#i had like three days of training too
telling myself that me being shit at my job last year was an act of anti-capitalist protest
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Honestly my SPNxLeverage timeline goes exactly like this:
Baby teenage Eliot finds out about monster and hunting cause of a First Encounter type situation out in the small midwest town he grew up in - a hunter saved his ass, so he started dipping into the business a bit here and there because he finds he likes saving people. Tells his dad he's disappearing on training field trips with the JROTC or something. Due to various complicated relationship reasons, his dad doesn't look too much into this
Eliot goes by middle syllable "Lee" in the hunting world, very aware he doesn't exactly want this people to know too much personal stuff about his life
Lee meets Dean in their late teens, they hit it off, and John takes him in a bit (in his own way - that is, reaching him to be a useful hunter to help further his own crusade)
After a couple hunts together, maybe late late teens early early twenties? Lee and Dean get almost caught sneaking around together by John (I personally enjoy 'actually get caught,' but I'm basing this off Lee saying he 'liked the crusty old sonuvabitch') and Dean freaks out and cuts contact
Lee follows up on some contacts John gave him, winds up working with some old military friends of his, who then kinda get him interested in "properly serving his country" again, and he's been losing the flavor for the hunting world since we really started seeing the toll it took on Dean and Sam, so he gives up monster hunting and joins the military - hoping to save more lives in a cleaner sort of way and wash his hands of his darker side
Turns out that was all propaganda. We know this.
From there shit plays out pretty much as canon, with the exception of SPN Season 7 - Leverage is looking at possibly taking on Dick Roman, but Eliot spots Dean on some of the surveillance footage Hardison's looking up and goes and has a talk with Nate - "look, I cant tell you why, but you need to trust me, this? this is not our kind of job. we CANT take this one. please, Nate, I dont ask for much but I need you to here me on this. someone else is handling it. let them."
The the actual episode with Lee comes up but actually Eliot is just posing as the owner of the plan for the con they're running - he sends the rest of the team on their way soon as Dean walks in the door and he realizes they're dealing with something supernatural (except ofc Hardison recognizes the guy that walked in and started chatting up Eliot has died like three times with a federal wanted dossier a mile long and absolutely does NOT really leave)
Eliot and Dean absolutely have nostalgic, bittersweet, kinda sad but also kinda healing closure sex that night
The big showdown with the monster goes down with Dean finding it instead of being fed to it, obviously, and when Eliot goes to rescue him he has to come clean with his work with Leveragr to prove "no no no I'm not really the owner it was a con! I had no idea this thing was down here! Dean please listen to me we HAVE to find the real owner!"
Meanwhile Hardison and Parker were still snooping around because sure Eliot's hands aren't exactly the cleanest either and the trail of this guy doesn't QUITE line up so he could be a reformed "specialist" from the old days like Quinn, except they still sure as hell aren't gonna leave their partner alone with a possible serial killer! And they get napped by the actual bad guy.
So then when Eliot and Dean go to rescue THEM, Eliot had to come clean to them about the hunting world and monsters and stuff.
And then at the very end over dinner in the roadhouse that Eliot now ACTUALLY owns, they discuss that actuay this is a good arrangement - Eliot and his team taking down the human monsters, Dean and his team taking down the non human monsters, and maybe they'll get together and help out whenever their marks stray into joint territory - like maybe the Dick Roman thing could have been a little easier if they'd worked together.
Also later when Hardison and Parker leave them alone to their dessert with a wink and nudge and Eliot swats back at them, and things settled into a more companionable silence, Eliot's sort of like... actually, I uh... look the other night... it was nice. It meant a lot, uh... to me, you know. But... look, those two... I think they're kinda "it" for me, you know?"
And Dean's first impulse is to say no not really, but then he thinks about it, and kind of realizes yeah, he does sort of know... and he and Eliot maybe talk about relationship and what they really want out of them and Dean maybe opens up about his complicated situation with Cas because he's finally got someone he CAN talk about it with and by the time they wind down around 3 AM they linger in the parking lot for a minute and maybe share one last, slow, gentle kiss for both old times sake and as closure for who they are now, and they grin, and Eliot smacks Dean's ass one more time before scrabbling away to his own car
And Eliot goes back to Hardison and Parkers hotel room, and Dean sits in the car and... and calls Cas.
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Inosuke and Mother Seeking
A few thoughts on how Inosuke has looked to other members of the cast for a mother figure.
Even deep into the Pillar Training arc (based on the presence of Tanjiro's chest scars from fighting Upper Moon Four, and since they're all three together it means they're at Rock Pillar training, so this conversation only happened days before fighting Douma), Inosuke is thoroughly convinced that he doesn't have a mother, even as Tanjiro and Zenitsu try to get through to him that before the boar who raised him, there was someone who gave birth to him and loved him enough to leave him with a name. Despite Inosuke's dimly recovered memories, he does not even have curiosity about someone who he cannot remember, that's the same as this person never having existed.
He's not covering up any conscious insecurities when he says this, because Inosuke does not have insecurities. He is fully assured in everything he believes, which is why he crumbles and has no coping mechanisms for when the world proves him wrong. If he says he doesn't have a mother, then in his conscious world, this is indisputable and not worth any anxiety.
He didn't even know he'd ever want anything like that until the old lady at the Wisteria House, Fusa, was so confusingly nurturing to him (no wonder she's his foster mother in the Kimetsu Academy AU). Even as he recalls some mysterious woman in his battle soon after leaving her care, Inosuke only regards it with mild curiosity. He's still at a point of assuming he never needed mothering before, so he still doesn't need anything like it now.
But he's been growing softer and softer over the course of his time about the Demon Slayers, especially Tanjiro. It's also worth noting that he's spent the greater part of a year residing at the Butterfly Mansion, where Shinobu has personally taught him Breath technique, treated his injuries, scolded him for breaking the window, etc. Besides Tanjiro, who plenty of Corp members jokingly started to call "Mom", Shinobu was probably the first consistent mother figure in Inosuke's life.
It would had been really nice if this was explored more prior to the battle against Douma, when we learn about Inosuke's soft spot for Shinobu it's too late to really enjoy it. He's grown more curious about the woman in his memories and has been projecting her on to Shinobu, the little things she does and says light up more and more of the dim early memories of his life before the trauma of being dropped off the cliff into the water below. What would had been r-e-a-l-l-y nice was to see more of Inosuke and Zenitsu on solo missions, to be there when Zenitsu punches the Corp members for talking bad about Kaigaku, and when Inosuke has a rare contemplative moment: deciding he wants to ask Shinobu about her pinky promise song.
He never gets that chance, and coupled with the sting of losing Shinobu, he also gets floored by the truth about his mother, which all at once consumes him with a desire to avenge her, and then so many feelings towards to her that he breaks down with no idea how to cope with all this. By this time, Inosuke has softened a lot, not only with Tanjiro's influence, but simply by having a whole slew of human relationships, something he's been starved of most his life. Recovering more memories, knowing who she was, knowing what happened to her, and knowing how much she loved him, was probably too much for the ultra-confident King of the Forest to take.
Which is really the only way I can justify how infantile he reverts to being in the extended epilogue, crawling on all fours and fully imprinted on Nezuko, a mother figure who very happily acts as a mother figure to him. Her timing in returning to such a nurturing personality coincided to a time when Inosuke has, perhaps unconsciously, found that he really, really desires this.
Now let's bring this back to where we know Inosuke is going in canon: he's taken an interest in Aoi, arguably one of the most mothering characters in this whole series. There's a part of me that's like, "oh no, please don't have him look to her to be a mother figure to him, no," especially since we see him so enamored by the fact that she made food for him. But, as I've written before, I really like the fact that he's taken in by how "strong" she is, something way more in line with what Inosuke has always very consciously seen as an admirable trait (and never something we've seen him apply to mother figures like Shinobu, Fusa, or Nezuko). For as long as he's known Aoi, it's also comforting that he's never seen looking to her like a mother figure. In the additional post-canon illustrations, the fact that he gets along with her by scooping her up on his shoulders to run around and be part of his adventuring pack (as opposed to following her around like how he's a puppy at Nezuko's heels) is also a good indicator that he only sees Aoi as "mate" instead of "mom." The fact that he's built this kind of attachment to Nezuko now also probably helps keep InoAoi from going in that direction, I would hope.
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WARNINGS: Slight body horror, Angst
A/N: This is a part of @awilddreamerwrites Fantasy Collab. I had a lot of fun. I based this off of Animal I Have Become by Three Days Grace, and BITE by Troye Sivan.
“You can’t go alone. You have never fought a dragon alone.” The young blacksmith’s apprentice holds your sword away from you, keeping distance using the anvil that stood between you both. You clench your jaw, eyes scanning the small building for any left over swords you could steal.
“I need the money. It has been nearly a year. Clearly Touya is dead. He left with no explanation, so time to live my life without him. Now give me the sword.” Your voice is stern, venom dripping off your tongue. Something that you said caught him off guard, causing your sword to slip from his fingers, clattering against the stone ground. You dive for it, your training with dragon fighting giving you the advantage.
“No one told you? I’m surprised you never heard from the town. Touya was cursed. He was given 12 months to break the curse before he is stuck as a dragon.”
That was all it took for you to retrace his steps, having known him, and trained with him for years, you knew exactly where he would be. You make it to the mountain, scaling up halfway to the flat ledge where a cave has been worn out. You poke your head in, glancing around as you see a shadow in the back move closer. Standing before you is Touya, or at least the face of him. His skin had developed patchy scales in a deep blue color, hands twisting into claws. Blood seemed to have stained his face where two horns have started to break through his skin. Aside from the blood, his face seemed unchanged. The same blue eyes stare at you.
“What are you doing here?” He looks passed you, his eyes slightly unfocused, as if he was in some sort of trance. “No one will ever change this animal I have become.”
Despite him being so close, his voice seemed far away, as if it was coming from something other than the body in front of you. “I don’t care that you are changing. I want to spend the last bit of time with you. I lost so many months because you ran. But I’m not scared of you.” You step closer, wanting to see if he reacts. He hardly moves, eyes still focused off in the distance.
“Don’t get close.” His voice seems more connected to the body, less faded. “I can’t control myself.”
You ignore his warning, taking one of the clawed hands in your own. “We grew up together. I know everything about you. Every dark little secret. I am not leaving your side. I will find a way to fix this.” You try to sound reassuring, but the cold, slightly scaly texture of his hand leaves you taken aback.
“So what if you can see the darkest side of me? That doesn’t make me any less dangerous. I could still hurt you.” His eyes snap into focus the second you touch him, feeling more like himself than he had in months.
“I can help you… I won’t give up. I am going to find a way to lift this curse. I promise. You will be the real you again. You won’t turn into a dragon.” You aren’t sure who you are trying to convince at this point, him or yourself.
“Do you even think the old me still exists? Or… am I too far gone?” His intense gaze meets yours, looking for even the smallest piece of hope to cling to. “Please… I… I need you. Help me believe it’s not the real me.” He had almost given up hope for ever finding a cure. His mind started going foggy over the last few weeks and he feared that was it. Seeing you sparked something, pulled his mind out of the fog. “Wait… never mind. Just go. It’s too late. I’ve already accepted the fact that this is who I will be. Go before I fully change and can’t resist the urge to kill.” He turns away from you, yanking his hand away and feeling the fog return.
“What am I supposed to do without you? I want you Touya. I just got you back, and now you want me to just… just give you up?” Your voice shakes slightly at the thought of just walking away from everything that the two of you had together.
“I can be the subject of your dreams. I will always be with you when you close your eyes, but only if you leave now.” His voice seems to be fading away again as he keeps his back to you. The longer you wait, the further his gaze seems to be. It was like you were what cleared his mind, and now you are no longer touching, he was fading again.
“Kiss me… just once… before I leave you forever. It is all I want.” You quickly reach out for him, an idea popping into your head.
“Don’t make this harder for yourself. Just go. I don’t want to be a part of your sickening desires.” His gaze wouldn’t meet yours, eyes still yet unfocused.
“I have an idea. I… it may seem corny, but… true love’s kiss… maybe… that could lift this curse.” You ramble, trying to form a complete sentence as your mind races, hoping that the connection the two of you had was true love. You set your hand on his shoulder, trying to clear his mind just enough for him to think rationally about the idea.
“Well in that case, kiss me on the mouth and set me free.” His voice is simple, and desperate for hope. Hearing your plan, he decided to just go with it, having no other ideas, and at least he would be able to kiss you and remember it.
Your movements are shaky, hesitant and clumsy as you cup his cheek. Angling his head down so you can press a gentle kiss to his lips. No sooner that your lips touched, you are pushed away from him, eyes burning from a light that could rival the sun. Stumbling backwards you try to find your way out of the cave while keeping your eyes closed. A hand wraps around your wrist as the light fades away. Turning around, you can’t help but smile as tears stream down your face.
“Where are you going? Don't you want to see a man up close?” Standing before you was your Touya, horns and scales magically gone, and no signs of them lingered on his skin.
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(LTI) Chapter 2: Bullshit Secrets
Summary: Memories of Aizawa haunt you ever since you came to face with him after nearly a decade apart. However, the space between you that was once there continues to grow. You demand answers. He gives you none.
Pairing: Shouta Aizawa (Eraserhead) x f!Reader (Illusionaire)
Quirk: Mind reading and projection
Rating: 18+, minors do not interact
Warnings: Graphic fight scenes, intense angst (this will continue to be updated as the series moves along.)
A/N: Memories are in italics. There is intense angst in this chapter with no resolution. You have been warned, Aizawa is portrayed as a bit of an asshole in this chapter (even though he isn't).
Soft squeezes around your middle and long hair tickling your face wakes you up before the sun has even risen. With a soft yawn, you turn and look up at Shouta, somewhat awake, the ghosts of dark circles framing his eyes.
"Is there a reason you woke me up so early?" you mumble.
"Hmph," he says as he lays on his back again, your head resting against his chest. "We have our provisional licensing exam today, darling. Starts bright and early."
"Did you have to remind me?"
A soft chuckle makes your head bounce up and down subtly, a soft kiss pressed to your hairline that makes you stretch against him.
"Thought you would've preferred this than me trying to wake you up later."
"How thoughtful of you," you mumble tiredly.
Gentle fingers dance across your exposed side, making you giggle and squirm from the ticklish feeling.
"Okay, okay! You're right."
His tickles slowly stop, a peaceful sigh leaving his lips. Like an invisible force, you're drawn to him. Into his loving yet tired stare. Into the arms that had already protected you countless times.
Gently, you tuck his hair behind his ear, letting your thumb trail across his cheek lightly. Slowly, he leans down towards you, his nose nudging your own to the side before his lips meet yours. Soft, slow, everything you didn't know you needed. The warm fuzzy feeling reaches your toes as your heart picks up its pace.
A soft pull drags your lips away from his, but not too far as you feel them against yours again like a tickle as he speaks once again.
"I love you,"
A simple three-word gesture. That's all you needed to know you were okay. You were safe within his arms.
"I love you too,"
Where had that man gone?
The one that promised to always be by your side, only to cast you aside like trash. The one that made you feel protected all those years, only to leave you at your most vulnerable.
Where had the Shouta you knew a decade ago gone?
You thought you would never get your answer.
A new day always brings new challenges. That phrase Aizawa had shared with you years ago still sticks to you despite the sting of his betrayal. And today was no different.
Not only had Bakugou once again tried to kill Midoriya during training, but Aizawa thought it would be interesting to add his protege into the mix. Your entire training session with Class 1A was productive chaos. Never had you met another hero like you, and yet there was Shinso, your next challenge.
While your powers differed, they were all the same. You could tap into the mind, read the greatest dreams and fears, project them. And of course...you had your hidden move. One you only showed to other heroes. And only Shouta himself knew how deadly it was...
Shinso on the other hand, he tapped into the consciousness through verbal pathways. All you needed was eye contact. However, once your quirk is activated, you need to speak to keep them in your spell. This gave Shinso the upper hand, breaking out of your quirk and using his own.
A mental tug of war took up most of the training session, one that had the rest of the class at the edge of their seats. Despite Aizawa's outward disinterest, he was just as tense.
It left the class begging for more, asking to see if their homeroom teacher could beat their trainer. Both of you quickly refused, ending the class with the same commanding glare.
That's how you ended up here, alone in the training gym with the one man you despised, glaring at you like you were the problem.
"Your quirk doesn't turn me to stone so stop glaring," you say as you cross your arms.
"Why didn't you take the challenge?" he asks blankly, his hands still resting in his pockets.
"Why didn't you?"
"I have to set the example,"
"Well so do I. Just admit it, you're chicken. You cut me off so you have no idea what I can do now, you don't want to lose in front of your students."
"I would never lose to some faux hero like you,"
"Faux hero? Who's the one hiding behind four walls of a school instead of living up to their potential?"
"And how's that potential for you? A pro hero who couldn't even save her own brother,"
You take a step back, salty tears pushing at your eyelids, threatening to spill despite your best attempts.
Memories flood through you, that day. How you watched Sasaki sustain his injuries after Overhaul broke your trance. How he died with his hand in yours, asking you to give him a good dream before he goes.
"At least I did something with my life, Eraserhead. At least I'm not a bitter man who has nothing better to do than berate their ex."
And with that, you left.
You left the dojo, the school, all the way back to the dorms. All of the students were gathered in the common area enjoying dinner together, even Bakugou was enjoying himself. But it all flew in one ear and out the other as you quickly entered your room and shut the door.
Stripping out of your training wear and tying your hair into a tight bun, you adorned your hero outfit. Tight black suit with even darker armour adorning the chest, shoulders, knees and elbows. A slot on your chest armour is filled with the belt of the sheath that holds your weapon of choice, your hood making its way over your head to accommodate the accessory. Fingerless gloves and combat boots finish the fit as you pull a wide case off the shelf of your closet.
Laying it gently on your bed, you hear a click of something opening. Prodding around the room, you found one of the consciouses you had yet to break, Shoto Todoroki's.
"Shoto...shouldn't you be enjoying time with your class?"
"I'm sorry, sensei. But I saw a look on your face...one I'm all too familiar with."
Turning towards the boy, you see the concern under his steely expression. With a soft smile, you wave him over. As he walks in, he cranes his neck to look at the katanas that lay among the silk in its case.
"This was the last thing my brother, Nighteye, ever gifted me before he died. I had just passed my training as a samurai, and he surprised me with these katanas."
"They're quite beautiful,"
"I'd have to agree, Todoroki,"
Picking up the metal handles with ease, you slip them into the sheaths in your back. You walk over to the window and quickly open it. Jumping onto the window sill, you take a moment to look at the boy one last time.
"I know you have a troubled past. But not all trauma has scars. Not all trauma needs to be told,"
Slipping on the other end of your window, you jump up and climb your way to the roof, using the creeping darkness to cloak you.
As the night progressed, you caught lots of thugs, car thieves, the usual from your earlier days of night patrol. It seems like every major call you tried to answer had been resolved by the time you got there.
So, you settled on the roof of a building, coffee in hand and a horrible convenience store sandwich in the other, waiting for another call.
A fury of scarves and a blink of yellow lands beside you, making you audibly sigh.
"Haven't you tortured me enough for one day?" you ask.
"Like you haven't been doing the same to me?" Aizawa retorts as he takes his goggles off.
Turning to him, your eyes go completely white as you poke at his consciousness.
"It wasn't my choice to leave me on the UA grounds on graduation day..."
With a harsh scoff and the shake of your head, your eyes return to normal as you instead direct your glare to the watery coffee. An uncomfortable silence barely settles when you finally ask:
"Why did you break up with me in the first place?"
Slowly, you look toward the raven-haired man, watching his face for any tell, any clue. He took way too long to answer.
"I knew we were going to break up anyways after you said you were going to be training as a samurai."
Aizawa turns slightly towards you, a look of shock exploding in his eyes.
"Tell me the truth..."
"It's not that simple, (Y/N)-"
"Then why don't we make it simple, huh?! Were you playing me the entire time?"
A sigh reverberates from deep within his chest.
"Did I do something to upset you, wrong you?"
"Did you even love me?"
Another long silence.
Another punch to the chest, but you wouldn't let it show. You swallow every emotion bubbling to the surface, the heartbreak threatening to show itself and rip your surroundings apart.
Gripping onto your lukewarm coffee, you throw it directly at his head before standing up, jumping into the darkness below. As fast as your legs could take you, you run through the alleys all the way back to UA.
Once in the safety of your room, you rip your hood off as uncontrollable tears burn across your cold cheeks.
Your heartbreak was mixed with suspicion, the silence between answers unsettling to you. No matter your thoughts, your emotions took center stage.
With a scream of frustration, you throw a katana straight through the wall without a second thought. Right into Aizawa's room.
"Fucking great," you mumble.
Yanking the blade from the drywall, you placed both of them back in their case. With your katanas and suit off, tucked away safely, you crawled into bed, ready to sleep the pain away.
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Beginn, Shed-ic Kix, and Jessplea Chapter Five
I Know I’ll Be Alright, But Not Tonight
You guys know what’s up by now. AO3 link below. Parts One | Two | Three | Four on Tumblr
Kix makes a mistake. Finn has a realization. Jesse cries.
Chapter Title from “I Lost A Friend” by Finneas
(Get your tissues ready)
Things had changed since Kix had talked things out with Finn, but not in the ways he expected. A few days after, Doctor Kalonia had found him while he was on shift and asked why he hadn’t done anything about the accelerated aging. In all honesty, it had slipped his mind. There’d been hopes of a fix for it once the war ended, but that had seemed as likely as the war ending at the time. With the pirates, it’d sprung to mind exactly once, but he hadn’t had the time nor energy to look it up when they’d been avoiding other pirates and running between old Separatist bases. When he joined the Resistance, it was a fact of his life, one he didn’t give thought to after three years of not debating what the Kaminoans could’ve or should’ve done with Coric or Patch or whoever was around.
Doctor Kalonia had mentioned the technology had been around for ages — ages longer than him, even. As long as he agreed to it, they could scrounge one up and let him age normally for the rest of his life. A life that now extended longer than he ever expected.
He wasn’t quite sure what drove him to say yes. Perhaps a small part of him that had never stopped thinking about it subconsciously over the years. Some sort of insistence within him to do it for all his brothers who couldn’t, maybe. Another part of him that wanted to screw over the Kaminoans for everything. (He still hadn’t brought himself to check up on Kamino, see what was going on there. He wasn’t sure how he’d react to the news, no matter which way it went.)
All that really mattered, however, was that he agreed, and, for a good week and a half, had “Wow, I knew medics made bad patients, but sit down,” thrown his way from a variety of people.
He still didn’t think he was that bad of a patient. The gene therapy wasn’t all that much worse than some of the things he’d gone through on Kamino or in the 501st, anyhow.
Regardless of his tendencies to insist he was fine when they thought he wasn’t or whatever it was they disagreed with, all the symptoms had passed. After many hours of him ruminating on how he called Finn “vod” during everything, that was. (It was habit, wasn’t it? But he hadn’t slipped up once since waking in the future. Did he really think of Finn as a brother? Was it a Phibreean response from deeply sharing like he only used to do with his closest brothers? He was getting sidetracked again.) In fact, because the symptoms had passed, he was waiting outside General Organa’s office with Finn, Rey, and Poe. For what, he wasn’t sure yet.
They waited in silence, at various stages of wakefulness. Kix was wide awake, whether he wanted to or not. Years of training demanded he was a light sleeper and fully awake within seconds of waking, medic or not. Finn, too. Rey and Poe, however, were both slightly more bleary-eyed, with two different levels of cheeriness. Despite this, the group had already determined that, while there was a list of possible things she would need the four of them for, there wasn’t anything they’d been able to pin down exactly.
Soon enough but also not soon enough, the door opened and Nien Nunb and a few other pilots stepped out. They offered their “good mornings,” and headed on their way. As they disappeared down the hallway, the General waved them in.
“Good morning, you four,” she greeted as she took a seat at her desk. They remained standing in a line on the other side.
They greeted her in kind, then she got straight to business.
“As I’m sure the three of you are aware of by now, Finn,” she tilted her head toward him, “is beginning to plan a stormtrooper rebellion. I’ve heard all of you have volunteered to help him out when the time comes. To help prepare for the high amounts of fieldwork that will involve, we wanted to start sending the four of you on some smaller-scale missions to work out the squad dynamic before anything large scale happens.”
“That sounds like a good plan,” Poe commented. “Can’t say we’ve trained with the four of us, though we have done so in twos or threes. It’ll help us get a feel for what works best.”
Kix nodded. That made sense, even if he hadn’t been “in the field” since the pirates, or — if he wanted to be literal — since Anaxes and Commander Cody had gotten hurt. Plus, it didn’t sound like they were being sent to a battlefield — not that the Resistance had any active ones, anyway — so he could ease himself back into it.
“Now,” General Organa shifted slightly, “I know it’s been a while, Kix, since you’ve left base. I am also aware that, given the nature of things, there are places you aren’t going to want to visit. So my question is, and this is totally up to you, would you be fine going to Umbara?”
He stiffened on reflex. Taking a deep breath and trying to relax didn’t help. Great.
Momentarily, he wished he’d given a more detailed outline of his life before the accidental time travel when he’d spoken to High Command all that time ago. He knew the Empire had messed with documents over the years, that whole campaigns he’d known he’d written reports for didn’t exist in the old databanks anymore if they weren’t messed with beyond understanding. It was a choice, he reminded himself, on whether or not he wanted to go. She’d phrased it as a question, not a command.
He took another deep breath, steeled himself, and answered. “With all due respect, sir, no. Over the years there have been many planets I’ve sworn not to visit again and have eventually had to break that. But that is one planet I will never visit again.”
The room was quiet as they comprehended his words, words he meant. While he was still on Kamino when the war started, the Second Battle of Geonosis was enough for him to understand the handful of troopers older than him in the 501st and their disdain for the planet even before they had returned. And yet, he’d gone back with the pirates once. Similar things with a handful of other places they’d campaigned during the war, only to be brought back looking for battle droids and scraps of tanks and such with the crew.
Kamino was one place he found he wouldn’t mind going back — only to make sure everything was absolutely shut down, though.
He could feel the other three glancing at him. They undoubtedly had questions, but, if past interactions were anything to go by, they wouldn’t push it.
“That’s fine,” General Organa said smoothly. “We’ll have to create a better list, if you’d like, afterward. It’s not too uncommon of a thing among other members, especially those who lived during Imperial times. Finn, for instance, won’t go to Jakku again unless absolutely necessary.”
Said man scrunched his nose. “Junkyard desert planets.”
“I’m not having this conversation again,” Rey said, crossing her arms.
“I didn’t say you had to.”
Kix felt himself give a ghost of a smile as his train of thought thankfully switched from a dark, shadowy planet to a certain Jedi and his dislike of bright, sandy places.
Looking back at the General, she seemed to be barely withholding a fond but exasperated eye roll. “So?” she asked.
He cleared his throat. “Yeah, that will work.”
She smiled benevolently, giving a small nod. “Luckily, I had a few options planned. This next one is an unnamed planet, but you might recognize the coordinates.” She passed him a datapad with them listed, as well as some other basic information.
A glance over it and he responded. “Looks like most unnamed planets. Not one I recognize, so I’m fine going there.”
With that, they launched into a proper briefing, reminiscent of so many Kix experienced in the past.
A few hours later at midday — by Galactic Standard Time; locally, it was about midnight— Kix found himself falling into old pre-campaign habits. Double-checking the fit of his vambraces, putting his armor on in a specific order for the first time since he’d joined the Resistance. Not the first time he’d taken it out, as he’d looked it over often. But the first time putting it and the memories on again.
Naturally, things had changed. He no longer had his helmet, it being lost wherever the Separatists had taken it on board the ship and the pirates barely escaping the collapsing ship when they found him as it was. He couldn’t do one final check on the medical supplies with the rest of the medics anymore. Jesse wasn’t there to punch the medic symbol on his spaulder because of his superstition that it’d keep him safe. No Hardcase to pat the top of their helmets before they loaded onto a gunship.
(But it’d been a long time since he’d gotten to see his brothers do that, the latter even longer.)
Still, he had his own things he could still do. The ones he kept up with the pirates, even some of his brothers’ habits adapted to do it himself. It wasn’t quite the same, but it kept them in his memory.
Soon enough, he grabbed a pack from the medbay and headed to the hangar. People rushed around, pilots, engineers, crew members, and a handful of droids. In all, not too different from the hangar on the Resolute, just not on a Star Destroyer, and the lack of people sharing the same face. Across the bustling, Kix spotted Finn, Rey, and Poe standing outside a ship while Beebee-ate rolled in circles around them, likely beeping away in binary.
As he approached them, the trio turned toward him. Rey gave him a small wave while Finn gave him a bigger wave.
“Nice armor,” Poe greeted, “but I thought medics weren’t shadow troopers. Or, at least, not as field medics. And that they didn’t have blue on their armor.”
Kix quirked an eyebrow his way. “I was an infantry combat medic; this is the same armor I’ve had since Kamino. The majority of it, at least. I just painted the white over with black after everything. The blue paint’s been here much longer than the black paint.”
Not to mention the various scrapes and scuffs accumulated over the years, from both the Clone Wars and his time with the pirates. In fact, there was a tough scuff back from when he was a shiny on his shin he still hadn’t managed to rebuff well enough, no matter how much effort he put into it.
“That’s what I was thinking, I just—” Poe shrugged. “You never know. Especially with how much the Empire and First Order has changed in documents.”
They set about with final preparations for the hyperspace trip. Rey and Poe started pre-flight checks while Beebee-ate beeped at them, disappointed he couldn’t co-pilot with them this time.
“You’ve still got our coordinates,” Rey reminded the round droid. “There’s a reason you’re here.”
“Plus,” Finn added as the ship started to take off and head for the atmosphere, “it’s not like Poe’s going to go somewhere without you.”
Jakku, the droid beeped back softly. All the way to Takodana and until we got back to D’Qar.
“Hey, that wasn’t really voluntary, buddy,” Poe responded.
Kix squinted at Beebee-ate. There was a story about Jakku and with the little information he had, he wasn’t sure if he wanted to know or not.
Right as they exited the atmosphere and were preparing for the hyperspace jump, Finn bristled and shared a look with Rey.
“What?” Kix found himself asking. Something Jedi was going on.
“I have a bad feeling ab—”
“Don’t finish that sentence.” And there was the answer.
Now it was Finn’s turn to ask, “What?”
“Every time one of the generals said that, everything went wrong. So don’t say it.”
“That’s not how the Force works, Kix,” Rey said. She had turned back to the controls and they made the jump.
He crossed his arms. “Mm, my experience says otherwise.”
Finn gave him half a smile and changed the subject.
Despite the bad feeling Finn and Rey had gotten, the flight had gone smoothly. The landing had gone smoothly, thanks to the co-piloting of Poe and Rey. Beebee-ate had beeped indignantly when told to stay with the ship and keep it running just in case, but that had been expected.
Snow-covered but not all that sparking like various snow planets Finn had visited, a few bases remained from Imperial times. Rumor had it the First Order had either set up a temporary camp there recently but were gone now or the base had information the First Order was seeking out. General Organa had sent them with a set of instructions for either situation, Poe and Rey bundled up more than the two former soldiers were.
Freezing or not, Rey’s past scavenger habits kicked in when she noticed a mass on the horizon. “If we’re not in a firefight by the end of this,” she said, “we should go check that out. It looked pretty big when we were landing, but I hadn’t realized we landed so close to it.”
She was bundled up so much Finn couldn’t see her smile but the Force highlighted her delight at such a find on a mostly barren planet.
Poe shrugged. “Fine by me, so long as the datachip we’re supposed to grab stays safe while we do so.”
“I don't see why not,” Kix said.
Finn nodded toward Rey. “As long as there isn’t a firefight.”
“Great! Now let’s go make sure this place was abandoned by the Empire and not the First Order,” she stated, taking off at a pace that left her boots crunching loudly through the untouched snow.
Poe started after her, equally bundled up and noisy in the snow. Finn glanced at Kix and they shared a wry smile, neither of them nearly as layered in snow gear, and followed behind with a quieter soldiers’ gait.
Only one minor incident that was more odd than troubling occurred right as they had arrived at the supposedly abandoned Imperial base to grab their data: B1 battle droids. Or, rather, the four of them standing outside, about to open the doors, when they heard in the distance, “Resistan—”
Kix spun around, fired a handful of times, then said, “Ugh, B1s are so annoying,” as the droids collapsed. Finn looked at him questioningly, and he shrugged in response.
“Are you sure you’re not Force-sensitive?” Rey asked. “You reacted to them pretty quickly.”
“Absolutely sure I’m not,” the medic responded easily. “I just, unfortunately, know the sound of B1 battle droids walking through snow well. Also, they have a very distinct voice.”
Fair point, probably amplified by years on a battlefield booming with only the sounds of droids, variations of Kix’s own voice, and whatever superior officers were around. Yet another difference in Finn and Kix’s similar upbringings.
Kix continued, “Plenty of abandoned Separatist bases means pirate crews, not unlike the one I was a part of, would raid them. With that comes auctioning off the still functional scraps we find. I guess some of them still had some droids around and they got sold to the First Order.”
“Left them behind as a sort of guard, maybe? Or scouting?” Poe asked.
“Well, either way, if they are from the First Order and recently, we’ll find out within a few hours if backup arrives. We’d find out our initial guesses were wrong and they already left. If not, well, maybe they got lost? I don’t actually have any theories for why they’d be here otherwise.”
Following that, they entered the building that complied with standard Imperial and First Order monochrome and blocky structure. Little dust gathered on surfaces, lending itself to the theory that the First Order had, in fact, used the base recently.
An advantage of blocky structures was the ease with which they made their way through the halls. The needed files were gathered efficiently and they made their way back outside. Between four people, it hardly took any longer than either some of the stormtrooper drills Finn used to have to run or other missions he’d gone on with the Resistance. It was great news for Finn; their team worked together well, and, with this information, they’d have an edge in the next phase of stormtrooper rebellion planning.
Soon enough, they left the building and headed back toward the ship, datachip securely in Poe’s pocket. This time, however, instead of heading straight ahead along their previous tracks back to the ship, they veered to the left and walked toward the mass in the distance. Rey and Poe headed out first again, Finn following, with Kix a step behind him.
Their walk took hardly any time at all. The closer they walked, the taller the mass grew. The closer they walked, the longer the mass grew, even more than one would expect from getting closer. Huge chunks scattered across the ground as far apart as they were could only mean one thing: a ship crash. Rey was going to have a field day with this.
Glancing back, Finn looked toward the medic. Kix, whose silent movements came more easily to him than a civilian and more often than not made an effort to be heard by others in situations like this — definitely a side effect of being a trooper; sometimes Finn had the same problem — was quieter than Finn had ever noticed. He raised an eyebrow. “Hey, is everything okay?”
Kix took a deep breath, jaw clenching and durasteel settling in his eyes. “This is a Venator-Class Star Destroyer. I served on some of those.”
Rey and Poe both shared a glance with him. Oh, right. Most star destroyers they knew about were used by the Empire and First Order, but they had, in fact, been used in the Clone Wars first.
Despite having every reason to stop, Kix continued on with them. The snow rose against the crash, no doubt from the likely-fifty-odd years it had been. Buried deep now, the site was full of lost memories and stories now unknown to the galaxy.
As they began to reach the first sections of the crash, small mounds dotted the field in front of them, hints of what might have been orange scattered among it. A single man stood in the middle and, on closer inspection, Finn realized it was one of the ghosts who followed Kix around, the one who followed him the most. Huh, apparently they could travel off-planet with him. His armor had the pauldrons and kamas this time, helmet off.
The snow crunched loudly behind him for the first time. Finn turned back.
He stopped so abruptly, he crunched the snow the loudest he had since they arrived on the planet, the only easily audible crunch since arriving. Eyes screwed shut, blocking out the world around him, breathing deeply, hands trembling.
His hands were trembling.
Medics don’t have hands that tremble — ever. A steady hand is the safest hand and the best under pressure, stress, and conditions like no other. Combat medics, even more so, doing so under heavy fire. And yet, his hands were trembling.
Finn looked away, turning toward the scene in front of them. Poe, scouting ahead, spun around and headed back. With a cock of his head, the three of them gathered to the side, giving Kix space.
“I’m ninety-nine percent positive those mounds are buried clone trooper helmets. He probably recognized them all the way back there,” Poe disclosed softly. That would explain the mix of emotions that had flooded the Force simultaneously with the snow crunch.
Rey pursed her lips. “Maybe I shouldn’t have insisted we came over here. I don’t need to check out the crash if Kix wants to turn back.”
“I don’t know, maybe it’ll help him? However heartbreaking that may be.”
She raised an eyebrow. “My statement stands.”
Finn ignored them and turned back to watching the medic, who had broken from his stagnant state and was now uncovering some of the helmets. He hadn’t turned back or insisted they leave, instead doing the exact opposite. Finn had a feeling Rey still wasn’t going to go digging around in the scraps anymore, though.
He dug up one of the off-orange mounds and pulled out a helmet of matching color and faded, scuffed-up markings on the forehead. Snow fell out the bottom, Kix scooping out the rest. “Oh, the markings... I guess the Captain really did go through with it,” he muttered, barely audible over the slight wind that had picked up. “Of course he did.”
“Of course he did,” the ghost repeated. “He’s a natural ori’vod and couldn’t help himself. We were all so excited. If only you hadn’t been captured by then. But maybe, somehow, it was for the better.”
The helmet was set down on top of the snow and he moved onto the others around it. White helmets only marked by dark scrapes and occasional dents made their appearances and Kix inhaled sharply when he came across the first of many. More of the not-quite-orange ones with the same markings. Others were grey-blue and white, each in a unique pattern. The sight of those ones drew Finn’s mind back to his initial research of the clones and his discovery of their individuality. So much had changed since then.
Kix was right next to the ghost now, the transparent-blue man not moving once since Finn spotted him, merely rotating to watch his brother. As the medic crouched down and began to remove the snow to the left of the ghost, he spoke. “Oh, no, vod. You don’t want to do that. That’s not a good idea for either of us.”
As always, the words fell on deaf ears. Out came a helmet with a grey visor and faint cog on the top, a direct match for the one on the ghost's head. Kix hunched in on himself; the ghost dropped to his knees, facing his brother and, incidentally, the trio.
Not for the first time and likely not the last until the First Order was gone, the Force itself felt like it was weeping, grieving. The urge to give Kix another hug slammed into Finn and knocked the wind out of him for a moment, but something told him Not yet. Was it coming from the ghost? That hadn’t been possible before.
Snow fell out of the bottom of the helmet and into the man’s lap, but the medic ignored it. Arms shaking, he lifted the helmet and pressed it to his forehead, hunching further in. His breath hitched loudly, clear even where the trio stood. The ghost’s brows furrowed farther than Finn thought possible. “I wish you didn’t have to find out this way.” He was blinking rapidly, frowning deeply.
Two names, so simple, yet so broken, the Force stirring and twisting around them. And wasn’t that a rancor-claw to the chest. Finn could feel tears pricking the corners of his eyes and he didn’t even have all the context. The ghost — Jesse, apparently, and everything rushed back, lining up, the few things Kix had told him and what he had observed in the man himself through all this time; how hadn’t he figured it out himself, it was so obvious now — starting crying, too, and Finn ripped his eyes away from the scene. Though off to the side as they were, it felt more than wrong to be watching what was definitely a private moment.
He caught Rey’s and Poe’s eyes again. They were both frowning, no doubt matching whatever facial expression he was making. He raised an eyebrow, Rey nodded, and they turned their backs on the scene, trying to block out the pair of sobs and heaviness that hung in the air and Force.
It wasn’t until their ship touched down on Krocca hours later that he realized First Order backup hadn’t arrived like they had been planning to watch for.
“Hey, Jesse, how’d today go?” He ignored whoever was talking to him for a second and sat down on the ground. Screw the Force-or-whatever-this-was for not having any proper seating. A pair of legs approached him. “Jess?”
He took a deep breath and looked up. Fives stood in front of him, a smile on his face which faded when he caught sight of Jesse’s face. “Hey,” he said, softer, crouching down in front of him. “What happened?”
He found himself chuckling humorlessly. “A lot, vod. A lot happened today.”
Fives pursed his lips. “Feel like talking about it?”
A shrug. “Maybe if Case comes over.”
“Okay. I can go get him, or do you want to wait?” When Jesse shrugged again, Fives nodded, then stood up. “Alright, well, I’ll go get him. Hang tight.”
The other ARC walked away, leaving Jesse to try and sort out his breathing again. Force, what a karking day.
Fives came back soon enough, Hardcase trailing behind him in his blacks, covered in...was that paint? He’d been known for his painting back when they’d been alive. He’d paint armor for those who wanted something more complicated than they could handle themselves. A few of the gunships had been painted by him, too, when the pilots needed an extra hand. He’d even gotten his hands on some flimsi, somehow, and often did small sketches and paintings for the brothers he thought needed them the most. Jesse had thought the last time Hardcase had been able to was before — well, before his last campaign.
That was something he was okay with being wrong about, though. Unlike how he had thought today was going to go well that morning...
“Hey, kih’vod,” his batchmate greeted, sitting next to him and leaning back on his arms. Fives sat down across from them.
Jesse snorted. “I’m older than you.” He wasn’t, but that never stopped him from arguing against it.
“No, you’re not.”
“Where’d you get paint? I was pretty sure the nothingness of this place lasted.”
Hardcase furrowed his eyebrows. “I’ve been finding paint and using it for at least forty-five years. Not quite sure where the paintings go after I’m done, but I like to think the Force is creating a collection of them somewhere. How didn’t you know? I thought I told you.”
Jesse shrugged. Maybe he did, years ago. Maybe even recently. He was too drained to really think at the moment and it was messing with any memories before trailing after Kix into the General’s office. “The Force will give you painting materials but nobody gets chairs?”
“I don’t claim to understand it, either. The paint that gets on my hands vanishes after a Galactic Standard day, too. I’ve been trying to roll with it for some time now.”
“As great as it is to talk about Hardcase being able to paint still,” Fives said gently, “I’m pretty sure that’s not why I grabbed him, Jess. What happened today?”
He kept quiet, watching both his brothers shift until they got comfortable sitting on the ground. Even then, he didn’t say anything, willing his mind to somehow think of anything and to stop racing.
The more seconds passed, the more Fives looked like he was going to say something else. Jesse took a deep breath, did his best to get his thoughts in line once more, and started.
“Well, first, we almost went to Umbara today.”
Both of his brothers winced.
“Almost? That’s good, right?” Hardcase said strainingly.
“Yes and no. General Organa gave Kix the opportunity to say no, and he did—” Two sighs of relief — “but they ended up going to the — going to the site of the crash instead. And Kix didn’t know so he didn’t say anything and I didn’t recognize the coordinates and only realized when we arrived.”
He squeezed his eyes shut and held his head in his hand, trying and failing once again to settle himself. A hand touched his shoulder gently a moment later and he opened his eyes.
“It’s not your fault,” Fives said gently, with a somber but understanding look.
“That wasn’t even the start of it,” was all he could bring himself to say. Another beat, another breath, another failed attempt at calming himself.
He launched into the other events of the day.
It took longer than he would’ve liked, but the fact that he had the words to talk in the first place was what kept him going. Having covered the briefing, he started with the ship’s take-off and recounted as much as he could. Fives and Hardcase listened intently without comments, yet still encouraging Jesse to recount what happened.
Time passed oddly wherever they were, but they still had enough of a clue of how much passed within the galaxy to appear at the right time. At that moment, even that semblance of time disappeared as it stretched yet raced through moments while Jesse gave a mix of a narrative and mission report.
“From there—” he cut himself off as he caught a small movement out of the corner of his eye. It was Hardcase, tapping his fingers against his leg in a pattern he recognized. “Vod, you can just ask to hug me, I’ll say yes.”
The tapping stopped as his brother faced him more directly. “You were talking and I didn’t want to interrupt you to ask yet.”
Jesse tilted his head and opened his arms, allowing Hardcase to hug him and — oh, he needed that hug more than he had noticed. He was glad he could count on his batchmate to pick up on that for him on occasion. It helped that Hardcase gave some of the best hugs within the 501st, and he hadn’t gotten worse since dying.
With Hardcase’s steady grip on him, the rest of the events came pouring out of him. What it felt like to see Kix standing in the place he had to see Rex stand immediately following the crash. Watching Kix make his way through the helmets and knowing there was no way he wasn’t going to see his. Standing on top of his own grave, feeling unable to move anywhere else once the quartet had landed on the planet.
He told them how, when Kix tried to set the helmet back down, Jesse finally was able to affect his environment. He was able to get Kix to keep holding onto the helmet by making sure Kix couldn’t let go of it, pleading with him. “Take it with you, you deserve to have it with you. I’m fine with it,” he had said over and over, knowing Kix couldn’t hear the words. That hadn’t stopped the need he felt to say them, the words escaping him almost too easily.
Nothing else, not before, not after, and no reason as to why he could do more than give shivers then. Kix probably thought his fingers had spasmed closed around them or some equally medical-sounding explanation he would’ve given.
No matter what his brother had thought, he’d kept it close the entire walk and flight back, not speaking again. The only sentence he had spoken came after they landed, telling his friends he had “things to do” before shutting himself inside his bunk and crying himself asleep, still clutching the helmet.
Jesse didn’t even make it halfway through telling them about Kix finding the helmets before he broke down crying himself. He rested his head on Hardcase’s shoulder and he continued, the words still pouring out of him as he did so. He had started and next to nothing was going to stop the full events of the day from being unsaid now.
Hardcase rubbed his back soothingly, and Fives hugged both of them. He could hear Fives checking in on Hardcase, too, in the lulls where he caught his breath and tried to recompose himself a tad more. (He didn’t know why he still tried to recompose himself; it hadn’t worked yet.)
“I just wanted to hug him so badly!” he said when he finished recounting everything. “And I can’t! Stupid kriffing Force won’t let me do it and I hate that. I hate it. I haven’t been able to do so or talk to him and have him hear me in over fifty years. Kark!”
Hardcase held him tighter, and Jesse knew what he was saying: he wished he could hug Kix, too. But since he couldn’t, he was going to hold onto Jesse for as long as he could. “We see him so often and yet I miss him so much,” his batchmate whispered.
“It’s like, I almost feel like I have survivor’s guilt over what happened. He’s all alone even though I’m right there. But I’m the one who died, the one who couldn’t say anything as he found out how that happened. Instead of wondering how I could’ve stopped his death, I’m wondering how I could’ve stopped my own or what would’ve happened if I had listened to him earlier on or even realized he’d been looking into what happened with the chips in the first place.”
“Deadman’s guilt,” Fives said. “It’s a heck of a feeling.” The irony was almost palpable in his words and Jesse was struck by the memory of a conversation they had had years ago in the opposite roles. Even after years of knowing Echo outlived him in the end, Fives had carried that guilt with him. It had lasted until the duo had been able to talk it out face to face again.
Jesse only hoped it wouldn’t take him that long, considering Kix just got a cure for the accelerated aging. But at the moment, it sure felt like it would take an entire lifetime.
“Wait, did you just say ‘heck of a feeling’ when I know I’ve heard you swear before?”
He could hear the smile in Fives’ voice. “It distracted you for at least a moment, so, mission accomplished.”
Jesse pulled away from the hug and laid down on the ground instead, but not before giving Fives a strange look. A different kind of comfort washed over him, memories of hundreds of talks in tents during campaigns. Some with Hardcase and Fives, some without, some with only one of the two, and countless others. It settled into his bones in a different way than the hugs had, gave him the final nudge toward recomposing himself. He would’ve reached there soon enough, but he gladly accepted the rest it gave his overworking mind now.
“Well,” he found himself saying, “there are two consolations to all of this.”
He glanced up and saw Hardcase and Fives share a look.
“At least he didn’t find out about what Maul did, especially since it was so soon before the crash, in the grand scheme of things.”
Hardcase inhaled sharply. “Jess…”
He shrugged the best he could while laying down. “I’m done with emotions now, you can leave. Vor entye, both of you, for helping me out. See you later.” He closed his eyes and took a deep breath.
“That’s what brothers are for,” Fives replied. “Plus, you’ve helped me out enough times. It goes both ways, you know?”
There was a pause, and Jesse guessed Hardcase and Fives were having a conversation in infantry-sign or the like.
“Okay, well, I’m not leaving,” Hardcase said. “And I don’t think Fives is going to, either. In fact, I’m going to hug you again. Is that alright?”
A beat. “Yeah.”
Hardcase did so. Jesse didn’t even bother wondering how long he held on before letting go and laying back down.
“What was the second one?”
“You said there were two consolations to all of this,” Hardcase pointed out, lying down to Jesse’s left. Fives followed suit on Jesse’s right.
“Oh, right. The second one is how thankful I am for Finn being a good friend to Kix. Kix didn’t give him the opportunity today, but I know he’ll give him another hug for me within a week, even if I don’t say it to him.”
Fives hummed. “That’s good. Kix needs all the hugs we haven’t been able to give him. Especially with how many he gave us over the years, both in the easy and hard times the Legion went through.”
“Yeah.” He took another deep breath. “Once I’m feeling up to it, probably in a few days, I’ll go talk to Finn. It’s about time Kix found out we’re around and want to talk to him.”
Hardcase beamed at him. “That we karking do. That’s great news, Jess. Then you really could tell Finn to give Kix a hug, if you wanted.”
“We can do it earlier if you want one of us to share the message instead,” Fives added. “If you don’t want to wait for him to know.”
He shook his head. “No, I want to be the one that does it. Though you can round up some comments everyone wants to tell him for when I do.”
Fives gave him half a smile. “I can do that,” he said sincerely. Hardcase nodded in agreement.
“Thank you, guys. So much. For helping me with this and listening to me. And thanks, Fives, for helping Hardcase since I wasn’t really in the place to do that. I heard you guys chatting a bit when I wasn’t talking. Thank you, Hardcase, for listening to all of that and not leaving. News about batchmates can be hard to listen to, no matter who it comes from.”
“Of course,” Fives answered. “Thanks for keeping us up to date on what goes on when you shadow Kix. I know that can’t be easy.”
“Anything for a brother,” Hardcase said as well. “Anything for a batchmate.”
Jesse never felt more grateful for the family he had, the bond he shared with his brothers. And they were going to work together to ensure their one last brother knew he still shared that bond with all of them, even after everything they all had been through.
A lot had happened that day, yes. But at least some of it turned out to be good in the end.
“Love you guys.”
“Love you, too, kih’vod,” the two at his sides responded in unison.
Phibreean response: Pavlovian response but with a Star Wars-eque last name
Ori’vod: Older brother
Kih’vod: Younger brother
Vor entye: Thank you (lit: I accept a debt)
I broke my normal cycle of posting works so I could get yelled at by you guys sooner. Go crazy haha, thanks for reading!
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Hey! Kamen Rider Fandom!
I got an idea for a Kamen Rider.
What if it was Movie themed? Like how Saber was with books!
It would be amazing! The belt would be based off a camera and film reel, the Henshin sfx would be: LIGHTS, CAMERA-! *the person says Henshin and presses start* HENSHIIIN!
I mean the main collectible/ gimmick would be similar to W, A mini film reel! it could be one, or two, or three film reels.
These Filmreels would be references to famous films: King Kong, Godzilla, Titanic, some indie films, ET, Star Wars, And even some Japanese Tokusatsu or Some of Miasagi’s work(I.E. Spirited Away)
It shall be named: Kamen Rider: Cinema! (Or Kamen Rider Toku?)
Oh and I didnt stop there: I then asked ”What if there was a secondary rider that was music themed!?” No not like Hibiki with music instruments, I mean music as in CDs, Songs and genres. There could be one form for hip hop, Metal, Pop, and even Idol music (like my favorite idol group: Babymetal) THE POSSIBILITIES ARE ENDLESS! His name will be either Kamen Rider: Sonar, Kamen Rider: Ongaku (or music in Japanese), ooor Kamen Rider: Oto!
I even had this idea where a Kamen rider would not be native to Japan! Kamen Rider: Gaijin! This idea was based off the fact that the only things that are Tokusatsu related in the US are Godzilla and the Power Rangers. The main plot of this would be that an Asian American male would have to go to Japan in search for the next big thing to adapt, however things turn south when he is captured by Shocker Industries for a terrifying experiment. He is then saved by a Kamen rider wearing a white and red outfit, named Kamen Rider Nativu, a government made Kamen Rider. When he said goodbyes and thanked him, he was then chosen by *insert any god here* to become a protector of the world, becoming Kamen Rider Gaijin! However there is a problem: this man never fought in his entire life! however, a rabbit based Obernoch who survived what happened in Faiz, and also speaks fluent English, helps this man (I’m naming him Takeo Harrison or T.H. As an homage to Takeshi Hongo) find what he calls: The Veterans. As he goes through training with several riders from each era and gains a little of their essence all the while fighting the usual experiment of the day from Shocker Industries. Eventually he goes back to the United States and tells his boss what happened, only for him to think he was only dreaming or going nuts(for comedic effect). However at the end of the show(where that scene happens) he aids some left winged protests by being their guardian. Just as Takeshi Hongo, The original Rider, has done in 1971 by protecting human kind; So too will Takeo Harrison.. as Kamen Rider: Gaijin!
So! What do you guys think?
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Summary: Ginny is an auror in training, with few hours of fun in her schedule, but when one night she decides to go to a guy's house and enjoy her youth, she is surprised by the discovery that she had sex with her boss's son
prompt: "You’ve got to stop doing that" "Doing what?" "Saying things that make me wanna kiss you"
"Mum thinks I'm dating you".
Notes: I thought I couldn't finish this, really, I found myself stuck and not knowing where to go with the story, but then some things happened and I managed to finish it.
Thank you very much to Dusk who read and helped me, and thank to @clarensjoy who made this incredible event to celebrate this incredible date!
I feel that this role reversal would be good to write, and it really was, I think the idea of Ginny being an auror ... Chief's kiss :)
Ginny did not have many fears, she had joined the Aurors in less than three years and until now she had faced death many times to be frightened by small things that other people could easily be haunted by. Dementors no longer scared her, nor Death Eaters, or anything like that, Ginny was no longer scared like a puppy in distress. She had learned to deal with situations, Mr Potter was a great boss - she would never say otherwise - but he also scared his pupils like no one else, saying that being on the alert was the best way to be a good Auror.
'Good aurors do not shake when they see the danger, they assess the situation and try to find the solution as soon as possible. Take a minute, and you will be dead.' He said in defense classes, standing on the podium with that typical scowl on him, arms crossed, watching the students trying to knock down the mannequins around the room.
But now, Ginny was mortified.
She felt her knees tremble, and she even felt the high heel in her fingers almost falling to the most manicured marble floor she had ever seen in her life. Her eyes were wide open, an immense desire to disappear completely, or to oblivion the man in front of her.
Her boss. Oblivion her fucking boss.
Ginny almost never had time to go out with guys, she went to the bar, drank, and then came home too tired to endure a round of bad sex, with some man who would cry in her ear about how hot she was and how he couldn't take it any longer. She would rather sleep, and later use her fingers, than have to put up with these guys, and clean up the mess later.
Yesterday however, it was a different day, Mr Potter, the most serious man Ginny had ever met in her life, was happy and told her that he was celebrating twenty years of marriage. They were in a distant village, checking a call from a lady who said she saw a wizard kill another one around those parts, but even that didn't seem to be able to wipe the smile off the man's face.
'Twenty years. Can you believe it?' He sighed, looking over to where the woman said there was a body, kicking what was filthy wrapped in old newsprint. Just a dead dog. 'Twenty years...'
'You look very happy,' Ginny said. 'Congratulations, Mr Potter.'
'Thank you, Miss. Weasley, and yes, I am very happy.' The man once again assured that the place was clean before checking to see if there were any dark arts nearby, or on the animal. Nothing. 'Come on, we just wasted time here.'
She had left earlier that day, Mr Potter said he was too happy to be sitting at the office table waiting for something to happen, and since she was his pupil, and she would also have to sit around waiting for some action, she could leave earlier.
Ginny didn't know much to do with that free time, she was usually always bogged down with work, so when Luna asked her out, she accepted. It was a nice night, the bar was not so crowded, there weren't so many disgusting guys leaning against her and whispering in her ear, and she was really enjoying the night, happy, laughing, talking to her friends, drinking, until she saw him.
He was sitting a few tables away, with some Arrows players, drinking and laughing out loud, drawing the attention of all the women around. At first, Ginny thought he was doing it to get attention, messing up his hair like an idiot, throwing his head back to laugh, talking loudly and rocking in his chair. But when a blonde went to talk to him, the boy seemed surprised by the attention, and even blushed, before smiling and politely denying, saying something more to her - this time, in a low voice.
The mysterious man looked at Ginny then, catching her in the act, his eyes behind the round glasses seeming to sparkle with amusement. He bit his lip and raised his beer mug in a silent toast. She did the same, wishing she hadn't been hit hard by him.
'Hello.' He said when Ginny went to the bar to get another round. The man didn't touch her, not even her shoulders, or whisper in her ear. He kept a good distance, smiling politely and ordering his beers.
'Hi.' Ginny smiled, leaning against the counter, feeling a little stupid for wanting the man to notice how beautiful her legs looked in those black skirts. 'Isn't the blonde your type?' She asked, a little sassy because of the alcohol, and also a little affected by how beautiful his green eyes were, stuck in her face as she spoke.
'No. I just came to drink. 'He put his hand on the counter, and Ginny didn't know if it was a way to show that there was no ring on his fingers, or just something casual. Anyway, she realized how all his fingers were free of any silver or gold. 'Is that you?'
'Too. My boss gave me an hour off. It doesn't happen every day. 'She smiled, shrugging.
'An asshole boss?' He raised his eyebrow, leaning on the counter too, now a little closer to her, but without touching her.
'Sometimes.' She joked.
Now Ginny felt mortified, standing on the stairs with her shoes in hand, her hair in a messy and badly done bun, and probably still with makeup traces on her face. Besides that bite mark on her neck. She was taking the walk of shame in front of her boss. The boss that she said was an asshole - sometimes - last night.
She had fucked with her boss's son! Merlin, how stupid she had been to overlook the similarities.
Standing now, looking at Mr. Potter, Harry was an identical copy of him, only a few years younger, and his eyes, of course, that were green. But still, she couldn't even believe it.
Ginny looked like a bitch in front of her boss.
'Good morning.' It was he who said it first, his eyes wide, seeming to try at all costs to remain in her face. Ginny suddenly felt almost naked, thinking about how that shirt was low-cut.
'Good morning, Mr Potter,' she replied, startled, holding tightly to the wooden railing, thinking about how Harry had pressed her there, almost fucking her on the stairs. Ginny swallowed.
The man just nodded, walking hurriedly into the kitchen, his cheeks flushed and avoiding looking at her as much as possible. Ginny ran out of the house as fast as she could, not even waiting to see if he was going to ask her out for breakfast. Merlin, she would see you at work in less than an hour!
Ginny apparated to her home, safe and without a boss catching her leaving his son's room, after having sex with the hottest man she had ever met. By Merlin's underpants, she was lost.
The atmosphere between the two was completely tense, Ginny and James barely met each other's eyes, or talked in general, she remained at her desk working with the papers they were carrying out, while Mr. Potter remained in his own office, calling her rarely .
Her career was ruined.
Mr. Potter would never refer her to any job again, and maybe he would trade her for the idiot Elliot. Elliot did not have sex with his son and sneaked out the next morning.
It wasn't hidden at least, she needed to work and Harry was sleeping, she left a note saying that.
'Miss. Weasley, come here please.' He called her, as he usually did, but now it seemed that all of her teachings about never letting your opponent realize that you were scared, had gone down the drain. Ginny could already taste the dismissal.
‘Yes, Mr. Potter?’ Ginny stopped at his office door, her knees trembling behind her pants, her hands sweating.
‘Please come in and close the door.’ She would be fired, or changed. Elliot the idiot was going to win the job she had worked so hard to get. She would never be a well-qualified Auror now, she would remain working only as a watchman for the rest of her life. Forget about promotions, trips to specializations, forget about even missions in the field, she would stay locked up in the office forever, visiting only the old women who always thought they had seen something.
All this because she wanted to have sex with a hot guy.
‘About today earlier-’
'I'm sorry, Mr. Potter.' Ginny interrupted him. ‘I didn’t want it to happen, if I had known-’
'I think if you want to apologize, it will have to be for my son and not for me.' James smiled, his cheeks slightly flushed. He took off his glasses to clean them, but Ginny thought it was an excuse for not having to look her in the eye. ‘About today earlier, I don’t think either of us wants to argue about or keep reminiscing about the event. Maybe we should just forget that we saw each other, and go on with life like that ... I think Harry was a little ... er ... worried about not seeing you for breakfast, but I didn't say anything to him. I would, of course, invite you to join us, but when I came back you were already gone...'
'Thank you.' Ginny sighed. ‘What happened in the morning?’
'That is why I chose you as my pupil, Miss. Weasley.' James also sighed, adjusting his glasses on his face. 'But I must tell you that Harry is coming to have lunch with me. If you want to .. I don’t know, leave early for lunch… I don’t know how your relationship with my son is… ’
'It's okay.' She tried not to remember that she had spoken badly about her boss to Harry. Harry's father. ‘Thank you, Mr. Potter, again.’
Ginny didn't want to prove that she was a coward running away from Harry, or to make Mr. Potter think she had any reason to run away from him. So Ginny stayed, stomping her feet anxiously and trying to concentrate on the paperwork in front of her, arranging everything in folders and in alphabetical order, handing out some papers over the tables of the other Aurors who didn't even seem to notice her nervousness, all too busy.
When the big clock struck midday and the elevator opened on their floor, Ginny felt her blood run cold, hearing footsteps approaching and people looking more excited about whoever had entered. Her hand was shaking like a beginner's, trying to detach the sheet.
‘Ginny?’ Her voice called out to him, softly, as if he didn’t want people to look at her. She thanks. 'You work here?'
'Oh, hello Harry.' Ginny finally looked at him, dropping the scrolls and keeping her hands in her lap, watching the boy in front of her. In the daylight he looked even more handsome, messy and dark hair that she remembered to be soft and smelling, a stubble that had pinched her skin in a good way, mesmerizing green eyes, a pink mouth that had done a lot of wonders with her ... The man was a God, looking beautiful even in jeans torn at the knees, a black T-shirt and boots. The cover was open, but Ginny did not fail to notice that the fabric appeared to be of the best quality, held by a single buttercup near his neck. 'Yes.'
'Why didn't you tell me?' He continued to speak softly, but everyone was already starting to turn their necks to try to understand what the hell the chief's son was doing standing at poor Ginny's table.
Now that there was enough light and there was no alcohol running through her body, she thought it was obvious that Harry was James' son. She had been so silly.
‘I didn’t think it was important.’
'Oh, I see you guys met.' Mr Potter interrupted them, which Ginny would thank him later, his hand on his son's shoulder, looking at Ginny and then at Harry, who had a confused look on his face. 'Harry, let's have lunch and let Miss. Weasley can too, we don't want the woman to miss her time, do we?' The squeezing on his son's shoulder seemed to make the man wake up, and like his father, Harry smiled.
'Right. It was a pleasure to meet you, Miss. Weasley. Have a nice day.'
When Ginny left work, it was as if a giant was coming off her shoulders, and she felt more tired than usual because of the tension. After lunch, the other Aurors did not seem to have swallowed the story that Harry and Ginny had first met that morning, and of course she overheard some guys saying that it was how she got the job of pupil.
Great, she thought, it was all I wanted.
Ignore the years of studying, the sleepless nights, the exhausting post-workout where she cried in the bath, the times she thought about giving up - and almost did - but was stopped by her brothers or her parents, and all those tiring missions that James seemed to do just to exhaust the Aurors and see who could still stand.
Forget all that, she got the job after swallowing the boss's son's dick.
Ginny quickened her pace, angry as never before, feeling that she needed to get home, take a shower, and do something to de-stress.
‘Hey!’ A voice called from behind her, and because of all the tension surrounding her and the training, Ginny squeezed her wand around her waist. 'Can we talk?' A slightly sweaty, pink-cheeked Harry stopped in front of her. He didn't even seem to be feeling the icy weather of March, wearing only sweatpants and a jacket, carrying a bag with him.
'What do you want to talk about?' She pressed the cloak against herself, feeling a little shiver, but maybe it was not about the cold but about the fact that the man looked even hot that way.
'Wow, you don't have to be defensive, I'm not here to fight.' He held up his hands. 'Do you want to go somewhere else? Maybe have a coffee? ’
Ginny knew inside that she shouldn't accept, not after knowing how he felt inside her, on top of her, kissing her body, sucking and licking certain parts, how he moaned her name and held her against him when he came, as if he wanted to be sure that she would feel what she did to him.
It was not a safe plan, it was a suicide mission.
'Of course, it will be better,' she said, ignoring all the warnings that it would not end well. Harry smiled, picking up the backpack he had placed on the floor and walking beside her, in silence.
His scent seemed to fill all around her, and Ginny had to work hard not to show that it was affecting her.
They didn't take long to arrive at the coffee shop, it was close by and Ginny's favorite to eat after a stressful day. All the meals were delicious, a warmth in the heart after a bad time. The decor was cheerful, in contrast to the gray London, the walls were colorful, the tables a cream color with flower pots in the middle, and it was as if winter or bad weather never arrived inside that environment. It was always summer there. The owner, Mrs. Rodrigues, was a friendly and adorable Brazilian, always smiling and talking to whoever came in.
'Hello, Miss Weasley, how are we on that gray afternoon?' The woman asked, with an accent that said she was not from there.
'Now, better than before.' Ginny smiled. ‘Just smelling your carrot cake, I’m already happy.’
'No, dear, don't say that or I will get used to it.' Mrs. Rodrigues blushed, and then smiled at Harry beside Ginny, fixing the white cap on her voluminous hair. ‘What will the two want today?’
'The carrot cake and the Pão de Queijo basket, please.' Ginny asked.
'A coffee, and ... the carrot cake too,' Harry said.
Mrs. Rodrigues wrote down and smiled at both of them, indicating an empty table further down, near the window and the various flowers that Ginny still did not know how she did to keep them alive, and the two went there, in silence, with only the Brazilian music playing in a pleasant volume filling the lack of conversation between them, the voice of some couples and teenagers was mixed by the environment.
'I didn't know you were my boss's son, I have to say that.' Ginny broke the silence first, looking at Harry in front of her, anxious hands playing with the flower pot on the table.
'If you knew...?' Harry seemed nervous for the answer, arms crossed on the table, green eyes fixed on her, waiting for Ginny to say what he should already know.
‘We wouldn’t have gone out together.’ She smiled sadly. 'You understand why, right? I mean, your dad is my boss, he wouldn’t see it in a good way, and my coworkers would think, in fact they already think, that I used this to get to be where I am.’
‘If you want to know, my dad has been trying to get me out with you since he met you.’ Harry said as if talking about the weather, shrugging and smiling, never diverting her attention. ‘I think he was just surprised that he didn’t know you were there, maybe he expected me to say that I went out with you or that someone would tell him, to see you there in the morning, it was something he didn’t expect.’
‘Did you know who I was at the bar?’
'No! No, I didn't know who you were. He was talking about his pupil, and all your qualities as an auror, and seriously, I don't think I've ever seen him speak so well of one of his young aurors.' Ginny wouldn't express, of course, but she felt a little of pride inside her, thinking of the times that Mr Potter put her into more rigid training than the others, just because "she learned faster than the others." He really believed in her potential! Take that, Elliot. ‘Mum thinks I'm dating you, after she heard you were there… She was a little upset that you ran away.’
'I didn't run away,' Ginny defended herself, laughing softly when she saw Harry laugh, imagining that she should be blushing like never before.'I needed to come to work, and I met my boss at the house of the guy I had sex with, there was no way I could stay for coffee.'
'You could.' Harry shrugged. 'Sorry I didn't warn you about my parents, it never happened before, and I was a little too busy.' He blinked, in the way that made Ginny feel like jelly, the slightly arched black eyebrow and the little smile that did it all seem a little too erotic for that afternoon. He didn't even seem to be trying to do that.
'What did not happen? You taking one of your father's Aurors to your home?' She joked, just to dissipate that heat that took over her body, and to remind her of who she was talking to. Son of your boss, son of your boss, son of your boss, Ginny repeated in her mind.
'That too, but I say about taking girls, in general, at home.' Harry licked his lips when the waiter brought their orders, smiling at both of them and apologizing for interrupting the conversation, placing the basket of Pão de Queijo in the middle of the table for the two, and the piece of cake in front of each other, in addition to Harry's coffee.
Ginny's stomach rumbled when she saw the delicious warm and fragrant Pão de Queijo, together with the delicious smell of carrot cake and brigadeiro, she even felt a little less nervous now that she had something else to pay attention to, other than the mesmerizing eyes from Harry.
None of them spoke much after they started eating, other than the moans of satisfaction they shared as soon as they ate the first pão de queijo, focused only on eating that delicious delicacy and letting the music take over their thoughts, as if it were normal for Harry and her shared a table in the afternoon, eating together and being used to the moment.
It was so simple to be with him, so familiar, that it scared Ginny a little bit, whenever she stopped to analyze.
'I feel like you're not going to accept that I ask you out, now that I know about your concern for your co-workers?' Harry asked, pulling the plate of cake closer and picking up a piece, looking focused on just looking at the slice, instead of for Ginny, and she missed his eyes on her.
'It's complicated,' she admitted, looking at her own slice. 'There are not many women in the Auror Department and they already think that I managed to be where I am, just because I did something for your father, and not because I deserved it and worked hard. You understand? It’s a little more difficult for us women to inhabit predominantly male places.’
'I understand.' Harry looked at her, and he didn't seem upset that she denied his request, he seemed upset about the reason that made her do this. 'But you know that you cannot live, listening and taking what they say about you as truth, you know? I'm not saying that for you to go out with me, it’s not that, it's just because ... Everything my father says about you, made me understand that he chose you because you were good, very good, in what you did. You know you are, and how you made it this far, is not what others will say that will change that. They don’t know anything.’
The days passed faster than Ginny expected, after the meeting with Harry, the hours were confused between studying for the test that would take place at the end of the month and working, Mr Potter did not comment on his son, and Harry did not appear for more. there too. Now that she was paying attention, Ginny noticed that there was a picture of the boy in the chief's office, Harry, a child, teenager, and adult, wearing the Arrows' uniform.
He also started to appear in the newspaper, now that he had officially joined the team, and it wasn't just a reserve, so Ginny ended up seeing him during breakfast, stamping the sports column.
She also saw him at night, before going to sleep, when they were calling to talk in the mirror, the two tired, telling about what the day had been like. She said she couldn't accept going out with him, not being a friend.
Although she thought things that friends did not think about each other, and sometimes Harry flirted with her, without much pretension, seeming to just do it naturally.
‘You’ve got to stop doing that’ He said, biting his lower lip as if he wanted to hold himself back from laughing, lying shirtless while talking to her, who was putting the books in the drawer, getting ready to go to bed.
'Doing what?' Ginny asked, taking the mirror from the dresser and going to the bed, leaving the candle light still on so he could see it.
‘Saying things that make me wanna kiss you’
'Harry ...' Ginny warned him, blushing like a tomato, only to hear him laugh and blink those beautiful green eyes towards her.
"I'm not doing anything, besides, your exams are next week, which means I'm almost close to being able to take you on a real date." They had agreed this, in fact, it was Ginny who brought it up. a week after the James incident, just because she started thinking hard about how good that night had been, and how much better it would be if there was no alcohol in her blood and she didn't have to face the boss the next morning, before she even brushed the teeth.
After she took the test, they could leave, but still, it was very public until the result came out. Ginny didn't want anyone to doubt her ability, nor did the fact that dating Harry influence James' thinking.
'But then, there is still a week to go.' She reminded him.
'How are you feeling?'
'Anxious,' she admitted, thinking again about how easy it was to open up to Harry. 'How was the training today?' He moved, the noise of the sheets making her think things inappropriate for that moment.
'Tiring, I have pain in my thighs.' Harry made a lovely face, his nose slightly wrinkled.
'Poor thing about you.' Ginny tuned her voice as if she were talking to a baby, which made the man laugh, something that always made Ginny have her ego boosted a thousand times.
Harry looked cute laughing.
'You could come here and help me, I know that Aurors know how to do very good healing spells.' He blinked, and this time it was Ginny who laughed.
'Shut up. Good night, Harry. 'Ginny felt and saw that her cheeks got even hotter, but Harry didn't seem affected, he seemed to approve of that.
'Good night, Weasley ... One week, I'm counting.' He smiled, and something inside her trembled in excitement and excitement so that the week would pass soon.
'I know you do, Potter. Bye. ’
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Could you do headcanons for team 7 trying to get Kakashi and y/n together by playing truth or dare because they can tell they both have feelings for each other but are too stubborn to do anything about it?
Ok but this literally so cute and for what??
• It was rare day off for all five of you when it happened
• You just so happened to be getting lunch when you bumped into them
• You couldn’t help the small smile that tugged on your lips when you saw the silver haired ninja
• The kids all shared smiles between themselves when Naruto spoke up
• “Will you join us [Y/N]? We wanna tell you about the last mission!”
• Kakashi apologized for him being loud to which you just brushed off.
• Sakura begrudgingly pushed closer to Naruto so Sasuke could sit next to her
• The three of them squeezing in the small booth to give you room to sit besides Kakashi
• His hand instantly went to the back of his neck as you sat beside him
• Pink dusting his cheeks as he gave you a little smile
• All throughout the meal, the kids went on and on about the previous mission they had been on
• It brought a smile to your face how much they admired their Sensei
• “You should’ve seen Kakashi-Sensei! He took them down with hardly using his hands!”
• After the meal was paid for, the kids begged you to go to the training grounds with them
• “You guys don’t have training today. What are you up to?”
• The three of them just sent little smiles Kakashi’s way
• The three of them talked in hushed tones as you and Kakashi walked together
• Sakura turned towards the two of you as you reached the training grounds
• “Hey, how about we play a game instead?”
• Naruto and Sasuke nodded along, adding in they’d like to play Truth or Dare
• Kakashi sighed, hanging his head as he reluctantly agreed
• He sat down next to you, the pads of his fingers brushing against your hand going unnoticed by his students
• They were giddy just seeing how close the two of you got to each other
• The game went on for a few rounds before Naruto turned his attention to you
• “Okay, [Y/N], truth or dare?”
• Naruto smiled glancing over at sneakily at Kakashi
• “Is it true you defended Kakashi-Sensei when a villager was saying rude things about him?”
• Kakashi was surprised by the question, even more so went you answered that it was in fact correct.
• “Oh really? Why?”
• “One question at a time.”
• Kakashi brought it up again when it was his turn to ask you, and his heartbeat sped up at your answer
• “Because I care about you, I wasn’t going to listen to someone belittle you.”
• The game kept going, when Kakashi decided it was time to end things
• “Okay, I think we should end things here.”
• “One more round Kakashi-Sensei?”
• He sighed, nodding swiftly as they all pleaded
• “Okay, Kakashi-Sensei, truth or dare?”
• “I’ll make it interesting and go with date.”
• Sakura quickly glanced at you, her dare making Kakashi sit up all to quickly
• “I dare you to kiss the person you like.”
• “Is this another attempt to see me without my mask?”
• “No. Stop stalling.”
• Kakashi sat up, his back facing the three of them as he turned toward you
• At that angle, they couldn’t see his face but with the way his head was angled they could see he had finally kissed you
• Kakashi pulled his mask back up before turning around
• “Why don’t you three go home? I think [Y/N] and I have a lot to talk about.”
• The three of them left, but there wasn’t much talking involved once you two were alone
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Walls to Scale (Tommy Conlon x Reader) [Request]
can i get a soft!tommy conlon x reader drabble, with tommy asking out the reader after meeting at colt's gym and being friends for a while. tommy takes the reader on dates across the burgh and shows her whats good and is just a generally smitten boy (and the reader is smitten w tommy too of course uwu) — Requested by anon
I hope this makes you happy, anon!
Gif Source: dicapriho
The only women who ever showed up at Colt’s were the girlfriends of whatever bruisers were inside duking it out. Tommy stayed well away from them, not simply because of this fact, but because they never interested him. They all seemed to be the same type, variants of each other and yet still working from the same base model.
So when you walked in, he found himself staring. You carried yourself differently, navigated the room as though you knew it. The man at your side, a middleweight contender, seemed disinterested in you.
What really caught Tommy’s attention was when the man stepped into the ring. You watched for a few minutes before you started calling out corrections to him, telling him what he was doing wrong.
Like a manager.
The second day you appeared, Tommy approached you. You sat on one of the benches, watching the sparring and the training with a critical eye. Your gaze slid to him as he stopped beside you.
“You his manager?” he asked, pointing to the man you had come with.
“The one and only.”
“How’d you end up a manager?”
You arched an eyebrow at him. “A woman can’t manage a fighter?”
“I didn’t say that.”
Gnawing on your lip, your eyes scanning his, you finally answered, “Dad died and someone had to keep my brother on track.”
Tommy looked from you to the man and back again. The family resemblance was there, though more in the mannerisms and less in the features. He stuck out a meaty hand. “Tommy.”
You shook it, introduced yourself. Tommy was surprised to feel your palm was rough. It rubbed against his own calluses deliciously.
He got used to seeing you around. You were diligent about making sure your brother was at the gym training for a minimum of five hours a day. Tommy kept an eye on you the entire time, his attention split whenever you moved or shifted about the room.
Tommy wanted an excuse to talk to you. Some of the other guys would wander over to try and chat you up, but you shot them down or pitted your brother against them. Your brother didn’t always win, but he ensured they got the message: You weren’t interested.
So the first thing Tommy did was come up to you and say, “I’ll fight your brother.”
You swept your gaze over him, appraising. “You look like you’d kill him.”
“He can’t get better if he doesn’t fight better guys.”
Having seen Tommy fight, you knew he wasn’t boasting.
The fight was over in three minutes. Shaking your head, you told your brother to pack it in for the day, the dazed look on his face telling you he’d had enough. Tommy lumbered over to you as you packed up your brother’s bag.
“He’s not quick enough,” he said.
“I know. He doesn’t listen to me. Didn’t listen to Dad about it either.”
Tommy nodded, searching for things to say. “You new in town?”
You hesitated, your guarded gaze sweeping over him again. “Very.”
“I could show you around.”
Your lips twisted down into the beginnings of a frown.
“There’s some other gyms,” Tommy offered. “The competition.”
That caught your interest. “Okay.”
For the next few months, Tommy took you to the various gyms, pointing out the competitors your brother would face. The more time he spent with you, the more you relaxed. You talked less about the brother and the fights and more about yourself. Tommy liked it best when you did. It was like he was watching you rediscover yourself, remembering that you were a person too, not just your brother’s sister. Not just the manager.
You helped him close up one night, your brother opting to get drinks with some of the gym rats. Colt stayed behind in his office as you and Tommy put everything in its proper place. Tommy’s gaze followed you everywhere, watching the way you concentrated on your task, the way your hands curled around things.
You were doing the same, surreptitiously observing the way he moved. There was a grace to his movements, much to your surprise. Beneath the hard exterior, there was something kind, waiting to have reason to trust—something you understood well.
“You wanna get some dinner?” he asked suddenly.
You dared to nod.
He walked you home, the sidewalks damp beneath your shoes from an earlier rainfall. The smell of ozone permeated the air, carrying with it the smell of drenched flora.
Pausing on the steps leading up to the townhouse, you felt a hesitant smile flutter at your lips as you looked up at Tommy. His blue-green eyes searched your face, intent.
“Thanks,” you told him. “For showing me around and everything, and for helping out.”
He nodded. “I know you don’t like dating guys from the gym, but I thought I’d ask.”
“Well, ask me.”
He licked his lips, the first truly nervous gesture he had betrayed. “Would you like to date me?”
You leaned forward and up on your toes, your hand curling around his neck. He bent down a fraction, letting your lips meet his. You felt the tension in his frame ease, one hand snaking around your back, pressing you against him. Though his lips were soft, his hand clutched the fabric of your shirt, desperate.
You pulled back first, breathing a sigh against his chin. “I don’t let just anyone show me around to the local gyms,” you teased.
A faint smile tugged on his lips, twitching as he fought the urge to grin. He was afraid to show it, afraid that betraying too much of his affection for you would shatter the whole thing. But you could see it just under the surface. You understood the nature of walls designed to keep people out.
You knew how to scale them. You’d let him scale yours, too.
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I shifted stones for 4.5 hours last night. Yes, it was Sunday, but the workers who are currently redoing the water tubes in the street offered to redo the garage driveway. Today. Two weeks earlier I had the idea to build a wall where the neighbour keeps growing nettles, next to what used to my compost heap, but cannot be used as such anymore because of the weed coming from both neighbours. The wall is meant to keep the weed including the nettles on their ground. Then this offer came up and I decided to use the old stones to build that wall. Especially now during the Covid lockdown where all hardware stores are closed for the general public. But every man chimed in trying to talk me out of it. The arguments were ridulous. I eventually said that the time when men made the decisions for their wives ended in the 1970s and that does not mean that now any guy is meant to make the decisions or try to make them for any woman. Grr. Especially unasked! My brother was the first, and he then spread the word and then any idiot seemed to have a contrarian opinion against what I wanted to do. The final straw was that the stones would turn into dust once they are removed from their space. I decided to rescue the stones and put them to the back of the house, halfway to where I want to build the wall, before the guys could put hands on them. Guys are guys and I feared they'd just damage them with an excavator and then tell me "ups, sorry..." The hardest part was to get the first stone of each line off the ground. When a childhood friend walked past with her two daughters, I felt I had to explain why I was doing this on a Sunday. They laughed and thought it was a great idea, both to build the wall and to rescue the stones. They later went past again on their way back home and I said that when I'm finished, I'll look like Arnonld Schwarzegger. lol Luckily I did two 21 days strength and body shaping challenges recently so that I was well trained.
I started pretty late, at 8 p.m., partly because it was 24°C and sunny yesterday, but also because I didn't want too many people to see what I was doing on a Sunday... At 9 p.m. I suddenly remembered that there is curfew in place that starts at 9 p.m. But I was on my own property. Then I remembered that the curfew exempts doing sports outside until midnight, and what I was doing could be seen as sport as well. After 9 p.m. I witnessed at least three people getting back to their homes late. One person walked their dog at around 10 p.m. The street lights went on at 9.30 p.m. and every second street light went off at 10.30 p.m. including the one next to my driveway. I decided not to switch on the light in the garage and instead let my eyes adjust to the dark so that I could still see the surroundings properly. One neighbour's motion detector switched on a light whenever I walked around the house, which was nice. It wasn't too bright. Behind the house the light from the other neighbour's living room was enough to see where I was putting the stones. That neighbour went to bed at 11 p.m., when the other also looked out of his bathroom window to see what kept setting off his motion detector. Then I was all on my own with the dark. I could hear absolutly nothing apart from myself. The work got harder and harder. At midnight I had only a few rows left, but feared I wasn't able to make it, but I had to get it done before I went to bed. I thought that now I know what people must have felt like who had to work in quarries. At 0.30 a.m. I dropped into my bed half dead. I have seldom been this exhausted.
The last time I dropped into bed like this was in London in September 2019, when I got my flight there early, spent the whole day walking around and then on the tube wondered how I'd ever make it to my bed and if I couldn't just stay on the tube and sleep there a little. And once I had made it to bed, I was glad that for a change I wasn't going to meet Tom Hiddleston three hours later. I'm always almost this tired in the evenings of the days when I arrive in London.
But now I wasn't just tired, I had additionally worked really hard. I felt like I was in danger to literally die from exhaustion. I knew that drinking a protein shake would be a good idea, but I was unable to make one, too tired. I popped in a magnesium pill. Half way through the rest of the night I woke up because I had drunk much water. Walking down the stairs, my feet and knees were aching, the mid section of my back and my hands! My body was in such alert that I slept easily, but only had one hour of deep sleep. In the morning my muscles were still aching. I popped in an A to Z vitamin pill, drank a protein shake and additionally had an oatmeal with cocoa. For lunch I ate whole wheat pasta, carrots and peas. Afterwards any muscle ache miraculous disappeared and I felt fit as if nothing had ever happened. I think this was the fastest I ever got rid of any muscles ache. Certainly something to remember. I had read that protein is important to build muscles so I thought of it as muscles food. I had used my muscles a lot, so they needed nutrion. Oatmeal, pasta and peas all contain much protein.
When I told an elderly female neighbour today that I had put the stones behind the house to build a wall, she also thought it was a great idea. Interesting, huh? All the women think it's a good idea, all the guys talk rubbish. The earliest I'll build this wall is in a week though. Right now I feel like I cannot see any stones anymore as in don't want to deal with any stones for a while. I cannot imagine what it's like to do things like this as a profession, having to do this 8 hours a day.
Two days later: it has turned to have been the best abs and back workout I've ever done. I feel fit as if I had five proper workouts at a gym. And best of all, I got something productive done, didn't just lift weights, I shifted stones. Now I cannot wait for the weather to become better again... it's raining at the moment... so that I can continue, build the wall and work out even more.
The Raven Haired Rebel
Pairing: Loki x reader
Series Summary: After invading New York, it was decided that, as a punishment, Loki would work for SHIELD. Yeah, right. After escaping from their custody and stranded on Midgard, the God of Mischief decides to prove he’s the one thing no one ever thought he was: the good guy. Now a vigilante, Loki attempts to make amends for his past wrongdoings while also evading the Avengers, including their newest member. You. Brought in specially for the case, you notice more and more details about the prince’s story don’t add up. When you get the chance to turn him in, will you listen to your employers or your heart that believes Loki’s done nothing wrong?
Chapter Summary: In which you plead Loki’s case.
Chapter Warnings: none
A/N: Besides this being a miniseries, all the chapters are pretty short too! Hope you enjoy all the same :)
Permanent Tag List: @lucywrites02 @frostedgiant @lunarmoon8 @twhiddlestonsstuff @lokistan @lowkeyorlokificrecs @gaitwae @whatafuckingdumbass @castiels-majestic-wings @kozkaboi @cozy-the-overlord @birdgirl90 @myraiswack @mythicalgarlicknot @what-a-flammable-heart @marvelouslovely @laurenandloki @fallinallinmendes @sophlubbwriting @mooncat163
RHR Tag List: @happygalaxymilkshake @electroma89 @stardust-walker @i-would-kneel-for-loki
Disclaimer: Gif not mine
Swiping into Avengers Tower made you feel important, more so than swiping into a SHIELD base. You weren’t exactly sure why, though. Perhaps it was because SHIELD was a secret, and no one knew. Here, the passerby on the street looked on in awe. Or maybe it was because the Tower was so elite. Because so select few got to enter. But really, it probably wasn’t that you got to enter so much as why you got to enter.
True, since your first day on the job, word got around that you were the best in your field. Fast as lightning, you’d risen through the ranks to be Fury’s top tracker, a position all but secured when he brought you on for this case. A case, you knew, that intrigued you far more than it should have.
Just like everyone else had on that day a little over three months ago, you watched the TV with rapt attention as gods and superheroes made themselves known to the world. And, you supposed, supervillains too. Not that you’d told anyone, but something didn’t quite sit right with you in the weeks after when news anchors and colleagues alike were referring to the raven haired god as such.
For the next three days, you’d pored over books of Norse Mythology and a number of studies. Most of the latter coming from one Dr. Jane Foster, who you soon came to link with Thor. But even there you found a disconnect between the god of legends and the bloodied man on your screen. He never really did have malicious intent before. He was a trickster, yes, but he’d not even come close to doing something this drastic before! Ok, yes, there was his involvement in Ragnarök in the myths, but even for that you’d found multiple sources that could debunk it. Besides, it certainly didn’t seem like Asgard had even faced the end times yet.
Alas, you figured Thor knew his brother, and you had your own case to work on, so you let be the mystery that was Loki.
And then you were called into Fury’s office a week ago and asked to begin tracking the god. A bit too eagerly, you’d agreed to take the case. You’d dealt with villains before, truly evil people, and your search only further proved what deep down you already knew; Loki was not one. Everywhere you followed his trail, a mysterious savior was stopping bank robberies and saving people from burning buildings and runaway trains. Not to mention there were multiple descriptions of said savior using green magic. It seemed a wonder that the tracker in the case before you hadn’t noticed. Then again, people tend to only see what they want to.
Regardless, you made your way to the elevators, heading toward the conference room on one of the upper floors. You tapped your foot as it ascended, impatient to share your findings. As the lift stopped and you got out, you tugged on your leather jacket. It was ever so slightly too big, but it was on sale. Plus, you felt like it looked pretty cool, considering your job and all. Subconsciously, you puffed up your chest a bit too. Regardless of actual size, you felt like a petite little thing, stepping into a room of now renowned heroes. Strange, you thought, how so much could change in just three months.
“You know, I got to get me one of those,” said the man suddenly keeping pace next to you. You quickly identified him as Tony Stark.
“I... Pardon?” you replied, slightly startled.
“Your jacket,” he said, pointing at it. “I feel like the leather will match the whole rugged good-guy, vibe. Besides, I think Capsicle’s got one.”
You chuckled at that. “Maybe we should just make it the team uniform then.”
“Team, huh? So you must be that new tracker kid we’re working with.”
“I’d hardly call myself a kid,” you scoffed.
“When you get to be as rich as I am, you get to call everyone a kid,” Tony shrugged.
“I’m not exactly sure that’s how it works, but whatever you say, I guess,” you chuckled again.
“See, now if everyone would just adopt that mindset, we’d get stuff done a lot faster around here.” He quickly signed something that was brought up to him on a clipboard, never stopping. You wondered how long he could keep up like this before collapsing. “Besides, take it as a compliment. That last tracker was some fuddy-duddy old guy.”
“Fuddy-duddy?” you guffawed. “Maybe you’re the old one, after all.”
Tony feigned like he’d been struck in the heart. But before you could keep up the banter, you reached the conference room, and Steve was waving you inside.
“Stark,” he said with a nod. “Are you ready to begin or are you going to keep distracting our new teammate?”
“Aye aye, Captain,” he said with a little salute. “Reporting for duty.”
You mouthed a sorry as you followed Stark into the room. Even if the rest of them turned out to be hard-asses, at least Tony was fun. And having one ally was better than none, you figured. As you took your seat across from your new friend, you flipped through the file that had been left for you. It wasn’t really anything new, so you glanced at your teammates again. Nat and Clint both nodded at you, recognizing you from a couple other missions you’d interacted during. There wasn’t really any time to talk, however, before Captain Rogers was walking to the head of the long table.
“Alright, team. Before we get started, I think it’s worth mentioning we have a new member on the team,” Steve said, before welcoming you by name. “I think we’re all caught up on the situation here, so let’s dive right in. A new trend has shown up in the Tower’s data mining.”
“Data analysis,” Tony butt in. “It sounds more ethical that way.”
“Whatever you want to call it, the program showed that wherever Loki goes, there’s a spike in activity of an organization calling themselves AIM. At first glance they seem innocent, but after some digging, we’ve found they’re anything but. We’ve determined Loki is working with them, perhaps even masterminding some of their more underground projects. Agent? Can we assume you found the same things?”
“Uh, yeah, no. Actually, my data shows the opposite,” you cleared your throat. Standing, you slid the information from your tablet onto the room’s TV screen. “See, it seems that he’s actually doing good deeds. There are multiple accounts of a man fitting Loki’s description performing heroic works.”
“Ok, I’ll bite,” Tony said, leaning forward. “What about AIM then? You think it’s a coincidence.”
You bit your lip. “I’ll admit, I haven’t found anything about them yet. But... maybe, just maybe, Loki’s showing up where they are because he’s trying to stop them.”
“I am so sorry to interrupt, but that does not sound like the Loki I know at all,” Thor laughed. “A wonderful joke, though.”
Now you were getting mad. You shouldn’t be, but you saw something worth defending in Loki. A lot, actually. There was something about that look in his eye that you couldn’t quite read, but it was telling you something was wrong all the same.
“That’s not fair! Maybe you don’t know him as well as you thought. Look at this,” you said, swiping to show a side by side of Loki during and after the fight. “You can see it by the look on his face; something was seriously wrong during the battle. Plus, I’ve seen videos of him when he first came; he was not alright. Afflicted with severe anxiety and what looks like burn marks, I’d say. He needed help.”
“With all due respect,” Clint chimed in, “aren’t your a tracker, not a psychologist?”
“Yes, but as such I’ve been trained to look at all the details. Not just what’s convenient.”
“Listen,” Steve sighed before things got any more heated. “It’s a great theory and all, but you read Thor’s account of everything that happened before this. So, until we get some solid evidence proving otherwise, we’re going to have to stick with what we already know. We’ll put a pin in the AIM thing until you can take a look, though. Ok?”
“Ok,” you agreed, defeatedly taking your seat again.
You looked around the table. Natasha and Bruce, the only two who hadn’t said anything, both looked kind of pensive. Alright, maybe bewildered was the better word for Bruce. He was smart, no doubt about it, but you got the impression he wasn’t very good in social settings. Then there was Clint and Thor, both who seemed a little skeptical of you. At least Thor seemed to be considering his brother’s innocence at least a little. Steve was a bit more unreadable as he continued to prattle on about what you already “knew” for the case. And then there was Tony, who seemed more impressed than anything else. He, at least, had seemed to genuinely consider what you said. Perhaps he still was.
“The best way to solve this,” Steve closed his spiel, “is to bring him in. Agent, have you located him yet?”
You sighed. Deeply. It shouldn’t be this much of a struggle to present your findings. You’d had no trouble speaking on his behalf. Yet a part of you—an alarmingly large part, you realized—didn’t want to turn him in. But who were you to ignore direct orders?
“Yup,” you conceded, pulling up a map with a blinking red dot, marking Loki’s location.
“Well then, team,” Steve said to the group. “Let’s roll out.”
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Natasha x reader x Clint x Bucky
Requested by anon.
You were good at running. You'd run away from home at sixteen when your powers had manifested and just kept going.
You didn't see a point in stopping. After all, no one cared that you were gone in the first place.
You'd always wanted to see the world, and this was your chance, an unfortunate opportunity, but one you took.
Almost twenty years after you first ran, you found yourself in Sokovia. You'd slipped. Shown your powers too blatantly and been caught.
After twenty years of running and trying to keep yourself safe, you'd been caught.
You'd heard the name HYDRA whispered by the men as you were thrown into a cell with two small children.
HYDRA had experimented on the two toddlers and given them their own powers.
The three of you had spent months together in that cell while HYDRA experimented on your powers and tested all your limits.
And that was why when you had managed to break free from your prison, you'd taken the two children.
The three of you had run, and now, four years later, were still running.
Honestly, you weren't sure how it happened, but somehow, you'd ended up adopting the two. Both of the twins thought of you as their mother and would address you as such.
And honestly, you thought of the two as your kids.
It hadn't been in your plan, not that you'd ever had more than just run, to adopt Wanda and Pietro. But you wouldn't change it.
You loved these kids. And honestly, you'd die before you ever let anyone ever hurt them again.
The kids were turning six today. As a special treat, you had taken the two to a small cafe, not far from the apartment, and brought them each a slice of cake.
The twins had pleaded for the three of you to eat in the cafe, something you would usually deny for their safety, but today you agreed.
So the three of you sat in the back of the cafe for an hour, the twins animatedly explaining their days to you before you noticed something.
A blonde woman, glancing over at you from two tables away.
"Alright guys, we gotta get going now. We have to get apricots before dinner." You said, standing from your chair.
Apricots was the code word the three of you had chosen so long ago. It meant that someone was tailing the three of you, and you had to run.
"Okay, mama." Wanda nodded solemnly as she and Pietro stood.
"There's oranges at home too. Maybe we can make a cake!" Pietro said.
Oranges. Our bags are packed.
"That sounds like a great idea."
You led the kids out of the cafe, and the three of you made your way down the side streets and backroads of Eksjö.
"Wan, can you sense anyone following us?" You murmured as you all neared the apartment. You felt like a livewire. The only sounds in the ally were your metal shoes clinking and the scuffing of the kid's shoes.
It was taking all your control and willpower to keep your power under control.
"I don't think so," Wanda said, her nose screwing up in concentration.
"Don't push yourself, sweetheart. I don't want you to hurt yourself." You told her.
"It's not that. It's just quiet." Wanda shook her head.
"Alright. Let's get our bags and get a train out to Malmo." You said as the three of you entered the complex.
Now that you were off the streets, the three of you began to run upstairs.
"Piet, get the couch box, Wan gather anything else we might need. I'm going to get the sink box." You said, running towards the bathroom.
You grabbed the small box from under the sink, rose to a stand, and noticed that you were not alone in the bathroom.
A long-haired brunette man stood behind you.
"We just want to talk." The man said, raising his hands after you gasped in surprise.
Without saying a word, you rushed past him and out of the room.
"Wanda! Pietro!" You yelled.
"We're not HYDRA." The brunette exclaimed as the kids flashed to your side. "We don't want to hurt you."
"He's telling the truth, mama," Wanda said, clutching your hand with her little one. "His thoughts are good."
"Please, we just want to help you." The brunette pleaded.
"How many of you are there?" You demanded after a second's hesitation.
"There are two others." The man admitted.
"Bring them in." You ordered. "Make them come in."
The man let out a sigh before bringing his hand to his ear and speaking into a com.
"Natasha, Clint, come inside, please." He asked. "My name is Bucky Barnes. I'm with the Avengers."
"That means nothing to me." You snapped, pulling the kids closer as the door opened.
In walked a blonde man with a bandaid on his face and a woman pulling off a blonde wig to reveal her red hair.
"How long have the three of you been following us?" You asked once the door closed.
"We only found you a couple days ago." The blonde man, Clint, you assumed, told you.
"But we've been looking for you for about three months now." The woman, Natasha, added.
"We raided a HYDRA base three months ago. There we found files on all three of you as well as progress reports on how close they were to getting you all back." Natasha told you, causing both kids to stiffen.
"How close?" You asked, running a hand down each kid's back.
"I'd give them another week," Bucky said after a beat.
"Thanks for the warning." You swallowed harshly. "Kids, get your stuff. We have a train to catch." You said, leaning down to kiss each kid on the head before letting them go.
"You don't have to," Clint spoke up. "You don't have to keep running."
"Running's what we do." You said, taking your eyes off the kids to face the three adults down. "It keeps them safe."
"And what if I said we could make you safe?" Bucky wondered. "If we could make you and the kids safe?"
"I'd say you're as much a dreamer as I used to be." You scoffed.
"We're never going to be safe. Not with HYDRA looking for us."
"We can hide you from HYDRA until they're destroyed." Natasha offered. "We'd keep you and the kids safe and off-grid until HYDRA were destroyed."
"I don't know how familiar you are with Greek mythology, but you cut one head off, and two more grow back." You told the three. "The twins would be great grandparents before the job was a third of the way done." You added bitterly.
"Perhaps." Bucky agreed. "I've been fighting HYDRA for almost eighty years, and I think it'll be another eighty before the fight's done."
"There! Even you admit it!"
"But I'm not running from the fight. I know it could keep going even my bones turn to dust, but it's a fight I'm willing to fight." Bucky told you. "Because I want to help people like you. I want to help your kids. I want to keep anyone I can safe from HYDRA." Bucky said.
"How much longer can you keep running, Y/N?" Clint asked you. "How much longer are you going to make those kids run?"
"Let us help you."
"Fine." You ground out after a minute. "But just until we find somewhere safer." You bargained.
"You won't find anywhere safer than with us," Bucky promised.
"Stop poking!" Wanda snapped before rising from her seat and sitting on your other side.
"Pietro, knock it off." You told the boy.
"But Mama, I need to move," Pietro whispered to you. Though it was slightly pointless as everything echoed on the plane you were all sat in.
"There's a bathroom over there if you need to go, little man," Clint told the boy.
"No, that's not what he means." You told the blonde, pulling your son into your side. "There are problems with the gifts the kids have." You said, gently running your fingers through Pietro's hair.
"Like what?" Natasha asked you.
You can trust them, Mama. Wanda pushed her thoughts into your mind after sensing your trepidation. I promise. They don't want to hurt us.
"Everything about Piet is fast. His heartbeat, his metabolism, his thoughts. Everything. Piet moves at a slower pace for us, but it takes its toll on him." You explained.
"I need to move. I need to move fast." Pietro added, bouncing in his seat.
"If he needs to run, why can't he just run laps back and forth?" Clint suggested.
"I mean, he can. If you want him to put a literal hole in your floor." You said, causing Wanda to giggle.
"We're about five minutes out from the safehouse if that helps," Natasha promised the speedster.
Five minutes couldn't have passed slower. You'd never taken the kids on a plane before, too hard to bypass security cameras, which meant that you'd never forced Pietro into such a small space.
When the jet finally landed, Pietro was the first one off with you and Wanda right behind him.
"Don't run off too far, Piet." You called, eyes trained on the blue blur, circling the house before you.
"Believe it or not, this is one of our better safe houses," Clint said as he and the other two Avengers moved to stand behind you and your daughter.
"It's beautiful." Wanda grinned.
And it really was. The large house was sat on the outskirts of a large wooded area. A lake stretched in front of the house and into the woods with a small bridge to cross.
It was a beautiful landscape with more room for the kids to run than they'd ever had.
"Come on, let's get you three settled," Natasha said, gesturing towards the house.
"Pietro." You called, and suddenly the boy was by your side.
"Okay, so there are three bedrooms. We'll share one, Y/N yours is through here, and the kids are across the hall." Bucky explained.
"No!" Pietro gasped, clutching your hand and pushing himself into your side.
"Won't go." Wanda shook her head, glaring at the three. Falling to your knees in front of your kids, you pulled the two closer to you.
"It's okay. I'm not going anywhere." You promised the two before looking over at the three Avengers. "If it's all the same to you, we'll be sharing a room."
"Of course." Natasha agreed immediately. "We'll leave you to settle." She said before dragging the boys away.
"Come on." You said, rising to a stand and ushering the kids into the room.
Once the door to the room was closed, you sat on the ground and had a lap full of kids. "I'm not going anywhere, I promise. I'm right here."
"They want to take you away," Pietro whispered.
"No, they don't." You soothed him, running your fingers through his hair. "Remember, they want to help us. Wanda, you looked into their heads. You know this better than both of us."
"No separate cells." Wanda shook her head after a minute.
"We're not in cells. We're in a bedroom. Just like the one back at the apartment. We're not in that place anymore." You promised. "I'm never going to let them get you again."
"Promise?" The twins asked in unison.
"I promise on my life." You told the two seriously. "I won't let anyone hurt you again."
The kids had worried themselves into a deep sleep. You had tucked the two into bed and watched over them for an hour before you risked leaving the bedroom.
You didn't see any sign of the three Avengers as you started to scope out the house.
It was a habit you'd had ever since you'd first ran. You always checked every apartment and hotel you stayed in, looking for all entrances and exits.
"There are two main entrances," Natasha told you as you entered the kitchen, startling you. "The front door and the one in here." She added.
"Windows are all reinforced and bolted down, so no one can come through one of them," Clint said from where he stood, drinking from a pot of coffee.
"Am I that obvious?" You wondered, crossing your arms.
"No, but we've all been in your position before," Bucky told you.
"Minus the kids," Clint added.
"Checking the exits is the first sign someone's on the run," Natasha mentioned.
"And what are the others?"
"You tell us."
"I don't know any of you. I don't know why you're doing this." You shook your head.
"Protecting us." You said. "I don't know why you'd want to stick your necks out for us."
"It's what we do." Clint shrugged.
"No one deserves what HYDRA does to them," Bucky told you. "No one." He added before falling into silence and glaring down at the table.
"Are the kids okay?" Natasha asked, distracting you from Bucky's behavior.
"Yeah." You nodded. "I got them calmed down. They understand you didn't mean it."
"That's good." Natasha nodded before the room fell into silence.
"Well, I, um, I better get back to the kids." You said after the silence became deafening.
You and the kids had been staying with the three Avengers for almost two weeks.
The kids had quickly settled into their new home as they did with every other one they'd had. No matter where you went, your kids always found a way to make a home theirs.
Wanda and Pietro loved the safe house, the woods, and the three Avengers watching over them. For them, this was a dream come true.
The kids had gained a real home where they could run around.
It took everything you had to remember you had done the best you could for the two, but sometimes it was hard to keep that in mind.
You yourself were getting used to the safe house as well as its other occupants. Natasha, Bucky, and Clint understood your fear of new people being around you and the twins, as well as your innate need to run.
The three understood you and your reactions and continued to assure you that you were safe where you were.
And you were starting to believe them.
"Mama! Mama!" Two little voices drew you out of your head. Looking up, you saw both kids rushing towards where you sat on the porch.
"Hi, sweethearts." You grinned, rising to a stand to meet the kids halfway. "What's happening?"
"Clint and Bucky taught us how to play soccer!" Pietro grinned. "Even Nat's joined!"
"We want to play teams, Mama," Wanda told you. "Will you be on mine and Nat's team?" She pleaded.
"How can I say no to faces like this?" You teased, pinching each of the children's cheeks before allowing them to drag you over to the three adults.
"Welcome to the team, Y/N." Natasha smiled.
"Now remember, no superpowers." Clint reminded everyone as he placed a ball between everyone.
"You gonna be able to run in those, Y/N?" Bucky asked, staring down at your metal shoes.
"I'll be fine. You just focus on your game." You teased the man.
"Let's go! Let's go!" Pietro cheered, clearly eager to start the game.
You and the other adults chuckled at Pietro's enthusiasm before beginning the game. Despite Clint and Bucky teaching your children how to play the sport, the game quickly became a free for all.
"No powers, Pietro!"
"That's cheating, Tash!"
"Who taught you how to play?"
"Here, Wanda!" You called, kicking the ball to the girl who then booted it into the makeshift goal.
"Way to go, Wanda!" Natasha cheered as the boys grumbled.
"Don't be sore losers, boys." You said before turning to praise your daughter.
"Mama?" Pietro called, causing you to turn. "You're bleeding." He told you, pointing down at your feet.
You reached a hand down to the backs of your feet and let out a sigh when your fingers came back red.
"Damn it." You mumbled, wiping the blood on your skirt. "Is there any chance there's a first aid kit inside?" You asked the Avengers.
"Should be five," Clint said, walking closer to you. "C'mon, I'll help patch you up." He offered, gently placing his hand on your back.
"Thank you, Clint." You gave him a small smile before allowing him to guide you back inside.
"I think there's one in here." Clint mused, sitting you down at one of the kitchen chairs. "Ah-ha! Bingo!" He cheered, pulling one out from under the sink.
Clint moved to the seat opposite you and began to rummage through the first aid kit.
"Do you mind if I?" Clint asked, gesturing to your shoes.
"Uh, just, let me." You said, quickly pulling one of your heavy shoes off and depositing it on your lap. "Okay, we're good." You nodded.
"This is pretty deep, Y/N. It looks like it might be infected." Clint mentioned as he cleaned the gash on the back of your foot.
"Wouldn't be the first time." You sighed, clutching the chair tightly.
"I'm sorry. I'm trying to not hurt you." Clint promised you.
"You're not." You shook your head, causing Clint to look at you in confusion. "I'm struggling to stay on the ground." You admitted.
"My control is limited. Every emotion has a consequence, but for the most part, I can control it. It's just when I feel too strongly that I lose control. If I feel too happy, I begin to float, and if I'm angry, someone gets crushed." You explained.
"Is that why you never take your shoes off? To keep you grounded?" Clint wondered, wrapping your ankle.
"In more ways than one." You admitted with a small smile. "But I'm trying to control it better, I promise."
"I don't know if it means anything to you, but I think you're doing great." Clint shrugged. "At all of this. Truth be told, if I were in your position, I don't think I would be handling any of this as well as you."
"Thanks, Clint." You said after a minute. "It does mean something to mean." You told him as you pulled on your shoe.
It really did.
It had been two months since coming to the safe house. And you loathed admitting the fact you had let your guard down. This house and the people who'd brought you to it made it easy to forget why you were here.
It was the middle of the night when you began to feel restless. The peace made your skin crawl, but you knew it was unfounded. You also knew you wouldn't be going back to sleep any time soon.
So, carefully, you crawled out of bed, leaving a note for your still sleeping children before creeping out of the room.
You made a quick pit stop in the kitchen, taking a beer out of the fridge before exiting the house entirely.
It was the middle of spring, and you couldn't be more thankful for that as the warm night's breeze blew against your skin.
It had been so long since you'd seen the stars properly. The lights of the cities meant you could never see the night's sky properly, and you had been too scared to take the kids further out just to see them.
And in this second, you felt sane. For the first time in almost two decades, you let a sigh of contentment as you finally felt grounded.
You began to hum as you started to undo your shoes before finally stepping off the porch and onto the grass. You let out a happy sigh at the feeling of the blades between your toes before falling backward and just laying against the Earth.
"Y/N?" You heard before the door opened behind you.
Raising your head, you saw the three Avengers now standing on the porch watching you.
"You alright out there?" Clint asked you.
"Never better." You smiled at the three before drinking from the bottle in your hand. "Want to join me?" You asked, lifting a hand out towards the trio.
"Why not?" Bucky shrugged before toeing his shoes off and joining you on the lawn.
"Your shoes are off," Clint noted, raising a brow at you as Natasha moved to join the three of you.
"They are." You nodded, still holding your hand out to the man.
"What the hell," Clint smiled, finally stepping off the porch and moving over to where you all lay. The man took your hand and let out a grunt when you pulled him to the ground. "This is nice," Clint said after a minute of watching the stars.
"It is." Natasha agreed, stealing your drink and taking a sip.
"We should do this more often," Bucky mentioned to his partners.
"Can I ask you guys a question?"
"I think you just did," Clint smirked, causing you, as well as Natasha and Bucky, to let out a groan.
"Go for it, doll," Bucky told you.
"How come the three of you were made to watch us?" You wondered without taking your eyes off the sky. "Wouldn't you be more suited to actually fighting someone?"
"Don't you know, sweetheart? We're the best bodyguards you can get." Clint smiled.
"In all honesty, we never expected you to agree to coming with us," Bucky admitted after a minute.
"Yeah, that sounds like us." You nodded.
"We thought you'd run, and we'd just have to follow at a distance to protect the three of you," Natasha told you.
"Why, though?" You asked the three. "We were getting by."
"You were surviving." Natasha corrected you.
"We were." You nodded.
"You weren't living. None of you were." Bucky told you.
"You know, I had a life once." You admitted after a pause. "It wasn't much better than this, but it was mine."
"What was it like?"
"My parents were wealthy. They didn't have time for me, so I did whatever I wanted. I was in a polyamorous relationship. I thought they were it for me, but that was all before my powers developed." You shook your head. "I had to run shortly after that."
"You could have kept contact with everyone," Clint told you.
"No, I couldn't have." You shook your head. "My parents wouldn't have accepted me. Not in the slightest."
"And your partners?"
"I told them." You admitted. "I thought maybe they'd be able to talk me out of my fear. Possibly even help me. It turns out they both despised mutants, and that suddenly included me."
"That's not right." Natasha shook her head.
"I've found a couple others like me. They said it's normal for the most part." You shrugged.
"That doesn't make it any better," Clint told you.
"It was for the best anyway. It's not like the three of us could run together."
"You and the kids run together." Natasha pointed out.
"It's different, though. The kids have their own powers. They trust me to make the best decisions. It's easier for the three of us." You reasoned.
"When was the last time you stopped running?" Bucky asked you.
"I'm stopped now. Does that count?" You attempted to joke. "I've never wanted to stop. It was all about staying alive, and then it was about keeping the kids safe. There was an excuse before." You told the three.
"Ignore that. Ignore me." You shook your head. "It's been a while since I drank."
"I don't think it's that," Clint said, sitting upright to look at you. "I think you like it here. I think you like us." He determined, staring directly at you.
"Look, I'm not trying to make anyone uncomfortable or make this awkward. Just ignore that and pretend I never said anything." You said, not wanting to lie.
"Why would we do that?" Natasha asked, turning to face you.
"When we feel the same way," Bucky added, also rolling onto his side.
"Don't." You shook your head.
"Don't say things like that. I'm not going to run if you tell me the truth." You promised the three, your cheeks now burning in embarrassment.
"Well, good. Because the truth is, we're falling for you." Clint told you.
"We've never had an interest in being in an open relationship before. The three of us were always enough." Natasha admitted.
"But then we were assigned to you. And we got to see the person you are. How kind you are, how caring," Bucky started.
"How smart," Clint added.
"How tricky you were to catch." Natasha finished, causing you to her a small smile.
"And the more time we've spent with you, the more sure we were that we all feel the same for you," Bucky promised.
"We want you, Y/N. If you'll have us." Clint said, now watching you in trepidation.
"You know you wouldn't just be getting me. You know I have other responsibilities." You sighed.
"And we love your kids, Y/N."
"We love how you are with them, Y/N. We know they're your first priority. And we don't mind at all." Natasha vowed, taking your hand squeezing it gently.
"I don't know about this. I wouldn't want to be the reason any of you got hurt. I can't be the reason." You shook your head at the thought.
"Doll, we get hurt all on our own," Bucky promised.
"Clint especially," Natasha added, causing Clint to squawk in anger.
"You wouldn't be endangering us," Bucky told you.
"And you wouldn't have to run anymore. We can more than take care of ourselves, as well as the three of you." Clint mentioned.
"When was the last time you made a decision that was just for you? Without thinking it through?" Natasha wondered, raising a brow.
"It's been years." You sighed.
"Then make one for yourself now," Natasha said. "We've fallen for you, Y/N. And if you feel the same for us, we want you to join our relationship. We want you, kids and baggage included."
"I do feel the same way." You admitted after a beat. "I want this." You smiled.
"Yeah?" Bucky confirmed
"Good, because that make's this easier." Natasha grinned, grabbing you by the chin and pulling you closer before kissing you.
Natasha's lips were soft against your own. Despite the Russian pressing her lips against yours firmly, her lips were supple and plump.
It seemed like an eternity and all too soon when the two of you finally pulled back to gasp for air. You barely had time to fill your lungs before you were being rolled onto your other side, and Bucky was kissing you.
"Guys, stop hogging Y/N!" Clint whined. "I wanna kiss her too!" He complained as you and Bucky pulled apart with a chuckle.
"Alright, bird, we hear ya," Bucky said before Clint crawled across his lap and then straddled you.
"Feet still on the ground?"
"Shut up and kiss me, Barton."
"Steve swears they've found the last agents that should know about the three of you," Bucky swore as he, Natasha, and Clint prepared to leave. "They need all hands on deck."
"This is finally going to be over." You smiled at the thought. "The kids are going to be safe."
"And so are you," Natasha added, pressing her lips to your cheek.
It had been a month and a half of bliss since the four of you had shared your night under the stars. You had easily found your place in the relationship, and the peace you felt since that night was a feeling almost foreign to you.
"We're going to end this," Natasha added, breaking you out of your thoughts.
"As long as you all come back to me." You said, staring at the three. "I'll kill you myself if you three don't come back in one piece."
"Don't you know, sweetheart? We're the best agents you can get." Clint smiled at you.
"We're going to be fine," Bucky assured you. "We'll be gone three days max, and then we'll come back and take you and the kids away." He said, moving to stand before you and kiss your temple.
"I am going to miss this place." You hummed, leaning into the man.
"We'll come back," Natasha promised you. "One day."
"We better get going," Clint said, noting the time. "We got to say goodbye to the kids before we go." He added before the four of you moved downstairs.
Wanda and Pietro were already waiting at the bottom of the stairs for the four of you. The two six-year-olds were staring up at you all with heartbroken expressions.
"You're leaving," Wanda said, bottom lip wobbling.
"Not forever." Clint was quick to assure the girl. "We're going to be back in a couple days."
"But you're going after the bad men! They're going to hurt you!" Wanda protested.
"They're not going to hurt us, I promise, milaya devushka." Natasha cooed, pulling Wanda into her arms.
"I want to come," Pietro announced, staring up at you, Clint and Bucky.
"No. Absolutely not." You said immediately.
"We've actually got a job for you, Piet," Clint told the boy.
"While we're gone, we need you to look after your Ma and Wanda. Can you do that for us?" Bucky asked your son.
"I can do that." Pietro nodded before running into the men's arms. "You're coming home." He told the two firmly.
"Of course." Clint nodded, hugging him back.
"Good because if you don't and you make Mama sad, you're gonna be in big trouble." Your son threatened.
"We'll hold you to that, kiddo." Bucky chuckled, ruffling Pietro's hair.
With a few more goodbye hugs and promises to come back, the three Avengers reluctantly left, leaving you and the twins behind.
"They're going to come back, Mama," Pietro said, taking your hand. "They promised me."
"They'll be fine, Mama," Wanda added, taking your other hand.
"Yeah, they'll be fine." You agreed. "And we're gonna be just fine." You assured the children. "Now, who wants to play soccer?"
"I do! I do!"
The three Avengers had only been gone for a day, and already you wished they'd return home.
Something was off.
Something was wrong.
You could feel it in the air. Electric and pulsing.
"Mama?" Wanda asked, snapping you out of your thoughts. "Aren't you going to get that?" She asked, pointing at your ringing phone.
"Oh, yeah." You muttered, shaking your head slightly before answering the call. "Hello?"
"Get out of the house," Bucky said instead of greeting. "Do you hear me, Y/N? Get the kids and run."
"Wanda, where's your brother? Where's Pietro? Go and get him, now!" You demanded, causing Wanda to rush out of the kitchen and onto the back porch. "What's happening, Buck?" You asked, grabbing the bag you had hidden under the kitchen counter so many months ago.
"It went wrong. The team who's been after you isn't here." Bucky said, causing your blood to run cold.
"Where are they?" You demanded, running as quickly as you could to the back door. "Bucky, where are they?"
"Mama!" At the sound of your name being screeched, you threw everything to the ground and sprinted across the yard.
"Get away from my children!" You yelled, fire filling your veins at the sight of your children in the agent's hands. Wanda was unconscious, being held by one man, while Pietro was being held by a rope around his neck.
"They're not your children. They belong to HYDRA!" One man declared. "And so do you!"
"You're wrong! We belong to no one!" You growled as your hair began to float wildly around. "Get your hands off my children!" You demanded before you began to rise.
The world erupted around you. Trees were beginning to rip themselves from the ground. The water rose from the river, and the house tore itself apart as the gravity around you went haywire.
"Hail HYDRA!" One man declared before those with free hands raised their weapons and began to shoot wildly at you.
Some bullets fell straight to the ground, others floated mid-shot, and some, though few, did shoot as normal bullets.
And one, that lucky one bullet, hit you right in the stomach.
You let out a silent gasp as you lost control of your powers and fell directly back to Earth.
"You were right. You don't belong to HYDRA. But they do." An agent laughed as Pietro began to scream before you. "You'll never see them again. You'll never see anyone again." He promised before turning his back to you.
"No." You grunted, raising yourself up on your elbows. "You can't have my children." You groaned.
You raised one shaking hand towards the group of men and screamed. You screamed loudly as the group of soldiers began to cry out in anguish as they collapsed to the ground.
Pietro freed himself from his hold and grabbed his sister before flashing over to your side. But you continued to scream.
The gravity around the soldiers became heavier and heavier until it crushed them.
When the men stopped screaming, you did too.
The world stopped moving, and you collapsed back into the ground.
"Mama! Mama, wake up!" Pietro pleaded, tapping his small hands against your cheeks. "Mama, please, wake up!" He cried, taking one of your hands and pressing it to his cheek.
"I love you, baby. You and Wanda will always be my babies." You muttered, struggling to focus on your son.
"Don't go, Mama! Don't go, please!"
"They'll take care of you. No more running. No more, running." You whispered quietly before your eyes closed against your will.
"No! Mama! No! Wake up, please! Please, wake up!"
"Y/N, wake up!"
You let out a gasp as you jolted upright.
Everything was too loud.
Where were you?
Where were your kids?
Where was Natasha? And Clint? And Bucky?
"Easy, sweetheart, take it easy." Someone cooed as gentle hands pressed themselves to your shoulders.
"Nat." You croaked as you were eased back down.
"We're right here." Another voice promised as you felt pressure on your hand.
"You're fine, sweetheart. You're alive. You're safe." Natasha promised, her fingers gently brushing back your hair.
"Where am I?" You asked, staring at the redhead with blurred vision. "Where are," You started before letting out a loud gasp and jumping back upright. "Where's Pietro? And Wanda? Where are the kids? Where's Clint?" You rushed out, staring between the two.
"They're fine. Everyone's okay." Bucky promised, pushing you back down. “You have to rest you’ll tear your stitches.” He said, ghosting his fingers along your stomach.
“Where are they?” You demanded, staring the two down. “What happened?”
“Clint took the kids down to the caefteria to get something to eat.” Natasha promised you. “The kids are okay, a little bruised and scared. But they’re mostly worried about you.”
“Where are we?”
“The Avengers Compound, New York.” Bucky told you. “You’re in the med bay. And you’re gonna be here for a little.”
“I got shot.” You gasped, pressing your hand to your stomach before letting out a hiss.
“Careful. You just had surgery.” Natasha said, taking your hand.
“Almost.” Bucky said, shaking his head. “We got there right as you passed out. Bruce had to give you surgery right there and then just to keep you alive.”
“Pietro saw it all.” You gasped, horrified at your actions.
“He’s okay. He’s not scared or mad or traumatized.” Natasha assured you. “He’s been running around talking everyone’s ears off about how his Mama is a superhero and saved their lives.”
“I didn’t know I could do that. I think I meant to but I didn’t know.”
“It’s okay, sweetheart, no one blames you. They weren’t good people.”
“Hey, look who’s awake!” Clint exclaimed as he opened the door.
“Mama!” Twin cries exclaimed before you had two armfuls of grinning children.
“Careful of your Mama’s stomach, remember.” Bucky remained as your kids settled in your arms.
“You’re okay.” Wanda smiled, snuggling into your side.
“You wouldn’t wake up.” Pietro frowned, pressing his face into your side.
“I’m Piet, I just needed some sleep to get better. And I’m on the mend.” You assured the silver haired boy, pressing your lips to his hair.
“Good, because you took ten years off me.” Clint said, moving over and kissing your forehead. “Gave us a bit of a scare there.”
“Sorry about that.”
“Not your fault.” Clint promised, taking a seat.
“How long was I out?”
“Three days.” Natasha told you. “Bruce thinks you might have a healing factor. Had a whole nerd out with Stark about it.”
“So we’ve been in New York for three days?”
“Yep and when you’re off bed rest we’re going to take the three of you sightseeing. Already promised the tykes.” Bucky said, tickling Wanda’s side.
“As long as you don’t just show us the touristy parts. If we’re gonna be local we’re going to need to know everything about this place.” You told the three, causing them to smile.
“You want to stay here?” Clint asked you, almost vibrating in his seat.
“Yeah. I want to stay with the three of you. Set up some roots, let the kids make their own. I want to stay put for once.” You told them. “That is if you want us?”
“We want every part of you, Y/N.”
“No matter how strange, or dark, or light.”
“We want it all.”
And for the first time in years, you were content. Your feet were firmly on the ground.
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Before I assumed ownership of Spellbound Tours I traveled with two different carnival freak shows. Out of time as it may seem, yes, a handful of them still exist playing out in various locations across the United States. Even right here in Massachusetts on occasion our own Topsfield Fair, just a short drive from Salem, plays host to such shows. Not that long ago they displayed the world famous Bat Boy, and the alleged World’s Smallest Woman. One of the shows I worked with was comprised mostly of variety performers, magicians, sword swallowers, that kind of thing performance artist, as well as the occasional human oddity or freak. The other one was largely a museum. It had wax figures of famous freaks, and preserved specimens of strange people and animals. Some of it, like the BP Oil Spill Mermaid and the cyclops baby were hilariously fake. But some of the attractions were all too real.
This story concerns one of the real attractions. It was a human skeleton. One hundred percent, undeniably real. Salem Witch Tour So real that in some towns we needed special permits to show it. So real that some places would not let us display it because it was “disrespectful to the dead”. It was a real human skeleton, or most of one. The advertising material referred to it as The Evil Dwarf.
In front of our circus tent there were large, colorful banners advertising the wonders contained within. The Evil Dwarf banner had a caricature of a little person with a mischievous grin flashing a cartoon Snow White. Upon entering the tent, if the visitor made it past the live displays of freak animals like the Six Legged Sheep, and the various dead, stuffed, and faked attractions they came upon a coffin. A small coffin.
The coffin was about three and a half feet long. It was looked ancient. The lid was clear glass and inside could be seen portions of a skeleton. There was a delicate looking skull, ribs, scapula, a pelvis, a humerus and a half, a bunch of vertebra, and femur crammed up randomly with the other bones. The jumbled remains were undeniably old, and the grim aged skull was missing a couple of important teeth. Without a doubt this was the real thing. Even the most jaded costumers would gaze at it with awe. This mess of bones had been alive once.
There was a handprinted sign propped up next to the casket. In garish colored letters written in florid circus font was a story about the skeleton. It was The Evil Dwarf. A Wild West outlaw who happened to be a little person. “He robbed banks, trains, and looked up ladies’ skirts!”. The sign described how the bad little guy was finally gunned down outside of Tombstone, Arizona and because no one would pay for his burial he was put on display as a cautionary tale of what happens when you fight the law. The story was clearly carnival ballyhoo, but no one could deny that the gnarled old bones were one hundred percent real, old, dead, and entirely human.
My friend Jim owned the show and the bones. I asked him about their true origin one day. He said that he had bought the bones in the early nineteen nineties. His freak show was set up in a carnival playing a Native American reservation in New Mexico when a man approached Jim and told him he had something weird for sale. No one can turn down an offer like that! Jim went to the man’s home and was shown the the bones that became his Evil Dwarf. They were sealed up just as he later displayed them, except the top of the box was solid rather than glass. He was told they had been dug up by accident while a field was being cleared on the property, they had not been buried very deep. Jim purchased the remains for a price that was surprisingly low for human bones, and the owner was glad to see them go. According to Jim the man seemed relieved when the little coffin was hauled away.
Jim replaced the top of the coffin with a clear panel and hired renowned circus artists Jim Hand and Bobby Rawls to make signs and banners advertising his “Evil Dwarf”. He concocted the legend about the rotten little bandit and sold tickets. People lined up to see the skeleton. No one ever complained. Despite the outlandish story no one could dispute the bones were the real deal. He was making money hand over fist.
At the end of the season Jim went home to Florida. He proudly showed his girlfriend the new star attraction. She was not a fan. The Evil Dwarf made her profoundly uncomfortable. They laughed about it. She was used to Jim bringing strange things home.
Then the nightmares started. As long as the old bones were in the house she could not sleep peacefully. She started seeing visions she claimed were The Evil Dwarf when it was alive. She claimed that in life the bones had not been a dwarf at all, but a young woman. In her dreams she saw violent scenes of abuse where the girl’s father hurt her and ultimately killed her. She was killed by being beaten about the head with a flat rock from the field. After death he dismembered the body, shoved it in a box and dumped it in a ditch on his land. Years later it was discovered and finally sold to Jim. These nightmares troubled her to the point she refused to stay in the house as long as the box of bones was there.
Jim put it into storage and life went on. The next spring when he took the show on the road again The Evil Dwarf came with him, it was still a strong attraction. People loved it. One day he noticed that there were two college age women who had been in the tent far longer than most people ever stayed. They were fixated on the old bones. They were looking too closely at the contents of the coffin for comfort. This was not good. When people poked around too long it could sometimes mean trouble. Curious as to their motives Jim approached the women and casually as possible asked, “you ladies like The Evil Dwarf?”
They women told him that they were indeed fascinated by the skeleton, but there was no way it was the bones of a little person. As it turns out the ladies were medical students and they knew their way around a skeleton. Judging from the pathology they had determined that the bones were not from a male dwarf at all, but were the remains of a teenaged girl! This was not good news, it was starting to sound like Jim’s girlfriend’s dreams might have been true. “Any idea what happened to her?” inquired Jim. “From what it looks like here”, the student indicated a couple of damaged spots on the skull, “she received a lot of trauma to the head. Someone smashed her up pretty badly. Any of these blows”, again she pointed to the injured spots on the skull, “could have done her in. From the condition of the bones, she was not embalmed right like we do today, it looks like she was just left to decay.” Jim thanked the girls for the information, let them take pictures of the skeleton, and sent them on their way. They left happy having enjoyed sharing their knowledge of bones and showing up the carnival man.
Jim was glad to know the truth about the skeleton, but now he was uneasy. He no longer would load up and pack the box himself, delegating it to the other workers. Sometimes I would catch him just gazing into the casket. The Evil Dwarf banner got flown less and less. It was not so fun anymore, now that it was known who she really might have been. Some years after I left the show I believe she was given a decent burial and put to rest.
Many people who claim mediumistic ability will use bones of the dead as a way to channel the spirits. Sometimes they say the bones help open the doors to the spirit world and working with the bones is a good way to get in touch with the other side. Skulls are particularly popular for this purpose. In the case of the so called Evil Dwarf it seemed though that she was less interested in helping the living than just getting her story known at last. We have several skulls in the Spellbound Collection and thankfully none of them have been troublesome like the poor girl in the coffin.
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Dealing With Depression
I would get it straight out of my head- depression has become ubiquitous now. Almost every third person I know is dealing with some or the other mental health issue. When did this begin? Why didn’t anyone do anything to stop it? AND WHY DOES EVERYONE WHO SUFFERS, CHOOSES TO SUFFER IN SILENCE?
These are the questions that I try to find answers to, but cannot. I was diagnosed with depression a few months ago, but I am suffering from it for more than a decade now, and the seed to it was sown a decade before that. So, in three decades of my existence, I have been suffering for two , and no one questioned me. No one was concerned. They would say I act weird at times, but nothing more than that. With time, I accepted it to be a part of my personality and did nothing about it.
It hurt. I would ask for some miracle to happen, to make me understand what was going on in my mind?To make me understand why I would feel so, so exhausted, even when I had just woken up? It was as painful as being trapped under tonnes of invisible weight. People would say that, they would literally ask me why I would have this smug face? I had no answers then , and I believe I am still on the way to find them.
From last few months, I decided to turn things a bit, to address problems head on ,than to hide or run away from them. To be honest, it is still difficult. There are days when I am too depressed. There are days when I completely shut down on the people around me, when I abandon all my personal projects, and roll in the bed like a ball, with nothing but absolute shit going inside my mind, with crying for no reasons, with nothingness all around.
Yet , somewhere I am getting stronger. It feels like strength training now. It feels as if I am doing a mental workout to deal grow my imaginary mental abs. Some days are difficult. On some days, I am terribly sore. On some days, I have all reasons to get up , but no energy to do so. Yet I am healing- one day at a time.
These 21 days are my experiences with this healing. I never know where they will lead, but I am determined this time- to heal... n I am in no hurry. I’ll be the snail that I am and conquer the mountain, half inch at a time.
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Part III and Doc´s character arc
Okay, I saw @knickynoo commenting on this point lately and I wanted to say something about it too.
It´s not that I don´t like Clara or...like, she and Doc do fit together. It´s just that I don´t understand why, in part 3, Doc seemed to...care about Marty less and less?
For example, on the festival, when Marty kicks away Buford´s derringer with that frisbie plate and SAVES DOC`S LIFE for fuck´s sake, the only one who actually thanks him for doing that is Clara? What?? Doc doesn´t even...I don´t know, he finds it more important to go out with a woman he has met about two days ago or even less than to talk with his best friend who he has known for 3 years about a possible mistake he made by agreeing to fight Mad Dog?
Seriously, I just don´t get it. Marty saves Doc´s life at least three times and Doc finds it okay to leave him behind and enjoy a new life with a good conscience? No. No, no and no.
It became so obvious in part 1 & 2 that Marty and Doc are inseperapable best friends, but in part 3 they sorta move away from each other with no reason.
Plus, guys, Marty has TRAUMA. He had so many near-death experiences within 3 weeks and he needs someone to reassure him that it´s all over, that he´s not in danger anymore.
It´s bothering me A LOT. And what about Marty´s life in 1985? October 25th: Doc is there, has his garage and Einie, his clocks and his best bud. October 27th: Doc doesn´t give a fuck about any of those besides his dog and disppears. What on earth is Marty gonna do when the person he trusts the most isn´t home and probably won´t ever come back?
I would have found it much better if Clara was just a good friend of Marty and Doc, and Doc helped her to make the train so he could return home and Clara was basically a time traveller on her own.
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“you guys are so stupid,” taehee deadpans, causing the two boys with her to chuckle. “while i do believe the line between right and wrong may get blurry depending on the situation, i won’t take sides when it comes to you two.”
featuring mark, haechan, and a little bit of jeno and jaehyun
from anon how was taehee during markhyuck summer fight
from seul this was supposed to be longer but since they’ve cleared up about it in their recent live, i had to change it up a bit !!! lmk if you wanna read the deleted parts. and since this ask was sent before the live, just take this as taehee when they fight in general.
I. LATE AUGUST-EARLY SEPTEMBER 2017
“wait, so doyoung oppa switched rooms with mark?” taehee asks, her forehead creasing with worry, “it was that bad?”
“yeah,” jaehyun replies. he props his elbows up on the table and releases a sigh, “do you know what’s going on between them?”
taehee stays quiet for a moment.
then she answers, “no, actually.”
taehee knew it was inevitable for friends to fight or disagree on something, let alone best friends who have been with each other every single day for years.
even if her legs felt like jelly and she swears her arms were about to fall off at any moment, she wasn’t home for most of the time. she coops herself in the studio all night long after practice, itching to produce at least a good beat. she didn’t know anything about what was happening in the dorms; how the members could hear the fuming exclamations mark and haechan threw at each other behind enclosed walls; how doyoung had to switch rooms with mark every now and then when some nights got too bad.
when she enters the practice room, she takes light of the silence that hung around the atmosphere. it was still earlier in the morning anyways. her eyes shift from haechan’s gloomy expression to the straight frown mark held on his lips. she snorts, “now who shit in who’s cereal?”
as she placed her training bag on the floor, she was expecting mark to at least come up with some sort of excuse, then she’d hear haechan tease him and laugh about it, except she continued to hear silence. instead, taehee looked up to see mark glare at haechan oh-so-discreetly; the latter doesn’t even spare him a glance. making sense of the tension in the room, she pursed her lips and made eye contact with jaehyun through the mirror. she’d find herself asking him about it later.
after finding out what had happened the night prior, taehee approaches mark (not to probe or anything but ..... yeah). “hey, you okay?” she mumbles to him. mark shakes his head and a small sigh comes out of his mouth, one that she notices, “it’s fine. it’s.... it’s nothing.” taehee observed that he didn’t want to talk about it, so she let him be. “okay,” she tries to give him a comforting smile, “i won’t force you or anything. i’m just here.”
now with haechan, it seemed like every time she opened her mouth to say something to him, he turns away from her and proceeds to act like he had something more important to attend to. taehee plays it off and tries to show that it wasn’t bothering her (after all, this was their issue. she didn’t want to insert herself into situations where she wasn’t supposed to be), but she did feel hurt that haechan was ignoring her too.
but then the car ride to meet with the rest of the dreamies was awful.
mark had offered to sit in the back row even when there was clearly enough room for the three of them to fit in the middle. “oh shit,” taehee thought, half humoring herself to distract her from the tension, half dreading all the negative energy that’d be hanging around for twenty minutes, give or take. she decided to catch up on sleep during the ride, trying to pay no mind to the gnawing feeling in her chest.
it wasn’t until the following week that mark started to avoid her too. he seemed to be fine with everyone but her and haechan.
“did i do something wrong?” she asks jeno on their way to music bank. they stayed behind the rest of the group, watching as an invisible brick wall form itself in the middle of mark and haechan.
jeno hums in confusion, “what’s wrong?”
“mark’s starting to ignore me too.”
taehee bites her lip and faces the silver haired boy, worry evident on her features. “is it because i asked? am i being nosy?”
“noona,” jeno’s face softens at the older girl before wrapping his arm around her as a comforting gesture, “you’re just concerned. it’s probably nothing, you know them.”
taehee decides to give them some space.
by then, fans would see how taehee would hang around jeno rather than mark and haechan. they were always attached by the hip before (not that taehee wouldn’t laugh at jeno’s corny jokes by the way).
meanwhile, mark and haechan were too caught up in their fight that they failed to consider how taehee would feel. they were all a trio, but it felt like they were all sucked into the whirlwind of flaming emotions when they started avoiding meeting each others’ gazes or telling jokes that the other would like.
first, haechan started ignoring taehee because he thought that mark would come to her and she’d take his side. on the other hand, mark (stupidly) had the same feeling about her and haechan except he didn’t want to burden the former by making her the middleman. he began to steer clear from taehee a few days later.
“we might have had hurt noona too, you know,” hyuck sighs to mark. they had already made up by this time. “i know,” the elder replies, “then we’ll just have to fix this with her too.”
thanks to doyoung, mark and hyuck didn’t have to wait too long to clear things up with taehee.
the girl was distracted with the phone that occupied her hands, failing to notice that there were already people in the room before she looked up from her device. her eyes widened in surprise and she stepped back, making quick movements to close the door until mark and haechan started shouting a string of ‘no!’’s.
unbeknownst to the two, taehee tries to suppress a grin when she picks up the lighthearted tones in their voices. a short sigh of relief slips past her lips and her grip on the doorknob loosens.
only her head peeks out from behind the door and she’s met with the fondest of smiles from her two closest friends. just to make sure, her expression then turns into a soft pout, “are we okay now?”
while mark nods, haechan decides to coo and tease at her further, making his voice slightly a pitch higher, “we’re fine now! come here, you big baby.”
taehee rolls her eyes at his antics before pushing the door wider and stepping in. once she’s within arm’s reach, the youngest of the three pulls her down beside him and squishes her into a side hug. mark watches them with an affectionate gaze, chuckling when taehee tries to push away the maknae’s kissy faces.
haechan ceases in his mini-attack, letting out another giggle at his noona’s adorableness before deciding to press his cheek into her shoulder, “were you worried about us?”
“if i wasn’t so nice about all of this, i would have pulled both of your hairs out,” mark laughs in his own fashion, clapping his hands excitedly as he releases his own amused giggles. on the other hand, haechan sneaks a peck to the side of taehee’s forehead which adds to her faux annoyance, “ya!”
taehee catches mark’s sincere eyes with her own and she feels more warmth envelop around her. “we’re really sorry,” mark stammered, pushing down his bangs to his forehead with his right hand.
“that’s okay,” taehee shrugs, or at least tried to. haechan continued to show his affection by perching his chin atop of her shoulder, his nose brushing against her cheek. she continues, “you guys are fine now so i’m cool with that.”
a few beats of silence tick by. though taehee might be appear to be happy and content with her words, the two other boys knew she’d still want to know what the heck happened between them considering the fact that they left her in the dark for weeks. “you wanna know what happened, huh?” haechan prompts.
mark lets the younger boy give a gist of what they were arguing about in the first place (past is past!), as well as mentioning why he regrettably started ignoring taehee at the time. mark explains his own reasoning after, adding another rushed apology by the end of his statement.
“you guys are so stupid,” taehee deadpans, causing the two boys with her to chuckle. “while i do believe the line between right and wrong may get blurry depending on the situation, i won’t take sides when it comes to you two,” she wraps an arm around the younger boy beside her and starts playing with the hair on the back of his head out of habit. “i could’ve helped you guys make up if you’d let me, but i respect your privacy. i just kinda hated the part where the two of you just started ignoring me when i didn’t even know what was happening in the first place.”
“we’re sorry, noona,” hyuck mumbles, placing another soft kiss on her clothed shoulder (mark visibly grimaces much to the amusement of taehee).
taehee hums, “let’s just move on with this— i don’t like mushy talks.” mark chuckles at this.
“so, we’re all okay now?”
“we’re all okay now.”
again, taehee knew that disagreements among friends were bound to happen in the years they spent with each other. taehee also rolled her eyes at hyuck when he said that the three of them were most probably fated together one way or another (“the three of us? soulmates.” “okay, mark and i? could be. but you and i? impossible.” “you’re just too scared to admit that you’re in love with me!”).
what she didn’t know was that she’d spend almost a lifetime with these two. she could never admit it willingly, out loud, and straight up in front of their faces but she doesn’t, and won’t, ever regret putting through the amount of headaches and mountains of bubbling rage they’ve all experienced within their friendship.
because past all those scary, clashing, unpredictable, deep ocean waves were her two best friends, calming and radiant like the australian sunset.
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New Favorite Setter (U.W.)
The Next Chapter Masterlist
< Previous Chapter • You Are Here • Next Chapter >
Warnings: None, really :), just Ushi being sweet
After spending a long ten minutes convincing Kenma that you were, indeed, okay, and Iwa was driving you home, he takes his departure. Though, what had really sold him was the fact that he could set up a movie for you both when you got home.
With Kenma's departure, you find yourself wringing your hands - what were you supposed to do? You'd asked everyone to give you and him a moment to talk and they'd done exactly that. Though, now that he was gone, you found yourself standing alone and watching as everyone interacted with one another. You hadn't exactly gotten this far. You felt like it was your first day at Nekoma, all over again, when your teacher made you stand up to introduce yourself to the class.
You didn't want to help in the gym, at least not when Atsumu and Suna were there, even if Bokuto was with them as well. And Iwaizumi seemed to be reviewing some different exercises with Sakusa and Yaku, leaving you wondering what exactly you were here to do. What help could you possibly be to them? You had half a mind to turn around and leave the gym, maybe you could catch up to Kenma before he walked too far away...
Little did you know that you'd caught the attention of a certain player that had stepped out of the gym to get some water.
Just as you're about to turn on your heel to leave, you find yourself approached by none other than the giant of a man, Ushijima Wakatoshi himself. He doesn't know how to acknowledge your awkward actions, or the fact that you look out of place, though maybe that was a good thing. Maybe you just needed a little push to help you get used to and more familiar with the team.
"I need someone to set for me so I can work on my spikes. I want to work on spiking with my right hand, as well. It will be an advantage on the court." The man stands in front of you, almost apprehensively, while he awaits an answer from you. His words are hesitant, voice void of most emotion. Though you had to give him credit for trying to make you feel more comfortable, despite being so awkward, himself.
As he awaits your answer, he furrows his brows in curiosity. Did you even still want to be here? Should he have just let you take off? Maybe he should walk away before he embarrasses himself, or you. Any prior thoughts of leaving you to your own devices leave him when he hears the quiet breath of relief that you release. "Yeah, I can do that. It's what I'm here for, after all!" You flash him a smile and momentarily Ushijima finds his chest tightening.
That was an odd... And new feeling.
What was even more confusing was the way the feeling amplified when you took his hand in yours to tug him towards the gymnasium. He trails behind you without complaint, in fact, finding himself managing a small smile at how quickly you brightened when he interacted with you. He wasn't quite sure why he hated the idea of you leaving as much as he did, but here he was, making up excuses for you to stay with him and train. Though he'd be honest, he was probably about to make a fool of himself: it had been a while since he attempted spiking with his right hand.
As you both entered the gym, Bokuto, Suna, and Miya all turned to look in the direction you'd entered, but they had two sides of the court for a reason. Without a word to them, you're releasing Ushijima's hand and going to retrieve a volleyball for the both of you to use.
Ushijima, while your eyes are away from him, shoots a look of warning towards those on the other side of the net as you both make it over to the side, furthest from the door. Unsurprisingly, the look causes the three to halt in their own practice for a few moments, simply watching you. It had been a while since Suna and Miya had seen you play and Bokuto just... Really loved to watch you play. There was something almost elegant about the way you would set. It reminded him a lot of the way Miya set, though he supposed that made sense, with Atsumu having been your teacher.
"You ready, babe?" Tossing the ball to the opposite hitter, you grin at the way his cheeks darken at the term. "Throw it to me, whenever you're ready, alright, Ushi?"
"You may call me Wakatoshi, if you would like, L/N." The giant of a man nods in your direction with an impassive look on his face. Closing his eyes momentarily, he takes a deep breath, reopening them as he exhales. With his exhale also came the volleyball being tossed into the air.
It only took a brief glance at him to note where he was running and with that, you swung your arms to gain momentum as you jumped into the air. Your hands come together above your head only moments before the ball makes contact with them. All of the volleyball players could tell your form wasn't perfect.
Though even in high school, you hadn't been a setter. Nonetheless, Ushijima hardly had to do any work, your set making contact with his hand perfectly. A loud thud sounds through the room as the ball makes contact with the floor.
Ushijima had expected you to be good, but you really had a talent for volleyball, much like Bokuto had been bragging about. He was sure, though, that it was also a product of being a friend of Hinata Shōyō and Bokuto Kōtarō, who seemed to never want to stop practicing. Turning to face you, he noticed the way you grinned proudly at yourself, eyes flickering to his. He interpreted it as exactly what it was: a silent 'how did I do?' And he didn't hesitate to answer your unasked question.
"I think I've found my new favorite setter."
Damn, Ushi really said that in front of Atsumu too... Anyways.
You don't go by the last name 'Kita' anymore, you coined the name 'L/N' for your social media platform, and because after you left for Tokyo, you hadn't had any contact with your brother or grandmother.
Ushijima hasn't ever really had a romantic interest in anyone before, always focusing on his career. But with the knowledge you'll be around often and your phone number, he'll be changing that.
I'm so sorry these updates are taking so long. April and May are kind of rough months for me, but I am working on updates this week, I promise. Anyways, I hope you're all doing wonderfully and taking care of yourselves. Don't forget how proud I am of you, okay? And don't forget to eat, drink some water, and get some rest. You deserve it. Oh, and there will be much more with Ushi, no worries.
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Emma Hayes, The Story of Chelsea's Relentless Genius by Katie Whyatt on the Athletic
Perhaps it is of some reassurance after the political tumult of the past few years that in 2016, as the United Kingdom shuttled towards the European Union membership referendum, Emma Hayes was simply continuing to be Emma Hayes.
We know this because the Chelsea players, back then, were fretful. They were so scared that they couldn’t train. Their heads were elsewhere. They would be paralysed on the ball, or race through cones with a curious listlessness. What would happen to their handful of European players, and what would the knock-on effect be for Ji So-yun, the South Korean midfielder who had been named the PFA’s women’s players’ player of the year the season before?
“Emma cancelled the tactical session,” says Karen Carney, now a pundit across the BBC and BT Sport and previously a winger for Hayes at Chelsea. Hayes called them into a classroom and put up a whiteboard. “’Right. Well. We’ll talk about Brexit. The pros and cons. Do we want to stay or go? What are the impacts?’. It was a whole lesson on Brexit. All because we’re like: ‘Is Ji going to be OK to stay?’. She’s an educator. There’s never a dull moment with her.”
The story is typical of Hayes and from close to a decade together — first at Arsenal, then in America with Chicago Red Stars and, most intimately, across three years at Chelsea from 2016 until Carney retired at 31 in 2019 — Carney has scores of them. Everyone does. Life under and covering Hayes runs the gamut from comical to poignant, by turns wise and groundbreaking.
Like the colleague who has a season ticket next to Hayes at a Premier League club and, after introducing the Chelsea manager to her regular match-going group, now smirks quietly when Hayes convenes them on the concourse at half-time and they grip onto her every word, mouths agog, as she breaks down where it’s all going wrong.
Consider the day Carney met with Hayes for a drink, in one of the breaks between lockdowns, then returned from the toilet to find that Hayes had signed her up for a master’s degree. “I’m like: ‘What? Why?’. She was just like, ‘I can tell you’re bored. You need to be stimulated again. I’m doing it. It’ll be fine’.” That evening, Carney spoke to the professor and enrolled the next day. “I got home and I was like: ‘She’s just sign me up to thousands of pounds worth of courses. How have I signed up for this?’.”
The Athletic has Emma Hayes stories, too. There was the day when my anxiety was particularly intense, following the death of my uncle, and Hayes broke off from her press conference to recommend me a good transcendental meditation app because “I think it will be good for you”. Or the press conference when I asked Hayes how her squad grew to be so resilient and she detailed a visit from a Holocaust survivor, who taught her squad “the values of life and what people have gone through to be here”.
And the time when, days before Chelsea flew to France for their 2019 Champions League semi-final against seven-time winners Lyon, Hayes invited three journalists into her office and pushed aside the coffee table so she could reach the tactics board and spill that week’s contents of her mind in a fervent frenzy. She spoke for close to half an hour without pause, reciting myriad permutations and possibilities, her fingers a whir of marker pens and magnetic shirts. “We’re playing the Harlem Globetrotters on Sunday,” she said. “Every player arguably is the best in the world. You can either sit here and shit yourself, or you face it and go for it.”
Or the time when Eniola Aluko, who would go on to be Chelsea Women’s all-time record goalscorer before being overtaken by Fran Kirby, was suffering from what she describes as “stage fright” and Hayes told her that she had to learn from the pilots who were trained for water landings should the need arise.
“I was so stressed when it came to big games because I wanted to win so badly,” recalls Aluko, now 34 and Aston Villa Women’s sporting director. “And that would come out in different ways. If the game wasn’t going our way or I wasn’t performing, I’d just kind of shut down, or I’d get stressed. She’d say to me: ‘You’ve got to control the now, and stop thinking about what the result is going be before you’ve even affected the game. Pilots train how to be completely calm in a crisis when the plane is about to crash’.” When Chelsea perpetually failed to beat Arsenal, Hayes diagnosed a psychological block and in training gave one set of players red bibs “so that visually, we trained ‘learning how to beat Arsenal’,” Aluko remembers. “She’s quite creative in the things she talks about.”
Today, Chelsea became the first four-time winners of the Women’s Super League. They have done it in a dizzying spell of numbers and records: 120 goals across all competitions, 21 goals for WSL top scorer Sam Kerr, with Kerr and Kirby, arguably the most clinical partnership that the league has ever seen, combining for 52 of those 120 goals.
What else could have followed the smothering, bruising zip with which Chelsea have dismantled scores of opponents with their commanding, decisive spring? No one could argue that it has not been deserved, and, were it not for the mid-season resurgence of Manchester City following that uncharacteristic early crisis, they could have turned the whole thing into a procession.
How can you prepare for a team that have romped to that many goals with their player of the year and top scorer from the previous season barely figuring? “They find different ways to try and break you down,” says Rehanne Skinner, the Tottenham Women manager. “With the squad depth that they’ve got, Emma looks to change varying things in order to make life difficult for you within the game. You’re constantly adjusting, trying to problem solve and make sure that your shape is good enough to try and manage those different individual attributes in the players.”
At the centre of it — from the signing of the world-record player in Pernille Harder to the succession of league results that have often risked touching double figures — has been Hayes, though she will chronically defer praise to the likes of Bruce Buck and Michael Emenalo, who backed her vision for women’s football when it was not especially fashionable to do so.
It will culminate with the biggest game of her life on Sunday, and the Champions League final that promises to be the closest the competition has seen with the absence of a Lyon team that have been part of the semi-final furniture for as long as anyone can remember. To win will be Hayes’ finest achievement, particularly so given the heavy investment in women’s football across Europe in the past few seasons.
“Emma’s managed upwards very well,” says Aluko, “and everyone gets the just rewards of that. I mean, you can’t get better PR, a better story, than both Chelsea’s women and men’s teams in the Champions League final. If that is not an advert for every single owner around the world to invest in women’s football, I don’t know what is.”
And it will be a victory for all that football has often been guilty of undervaluing. Women coaches are commonly pigeonholed into academy roles because of their perceived greater emotional sensitivity, but here, Hayes’ human touch and maternal instinct have reignited Kirby, who looked destined to leave the game following her diagnosis of pericarditis last season. Perhaps Chelsea were always bound to thump Bristol City in this season’s League Cup final but would Kirby have delivered two goals and four assists had Hayes not been conscious to deliver every squad member a Mother’s Day card that morning?
“When I’ve needed Emma, she’s always been there for me and stepped up for me,” says Carney. “When I moved to America, I think my mum must have said to her, ‘Make sure you look after my little girl’. When I was out in the States, my mum got ill. I said to the club, ‘I want to go home’. I was only playing a little bit so I hadn’t really had my money to get back. Emma said that I needed to go home and that the club had sorted it out.
“I went to England, then came back to America and felt a lot happier — I’d seen my mum. I went to the general manager and said, ‘Thank you very much for flying me back to the UK. It really means a lot’. She looked at me in a really, really weird way. I thought, maybe she’s just not good at taking compliments. I only found out years later that it was actually Emma who paid for me to go home. I’ll never forget that. I hope that we’ll be in each other’s lives for a very long time.”
Carney has been open about her battles with depression and self-harm that threatened to derail her football career — at one point, both were so severe that she could not get out of her car to train at Birmingham City. After Hayes was sacked by Chicago — her first big career failure — she met with Carney on a dreamily warm day in Illinois. “We were outside this restaurant in Chicago, literally living the dream, with Emma opposite me. And she said, ‘You’ve got to go home. You have to go home now. I’m worried about you — you need to be with your family. We need to look after you’. She wasn’t even the manager of the football club.”
Unprompted, Carney mentions the deluge of social media abuse that she endured over Christmas and that led to her deleting her Twitter account, warning the relevant websites that they could have “another Caroline Flack on (their) hands” if it continued unchecked.
It was not, crushingly, new territory for Carney. In 2018, the police were contacted over a rape and death threat she received during Chelsea’s 1-0 win over Fiorentina. Hayes, initially, was unaware of what had happened. Days later, the pair had an argument. Hayes was unhappy with Carney’s performance; Carney snapped back. “Then she looked at me, pulled me, sat down with me and was like: ‘What’s going on?’. I told her everything. She sorted everything out. She really stepped up for me at that moment.” What did she do? “She gave me time,” Carney says, simply. “Her time was worth everything.”
During the latest tranche of abuse, Hayes, Carney says, “was the one that made me realise I wasn’t right”.
“She rang me up about four weeks ago and was just brutal with me,” Carney says. “At times, you just want to shake her and go, ‘You know — be a bit nicer’. But that’s her approach with me and being direct has clearly worked in the past. She was like: ‘You’re not right. You haven’t been right. You haven’t dealt with stuff in the past from the previous abuse that you got. You need to see someone and you see someone quick’.
“It wasn’t until she outed me a little bit that I was like: she is right. I’ve been doing too much and I haven’t been coping. And these are the repercussions.
“All these stories are nothing to do with football, either — and that’s probably why she’s so good at what she does.”
Equally immeasurable are Hayes’ victories, often hard-won and significant, for areas that the game has neglected. It is difficult for those in men’s sport, steeped as it is in the language of marginal gains, to appreciate how barren the sports science landscape has often been for the other sex: science has, criminally, always treated women like small men at best and “sort of half of male athletes”, to quote Aluko, at worst.
Aluko remembers Hayes being “terrified” of knee injuries, and with good reason. Sports scientists estimate that women players are up to three times more likely to suffer anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injuries than men. “She took it really personally if players had ACL injuries,” Aluko continues. Hayes’ response to losing two players in one swoop was, Aluko adds, “’We’re not going to say this is bad luck — we’re going to look at injury prevention.” That led to Hayes’ work with the tracking app FitrWoman, to monitor the impact of players’ menstrual cycles — inspired also by Hayes’ own crippling periods due to endometriosis. Eva Woods, a women’s sport and health performance specialist, has aided her continually. “Emma was just ahead of the curve,” Aluko concludes.
Hayes’ mind is also a filing cabinet of fairly rich character studies and her greatest strength is finding, intuitively or otherwise, what makes who tick. “Her ability to manage individuals is second to none,” says the Chelsea defender Niamh Charles. “She knows what that individual needs, and doesn’t just give everyone the same. She’s very good at knowing what’s needed at the time and being able to provide that. Before every game, we have a video about the game or something she wants us to focus on. It could be anything — there’s no one brand she brings.”
Hayes is one of the WSL’s greatest shapeshifters in this regard. For Erin Cuthbert, the Scotland international, Emma is “very much tough love with me: she’s never given anything to me easily and I’ve had to fight for everything, and that’s the way I like it”. For Kirby, Hayes has always felt that “the one thing Fran needed from me was a maternal eye”. Kerr, Hayes says, “certainly doesn’t want too much information”. Carney would grow restless easily and had to be constantly occupied: Hayes would send her off to compile scouting reports and deliver presentations and once called England, at St George’s Park, to tell them they must not let Carney twiddle her thumbs if they wanted to get the best out of her. Aluko, one of Chelsea’s fastest players, thrived under Hayes’ periodisation training. Hayes told her: “We’ve got Ferraris in the team and we’ve got Skodas — you can’t treat them the same.” For her own part, Hayes has become “even more clear, concise, more thorough and more punchy since she’s had her son”, Carney says.
It has made for an inclusive culture but like any elite team, there is no room for passengers. Hayes likes her mantras: one is “what got us here won’t get us there”. Another is “let’s do it again but do it better”, similar to her “don’t ever settle”. Aluko won the WSL golden boot in 2015 and was player of the match in the FA Cup final that year. Then Hayes signed Ramona Bachmann from Wolfsburg. “Then I feel unsettled again,” says Aluko, with admiration. “There was this family culture and you wanted to be part of it. But at the same time, there was a flip side where she didn’t really care about keeping people happy. She always wanted to keep people on their toes.
“There’s a ruthlessness to Emma. Those players who aren’t playing now, I’d try and tell them: ‘When you get your Champions League medal or another league medal at the end of season, no one’s really going to care how much you’ve won’. You know that’s going to happen at Chelsea. That’s what really helped me in those times where I wasn’t playing — I knew that the end goal for the entire team was always going to benefit all of us. There is a cutthroat side that I think has got Chelsea to where it is now. Whether it’s Fran Kirby, Sam Kerr, Pernille Harder, Bethany England, she will always bring in players that that make you feel like your spot’s not secure. And that that produces the performances and the winning mentality that you see.”
Carney adds: “I really miss working with her because I miss high performance a lot. And, yes, she is probably the most draining person you can ever work for. Because she doesn’t stop, doesn’t stop thinking and doesn’t stop challenging you. But it’s that buzz you get.”
Not that it has always been smooth. Hayes lost 11 of the 12 Chelsea games during her maiden season. Aluko, who “kind of fell out of love with football” at Birmingham the previous season, found that it “just added to my disillusion then. At the time you’re sort of rock bottom, it’s very difficult to see a way out of being pretty bad in the league”.
In 2014, Chelsea went into the final day as one of three potential title winners. The leaders were 2-0 down to Manchester City by half-time while Liverpool overcame Bristol 3-0 to win the league. That evening, Hayes’ squad visited Rio Ferdinand’s restaurant for a morose debrief: Aluko was crying into her pasta. Hayes, too, was in tears. “Then Emma said: ‘Stick with it. Trust me. We’re on a journey here. And I will make this into a successful club’,” Aluko recalls. “She would have said, back in 2014, ‘One day, we will win the Champions League’. She’s a visionary. And she’s somebody that really can sell you a dream and make it realistic.”
Still, the title makes for a job only half done. This is stop No 2 on Chelsea’s quest for the only quadruple in English women’s football since Arsenal managed the same in 2007. Hayes pulled them into training on bank holiday Monday, the day after they qualified for the Champions League final, and it was like the whole thing had never happened.
“That emotion was unreal,” Charles explains, “but straight away, it’s: ‘This week is a league week’. We set out at the start season to win them all. It’s just the pure winning mentality every single day of wanting to be the best and unapologetically saying that. We have so many experienced players here that they’re used to it — this is normal for them.”
Others, however, have allowed themselves to wonder just what will happen if Hayes becomes the first female coach to win the Women’s Champions League. “I’ve got goosebumps thinking about it now,” Carney says. “They’ve given themselves the best opportunity to make history.”
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𝐓𝐈𝐌𝐄 : 02:10 am
𝐋𝐎𝐂𝐀𝐓𝐈𝐎𝐍: eden’s apartment
it’s ten minutes past two, she realizes as the numbers pop up bright and clear on her illuminating phone screen, but the notion of actually going to sleep and getting some rest before another mind-numbing day at work seems like a foreign concept now. it is not for lack of trying, it’s worth noting, as she spent the last three hours on cleaning her apartment, bathing bayezid and poor attempts at baking turkish desserts. from changing her bed sheets and making sure that they always smell of jasmine to watering her expensive collection of oriental plants, cleaning their leaves and aerating their soil, she truly had her hands full, content with the fact that her apartment looked more like a luscious green garden than actual living space, her little paradise on earth. yet even after all of that, she feels as though she might grow a second pair of eyes any second now on the back of her head — another pointless inconvenience to keep her awake.
eden doesn't know exactly when or why she fell into this chasm of despair, or if she was just pushed, but to find true peace again she’d have to travel to a place that now only exists in her head. pensive, dreaming awake, she mustn’t let her mind wander or else she’ll drown, get caught in a fisherman’s neat woven out of false hope. satiated and tired, her heart no longer wishes to feed itself with faux hope, at least not tonight, when it’s filled to the brim with worry and trepidation. carman, her friends, and the night of february second all come to her mind and she can’t help but think if all her suffering is for nothing. what if wisdom doesn’t await her, what if it doesn’t bloom inside of her like a late autumn flower?
interrupting her own train of thoughts, she picks up her phone again, gentle fingers hovering over the screen in a pure state of indecisiveness until she stumbles upon an all-too-familiar name. samir. she dials his number, and the phone rings once, then twice while she chides herself for calling him so late. wake up, samir. please. at last the line clicks. “hey sam, it’s eden. i'm sorry if i woke you up, but i'm all alone... and i can’t stop thinking about the night when they broke the truce... and i’m petrified... and would you like to come over and watch a movie with me? i even made a dessert.”
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