black, when he paused. Was it a compliment? It was a backhanded one, but a compliment all the same.
Harry’s skin prickled again as he watched the arc waver with the slight tremble of Malfoy’s hand, felt the white noise of the water-song and the ripple of Malfoy’s magic, tentative in the air around him.
Harry edged towards the bench, gingerly sitting when Malfoy moved. They watched the water together, magic washing over Harry’s restless body as Malfoy’s breath rose and fell with the water.
Malfoy looked at him as if he’d grown another head. Silence fell, the spell ended. “What?”
“You can—” Harry cleared his throat, the words scratching their way out “—you can call me Harry.”
The corners of Malfoy’s lips twitched. “Let’s not make the Thestral fly before it can walk.”
Harry laughed. “So when will it fly?”
“We’ll see.” Malfoy stood, brushing some errant moss from his trousers. He bent to Harry’s level, a smile on his lips. It was small, but unmistakably there. Harry couldn’t stop staring, so much that he nearly missed Malfoy’s next words.
“Thanks for the party. Harry.”
It was stilted and strange, but Harry saw it for what it was.
He sat at the pond until his joints went stiff and the sky began to pale, a soft grey dawn in midsummer. Translucent and webbed with veins of dark clouds, an echo of Thestral wings.
The seventh time Draco turned up at Harry’s doorstep, the house was electric. Or maybe it was just Harry.
“Right!” Ginny bellowed over the chatter, her arm slung around Pansy’s waist. “Are we all ready?”
“No.” Harry and Pansy reply in unison. Pansy shot him a knowing smirk, her cat-like eyes twinkling as she opened her mouth.
Dean beat her to it, though. “Nope, Draco still isn’t here. He’s late every pub night,” he sighed, taking another swig of his beer.
“Obviously he’s not here,” Blaise yawned, stretching his legs out on the sofa. “Harry’s still lurking by the door.”
Harry was just about to deny that he wasn’t lurking, only investigating the nargle-count in his hallway like Luna had suggested at last week’s pub night, when a crack sounded from the other side of the door.
The door flew open before Harry even reached the handle, his magic getting ahead of him. It does that a lot nowadays, like it’s too big for his body, bursting out of it’s shell.
Draco arched an eyebrow, a teasing smile on his lips. “That was fast.”
Harry felt his cheeks flame. Naturally, he blurted out the first thing that popped into his head. “You look nice.”
Draco’s eyebrows climbed higher. “Nice?”
“Dashing, then,” Harry grinned, his insides dancing a Tarantella.
Draco rolled his eyes. “Yes, well. Obviously, I live to please you, O Saviour of the Wizarding World.”
“Oi! Are you two done?” Seamus’ voice boomed from the kitchen, followed by a series of flashbangs and Ron’s whooping laughter.
Draco sighed. “We’d better make a move before Finnegan burns your house down.”
Once Luna had herded everyone into pairs into the Floo, Harry and Draco were the last ones left. The stretched-taut silence between them in moments like this was beginning to feel more familiar. More comfortable.
“So,” Draco glanced at Harry out of the corner of his eye. “Ready?”
Harry opened his mouth, wanting to say yes and no and let’s go and stay with me, Kreacher and Walburga love you anyway, this house is too large for one, be off-kilter with me and stay, stay, stay.
So he simply nodded instead.
They stepped into the fireplace together, taking care not to step on the loose grate that Harry had never quite got around to fixing. Draco’s hands slid up Harry’s forearms, resting softly on the small of his back. Harry’s breath hitched, as it always did, and there was an unmistakable touch of fondness in the look Draco gave him, so much so that Harry nearly forgot about the Floo Powder slipping through his fingers.
Yet slip it did, slowly but surely.
Harry inched closer, a hair’s breadth away from Draco.
“The Leaky Cauldron.”
The last thing Harry saw before they were whisked away were Draco’s eyes, flickering over his face in an emerald haze.
The thirteenth time Draco landed on Harry’s doorstep was terrible in every way.
A scream. Yelling. Curses, spells, death tainted the air. Cold, spindly hands gripped his collar, snakelike eyes boring into his, and then he was falling, falling, clinging to darkness and smoke and he’s back, he’s back, he’s ba—
Harry jolted awake, his hand flying to his forehead on instinct. He must have come back from his shift at St. Mungo’s and collapsed on the sofa. He even still had his shoes on, which was vaguely disgusting.
He fumbled for his glasses, putting them on just in time to see the Patronus gallop into the living room.
“Harry.” The Thestral’s head drooped, it’s skeletal body a dull pewter sheen instead of its usual bright silver. “Harry, help.”
The Thestral faded into a grey swirl of smoke as the doorbell chimed again.
Harry’s blood ran cold, before he fired into action. The door swung open before he’d even entered the hallway, reaching his doorstep just in time to catch Draco in his arms.
“Harry.” Draco gasped out, clutching his side.
“Jesus Christ.” Draco’s Auror robes were in a crumpled heap on the stairs leading down to the street, sodden by the torrential rain. As for Draco himself…
From what little Harry could see and feel, it was as if he’d been mauled by a Manticore.
“I— I didn’t know where else to go.” Draco’s voice was small, weak, and utterly unfamiliar.
“No, of course.” Harry’s brain immediately kicked into Healer mode. “Let’s get you inside.”
He carried Draco inside, laying him down as gently as he could on the sofa he’d been passed out on a minute ago. Draco’s shivered and moaned, his once-white shirt now a horrifying rosy pink, blooming from a dark red patch that covered the entire right side of his torso. Harry’s mind whirred, flipping through his options at rapid-fire speed: Apparition to St. Mungo’s was absolutely not an option, and Floo was out of the question. Emergency Curse Prevention it was.
“Circe’s tits,” Harry murmured, stretching out a hand. A drawer in the hallway banged open and a pair of scissors immediately flew into his hand. He set about cutting the shirt away, gingerly peeling it away to reveal—
The center of the wound looked like charred coal, the skin cracked like the scene of a lightning strike. From it emanated a monstrous web of slashes and strips of torn flesh. An acute curse, like a Sectumsempra and Incendio rolled into a near-fatal car crash of an injury. He avoided glancing at Draco’s left side, but it was no use; he could already see the glint of silvery, puckered scars on smooth pale skin in his peripheral vision. A past no number of stitches or healing incantations could erase. Harry didn’t think, didn’t feel, as he Summoned his emergency briefcase from the fourth floor and set to work.
Half an hour later, and nothing was working. Harry’s knees were screaming in pain, his back stiff, but he kept going. Every time he finished drawing out the last of the curse in a billow of putrid black smoke when it recoiled back into the wound with a howl.
Draco moaned again, a barely-there sound.
Time was running out.
Harry thumped the floor with a wordless yell that emanated from his core. The house shook, the radiators rattling in their place as he threw his wand across the room.
Draco stirred. “Harry, please…”
The storm inside Harry immediately lulled as he reached for Draco, stroking his cheek on instinct. “Don’t move, Draco, it’s okay. You’ll be okay, you’re safe now. You’ll be fine.” He choked out a sob. “You’ll be fine, Draco.”
Draco leaned into his touch, his cheek hot with fever. “Say it again.”
Harry’s heart clenched. He stroked a stray, sweat-soaked lock of hair from Draco’s face. “Draco.”
Draco hummed before he slipped back under, a wave of pain racking his unconscious body.
Harry sat back on his heels, his mind oddly calm.
He pressed his palms to Draco’s chest, his kit forgotten at his feet. Harry drew in a deep breath, drawing all the rage, the panic, the butterflies, the uncomfortable feeling that had always nested in the pit of stomach since time immemorial, and focused it all on Draco. His skin prickled.
A blinding blaze of white, so bright and intense it was as if Harry was back on the King’s Cross platform, his hands felt as if they were on fire, made of fire, heat and light like atoms splitting, like torn ether, like a phoenix rising from the ashes anew—
Three weeks. It had been three weeks and Harry still hadn’t seen hide nor hair of Draco.
“Dunno mate.” Ron shrugged when Harry asked if he knew where Draco was before taking an obscenely large bite of his bacon sandwich. Some ketchup splodged onto the table, earning a shriek from Kreacher, but Harry’s mind was too preoccupied to care. “Maybe healing him with your Patronus scrambled his brain.”
“Not helping, Ron.” Hermione sighed, cutting her own sandwich in two and swishing her wand at the teapot, which set about pouring a steaming mug of English Breakfast at her elbow. “I’ve talked to Pansy about it and she says Draco seemed to be recovering well.”
Harry thumped his head on the table, narrowly missing his own half-eaten sandwich, before standing up. “Right.”
“I mean, you wouldn’t believe it when we found you two, having to Apparate you both to St. Mungo’s in the state you were— wait, where are you going?!” Ron’s voice followed him out into the hall.
“Is that a Weasley I hear?” Walburga screeched as Harry shuffled into his trainers. “Get them out of my house, that scum—”
Harry silenced her with a flick of his hand. “I’m going out.”
“Wait!” Hermione ran into the hall, Ron close on her heels. She squeezed Harry in a tight hug before trying to (unsuccessfully) tidy his hair. “Maybe get Pansy some of those gold-leafed truffles she likes,” she murmured. “But with Draco…”
“Don’t worry, honestly,” Ron snorted. “You know Harry could be covered in Boomslang Slime and Draco would still fall at his feet.”
Hermione shot Ron a smile, Harry’s hair forgotten. “I know. I was going to say that he needn’t do anything grand.” She looked up at Harry, her smile turning sly. “I think the unprecedented event of healing someone with your Patronus is already a statement of—”
“Right!” Harry said loudly. He knew what Hermione was about to say; he could barely stop thinking about it himself. Hence his mission to track Draco down. “See you later.”
“Tell Draco to stop being a giti!” Ron yelled, bacon sandwich still in hand, “And that Puddlemere United beat us 170 - 135!” With that, the front door slammed shut and the house slid away from view.
Harry was on Draco’s doorstep and he was pretty sure this was it. This was how he died.
Pansy’s eyes bored into his, nearly black with barely-restrained fury. Her hands were braced on the doorframe which, paired with the black fur-trimmed dressing gown, rather reminded Harry of Fluffy guarding the trapdoor. Not that he was going to tell her that any time soon.
Her nails tip-tapped ominously on the doorframe. “What did you do to him, Potter?”
Harry winced. Pansy hadn’t called him that in months. “Erm…I saved him? I think?” At Pansy’s expression, he doubled back. “Um, I’m actually not sure? But I got you these.” He extended the box of truffles and looked up at her balefully, hoping against hope that the peace offering would do the trick.
A hand shot out and Harry flinched before he was suddenly pulled over the threshold by the front of his shirt.
“He’s in his room,” Pansy said icily as she swept down the hall. At Harry’s stunned expression, she rolled her eyes and doubled back. “I would thank you for saving his life, but whatever else you did…” She lifted a shoulder before making her way to her bedroom. “Give my thanks to Hermione for the truffles.”
Harry reached Draco’s attic room, fully intending to knock. Alas, the door was ajar, and Harry had no forward-thinking faculties in his brain when it came to Draco.
He stared at Draco through the crack in the door, his heart in his throat. He seemed so peaceful, stretched out on his bed in a patch of sunlight like a cat in nothing but pajama bottoms, the sun threading snitch-golden rays through his hair. The only thing that remained of that night was the light gauze that covered the right side of his ribcage. Even from where Harry stood, the silvery criss-cross of old scars was visible, winking at him in the midday sun.
Harry stepped back. This was a mistake. It didn’t matter that Harry wanted to see him, didn’t matter that he’d woken up yesterday and realised that the lifelong feeling of wanting to crawl out of skin had completely disappeared a few months ago, it didn’t matter that everything, everything had changed when he’d healed Draco, even his—
“Are you going to dither around out there all day?”
Draco was propped up on his elbows now, looking at Harry with a look so impassive it could still an ocean.
Harry entered, his Gryffindor courage returning. Once upon a time, Harry would have taken that face of cool indifference to mean that Draco was an uncaring bastard. Now that he was older and somewhat wiser, he knew it meant something different. The exact opposite, in fact.
He sat on the edge of the bed, gesturing vaguely at Draco’s chest. “That looks like it’s healing well.”
“I woke up and you were gone.”
Draco’s voice was frosty but his body was tensed, coiled-up with pent-up rage. His fingers dug into the bedspread, his gaze fixed on Harry.
“I know, I thought you needed space—” Harry started.
“Space?” Draco voice cracked. Under the self-righteous anger, Harry could sense the hurt. “You heal me with your Patronus, then you decide I need space?” He laughed, but it was cruel and hollow, utterly unlike the laugh Harry had come to know and love. “But of course, what should I have expected when I fell on your doorstep—”
Harry tried to tamp down on the flare of anger. “That’s not fair, Draco.”
“—and you told me that of course, of course I had nowhere to go but you.”
“No! I didn’t mean it like that, and you—”
“—And off you go, ready to save the next person!” Draco said loudly, his composure regained. He fixed Harry with a glacial look, sardonic smirk in place. “Always the Saviour, aren’t you Potter.”
That was the last straw.
“Fuck this,” Harry spat. “None of that’s true, Draco, and you know it. You’re just trying to get a rise out of me to prove to yourself this bollocks idea that you’re incapable of being…that I could never— Oh, sod it all.” Harry huffed, irritably fumbling for his wand. “Just watch.”
Harry closed his eyes. Took a deep breath and tried to remember that night by the pond, and all the pub-nights and walks in the park and nights by fire since.
A moment later, his Patronus burst forth in a blaze of light, soaring around the room with a piercing, ghostly cry. It smoothly landed on the bed in front of Draco, tucked its wings away and regarded him with curious grey eyes. He stared back, his expression shifting from terror to awe and everything in between.
Draco was silent. Then, after a minute:
“It’s a Phoenix.”
Harry waited. Draco usually had a lot to say, it just took a while to make its way out.
“It…it used to be a stag, though.”
Harry bit back a smile. “Yeah.”
Comprehension dawned on Draco’s face, closely followed by a flicker of horror. Which was to be expected, Harry supposed. It was a dreadfully saccharine way to announce your undying love for someone.
Harry cleared his throat awkwardly, moving his hand across the bedspread so his pinky brushed against Draco’s. “My Patronus, it…it changed. It changed because of you.”
At this, Draco finally exploded. “Circe’s soggy drawers, Harry!” He leapt up, hands clutching his head. “You couldn’t just tell me you fancied me over a pint at pub night like a normal person? No, you had to, to…to change your Patronus and risk your life in a bid to save me, of all people? The Death-Eater-turned-reformed-pretentious-git?”
Harry tried to conceal his laughter, he really did. “Well at least you have some self-awareness—”
Draco shot him an incredulous look. “Harry. Do you have any idea…could you imagine what the Prophet would have done if I had been the cause of your demise? Don’t even get me started on that bloody Phoenix. I was going to ask you out for dinner at the Oak and Sword on Diagon Alley that night before that tosser Fletchley and his gang decided to accost me! Pansy was right, you’re a bloody nightmare, Merlin, what am I going to do with you—”
Draco wheeled around, shell-shocked. “What?”
Harry caught his hands, drawing him in gently until he stood in between Harry’s knees. “You heard me.”
Finally, Draco softened. He crawled onto the bed and tucked himself up against Harry, their bodies pressed together from shoulder to hip, their legs tangled. Harry closed his eyes and let himself bask in the moment, tracing the just of Draco’s hip, threading his fingers through silky hair.
After a while Draco shifted, tucking his head into the crook of Harry’s neck.
“I’m difficult.” It was barely a whisper, a quiet admission so soft the words barely ghosted across Harry’s skin.
He pulled back to look at Draco and brushed a lock of wavy white-blond hair from his eyes. Draco wasn’t as sharp as the first time he’d landed on his doorstep, all those months ago. His cheeks had filled out, his wrist bones no longer jutted out, his hair no longer slicked back against his skull. Yet beneath it all, Draco was still Draco: sharp-tongued with an acerbic wit, swinging wildly from caustic to cold and back again in a single conversation, constantly uncomfortable and contrary, and the same melodramatic git Harry had first met in Madame Malkin’s shop.
Harry loved him, shards and scars and all.
“I know.” Harry smiled, cupping his face. “But so am I.”
Because that was the thing, wasn’t it? For however much Draco had made Harry’s skin crawl and prickle—with rage, with disgust, with want, with deep enduring discomfort— he’d also stirred something inside him. He’d always had a knack for dredging up the silt that sat at the bottom of Harry’s soul and the back of his mind, all the things about himself that the Dursely’s had locked him away for, all the things that Harry himself wasn’t ready to admit. It was why Harry had been so ready to hate Draco, why he’d torn him open, why he’d saved him from Fiendfyre. Why his Patronus had changed.
Draco made him feel alien and alive, a tempest in a teacup, a Thestral flying before it could walk. It was all out of order, absolute nonsense, and completely, utterly ridiculous.
It was magic.
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
Harry shrugged, smoothing his hands over Draco’s chest. “It means stay with me. On one condition.”
Draco traced the shell of his ear, grinning as he trailed a finger down to Harry’s pulse point. “Oh?”
Harry suppressed a shiver, giddy magic skittering over his body. “That you address me only as ‘Saviour’ for the rest of your life.”
“Absolutely not.” Draco grinned sheepishly, a silent apology, before flipping them over and leaning down, his lips barely brushing Harry’s like a strange form of tantalising torture. He whispered, slow and heated. “I think I’ll stick with Harry.”
Harry couldn’t take it anymore. He reared up to claim Draco in a bruising kiss, tracing the seam of his lips, pulling on Draco’s hair to expose the pale column of his throat. Draco gasped his name over and over, his hands roaming over Harry’s chest, his arms, threading their fingers together. Harry was just eagerly parting Draco’s lips with a moan when Draco suddenly pulled back.
“Oh! I almost forgot.” He swished his wand, the Thestral whickering softly as it sprang into existence. “Tell Pansy to abort Plan A.” The Thestral tossed its head before galloping through the wall.
Harry propped himself up on his elbows, his mouth open in indignation. “What was that about?”
“Nothing you need to worry about,” Draco said softly, pressing Harry back down into the bed. “Not anymore.”
A sly smile spread across his face, sharp and sagittal. Harry adored him.
“Now, where were we?”
*** THE END ***
Thank you so much for reading! As always, likes, reblogs and comments are my life and will spur on the writing gremlin that lives in my brain!!
Much love, bea x
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The Wingman (Erwin Smith x Marie)
Chapter 1: The Girl
Reposting this because I am officially overhauling my @levi-lives blog, in lieu of this one because SOMEONE Tumblr won't let my posts show up from there anymore! grrrr.
@levi-lives blog is still up tho, if you would like still see my original posts
The Wingman: MASTERLIST
Before Erwin Smith and Nile Dawk became respected commanders of the Scouting Legion and the Military Police, they were good friends during their cadet days at the 92nd Cadet Corps. They, along with Mike Zacharias, were young, full of vigor, on the rise to greatness, and had a taste for women and booze.
And they all planned to join the coveted ranks of the Military Police.
But when Nile asked Erwin to write his love letters for a woman named Marie, Erwin starts thinking that maybe even a man like him could dream of falling in love.
Nile once scoffed at Erwin at how he could trade Marie for a life of Titans and death. And this is why.
Author’s Note: Ngl, this quarantine is really getting into my extrovert head, and my emotional and mental health is taking one heck of skinny dip. I NEED human interaction ASDGHJKL AND SO I THOUGHT why not translate all this quarantine angst and anxiety into a story! This idea came to me while cooking for the 2382 time during quarantine and it’s been stick in my head ever since! I’ve always been curious about what happened between Erwin and Marie and thought this would be a fun (albeit heartbreaking) story to tackle.
I wrote this while listening to one the songs from the AOT soundtrack— 2chijou by Hiroyuki Sawano, and Hey Barbara by IV of Spades try listening to it while reading!
Chapter 1: The Girl
The April heat was unforgiving and harsh as the cadets of the 92nd Cadet Corps went about their usual afternoon sparring session. The clear blue skies and the wildflowers scattered about the compound in full bloom casted a perfect backdrop to the heady atmosphere of the early summer. And as beautiful as the day may be, it was also such a bitch.
Erwin Smith and Nile Dawk shrugged off their caramel jackets to prepare for a spar. Their white shirts are already sticking to their backs beneath the April sun. Erwin was just about ready to take down Nile and get over the spar in time for a nice cool shower, and a cigarette paired with a cool glass of whiskey.
And maybe a woman on his lap.
“I’m telling you Erwin, you should have been there. She was gorgeous.”
Erwin rolled his blue eyes at his friend. Nile had just easily spent the morning all but swooning to Erwin about a girl he just met during one of his and Mike’s romps to a bar in Wall Maria’s central hub called Titan Territory. Usually, Erwin would accompany the two, but he just so happened to be off on a visit to his mother at Wall Rose with his brother. The blonde cadet has yet to see the girl, but he does know enough from his friend that “Fuck she was gorgeous! With blazing ginger curls and bright hazel eyes! And her lips! They looked so sweet and plump. With a curvy body to match too!”
“She was like an angel sent by the Goddesses themselves, man,” Nile continued to gush, rubbing his stubble while lost in thought at the mystery girl. Erwin gave a wry smile. Still, he did find some amusement in seeing his friend act like a clingy schoolgirl. Erwin smirked at the raven haired man before him, rolling back his broad shoulders, flexing his muscles for a fight. He was vaguely aware of the lingering glances from the female cadets on the field. “Do you even know her name? Or were you just too busy kissing the ground she walked?” Nile stopped rubbing his peach fuzz, his alabaster features flushing even brighter despite the intense heat.
“I was drunk. I can’t remember her name.”
Erwin chuckled, shaking his head. He carded his hands through his hair, shaking the sweat out of his blonde hair. “You’re too drunk to remember, or she wouldn’t tell you?” The blonde cocked a thick eyebrow.
Nile glared at him as he unbuttoned the first few buttons of his shirt and rolled up his sleeves— At 6’3” Erwin Smith was a good five inches taller than him, and packed more punch and muscle at that. If Nile had any hope of beating the large man, he had to be quick and agile. He needed as much mobility as he could get.
The two men got into position.
“Shut up, poor thing was probably too shy.”
“There’s a fine line between being shy and refusing to entertain a perv,” Erwin jabbed, to which Nile scoffed at.
“OI! SCRUFFY AND EYEBROWS!”
The resounding bark of Cadet Corps Commander, Valentin Müller disturbed the two cadet’s banter. The man was a nightmare. He quite literally looks like a walking corpse, with his eyes sunk in so low into his head, it looked like a talking skull.
“WHAT ARE YA TWO MILKMAIDS GOSSIPING ABOUT?!”
The veins in Müller’s neck might as well have popped out as the old commander’s cold eyes bore into them.
“WHAT ARE YA WAITING FOR?! A TITAN TO SUCK YA DICK?! YA BETTER START PUNCHING EACH OTHER OR IM GOING TO PERSONALLY CART YA PUSSIES OFF TO A TITAN ORGY!”
“Sweet Sina, Müller take a happy pill,” Erwin thinks as he makes eye contact with Nile.
Both men answer back with a firm “Yes Sir!” Nile, the bastard, whispers under his breath, “Corpse Cock’s going to cart us off because he knows he can’t land a punch on us himself.”
Erwin smirks at the brilliant nickname his brother coined for the old commander. The two men knew that they had to start sparring if they didn’t want Müller hounding their ass. Erwin could sense the shift in Nile’s stance. How he dug his feet into the dry dirt of the sparring field in order to stabilize his center of gravity, ready to spring into action. Erwin knew Nile was quick on his feet. And the stubbled man meant business. All Erwin had to do was wait for his first move.
And take the first move he did. Nile, quick as fox, lunged forward to land a solid punch to Erwin’s head. Erwin managed to dodge the blow, but soon, Erwin was on the defensive. The taller man started blocking Nile’s successive attacks until he found an opening; Nile may be faster, but Erwin certainly was smarter.
As a frustrated Nile started throwing punches and kicks in reckless abandon, itching to hit the blonde, he got lucky and landed a blow to the gut. Erwin grunted, and immediately saw the triumph in his opponent’s eyes.
First rule of sparring— a fight isn’t a victory unless you send your opponent to the ground.
Erwin latched onto Nile’s dominant punching arm with a death grip, and twisted the man’s limb behind his back. Nile moved to elbow Erwin in the face but the tall blonde let his advantage in size and strength propel his body to throw Nile over his back. Nile hit the dirt with a heavy thud, the back of his skull knocking on the ground. But he wasn’t quite done yet. Without missing a beat, Nile swept his leg out, knocking Erwin off balance. Nile was on top of Erwin the moment the blonde was on the ground. But before Nile can give the final blow, Erwin knees him in the stomach and rolls over Nile’s buckled form. Erwin immediately reached for the wooden training knife in his boot and positioned it above Nile’s jugular.
“You’re a son of bitch to kill, you know that?”
Erwin was breathless and sweating buckets. Nile was just the same, as he held his hands palms up in surrender. “Part of the magic, Eyebrows.”
“OI MAGGOTS!” Müller’s roar made the two look up. Around them, a number of cadets— most of whom are women— have stopped their own sparring to watch Erwin and Nile fight. One female cadet was even openly fanning herself, looking straight at Erwin.
“STOP WATCHING EYEBROWS AND SCRUFFY HAVE SEX AND KEEP FIGHTING. TRAINING ISN’T OVER YET SCUMBALLS!”
The cadets resumed their sparring with a shaky “Yes Sir!” Once satisfied, Müller stalked off to terrorize some other poor cadet as he glanced at the two vehemently.
Erwin got up on his feet, then held out a hand to his friend. Nile accepted it, rubbing the growing bump at the back of his head. “By the Walls Erwin, could you tell Derek to stop fucking Müller’s daughter so he could stop chewing us out like the gum off his shoe?” Nile frowned as Erwin tossed him a jug of water from the refreshments area under a tree. “I’ve tried that one already. My brother’s a stubborn piece of shit. You think I like Müller hounding my ass?” Erwin replied, his deep voice gravelly in exhaustion. He started chugging down the soothing liquid. His sculpted Adam’s apple bobbed up and down as he drank, once again feeling quite a few female stares on him.
“Look at you, a tomcat even without trying.”
Mike Zacharias’ hulking form approached them. His spar has long since finished after making quick work of his opponent in less than two minutes. Mike, for all intents and purposes, was a deadly weapon masked in his calm facade. He stood even taller than Erwin at 6’5” and had the ability to combine Nile’s quick reflexes, and Erwin’s eye for observation (or rather nose) with his own brutal strength and power.
“I could smell all the girls creaming up for you,” Mike smirked.
He is also a lecherous bastard, made even more disconcerting with his ability to ‘sniff people out’. Whatever the fuck that means.
“Better a tomcat than a dog in a rut,” Erwin smirked in reply.
“And that brother is why they call me Bloodhound.” Mike grinned boyishly.
There isn’t a soul in the Cadet Corps who didn’t know about Mike’s many conquests, and he is certainly fine with that.
Mike watched as Nile poured the remaining contents of his jug over his face. He was in desperate need of a cool off and the summer heat was not helping the throbbing in his head. Mike let his large bulk of a body lean against a tree and jabbed his thumb at Nile’s direction. “I take it this one has told you about his new obsession?”
“It’s not an obsession.”
“It’s an obsession if you won’t stop talking about a girl who’s name you don’t even know for three days straight.”
Nile gave Mike a dirty look and flashed his middle finger after he shook off the water from his dark hair, a few dew drops clinging to the unusually long and thick eyelashes that framed his silver eyes. The men heard more than a few feminine gasps at the action.
Meanwhile, Erwin’s blue eyes grew wide. “Three days? I just got back yesterday. Damn, Nile you got it bad,” the blonde chuckled, placing a large hand on his hip as he drank some more water.
“Yeah. Why wait to know her name when you can just corner her in a room and pin her down,” Mike laughed, his deep husk carrying over the warm breeze.
“Because I don’t operate that way,” came Nile’s serious reply.
“i d0N’t oPEraTe tHaT wAy” Erwin and Mike nearly doubled over in a fit, once again causing the girls to gaze over the three handsome men lounging beneath a tree.
But it was true, Nile didn’t operate that way.
Where Mike fucked around with his women in abandon, and Erwin prefered the intoxicating art of seductive subtlety, Nile tended to be the more romantic of the three. While Nile Dawk—with his rugged good looks and his ‘messy but sexy’ appearance, has had more than his fair share of flings and fucks— liked to be sweet to whichever woman he was currently having a fleeting affair with.
“Oh piss off you two. Don’t act as if you won’t jump at the first chance to drink at the Territory then jump at a girl.” The tall blonde man and the tall brunette grinned at each other cheekily.
Yes they certainly would.
Erwin has never been to the Titan Territory. But something about the bar’s lowlighting, sensual music, and the dark haired beauty writhing on his lap told him he’ll soon be a happy regular.
Erwin’s hands held the woman’s waist as he pushed her hips forward to press into his, the woman threw back her silky dark hair with a quiet moan. The large blonde started suckling on her exposed clavicle.
God, Erwin loved brunettes.
He slowly ran his lips up to her slender neck as he reached her ear to whisper hotly, “You’re certainly giving me a pleasurable welcome, Elena.” The woman’s perfume was almost as intoxicating as the whiskey he just downed. Elena pressed her hands onto Erwin’s solid chest, her exotic amber eyes peeking at him lustfully. “I had a feeling you aren’t from around here, Soldier.”
Erwin gave a husky chuckle. His distinct Wall Rose accent was quite often a dead giveaway. He tried to hide the twang during the beginning of his Cadet Training, thinking it would bring him unnecessary attention from his many Wall Marian classmates, wondering what a college educated Wall Rose kid like him is doing training to be in the military. But now that the cat’s out of the bag thanks to Müller furiously announcing it to the whole class during their Introductions Ceremony, Erwin found that the accent not only earns him a subconscious sense of respect from his intimidated classmates, but also that Marian women love to flock a man from the inner Walls.
Erwin ran his large hands up her sides. “And neither are you, kitten.” Elena’s exotic olive skin and cat-like eyes told Erwin she must be from the Eastern District of Wall Maria, who were known for their sunshine, coffee, and perfumes.
Erwin captured her lips with his, his thumbs grazing the sides of her abundant breasts. Elena purred, and was breathless when she broke the kiss and said heatedly to Erwin, “Well then, why don’t you and I book a room upstairs and tell each other just what… we’re doing here.”
She moves in to kiss Erwin’s thick neck, her hands gripping his strong shoulders. Erwin raised a thick eyebrow. “Tsk tsk kitten, so impatient.” He gestures at his glass. “What about another drink?” Elena pouted at the blonde man, clearly riled up and disappointed. “Don’t be a tease, Erwin!” Erwin gave the woman a peck on the lips then a light smack to her ass. “You’ve seen nothing yet.”
Elena reluctantly got off his lap and took his glass to refill it at the back of the bar.
“Goddamn. Not even 30 minutes in, and you’ve already got one of the barmaids drooling on your lap. And I thought you’d have more self-restraint than that one.” Nile jabbed a thumb at Mike, who was very clearly enjoying fondling the breast of a blushing blonde girl. The two men could just imagine all the vulgar things the brute must be whispering to the helpless girl. The dark haired man took a drink of his ice cold beer, mumbling, “Thank god we’re not in uniform.”
Erwin laughed clapping his friend at the back. “Hey man, we’re not so bad! At least we actually got our girl’s name,” The blonde grinned cheekily. Nile rolled his eyes to the heavens, already hearing this joke before. “Whatever, Eyebrows. Just you wait till she gets here. You’ll wish you saw her first!”
“Wait.” Erwin takes in the fact that Nile hasn’t been drinking all the hard liquor he usually loved, and is nursing a pretty boring mug of beer and half a cigarette instead. “Have you been waiting for her? Shit Nile, since when were you such a sap!” Nile was about to snap back a retort when his silver eyes looked over Erwin’s shoulder, and his breath hitched.
“One of you boys ordered a whiskey?”
Erwin swiveled back smoothly to finally see his friend’s mystery girl. Only to see a familiar face.
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with this unruly heart of mine
in which we all wish our parents reacted the same way as Alcina does when one of her daughters comes out to her
title is from Unruly Hearts from The Prom because it fit
If love be rough with you, be rough with love. Prick love for pricking, and you beat love down. Give me a case to put my visage in. A visor for a visor. What care I What curious eye doth cote deformities? Here are the beetle brows shall blush for me.
Alcina read that line over and over again, but she still had no idea what the hell any of it really meant. She sighed and leaned back into the cushions of her seat. If she kept getting caught up on the literary meaning of every other paragraph then she would never finish this damned book.
She picked up the teacup sitting on the stand beside her chair and took a long sip. The tea was of sweet cinnamon on her tongue. It left a much better taste in her mouth than the rather gross relationship between Romeo and Juliet in this book. If the short amount of time the two knew each other wasn’t bad enough, the age gap made her teeth bare and nose wrinkle in disgust. What the hell was this William Shakespeare guy thinking when he wrote this?
The soft sound of bare feet padding against hardwood brought her back to the surface of complete awareness, her focus shifting away from the book and to the late-night arrival watching nearby.
A certain fly child stood, arm on the doorway. Her hair was shaggy from seemingly just waking up--or maybe she hadn’t slept at all in the first place. Unruly blonde locks were sticking up in various directions around her head, framing her face like an adolescent lion’s mane. The nightgown she wore was a size too big and drowning her thin frame.
The light from the fireplace made her golden-amber eyes look hollow.
“May I sit with you?”
Slower than she’d ever seen her move before, Bela inched her way onto the cushioned chair beside Alcina’s. She pulled her knees up her chest, bare toes poking over the edge of the seat, and Alcina regarded them with a scrunch of her nose.
“What have I told you about going around the castle barefoot?” Alcina chided gently.
Bela didn’t look away from the flickering fire in the fireplace. “I’m sorry, Mother.”
Something was bothering her.
Bela was a rather fickle little thing. Some days, she wanted to tell Alcina everything, every little fact of the new knowledge she had obtained from her books, all the small details of her latest stories or ideas. Other days, she put up walls and gave vague answers to questions prodded into her sensitive skin, curling into herself like a frightened snail afraid of being interrogated. This seemed to be something of the latter, and Alcina made a mental note to tread lightly to avoid upsetting her daughter.
“I don’t understand this at all,” Alcina said, waggling the book in her hands, trying to make small talk with her distressed child. She didn’t want to pry and further put Bela on edge more than she clearly was, but she couldn’t not do something about her bitter mood. What kind of mother would she be if she didn’t at least attempt to help with her kids’ problems?
“I can hardly make heads or tails of anything they’re saying,” she continued, hoping she wasn’t laying it on too thick.
Bela raised her head from her knees slightly. “What book is it?”
“Romeo and Juliet.”
There was a morbid snort. “How coincidental…”
“Nothing.” Bela shook her head. “Lemme see. What part are you at?”
Alina pointed out the current line she had reread at least five times over without being able to discern the Shakespearean into modern-day language. Bela, however, looked it over once, scanned the other pieces of dialogue for context, nodded, then explained, “In this scene, Romeo, Mercutio, and Benvolio are sneaking into a party thrown by the Capulets by wearing masks to disguise themselves. Romeo is upset over Juliet and says he isn’t going to dance. Mercutio then teases him over this and turns all of Romeo’s words into gratuitous sexual metaphors to poke fun at him. Mercutio ends up going on this whole rant about Queen Mab of the fairies, who visits people in their dreams until Romeo and Benvolio cut in to get things back on track. Romeo also kinda foreshadows the entire play at one point. See? Right here: ‘I fear too early, for my mind misgives Some consequence yet hanging in the stars Shall bitterly begin his fearful date With this night’s revels, and expire the term Of a despisèd life closed in my breast By some vile forfeit of untimely death.’ I do believe that is hinting at his eventual fate of death.”
Alcina blinked at her for a moment before smiling fondly and rubbing her head. “Such a smart girl,” she cooed. “I could have never gotten that out of this .”
Bela smiled, but then it quickly disappeared, and she leaned back into her chair, curling up and watching the fire once again.
Now Alcina was really concerned. Bela was never one to let go of praise and affection so easily. Usually, she savored it a bit longer before moving onto something else, but here she was, brushing off Alcina’s words and touch as though they were nothing.
Something was very, very wrong.
However, before she had the chance to take the risk and attempt to ask questions, Bela spoke up.
“Have you ever been in love, Mother?”
Surprised, Alcina asked, “And what brought this up?”
Bela shrugged, not making eye contact. She kept looking at the fire as though she wanted to throw herself into it. Her voice was small, so small. “Just curious.”
“I see,” Alcina nodded. She looked up, thinking for a moment as she wracked her brain of the memories of her past life. “I have been in love before. Many times, actually.”
Bela gave her a curious look, finally pulling her gaze from the flames. “Really?”
“Indeed,” Alcina confirmed. “Though, I do believe that just comes with growing up. You gain lovers, you lose lovers. Some were real, some were fantasies I made up. Some lasted a few days, some a few months, some a few years.” She took a sip of her tea again. “None of them really mattered in the end, though. Clearly.” Another sip.
Bela nodded faintly. “Okay.”
“Have you ever been in love?” Alcina decided to ask.
Strangely, Bela went rigid. Her claws clenched around the sides of her calves as she stared forward with pupils that were constricted into pinpricks. Sweat beaded along the golden crown of her head.
Alcina furrowed her eyebrows in worry. She closed Romeo and Juliet with a bookmark to mark her page, then set a hand on Bela’s back. Her daughter was trembling.
“Bela?” Alcina said, keeping her voice soothing and low to avoid setting off the poor girl even further. “Is everything alright? You don’t look well.”
“Yes, yes,” Bela answered her, much too quickly for it to be convincing. “I’m fine.”
“Are you sure?”
Before Alcina could prod further, Bela shot up to her feet. She began to chew on one of her claws, flexing her free hand at her side in visible agitation. Pieces of her skin broke off into flies and buzzed around her head madly. She seemed to be dissociating in panic.
“Bela,” Alcina rose to her feet slowly, not wanting to accidentally frighten her daughter. “Bela, what’s wrong? Are you alright?”
“I’m fine, I’m fine,” Bela said, even when she was so obviously far from fine. Her chest was beginning to heave.
“Darling,” Alcina said, and that seemed to get Bela to crack a bit.
With a tight whimper, Bela shook her head. “Hard-- hard to breathe--”
Instantly, Alcina loosely took Bela by the arms and lowered her to the ground. In the firelight, she could see the pallor of her daughter’s increasing panic as it morphed into a complete attack on her anxiety. Bela grabbed her wrists with her claws dug in for desperate grounding, and Alcina let her, even when it stung her skin. Her comfort was far from important in that moment.
“Alright, honey,” Alcina said. “We’re going to do the thing we’ve been practicing, alright? Do you think you can do it?”
Wordlessly, Bela nodded.
“That’s my strong girl,” Alcina said. “Alright, give me five things you can see.”
“Y-you,” Bela stammered. The words shook when they left her lips. “Your hair’s kinda bushy.”
Alcina rolled her eyes in a good-natured way. “Thank you for pointing that out, Bela.”
Bela’s fight instantly gave in at that and she hunched her shoulders in, looking ashamed. Quick to correct herself, Alcina lifted her chin so they could make eye contact.
“I was only teasing you, honey,” Alcina said. “Keep going.”
Bela nodded. “The fire; it’s really pretty. Your-- your, umm, chair; it looks soft. The book; not the best of Shakespeare’s works. And, ah-- the teacup; it has doves on it.”
“Very good,” Alcina praised. “Four things you can feel.”
“The fire’s-- the fire’s warmth. My heart in-- my heart in my throat. The floor under me; I should have worn socks.”
“I told you,” Alcina cut in playfully.
Bela swallowed thickly. “A-and, umm-- and my anxiety. It’s like a Lycan in my chest.”
Alcina frowned at that but quickly wiped it off her face for now. She stroked Bela’s cheek, gaining a spark of hope when Bela leaned into her hand.
“I feel you, too,” Bela said.
“You only needed to name five, little moth,” Alcina said, bopping her on the nose.
Bela just shrugged.
“But you’re doing so well. Can you give me three things you can hear?”
“My heartbeat in my ears; it sounds like thunder. I don’t like thunder. Umm-- the fire crackling; I like that. And-- and a raven outside. I think that’s Merlin. His cawing is kinda raspier than the other birds’. I think he may have hurt his throat at some point.”
A small smile grew onto Alcina’s lips. She continued caressing Bela’s cheek as she talked to her. “Now two things you can smell.”
“Fear,” Bela said almost instantly. Her nose twitched. “I smell fear.”
Alcina could smell it, too. The thickened dread wafting off of her shaken daughter was acrid, bitter, and unsettling.
“Umm--” Bela’s claws fidgeted, clicking against each other softly. “And your tea. Smells like cinnamon. Cinnamon makes me sneeze.”
“One more. One thing you can taste.”
“Fear?” Alcina echoed, one eyebrow raised. “Again?”
“What does fear taste like?”
Bela stared down at her claws, which she splayed open before herself. “It-- it has a slightly dull metallic taste that’s mixed with urea, I think. Sometimes it tastes like popping a bloody, pus-filled blister in your mouth and squeezing every drop out with your teeth and savoring it on your tongue. Sucking the wound clean and swallowing it down.” She clenched her fists. “But it doesn’t get clean. It doesn’t dry out. The blister just keeps oozing and oozing until all the discharge comes pouring out of your mouth, but even then it doesn’t stop. Because you can’t force it all down. You can’t just swallow and think it’s done. That’s not how anxiety works. It keeps coming, even when you thought it was gone, and it leaves behind this awful flavor of bitter bile. It’s acidic, too, you know? It melts your chest and stomach and makes you feel like you’re sinking in your own skin.” She looked up at Alcina, and her eyes were shiny and blank. “I taste fear, Mother.”
There was silence between them for just a moment. Bela wasn’t looking at Alcina anymore; she seemed to think the floor was very interesting at that moment. Alcina was still considering her daughter’s dark words, replaying them over and over again until the subtle taste of sour gall spread across her tongue. She swallowed it down and winced when it drooled over the back of her throat like rancid molasses.
“You did it, baby,” Alcina finally said, smiling despite her worry, despite the flavor of fear in her mouth. “I’m so proud of you.”
Bela just nodded. Though she was no longer having a panic attack, she didn’t seem any less upset. Alcina considered letting it go, especially after just having calmed her down, but if something was bothering her daughter so much that she couldn’t breathe when she thought about it too hard, she knew she couldn’t just leave it be. It could escalate into something much, much worse, and she knew damn well that Bela was willing to go to such extremes, if her explanation of fear and the way she kept looking at the fire wasn’t enough proof of that.
“Now,” Alcina saw Bela tense, but she plunged anyway. “I need you to tell me what’s bothering you so I can help.”
Bela shook her head with a strangled whimper. “I can’t tell you.”
“Bela, I’m your mother. You can tell me anything.”
“You’ll hate me.”
“I won’t hate you.”
Bela was quiet. Then, slowly, she dragged her gaze up to Alcina. “Really?”
“Do you promise?”
“I promise, Bela. I would never hate you.”
Bela nodded. “Okay.” Her claws clenched into fists against the floorboards, knuckles shaking and turning white. She took several deep breaths before forcing out, “I-- I don’t-- I don’t like people like that. Like how I’m supposed to.”
Tears flowed freely from Bela’s eyes and she choked on a sob. Her head hung in shame as her entire body quaked. The poor girl looked terrified, and the sight hit Alcina right in the heart--though she didn’t quite get it.
“Thank you for telling me,” she said.
“No, no-- you don’t understand,” Bela’s breath was coming out thin and raspy again. She sat up straight, claws now knotted in her nightgown, tensing and pulling. “I don’t-- I don’t like people, Mama. The way other people do. The way everyone does. I’ve-- I’ve tried, but--” She cut herself off with a whimper, tears pouring down her cheeks.
“What do you mean?” Alcina asked. Trying to discern Bela’s vague words was like trying to discern Shakespearean. “Do you think you can explain it to me, hun? Like you did with the book and the fear. I want to help you.”
Bela sniffled, then nodded. “I-- I, umm-- I don’t feel anything towards people. Like-- like that. Romantically. And sexually.”
Finally, it dawned on Alcina.
“When I read those cheesy romance books Daniela likes, I don’t get the characters’ feelings at all. Just the thought of being in a relationship like that makes me so uncomfortable and I don’t know why, and that scares me, Mama.” Bela continued, her anguish oozing into every word she spoke. “I don’t like the thought of being tied down to someone like that, but it still feels like something has been stolen from me. That promise of a future with true love and marriage and a fairy tale ending that Daniela always talks about is gone, even though I still want it. Or, at least, I think I want it. I don’t know what I want.” She sniffled, looking miserable. “It’s the same for sexual stuff. When I come to scenes with sex in them in books, it makes my skin feel all weird, like severed hands are crawling all over my body. I get embarrassed and awkward and uneasy, and I don’t understand that, either. It just makes me feel so sick to my stomach.”
There was a pause. Bela was taking several shallow breaths and digging her claws into her legs, so Alcina reached out and took one of her hands, stroking her knuckles with her thumbs.
“Breathe, baby,” Alcina murmured. “Breathe.”
“I’ve-- I’ve tried to force myself to be like everyone else before,” Bela said unexpectedly.
Taken aback, Alcina said, “What?”
Bela swallowed thickly. “With-- with a maiden. You know how I am with them- too nice, too polite. I befriended one of them. We were kinda close. After a while, she started making moves on me. I knew what she wanted for so long, but I kept avoiding it because I was uncomfortable or scared. But then I had this revelation: maybe if I did this with her, I would finally feel something! I would be like everyone else! So I did. With her. And I didn’t like it.”
“It hurt,” Bela whispered. “Like I was being scraped raw. Or my body was being turned inside out. I felt so sick. Humiliatingly, I started crying during it, but I don’t think she noticed. If she did, she didn’t stop. Not until she was finished. When she was, I threw up after she left. I was so sore.” Alcina squeezed her hand, and she sucked in a sharp breath, “But-- but I had to have liked it! I got, umm--” Her cheeks began to turn red with embarrassment, though Alcina didn’t blame her. Having to explain your sex life to your mother would be awkward for anyone. “I got…wet. And-- and that happens when you’re aroused! So-- so I do like sexual stuff!”
“Oh, sweetie…” Alcina sighed sadly.
Bela hunched her shoulders in. “R-right?”
“Honey, ‘getting wet’ doesn’t always mean you’re aroused,” Alcina said gently. “Simply viewing something erotic, like a naked woman, for example, could trigger this bodily response. It’s also a way for the vagina to lubricate itself to help dull the pain of penetration. You can be in a sexual situation and be wet, but not want to have sex. That’s completely normal and one hundred percent okay.” She lifted her hands to cup Bela’s cheeks. “Wetness is not an acceptable body language for consent. Who were you trying to convince: the maiden or yourself?”
Bela stared at her for a long moment, eyes wide and damp, breath hitched in the back of her throat. Then, she began shaking her head, pulling her hair, and weeping, “No, no-- I wanted it, I wanted it-- I know I did. I’m normal, I’m normal--”
It was truly heartbreaking to see her child in such a way. Bela seemed downright devastated over her own sexuality, to the point where she thought she was disgusting and unnatural for something that was actually completely normal.
Taking her daughter’s hands to keep her from hurting herself, Alcina went to say something, but Bela cut her off, getting to the words first.
“What’s wrong with me?!” Bela cried. “Why-- why am I like this, Mama? Am I broken? Am I heartless? I-- I love you and Cassandra and Daniela! I love Uncle Karl and Uncle Moreau and Auntie Donna and Angie and the Duke! I love reading and animals and writing, but-- but when I-- when I try to-- when it comes to sex and romance, I--” She finally gave up and sobbed.
“Oh, Bela,” Alcina said sadly. “Oh, my poor, sweet girl…” She pulled Bela into her lap and held her close, rocking her back and forth to help comfort her. Her fingers gently ran through Bela’s messy hair. “Shh, shh… You aren’t broken or heartless, sweetheart. This is an okay thing to feel.”
“You-- you don’t think I’m wrong?”
Alcina’s heart twisted at the way Bela looked up at her to say that, her eyes holding so much sadness and pain. She tucked her daughter’s head back under her chin and tightened the embrace.
“Absolutely not. Do you think you are?”
Bela answered in a strangled whimper. Alcina couldn’t help but wonder what put such a thought in her daughter’s brain--though, this was Bela she was dealing with. her anxiety was a wild, bestial thing that made her worry about the most obscene things.
“Did you really think this would change anything?” Alcina asked. “That I could ever possibly love you any less?”
Bela shrugged weakly.
That deep shame from before seemed to return and Bela’s head dipped. Alcina felt like she was going to try and pull away, so she tightened the embrace and used one hand to lift the girl’s chin.
“Hey, hey,” Alcina murmured, brushing away fresh tears on Bela’s cheeks. “There’s absolutely nothing wrong with this, sweetie. There’s nothing wrong with you, either. And if anyone says otherwise, tell me. I’ll eviscerate them.”
That got a tiny, watery giggle out of Bela.
“Don’t be embarrassed,” Alcina went on. “Sex and romantic relationships… They aren’t for everyone. And that’s okay. It certainly doesn’t make you broken or heartless.”
“Hun, look at me. Do I really look like someone who will judge you for being this way?”
Bela shrugged a little. Her little body seemed to have exhausted itself of all its efforts to argue.
Alcina rocked her gently, stroking her hair the way she knew she liked it. “How about I explain something to you, hm?”
Bela looked up at her blearily.
“Your love may not be arousing or romantic, but you want to know what it is like?”
“What?” Bela asked softly.
“Your love is warm and fuzzy, like being wrapped in a blanket during a blizzard. It’s safe and reassuring. Your love is security and shelter. Your love is noticing all the little details, like my bushy hair because it’s late at night or your Uncle Karl’s finger twitching because he’s nervous at the meetings with Mother Miranda but is trying to hide it or Cassandra’s leg bouncing because she’s full of pent up, restless energy. Your love is knowing what makes each of us tick and doing everything in your power to make us feel better when we’re upset. Your love is like the first flower showing up in the snow as winter melts away and the beginning flickers of a tender flame and the gentle fluttering of bird wings.” Alcina let out a soft laugh. “I’m nowhere near as good at details as you are, my darling. But, most importantly, your love is normal and natural and what makes you you. And you shouldn’t have to try and change that for anyone, no matter what.”
Bela stared up at her in silenced awe, tears trickling down her cheeks. Alcina squeezed her reassuringly.
“I want you to know that I’ll always support you, okay?” Alcina said. “I’m always going to be here for you.”
Bela nodded, hiccuping softly. “Thank you, Mama,” she whispered through tiny whimpers. “Thank you. I love you.”
“I love you too, Bela,” Alcina said. She kissed the top of Bela’s head and purred to her softly. “My perfect, perfect girl.”
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rose tinted glasses. pt.iv
a/n: it always comes back to the same thing, but it’s okay because this is still different than gitd. i feel like a lot happens in this part, but don’t worry there’s still porn to keep you entertained.
summary: wanda’s lost everything she’s ever loved, but she’ll go to any length to make sure the same doesn’t happen to you.
warnings (18+ only): dubcon, unhealthy relationship, emotional manipulation, mommy kink, praise kink, vaginal fingering, cum filled strap-on￼, sex in front of a mirror, implied torture, murder, death
proceed with caution because this is a dark fic. if this contains material that you are not comfortable with, please skip over it.
words: 3.2k | marvel masterlist. | navigation post.
you do not have permission to translate/repost my works anywhere! likes, comments, and reblogs are always welcome & appreciated <3
one. » two. » three. » four. » five.
“Don’t you think things are moving too fast?” Stella asked, pacing your kitchen. “You didn’t want to settle down for the longest time and now you’re moving in with a woman you’ve been sleeping with for a couple of weeks? Take a moment to think rationally!”
“I am! You were the one that wanted me to move on and this is my way of doing that,” you replied, continuing to pack your belongings into boxes. “You should be happy for me.”
“You’re so fucking naive.” Stella spat, grabbing your arms. You shrugged her hands off of your shoulders and moved to another area of the room. “You want to move in with her, y/n. Why do you think she would show interest in you of all people and get attached so fast?”
“Why?” you shot back, offended by her remarks. “Is there something wrong with me that should keep other people away? Am I unworthy of someone like Wanda?”
“That’s not what I meant.” Stella groaned, pinching the bridge of her nose. “She’s an avenger, y/n- or well, she was until she was benched for being emotionally unstable!” You had come to learn that Wanda had him through a lot throughout her life, but she didn’t make it seem like that got in the way of her work. At least, not in a way where someone else would have to step in and remove her from her position. She made it clear to you that she had left on her own terms. “And what did she tell you? That she willingly took a break?”
“So what if she lied?” you snapped, trying to rationalize your girlfriend’s actions. “Maybe she was embarrassed to admit that to me. Everyone copes with their grief differently!”
“Yeah, you’re right about that.” You huffed, dropping your head in your hands. “Maybe Wanda’s a way of coping with yours.”
“That’s not fair.”
“But it’s true, y/n.” Stella groaned, leaning against the wall. “You can’t latch onto her like this. It’s almost as unhealthy as sleeping around with random women. Even then, I think you were safer with them than you’ll ever be with her.”
“Get out.” you hissed. When she made no move to leave, you grabbed the nearest object and threw it at the wall behind her. The vase shattered once it came into contact with the surface. She stared at you in shock and a look of regret flashed through your eyes. “Fucking leave!”
“She’s ruined you too.” Stella scoffed, opening the front door. She rolled her eyes when she saw the reason for your bickering standing in the hallway. Wanda stumbled back when her shoulder bumped against Stella’s as she pushed past her.
You muttered curses at the woman that was supposed to be your friend under your breath before pulling your girlfriend into your apartment. “Are you okay?” A soft smile tugged at the corner of Wanda’s lips when you cupped her face, scanning over her features.
“I’m alright, baby. That bitch isn’t going to hurt me.” Wanda chuckled, grabbing your hands and placing kisses all over them. “No one can.”
“I’m sorry.” you sighed, throwing your arms around her shoulders.
“Hey, you’ve got nothing to worry about.” She turned her head and frowned upon seeing the sight of broken glass on the floor. “That tantrum your friend threw was all on her.”
“Except that part was on me,” you mumbled, looking to the ground in shame. “I don’t know what came over me, I’m never like that. The things she said about us got to me for some reason.”
“It’s normal,” Wanda said, lifting your chin so you were looking back at her. You tilted your head at her curiously. “I mean, she was criticizing our relationship. She doesn’t have the right to do that, it was entirely uncalled for.”
“I guess you’re right.”
“Yeah, and you were just trying to protect me. There’s nothing wrong with that.” Wanda pulled you closer and pressed a kiss on the top of your head. “I’d do anything to protect you and you were doing the same. There’s no reason for you to have to worry about doing that anymore though, okay? You have me by your side now, I’ll take care of it.”
“Thank you.” That was the only response you could muster up. You were unsure of how she wanted you to respond to that, especially when it made you feel somewhat uneasy.
“Now, it’s time you stop overthinking, princess.” The Sokovian said, pecking your lips. “I know exactly what will get your mind off of things.”
Wanda fell back on the couch and pulled you down into her lamp. You sighed, threading your fingers through her hair as she tucked her head in the crook of your neck. She pressed soft kisses along your shoulder and marked your skin. The brunette wrapped her hands around your hips and ground her hips into yours.
“You want Mommy’s cock, baby?” Wanda questioned, pressing you down further. “Want my cock filling your sweet pussy, hm?”
“Yes Mommy, please fuck me.” You cupped her face in your hands, bringing her in for a heated kiss. Your tongue traced her bottom lip, prompting her to part her lips. Her tongue met yours, easily winning the battle for dominance.
“Fuck.” Wanda moaned against your lips. She hesitantly pulled away and guided you to stand up. “Not here, I have an even better idea.” Her hand enveloped yours as she dragged you towards the bathroom. She gently pushed you in before locking the door behind her. “I want you to take your panties off and bend over for me, honey.”
You hooked your thumbs around the waistband of your shorts and pulled them down your legs along with your panties before bending over the counter. Wanda trailed her fingers up the inside of your thighs and cupped your mound.
“My sweet girl’s all nice and ready for Mommy to play with her.” Wanda purred, sliding her fingers through your folds. She hummed in approval and teased your entrance, barely dipping her digits inside of you. “That’s not enough for you, huh? You’re going to have to tell Mommy what you want from her, sweetheart.”
“I want your fingers, Mommy, please give-” Your breath hitched when one of Wanda’s digits slipped into your core. You held onto the edge of the cold countertop as she pumped her finger.
“Is that good, princess?” Wanda asked, rubbing her free hand over your ass before striking your flesh. “This is what you wanted, right?”
“Yes, Mommy.” you whimpered quietly, pushing your hips toward her hand. “Need a little more.”
“That’s not the right way of asking Mommy, darling.” Wanda mocked, spanking you again. “Where are your manners?” Her hand continued coming down on your ass until you opened your mouth to speak.
“Sorry, Mommy. I need more, please-”
Wanda inserted another finger in your cunt, pumping her digits quicker. “There you go, baby. That’s all I wanted to hear from you.” She curled her digits, finding your sweet spot. “I want you to soak my fingers before I fuck you with my cock. Think you can do that for me, honey?”
You whined in response, grinding against her digits. “Wanna cum for you, Mommy.”
“Then do it,” Wanda commanded, curling her fingers with each thrust of her fingers. Your cunt tightened around her digits before your arousal coated them. She slowly withdrew her fingers from you and tapped them on your lips. “Such a good girl for me.”
You hummed, taking her digits into your mouth and sucking softly. She shoved her fingers farther back causing you to gag around them.
“Think you’re ready for Mommy’s strap now, sweetie?” Wanda asked, wiping her fingers on your cheek. She pulled her sweats down and gripped the base of the fake cock, slapping it against your clit. “This is a bit bigger than my last one, baby, so I’ll try to be gentle.”
Your fingers tightened around the counter as she slowly pushed her strap inside your cunt. You didn’t know if the toy would fit, but it was evident that Wanda would find a way to make it. She snapped her hips forward, filling you with the last few inches.
“You’re taking me so well, princess. You’re Mommy’s good little cockslut, hm?” She cooed, rocking her hips back and forth.
You tore your eyes away from the mirror in front of you and screwed them shut. Her hand reached around you and grabbed the bottom of your jaw, forcing you to look up at your reflection.
“I want you to look at yourself when I make you cum. You take your eyes off of that mirror and I’ll leave you on your own.”
Wanda snaked her hand underneath you and tweaked your clit. Her fingers tenderly stroked the sensitive bundle of nerves before rubbing tight circles around it.
“Mommy’s gonna fill you up, honey.” With you by her side and the item supplied to her by Tony Stark, she could finally start the family that she never had. You didn’t think much of what Wanda said, there wasn’t a way for her to actually do that. Your eyes widened as you felt a thick substance enter you. “Fuck, cum for me, baby.”
You came undone around her strap before you could stop yourself, whining as she pulled out immediately after. Everything was fine, there was no way that was real. Well, she had cum inside you but it had to be fake.
She kneeled behind you and licked a stripe up your cunt. You squirmed as she pressed soft kisses against your heat while pinning your hips down. “You taste so good, sweetheart.” She huffed as you continued moving. “Fine, I’ll let you take a little break now.”
Wanda left your side and made her way out of your bedroom, bumping into one of your boxes. It was labeled ‘pictures’ and the brunette couldn’t help but snoop. It was a way for her to get to know you better than from whatever she was able to find on your files and what she picked up on when following you around.
The box was mainly full of pictures of other people, so you must’ve preferred to be the one capturing moments instead of being a part of them. “This should be fun.” she scoffed when she came across a smaller box that had pictures of you and your exes.
There were pictures dating back to your junior prom that you’d attended with someone you’d had been seeing for a month. As she went through them, one of your exes, in particular, stuck out to her.
“Holy shit,” Wanda mumbled. In the picture, you were clinging to the side of a very familiar redhead. “Since when? How did none of us-“
“Wan?” you called out, rubbing your eyes sleepily. Fortunately, her body was able to shield what she was looking at. “Come back to bed.”
“I’ll be right there, baby. I was getting some water.” Wanda lied, closing the box in front of her when you began rubbing your eyes. “Go back to sleep.”
“I will.” you yawned, slowly walking back towards your room. You paused, reaching the open doorway. “Don’t take too long.”
Wanda slid the picture back inside of the box and got a glass of water from the kitchen before joining you in your bedroom. She set it down on the nightstand and slid into the empty space beside you. Settling against the pillows, she shut her eyes to try to get some rest.
“It shouldn’t have been her, it wasn’t supposed to be her.” Wanda raised her head when you spoke. “I know you saw the pictures. I may be tired, but I can still see what you’re up to.” If only you knew. “Sorry I never told you, I know you knew her.”
“She never mentioned anything about you to any of us,” Wanda whispered, impulsively fiddling with the sheets.
“That’s because she never got the chance to. We got together after-” you sighed, relaxing in Wanda’s embrace as she wrapped her arms around you. “She promised me that she’d come back. I hope she thinks that it was worth it because I don’t.”
“It’s okay if you don’t-”
“She knew I had no one left in this world but her. And that wouldn’t ever change, but she still left me to rot on my own.”
“Does Clint know about you?”
“He used to until he forgot. Said he’d check in with me often, but he never did. Only came by once to drop off some of her things. Whatever, that’s in the past, right? We should go to bed now.” You didn’t give Wanda a chance to reply and turned over so your back was facing her. Hopefully, she’d have the chance to talk about this with you later.
“What on earth could Wanda be doing here?” you mumbled to yourself, pulling up to the warehouse. She had shared her location with you by accident, but you didn’t know that.
You had come thinking she was either in trouble or wanted you to meet her there. She was capable of handling herself, so it couldn’t have been the first one. Your phone indicated that she was only a few feet away. You saw one of the doors cracked open and slipped inside, using a brick to hold it open in case you got locked in.
“You shouldn’t have tried to get in the way,” Wanda said, kneeling in front of Stella. She moaned in pain as Wanda grabbed her hair, forcing her to look up at her. “I pity you, so I think it’s time I put you out of your misery. I’ve put you through enough pain already.”
The brunette brought the gun up to her temple and took her shot. “Shit.” you slapped your hand over your mouth in fear, stumbling back against a box. It fell back, making a noise loud enough to reveal your location.
Your eyes widened as Wanda snapped her head back towards you. “Oh, honey,” she said breathlessly, holding her arms out. “Come over here.” You stepped further back and began to run away from her.
She chased after you, using her powers to knock down things to block you from leaving the building. You had your guard up, so she couldn’t enter your mind to stop you either. You tripped over a piece of wood and hissed in pain as you collapsed on the ground.
“It’ll be okay,” Wanda whispered, wiping your tears as you let the darkness overtake you. She grabbed her phone from her pocket and called the first person that came to her mind given her current circumstances. A relieved sigh fell from her lips as the person on the other end accepted the call. “Clint.”
“Wanda? What’s wrong?” Clint asked, noting her panicked tone. “I thought you said you were coming by the house tonight, Laura made your favorite.”
“I can’t. Fuck, Clint.” Wanda groaned, pulling your limp body off the ground. “I messed up and I could really use your help right now.”
“Where are you?”
“I’m sending you my location, please come alone. This has to be off the record.” She said sternly. “Think of it as doing a friend a favor.”
“I’ll be there as soon as I can.”
“What the fuck did you do?” Clint gasped, seeing your unconscious body between Wanda’s arms as she held you against her. His eyes traveled to the scene behind her, seeing the bloodied woman tied to a chair. He already knew it was too late to help her, but he could still help you. “How do you know her?”
“I feel like I should be asking you that question,” Wanda replied. “I need to skip town, it’s not safe for us to be here anymore.”
“Maybe because you’ve lost your mind!” Clint exclaimed.
“I make her happy, I swear I do.” Wanda pleaded. “Things might look bad right now, but I can assure you our relationship is great. This was just a minor hiccup. She’s not used to our line of work-”
“Our line of work?!” Clint questioned. “We’re supposed to kill the bad guys, not people that we see as threats to our relationship. There are other ways to deal with these kinds of problems Wanda.”
“I know, it was a hasty decision and I could’ve done better but it’s already done. It won’t ever happen again, I promise.”
“Even then, you shouldn’t be trying to take her. She has a life of her own, Wanda.” Clint reasoned, reaching for his phone.
“She was already happy to leave that behind for me.” Wanda wasn’t telling him a complete lie. If you were willing to move out of your apartment to live with her, surely you were willing to give up on other aspects of your life.
“I’m sorry, but I can’t let you do this.” His phone flew back and hit the ground when he attempted to dial up a number. “What the hell?”
“You can’t take her away from me, Clint. You already took my brother and her girlfriend. Haven’t we already suffered enough because of you?” His shoulders slumped as her words hit him. “You said you’d check in with her, but forgot that she existed until you saw her tonight. What would Nat have to say about this?”
“On top of that, you’re only taking care of me because you feel obligated to, not because you care. I’ll finally be out of your life so things can go back to the way they used to be.”
“That’s not true, I care a lot.” Clint sighed, shaking his head in disbelief. Not once had Wanda spoken to him in this way before. “I may not be the best at showing it, but I do.”
“Then you’ll let me do this.”
“Here.” Clint said, tossing her the keys to his truck. “I’ll take care of that.” He pointed behind her and made his way around the pickup truck. Rummaging through the passenger seat, he pulled out a map along with a marker. He marked a location on the paper before handing it to Wanda. “It’s a quiet town, no one should bother you there.”
“Thank you.” Wanda sighed, placing you in the back seat of the car. The archer handed her some rope, stating that it was just in case she didn’t want to drain herself by using her powers to restrain you the entire ride. She bit her tongue and took his advice although she didn’t need it.
“Don’t be a stranger.” He said as she settled into the driver’s seat and started the car.
“I won’t.” The man may have perceived her words as genuine but they were the opposite. There was no good reason for her to maintain contact with him anymore. No one else mattered now that she would have what she always wanted.
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23 + Ray
Another prompt that broke my heart. This fic is a “what if” I’ve always wondered about: what if you actually used the key card Rika gives you, as soon as she gives it to you? What if you went looking for him? What if, against all odds, you found him?
say you need me
Ray X Reader, T, Words: 1996
The plastic key card clutched in one trembling hand, you open the door for the very first time.
There is no one in the hall. You’re not sure what you expected—a battalion of cloaked guards, perhaps, or at the very least an alarm that would blare the second you set foot outside.
But there is no such thing. You shake your head, letting the door fall shut behind you. You’ve given yourself delusions of grandeur, you think, since coming to this place. No one is paying attention—you are not the center of anything.
You walk cautiously down the long hallway. Though the mysterious, beautiful woman (soft voice, frightening eyes) said that you had access to the rest of the building, she didn’t tell you how to actually get anywhere. It’s late—too late, even, for the people here (who seem to keep strange, almost inhuman hours) to be pacing the halls. You’ve spent days listening to the sound of footsteps—you know when there are people around. At this time, the halls are silent.
You turn a corner. This hall is the same as the last: ornate and dimly lit, lined with unmarked doors. You’d be curious, under normal circumstances—but tonight, you won’t be swayed. There is only one place you want to go—just one person you want to see.
But that place is forbidden to you—and, perhaps more importantly, you’ve no idea how to find him.
You pull out your phone, fingers dancing nervously over the screen. You are afraid to call—scared that if you speak out loud, one of the heavy-footed, hooded figures will appear from around a corner and lead you back to your room with its pretty light and rounded edges.
You reach the end of the hall and are faced with flights of stairs going both up and down. You realize—with some frustration—that you don’t even know what floor you’re on now.
Finding him could take all night. And even though you are technically allowed out of your room now, you are certain that someone will find you and deposit you back where you belong before the sun rises.
You call him.
The phone rings and rings and your knees tremble. Most of the time he picks up right away—but his voice, when he called you last, was so weak. Your heart races. Please, you think—a prayer, a supplication. Please.
Ah: and you can breathe again. He sounds as though you’ve woken him from a deep sleep, but you know better.
“Ray,” you whisper—cupping a hand around your mouth to muffle the sound. “Where are you?”
“Where am…I?” He sounds like he doesn’t know whether he is dreaming or awake. His words are a little bit slurred, and you think warily of the medicine he told you he’d been given. If only you could…
“I’m coming to find you,” you say—and he inhales sharply, as if he’s been slapped. “Don’t say no. Just tell me where you are.”
“You can’t…you shouldn’t…” He’s barely even here, you think. And you’ve been so calm for the last few days—so brave, so strong. But now, all of a sudden, you feel afraid.
“I have an ID card now,” you tell him. “I’m allowed. So tell me…”
“You can’t come here!” There is a scrambling noise in the background: he is standing up, you think. You hear the whirring and buzzing of computers. “This place is…someone like you shouldn’t…”
“Fine,” you say. You can’t argue with him—not when he sounds like he’s hardly holding on. But you are stubborn; now that you’re here, you’re not turning back. “Tell me what floor you’re on and come out in the hall.”
“I’m not supposed to…” He trails off, sounding dizzy.
“Do you want to see me, Ray?”
Another sharp intake of breath. His heart, you think, is made of paper—you have to touch lightly or it will tear.
“I want to see you,” he whispers, his voice hoarse. “I want to see you so much.”
“What floor?” you ask again. You try to keep your voice steady, but your muscles are tensed as if readying themselves for flight.
He pauses. You listen to his ragged breathing. You tap your foot anxiously on the cold stone floor.
“…five,” he says.
“And what floor am I on?” you demand, already half-running to the staircase at the end of the hall. You’ve got to catch him, you think, before he changes his mind.
“Two,” he murmurs, as if against his will.
“Come out in the hall,” you hiss, hanging up and taking the stairs two at a time. You have the horrible, nagging sense that time is running out—that you’ve created a liminal, magical moment in which you will be able to access him, and if you wait too long it will have closed for good.
Your legs burn and your heart stutters as you run up the stairs. Five days sitting perfectly still has not been good for you—but you are here now, and your muscles will work (because you need them to).
You count the flights as you run—one, two, three—and then veer sharply off the stairs, nearly running face-first into a wooden door. Of course, you think—this whole floor must be locked.
You are breathing so hard you can’t see straight. With very little expectation of success, you wave the key card over the sensor beside the door.
To your immense surprise, it unlocks for you with a soft, satisfying click.
Without stopping to think, you tug it open and take off again—ignoring your aching muscles, your racing heart.
This hall, too, is empty. You scan the shadows as you run, gasping, balling your sweaty hands into fists. Empty, empty, empty…
You turn a corner, and he is there.
He stands at the end of another long, gloomy hallway, his face in shadow, his hand on the doorknob behind him as though ready to retreat. He sees you, and his eyes go wide.
You say his name.
Forgetting restraint or caution or fear, you run to him. You don’t mind that your hair is stuck to your neck with sweat or that you’re gasping for air. He looks small and fragile, like even a gentle breeze would whisk him away.
He waits for you.
“Thank you,” you pant as you reach him, your vision swimming as you try to catch your breath. “For letting me—”
His voice is rough and firm, like you’ve never heard it before. Caught off guard, you freeze as he tugs open the door behind him with more force than seems possible for someone who looks like he’d break if held him too tight.
His light eyes flash and you follow him. You can’t see anything in the little room—no screens, no whirring computers. So this isn’t his office, but…
He shuts the door behind him and it is pitch black: dead silent.
“Ray?” you whisper, feeling shaky. “Where…?”
“Closet,” he mutters. He is breathing heavily now too, as if he is succumbing to unimaginable exhaustion.
It’s so dark that you can’t even see his face, but you can smell roses and rain and you can practically hear his racing heart.
“Oh,” you say. He is trying to protect you, you think—trying to keep you hidden. Because in spite of everything he has said, he knows that you are in danger here; because in spite of his devotion and fixation and misled adoration, he doesn’t trust anyone after all. “Are we safe here?”
“I don’t know,” he says. His voice breaks. “Not for very long. You shouldn’t have come here. Not for me.”
“You scared me,” you tell him. “When we talked earlier, you sounded…”
You lift a hand, reaching for him in the darkness. You feel soft, thick fabric: the sleeve of his coat. He flinches at your touch, but he doesn’t pull away.
“You don’t need to worry,” he whispers, “about someone like me.”
He coughs, and you feel the way his body shakes, as if caving in on itself. You inch your fingers up his arm: find his shoulder, hold it till his coughing subsides.
“This medicine you took…” you say (testing the waters)—but he cuts you off.
“I have to take it,” he says, “so I can be stronger. If I don’t, there’s no use for me.”
With a fumbling hand, you find his other shoulder. You have him between your hands now, and he seems so unbearably brittle. You draw nearer, wanting to see him—and his breath on your cheek makes you realize just how close you already are.
“Oh,” he says. He feels it too, you’re certain—he shudders, and for a single, wild moment, you want to press your lips to his searing skin.
“That’s not true,” you whisper, your head swimming. Closer, closer—the scent of him floods your senses. You want to float away on the ocean you can imagine in his eyes. “Don’t say things like that.”
He stiffens, and for a moment you think you have upset him—but then you hear it too: footsteps in the hall. You freeze, trying to silence your breath. Ray is still as stone.
The footsteps recede. He shivers.
“You have to go back downstairs,” he says—there is terror in his voice, and it shakes you to the core. “You can’t be caught up here. Please, please…”
No, you want to yell. No. Let me stay with you instead.
But you don’t like to think what would happen to him if you were discovered here: practically pressed up against each other in this dark, musty closet.
“I’ll go,” you say. Your eyes are adjusting, and you can almost make out his face. His eyes are cloudy and too bright, the way they get right after he takes the medicine that makes his head spin and his words slur.
“I have to,” he repeats weakly. “Or else no one will have any use for me at all.”
“Ray,” you say. He tenses again—more footsteps. You can feel the blood flowing through your veins.
“Go,” he whimpers. “Please, please go.”
“Ray,” you repeat. You cup his feverish face in both hands and his skin practically burns you. “You’re wrong.”
“I need you, Ray.”
He goes still. The hall is silent. And you don’t know what you’re thinking, but you lean in—and you mean to press your lips to his cheek but it’s dark and you’re shaking and you kiss the skin beside his eye instead. He makes a sort of strangled sound and you pull away before he can see the longing in your eyes.
You go to the door and pull it open; light streams in. And you are about to take off down the hall, when—a hand on your elbow.
“You do?” he asks. And you haven’t been outside in days, but you look at him and feel as if you’re seeing the sky.
“I do,” you say. “More than you know.”
And then his hand falls from your arm and there are the footsteps again: heavy and solid, their owner just out of sight.
“You—” he whispers.
“I know,” you say.
And you run.
You run, your muscles screaming and your heart aching. You run down the hall—down the stairs—away, away, away.
Every cell in your body protests. You have a horrible feeling about retreating—a dark foreboding about leaving him alone.
Ah, but the look in his eyes when he caught your sleeve: clear water and ocean air. Light and round and painfully alive.
Almost—not quite, just barely—like being free.
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When i blow open green bottles
straight across hump of a frozen tongue
when i shove brown glass
through skull of a possum
and pass from my ears a baptism of red piss
when i cry from my butt like a jackal
and throw limbs of a dying mule into the river
when i spit venom from the head
burn codeine into a cosmetic paste
and grieve into a wax of dried bulls
when my mystical bunions jam eyes
into searching spit of a starving wolf
into cosmic lips like monkey genitals
And i receive my pickled turned skeleton of rusty chains
in the bodega
i receive a symbolic heart made of five middle fingers
in the bodega
i receive a teeth parade of yellow roses to leave the bodega
and cross the rio grande
onto the flatbead bones of a musty nighttrain
to see me loosen jaws like a snake
to see me exhausted after a few strikes
to see me pay dirt to the ice hog
in my masai-pachuca-doo
squatting on a pillow of old zoot suits
squatting among the names and breeds
breaking down cheeks dotted
on this night train
and i say i dream of the 1943 riots
I say i dream in a hailstorm of riots
And i say riots dream into a mass of skins stooping
on flatbed bones of a funky nighttrain
And when i siphon sweat for fuel
from this patron saint of chronic diarrhea
When i turn this rubber face into a spotted puma
and take on the forceful winds of the prune pickers
When my laughter dominates the last seat
And i burn labor contracts into brown port caca
Then I approach in mother of pearl and human blood
in father of smoking and coughing throats
and in my jelly of coyote strings
who is to say what when i approach
I mean somewhere along the road in this cold cold chicken shit
somewhere along the road in this wasted body
somewhere along the road eat stocks, bonds feathers
somewhere along the road confiscate borders from wild dogs
somewhere along the road shove them into the imperial valley
somewhere along the road cry hard
and let this night train sink its
rundown rectum of electric chairs into heaven
and say fuck it
I see a way through the maroon glass of this milky way
I say i see a way through for the cradle of hulls
sticking through these indigo ankles
I see a way through
for these torn shoes stinking like dead cats
I see a way through for these blood-streaked legs
I say i see a way through
for these pus-riddled holes in their suction-cup lips
and when i pass through toothless combs coming from armpits
of the bodega
when i pass through bats on corkscrews coming
from the bodega
when i push my mortified flesh from this bodega
and walk with the mildew of an old zoot suit
walk tall in my mud-packed-masai-pachuca-doo
walk among the survivors from the musty nighttrains
I say dreams are like riots
i say we dream in a hailstorm of riots
and I say riots dream into a mass of skins
coming from flatbed bones of the funky funky nighttrains
Jayne Cortez 1934-2012
Graphic - Zoot Suit movie poster
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- if i lose my mind ; pjm
enemies to lovers au / royalty au / fantasy au, angst, 1.4k
note: inspired by the booktoks i keep seeing abt enemies to lovers stories w daggers on thighs n sexy, smirky princes. listen to fairytale by alexander rybak
The swirling of gowns made you nauseous. Round and around they spin, jewelled tones haunting every corner of your vision as you scan the room for the face you came here for. The same face that has charmed every gullible mind in the kingdom thus far, features delicate as if carved from marble, an edge in his gaze that has warmth creeping up your neck each moment you’re left alone with him.
I’m here to do a job, nothing more, nothing less, your mind attempts to coach you through what you know will no doubt be a horrifying evening. The premonition the old witch had given you told you enough - tonight would end in blood. Whose blood was the only question racing around your mind as your lungs heaved quickened breaths against the tightness of your stays.
“You’ve arrived, love,” The voice of your nightmares pulled you from your reverie, the same voice that had your palms dampened with sweat, heart thrumming a painful rhythm against your ribcage. When you turn from your spot by the balcony, your eyes immediately locked with his, the object of your assignment this evening.
“Your highness,” Following standard protocol, you curtsy, the silk of your skirts brushing your fingertips as you release them, straightening your posture to look into the cool, dark eyes that pin you down with an amused gaze.
Jimin smiles, and already you can hear the murmurs of ladies and girls, swooning at the dashing prince with dark hair and an even darker heart. The fierce glint in his eyes tells you what you’d feared - he knows why you were here tonight, what you’ve come here to do. A shard of fear interwoven with something sullen, like dread, works its way deeper into your chest.
As usual, nothing phases Jimin. His lips curl up into a grin that doesn’t quite reach his eyes, his hand outstretched to you as he lifts his brow in question, “Come, let’s dance,”
You hesitate - being close to Jimin could result in one of two things. The loss of your life, or the loss of your control. At this moment in time, you’re not sure which would be worse.
Jimin is the epitome of everything you hate - the power, the money, the pain him and his family had inflicted on the people of the kingdom he claims to cherish. The curse that his family put upon you; an inability to live as you desire, a cruel punishment inflicted upon you for the wrongs of your family. The first daughter born in five generations, and thus the only one unable to get too close to anyone. The danger your curse poses made it too risky, and so you had been doomed to a life of loneliness.
Unless you killed the royal’s first born son. To your advantage, it seemed that while you had been the first female in your bloodline, Jimin was the first son. And so, if you have any chance of living a happy life, you have to murder the mean-spirited Prince before the sun rises.
A dagger through the heart. Something about the way the witch’s words echo in your mind makes bile rise to the back of your throat.
You’ve never killed a human - but Jimin was different. His family were from a long line of enchanted beings that held more power than they needed.
Too much power for someone so cold, you think as Jimin tilts his head to the side, awaiting your response to his question. He flicks one ringed finger towards you, blinking slowly as you take him in, the fierce thrill rushing through your blood has your breath catching in your throat.
“Please?” Jimin’s brow twitches as he speaks, a confidence in his tone that indicates he expects you to relent, to oblige. To dance with the devil.
“One dance,” You nod, eyes snagging on his upturned palm before you finally step forward, letting your skin brush his, the sensation burning your skin, crackling across your skin as if lightening itself is within Jimin’s grasp as his fingers curl around your own.
He breaches the distance you had put between the two of you, his chest pressed closely to your own, a smirk adorning those pretty, full lips that have no place on a man that belongs to a family so evil. You allow yourself a moment to absorb the closeness between the two of you, though the way his hand snakes around your waist sending your body into a state of panic, it seemed. Sweat gathers beneath your dress, your pulse throbs in your neck. The adrenaline, or so you tell yourself, begins to make you feel lightheaded.
Jimin twirls the two of you until you’re on the dance floor, hands clasping your own as he guides you through the movements, his eyes on yours the whole time. You’re breathless, heart gripped completely in his stare. It’s when he spins you, tugging your back to his chest, that your body tenses, a rush of blood to the brain causing you to lose focus.
“I know why you’re here, love,” He speaks, voice low and menacing, though you can tell he’s smirking. His lips brush the shell of your ear and a whimper bursts past the seam of your lips. Cheeks flushed, you almost miss the way his fingers tighten against your stomach, “I’ve worked my way beneath your skin, haven’t I? Can you feel me?”
He chuckles sadistically then, putting you through some new kind of torture that seems worse than if he were to drag a blade across your skin. Every inch of you is attuned to his touch, his voice, and he’s right - he has bewitched you. It must be some trick, you wonder, mind racing in a feeble attempt to regain your composure and follow through with the plan.
“For weeks, you haven’t been able to stay away from me,” Jimin continues, his words hammering the shard of dread deeper and deeper into your heart. His words taunt you, though his touch is soft. Even as he grips your waist with a firm hand, his other trails against the palm of your hand, fingers dancing along your wrist until you’re eyes threaten to roll back into your skull, a misplaced, rushed swell of pleasure skittering over your nerve endings, “Have I been in your dreams, Y/N? Haunting you as you sleep? Do you dream of me?”
His breath is hot against your neck, and even as the bodies blur before you, dancing around as if the two of you do not exist. You wonder if perhaps this is another one of your nightmares, one that teeters on the edge of something else, something more addictive, as Jimin’s lips brush the juncture of your neck.
The cool blade of the dagger against your thigh taunts you, reminding you of the job you are incapable of. Jimin’s fingers are at your jaw suddenly, tilting your face so you can look at him, even when you screw your eyes shut for fear of what you might find staring back at you. When you open them, you’re alarmed to find the same lust mirrored in the almost-black eyes that watch you beneath the strands of raven-black hair that brush his eyelashes.
Breath quickening, you glance down at Jimin’s parted lips, unable to resist temptation a second time. His fingers tighten their hold on your jaw, and all common sense evaporates the second he dips his head to take your lips in a heated kiss. A tangle of tongues and hands, Jimin tugs you as close as possible in your current position. The people on the dance floor must be scandalised to see such a sight openly displayed in public, and at a royal event no less, but you can’t find it in you to worry about what people might say when Jimin’s tongue brushes your lower lip. He groans into your kiss, swallowing up each little whimper you give him, and all of a sudden he is gone.
You open your eyes, breathless, dazed, blushing like a rose as you find yourself alone on the dance floor. You’re unsure what magic he placed upon the two of you, but as you look around the ballroom, it appears you have gone unnoticed. Jimin’s body heat lingers against your back, and the taste of his tongue stains your lips. With a startled gasp and an overwhelming swell of shame bubbling in your gut, you rush past the people before you, eager to find an escape route.
It seems the royal family have cursed you not once, but twice. Though the second seems far more dangerous, and as you run from the palace in a tearful rush, your mind swirls with the sickening realisation that Jimin was right. He had gotten under your skin, slithered through your bloodstream like a snake and wound himself round your heart.
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Pairing: Choi Luciel/Reader
Description: Your life had been bound to the seas since the day you were born. You knew what it felt like to taste the salt water and freedom, but at the same time, you were bound with shackles and on the edge of a plank your captain made for you. No amount of screaming was going to save you from the seas, so, you had to fight to survive and fight to be the person that you wanted to be… so, what do you do when he returns to your life out of the blue?
Cowboy Seven x Reader
Next Chapter [TBA]
[Read On AO3]
“I don’t suppose you truly believe that you can sneak up on me on my ship, do you?”
“Oh, I’m not sneakin’, ma’am. I just came to talk.”
“Well, sir, it’s late in the evening. I don’t often get visitors unless they’re wanting something from me, so, I can assume you want something, yes?”
“Why don’t we sit down and chat?”
“...Hm, alright. I might as well hear you out if you’ve gone to this much trouble. However, I am a busy person, even at this hour, stranger, so you had better make it quick.”
Saeyoung knew that he was playing on thin ice but he had come prepared. Saeran was in the area and if anything went south, he would handle the situation. That’s why he was waiting just on the docks to do something if he was given the signal.
They weren’t all stupid enough to both walk into the lion’s den at the same time.
That would be showing their hand.
The Bloody Emerald extend her hand to him and took a seat on a barrel across from him. Her dirty blonde curls were tucked back into a low-braid, and the white shirt she was wearing was covered with a worn and frayed leather jacket. Her pants were just as worn and tucked away into her boots, and a black eyepatch kept one of her eyes covered.
Her hat was shrugged from her head and set aside given the hour of the day. There was something about her that felt familiar but Saeyoung wasn’t sure what it was. It was like she reminded him of someone but he couldn’t quite place who it was.
It might have just been a strange feeling or anything of that nature, but something was biting at his heels.
As if warning him to stay on his guard no matter what. He knew that he should be. Even though his criminal name had become one that people feared back west, he knew what it was like to be in the face of someone who wouldn’t hesitate. Because that was who he was. You couldn’t hesitate when you had people on your back.
He would hold people at solid gunpoint if need be and threaten anyone that got in his way if it came down to doing it; however, there was this line between a man who would kill because he had to and a man who would kill because he wanted to do it.
He knew that this woman fell into the latter category and because of that, it was crucial to keep his eyes glued on her as long as he was on this ship.
Saeyoung wasn’t going to beat around the bush in this situation. He pulled two bags filled with gold from his coat jacket and let them sink against the deck with a clatter. It was proof enough that it was the sound of something real and not fool’s gold. Everything that he had was more than good enough and real.
She stared at the bags and cocked her head, seemingly unbothered.
Those two were more than you’d ever had. He didn’t know the depth of how deeply in debt you were to your captain but he wasn’t going to not cover any of his bases. This was a lot of gold to have on hand but he could get more of his funds if it came down to it.
You were going to be freed whether he did this the right way or the wrong way. He hoped that it wouldn’t have to be the wrong way because the last thing he wanted to do was not respect your wish to handle things the proper way.
Yet, that pinging in his chest told him to not hesitate or show any kind of mercy. You were the only thing keeping him steady.
If it wasn’t you, he would’ve ripped your captain limb from limb for every horrible thing that you were forced into witnessing. He was still considering it now that he was here on the ship. He kept his face as friendly as he could manage at that moment. He wasn’t going to make matters worse. This woman had not said a word yet.
“Andromeda’s freedom,” he said, simply. “Is this enough to pay their debts or do I need to get ya’ more?”
She laughed right in his face. It seemed as though she was amused by his offer as if it was a joke to her that he had even handed her any substantial amount of money. He wasn’t joking, though. She seemed to get the hint, however, as he didn’t laugh or budge from his spot.
He hadn’t expected that. He thought that she would at least think of the money as something that she could benefit from. Her greed and malice was one trait that people of people mentioned often without hesitation. He raised a brow, “What’s so funny? I ain’t kiddin’. Name your price for their freedom and I’ll pay ya’ double that if it’ll appease ya’.”
“I’m afraid they’re not for sale.”
“That’s not what I’m askin’.”
“Oh, I know what you’re asking, sir. But, their freedom is not for sale, you see? They are bound to me by bound and sweat. Even if you paid me enough of their weight in gold and silver, they would never at all leave willingly, hahaha. Sad, pitiful, but Andromeda knows their place in this world and it’s on this ship with us.”
Saeyoung narrowed his eyes. He wasn’t going to back down from this situation. He kept his feet firmly planted on the ground. There was no taking no for an answer at this moment and he knew it. You did not deserve to be disrespected or treated like this. You weren’t property to buy or use, but this woman did not care.
He stayed right there, “Ya’ can always hire a new Wayfinder, so… what’s the point? What’s the deal with Andromeda, then? I hear yer’ always runnin’ right through crews anyway. Last I checked, ya’ don’t care ‘bout nothin’ but yerself’.”
“I don’t believe it’s any of your concern what I do with my workers, sir,” She rose from her spot and brushed off the dirt from her trousers. “I find it hilarious that you think that you can throw your weight around with some money. Yes, I love funding my travels and conquests, but I don’t think I asked for someone to try and buy out my charges.”
“Andromeda is an adult. They ain’t yer’ charge no more,” Saeyoung shook his head. Though, he watched as the captain walked past him towards the front of the ship. “I’m simply tryin’ ta’ pay off their debt to you. Certainly, once you have yer’ money, ya’ can find someone better who wants the same as you.”
It should’ve been as simple as that. He and his brother had tested the waters with plenty of people before. They always valued money and power at the end of the day. They didn’t care what they had to do to keep it. They didn’t care about lowly workers… they could replace anyone that they wanted to have and could easily replace the replacements with money.
So, the fact that she refused to let him buy out your debt meant that you meant something more to him at this point. You constantly were put in a place of being used because she could do that and she knew it. She knew what she was doing. He just had yet to connect the dots that would allow him to understand why.
He wasn’t taking no for an answer tonight.
That’s why the weight of his gun was heavy against his belt.
“Is that so?” She countered. She leaned against the ledge and continued to look out at the sea instead of glancing back at him. It was like she didn’t see him as a threat. It felt like a kick in his side but he didn’t let that get to him. “I think we have a fundamental misunderstanding Andromeda, sir. You seem to be someone who thinks that they don’t deserve this treatment to become a perfect adult. They were given to me, therefore, it’s my job to see to their fate.”
“A parent’s job ends when the kid becomes an adult,” Saeyoung scoffed at that. That was the theory for people that had decent lives. It wasn’t for people like him. People who had witnessed the cruelty of this world firsthand. He could still taste the iron of blood against the back of his throat from that hot day as he returned home with his brother.
He had noticed the horse on their property and knew. He just knew that something was wrong. He made sure that Saeran was hidden and out of the way before he went to check things out, and that was the price he paid for caring for his brother. He stumbled along the dirt path that he knew well, and he gazed between the cracks in the wood as he slipped inside to see what was happening.
He saw his father holding a pistol and his voice gruff as he said something that Saeyoung would never forget, “Useless woman. The only reason I let you and those boys live was that it could be useful for me if you died and left me with more puppets to use. I could’ve used those boys to help my image. After all, a father taking in his sons after he was seduced and lied to by a woman in his youth? Haha, that could be enough to seal my deal. But, no, you had to bite the hand that feeds, madam. Pay the piper.”
And then, it happened. At point-blank range and forever seared into his memory. The image of blood and gore haunted him nightly but he tried to never let it get to him. Yet, it did. It bit at his heels and all but reminded him that he could never escape a monster.
Even as Saejoong was taken away and put in a cell, and yet, his crime against Saeyoung was still there.
And it would never be erased.
It was a testament to his strength, he could remember Saeran and Cereus reassuring him, that he had held on for so long. He broke down in tears, as did Saeran, as soon as they were alone that first night. It was a good cry, a needed cry, but he never thought of himself as strong. He thought of himself as an angry man.
His anger held him together and kept him from breaking apart.
At least, until he met Andromeda and he felt a spark of something inside of his chest that made him breathe again. You had given him peace. He wondered if that was what Cereus gave to Saeran, but at the end of the day, the way that you made him feel was more than he could ever imagine anyone else feeling.
And the more he thought of his anger and how he had been treated, he thought of you. He thought of your body crumpled over in tears.
He thought of that strong person barely holding on because you had been pushed too far. He thought of Saeran being subjected to what he saw and he thought of how cruel this world was. He thought of how unfair it was and that made him clench his jaw.
This woman did not care about anything but her own needs. You were like a doll or a toy. You were just something that she could control and he would be damned if someone dared to do that to you. To you, the person that meant more to him than anyone else ever had. The person with a bright smile that all who ever met saw kindness and beauty in the misery of falsehoods.
He gripped his gun and found himself pointing it at the woman. This woman who had hurt you from day one that he wanted to protect you from. He always said that he would bear the burden of having blood on his hands if he had to do it, and for you, for Saeran, for Cereus, for his loved ones, he would become the devil if he had to.
He would pay that piper the toll if it meant that someone was protected.
“You’d like that, wouldn’t you, Saeyoung Choi?”
His grip tightened.
Her sword was swiftly pulled from its sheath and before he could blink, she was standing in front of him again, daring him to fire his gun when she was more than ready to strike back. Her eyes were filled with amusement just as before but there was a darkened look juxtaposed over them. It was her true self bleeding through her falsehoods.
It was clear that she never intended on playing nice with him, just as he was prepared to drag her through hell if she disagreed with him. Neither of them was going to lower their weapon, now, and he needed to know how the hell she knew his name. He had seen her in person maybe once or twice in his life and as far as he knew—
The Bloody Emerald shouldn’t have known a thing about him other than a memory of his face if that much. Yet, she knew his name. It wasn’t something that she should’ve known. His hometown? Yes, all of the people that he had been interacting with had learned his name, and that was one thing, but it was another thing entirely to meet a stranger who knew your name.
It meant that they had something on you and they were prepared to use it against you.
Saeyoung didn’t know this woman.
Yet, she knew him.
“Surprised? Well, well, well, I suppose that the time for pleasantries is over now. Yes, I know who you are, Saeyoung Choi, and I’m so happy you saved me the trouble hunting you down. Honestly, I was hoping that Andromeda would work as bait but I’m surprised they ran to you. I thought they were smart enough to know better but alas, it seems as though they ignored what I taught them. Love is a weakness, never open your heart.”
“We do have some business to attend to, cowboy. Now, normally, I would cut out your tongue and let you settle on the bottom of the ocean but… I can’t get rid of you just yet. I’m being paid a hefty penny to contend with you and I expect more now that you’re here, and things can come together once and for all. It’s nothing personal, I promise, though, I could be less forthcoming given the fact that you had your gun drawn with my back turned.”
There was no one else around but he would be risking his luck to shoot blindly when he couldn’t account for her weapon. She seemed like she had a quick strike and if he shot, she would at the very least get a good hit in before she went down kicking and screaming. He knew that Saeran was out of the way, but he needed to be careful.
If she was waiting for him or expecting him to do something…
Saeran might be caught in the crossfire.
Yet, he could handle this momentarily.
He whistled, lowly, a warning to his twin to stay on his toes. Saeran could likely see and hear just about everything that was happening but he knew to stay out of the way. He knew that he would need to hit at the right moment if push came to shove. All of these thoughts ran through his head as he stood right in front of her, thinking of how she knew him.
There was no response.
Saeran would respond if he heard it but he might have held back just to protect his twin from this getting worse. He ignored the dread in his gut and continued to focus on this. He could do this and he could handle this.
“Alright, let’s cut the pleasantries, then,” Seven’s friendly disposition faded away and he narrowed his eyes. “What’s the goal here? Ya’ know of me and ya’ clearly want to do somethin’ to me. You don’t need ta’ involve Andromeda in that. So, what’aya want?”
He kept his grip on the trigger. If she moved, he would fire. He would not hesitate. This woman was the only one standing between him and protecting you from this. He couldn’t do anything in the past to stop this and seeing you broken down was the breaking point.
“Do you think I’m daft enough to tell you everything like some loon? Though, you should know the man that paid me to take care of you and your little brother pays handsomely. He’s rather angry with the two of you and frankly, I could care less about that. What I do care about is how useful you can be for me… so, let’s cut to the chase, then.”
Her desires could be anything.
“All of that money you’ve got to your name,” she said, simply. She didn’t budge nor did she give him any bleeding information on what to do. “What I want will barely make a dent with that laughable bit that you tried to give me for Andromeda. I know you had hundreds stashed away and I want that for myself. You could make this a lot easier on yourself if you just gave up and handed everything over to me. Perhaps, I’ll be nice and spare your life.”
Saeyoung scoffed, “We both know that ain’t the truth. Nobody gets their end of a deal when they say that shit. Ya’ want my money? Fine, I could care less about some fuckin’ money. But, don’t lie to my face and say y’ain’t going to try to kill me after ya’ get it. If all ya’ want is cash, I can give ya’ that, more than whatever son’ova’ bitch that paid you off to come after me.”
Her lips twitched. She didn’t seem to appreciate that commentary but he didn’t care. “Trust me, I can kill you right now if I wanted but I’m playing nice by letting you hand everything over willingly. That’s the honorable thing, young man. Your actions have consequences and they’ve caught up with you, it’s as simple as that.”
“Who hired ya’, then?” he demanded.
This woman seemed to be thriving on giving him the work-around. Saeyoung wasn’t wracking his brain but there were a lot of people that were pissed at him. Plenty of men with money and in high places wanted to get him. Not everyone forgave him or his brother for their crimes but they were as good as safe because of their actions to pay people back.
But, he knew that some crooks wouldn’t hesitate to come after him. The fact that they knew he was here meant that someone was chasing him down and they were determined to do something about it. If they knew that he was here… how much did they know? How had they known to go to this woman or was it mere coincidence?
“Mmm, you might know him, actually,” her gaze flickered in the direction of the side of the ship for just a second. “Of course, he can’t grace us with his presence personally today, but I can tell you that Saejoong sends his best wishes.”
The blood seemingly ran cold in his body as the name of his father was uttered. He felt himself shudder without thinking about it. His eyes widened and his momentary lapse of control caused the captain to flick her wrist in one direction, and because he was so caught up in watching this woman, he hadn’t at all had the chance to see that someone was creeping up behind him.
A weight came crashing down on his head, fast and hard, and it left him dazed. He fired his gun out of desire and it missed completely, as he stumbled over and hit the deck. He was left staring up at the cruel captain who was beaming at him with glee. His vision was clouding but he could see, see his twin being dragged onto the boat, bound and gagged.
“Don’t worry, we’ll take good care of you two until someone pays up.”
“Saeran, are ya’ feelin’ alright?”
“The sun should be settin’ soon, okay? Just hang on for me a lil’ longer.”
Two young boys had no reason to be traveling in the heat. It was blistering and the only thing that was on Saeyoung’s mind was trying to help his brother get to some shade soon. He knew that there were a couple of caves and mines in the area that they could hide in but he didn’t want to take him there in the middle of the day when someone could catch them.
He didn’t know when someone was going to appear out of the blue and he didn’t know who was going to be working with his father. They were the spitting image of that man, at least, if you could see them, you would have a good idea of who their father was. That fact alone made him paranoid and he wasn’t going to risk their lives.
Not after he had spent the last two days trying to take them the long way back into town. He didn’t have a map and he was going off of landmarks that he had learned before when he had to go into town to get things for his mother. It wasn’t the best but he could only lie to his twin for so long to be able to protect them.
He was just a kid but he was trying to be stronger than that. Despite the feeling of dried blood that was eating away at his legs. He tried not to look down at himself, but he could feel it. He could feel the red against his skin and it made him want to cry. Yet, he wouldn’t cry. He couldn’t cry. Saeran couldn’t see him cry.
Saeran was small compared to him, so it wasn’t hard to carry him but after a couple of kilometers of walking and holding his brother, he could feel his body growing more and more exhausted. Yet, he kept pushing himself. By the time the sun had started to set, it began to grow cold again so he knew that he would have to make them fire and keep them out of sight from the wildlife.
He was lucky when Saeran gestured ahead of them and pointed out that they had made it to the river, as they had been drinking the soured water that caught itself in the cacti since the first night. He could not stop himself from stumbling forward and carrying them as fast as his legs could take them.
He set his twin down by the edge of the water and reminded him not to get too close. The water wasn’t something that he trusted. It was always there… and it always made him feel uneasy. He knew what the sun felt like and he knew what the earth felt like. That water was deep and it was unforgiving. He had fallen in once.
And he never wanted to have that happen again. He gasped and choked against the water until someone had enough pity for him to pull him out of the river. He had been trying to fill up a huge container for the week and miscalculated how heavy it was going to be and he tripped. It had happened so fast that he didn’t even realize what happened until he was already in the water.
That fear that haunted Saeyoung since it happened to him. He never told his twin because he didn’t want to scare him and he never told his mother because she would have beaten him for letting anyone see him for too long. He pushed down his fear as deeply as he could whenever he got close to the river but being here now, after running for miles, made him sick.
The current on this side of the river was little to none, so if they fell in, it wouldn’t carry them away really fast. He still didn’t want to risk it. He knew that neither of them could swim and he didn’t want Saeran to fall in. If he did, he would exhaust himself trying to save his brother and himself. That wasn’t ideal.
He had the foresight to leave the bags with Saeran before he went back to the house, so they had some containers for the water at the very least. He held out his hand to Saeran and took their bag, getting as much water as he could and then handing the bottle to his twin. Saeran was relieved and took some big sips, only to slow down when Saeyoung said—
“Careful, careful. Ya’ll get sick if ya’ drink too fast.”
“Sorry,” Saeran murmured. He offered the bottle back to Saeyoung instead of letting himself drink anymore. He felt a little better but anything was better than parched. Even though he wasn’t that perceptive, he knew that his brother was tired. “Ya’ need some too, Saeyoung. Ya’ didn’t drink anythin’ when we got some water the last time… please?”
Saeyoung smiled, although it was weak, and let himself drink and drink. Water was both a blessing and an enemy. “Thanks. Y’ain’t gotta worry too much, though. I’m alright. I’m yer’ brother and that means that I’m super strong! I get stronger when we’re together. Right now, I’m at my strongest. So, don’t ya’ worry about a thing.”
Saeran seemed to take that comment to heart. He wound up laying down on the ground next to him as they sat by the water. At some point, he dozed off and Saeyoung stayed awake to make sure that things were okay. This area wasn’t dangerous but he knew that the mines could still have workers in them at this hour, so he would have to wait to take them into one.
It wasn’t ideal but staying safe was better than being dead. Once things calmed down, he snapped to attention and made sure to help Saeran onto his back before he headed towards one of the older shafts.
It took him a little bit to get a fire going but he managed to get one started and then he covered Saeran in his coat before he went to sit at the front of the cave to make sure that nobody came heading their way.
It was hard work but he didn’t care about how tired he was. He had to keep going and he had to keep them alive. Saeyoung wasn’t sure where he was going or what he was going to do once he got them to town, but he knew that he would figure it out eventually. He had no choice in the matter.
Though, as he started to doze off against his will, something changed.
He rubbed at his eyes as he realized that he heard the sounds of voices. That made him jolt awake again and he looked out to find where the voices were coming from. He was surprised to see that there were a couple of men carrying something out to the river. It looked big… like a huge sack of something. It may have been clothes.
It seemed weird to be doing laundry at that hour, but he quickly realized that it wasn’t clothes in their bag. He knew that because even in the distance, he could see glaring red hair peeking out from the bag that they held. Red hair… red hair wasn’t a common trait that he saw in other people, and that was why he and his brother stood out.
There was only one other person in town with red hair. There was only one other person that he knew of… and they had left her behind in that house so they could protect themselves from being killed and suffer the same fate. Saeyoung felt sick. He pressed a hand to his mouth to shut himself up before he was caught.
This wasn’t okay.
They weren’t trying to bury her. They were trying to let the river take care of things. His mind was almost whirling with the implications. Saeyoung had a lot of hatred and anger about his mother, but he knew that she didn’t deserve to die the way that she did. She was cruel but their father was cruel, too. He hated the both of them so strongly.
Yet, his stomach was in knots thinking about how her blood coated his skin and how he let it happen without saying a word. Saeran cared about their mother, even though she cruel, so he would never say the ugly words in his heart, but something about seeing her murdered… and then… seeing her body thrown away like trash…
It felt wrong.
His already muddled feelings were messy on a good day and he felt like he was going to be sick. Was that how his father got rid of people? Was the water they tasted filled with blood, too? The panic set in and he couldn’t control himself. He wanted to move away from the opening but his body was frozen and his eyes were wide.
A strange feeling settled around him as the men said few words to one another that he couldn’t quite hear. All he heard was: “Make sure to add rocks, but not too many. The current’ll do the rest but we can’t have this hag floatin’ to the surface. Saejoong’s orders.”
And that child was left to sit there, weighing the cost of his reality for the rest of the night. Knowing that no matter where he went or what he did, the ghosts that were chasing him would find him and drag him under the surface. Saeran was counting on him to be brave, but that night, Saeyoung wept for the loss of his innocence.
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Male lich x female character - Part Two (sfw)
Well, thank you very much to those lovely folks who said they liked Part One and wanted more from our shy bumbling cutie lich friend! I made the time tonight to edit it and get it posted, so this is for you!
This time we learn our main characters’ names, meet our werebear and elf besties when we take the amulet back to their homestead, and make a decision about what to do next...
Part One (sfw)
By the time she staggered into the tiny farmhouse on the outskirts of the wide, grassy plain’s hold capital a few days later, she was half-delirious with exhaustion. Without the horse she’d managed to barter for in a tiny little riverside hamlet, she never would have made such good time, and she practically dropped face-first off the animal outside the house. As she fumbled with the rope to tie the mare up, she fought off desperate tears.
“Divines, please don’t let me be too late,” she prayed and stumbled towards the front door.
The man by the fire rose to his feet as soon as the door opened. The motion brought with it a swirling flurry of snowflakes that melted over the humble wooden floorboards and a wild-looking woman with a sword at her hip and a lumpy pack on her back. She’d stashed her pack near the foot of the mountain on the way up to the tomb entrance, partly to lighten the load for the ascent, and partly to leave her more mobile for fighting the draugr she knew would be lurking in the tomb. It had been easy enough to pick it up on her way back down.
“Grim,” she croaked as she closed the door behind her and her huge friend visibly relaxed. Her eyes darted to the bed where Mythlas lay, ash-grey and stippled with fever sweat. He looked a hundred times worse than when she’d left, and he’d looked like death warmed up even then.
“You have it?” Grim asked in an incredulous, bass rumble, striding over to her and clasping her shoulders in his massive hands.
Grim was well named: a huge werebear, with a face set in a perpetual scowl no matter how good his actual mood, shoulders as broad as an bull’s, and a solid paunch at his middle, and as intimidating as a giant when roused to genuine anger. Mercifully, the man was a potter, and generally placid, and the need for violence was relatively limited on Mythlas’ little smallholding on the outskirts of the hold capital.
She nodded and fished into the inner lining of her leather jerkin, drawing out the amulet from the safety of the pocket. “Put it around his neck,” she said as she stared at the ivory pendant, similar in size and shape to a peach stone but smooth and polished like a river pebble. “I… I was told we should think about all the things we love in him.”
“And that will work?” Grim looked sceptical but, like her, willing to try almost anything while the love of his life lay at death’s door.
She shrugged. “It has to.”
The dark-haired man nodded once and took the amulet from her, striding across the room and stooping low over the bed. He laid the talisman around his lover’s neck, cradling Mythlas’ limp head. As he lifted it from the pillow, the elf let out a pained whimper.
“Shh, love, it’s alright. You’re going to be alright…” Grim breathed, screwing his eyes shut and hunching over where he sat sideways on the edge of the bed. It was hard for a man of his size and stature to look small or vulnerable, but in that moment, he looked fragile as spun glass.
She joined him and knelt on the floor beside Mythlas’ head.
“How will we know if it’s working?” Grim asked in a whisper, as though afraid to break the strained silence of the sickroom.
“I don’t know,” she replied.
With her own eyes closed, she prayed. She prayed harder than she had ever prayed for anything in her whole life. After only a few seconds, she sank her teeth into her lower lip and let her face scrunch up as tears squeezed from her eyes.
“Please,” she sobbed. “Please…” They had nothing else they could try now. No healer’s herbs or tinctures had eased his illness, no priests’ prayers had broken his fever. This amulet — and the promise of a draugr who had been locked away underground for a thousand years — was their very last hope.
A hand landed atop hers where they were both balled into fists on the blankets and she jerked her head up and stared at Mythlas, who still looked awful. The hand was too big to belong to the elf anyway, and she looked up into Grim’s black eyes. She flipped her hand over and clutched at him, tears spilling over and rolling down her wind-reddened cheeks. For a moment, her heart hurt with how much she wanted the elf to be cured, but her thoughts turned unbidden to the draugr acolyte a moment later. It was almost as if a cold breeze had blown in through the door and driven all other thoughts from her mind.
In her head she heard his gentle, rasping voice and his laboured breathing, and saw again the intelligence and compassion in his burning blue eyes. And the open hurt that had seared across his expression at her accusations. “I shouldn’t have left like that,” she murmured, and Grim frowned. “It was wrong.”
“What do you mean?” he asked. “Left where like what?” After only a second though, his dark eyes slid back to his lover’s face, and he lifted a strand of the elf’s dark blond hair off his sweaty forehead. Behind his lids, Mythlas’ eyes tracked ceaselessly back and forth.
“Long story,” she said, following his gaze. “Come on Mythlas… Why isn’t it working?”
“Perhaps it is,” Grim rumbled. “Give it time.”
“He doesn’t have time, Grim!” she said through clenched teeth. “Look at him. He —”
Mythlas grunted and took a deeper, slower breath, shuffling slightly.
“Myth?” Grim said, black eyes suddenly wide with a hope he dared not voice.
The elf took another steady breath and then another, his eyes slowing their restless shuttling, and his thin lips twitched into the ghost of a smile.
“Mythlas?” She reached forwards with trembling fingers and laid the back of her hand on his forehead. “Does he seem cooler to you?” she asked in a whisper.
Carefully, Grim mirrored her movements and then gave the barest of nods. “Maybe. He seems less fevered.” After another tense few breaths, Grim looked down at her. “What did you mean about ‘leaving like that’?” he pressed. “Leaving where?”
“The tomb,” she said, straightening and levering herself to her feet. Bone-tired after the her gruelling weeks on the road, researching, hoping, seeking, fighting, she crossed to the fire and began to pace the hearthrug. “The dragon priest’s tomb. I found it; the one that was supposed to be nothing more than legend…” she smiled minutely but continued to stalk back and forth before the fireplace.
“You’ll wear that rug out. And sit down before you fall down,” Grim said with a grunt as he rose and crossed to join her. “Here,” he said. He snagged a clean tankard from the table in the kitchen area of the small, one-roomed ground floor and filled it from a keg on the side.
“Thanks, Grim,” she sighed as she practically collapsed into the chair behind her. It was the one usually occupied by Mythlas in the evenings, and it bore a green cushion that he’d embroidered with golden filigree leaves.
They both continued to glance relentlessly over at Mythlas in the bed while she told Grim of what had happened on her expansive journey, and then finally with the draugr in the tomb. She looked up at him as she finished, throat raw from speaking for so long, and found him looking even more morose than usual. He scrubbed a callused hand over the short, black beard that adorned his anvil jaw, and then raked both hands through his curly hair. It bounced back into place almost immediately, and he sat back heavily in the seat opposite hers.
“What are you thinking, Grim?” she asked before downing the last dregs of the weak beer.
“Sounds like a lonely life… trapped in a tomb with no one but dumb draugr for company…” he said at last.
“You think I should have stayed a bit longer? Grim, if I hadn’t left when I did, it might have been too late for Myth.”
“I know,” he said, his voice so low it was almost a growl.
On some unspoken cue, they both looked over at him. “Is it my imagination, Grim, or is the colour coming back to his cheeks?”
Grim rose and she watched the massive man go. Even as her hopes clung to a thread as tenuous as gossamer, her thoughts stayed with the draugr acolyte. Was his a lonely life? Undoubtedly. She closed her eyes and bowed her head, and as the flames crackled in the hearth beside her, she made a silent vow to the Divines that no matter the outcome with Mythlas, she would return to the acolyte.
The moment she made the vow, her heart lifted like a hawk taking flight and she opened her eyes as a laugh bubbled out of Grim. It had been so long since she’d heard him laugh that she almost didn’t recognise his earthy rumble. She darted across the room and found that he’d scooped Mythlas up in his arms and had buried his face at the elf’s neck, sobbing.
Over the colossal curve of his shoulder, she saw Mythlas smiling weakly, his green eyes open and clear. “Hey,” he croaked.
“Grim, he can’t breathe,” she snorted, smacking the werebear up the backside of his head.
Grim pulled back and laid his love back down. The elf was clearly weak as a child, but he smiled again and swallowed thickly. “How… How long have I been ill? You both look terrible, by the way.”
“We thought you weren’t going to make it, Myth,” she said honestly. “You nearly didn’t.”
“You’ve been slipping in and out of consciousness for five and a half weeks,” Grim said as he pressed a wooden cup to Mythlas’ lips and helped him sip. “And sick for longer than that.”
“What was it? What was wrong with me?”
“No one knows,” Grim said, shuddering. Fat, glimmering tears began to roll down his cheeks and into his beard, and he buried his face in both hands this time.
She rubbed his shuddering, heaving back and he rocked sideways into her for a moment, overcome with relief and joy.
Mythlas looked from one to the other and then offered her a watery smile. “Thank you,” he croaked. “I don't know what you did, or —” he faltered and then glanced down at the amulet on the long chain around his neck. “— or what this is, but… I’m sure you had something to do with it, and I’m sure you’ve kept my big beautiful bear out of trouble too.”
Grim continued to sob uncontrollably, and she pushed him gently upright again.
An hour or so later, she rose from her seat by the fire, glad beyond all words that Mythlas was awake again and had had something simple to eat and drink.
“I’ll leave you two alone now,” she said to Mythlas, who was fading and in need of a little more sleep after the excitement of returning from death’s door. Grim hadn’t let go of his hand or moved from his vigil beside Mythlas’ bed all evening. “If I don’t leave now, I’ll fall asleep in this chair and I’ll regret it tomorrow. I’ll stay with Lydia in town.”
She cracked the tension from her neck and stifled another yawn.
“I’ve got a mare to stable properly as well — I wouldn’t have made it here so quickly without her. I owe her a comfortable night in the city stables. Lydia’s thane is hardly ever around,so I doubt she’ll mind the company.”
“Come back for breakfast tomorrow?” Grim asked between wiping his nose on a handkerchief the size of a small bed-sheet and beaming down at Mythlas.
She left with a promise to do just that, and headed off into the walled city to stable the mare, and to find her childhood friend and a place to sleep for at least the next twelve hours if possible.
In fact, she slept for fifteen hours straight, and arrived back at Grim’s doorway well into the morning. To her surprise, she found Mythlas sitting in his chair by the fire. The elf grinned at her when she came to a halt so abruptly that Grim, who had lingered to close the door behind her, almost flattened her. Her pack slid from her fingers to clatter onto the floor.
“Myth,” she gaped. “You’re… You look so well!”
Grim snorted and rested his hand briefly between her shoulder blades as he passed. “He’s weak as water, but yeah, he’s…” he choked up momentarily and then laughed it off. “He’s back.”
She crossed to her best friend and flung her arms around his neck, hugging him.
“Sorry I gave you both such a scare,” he whispered, kissing the side of her head. “Grim told me what you did for me.” He shook his head and tried to pull back slightly so he could look her in the eye. When she just clung to him all the more tightly, he laughed and resumed the hug until she was ready to let go. “Thank you,” he said.
“Anything,” she hissed. “Anything for you, Myth.”
“Well, luckily all it took was a priceless, mythological amulet that no one will believe is real. What happens if I take it off, by the way?” he added, plucking at it as she straightened up from the hug.
“No idea. Maybe don’t just yet?”
“Yeah,” Grim agreed heartily, pressing a fluffy white roll packed with crispy bacon into her hand. “Saved you this. You’re late by the way.”
“Overslept,” she grunted, stuffing a huge mouthful into her face and flopping down onto a comically tiny milking stool between the two fireside chairs. “Oh my fuck… this is divine, Grim.”
He twitched his eyebrows at her in a way that clearly said ‘of course it’s fucking divine; I made it’ and turned back to look at Mythlas. His eyes turned soppy and she rolled her own with immense fondness for the pair. They deserved to be happy, and Mythlas was clearly the light of Grim’s life.
“So…” the elf began, “Grim also told me about the acolyte. Are you going to go back?”
She swallowed down a great clog of bread and bacon and nodded slowly. “I think I should. He helped me when he really didn’t have to, and I was pretty rude to him. It doesn’t feel right.”
Mythlas nodded slowly and finished plaiting his shoulder-length hair off his face. “Will you give him something from me when you go?”
She frowned. “Sure, unless it’s super heavy… It’s a really long way up that mountain, you know?”
The elf rolled his eyes and rose carefully from his chair. Grim tensed, ready to catch him if he wavered, but it wasn’t needed. He crossed to the bookshelf that stood against the same wall as the bed and drew out what looked like a diary from among the treasured volumes.
Grim’s thick eyebrows rose when he saw what it was. “Myth, that’s your farming journal,” he said.
“Mmm,” he nodded, letting the leather bound book fall open in his bird-like hands. Mythlas had not been exactly sturdy-looking to begin with, but the illness had sapped all his vitality and strength from him.
He handed the volume to her once she’d wiped off her fingers on her trousers, and she looked down to find an exquisite, hand-drawn illustration of a dragon’s tongue flower on the page open before her.
“I figure if he doesn’t get out much, he’d like a book on plants and current farming practices. Or he can use it for kindling,” Mythlas shrugged, though the slightly frantic look in his eyes told her he hoped the draugr wouldn’t treat it so callously.
“I won’t let him do that,” she said as she turned the pages. “Mythlas, this is really beautiful. Are you sure you want to part with it?”
He nodded and tapped his temple as he sank back down into his seat. “It’s all up here anyway. I could make another one if I wanted.”
“I’ll make sure he gets it,” she said. She rose and crossed to where Grim had stowed her pack neatly against one lime-washed wall.
“You’re leaving already then?” Grim asked. “Not going to take a few days to recover? You were pretty out of it last night.”
She shrugged. “Yeah. Before he forgets about me.”
Mythlas shook his head. “No one could forget about you, sweetheart,” he smiled. “I’m pretty sure your acolyte has been pacing his room and drawing pictures of you since the moment you left.”
Her two best friends exacted a promise from her to return before too long, and they packed her off that afternoon with supplies for the road from the farm, and enough hard cheese to open her own roadside shop if she wanted.
Knowing the route, she planned to stop at places she’d noticed on the way back from the tomb, and guessed she’d be there in a couple of days. She’d pushed herself almost beyond her limits to get that amulet to Mythlas in time, but now she could take it a little more steadily. She’d also left the mare back at the city stables since there was no way the horse would be able to make it up the mountain path to the secret door, through which she’d left in such a crazed hurry.
Camping beside a lazy bend in the river that night, crickets singing in the pines, she stretched out and looked up at the stars and the twin moons above.
“I wonder if the stars look the same to me now as they did when you last saw them?” she mused aloud, thinking of her nameless acolyte. Come to think of it, he didn’t know her name either. She tried a few options for him out on her tongue, but none of them seemed to fit, so she gave up, curled deeper into her soft, sheepskin bedroll, and closed her eyes.
Sleep found her instantly, but she dreamed vaguely of dragons and enormous diamonds and woke groggy and stiff with the dawn.
After a few hours’ walking, she passed the scruffy little hamlet where she’d bought the mare — hardly more than a few houses and an inn arranged along the road — and stopped to buy a sweetroll and a mug of black tea from the inn for her breakfast. The heat from the long fire in the pit at the centre of the hall drove the damp and the chill from her bones and she set off feeling looser and more cheerful.
She passed signs of a troll in a clearing on the shoulders of the great, snowy mountain, but neither heard nor smelled anything. All the same, she slunk along much more carefully after that, searching for the way up the mountain to the hidden door.
The climb up what was little more than a goat track had her sweating and panting after a mile of switchback turns, despite the icy wind that snuck its horrid fingers down the back of her damp neck. The route that she’d taken up the other side of the mountain first time round had been gentler and less exposed, sheltered by massive pines that whispered encouragement in her ears as the wind blew through the needles, but on this side, the wind shrieked and blew snow up into her eyes, and she stumbled and scuffed her palms as she reached for the next foothold.
“How the hell did I make it down here in the near dark last time?” she growled as she spotted the hidden doorway up above her.
Taking a moment to catch her breath first, she turned and gazed out at the view.
“Well, if that doesn’t make it all worthwhile,” she exhaled, hands on hips as the sun gilded the buildings of the far off capital on the plains miles below, making the rooftops look like burnished copper in the dying light. In the very far distance, the jagged peaks of the mountain range looked like little more than foam on a far off shore, already sinking into the gathering purple dusk.
The last stretch didn’t take long, and she wiped her forehead on the back of her sleeve as she paused in front of the rather intimidating iron door. Would she even be able to get in? He’d never said she could get back in this way after all.
“Fuck,” she whispered. Then she set her hand to the door and pushed.
It didn't budge.
“Fuck!” she spat again and kicked at it half-heartedly. There was no hand hold to see if it swung outwards either. “Come on. Please… I did not come all this way up just to go back down again.”
The outcrop formed a natural kind of porch around her, and once she’d unslung the pack from sore shoulders, she dusted the snow off a conveniently flat rock nearby and sat down heavily, head falling into her hands. “Guess I’ll have to spend the night here and descend in the morning.”
With no means of building a fire, she found it hard not to let her spirits sink, especially when the gathering night grew bitterly cold and her breath billowed around her cupped hands. Her sleeping roll should be cosy enough if she kept all her clothes on though, and with a belly full of Grim’s cheese and a now-slightly stale bread roll, she’d just have to manage for a night.
Having made the decision to stay put, she unslung her sword belt and pack, and began to feel a little more settled and calm, telling herself that it wouldn’t be so bad to stay up here out of the way of the wind and the snow for one night, even without a fire. She had just begun to root around in her pack for some food and her waterskin, however, when the iron door in the mountainside clicked and swung silently inwards.
She froze like a rabbit in the path of a hawk but the passageway remained empty and dark beyond.
“Hello?” murmured, and was met only with empty blackness. “I don’t know your name, but if… if you’re the acolyte who helped me out, I’d appreciate it if you showed yourself…”
Her hand went slowly to the long knife at her belt and she cursed herself for having unbuckled her sword belt already.
No one stepped out into the night, and the door remained stubbornly open.
“Oh, fuck it,” she growled, snatching up her blade from the ground, frozen fingers fumbling with the fastenings. After another few frantic movements, she had her pack back on and had slipped inside the mountain tomb. The door swung slowly shut on its hinges behind her and plunged her into complete darkness.
She cursed her reckless stupidity again, took a deep breath, and prayed she had remembered the tunnel correctly: a single, smooth-floored passageway with no branching passages until she reached his cosy study room.
By the time a faint orange glow illuminated the flagstones at the end of the tunnel, her heartbeat had settled just a little, but her confidence had waned. What if he took this as an intrusion? What if he didn’t want her back here again? What if her presence put him in danger from the Death Lords who patrolled the tombs? What if —
She stopped in the doorway to his hemispherical study and found herself smiling.
There, slumped in a chair beside the fire, with a book cradled in his lap and skeletal fingers resting on the page open before him, sat the acolyte, and he appeared to be fast asleep.
His head was bowed and his chest wasn’t moving, but she knew from her admittedly limited experience of draugr that they appeared completely dead until disturbed.
She closed the wooden door to the passageway behind her with a quiet click and took the liberty of removing her pack. Then she crossed to the fire and knelt beside his chair in full view, and hopefully in a manner he wouldn’t find threatening or startling. She knew he had magic, and had no desire to be burned to a crisp or encased in a block of ice for surprising him.
When he didn’t stir at her presence, she laid a hand on his forearm. Little more than bone shrouded by his faded purple robe, the limb seemed so fragile, but the moment her fingers closed around his arm, he jerked awake with a heaving gasp, eyes flying open and flaring blue.
“It’s just me,” she said, releasing him and standing. She took three steps back with her hands raised slightly.
His chest spasmed for a moment before he regained control of his body and to her relief, he slumped back into the chair with a soft chuckle. A moment later he opened his eyes once more and looked at her sidelong. “I would say that you… scared me to… death,” he wheezed, “But…”
“Oh my gods,” she snorted, relaxing. “Undead puns already? I’ve only just got here.”
He laughed again - a real, genuine laugh that filled the room and lit him up from the inside - and he closed the book in his lap. “You came back?” he asked, going suddenly still. “Why? Did…” his expression shattered and he tensed all over, sitting forwards in the chair. “Did the amulet not work?”
“It worked,” she smiled and began pacing, unable to contain the bubbling joy inside her. “Thank the Divines. It worked. Mythlas is… Gods, it was remarkable. He had to have been only hours from death when I got back, and it brought him back in minutes.” Still overwhelmed by the miracle, she choked up, but forged ahead all the same. “He was still weak and drained from being ill, but he was sitting up and laughing the next morning. It was miraculous, and… I couldn’t have done it without your help.” She turned sharply to face him. “I’m sorry for what I said before I left.”
He blinked slowly and shook his head. “You had no reason to trust me,” he said. “Not really. I thought about it a lot after you’d gone. I don’t hold it against you. I… I can’t say I would have behaved any differently in your shoes.”
“You don’t wear shoes,” she countered and he inclined his head. “Don’t you get cold?”
He shook his head. “Don’t feel the cold. You, on the other hand, look half frozen to death.”
“I was kind of planning on sleeping on your porch,” she said. “Until the door opened on its own. I thought maybe you’d had something to do with that?”
He shook his head and stood carefully. His whole body had a very subtle tremor to it. “Are you hungry?” he asked. “Believe it or not, there is actually food here.”
“Food is, by definition, edible.”
“Yeah, ok smart-arse. I meant… like… not mouldy and a billion years old.”
“This whole place has a stasis spell on it. Why do you think the candles never burn out?”
“I suppose I’ve never really thought about it. Too busy looking out for shambling corpses wielding axes…”
“Fair enough,” he said. “How about shambling corpses wielding bottles of wine?”
“Infinitely better,” she grinned. “Listen though, before I forget, Mythlas asked me to bring you something.”
At that, he tilted his head and she smiled. For all that he was gaunt and withered, with those inhumanly blue eyes, she had to admit that Grim may have had a point. This did have to be a terribly lonely existence.
“Here,” she said, bending and rummaging around in her bag for the journal.
When she returned to him he took it from her with intrigue and trepidation in his face.
“Myth thought that you might like it since you’ve been walled up inside for so long. It’s his own journal and notes from the farm. He started it ten years ago when he and Grim bought it and turned it from a barren field of flints into a thriving smallholding. I —” she broke off when she saw tears rolling down his leathery cheeks. She didn’t know draugr could cry. “Are you alright?”
He nodded. “It’s… I don’t know what to say. It’s beautiful…” Had she given him all the wealth from all the hold capitals, he could not have looked more stunned. He swallowed thickly and looked up at her, gripping it with tenacious fingers. “I will treasure this. He cannot know what he’s given me; not truly.”
“A glimpse at the world as it is now?” she ventured, and he smiled.
“By the way,” she added on a whim. “I don’t know what to call you.”
“Oh…” he breathed. “Aamaak,” he rasped a moment later, though he looked like the name left a bitter taste on his tongue. “They named me Aamaak.”
She frowned. “They named you?” she quoted. “So, what, they give you another name when you joined the dragon cult?”
He nodded. “The priests believed names, like spells, have power over a person. They name themselves things like ‘hateful shadow’ and ‘wrathing the Dragon Tongue to instill fear into the minds of their followers.”
“‘Aamaak’…” she murmured, the vowels rolling slowly across her tongue. “What does it mean?”
“It means ‘to serve as a guide’,” he said. “Not the worst thing they could have named me, all things considered.”
“Huh,” she laughed and nudged him in the ribs. “They must have known that all these centuries later, I’d get lost down here and need your help.”
He fixed her with an odd look but only shook his head a little.
“So… what should I call you then? I’m assuming you don’t exactly choose to go by the name given to you by a cult you apparently loathe…?”
He paused. “Kalle,” he said, his ancient accent bouncing over the two syllables of the word like a dance. “The name my mother gave me is ‘Kalle’.”
“Would you like me to call you that then?”
Slowly, he nodded. “I think… I would.”
“Kalle it is,” she smiled, and he shivered slightly. It must have been centuries since anyone had used it.
“And you?” he asked, turning Mythlas’ journal over in his hands and admiring the simple, leaf-shaped tooling at the corners. “What should I call you?”
“Raena,” she said and stifled a yawn. “Sorry.”
“‘Raena’,” he repeated. “That’s a name familiar to me from my own time. It must seem old to your people.”
She nodded. “Terribly out of fashion, I’m afraid, but my father was a scholar and he insisted on something ‘as old as the land’ or some such bollocks.” Kalle seemed quietly fascinated, so she rolled her eyes and said, “I’ll bore you about my family to… well… un-death, I suppose, over a glass of your enchanted wine if you like.”
“I’d like that very much,” he said. “Make yourself at home.”
She stood and watched him putter about, but not before he set the journal on a table beside the fire to peruse later, and then he returned from what appeared to be a storeroom with a goblet of wine.
“You’re not having one too?” she asked when she took it from him. On a corner of his study table, she’d set out the remnants of her supplies from Grim, though there was still enough bloody cheese in her pack to feed a small family for a fortnight.
Kalle shook his head. “The need — and ability — to ingest for sustenance or pleasure withered away a long time ago, I’m afraid. I’ve been meaning to clear out that storeroom for a while, but now I’m glad I didn’t.”
She sniffed the goblet ostentatiously and asked, “Just how good are these stasis spells anyway?”
He snorted and sank down into his chair again before his eyes went wide and he obviously realised there was only one seat. She was still standing awkwardly in the space between the long trestle table and the chair beside the fire.
“Wait, I’ll…” he wheezed and she set the glass down on the table.
“I can get a chair if you tell me where to look? Or I can sit on my bedroll to keep the cold out of my backside. I don’t mind…”
“I’m so sorry,” he muttered, one hand gripping the arm of his wooden chair. He struggled to stand for a moment before looking up at her with a look of anguish on his face.
“Seriously, it’s fine,” she insisted. “It’s not exactly as if you’re entertaining regularly, huh?”
With a chagrined grimace, he nodded. “There’s another one in the library, but it’s… it’s down a spiral staircase. I can levitate it up here for you if you give me a moment. I don’t have much physical strength any more, but it recovers quite quickly.”
“How about you get it for me tomorrow,” she said, unfurling her bedroll right beside the fire near the foot of his chair, “And I thaw out right here for now and talk your ear off about my family.”
So she did.
She told him everything, from her slightly feral childhood on the streets of the hold capital, playing with the other children while her mother worked in the jarlsguard, and her father wrote his books on the history of the various peoples who had occupied the land. And Kalle sat enraptured until she talked herself almost as hoarse as him.
“He sounds like quite the scholar,” Kalle said when she finally stopped to draw breath.
“I think he always hoped I’d follow in his footsteps, but he never complained when I joined the jarlsguard as a raw, sixteen year old recruit. He died when I was eighteen, and mother didn’t last long without him. She just…” she gestured vaguely with her hand and took another mouthful of the rich wine. It rolled across her tongue, smooth and dark and seductive, and she savoured the taste. “This is really good, by the way,” she said. “Grim and Mythlas make amazing mead, but I haven’t had wine in ages.”
“I’m glad to hear it’s still good,” he smiled. “If I remember rightly, it was one of the finer vintages.”
“You have to tell me what it was like back then,” she blurted. “I mean, how long have you been down here? It must be, what, close to a thousand years? Do you know how much history we’ve lost? We’ve had invasions from the Empire to the south, then reclaimed the land for ourselves, and been embroiled in a stupid civil war for decades. This kind of tomb is now either in complete ruins or has been lost forever beneath the snow. We only have fragments to piece together about what it was like under the dragon priests.”
“It was horrific,” he said quietly and her heart dropped. She fell still to listen. “There was order under their rule, but it wasn’t civilised order. It was tyranny and fear and control of the masses by sheer threat of violence. It wasn’t always like that though. The dragon priests rose to power relatively quickly over a period of perhaps twenty years.”
In the silence that hung in the wake of his words, she finally asked in a breathy, awestruck whisper, “Were there really dragons? I mean… real dragons?”
Slowly, he nodded. “They were incomprehensibly powerful,” he said. “Like a landslide and a hurricane and a wildfire… I’m glad their kind is gone,” he snarled. “And may the dragon priests rot in their sarcophagi.”
At that, Raena raised her eyebrows.
“Although,” he added, “Without the dragon priests and their necromancy, I never would have met you, so I suppose I shouldn’t curse them too harshly.”
She nearly snorted the dregs of her wine out of her nose at that. “I can’t imagine that five minutes with me is enough to counter a millennium locked away on your own in a tomb. You must have all these books memorised by now…”
He looked at her oddly for a long moment and then exhaled slowly, turning to look at the bookshelves that lined the walls of the circular space. “I could probably recite any page from any volume in this room, and locate most of the books in the library without use of the catalogue. I also taught myself fifteen dead languages and reconstructed two.”
“How have you not gone mad?” she asked with genuine reverence.
Kalle swallowed and rested the back of his head on his high-backed chair. In the dancing warmth of the firelight, he looked suddenly very human, save for the piercing eyes and his atrophied figure. “After you left, I thought perhaps I had finally cracked…” he rasped, consonants slurred by his immobile, withdrawn lips. “Dreamt you up entirely. I even went back down to the vault to check that the amulet really had gone.”
He looked her in the eye and laughed bitterly, a sound like two stones scraping together.
“Met the Death Lord who had been hunting you afterwards too. He was even more unpleasant to me than usual, which went most of the way towards convincing me that you were in fact real. Then he asked if I’d seen a human wandering the halls, and I told him the last thing I’d seen, before running into his immense atrociousness, was a truly enormous rat with an elven tibia in its jaws.”
He leaned back in the chair again and turned his gaze to the ceiling, and she watched him closely.
“Technically it actually wasn't a lie.” He sounded strangely pleased about that, and when he glanced back at her and caught the expression on her face he added, “Small victories and rabid partisanship are all we draugr have remaining to us these days.”
“So the Death Lords are more sentient than the other draugr?” she asked, stifling another yawn. “Could they…” she looked around, wide eyed and suddenly alert, “… get in here?”
“How about I tell you more tomorrow?” he smiled. “You should rest. But no, they can’t get in here. It takes my magic to open any of the passages into this part of the complex, or a special key, neither of which they have.”
It struck her as odd that she could tell when he was smiling. His facial muscles had atrophied so much that he barely had any movement left, and his head was hardly more than papery skin stretched over bare bone, lips drawn back to reveal his teeth like an ordinary, mummified corpse, and yet… he was somehow so expressive all the same. Perhaps it was the little wry twitches of his head or the way he rolled his eyes, but she found she could read him as easily as he could apparently recite any of his books from memory.
“Sounds like a deal,” she murmured, finally allowing herself a full yawn and covering it with the back of her hand. “Where shall I put this?” she asked, gesturing with the silver goblet.
He rose stiffly from his seat, carefully cricking the tension out of his spine, and said, “Here. I’ll take it.”
As he stretched out his hand to take it from her, he must have noticed the way her eyes lingered on his bare hands, the fingers little more than exposed phalanges, and he twitched back.
“Kalle, it’s fine,” she said. “I’m not afraid of you any more. I know you’re not like most draugr.” She swallowed and looked up at him through her lashes. “And I know you’re not going to hurt me.”
He took a slow, wheezing breath. “It’s hard not to feel abhorrent in the face of someone so…” he blinked, and apparently settled for, “… alive.”
She smiled and pushed the goblet into his hand. This time he took it, and he limped away while she opened the toggles of her sleeping roll and took off her boots. The floor beside the hearth was warm. The stones seemed to have soaked up the heat from the fire like boulders in the sun, and she sighed contentedly as she sank down into it.
She was asleep almost before her head came to rest on the soft fleece of the inside of the bedroll.
Part Three --->
I really hope you enjoyed this one! If you did, please let me know by reblogging and maybe leaving me an ask, otherwise I won’t know if there’s interest and I won’t continue to post it. Next time, Raena spends some time with Kalle (pronounced kal-eh), their unlikely friendship grows, and there’s a teeny bit of drama/danger... stay tuned!
| Masterlist | Ko-fi (tip jar)
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Arrest Record Day
Blurb related to The Jar Series
Mob Boss!Tom Holland x Single Mom!Reader
Summary: A look into our favorite family a few years down the line.
Warnings: swearing lmao, mentions of violence (but it’s for a good cause), Holland fam shenanigans
Word Count: 1.6k
Estimated Reading Time: 8 minutes
A/N: did ya miss me? did you miss this series? yeah me too
Main Masterlist || Series Masterlist
She looked up from her bruised knuckles, hearing the deputy’s heavy footsteps coming her way. From her estimations, she’s been here for about four hours, meaning that it’s a little after five. But then again, with how dark these godforsaken cells are, it’s possible that she’s wrong.
Unlikely, but possible nonetheless.
Officer High Cholesterol somehow managed to unlock the door without dropping his family-sized bag of chips and she cringed at the greasy fingerprints left on the bars.
“You know, you should really think about eating healthier. I can give you my nutritionist’s number, she’s great. Made my transition from meat-loving sociopath to vegetarian sociopath seamless.”
“Enough with the sass, Holland, you’re lucky someone came for you at all. If it were up to me, you’d be rotting in a place much worse than this.”
Her black platform boots echoed in the empty hallways and she focused on keeping a cocky smirk on her face. As long as she feels confident, she’ll be able to ignore the fear creeping up her spine. Fake it till you make it.
She could hear her father’s voice the closer she got to the entrance, and she straightened her back unconsciously.
“Thanks for calling me, Anthony, I really appreciate it.”
The aforementioned Captain clapped him on the back.
“No problem, just… maybe try to keep an eye on her? It’s the fifth time in a month.”
Her father sighed and threw her an exasperated look.
He motioned for her to follow him and she complied, saluting Captain Mackie on her way out, the chains in her shorts rattling at her every step.
They got into her father’s Audi R8 without speaking a single word.
“Did you like your mugshot this time?”
“I think the bat-winged liner looks much better honestly, and I made sure to switch to my matte lipstick while in the car, that way the flash doesn’t ruin it.”
He looked her up and down.
“When did you buy the shirt?”
“It’s called a corset top, Dad, and there was a sale last weekend so I bought a whole bunch of them.”
Plus, it looked great with the new shorts and thigh strap combo she had going on. The fishnets really gave it the finishing look, though.
He weaved through the city flawlessly, going way over the speed limit, not that anyone would care. One look at the license plates and they’d back off.
“What happened this time?”
She took a piece of gum from the glove compartment.
“Some misogynistic prick got handsy with a waitress at lunch, so I punched him.”
He lifted a brow.
The brow stayed up.
“And kicked him in the balls.”
“And then broke a chair on his back when he tried to touch me. But in my defence, they seemed easily breakable and I wanted to test that theory.”
“One hit and they’re firewood.”
He nodded in satisfaction.
“We’re picking up Luna from her piano lesson, then Gabe from art class, and that should mean that we’ll get to the studio right as Ollie’s about to finish.”
“I should really start to plan arrests around my lessons, I’ll get thrown out of ballet school if I keep missing so much.”
“Organisation is a key skill to have.”
She took the spare charger out of her backpack, plugging it into the car so her phone could come back to life.
“Is everyone else already at home?”
Her father smirked.
“They always are. What’s the rush on your phone, Angel? Someone you wanna talk to?”
She squinted her eyes at him.
He pulled into the music school’s parking lot, waiting for the ten-year-old menace to come out to the car.
“Who’re you talking to?”
“Why do you care?”
“I always care. Now answer.”
She rolled her eyes.
“Just a new girl from school.”
She made a face at her sister once she was close enough to peer into the car.
“Her name’s Claire, she just moved here from France cause her dad’s British and he decided to move back here after the divorce. She’s a bit shy, so I’m hanging out with her, so she’s not alone.”
He hummed and stretched enough for Luna to kiss his cheek, settling into the back seat.
“Oh, is she telling you about the new student who she totally has a crush on but refuses to admit? She has a French accent. Mills loves french accents.”
Millie stretched her arm into the backseat and slapped her hand over her sister’s mouth.
“Shut up you menace, I do not.”
Tom reminded Luna to put on her seatbelt and took off towards the art school.
“So, Claire, is it?”
“We’re not doing this.”
She turned up the volume on the radio, the playlist affectionately dubbed ‘Soundtrack to Millie’s arrests’.
“Is she pretty?”
“HUNGRY EYES! ONE LOOK AT YOU AND I CAN’T DISGUISE!”
“Mills, you have to stop getting arrested during ballet hours!”
“Good morning to you too, Oliver dear.”
“Hi Dad, but seriously, I can’t deal with those people all by myself. That Hannah girl told me I looked ‘super strong’ today and kept shoving her boobs in my face. Is it not clear that I’m gay? Do my mannerisms, ogling the hot teacher, and rainbow fucking everything not make it clear?”
“Please, that girl couldn’t see rejection if it hit her in the face.”
“Which is exactly why I need you in that room with me to do your scary glare thing and keep the vultures away.”
“I’ll make sure to only get arrested on Tuesdays, Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays, then.”
Her dad shook his head.
“Not Sundays, your grandma won’t be happy if you miss Family Day.”
“Not Sundays then. Oh, stop there, I wanna get some flowers for Mom. And Grandma. And Aunt Noa. And Aunt Elysia. And Lizzie and Chris for getting me out. We should send Mackie a fruit basket.”
“Just buy the whole flower shop, it’ll be easier.”
“Shut up, Luna.”
“We’re back! She’s alive but smells like sweat and crimes, so if you could postpone the speech until after she showers, I’d be appreciative of it, please and thank you.”
Millie glared at her cousin.
“I don’t smell.”
Gabriel stuck his tongue at her and curled up next to Noa on the couch. Forever a mommy’s boy, that one.
She looked over at you, sitting calmly on the couch. The rest of her family was spread around the living room.
No one said a word, and the way she was getting stared at was kind of unsettling.
“What happened this time, Rosie?”
Although your voice was calm, she knew better.
“So, you know how on Wednesdays I go get lunch at Marinella’s to get a reprieve from my schoolmates?”
She decided not to mention that she took Claire with her. It’s not like it mattered much since her new friend didn’t get into trouble.
“So there was this one guy, absolutely disgusting, just screamed ‘corporate asshole’ - sorry, Nana - with everything he did, putting down the staff and all. But since I remembered you telling me not to get into any trouble, I stayed quiet at my table.”
You lifted a brow and she shrugged.
“Well, tried to, at the very least. But then when Alayna was serving him his drink, Director Small Dick - sorry, Nana - decided that it would be a good idea to put his hand on her bum.”
You took a sharp breath in, fire in your eyes. Yup, she’s definitely not gonna get into trouble now. Millie 1, police department 0.
“So, obviously I did the sensible thing and broke his hand. And nose. Then kicked him in the balls when he tried to make a grab at me. Then broke a chair on his back cause I wanted to see how easy it would be.”
“Simple and fun, kinda wanna do it again.”
You nodded at her.
“Good job, sweetie. Did you apologise to Claire for having to cut your date short?”
She spluttered while her family ‘ooh-ed’ at her.
“Not a date.”
“Mhm. That’s what I said every time your dad came over for movie night and look where it got me.”
She pouted and grumbled about it being totally different situations but it seemed that no one was listening to it, choosing instead to sing an abhorrently off-key version of ‘Kiss The Girl’.
“But anyway! Pumpkin, this is a celebration!”
The lights suddenly went off and her Uncle Sam came into the room, carrying a big cake - chocolate, her favourite - lit up with candles spelling 369.
“Happy Arrest Record Day to you, happy Arrest Record Day to you, happy Arrest Record Day, dear Millie! Happy Arrest Record day to you!”
She blew out the candles to the sound of her family’s cheers.
“Well, it’s official kiddo, you’ve taken my crown for the most arrests before age 18. Congratulations, you’ve cost your Dad a ton of bribing money!”
She smiled at her Uncle Harry, glad to take on the mantel as the family’s biggest troublemakers.
“How are you feeling about it?”
“Sad. Always sad. I’ve lost yet another record to you.”
She vividly remembered the day she first managed to shoot an entire round perfectly at the centre of the practice sheet. It was on her fourteenth birthday, a whole year and a half younger than Harry had been.
“Look on the bright side: I’m never gonna steal your title of the highest amount of stupid things done to impress one person.”
He grumbled something about ‘snarky kids’, but she was too busy eyeing the cake to notice.
All in all, just another day at the Holland house. No more drama for today, that’s for sure.
“Aunt (Y/n)! Millie’s backpack’s ripped again!”
She just had to jinx it, didn’t she?
“Millicent Rose Holland!”
oh how i missed them. ngl, the first version of this somehow turned into the beginning of a series, completely accidentally, but i managed to put my foot down and say NO MORE SERIES
so then obviously i went and came up with five additional blurb ideas that i just feel obligated to write
i’ll get to it eventually
if you liked it don’t forget to like/comment/reblog!
-Love, Miah <3
«────── « ⋅ʚ♡ɞ⋅ » ──────»
Taglists: (if your name is striked through it means for some reason tumblr wouldn’t let me tag you)
@adriannajackson123 @evermoreholland @inlovewithmobtom @andycanbeemotional @officiallyunofficialperson @lost-in-the-stars03 @jeezkiddo @a-singleboat @parkersbliss @peterspideyy @highlydisfunctional1 @Ellyseveronica @inthecornerchair @harishaanne @anjalika03 @lozzypoz321 @mendes-marvel @sovereignparker @bubbles-the-powerpuffgurl @sofyluv17
@just-here-to-escape-from-reality @onelovesr @agentnataliahofferson @parkerpetertingle @juliebean247 @frustratingpaperclip @tacobacoyeet @deamus-liv @hungryforfood
HOLLAND & CO.
@just-here-to-escape-from-reality @agentnataliahofferson @onelovesr @zeusmyster @parkerpetertingle @juliebean247 @joyleenl @quaksonhehe @clara-licht @frustratingpaperclip @hungryforfood @tutuabby28 @tacobacoyeet
JAR SERIES TAG (really had to search for this one in my old taglists huh)
@tomsirishgirlx @lavender-writer @halespecterwinchester @unicorn-princess-1999 @coveredinthemessimade @nerdy-collector-festival @every-marveler-ever @skymoonandstardust @loverofthingscool @cyrusandhiscollaredahirts @writeroutoftime @honey-sea @loving-life-my-way @spiderbibby @lilya-petrichor @farfromtommy @lukesbabylon @dreaming-lia @juliebean247 @the-endoftime @zlamaneserca @flickhurstyles @danicarosaline @dreamingsmile @markleehee @whatinthyworld @spideyyeet @quechulitaaa @stealthspiders @shezzalocked @bubblegumbarnes @stardustommo @deamlanderwynter @harryhollandsstuff @sofiaconlaz @todaynotseen @parkeret @i-lost-my-shoe-down-a-drain @eclectic-black-witch @harrisonloveposts @hannahholland1811 @bellaaa321-blog @parkerpetertingle @emily-louise-hynes @clara-licht @undevelxped @runway-to-my-aid @ekelly2015 @lovelycherryblossom @lukeys-giggle @kween-krupa @inlovewithmobtom @severelyuniquereview @mintchip17 @ertjes @lastupidebitchette @quaksonhehe @sweetlittlegingy @danicarosaline @peachyafshawn @tutuabby28 @galaxystern08 @bluebellhairpin @some-random-stranger-007 @bichelle-jones @sovereignparker @infamousmany @tokhalaxoxo @cathwritestragediesnotsins @panicattheeverywherekid @t-monosapiens-h @spn67-sister @kayleypaige2233 @frustratingpaperclip @31nst31n @highlydisfunctional1 @jillanaholland @zeusmyster @hyluas @mushi98 @starstruckgardenstudentzonk @joyleenl @ravenagrimes @captainbuckyyy12 @616holland @my-favorite-fics-and-imagines @bethanymccauley @spunky-89 @buckybilal @cxtetxm @mymanshawn @drishtisikarwar
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Book/Show: Bridgerton series
Casting: Anthony Bridgerton, Violet Bridgerton, Kate Sharma
Rating: General Audience
Author’s Notes: Story is inspired by characters that originated in the Bridgerton series of novels (now a show on Netflix). A modern day AU series with Gossip Girl elements. Bridgerton Masterlist
What does one have to do to receive a personal invitation to Violet Bridgerton’s for lunch? Of course, strong blood or marital relation gets a person automatic access to the Dowager Viscountess and all her splendors. Yet, one fair face was able to do what the much younger, rosier cheeked ladies could not. Kate Sharma has not even been in London for a full two days, and she is rubbing elbows with the best London has to offer.
It does seem rather odd, doesn’t it? Ten years ago, Kate went out of her way to avoid the Bridgerton family. Something about her younger sister dating an older man. (Some of us turn a blind eye to an age gap when a title is involved, but Kate is not like the rest of us). With dear Edwina - now Mrs. Bagwell - out of Viscount Bridgerton’s clutches, Kate must be running to the Bridgertons with open arms.
Or perhaps it is the other way around? A little birdie told me Kate was not the only guest Violet hosted. Oh, to be a fly on the wall during that lunch.
- Lady Whistledown
There was something so peaceful about art. Even a chaotic portrait was mesmerizing. The thickness of the brush strokes, the choice in color palette revealed the artist's headspace. The tranquil or frantic thoughts they felt when crafting were on display. Pure raw emotion; a piece of their soul.
Kate didn't believe in any of that. She enjoyed the craft. Unlike dancing and playing instruments, Kate took to painting quickly. Her sister shined in many things, but art is where Kate excelled. She learned all the techniques and studied the books. Yet, when it came to her art she simply found it to be fun. She didn't need to convey a hidden message. Her constant use of blue shades was just because she enjoyed them. Anything she needed to declare, she had no hesitation using actual words.
Surprisingly enough her tongue was numb when she went to the Bridgerton estate. One of many scattered around England. A decade ago, she was being dragged to several of these homes for parties. Mary insisted on it. Some nonsense about getting to know the potential future in-laws. It was supposed to be a jest, but it irritated Kate. Edwina deserved better than Anthony Bridgerton. The other Bridgertons were pleasant enough, though.
Violet was summoned to the television, leaving Kate alone in the drawing-room. She studied the portraits on the wall. Beautiful but very old-fashioned. She hoped Violet did expect anything like that. Not even a modern twist. Sitting in a room, for hours on end, staring at and painting the Bridgertons would take the enjoyment out of her work.
"My apologies," Violet said as she strolled through the doorway. "I swear, these phones are making us all rather lazy. No one wants to visit anymore."
Kate gave a tight smile, still unable to speak. Just being back in this house made her disoriented. She hadn't seen or heard him. Yet, Kate could feel his presence from the moment she stepped out of the car in the driveway. Maybe he was avoiding her as well. She should be relieved if he was. Then why did that mere thought break her heart?
No, she thought. He did not have the right to hide from her. She was angry with him. She was the one hiding from him.
Kate nearly gasped out loud at the thought. She wasn't hiding. Hiding would imply she was afraid. Kate sat up straighter, shoulders back and chin up. She was not afraid. Least of all afraid of Anthony Bridgerton. She hated him and that was all. It was ridiculous he was still on her mind after all this time. But of course, he was on her mind. She had connections to his family. Those famous Bridgerton features were everywhere. Still, Kate was not hiding from that man and decided she didn't care if she saw him.
"What do you think, dear?" Violet's voice snapped her from her thoughts.
Kate's face suddenly felt warm. She had not been listening to Violet - her new client - explain the work she wanted to be done. Kate stumbled for words, embarrassed by her poor impression.
"Oh, dear," Violet giggled. "I've completely confused you. I'm sorry."
"No, I should apologize. I don't know what came over me."
"Perhaps I should show you the room I wish to hang your art in." Violet patted Kate's hand before standing. "It's just down the hall."
Violet looped their arms together as they walked. Sensing the tension, Violet politely asked about Kate's NYU days. The two hardly interacted all those years ago, but Violet remembered how studious Kate was. She often praised Mary for bringing up two bookish daughters. The question helped to relax Kate. In the short stroll, Kate's face lit up and she animatedly spoke.
Listening to Kate discuss her studies and interests warmed Violet's heart. Perhaps it was just her maternal nature. All her children were adults, married, and producing children yearly. Well, not all of her children. That eldest of hers was a stubborn one. Violet had sworn off matchmaking - to the delight of her offspring - but she tried to nudge the Viscount in the right direction from time to time.
"Here we are," Violet said when they entered the room.
She hadn't focused on the direction they were walking. The room, however, was all too familiar. Kate's smile shrunk and there was a tightness in her throat. The sight of the full bookshelves, wooden desk, and photographs of the late Edmund Bridgerton made her lightheaded. She gripped the desk for balance. Kate could feel the scratches in the wood. The memory of her nails breaking off gave her a chill. Kate pulled her hand away as if she just touched a burning flame.
"I know. It's far too dark in here," Violet said. "Leave it to a man to decorate. They act as if brown and burgundy are the only colors in existence."
"You, uh, you want a painting for this room?"
"Yes. It wasn't my original plan," Violet confessed. "Anthony called me late yesterday evening. He insisted I give his old office a makeover."
"Is that so?" Kate spoke through clenched teeth. "Well, isn't that lovely?"
"I stopped trying to understand that boy years ago. Fewer headaches that way."
"Come now," the low, masculine voice made her jump. "I'm not all bad."
Kate turned to see him, Viscount Anthony Bridgerton as handsome as ever, leaning against the doorframe. Nestled in his bent arm was a bundle of pink roses. She fought her body's urge to react to him. Her knees were on the verge of buckling. His smile made her heartbeat painfully fast. Sweat stained her palms, and at some point, she stopped inhaling. Damn him for still having this effect on her. This was not the time to fall for his charms. He wasn't that handsome after all. Kate needed to stay focused.
Anthony stepped deeper into the study. He hugged his mother and kissed her cheek.
"You didn't tell me you were stopping by when you called." Violet gave him a curious look.
"I wanted to surprise you." When he lifted the bouquet, giving them to a beaming Violet, Kate noticed there was another bundle still in his arm. "Hello, Kate. Welcome back."
FULL CHAPTER ON AO3
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DannyMay Day 11: Midnight
(Also DannyMay Shadow, Scars, Power, Nature, Seasons, Teeth can you find them all?)
Word Count: 2271 (not beta’d. experimental writing)
Warning: mentions of ghost cannibalism, nothing explicit
@floralflowerpower – for that ghost cannibalism post
(it’s 1 am so i’m gonna sleep now. might post on AO3 later)
Edit: AO3 Added!
It was mid-October. The leaves are starting to turn yellow heralding the approaching autumn. Danny was happy because that meant the unusually hot weather is almost over. It wasn’t that he’s melting from the heat- quite the opposite, he’s probably the only person in Amity that isn’t sweltering under the sun with his cold core. But due to this exact same reason, his cooler body temperature also drew in water vapor which condenses on his skin, pooling into beads of water dripping down his shirt, making him appear extra sweaty. He can’t wait for the temperature to be cool enough to not change clothes every few hours. Good thing his clothes are purchased by the dozen; no one really noticed him wearing new sets of clothes throughout the day.
It was the contaminated fridge foods that disappeared first. No one missed them. At least until they can’t find the mutated turkeys for their annual Thanksgiving hunting event.
Danny yawned as he and his friends entered Fenton Works. Autumn is comfy. Just the right temperature where he can wear loose clothing and not be stared at for being underdressed for the weather. No ‘sweating’ either. His mouth closed with a click, a bit too fast on his new fangs. Danny winced. The fangs seemed to have grown longer overnight again. At this rate Danny won’t be able to pass them off as normal pointy canine teeth for much longer. It didn’t hurt but the itch is annoying. Danny took a detour to the fridge, grabbing an ice cube from the freezer and popped it into his mouth, absentmindedly chewing on the cubes to take the edge off the itch as they walked down to the basement lab. His parents are at a paranormal convention at a nearby city and won’t be back until tomorrow. Danny and his friends gladly took the opportunity to do their ‘Danny’s quarterly fitness test’.
Danny flipped on the light switch and walked to the center of the lab, transforming into his ghost form. “Okay I’m ready. What’s first on the list?”
Tucker dropped his bag and took out a piece of notebook paper, “Okay, first we gotta do the baseline measurements. Height, weight, temperature, and the ecto reading.” Sam dug through her sports bag, pulling out the measurement tape. She held it against Danny, eyes scanning the tape measurement numbers. “Still the same height.”
Tucker nodded, noting down the measurement in Danny’s health notebook. “Next, weight.” Danny stood over the scale. “Yup, still the same weight too.”
Then it was the ecto-samples that Jack misplaced in the kitchen fridge. Jack warned everyone a few days later (everyone knows to avoid glowing food on normal basis so the delayed warning is mostly just courtesy), but no one could find where it went and assumed it grew legs to join the other tiny ecto-samples lurking as their equivalent of household pests. (No matter how often Maddie tried to patch up the mouse hole it keeps reappearing in the same shape but in a different part of the house as if the original mouse hole got transplanted from its original location)
“Lunch Lady’s right. You need to eat more. You’re still as skinny as ever.” Sam remarked as Danny took the thermometer out of his mouth. “76 F. The ghosts keep attacking me all day and night. You’d think my parents would notice when a ghost sneaks pass them while they work in the lab but I triggered all their ghost alarms just by being in the house so they deactivated the system when I’m around. They must’ve kept it turned off during the day too.”
“Tough luck dude. Ecto scan next.” Tucker passed the scanner to Sam while Danny stood still for her to scan. The machine beeped, “Wow 6.8, that’s quite a jump from last quarter’s 5.1”
“Maybe it was from all the ghost fighting I did over the summer?”
As the leaves began to fall from the branches, ghost attacks lessened in frequency. Not looking the gift horse in the mouth Danny happily enjoyed the lack of ghost attacks to focus more on his studies. If he did well enough, he might even get Bs for his efforts. He also managed to avoid getting detention for the entire week much to the relief of everyone involved.
Two days before Thanksgiving, the Fentons finally remembered their turkeys. But by then it was gone. In a rush, they quickly purchased a pre-made turkey instead. While Danny enjoyed the fact that they’re having a normal family dinner for once, he can’t help but feel like there’s something off about the chicken. As if it’s missing a particular tangy or zingy flavor that would’ve made it richer in flavor. ‘Must’ve been because it’s overcooked.’
"Honey? Have you seen the new ecto-samples I placed in the basement lab fridge?" “Again Jack? This is the third time this month. Have you checked the upstairs fridge?” “I-ah was pretty sure I placed them in the correct fridge this time. Must be some no-good thievin’ ghost.” “I’ll set up the ecto-anti-theft, that’ll get ‘em good! No ghost can escape Jack Fenton for long!”
*Intruder Alert* *Intruder Alert*
Red lights peppered with robotic voice and alarm noises lurched Maddie into full alert mode. She quickly took stock of her surroundings and tried to wake Jack up. But Jack had his earplugs on and continued to snore blissfully. A loud knock on the door caught her attention. “What’s going on mom?” Jazz’s voice floated through the door. Maddie quickly rose to open the bedroom door, swiftly pulled Jazz in and locked the door. “Jazz dear, try to wake your dad up. I’ll go check on the intruder.” Maddie strode quietly to the door then paused, “Have you checked on Danny?” Jazz bit her lips and looked away for a moment “-ah yeah! Danny’s snoring so loud he can’t hear the alarm.” Maddie twisted the doorknob but paused, hesitating. “He’s fine mom.” Jazz reassures her. “If Danny wakes up, he’ll come here first. I’ll let him know what’s going on.”
The alarm rang loudly in her ears as she walked down the stairs to the basement lab, its loud ringing noise effectively covering up the sound of her footsteps. Reaching the basement floor, Maddie quickly crept over to hide behind the shelf on her left, eyes scanning the lab for the intruder.
The glass jars clinked as a shadow moved about the fridge. A very familiar shadow. That didn’t glow. Maddie turned on the lab lights. “Danny?” she started, carefully walking over to face him, her eyes still scanning him to check if he’s really her Danny. The faint, barely noticeable scar on his eyebrow from his attempt to fly off the tree when he was five is there confirming his identity.
“What are you doing down here-?” Maddie noticed the glowing jar in his hand, “and what exactly are you doing?” Danny hazily stared at her; eyes half-lidded. Maddie snapped her fingers to get his attention. Danny didn’t blink. “He's still not awake, Danny come on wake up!”, she shook his shoulders. “Huh? Wuzzat?” Danny groggily woke up. He blinked in confusion.
Finally aware of his surroundings, Danny looked down at his right hand that still held the glowing sample. “Aah!” Danny yelped dropping the sample, then realizing he dropped the sample, tries to catch the jar, fumbling clumsily. Maddie would’ve laughed if it was anywhere else but in this situation. “Danny, do you remember what you were doing?”
“I was doing my homework and was craving for a good cheeseburger?”
“And the half-opened jar of ectoplasm?”
“Dude are you for real? That was priceless!” Tucker crowed with laughter. Sam leaned away from Tucker to avoid the meat spittle, “Urgh! Gross Tucker! Swallow it before you speak!”
Danny grumbled into his glass of milkshake, “’s not funny Tuck. you didn't see her face. She was about ready to scan me for signs of ecto-possession. Good thing my lie about craving cheeseburger and opening the wrong fridge worked. Otherwise I’d be in big trouble if she scanned me now with my latest ecto-reading. Anyways I'm banned from the lab now.” Danny bit into his burger.
“So what really happened there dude? Did you seriously sleepwalk into the basement lab?”
“I think so? I don’t really remember anything before Mom found me in the lab. Only that I was feeling a bit hungry.”
The ghosts stopped coming. Everyone in Amity held their breath when there were no ghost attacks for two weeks straight, then a month. Then two months, three. No ghosts. They let out their collective breath. It might be too soon to hope but for now they will enjoy their ghost-free, perfectly ordinary life. It feels a bit strange to not have ghost related interruptions as part of their daily routine but they didn’t miss the ghost-related reconstruction expenses. The local insurance company employees received a nice bonus for the ghost-free month.
By the time March rolled in, Danny is restless. “Guys, there's definitely something big going on.”, he waved his hands for emphasis. “The Fenton portal is still open yet no ghost came through? Not even Boxy since the North District warehouse thing last month. There’s definitely something big going on. I've been taking the ghost-free break for granted for a while now and it helped save my grades but this is too big to ignore.”
“Dude, maybe it’s because you’re much more powerful now? Your latest reading last week is 8.2. None of the ghosts we’ve met so far is above 6 except for Vlad and the Ghost King.” Tucker suggested.
“You might have a point there, Tucker. We haven’t seen any of the ghosts bothering Vlad so far and he’s definitely higher than 6.” Sam added.
Danny frowned, “Maybe you’re right but I just have this nagging feeling that that’s not quite it.”
Danny entered the Zone with little fanfare. The area around the Fenton portal looked normal enough, the usual rocks and clouds of debris are still floating around in their usual areas. Danny aimlessly passed through the nooks and crannies, ducking under the endless spiral staircase, not entirely sure of what to look for. The Zone felt a bit quiet today but Danny haven’t been to the Zone that frequently to be certain about it.
The Ghost Zone, while still filled with random bits of odds and ends felt empty somehow. It wasn't until he sighted Skulker that he realized he hasn't seen any of the tiny blog ghosts nor the occasional passerby ghosts through his trip.
Luckily or unluckily, Danny quickly spotted someone he knew in the distance. As if called, Skulker turned his head towards Danny, then veered sharply to the left and flew fast in Danny's opposite direction, a first for the self-proclaimed hunter to not hunt his favorite prey. ‘Something's not right and Skulker definitely knows something.’ Danny thought.
Danny quickly chased after him; Skulker could never beat Danny at speed chase even at his best, and he won't be winning today's unplanned race either. “Hey Skulker! What’s going on?” Danny yelled over the gap between them but Skulker gave no reply, diving down deep into the reddish forest ravines of the island below. Not to be deterred, Danny did a quick aerial flip, adjusting his flight angle to follow down Skulker’s path. Danny soon caught up to Skulker and launched him into a nearby rock with sticky ectoplasm to hold him still long enough to talk. Skulker ejected from his metal suit but Danny was faster and caught the real ghost before he can escape.
(Why is Skulker fleeing?)
"Hey Skulker, not hunting me for once?" Danny asked teasingly.
Skulker paled (Danny never knew ghosts can turn pale) and squirmed even more. Danny's smile dropped.
"What’s going on Skulker?" he asked worriedly. “None of the ghosts have appeared in the human world and the Zone looks empty somehow”
Skulker squirmed a bit more but realizing he’s stuck finally said, “Ghost Child, haven’t you ever wondered why the Infinite Realms is never overcrowded?”
Danny frowned, puzzled as to where this leads to. “How is this related to this situation?” Skulker stared at Danny stunned.
“What?” Danny asked, suddenly self-conscious, “-was there something I was supposed to know about?”
Skulker sighed, unconsciously loosening a bit of his tension, “You’re so young. So very young. We Ghosts don’t fade as fast as Newcomers arrive from your world. In the Realms, there's a natural system that keeps the population under control. An ecosystem. There's predator and there's prey. And then there's the Apex Predator. There's a reason why Dark was feared. It wasn't just for his harsh rule. It was because he was the Apex Predator.”
Danny struck at the odd wording, "’Was’? Was that because he got sealed?” Danny paused, “But wait- if he's sealed, he would still be the Apex predator. So how-? Wait. Did I?"
Skulker nodded, "Good you're catching on fast. By defeating Pariah Dark, you have proven to the Realms that you're the best candidate for the Apex Predator. And with the new status comes sets of conducts, one your body instincts know well. You've been culling down the uncontrolled excess from Pariah Dark's sleep quite fast. Your hunger would settle down soon of course once balance has been re-established in the Realms."
“But- How- Wait- What-?” Danny looked down at his hand “Hey Skulker--!” but his hand is bare.
Danny’s lips tasted oddly tangy, energized.
(Skulker might've slipped out of Danny's slack hand while Danny is in shock. Danny might've bit his lips hard enough to bleed. It's not that hard with his new fangs. But this is just speculation...)
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The Handbook For Magick: Year One-Chapter One
The nightmare had started like it always did, with Luna watching two people running for their lives in a hall of mirrors, all tall and proud with flickers of the world Luna lived. The two people appeared to be a boy with fiery hair and a girl with a dark braid but she never saw what was chasing them...Until today, something about the nightmare had changed, she could see behind them. She caught a glimpse of a smoky red monster before the girl stopped and turned to where Luna was standing, something about her strikingly familiar about her, something so blatantly obvious it seemed like she would kick herself when she figured it out.
“They’re coming for you right now. When they come, go with them. We’ll find you before he can.” The girl and boy raised their arms and shot pure light at the monster. A sinister laugh echoed behind Luna as an arm wrapped around her shoulders, pinning her against whoever stood behind her. The person’s breath stirred her blonde hair as they leaned close to her ear, tracing the birthmark on her shoulder.
“They won’t save you. I will always find you...Like I found your mother. You both look so alike...Except for that hair of yours.” The male voice purred before planting a wet kiss on her cheek. Luna felt herself warm and saw fire coating her. She opened her mouth to scream but fire spurted out instead and the mirrors started to melt, no longer tall and proud.
Luna sat up in bed, panting, her body covered in a cold sweat. She took a deep breath and picked up her phone to check the time. She scrunched up her nose, six am was too early for today. She glanced at the calendar with a small smile as she put on Fluorescent Adolescent.
“Happy birthday to me.” She whispered before standing up, stretching in her thin nightshirt with a loud groan and walked into the bathroom, pushing her bed head out of her face. She looked at herself in the mirror and blinked. The girl from her dream looked back, hand against the mirror.
“Happy birthday.” She mouthed before Luna blinked and she was gone. She rubbed her eyes a couple times and sighed. Thank god I don’t have a roommate or I’d be scundered, She thought before turning on the shower and undressing. She glanced at her strange sun birthmark, frowning at how red it looked before stepping into the shower.
At exactly nine, her mum called and Luna sighed before answering, trying to sound happy and well rested.
“Hi Mum, I’m kinda in the middle of something.” She explained as she tried to reach something on the top shelf, climbing on the counter. I’m five seven, who thought it was a good idea to put it that high? She mused as she finally grabbed the coffee.
“I won’t keep you too long, bird,” Luna held the phone to her ear as she made herself coffee. “I just wanted to say happy birthday and wanted to know if you want to come around for dinner.” Luna added milk to her coffee before answering.
“Sorry but I’m talking to unis about clearing places today,” She heard a huff and quickly added. “I can come around after and talk if I have time,” A loud knock echoed through the flat and she frowned. “Mum, there’s someone at the door, I’ll call you later,” Her mum hung up and she sighed, slipping her phone into her pocket. She walked to the door, sipping her coffee and slowly unlocked the door. She opened it to see a beautiful indian woman with purple hair who had to be in her fifties. “Hello, can I help you?” She smiled at Luna, her eyes flicking to the birthmark visible through her shirt.
“Luna Moon?” She enquired, offering her hand and Luna nodded, taking it. “I’m Professor Anya Limbu, I went to university with your birth mother and father. Please call me Anya,” Luna froze and dropped Anya’s hand. “I am here on the behalf of the university to offer you a place.” Luna frowned, gripping her mug tightly.
“Did you see my A-Level results?”
“We aren’t that kind of university. That’s all we need to see,” Anya pointed at her shoulder and Luna frowned at her birthmark. “You look exactly like your mother...Except your hair, that’s your father’s...May I come in to explain this better?” Luna hesitated before stepping aside and making sure her camogie stick was within grabbing distance, just in case.
"Would you like tea or something?" She asked and Anya shook her head as she sat on the yellow sofa. "I'll just…" She sat down facing her, wishing she wasn't wearing a pair of bleach stained sweats when Anya was wearing the most expensive suit she’d ever seen. Anya smiled at Luna.
“I am from Maissac’s Institute For Magick and...I wouldn’t reach for that stick of yours, I can easily take it from you,” Luna’s fingers brushed her camogie stick and she sipped her coffee as she lifted her arm back to the arm of the chair. The word Magick had made her reach for the camogie stick but then her dream rose in her mind and she waited for Anya to continue. “Your parents attended our university and I believe it’s the right place for you.” Luna set down her coffee.
“Look, Anya, if I believe you, why do you think it’s the right place for me?”
“Because of this,” Before Luna could even blink, Anya conjured a blue twin of the monster from her dream and the monster leaped towards her. Luna raised her arms with a scream and the room exploded with light, her body warm and light. The light faded away and she lowered her arms to see Anya smiling at her. “You can do magick like your parents and I and all of our other students. I’m assuming you’ve always felt...Other compared to your peers?” ‘Other’ was putting it lightly. Everyone else could get freckles or burns from going into the sun, Luna just felt warm and energized. Everyone else had their birth parents and had siblings, cousins, second cousins, third cousins...A lot more family than Luna. Luna picked up her coffee again and took a long sip instead of answering. “You can find your people. The fact you grew up without being aware of your powers and have a unique insight into the world of the Vacants that most of them don’t have.” Luna raised an eyebrow at the word Vacants.
“Vacants? Is it like muggles in Harry Potter?” Anya nodded and Luna rubbed her head. “So, I can say no and remain annoyingly other or I can say yes and be uniquely other?” Anya stood up with a shrug.
“It’s up to you. You don’t have to mention your Vacant upbringing. I will come back at twelve for your answer,” Luna walked her to the door and Anya took a sniff of her coffee with a smile. “Your mother liked her coffee the same way. Happy birthday.” With that she left and Luna finished her coffee, wondering what the hell just happened.
At five to twelve, Luna stared at her results and the list of clearing places for what she wanted to do before slamming her laptop closed. She remembered the blinding light that she seemed to have conjured and focused on the feeling hopefully at her palm. If it happened again, she would say yes when Anya came back for her answer, if not, she’d be scundered and say no. A ball of pure light appeared above her palm and she blinked.
“No way,” She whispered before the light flickered out of existence and there was a knock on the door. She checked the time, twelve. She opened the door and smiled at Anya. “Hi...I want to go to your university.” Anya smiled before raising an eyebrow at her clothes as she stepped into the flat.
“Well, you have to be in accommodation for four so I would...Change. Your roommates aren’t the sort to underdress,” Anya glanced around the flat. “Is there anything you particularly want to bring with you for your accommodation?” Luna blinked, looking around and shrugged.
“Um, just everything in the bedroom and the camogie stick...Wait, does technology work at this university?” Anya nodded and she glanced at the TV. “Then my TV as well,” Anya waved a hand and the TV disappeared. Luna smiled nervously at her. "You didn't take everything, did you?" She shook her head.
"Your clothes are still here...Along with some personal items,” The insinuation of personal made Luna blush, knowing what items she meant. “I’ll wait here for you and then we can leave.” Luna hurried into her room to see her clothes organised into outfits on the bed with a suitcase and shrugged before picking up her favourite one. She changed into the rainbow striped turtleneck and denim circle skirt before pulling on long white socks and green converse. Her clothes suddenly flew into the suitcase and she closed it as she picked it up before catching sight of some of her things in two boxes. She poked through the boxes before deciding to bring everything in them. She piled the boxes and carried them into the living room. Anya waved her hand and the boxes disappeared. Luna rubbed her neck with a sigh.
“Please tell me I’ll learn this spell,” Anya nodded before taking the suitcase from her. “Oh, I can take it.” Luna reached for her suitcase again and Anya shook her head.
“Sometimes I lose my grip when portaling and you could end up in the lake,” Luna hoped she would laugh and be joking. Anya walked towards the mirror that hung beside the door and waved a hand over the surface. “Time to go. We have already given your family a story that you’ve gone to university in France and had to go today...Ready?” Luna glanced around the flat, glad she had been subletting from her aunt and nodded. Anya grasped her arm roughly and put her hand through the mirror. Luna felt her feet leave the ground and fell through the mirror with Anya.
Colours swirled by Luna as they portaled to Maissac’s wherever that was. Anya’s grip was uncomfortable on Luna’s arm as they fell. Luna felt something watching her and looked to see the red smoky monster. She twisted in Anya’s grip and Anya frowned before noticing the monster, her face changing into a look of pure horror...And recognition. She shoved Luna towards a slice of blue black with a yell.
“SAVE YOURSELF!” Luna summoned light and threw it at the monster before tumbling into the slice.
Luna held her breath as the blue black that surrounded her. It appeared to be the lake that Anya had warned her about. She tried to kick up to the surface and found herself tangled in the weeds. She tried to stay calm and untangle herself but she only made it worse. Her head throbbed as she slowly lost air and black spots filled her vision...Until someone grabbed her arm and untangled her before kicking them both to the surface. She took a grateful gulp of air when they broke the surface and looked at the boy who saved her.
“Thanks.” She panted and the boy smiled, pushing back his green hair back his face.
“No problem. Professor Limbu, I’m guessing?” He inquired, his accent screaming New York. Luna nodded as they swam to the shore where a boy with a haughty expression sat with a large tome with gold lettering.
“You’d think a professor would know how not to drop a student in the lake,” The other boy drawled in an English accent that made Luna’s walls go up, perfecting his already perfect ash brown hair and Luna rolled her eyes at him as she got out. His blue eyes flicked over her with a snort. “You look like a Vacant. Where are you even from?” Luna flipped her hair, spraying him with water.
“Northern Ireland, now excuse me,” Luna turned to the green haired boy. “Seriously, thank you for helping me...Do you know where I go? I think I should tell someone that Professor Limbu was fighting some wee red smoke monster thing when I fell in there.” The other boy sighed, putting away his book in his leather satchel.
“You need to dry off first,” He waved his hand at her and her clothes dried. “Now, I will bring you to Professor Bishop since I have to go there anyway,” He glanced at the green haired boy. “Are you coming or are you going to look for some more damsels in distress to save?” Luna raised her eyebrows before offering her hand to the green haired boy.
“I’m Luna Moon, what’s your name?” He shook her hand with a grin.
“Finn Jones," He glanced at the other boy. “What about you?” The boy flushed before answering a very haughty tone.
“Bishop. Beckett Bishop, Professor Bishop is my sister. Now, are we going to let her know there is a professor being attacked or just stay here swapping our life stories?” He turned and walked off. Luna followed him, her eyes flicking Finn.
“What’s up his ass?” Finn stuck his tongue between his teeth before answering.
“He was about to jump in when I did. Maybe he wanted to be the hero.” She frowned at Beckett ahead of them and wondered why he was upset about not saving her when he clearly thought she was beneath him.
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[ attractiveness everywhere, stupidity everywhere ] — kang taehyun
pairing: kang taehyun x gn! reader. genre: fluff, crack. warning: mention of bugs, mc doesn't have any friends. for: @ficscafe's dialogue prompt event. word count: 1960 note: obviously i wasn't sure how to end this T_T
prompts: #22: "stop staring, it’s creepy" + #23: "what the hell are you wearing?" + #25: "you got something on your face." "what? where?" "your stupidity. it’s everywhere."
You shrieked at the sight of a tick crawling up your leg, and immediately began swatting at the skin in an attempt to slap it and any comrades that might have kept it company off of you. As a cold breeze passed, you brought your knees up to your chest and wrapped your arms around yourself in a hug. The thought of more ticks crawling all over you, consuming your blood and body in their tiny, red glory, sent shivers to your spine. The wait for your guardian to come pick you up from school was beginning to feel endless, and although the sun was shining, the warmth was certainly not existent on this particular day.
The thought of having to wait longer in the chilly weather only produced more thoughts of ticks and ants and other bugs finding the time to crawl on you. Anxiously, you dusted off your tutu skirt and legs once more, and even your jean jacket every few minutes. You thought that waiting at a nearby cafe instead of at the high school grounds was a better option, considering you refused to let any of your peers find out that you were still being picked up by someone. But you weren't expecting to become the seven course meal for some ticks.
The sunlight began to beam down. You were gracious for the heat to finally be hitting your shivering physique, but immediately became irritated at the brightness that you were sure would blind you if you sat at the table for another half and hour. You rose a hand to your head, trying to block out the sunlight, and caught sight of a boy from your school making his way over.
You realized who it was, and your knees began to tingle. You were eighty-five percent sure that the tick hadn't bit you, and that the twinkling panic in your body was due to the pretty guy plopping down in one of the seats across the table. Taehyun shuffled through his backpack, pulling out some snacks.
The desire to impress one of the cool kids from you school flew in like a pigeon at the sight of bread. You leaned back in your chair, legs crossed in what you hoped was a sexy angle, and twirled a piece of your hair around your fingertips. Before you realized what you were doing, you made a mental note of everything that was attractive about taehyun; his half brown, half blonde hair, his pearly whites, and his gentle but assertive hands. overall, his face was amazing. You mumbled to yourself as you watched him eat his animal crackers, unaware of just how creepy you appeared.
"Is there something you need?" Taehyun looked up from his notebook and sighed. He picked up his pack of crackers and held them out to you. "Are you hungry? Do you want some?" He waved the food in front of your face.
You were left dumbfounded. The tone of his voice made you feel like you were some kind of wild animal trying to prey on him, and he was trying to distract you in order to escape. You knew you weren't the best around people, but never predicted that the boy you'd seen people swoon over for ages talked to others like they were beneath him. "No, I don't want anything from you." It came out much more rude than you had intended. perhaps you were something feral, and your defensive instincts had kicked in.
Taehyun blinked twice before setting his pack of crackers back down. "Stop staring, it's creepy." Then he looked down, taking note of your appearance. He had never seen someone combine a jean jacket and a tutu skirt in forty degree weather. "What the hell are you wearing?"
Feeling self-conscious, you pulled your knees up to your chest again, tugging at your skirt. "What? You think I'm weird or something?" You weren't trying to sound so targeted, but you were used to people picking on your taste in everything, and attacking first had become your immediate reaction to others. "You don't have to sit here."
"Calm down," Taehyun held his hands up with a look of so much disbelief that you wondered if you seemed like you were about to shoot. "You seemed cold, even from all the way over there." Your eyes followed his thumb pointing over his shoulder to the nearest crosswalk, the direction he had come from earlier. "And it's no wonder. You're wearing a skirt in weather like this."
"I thought I looked cute..." You mumbled into your arms crossed over your legs. "Besides, you have no control over what I wear. I can show as much leg skin as I want to." You ended your sentence with a pout.
"I'm not saying you don't look cute." Taehyun looked directly into your eyes. "It's nice seeing an already attractive person in a strange, but nice outfit." Your face started to feel hot. "And you're right, I have no control over what you want to wear. I was just concerned is all. It's freezing and I know you're cold in that skirt."
"So you care?" The words tumbled out of your mouth before you could catch a hold of what you were saying. You weren't exactly used to people who weren't your guardian worrying about you.
Taehyun rolled his eyes and flipped to a new page in his notebook. "I would rather you don't pass out from the temperature right in front of me."
"My guardian usually tells me if it's hot or cold," You went on to say, no longer remembering that Taehyun was one of the cool kids, and instead eating up the idea that someone seemed interested in you. "The sun was out, so I assumed it would be better weather today."
Look at me, you thought to yourself, talking about the weather with someone handsome.
"You have a phone right?" Taehyun suddenly questioned.
Your eyes widened, a tiny bead of sweat dripped down the side of your face. You managed to stutter out, "Y-yes. I do. W-why?"
"Phones have weather apps, idiot. Start checking yours." Taehyun didn't bother to look up from his book. You wondered if he was still interested in what you had to say, if he had more questions after this one. "If you don't have the mental capacity to do that, then at least open your window and stick your hand out."
"Oh ok." You screamed into your skull. You had let yourself get a little too excited about Taehyun's question. You were brought back to reality. Taehyun was a cool kid, and you were a weird new student, an outsider. There was no way he'd give you his number.
The clouds moved in, blocking the sunshine that had previously been annoying you. Taehyun's appearance had made you forget about your irritation entirely, though. It was silent except for the occasional sound of the cafe door a few feet away swinging open joined by the sound of a customer's footsteps as they power-walked out with whatever they had bought. You wanted to talk to Taehyun some more, but wasn't sure what you could possibly say that hadn't already been said to the boy a million times —that day.
He was just that popular.
Taehyun jumped at the sudden sound of a slap on skin. You shrieked at the sight of an ant on your leg. Taehyun could distract you from the cold and the sunlight, but not from your worst nightmare coming true.
"Oh my gosh, they're eating me!" You wailed.
"What on Earth are you talking about?" Taehyun closed his notebook and put it away. It was impossible for him to get some studying (and snacking) done with you around. "You really are crazy."
"There was an ant, and earlier there was a tick. Am I gonna die? They've been attacking me all day!"
Taehyun squinted. He wondered if you were mentally okay. Maybe the lack of social interaction was the cause of your eerie behavior. "Ants aren't much of a problem, but did the tick bite you?"
"No, I don't think so." You patted down your clothes.
"Then you're fine," Taehyun started to pack up his things. "I mean, if the tick did bite you, it's possible that your legs could go numb and you'd never walk again—"
"WHAT?!" You weren't sure if your life was flashing before your eyes or if the sun's demonic brightness had finally gotten to you.
Taehyun stared blankly at you. "You got something on your face."
"What? Where?" Panic began to strike again at the thought of a bug crawling on your cheek.
"Your stupidity. It’s everywhere." Taehyun grabbed his bag and stood up. "And I'm starting to believe it might be contagious, so I'll go now."
"You're leaving?" You scrambled around for your bag on the back of the chair and followed suit.
"Yeah, my ride should be here in a few minutes. I'm just going to stand by the corner." Taehyun walked off. You stood frozen in place.
"T-Taehyun!" You called out.
"Yes, ____?" He looked over his shoulder expectantly. "I don't have all day," He reminded as he took a look at the invisible watch on his wrist.
"You know my name?" You didn't think anyone at your school knew your name. No one talked to you unless they hadn't been paying attention to what the teacher was saying and needed a recap.
Taehyun turned around and looked at you. "Of course I know your name. We're in the same grade."
Oh. You had gotten ahead of yourself again. "Taehyun." You fiddled your fingers and lowered your voice. "Can I stand next to you while you wait for your ride?" It was silly, really, but that was the kind of person you were.
Taehyun continued walking. "Yeah, sure. Stop being creepy about it." There was a hint of teasing in his voice and a growing smile on his face. You were so stupid and weird, and that made him want to learn more about you.
And so you stood beside Taehyun for the next three minutes, utter and comforting silence surrounding you both. You thought you looked like two strangers who talked to each other and stood next to each other like they weren't strangers at all. You shook your head, letting the desire to be close to Taehyun shake. He'd probably let anyone stand next to him on the sidewalk.
A black van with tinted windows pulled up to the curb. It looked suspicious and you wondered if Taehyun was quite the suspicious character. You also wondered if you should probably run as far away as you could from the van. Then the door opened, and you caught a glimpse of an older guy with red hair sitting inside.
"Hurry up, Taehyun. We're gonna be late to game night, and I just know Beomgyu and Kai are hiding all the good cards." The guy peaked his head out and eyed you. "Taehyun you have an interesting taste."
"Your hair is weird," You immediately shot back.
Taehyun turned around. "Do you need a ride?" You gulped as you watched him put his bag in the car.
"Uh, no my guardian should be on their way. And I'm not allowed to take rides from strangers." You scratched your head awkwardly. "Not that I would want to ride with that weird guy in the back," You managed to finish.
Taehyun chuckled. "I'll leave first. Don't wait here on the corner by yourself, though. Someone might mistake you for a prostitute. It's not exactly safe," Taehyun warned. "See you at school."
"Got it." You retreated back to your empty cafe table, and watched from afar as Taehyun's car drove our of sight.
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talk to me abt sharp objects calhoun day episode
bc it might b my favourite idk. idk which writer or whatever involved first went like “you know what. lets invent this holiday thing” but i owe them my life. youre halfway thru yr episodes, main character just published an article saying “the killer might be someone within the community” so everyone who read it instantly goes “so its DEFINITELY one of these two people oh boy!!” and then they all gather into the local rich ladys backyard to passive aggressively exchange some words until shit blows up. you just spend yr episode waiting fr that pot to boil over. chef kiss.
anyway im yelling at smth every two to three minutes because
the way alan (fuck you) acts all self assured coming into the ivory tile bedroom having reclaimed territory after adora flirted w the police chief but he asserted some dominance by arguing, acting all masculine and then adora lying in bed letting him have some after theyve been sleeping in seperate beds for a while so he thinks hes the big man now. but also once downstairs it’s like we have to go buy camillle smth appropriate fr the day. just girls alan youre NOT invited. you do have to drive us there though and then sit in the car and wait fr us outside. good i fucking hate that guy.
camilles shopping trip from HELL. first you have amma going like mammaa i am babyyy giv me attention :(( and bursting the bubble, demanding they listen to her when adora first refuses that. then adora immediately turning herself into the victim in the situation bc the second she hears news abt the article and experiences stress she starts bleeding frm the cut on her hand again (which the shop assistant also asked about. she had heard the fucking news of adoras horrible traumatic wound which kept her weak and inside all day.... she had cut it on a fucking rose bush ma’am...) acting all “uugghhhh im so upset youve made me bleed you girls did this to me uwuwuwu ://” and then icing on the cake, the shop assistant steps up with two thin strapped pink frilly dresses like ohh camille thisll look great on you i bet :) welcome to hell
the now iconic dressing room scene ft. adora snatching the clothes (bitch) and going like whaaat why are you upset just come outside we dont have time fr this :// and after being at least a little shocked @camille’s scars going straight back into “it hardly matters. youre ruined.” like oh my daughter did this to herself and its all to upset meeeeeee
back at home the moment of mb genuine vulnerability and connection btwn amma and camille acknowledging that living at home can be hard sometimes and mb they could understand each other and be like. supportive while trying to get through this. amma offering to borrow her a dress that both camille and adora would be approving of. tfw u just went thru a real mess of a family situation but you still gotta dress nice and smile through the day bc youre representing your mother and have to not be ungrateful after everything she’s done for you. aaaaa
the call to curry and the meaning of home... camille’s "i should probably just head home” vs his “i thought that sending you home would help” then shifting to “wanna come home kiddo?” aka home is w him and eileen, actual supportive parental figures who can admit to making a mistake and will try to express they love her, try to make her laugh. during their earlier call he was like great job on the article we need more asap and it then shifting to him actually admitting like maybe it was wrong of him to send her there bc while talking to him she feels able to say shit like “whenever im here i feel like a bad person” or “im not decent” and they just try to reassure her and help in response of what she needs. aaaaaa
everyone looking at each other. looking looking looking and people frm different little subgroups interacting by bumping into one another and splitting up again and making snide little remarks to their own private company. b r u h
camille in the prev episode first refusing a kiss frm kansas city and taking it into a more sexual direction instead, then finally making out w him when he dropped her off back home and adora was watching them from inside the house. now catching adora’s gaze fr a second before taking his arm and leaning in a bit more. adora moving in to offer him a house tour the second he’s left alone. adora then having slipped into this persona of seeming like a super reasonable and understanding nuanced woman w genuine concern for her daughter’s wellbeing while subtly saying things to maybe put him off her aka “she’s still recovering from a recent episode”. and camilles instant like panic when jackie comes over to tell her adora is giving kc a house tour and afterwards interrogating him in turn like haha what did she say tho. kansas city stupid idiot thinking theyre boyfriend and girlfriend now like wow those floors.. haha yeah but no what the FUCK did she day tho nervous SWEAT
amma earlier being so happy to hear camille wants to run lines with her like yes!! attention from estranged big sister!! but then during her big performance she’s not even looking bc she’s too busy cozying up to the other out of towner misfit. the second that fight breaks out no one, not even adora is looking, so amma gets upset and instantly switches like okay BYE. and it WORKS. the way adora is then instantly just bereaved and elegantly sobbing on her porch like a weak little lady because yes her daughter just went missing while young teens exactly like her are getting murdered but this elegant damsel is also in distress AT LEAST as much thank you.. and the way the MEN instantly run into the woods to save the day and presumably kill the *checks notes f-slur mexican out of town truck driver or whatever who’s been killing these children. go pick up some rocks to destroy thanks fellas youre doing great
camille also going into the woods and stressing out because she’s getting flashbacks to marian (and alice? idk they all look alike lmao), aka other young girls she cared abt and failed to protect, resulting in them dying. earlier w the people she knew frm high school we were shown brief but fully separated trauma cuts (flashes of different scenes) but in this situation past and present, real and imaginary are merging right in front of her and she feels helpless to stop it. if you just saw the previous episode you know it ended w her worried about finding amma in the shed, dead, toothless. and now she does find her in that shed (alive tho). instantly rescued and put to bed for pampering.
this episode spans the events of a single day but you see adora in three different outfits. theyre all soft pastels but her nails are long and red. we get into the drinks on the veranda scene which i cannot think about without wanting to throw hands. earlier jackie made a comment on adora’s “friends” being porch girls during calhoun day like. theyre not on the lawn w the common folk but also kept out of the house. you’re soooo welcome here but don’t fucking come in. and the way adora asked her to share a drink w her please, seeming tired after the drama of the day and now in her nightdress, in soft lighting, even starting by saying she wants to apologise. only for that to turn into hurt city central. im gonna throw hands with a fifty yr old. the whole thing abt being born to a cold nature, not able to get close which is such a shame and completely camille’s own fault of course :/ her then running off to kansas city whos so enamoured w this mysterious troubled but snarky cool girl image he has of her and fucking w her clothes on and the lights out with the closeup on “closer” carved into her bit of exposed skin. aaaaAAA
but also it’s in all the little things :)) like before the event camille being dressed in dark colours while adora and amma are in pink, the old magazine mother/daughter picture which camille wasn’t welcome in, only eternally perfect little marian. “she takes after her father” aka a dude you dont like and dont ever want to even acknowledge or talk about. but said only in the most pleasant way in passing :) / amma switching moods frm mamas perfect little angel starring in the play to “my other phone... dont tell mama” and the phone casing kinda looking like ann’s bicycle seat (white with flowers) / camille being so ready to snark back and deflect/ cut it short whenever someone tries to bring up a sensitive subject / “my scars will armour me!” and this whole play glorifying the martyrdom of millie calhoun. aka camilles “great-great-great-grand victim” and the bloodline and generational type of suffering for your loved ones. everyone just looking on and doting on these kids performing a horrid little play starring the ideal and pure heroine victim. the sick perversion and gleeful watchers of violence like everything is just fine. btw yes the kids had been doing drugs while looking at the dollhouse inside and theyre inappropriately giddy abt their little performance. also the next episode in the first five minutes containing a flashback to marian calling camille “millie”. i will yell
(also wnted to mention this video bc it touches on thought cuts and the LOOKING and having to keep up appearances due to constantly being judged but. it’s about other episodes as well so idk it’s a great video but i couldn’t neeatly fit it in anywhere).
(bonus fr anyone who actually read thru this lmao. when i think of camille i think of one vine and it’s this one)
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