#it’s nothing deep though I just like thieves
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Sick of it all ronin shirt
Sick of it all ronin shirt .besteestores In 1919, Queen Mary asked the Also,I will get this London jewelers House of Garrard to turn a necklace into a tiara. That necklace had a special significance: It had been gifted to Mary by Queen Victoria, who had received it as a wedding gift in 1893. Garrard made a diadem comprised of 47 tapered diamond bars. The design was influenced by a Russian kokoshnik, an ornate halo-shaped headdress worn by women of the country’s imperial court. Cut off shagginess, cast away wisdom, and then the great thieves will cease. Break the jades, crush the pearls, and petty thieves will no longer rise up. Burn the tallies, shatter the seals, and the people will be simple and guileless. Hack up the bushels, snap the balances in two, and the people will no longer wrangle. Destroy and wipe out the laws that the sage has made for the world, and at last, you will find you can reason with the people wipeout and reject benevolence and righteousness, and for the first time, the Virtue of the world will reach the state of Mysterious Leveling. Knowledge must wait for something before it can be applicable, and that which it waits for is never certain. How, then, can I know that what I call Heaven is not really man, and what I call to man is not really Heaven? There must first be a True Man before there can be true knowledge. What do I mean by a True Man? The True Man of ancient times did not rebel against want, did not grow proud in plenty, and did not plan his affairs. A man like this could commit an error and not regret it, could meet with success, and not make a show. A man like this could climb the high places and not be frightened, could enter the water and not get wet, could enter the fire and not get burned. His knowledge was able to climb all the way up to the Way like this. The True Man of ancient times slept without dreaming and woke without care; he ate without savoring and his breath came from deep inside. The True Man breathes with his heels; the mass of men breathe with their throats. Crushed and bound down, they gasp out their words as though they were retching. Deep in their passions and desires, they are shallow in the workings of Heaven. This is what I call the True Man.Though, true to British sensibility, this one was much simpler than those donned by the recently overthrown Romanovs. In 1936, Queen Mary passed it on to Queen Elizabeth (now referred to as the “Queen Mother”). Eleven years later, the Queen Mother lent it to her daughter, the then Princess Elizabeth, for a very special occasion: her wedding to Lieutenant Philip Mountbatten. It’s then that the tiara had its most famous—and infamous—moment. Before Elizabeth was due to walk down the aisle, it snapped.
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Sick of it all ronin shirt .besteestores Luckily, a court jeweler quickly mended the Also,I will get this rare piece. In 1973, the Queen Mother loaned the tiara for another royal wedding—that of her granddaughter Princess Anne. An estimated 500 million people watched the Westminster Abbey ceremony to Mark Phillips. And, just like her mother before her, Queen Elizabeth extended the same offer to her own granddaughter, Princess Beatrice. Now, an emotional connection to five Windsor women lives on. He emerged without delight; he went back in without a fuss. He came briskly, he went briskly, and that was all. He didn’t forget where he began; he didn’t try to find out where he would end. He received something and took pleasure in it; he forgot about it and handed it back again. This is what I call not using the mind to repel the Tao, not using man to help out Heaven. This was the True Man of old: his bearing was lofty and did not crumble; he appeared to lack but accepted nothing; he was dignified in his correctness but not insistent; he was vast in his emptiness but not ostentatious. Mild and cheerful, he seemed to be happy; reluctant, he could not help doing certain things; annoyed, he let it show in his face; relaxed, he rested in his virtue. Tolerant, he seemed to be part of the world; towering alone, he could be checked by nothing; withdrawn, he seemed to prefer to cut himself off; bemused, he forgot what he was going to say. He regarded penalties as the body, rites as the wings, wisdom as what is timely, virtue as what is reasonable. Because he regarded penalties as the body, he was benign in his killing. Because he regarded rites as the wings, he got along in the world. Because he regarded wisdom as what is timely, there were things that he could not keep from doing. Because he regarded virtue as what is reasonable, he was like a man with two feet who gets to the top of the hill. And yet people really believed that he worked hard to get there. Instead of praising Yao and condemning Chieh, it would be better to forget both of them and transform yourself with the Way. The Great Clod burdens me with form, labors me with life, eases me in old age, and rests me in death. So if I think well of my life, for the same reason I must think well of my death.
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Mind Air -- Musing 182
The color and taste
of our mental space
is the air
the spirit breathes
You have to wind down a bit. Relax. Corral your thoughts. Abandon them. Deep breath. Have some air. Easier said than breathed, though. Still, give it a go. Better, no?
Air, about four-fifths nitrogen and one-fifth oxygen, plus a small percentage (as in around 1%) of other stuff, such as hydrogen, carbon dioxide, and, yes, some water as well.
All that in with every breath. The oxygen-hungry lungs grab all they can and pass it on to the equally oxygen-hungry blood for immediate forwarding to the oxygen-hungry rest of the body.
Then we breathe out: away with all the stuff the body didn’t need, plus the one thing plants thirst for, i.e., carbon dioxide. They’re all grateful that us walking critters provide the stuff, and we’re all grateful that plants (all the way from plankton to redwoods) renew our oxygen all the time. Symbiosis. Nature’s amazing win-win.
And all these goings-on just on their own. No Self in there supervising and executing things. Just breathe, nature takes care of the rest.
As for the spirit: not that the spirit needs air to live, nor does it need the complex mix of stuff that floats around in our minds, but this is what it nonetheless breathes, when it breathes, which it mostly does, deeper sometimes than others. Sometimes even gasping for it.
My mind-air (yes, let’s call it that) is sometimes so thick as to be nothing but fog (hence the expression “feeling foggy”). Spirit-breathing (yes, let’s call it that), this mind-air can be toxic (as in mind-numbingly intoxicating). Sometimes I wake up that way: residue from a night’s worth of weird dreams would be my guess. The fog settled on a dream battle field. Corpses (both men and horses) scattered everywhere. Gustavus Adolphus returned home to Stockholm. Just one or two brave souls checking the dead (both soldiers and horses) for valuables (even though stealing from the dead will lead you straight to hell, courtesy of the hangman—still, hunger is after all hunger, and hanging to death sometimes feels like a much-preferred option to starving to death.
So, into this morning fog I rise, deep, involuntary, spirit-breaths as I grapple my way to the bathroom to do my morning bathroom things, after which (somewhat restored, and about five ounces lighter) I grapple my way back to my bedroom and built-in closet to don today’s uniform—which color sweat suit today (my motto as regards clothes: comfort before style)?
The fog is dissipating a little, and with the fog, so do the corpses (both men and horses and corpse-thieves). I saunter into the kitchen (I think of it as my galley since my little cabin is not much larger than a thirty-six-foot sloop—well, quite a bit larger, but not as large as a house.
Tea. Green and strong. And warm. I can feel this heaven-sent liquid slide down my throat and enter my stomach (which I, again, surprisingly, find far higher in my chest than expected—not at all in my gut as it were, but just under my heart). Ah… fog lifting altogether on a brand-new day.
Mind-air fresh and clear now.
Spirit-breathing quite pleasant.
Sometimes, especially during my morning walks, the mind-air mirrors the air-air pretty much. A little breezy, but fresh, and gulls not screaming as they sail at speed with the wind. They seem to enjoy this. I read somewhere that ravens like sailing on the wind as well, whereas crows don’t, they flap all the time. I think that ravens and crows should come with small signs that specify which species they belong to. A divine oversight not have label-furnished these birds, methinks.
Head, though, clear and fresh and a little breezy. Then, up percolates some thought or other and depending on subject my mind-air colors accordingly: light pastels for notions or hopes, thicker oil for memories, yellows and whites for surprises, light green for poetry, very light blue for ocean (of which I have a trillion acres just a few feet away during my walks), and here comes another mighty breeze and all colors take cover or scram and my head is all fresh and color-free again.
Deep, translucent spirit-breath.
Some colors come with flavor.
Some colors constitute garments.
Some colors are very soothing (I love those).
Some colors are challenging (I sometimes meet them, sometimes ignore, sometimes tell them to behave).
Immersing myself in language sometimes tastes like licorice. Sticks to my teeth. Good thing I like language, and licorice.
Music has a taste all its own—transcending taste.
Bach transcends music.
Music transcends language.
Licorice makes me brush my teeth extra well.
And here comes Bugge Wesseltoft with another amazing message from Norway—I think he is somehow related to JSB.
And now I think I’ll step outside to let the wind clear my mind-air again.
P.S. If you like what you’ve read here and would like to contribute to the creative motion, as it were, you can do so via PayPal: here.
Prompt sent in by @brightlycoloredteacups
@captainpoopweinersoldier it’s your man Raymondo!
Fandom: The Gentlemen
Raymond Smith x reader
Warnings: implied smut, Ray and reader both being little shits
"Ah. Thief." Your eyebrows raise at Ray's strange greeting. He's stood behind the kitchen island, the smell of whatever he's making for dinner wafting over towards you. You sigh as you slowly make your way through the kitchen to the grumpy man you've for some reason chosen to live with.
"The way we greet each other really has gone downhill." You complain and there's a brief flash of a smile on Ray's face before it falls back into neutrality.
"My apologies, love," he clears his throat, straightens his back "Hello, thief. Would you like some wine while I finish dinner?" That might just be the most Raymond thing you've ever heard him say; polite and curt all at once. While the words come out deceptively smooth there's definitely tension in his shoulders. You do have an inkling as to what this is about and you are 100% certain that Ray will broach the subject without any prodding from you. So you step forward, pulling out a chair at the kitchen island.
"That’s better," you say as you sit down "And yes, please." He takes out a glass, studies it for any imperfections, then sets it down and fills it up. Ray turns his attention back to dinner. Well, at least on the surface. He checks on what you assume is a sauce, stirring it carefully, and with his back to you he broaches the subject that has him on edge.
"What did I tell you about taking my sweaters?"
"That I'm only allowed to take the ones on the far left of the wardrobe," you reply "Like this one." Ray turns so rapidly you think he might spill sauce on the stove, looking absolutely dumbfounded.
"Excuse me?" He demands "For the seven months that I've owned that sweater, it has been hanging dead center in the wardrobe. Past the no thieving-line." You've half a mind to tell him that most people don't have a marked out no thieving-line in their wardrobe to keep their significant other from borrowing certain items of clothing.
"Not this morning." You say instead, taking a sip of wine. Ray's jaw twitches.
"Are you suggesting that I don't know where my clothes are?" Ray's habits are equal parts endearing and frustrating though right now the scale is leaning heavily towards the latter. You take a deep breath, weighing your next words carefully.
"Everybody makes mistakes, Ray. Maybe you put it in the wrong place after the last time you did laundry." It does nothing to dissuade him.
"And you jumped at the chance to take it," he says indignantly "without questioning its new placement?" You shrug your shoulders, leaning back in the chair with the wine glass in your hand.
"I figured you'd updated your closet and that it was no longer off limits." His lips pull into a thin line and he glares at you from behind his glasses.
"Take it off, please." He finally says between grit teeth. You set the glass down, a little harder than necessary.
"Fine. Is there anything else you'd like me to take off while I'm at it?" That catches him off guard. He blinks. Once, twice. You wait not-so-patiently for his response. Ray shows his glasses further up his nose.
"Dinner first." He says, before turning to the stove and you can't help but grin behind his back.
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find the word tag CX
because ghosty feeds me really well, I still have more tags! :squinty smile: @zmlorenz actually I think it works out that I do these belatedly sometimes so that when maybe sorcery and I are doing the same one it’s more surprising. or I don’t know anything and I should’ve gone to bed when we stopped playing minecraft.
stay (Youth story supplemental)
“Please don’t steal my heart, like, ever.”
Evie crossed her heart. “I promise.”
Nyks crossed his heart, too. “I also promise!”
Cal held up a hand like he was making a vow. “I already live there, I don’t have to steal it.”
“Thanks, you guys,” R said wryly. “I feel so much better. Cal, get out of my heart.”
“You’re kicking your own brother out?” Daniel said, mimicking the pose of earlier, hands framing his face. “Maybe I should steal your heart to make sure Cal can stay there.”
month (Youth story)
Now, though? Now that they’d found some kind of middle ground and hadn’t punched each other once in a whole month, things felt so much more barren. The scope of his pain had changed. And his awareness and perception of his past behavior had also changed, drastically. Instead of a twisted sense of satisfaction and dislike when he was around Isanz, R now felt hollow and guilty.
panic (Anxiety story -1)
In his haste, his coffee dropped and spilled all over the blacktop and Aiden stood there looking down at it, tears of frustration, exasperation and agitation pooling in his eyes once more and he forced his feet to move before he made an utter fool of himself for crying over spilled coffee in front of Ree, who was now standing right in front of him.
Aiden took another deep breath. Ree looked down at the spilled coffee with a pout, shoving her hands in her pockets and sighing.
"Too bad. It was really good coffee."
"I'm sorry!" Aiden blurted out before he lost his voice altogether and dissolved into heavy breathing to hold back the sobs that were trying to wrench themselves from his throat.
Ree noticed, of course. Ree had a knack for noticing. But Ree didn't panic. Her eyes looked a little panicky, but her voice was reassuring and gentle. "Aiden."
borrow (I don’t like any of my instances so we’re thieves now. Anxiety story -1)
Aiden held onto Ree like something was trying to steal him away. Something was. Lots of things. All his demons and all his ghosts. "You're here," he repeated, determined to believe it. He trusted Ree. He did. Ree would help him fight off the demons, fight off the ghosts. So many. So, so many. But Ree was bigger than they were, surely.
After all, she was everything. Aiden was nothing and Ree was everything.
person (Youth story)
“So I think I can still get anxiety, which is why I’ve been so erratic lately.”
R put a hand over Daniel’s mouth and answered first, “Nyks, you’ve been talking about yourself like you’re not a real person a lot lately. What’s up with that? You do know that being intangible half the time doesn’t make you less real, right? And since Evie’s already established that you’re definitely not dead, you don’t have the ghost excuse either.”
Nyks’ eyes shifted between R and Daniel, sucking on the inside of his cheek. “I, uh, yeah. I do know that. That I’m real and not dead and just not a solid state of mass all the time. Yep.”
well. okay. yeah. so um, if you wanna do the tag, do it. my eyes are closing and I can’t stop them ahhhh..............fall, flavor, found, finish, feeling.
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Fixing DBK with one scene - Thermos/Tumbler scene
Pete felt a surge of anger and disappointment swell in his body. He felt betrayed by the one he loved most. He’d been suspecting Kao of doing things behind his back, but he didn’t know what. Every time he brought it up, Kao would deflect to something else. Today, everything came to a head and the powder keg exploded.
“Ai’ Kao, why does he have your tumbler?” Pete was furious as he held the little cup in his hand. “Answer me! Why does he have your tumbler?!”
Kao was lost for words. He knew he had messed up. He’d felt awful about lying to Pete, but what could he do. His boyfriend was being unreasonable. Non was the son of his mother’s boss and Kao had just wanted to be a dutiful son. He knew that his sister needed to money to move and that his mother wanted the promotion, so here he was, thinking he could be the man of his household. He thought he could handle things and life would turn out smoothly. Turns out, he was wrong.
“Come with me,” ordered Pete as he dragged Kao out of the hallway and to the parking lot. They needed somewhere to talk and this was the first place he’d thought of that would be private enough. Their friends followed from a distance, giving looks of confusion and contempt towards the source of the problem. Non simply smirked, thinking he had won something. In this life, thieves will never be winners.
Pete swung Kao harshly, making the other land with a loud thump against Pete’s car. Pete was absolutely livid as he angrily shoved and waved the tumbler in Kao’s face.
“Are you going to fucking tell me or not? Or do I just have to say it myself?”
“Ai’ Pete, please just calm down.”
“I AM CALM!”
Kao froze; a hand outstretched, but stopped midway. He had wedged himself between a rock and a hard place, but couldn’t fight back. What could he even do or say to make up for this?
Pete took a deep breath and exhaled slowly, yet his breathing was still ragged and hard. “Ai’ Kao, I am calm, so just please. Tell me what’s wrong.”
With watery eyes, Kao opened his mouth, but no words of any meaning came out. Nothing came out. He felt utterly useless and it was all his fault his boyfriend would break up with him. He was supposed to be the smart one, the one who was able to talk, but his mind was blank.
Pete stared at Kao, wiping away the others tears as Pete held Kao’s hands. He kissed them softly, before embracing the other in a hug. Pete sniffled as he too felt tears running down his face.
“Ai’ Kao, I don’t know what I’ve done so you have to tell me. Tell me what’s wrong so I can change. I did it before and I’ll do it again. What does that kid have that I don’t? Brains? Suave? Charm? I can learn things for you, be a better person. You make me want to be a better person, so please don’t leave me. Don’t take that away from me because I like the person I’ve become. And I love you. Please tell me what to do so I don’t lose you.”
Kao cried silently into Pete’s back, holding on for dear life as if he’d fall off a cliff if he let go. The only words that came out were a shaky, “Ai…Pete…Kao…loves…you…”
“And I want to believe that, but after today…I don’t know if I can trust you…”
“Please, Ai’ Pete, don’t—”
“You know I hate liars, but I’ll make an exception for you. All you have to do is explain to me what happened.”
Pete pulled back from the hug, cupping the other’s face in his hands. He kissed Kao on the nose and on the cheek, as if it were a magic spell to get everything to stop.
Kao started to hyperventialate in an attempt to steady his breathing. Pete, now worried, directed his boyfriend to calm himself.
“Ai’ Kao. Ai’ Kao. You got to breathe. Breath with me. In. Out. In. Out. In. Out. Just like that. In. Out. In. Out. In. Out.”
Kao coughed but his breathing returned to normal. He was still crying though. He couldn’t stop.
“Ai’ Pete, I’m sorry for lying to you. I thought you wouldn’t listen to me.”
“But I am right now. I’m not the person I used to be; you got to believe in that.”
Kao nodded his head and continued, “You know that N’ Non was the son of my mother’s boss. And then we need money so my sister could move. I don’t know what I was thinking, but I wanted to be good son.”
“And you were. But Ai’ Kao, you come first. That kid was out of line. You should have refused.”
“But my mom’s promotion—”
“Ai’ Kao. I’m sure your mom couldn’t give two fucks about her promotion if she knew that her son was suffering. And I’m sure your mom will still love you after you tell her everything. And if she doesn’t, you always have me, but I doubt that. You’re her son after all. Her lovely, handsome, smart, doting son. And a person I don’t deserve to have.”
“Ai’ Pete, I’m sorry.”
“It’s not your fault. Well, it is a little.”
Kao gave a weak smile as he gave a soft chuckle, “Asshole.”
“Love you too, Ai’ Kao.”
They stood in the parking lot for a while, even missing class. Everything seemed so serene in that moment. After they were done, Pete decided to drive them to his house, missing the rest of the day as well. There they could be totally secluded in comfortable silence.
Sandee watched as her two friends fought. She watched the rage Pete had suppressed, lash out violently in its moment of freedom. Thada had restrained Pete, while June protected Kao.
“Why does he have your tumbler?!” screamed Pete.
She was about to intervene, when Pete suddenly dragged Kao out of the hallway. Sandee moved towards Non, scolding the boy harshly.
“Go home kid, you’ve caused enough trouble here. I don’t care who you are or how much money you have or who your dad is. Leave us alone and leave them alone. Ai’ June. Ai’ Thada. Come on, let’s follow them.”
She ran off with her friends in the direction of the quarrelling couple. She was worried that Pete might harm Kao, but in her heart, she knew that could never be. Pete loved Kao too much to hurt him. She knew Pete rather break both his arms before he even thought about hurting Kao.
“Ai’ Sandee. What’s going on?” asked Thada.
“Yeah, what the hell just happened?” asked June.
“I’ll explain in a minute, just—” She cut herself off as she dragged her two friends behind a car. In a loud whisper she started to explain, “Since you two are clearly too stupid to work it out, Ai’ Kao and Ai’ Pete have been dating.”
“For how long?” asked June.
“I’m getting to that. They’ve been dating since freshman year. It’s been really obvious if you ever paid attention.”
“And why do you know?” asked Thada.
“Because I accidentally caught them in freshman year, arguing over me.”
“You?” they cried out in unison.
“Shh!” she cried back, “It was a petty jealousy thing, but that’s not important now.”
“Well do you know what’s happening now?” asked Thada, both boys now staring at their friend for answers. Sandee shook her head.
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Rain is a Chance to be Touched Masterlist
AH I can't believe this is finally happening: welcome to my first CM novel-length multi-chapter fic!
A Gift For: @degrassi-fanatic because I wouldn't have started or finished this fic without her. And she's also a huge fucking simp for me so 🙄
Summary: When Spencer is shot in the knee and Hotch's whole family comes under attack, the depression that's been slowly creeping up on him over the last couple of months takes over, shrouding him in a dark cloud he can't escape.
Hotch finally realises what's going on, but before he can say anything Spencer leaves the BAU. He throws himself into the life of the younger man, desperate to make him happy again, but will their budding new relationship actually blossom? And is Spencer's relationship with the team broken forever?
TLDR; A Hotchreid-centric recovery fic centering on season five, heavily featuring Penelope Garcia. As it should.
Tags: angst with a happy ending, depression, recovery, getting together, season 5 fix-it, hurt/comfort, the team fuck up, and then they make it up to him
Pairing: Aaron Hotchner x Spencer Reid; Side Penemily
Word Count: 67k (plus an epilogue still to write) over 17 chapters
READ ON AO3 // Main Masterlist
Below the Cut: an excerpt, trigger warnings, more info, posting schedule, the chapter list
"He doesn’t really understand how he’s gone from being a genuinely happy person, thick as thieves with everybody on the team, to this. It’s almost as though somebody’s cut the rope tying him to the others and now he’s drifting away, sinking without everyone else’s buoyancy to keep him afloat. He can see them all still tied together, barely seeming to notice their drowning team member, clearly not missing his presence."
grief, GSWs, the foyet arc, suicidal ideation, serious depression, anxiety, isolation/loneliness, disordered thinking, serious mental health issues, people dismissing others' mental health issues - if you spot one I'm missing, please point it out!
Some Things I'd Like to Say:
Spencer deals with some heavy shit in this fic, folks, and if you think that's gonna trigger you, turn away now
This is based on a mixture of personal experience and research to fill in any knowledge gaps: that being said, nothing in this fic should be taken as the gospel truth
If you'd like to know anything more about the triggers in this fic please message me and I'll be happy to elaborate!
I'll be posting every Saturday evening! The chapters start out at around 3k words each but quickly escalate to an average of 5-6k. It's written in alternating 3rd person POV, starting with Spencer in ch1.
Title from Simon Van Booy's quote: "For lonely people, rain is a chance to be touched."
Smut is in separate chapters and will be posted on my nsfw blog so anyone who wants a clean read can avoid it!
Finally, if you're not already familiar with me/my work, I live in England. Anything specific to America is liable to be wrong - and you're just gonna have to put up with the different spellings etc :)
Chapter One: this arid world has turned my deep heart dry
Chapter Two: hell is empty, and all the devils are here
Chapter Three: even the stars choose destruction over life
taglist: @criminalmindsvibez @suburban--gothic @strippersenseii @takeyourleap-of-faith @makaylajadewrites @iamrenstark @hotchseyebrows @reidology @i-like-buttons @spencerspecifics @bau-gremlin @hotchedyke @tobias-hankel @goobzoop @marsjareau @garcias-bitch (taglist form)
(I'm tagging my usual hotchreid taglist but let me know if you would not like to be tagged in this fic OR if you'd only like to be tagged once it's complete! Either fill in my taglist form again or DM me.)
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14. if you could live anywhere in the world where would it be? why? 30. what's your favorite candle scent? 41. top 10 favorite songs!!!!!! 🖤
14. By the sea, more specifically the North Sea, though what matters to me is the fact that it's anywhere near the ocean. I don't have a certain city in mind but preferably somewhere I haven't been before so I can make it my own completely. I've always felt drawn to the seaside, I feel like I do so more the more time passes, especially at places where the weather is more rough and the waves are high and the sea is more "violent" - though I also love soft, summery weather and the Mediterrean Sea, there's just something about storminess by the ocean that calms me and makes me feel so connected and, well, home.
30. It totally depends on the mood I'm in but I always find the scent of vanilla to be very nice, or something with berries. In winter I love the scent of cinnamon but I've never had a cinnamon candle so who knows if I'd like that.
41. Wow, so that was actually such a hard decision that I went through all of my songs for to find out. So I wouldn't necessarily say these are my only favourite songs or like, the ultimate 10 ones, limiting myself to 10 was really hard actually. But I did it eventually.
1. Post Blue by Placebo because from the first time I found it this song has always felt like *insert edgy metaphor about shooting something in my veins here* - I don't know why it has this affect on me but it does.
2. Burn Bright by My Chemical Romance. I am just in love with the whole metaphor in that song, the city nights. And the intensity of it, and the kind of... hopeful despair?
3. Mile Deep Hollow by IAMX, don't get me started I will cry to this.
4. S.H.E. by IAMX, honestly? I feel like he just sings that to me. Also that song is in one of my Spotify playlists called "we get it, you're a leo" because.... yes.
5. Lighting Field by Sneaker Pimps, I love the vibe of it and the "strike me down / give it everything you got / strike me down / I'll be everything I'm not" part - there's something about fighty lyrics that gets to me, just like there's something about lyrics about faking who you are that gets to me as well.
6. Be My End by Creeper, the lyrics are everything I've ever wanted lmao, like... Armageddon, Heaven, Hell, angels, devils, vampires... in ONE song? And that with a devotion-tinted romantic touch? Hello?!
7. Sweetest Perfection by Depeche Mode, honestly just feeling this, the "too good to be true" energy and idk, I feel like it's the kinda song you sink into. (Does this make sense?)
8. Cat People by David Bowie, it's just... so, let's say if I had a soundtrack, this song would be on it. It feels like an ultimate soundtrack song for me.
9. Parallel Universe by Red Hot Chilli Peppers (the person who showed this song to me right now: 👁👄👁). I really don't know how to properly describe it but that song feels like the sky opens up and shows me the entire universe. Kill me.
10. Forever & Ever More by Nothing But Thieves, ultimate "running away together" song, evokes a million images in my head, also I'm obsessed with the singer's voice honestly.
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the last one from domestic, kyalin pls 😊
Thank you for your ask. I written it this morning but couldn't post it till now. I hope you don't mind my crappy writing. I hope you enjoy qwq
Lin inhaled the lightly air, the chilling autumn air already signaling that it was beginning. Lin took one last deep breath of the air and soon pulled out a cigarette. She lit it and soon she inhaled the sweet and addictive taste of the pollution.
She was invited to a sleepover with the girls and Suyin was already passed out from the alcohol she was sipping and Izumi talking to Kya. Everything was supposed to be a peaceful night but for some reason the police officer was restless.
Her mother forced her to take 2 weeks off to rest her nerves. Listening to the soft lapping of water at the shore was something she never quite got used to. She missed the sounds of cars, the twinkling of lights and as odd as it was the different smells of pollutants and food.
Lin could still see the scene before her, a homicide that was a mess. It shaken Lin to her core seeing the younger woman, a girl near the age of her sisters. Lin's fingers twitched as she didn't want to think anymore more of it but of course that didn't work.
Suddenly the sounds of the sliding door being opened signalled Lin to snuff out her cigarette. Lin was ready to snuff it out she heard Kya's voice. "You don't need to put it out."
Lin turned her head to see the waterbender and she furrowed her brows. "Wheres Zumi?" She asked softly.
Kya smiled and walked towards her and draped herself agaisnt the railing. "She went to bed 2 hours ago."
Lin's brows furrowed and looked at the moon and then inside to see it dark inside. "I... the lights were just on though." She mumbled thoughtfully. She looked down to see she smoked 4 cigarettes.
Kya could see Lin start panicking and she pressed a hand to her lower back. "You're okay Lin." She said softly. "What's on your mind?" She said rubbing her back.
Lin swallowed roughly and sniffed the cigarette out and pinched the bridge of her nose. With a heavy sigh she brushed her fingers through her curls and looked back out to the moon.
"Something bad happened Kya." She brushed her fingers through her hair to try and get a grip of herself. "I usually am okay with all kinds of cases. Thieves, accidental crashes, homicide." She whispered the last part.
"I'm usually fine with them but... with the way Su's being. The constant rebelliousness... the way she sneaks out at night."
Kya watched as the nervous woman began to ramble. The job appeared to be breaking Lin's emotions and brain.
"The homicide... was a bad one. A drughead killed a girl just because she didn't have any on her. It was a mess." Lin gripped her tighter and inhaled the salty air.
"What if.... what if that happens to Su? Then there would be nothing I can do." She breathed. "She no longer listens to me. Chief doesn't do anything... what am I to do?" Lin looked over at Kya with tears in her eyes. "Not to mention the fact that I just... I feel so weak. Upon seeing the damn girl I froze. I couldn't do shit. I was taken out of there. No doubt everyone is going to start talking about me." She blew out a breath and sighed.
Kya sighed and pulled her in for a hug and hugged her tightly. "I want to tell you what I've learned on the road this past two years." Kya leaned more against Lin as she felt Lin grip onto her.
"There will always be bad guys. Always be bad people in the world to do bad stuff. And there will always be people like you Lin. People that will protect others." She inhaled gently and cupped her cheek.
"And then you have the drifters. Or people that are trying to figure themselves out. Lin... Suyin is a teenager. A girl trying to find what she wants in the world." Kya could feel Lin's jaw tense, she knowing Lin wouldn't like this at all.
"Suyin is going through tough shit. Just like you are. You remember how hard you pushed yourself just so you can be the best that you are. You used to wake up at the crack of dawn to work out, to try and please your mother."
Lin growled softly and tried to step put of Kya's embrace. But do to Kya's holding she was trapped. She never knew Kya was this strong.
"Suyin is trying to find herself. She's scared can't you see? I admit she's a brat but what can we do? The more we try to control her the more she will try and break free." Lin sighed and pressed her head into her shoulder.
"Suyin isn't that girl you saw. Suyin wouldn't let anyone touch her. Suyin would beat their ass. You know why?" Lin looked up searching for the answer in her eyes.
"Why?" She asked softly feeling a bit better having Kya be by her side.
"Because Su was able to take you down." Kya laughed.
Lin growled and pulled out of her hug and crossed her arms. "Not funny." She grumbled hating Kya now.
Kya chuckled and wrapped her arms around her, ignoring Lin's pushing away. "Kya I swear if you don't let go of me now I'll-"
Kya leaned forward and pressed a kiss to her lips. Lin's lips tasted of tobacco, and the alcohol she drank a couple hours ago. Kya pressed her agaisnt the railing as she gripped onto her hip.
"You would never let anything happen to Su." Kya murmured against her lips. "Lin Beifong wouldn't allow it."
Lin blushed in the kiss and closed her eyes. After the kiss she sighed and leaned into Kya. Her fingers fingers her dress and holding onto her, preventing her from leaving. "Thank you Kya, I really needed that."
Kya rubbed her back and cuddled her Linny. "The kiss or the talk?" Kya said cheekily.
Lin laughed and rolled her eyes. "Don't push it." She snorted.
"Worth a shot." Kya mumbled kissing her temple.
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A Game of Cat and Mouse
Summary: It always seems like you are chasing the infamous Kim Taehyung. After working with the conman turned informant, it makes you wonder who is the cat and mouse in this little game of yours.
Written for the BTS Ghosite Marathon. Prompt: Trope: Enemies to Lovers.
Pairing: n. detective Reader x conman Taehyung
Warnings: language, suggestive content, guns, use of handcuffs to apprehend a criminal
Word Count: 1,500
A/N: Inspired by Catch Me if You Can and White Collar. If you can recognize my other reference I threw in here I would be so thrilled.
You are going to murder him.
Sadly, that was against the law, but that doesn’t stop the frustration building up in you. Your hands tighten around the steering wheel. Where is he?
The man in question is under your supervision. Some people refer to him as your ‘partner’, but honestly, he was an asset, nothing more. At least, that is what you like to tell yourself about the smooth-talking thief.
It took you so long to catch Kim Taehyung, aka V, aka one of the best damn con-artists in the whole world. He was slippery, hiding in different personas like a glove, running around the world and stealing millions as he went. Years and years of following his every move, you were always just a tiny bit too slow, until one day you are finally able to corner him.
You put so much time and effort into catching Taehyung, that you were almost at a loss afterwards. Dear say, you almost missed the cat and mouse chase you played with him. Though, that thought didn’t last long when you walked into work and saw the thief sitting at your desk, examining a paper weight and looking extremely bored. That is until he looked up and saw you. Taehyung grinned like the cat that ate the canary.
You’ve been on multiple ‘assignments’ together, him aiding you tracking and catching other notorious thieves. It shortens his sentence and puts his skills to use in a beneficial way that helps others and not just himself. Another reason you think is that he enjoys playing with you. Much more than naught, he’s gotten you into trouble, convincing you to do things that may edge the line of the law a little too closely.
Like right now for instance. Here you are sitting in your car, staring at the mansion a little way down the street. You were supposed to be staking out the art forger’s house, trying to gather intel on his connections. Everyone knew he was in deep with the black market of the art world, but you just needed tangible proof.
After hours of nothing, Taehyung had enough, and convinced you he needed to get a closer look. In and out, no one would notice. As soon as he stepped out of your car, you immediately regretted your decision. Every minute that passed you grew all the more anxious.
What if something happened to him?
“Shit.” You rip your keys out from the ignition, kick open the door, and slam it close.
You are going to murder him.
A song drifts into Taehyung’s mind as he walks casually through the lavish mansion. The back door was all too easy to reach and pick after sneaking through the elaborate garden maze behind the suspect’s mansion. After disabling the security system, there was literally nothing stopping Kim Taehyung.
What a shame this beautiful house belongs to such a fool.
Russo had skill, he’d give him that, but left too much of a trail. Anyone could make the connections. It took his detective barely anytime once on the case to figure it out.
Taehyung does a double take and stops in his tracks. It is not at the use of his for the detective in his train of thought just now as he passed that milestone long ago. At first, he hated the detective, with their analytical eyes, paragon attitude, and that messy notebook no one can decipher. Taehyung pocketed it one day while you were busy and returned it to you none the wiser. It only left him with a headache. You were so messy, yet you were the one that caught him. Every time he finally settles down, makes a new name for himself, a reputation, even dare he say friends, you would show up and rip it all away.
You were the only constant in his life.
Eventually he came to look forward to you catching up to him, just so he could talk to someone, to be real. No one really knew him except you. If anyone had to catch him, he was glad it was you. Although you would never admit it, Taehyung knew you believed in him. Otherwise, he would have been back in prison faster than he could blink after all the stunts you pulled together. Sneaking into his mansion was nothing compared to some of the other things he’s done under your watch.
His feet carry him closer to the Gustave Klimt piece hanging on the wall. Was it really? Upon closer inspection, Taehyung immediately spots it’s a fake. From a distance it is extremely convincing.
“Lovely work really, but the direction of the brush strokes gives it away.”
The click of a gun sounds behind Taehyung right after he gives his little tidbit and he can’t help but sigh. Taehyung really hates violence, never choosing to resort to it except for self-defense. Even then, he rather talk his way out of a situation or run. He was very good at both those things. Slowly, he raises his arms, but doesn’t take his eyes off the painting in front of him.
“How did you get in past my security?” A posh accented voice inquires. Definitely Russo’s voice.
“It was pretty easy actually.”
Taehyung feels cold press of a gun barrel against the back of his head. Obviously, that wasn’t the answer Russo was looking for.
“Such a shame really, with a little polish you could have gone far,” Taehyung’s voice stays even despite his fear. He was never one to give his hand away. “Do you want to know to know what you did wrong?”
“You seem like the type of person who would tell me even if I don’t want to know. Let me guess, it was that bastard from the Gandor family?”
Taehyung smirks, Russo was making his job way too easy. “No, but that’s good to know you have connections with them.”
“Why you son of a-“
The click of another gun signals your arrival. “Police, put your gun down.”
“Your late, Detective.”
It doesn’t take but a moment for the gun to be removed from Taehyung’s head. He eyes the fake Klimt painting, completely ignoring the scene behind him. There’s some grunting as you handcuff Russo.
“Detective, do you think I can take this as a souvenir?”
“Oh, come on.” The con-man turns around with a grin. “Think of this as a reward for the paydirt of information I got you.”
“I overheard the Gandor bit.” You eye the beautiful painting in front of you with disdain. “And that won’t fit in my car.”
“I’m sure I can have something arranged. Especially, if you want these.” Taehyung lifts up his shirt slightly, making you focus intently on the fidgeting Russo, and procures some documents that were tucked inside of his waist band.
The grin on Taehyung’s face grows when he waves the papers at you teasingly. Russo’s complexion looks almost sickly as he recognizes the papers. You, on the other hand, look like you can’t decide if you want to glare at him or smile at his job well done.
“We’ll talk about this later. Let me call this in and get dispatch to pick this guy up.”
It takes some time for the police to arrive. You keep an eye on the detained Russo while Taehyung walks the halls and looks at the other pieces of art with interest. Once they do arrive you hand off the paperwork as evidence, Russo gets taken away, and you and Taehyung take the time to further investigate the convict’s office.
“That was stupid, you know that right?” You don’t look up at Taehyung as you search through the papers in a drawer.
“I knew you’d come in Detective. I know you care for me.”
“I’m responsible for you.”
It’s quiet for a bit as you continue to shuffle through some papers. “Thank you, for pulling through.”
“I know you got a lot riding on me. Plus, I rather not go back to prison.” Taehyung shuffles closer to you, “but what if I didn’t give you everything.”
“What?” You look up quickly at that, but freeze instantly as you almost brush Taehyung’s jaw with your nose. Your breath hitches and you want to slap yourself.
“I could be hiding more evidence on my person.” Taehyung licks his lips, watching as your eyes focus on them. He walks closer to you, and you step back. He quite likes this shift in control. “Why don’t you do a full body search?”
Taehyung steps forward again and again until your back hits the wall. Maybe this whole time you were wrong. Instead of being the cat, you were actually the mouse. Taehyung definitely looked like he was playing with his food before going in for the kill. That thought makes you frown. His breath fans your face as he leans closer, tracing the line of your jaw with his elegant fingers.
“Who knows what you can find, Detective.”
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Prompt: How about the thieves visiting Ryuji in Gekkoukan. Maybe there's some event that has schools suspending operations in Tokyo and wherever Ren returned to, so the thieves decided to visit Ryuji. They see Ryuji in the prescribed uniform looking all sharp. cue their reactions.
Well maybe not visiting, but maybe a video call?
The Phantom Thieves had promised to stay in contact with each other following the chaos that was Summer Break. But with most of the group dealing with the workload that comes with being a Third Year, plus the two Senpai in university, it’s taken the crew at least three weeks before they all have a clear enough schedule to even video chat.
Futaba lets out a yawn as she and the early to the call people wait around. “Ugh..Ryuji’s taking too long to connect.”
“Didn’t he say he just got a new laptop? It’s probably giving him some issues.” Haru giggles, moving some hair out of her face.
“..be lucky that we’re roommates and we’re sharing this Laptop for calls, Haru.” Makoto sighs.
Ren’s screen finally shows up. “Sorry, had to finish up a paper real quick. Didn’t miss anything did I?” He adjusts his Yasogami uniform a bit.
“Haven’t changed at all yet? I’m telling you, Shujin’s uniform looked better..” Futaba states. “Though I guess it looks good on me, ehehe!”
Yusuke seems to be observing Ren’s uniform with fascination. “Inaba, yes? I had heard there’s a famous hotel known for it’s hotsprings. The Amagi Inn. The history there must be outstanding!”
Ryuji finally shows up, stretching as the cam comes on. “Sorry for keeping all of you. Laptop did a force update n’ shit.”
Like Ren, seems Ryuji’s yet to change out of his uniform. The well known Gekogan Uniform.
“Whoa! I know you said you moved Ryuji, but I didn’t realized you moved to the Port Island.” Ann exclaims.
“Yeah...” Ryuji nods tiredly. “I’m originally from here, so it’s more like I moved back. Shit here’s a lot more hard than what Shujin offered.”
“So I’ve heard...” Makoto nods. “How were you even able to get in, Ryuji?”
“That part’s a long freaking story, and I still feel like strings got pulled by someone...” He furrows his brow as he speaks, folding his arms in view of the cam.
“Pulling Strings? How so?” Ren asks, tilting his head.
“I-I duno man! Maybe everything with Gramps has me a bit Paranoid or something! You saw my Grades at Shujin, I barely survived on my toenails there!”
“Several famous people went to school there, you know.” Haru smiles. “You watch Feather Man, right Futaba-chan?”
“Oh! Oh! The actress for Pink Argus was a graduate from there, that’s right! It was the first time in series history that Red wasn’t the leader! Everyone online thought that it’d change the series formula forever but that’s yet to be seen.” And there she goes, nerding out.
“Well, now here’s the big money question for you Ryuji.” Morgana smirks as best as a cat can. “If a big name actress can obviously get good grades...then how are yours?”
“I bet he still suucks~” Futaba teases.
“Actually...I’m doing okay.” Ryuji shrugs. “While I’m not apart of the Track Team up here, a few of the guys from it dragged me into a study group. That, was the other reason why I was late. Still doesn’t mean any of this shit’s easy to me, though!”
“...maybe we should have done more study groups while we were all at Shujin still.” Ren wonders outloud.
“Uh, ya THINK? Coulda helped both me AND Ann!”
“Yusuke, you’ve been quiet this whole time...is everything okay?” Makoto asks him, noting how he’s been in deep thought.
“Getting accepted to a high profile school...it’s strange, but I think there may actually be something afoot. But...normally if any of us gets targeted, it’s Ren. He is the one who still has records within the Police due to the stunt we pulled in Nijima-san’s Palace, as well as his false arrest.” the artist staes.
“I’m kinda on Ryuji’s side with this. We’re getting paranoid.” Morgana states. “Nothing bad’s happened since we got rid of the Jails. And we’d get contacted by Zenkichi and Ichinose if anything did happen, remember?”
“Or hell, even Doc.” Ryuji shrugs. “Just say I got lucky and leave it at that. They mostly commented on my sport skills anyway so...”
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Never Shall We Die - 6
This story was inspired by Beskarbabs story Thieves and Beggars
***You were curled in the corner of the captains quarters. He wasn't Kylo, he was the captain. You were waiting for something, anything, to happen as you examined the room. You didn't know him nearly as well as you thought you did, you realized.
In the corner stood a desk, with maps strewn about it. Maps of the seas, you assumed. There was a compass sitting on one of the maps weighing down the bottom corner. At the top corner there was a quill and inkwell, holding the top of the map down. On the left side lay a large and imposing dagger.
On the walls there were more maps, charts of the stars with names of the constellations. There were shelves too, some had figurines, but most had jewelry. Many different forms, actually. There were collars of beads from Africa, bracelets made of gold mined in the Americas, silver necklaces, and more rings than you could count.
You examined a small box filled with rings. There were various designs in the box. Some were thin and elegant, others were wide, some were made of iron, gold, or silver. A select few of the rings had blood stained on the metal. You picked one out of the box, a small gold ring with silver at the edges. There was a small diamond inlaid into the gold. It was beautiful, much prettier than the chunky ring currently sitting on your finger.
You were about to try it on, only out of curiosity, when you heard the door swing open behind you. You dropped the ring, whirling around as Kylo's footsteps crossed the room. He stood in the middle of it, watching you closely.
You walked towards him boldly. He opened his mouth to speak, but before he could get the words out you slapped him across the cheek. He hardly moved as you glared up at him.
"A pirate?" You hissed. He stood stoic, giving no response to your anger.
"How could you? What happened to you Kylo! You used to be honorable!" You shouted. He said nothing.
"I did not agree to run away with a pirate! Return me to Port Royal this instant and maybe I'll talk my father into letting you live in a cell!" You continued shouting.
"I can't take you back." He said, finally speaking.
"Why not?" You demanded, turning to face him with your arms crossed in front of you. He remained silent. The only indication of his rage was his flared nostrils and clenched jaw.
"Because if you come back without harm, you'll be accused of aiding and abetting a pirate! You will be hanged, your father cannot save you. I, will be hanged. Not only for piracy, but for kidnapping the governors daughter. And lets not forget the murder of your beloved husband!" He snapped at you. You covered your mouth in shock as he continued.
"Who by the way, I recognize as dear Commodore Whiteford's son. Thank you for mentioning that information!" He yelled.
"You killed him?" You asked carefully. Until now you had hoped that, despite being a pirate captain, he wasn't a murderer. Kylo sighed, shifting his weight as he looked at you with sorrow.
"Of course I did. How else was I supposed to ensure we could be together? You're legally married, and even in Tortuga they wont wed a married woman to another man." He said. You felt tears streaming down your face as you turned away from him.
"Please understand love, I did this for you." He tried to reason.
"You did this for yourself!" You turned suddenly, pounding your fist against his chest. He let out a small puff of breath but gave no indication your blow affected him.
"You did this because you can't let me go! I should have let you swing from that noose all those years ago!" You shouted as you sobbed, fists resting on his chest. Kylo seemed taken aback by your outburst, before his expression shifted to one of anger.
"I never heard you complain every time I fucked you senseless." He hissed, taking your wrists in one hand. "Every time I made you come on my cock you begged for more. Are you just upset you were fucked by a pirate?" He hissed.
"Upset that you fell in love, with a pirate? This, (y/n), is why I never told you. I was afraid you would think less of me." He said carefully, still holding your wrists.
"I had hoped you loved me enough to look past it, especially once I risked everything to save you from your father. But I see now that I misjudged your character." He said before releasing your wrists and walking towards the door. He pulled it open, pausing to speak.
"If you wish, we'll drop you off the next time we make port. In three months." He snapped before slamming the door shut behind him. You sank to the ground beside the bed in tears, sickened by the rocking motion of the vessel.
You did love him. You'd always loved him, and always would. But your mind was conflicted. Your heard said it didn't matter, he was still Kylo, but your morals were torn. Pirates were vile, murderous filth. You had been raised to believe that. Yet now that you knew Kylo was a pirate, you still loved him.
Possibly more than you had before.
When the sun peeked through the thick curtains over the windows in Kylo's quarters you finally awoke. You had fallen asleep in the wide bed in the corner of the room. It was surprisingly soft, the blankets were warm and you had slept well. The bed smelled like Kylo, like sea salt and spruce wood with a tinge of iron.
He hadn't entered the room that night, you assumed he hadn't slept. Maybe he would later in the day, after he kicked you out of his bed. You climbed from under the covers, swinging your feet over the edge of the bed, tentatively touching the floor with your bare feet. It was smooth with no trace of splinters. You stood on bare feet, approaching the door and opening it just a crack.
The crew buzzed around the deck of the ship. The sunlight streamed over the wood, giving it a rich chestnut color. You assumed it had been stained darker than the wood actually was. You looked up to the sails, which hung loose in the breezeless sky. You realized now they were not black, as you had thought, but a deep red.
Despite the loose sails, the ship still sliced through the water. Most likely from the rowers in the lower deck. As you looked around a tall pirate with short straw colored hair walked past. A woman, you realized.
"Ren slept with the crew last night?" She asked the shorter redheaded man walking beside her.
"Aye he did. Wonder what that new lass did to him." He muttered. You felt bad for Kylo, sleeping with the crew. You couldn't imagine it had been comfortable.
"Phasma! Hux!" Kylo boomed, "You don't earn your keep on this ship by standing around chatting!" You watched as Kylo descended the stairs next to the door, rounding the handrail/
Your heart leapt in your chest when you saw him, looking more handsome than ever. He was wearing a white cotton shirt with a deep v cut into the chest. His black breeches fit him well, tucked into the tops of his black boots. He had abandoned his wide leather belt with the cutlass and flintlock, leaving just the red sash tied around his midsection. The tails waved at his side as he walked towards the door.
You closed it and locked it quickly. You heard a heavy sigh from Kylo before he knocked gently.
"(Y/n), please." He said softly.
"The daughter of the governor will not mingle with pirates." You shouted through the door. You heard a soft chuckle from Kylo.
"You've done more than mingle love." He said. Your jaw dropped open and you turned to throw the door open.
"Please talk to me." He asked. You walked away from the door, turning your back to him and crossing your arms with your nose turned up. He walked into the room, closing the door softly behind him.
You wandered towards the desk, examining the charts laid out. The symbols made no sense to you, you didn't know how to use the tools laid with the map. You'd never learned.
"Why did you become a pirate?" You asked softly as you ran your fingers over the dried ink on the maps. Kylo let out a sigh.
"My first year on the sea, we were returning to Port Royal. We were ambushed by a pirate crew. When the fight was over, most of the crew I was with had been slaughtered. I was given the choice of being keel-hauled, or joining them."
"Why did they want you?" You asked.
"I was young. I was strong, and skilled with a sword." He explained, approaching you slowly, as though you were a deer he may startle.
"I didn't have a choice." He whispered, placing his hands gently on your biceps. You remembered suddenly the four year gap in his letters. You had dressed in mourning, assuming him dead. You supposed that he was only able to send letters again when he became captain.
"How did you become captain?" You asked. You were afraid of the answer, but you needed to hear him say it to know if you could still love him.
"I killed the old one." He said simply. He crossed around the desk to sit in the chair behind it before examining the charts. You swallowed the lump in your throat.
"You don't get to where I am without spilling blood." He said, shuffling the papers on the desk. You remained silent, processing the information. Not only was he a murderer, he was a mutineer.
"Do you know how to read these?" He asked, looking up at you. His hair fell from behind his ears, the way it did when he looked down at you while making love to you.
"No." You stated sharply.
"Then let me teach you, come sit." He said, scooting the chair back and patting his thigh.
"To turn me into a pirate?"
"To share my world with you."
You made no move to join him and he let out a sigh before pulling himself closer to the desk again. You waited for a beat.
"You're not going to kill me for refusing?" You asked. He let out a chuckle.
"I'd never raise my hand to you. Ever." He said, not bothering to divert attention away from the charts.
You warily approached him once you realized he had no intention of leaving. You looked over his shoulder at the marks he made on the map, the way he used the compass to measure distances, then at the dagger weighing down the side of the map.
A thought crossed your mind, a dark thought. You could kill him with that dagger. You could cut his throat, escape the room. Nobody would know. You could take the pistol you saw on the shelf the night before and shoot anybody who tried to stop you from taking a lifeboat. You couldn't be that far from Port Royal, or any port, for that matter.
"I wouldn't." Kylo said without breaking his staring contest with the map.
"You don't even know what I was thinking." You snapped.
"You were considering slicing my throat open with that dagger." He said flatly.
"I was not."
"It would be more of a curse to you really." He said. He set down the compass, sifting through the stack of papers absentmindedly.
"What does that mean?" You snapped.
"This dagger was on the ship when we commandeered it. The legend says it was used by a woman who killed her lover while sailing the seas. She begged for the gods to bring him back, and Anansi, the trickster god, answered her." Kylo looked up to you, then to the dagger, resting the weight of his head in the palm of his hand.
"He gave the man back, but in the form of a rotting drowned ghost. He haunted her. So she begged Anansi to take him back, but the only way she could be freed was to kill herself with the dagger. She finally did, but she was trapped with him. Anybody who kills with that dagger will be haunted by their spirit until they kill themselves with it." He said unbothered.
"Why do you keep such a dreadful thing?" You asked, taken aback. The dagger suddenly looked more sinister. Kylo picked up the dagger, giving a few test swings before twirling it around in his hand.
"It's a decent paperweight." He said with a grin. You tried to hide your smile.
"I need to take these to the navigation room, at least let me show you the ship you'll be on for the next three months." Kylo asked as he set the dagger down and stood from the chair.
"You can't spend all that time cooped up in here."
You paused for a moment before agreeing with him. He smiled, gathering a few maps from the desk and crossing the room to open the door for you. You stepped through the door, pausing to wait for him.
"Can we at least stop somewhere and find me some decent clothes?"
@sweetth1ng, @starfishfaerie, @little-miss-mischief
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One Fool’s Heart [Rank 7]
Fandom: Persona 5
Pairing: Akira / Reader, later: Akira / Akechi (one-sided)
Tags: #reader-insert, #implied/referenced past child abuse, #implied/referenced self-harm, #swearing, #unreliable narrator, #bisexual female character, #fem! reader, #bisexual akira kurusu, #reader is 23y, #reader is a student, #introducing a new arcana for plot’s sake, #unreal depictions of psychologists & psychiatrists, #references to depression, #humor, #slow burn, #persona 5 spoilers, #angst and hurt/comfort, #age difference #consenual underage romance, #eating disorder, #healing, #persona 3 easter eggs, #persona 4 easter eggs, #no persona 5 royal spoilers
Summary: All you wanted was a nice part time job to scrape by. But if you had known how much of a smug sass-master Akira Kurusu would turn out to be, you’d have thought twice about agreeing to tutor him.
Notes: Rank 6 | Rank 8
Your phone goes off at seven, playing the Guacamole Song you wanted to change months ago after you made the mistake of lending Iori your phone. But every time you turn it off, it immediately escapes your mind depending on how much you’ve got on your plate, and oh boy, this time it’s buried with problems and every frantic swipe to get them off only results in unveiling more and more mold that’s been growing for the past decade.
As you stare up at your ceiling, a single thought spins in circles inside your head: I shouldn’t have kissed Akira. I shouldn’t have kissed Akira.
But you liked it, your mind provides with a treacherous whisper, a quiet admission better saved for a dark confessional booth in a remote church, and yet it’s the strongest conviction you’ve felt in months, something that’s waiting for you to scream out at the top of your lungs for everyone to hear and judge you by. You’ve tasted the sweet fruit that Akira is and just one bite was enough for you to get addicted to him. Which is a problem.
“Because I know that he’ll never feel the same.” Akira’s voice rings like the dull chime of a rusty bell in your head, the first herald to what can only conclude in disaster. There’s a lot of dumb things you’ve done in your life, but this surely crosses a new line of stupidity no one’s ever expected—not even you.
Well, not that it matters, you think as you swing your legs off your bed, shuddering when your feet hit the cold floor. Even though Akira basically admitted you’re a substitute for his unrequited crush or whatever he’s feeling towards Akechi, you never really imagined he would like you in the first place because … well, it’s Akira. You’ve seen how his friends look at him with a mixture of dreamy admiration and incredulous marvel as if no one can fully believe someone like him really exists. It seems everyone is a little in love with him, and you’d be a hypocrite to blame them for it because it’s far too easy to lose a piece of your heart in his hands and allow him to do whatever he wants. Not to call your expectations of what a relationship should be low, but you don’t allow yourself the luxury to think it will last long anyway. You’ll be fine with anything you get.
He’s 16, for god’s sake. Dating someone older might be just a little adventure for him right now, a nice fling to get his blood pumping; the adrenaline coursing through his body while his friends slap him on the back, bawling out, “Way to go, man!” like the pubescent teenagers they are. Being the end of a joke isn’t a first timer for you; and on more than one occasions you were the one to write off what might have become serious things as pastimes. It seems only fair karma has come to collect your debt.
We’re going to fool around for a bit, you lay out the plan in your mind like you arrange your reports, precise and to the point, without much flowery spiel and no detours. Fool around and then he’ll meet someone he’ll seriously want. And it’s going to be fine, that’s real life. I’ll be fine.
But even as you stir viciously in your morning coffee cup, sending black drops flying everywhere, one only needs to take a short glance at you to know that nothing will be fine. How can it ever be when the one you consider to be the greatest treasure of your life will inevitably slip through your fingers like sand. You know it. Akira knows it. Hell, he might be waking up in just this moment and realise the mistake he’s done, and no memory of how he seemed to enjoy it initially, how his eyes sparked with such joy and affection that stopped air from leaving your body, can calm your agitated nerves, each of them raw and flashing with burning pain the more you think about it. So what you do is: Not think about it. You banish all thoughts; there’s no reason to make it even more miserable on you when the minimal chance exists that you can actually have a good time as long as Akira shares the ride with you.
Which works about just fine until you meet Akechi on your way to morning classes, his lithe body leaning against a wall inside the train. It’s basically a déjà-vu to how you met Akira: people push from every side, and before you smash your face against a window, you raise your hand to brace yourself. Your fingers graze the cool surface of the glass but it’s not without getting really close to the person standing next to it.
“Oh, it’s you,” a familiar voice greets, and when you look up, Akechi looms over you, looking unimpressed by your arm caging him. If this is meant as a weird coincidence, then the gods must have chosen you to be their punching bag as punishment for your hubris: You should have never bragged about how you easily finished the Gravity Burger Challenge two months ago. “Apologies again for disturbing your late night talk yesterday.”
“Forget it,” you say, trying to shimmy away but the other passengers must think if they have to suffer and are not allowed to move, you have to suffer with them. “I think we’re even after how I treated you yesterday.”
“Please, you don’t need to apologise.” Akechi checks his wristband, and you try to contain a sneer noticing his case with the big A. on its cover. Maybe the gods should check his hubris scale as well. “I am well aware not everyone shares my opinion regarding certain matters.”
With certain matters being the most controversial topic ever, it isn’t a surprise people treat Akechi like he’s the Antichrist. No matter where you go, it’s Phantom Thieves here, Phantom Thieves there. People demand they deal with Kunikazu Okumura, and it’s a little scary how loud everyone’s screaming for justice at the cost of a group that started out taking on abusive high school teachers.
“It’s not your opinions,” you mumble, not sure how deep you want to crawl down this dark hole with a bottom that’s specifically labelled as Needs Parenting Guidance So He Stops Being A Jerk. Akechi ignores you in favour of following the news on the screen above your heads and during this moment of undisturbed gawking, you have to admit he has pretty nicely shaped lips. Maybe that’s why Akira likes him.
“I do wonder though how the Phantom Thieves will fare in the public’s demand to go after Okumura,” he continues, and it’s scary how close he comes to what you’ve been thinking. At your surprised expression he simply nods his chin towards the screen, and ah— a news coverage about the Okumura case.
“You think they’ll target him?” Engaging in this kind of conversation with him of all people was definitely not on agenda today, but receiving upfront information from Tokyo’s now most detested detective could be useful. Maybe you can sell the information to a news channel or blackmail him—
Be nice. The memory of Akira’s fingers on your thigh and his rough voice right in your ear sends a shudder down your spine which luckily goes unnoticed by Akechi. He’s simply answering, “I think they will have a great problem if they don’t. As I have witnessed myself, people are quite fickle.”
“Yeah, I’m aware of the shitstorm.”
“Which means you’re also aware of the great expectations lying upon the Phantom Thieves. Tell me one thing. Do you believe they were responsible for the death of the Shujin Academy’s principal?” A heavy topic this early in the morning, but Akechi doesn’t seem to let you off the hook so easily, looking at you with some serious expectation and there it is again: His strange brown colour—ember? It seems to lurk and only break free when he’s engaged in a discussion.
“Who can say for sure,” you say, trying to look past him at the blurring lights the train passes. Three more stations and you’re free. “Of course I don’t want to believe that. The Phantom Thieves are supposed to be the good guys. Why should they start killing people all of a sudden?”
“Good guys, bad guys. Who determines these qualities?” Akechi wonders out loud, but doesn’t let you answer. “We ourself decide where to put those who think different from us on a scale that’s fundamentally subjective and therefore wrong.”
You blink a couple times. “Okay?”
“Take our dear friend for example,” he continues. “Kurusu doesn’t seem to think in simple terms like that, wouldn’t you agree? What is your opinion on him, if you don’t mind me asking.”
Well, I’m pretty sure he wants to suck your dick, you think. Instead, you say, “He’s a weird kid.” But as it is with those kinds of thoughts, your mind drifts off and you think about sucking Akechi off yourself, only it doesn’t stir anything in you, leaves you dry as a desert until you think about sucking Akira’s dick and wow, that’s a straight punch to your gut with warning signs going off, screaming CHILD MOLESTATION in your head (only Akira isn’t a child, and you’re obviously just really, really paranoid).
“Weird,” Akechi repeats, and if he finds room to lift his hand and tap his finger against his chin, then he sure as hell better move and give you some space. “Interesting. But he is a rather unique individual, is he not? He doesn’t fear to speak his mind and seems to favour following his own opinions. That is so very fascinating.”
You raise an eyebrow. “Fascinating?”
“Is something wrong with that?”
“Only if you’re talking about your next exhibition piece.”
He narrows his eyes, then smiles slightly and if you squint, you might call his current expression sultry. “How about lovely, then?”
Your mouth goes dry, but when you blink, it’s gone and Akechi’s smile is that of an innocent angel. “Forgive me, I couldn’t resist this little joke. But you two seem to share a special bond, don’t you?” he continues, not allowing you to react. His voice lacks any sort of innuendo a statement like that might hide, and you don’t know if you should be grateful or offended.
“If you mean we are tutor and student, I guess,” you mumble, really not feeling to get into whatever game Akechi is playing right now. Only two more stops. That lookout is the only reason you’re stupid enough to ask, “What about you two?”
Akechi’s eyebrows fly upwards. “We’re friends. Nothing more, nothing less.”
“Are you sure about that?” You didn’t mean to sound so sulky but whoever judges you for that should try to stand at forearm’s length in front of Akechi and his stupid perfect flawless skin without feeling inferior.
He blinks in surprise, but he’s three years too young to fool you. “Why? Did anything I ever did give you a different impression? If yes, then please enlighten me, from a psychoanalytic point of view.”
You exhale slowly. “That’s a big word for someone your age.”
Akechi laughs. “Thank you.”
“Wasn’t meant as a compliment.”
“The point is, I cherish Kurusu as a friend. We’ve struck a sort of deal,” Akechi explains, and you remember the first time you sat with Akira under the dim lights of Leblanc and his sharp smile. “It’s a deal then,” he’d said, and now you wonder how many more people he’s wrapped around his little finger with those sweet words. “He supplies me with fine coffee and curry,” Akechi continues, “and I help him out now and then. Which leads me to the question why you would assume anything different. I rather feel he shows a special affection towards you. Hence my previous observation.”
Heat shoots in your cheeks, and you try to hide your face in the crook of your elbow. “I am not going to talk with you about my love life.”
His eyes widen. Akechi leans back and crosses his arms in front of his chest, and seriously why is he the only one who can move around freely when everyone else in here is stuck like a sardine inside a tin box. “‘Love life,’” he repeats, and you realise too late the mistake you’ve made. “So there really is more to you two than meets the eye.”
“No there isn’t.” You panic. “I hate his guts.” You panic more. “And his glasses are stupid.”
“It looks different to me.”
“Then stop looking.”
Amusement flickers in his eye. He’s easily figured you out and you feel the boiling impulse to kick his shin. “Then I hope you two will get along splendidly as tutor and student in the future. Anything else would be rather inconvenient, right?”
“What are you talking about?” you demand, but the train rolls inside the station you have to get out, and once the people start to pour outside, you can only let them drag you with them. Surprisingly, Akechi is right on your heels, and you don’t miss how the people part to make room like the ocean when Moses stood in front of it. Their whispers drown in the hectic transferring and people rushing to their connecting trains, but the scorn blazing in their eyes is like a touch on your skin even though you aren’t at the end of the receiving line. Akechi seems pretty adept in ignoring everyone, he walks among them like a condemned man on his way to the hangman, and as you see him like that, shoulders squared and chin raised, you’re reminded of a poem you’ve read in high school. And strange it was to see him pass / With a step so light and gay / And strange it was to see him look / So wistfully at the day / And strange it was to think that he / Had such a debt to pay. Akechi looks like he’s ready to take on the whole world.
“All I am saying,” he continues, and you’re completely lost for a moment where he’s tying on, “is that you should be careful who you trust to know about the relationship you have with Kurusu.”
“I didn’t know it was your business,” you hiss.
He shrugs. “It isn’t, of course. I am simply looking out for my friend.” His smile is a threat you’ve missed and are now reminded with a gun pointed at your head. Only when Akechi said friend , it sounded a lot like he actually meant possession.
“Then lucky you. There’s nothing to worry about.”
The detective doesn’t look like he’s buying it, but doesn’t comment on it. Your shared path splits once you’re upstairs, standing in the middle of Shibuya, two more insignificant blobs on the surveillance cameras supervising the subway area.
“Well then, it was a pleasant conversation, but I must head off to the courthouse now. Please send Kurusu my regards should you see him today.”
“No, I’m going to pretend I never saw you.”
Akechi considers you for a long minute with a blank expression and just before you start to feel uncomfortable, he finally says, “I think I understand what Kurusu likes about you. You too don’t fear to speak what you truly think. You don’t give empty compliments, and don’t butter people up. It’s truly admirable. No wonder you two get along splendidly.”
You exhale slowly and shudder, knowing it isn’t solely because of the wind picking up. “I wish I could say the same thing about you.”
“Well, one must do whatever the entertainment industry wants you to do,” Akechi replies with an easy smile, appearing completely unbothered by it. “Oh, but I won’t let them decide my stance on important matters, of course,” he adds. “I will stay true to my beliefs. Hell will have to freeze over before I let go of the justice I hold, if I dare speak so.”
“Hell is cold,” you say.
Akechi blinks once, twice; a pleasant smile on his lips like he’s indulging in the incoherent blabber of a toddler. “Excuse me?”
It takes a long minute of you staring at each other before your brain catches up to what you’ve just said, the statement more reflex than anything else; the echo of a similar conversation a couple of months ago. “The deepest part of Hell is a frozen lake, and inhabited by traitors,” you explain, thinking back to the black and white coloured page from a book in your grandmother’s library. In the middle of a vast, frozen lake, a winged demon sits and watches the tormented mortals trapped inside the ice with an apathetic expression. “The deepest isolation is to suffer separation from the source of all light and life and warmth,” is Dante’s observation, and it strikes you with astonishment how quite strange the brain is to produce memories in such disjointed moments.
Just slightly, barely noticeable, Akechi leans his head to one side. His smile is so stiff it reminds of a crooked grin carved into a pumpkin. “I don’t quite follow.”
There’s a staring contest between you two you don’t remember ever consenting to being a participant. “Really, they should teach you some Western Literature,” you clarify, constituting yourself as the loser of this round under his keen, sharp eyes as you avoid his gaze. “Look up Dante if you want to know more about it.”
“Ah, Dante’s Inferno?” His shoulders relax. “You are right, they could teach us more about the Western classics. What an interesting concept. Frozen Hell. I will look more into it.”
“There’s no need—” you start but Akechi gives you a curt wave with his hand and before you can say anything, he disappears into the crowd, drowning in a sea of people and no, you realise, this isn’t Moses, this is Gepetto swallowed by a giant monster and pulled into the darkest parts of a vicious sea.
Narukami and you have been friends for around four years now, so when leaves turn into a vibrant red and the air smells of crisp chill, you’re a lot more experienced with his strange behaviour. He becomes a restless, exhausted shadow haunting the campus, a residual ghost feeding itself on remaining willpower so it doesn’t disappear completely. At the beginning of your friendship, you thought it must be a part time job he’s working only in autumn that steals so much of his time and energy. But once you asked him, Narukami gave you a puzzled expression, denying it without any further explanation.
Now he’s sleeping, his legs dangling off at the end of your small couch under the blanket, cheek squished against a hand. His pale face twists into a very un-Narukami-like expression, brows drawn together in worry, anxiety even. When he starts flinching and murmuring to himself, you decide it’s enough. Dropping the lecture readings on your desk, you cross the room and carefully shake his shoulder. He doesn’t wake up gently. Narukami bolds into a sitting position, nearly knocking you off the armrest, and inspects his surroundings like he completely forgot he came over to study. It manages to punch your worry-level through the roof, and you decide it’s enough tiptoeing around the obvious issue.
“What’s bothering you so much?” you ask, using Narukami’s own devices of direct, bold approach. According to his hesitation, he isn’t used to be at the end of the receiving line. He avoids your eyes, and tugs at the hem of his sleeves, staring at the opposite wall.
“The usual,” he vague-answers. As usual. “Classes. Homework.”
“Okay, now the actualanswer, if you don’t mind.”
He does, and it seems like he’s on the verge of getting up and leaving, using your devices of avoiding conversation. Instinctively, you reach out to him and grab his arm. “I’m always relying on you. How about we swap roles for a moment, and you tell me what’s on your mind.”
There’s a quick glance thrown in your direction, sharp like the point of a dagger. “That’s rich coming from you.”
Narukami flinches when he sees the expression on your face. He leans back into the cushion, kneading his hands. Seeing him in this condition, like a cornered animal, hurts like a sudden light striking your eyes in the dead of the night. Up until now you would have denied him being able to put on such an expression. It just doesn’t suit him, you think, and at the same time you’d like to punch yourself, because why aren’t you allowing Narukami to have a hard time? Why are you so adamant on him being the perfect, collected person with no problems whatsoever? Maybe you needed him to be stronger than you all this time to hold onto someone, which is unfair and not what he deserves.
You take his hand, and squeeze, and with that you let go of the rope you’ve secured around his neck so long ago, branding him your tower of strength. “If you can’t trust me, you don’t have to tell me everything,” you say. “But let me try to help.”
Narukami looks at you for a long minute, the remnants of what must have been a fever dream visible in his wild eyes and red cheeks. “Okay, I—” He runs his free hand through his hair, fidgeting. “But don’t laugh.”
“I’m not that much of an asshole,” you snort, waiting for him to say he thinks otherwise. It doesn’t come, and you let out a sigh of relief you didn’t know you were holding.
“There’s this weird dream. Or … I don’t know. Memory, maybe. But I can’t remember anything when I wake up. It’s frustrating, because I feel like there’s something—” He presses his lips into a thin life, then says quieter, “Or someone out there, waiting.” A shadow settles over his eyes as they lose their focus on a spot on your wall. “I want to see him. But I know I can’t.”
You suck in a sharp breath, and thinking you’re about to laugh at him, Narukami’s eyebrows pull together. But whatever he sees in your expression dispels the anger immediately. “What?”
“Nothing, I—” Where do you even begin to explain that today has been one single thread of déjà-vus forged into a heavy necklace that doesn’t quite fit and burns against your skin. Suddenly you aren’t in your living room anymore but inside a dark dormitory room, sitting beside a tear-eyed girl who keeps apologising over and over again. “I’m so sorry,” Minako had said, her cheeks blotched with red like always when she’d been crying for hours. “I can’t explain, but I need to go and look for someone. I need to see him.”
“You don’t even know his name,” you’d hissed, furiously scrubbing your own tears away. “Why are you doing this to me?”
It’s the mirror imagine from four years ago, but what ended in doors slammed shut and icy silence won’t be the same result today, that you won’t allow.
“It sounds stupid,” Narukami says, pulling his hand away from your grasp. “It was just a dream. Forget about it.”
“No, it doesn’t sound stupid.” You immediately catch his hands back. “You don’t have to explain yourself to me. If that’s how you feel, then it’s that.”
“I—” Narukami’s expression is wary. It’s like he can’t quite fully believe in your response. It stings, but you can’t really hold a grudge against him. Eventually, he relaxes a little. “Okay. Thanks.”
“So what do you … remember about this person?”
Narukami leans back and stares up to your ceiling, pushing his thumb against his lower lip like he always does when he’s trying to determine the outcome of a conversation—you can just imagine his mind laying out a plan of thesis and antithesis; his evidence like he’s on court and this time he’s his own defendant. “Not a lot. Like I said, I can’t even really say if this is about someone. I— I mostly remember food.”
Your eyebrows rise. “Food?”
Narukami nods and tugs his turtle neck collar over his chin, trying to hide the blush creeping up his neck. “Like yakitori and taiyaki. And sweets served beside colourful … colourful something. Posters? Booths?”
“So you met him during a school festival?”
Narukami pales; his collar snaps back below his jawline. “What?”
“I don’t know, it sounds like a high school festival to me.” Or maybe it’s just the first thing coming to your mind after passing so many high school students distributing invitations to their festivals this morning. Didn’t Akira as well mention Shujin’s festival a couple of days ago?
“Hmm. Hmm hmmm a festival.” He jumps to his feet, suddenly pacing like a wild animal. “I guess it could have been a festival, festivals are held during this time, right?”
“You are a genius,” Narukami declares, his face lit in what you can only describe as pure excitement. It’s a rare, beautiful sight on Narukami that never fails to make your heartbeat stumble. “I could kiss you.”
You grin. “Well, you’re welcome.”
His pacing stops and he looks at you like you’ve grown a second head. “No, it’s, ‘I wouldn’t mind if you do.’”
He sits back down beside you, his eyes glinting like an eagle’s who’s spotted its prey. “Usually you say ‘I wouldn’t mind if you do,’ and I know you’re only half joking, so what changed?”
The smile slowly dies on your lips. “I really don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“And I don’t believe you.”
“I’m not hiding anything if that’s what you’re assuming,” you insist, unable to stop your voice from growing irritated.
“Objection. In these halls you will speak the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth or I will charge you with the crime of perjury.” He digs his index finger in your side, making you flinch. “Now tell me.”
“I’m not— Could you sto— Yu!” You’re both laughing by now, but he shows mercy and stops poking your waist. He’s probably the only one you can tell the truth. He certainly won’t judge you, no Narukami is someone who provides encouragements and advice like salesmen promoting their corporations with distributing Kleenex packages. So you start telling him about Akira, feeling like you’re back in high school, giggling and blushing about a crush. Only with each word about what you’ve been doing, his face loses his merry expression and something dark settles over his eyes. When you’re finally finished, it’s quiet for a moment. Finally, a reaction.
“Jesus,” Narukami says. “Christ.” You avoid his eyes. “You know that’s considered corruption of minors.”
Something hot whips through you. “I didn’t corrupt him,” you protest, but immediately the word roots in your brain and your thoughts jump to gaslighting, brainwashing and psychological abuse. You face feels like it’s on fire.
“I know, I didn’t mean literally,” he quickly corrects himself, probably noticing the nuke he’s planted inside your brain. “But if his parents find out, do you really think they’ll care about the details?”
You open your mouth, and close it immediately. You are so screwed.
“I mean, we haven’t done anything—” You move your hand around frantically as if that’s sufficient to explain your dilemma. “Anything,” you finish lamely. “We’re just. Screwing around.”
Narukami’s eyes widen.
“Not like that screwing around,” you hiss, panic rising in your chest like a scared bird that’s flapping its wings frantically to get out. “I mean screwing around as in … this doesn’t matter! This isn’t about love or anything like that.”
Now he pulls his eyebrows together, a sign that you clearly failed to diffuse the bomb. “Didn’t you just squeal like a little high school girl that you’re head over heels in love with him?”
“Don’t!” You smack his shoulder. “Don’t say it like that!”
He throws both hands up in frustration. “What else am I supposed to call it? What the heck are you two doing?!”
“Nothing! He’s in love with someone else and I just—” You shut your mouth at the grim gaze Narukami has fixed on you. He exhales, and massages his temples, probably accepting that being angry won’t bring him anywhere. “I can’t understand how you’re okay doing this to yourself,” he mumbles more to himself.
“What can I say.” You turn away and blink rapidly against the tears burning in your eyes. “I’m an intellectual.”
Narukami says your name and it sounds like he’s really done with your bullshit. “Hey, look at me.” You refuse, and he mutters something intelligible under his breath. “Listen, you’re smart enough to figure out this won’t end well. Maybe you should sit this one out.”
“That’s easy for you to say. You don’t know him.”
He scowls. “Maybe I should get to know him and introduce him to my fi—”
“No, I’ve got everything under control. You just … you just let me drive this baby until the end of the road and once I get off this ride, everything will turn out superbly.”
He considers your sour expression, and whatever else he sees, it’s enough to make the fight disappear from his body. “As long as you don’t crash before that. I know you don’t have a driving license.” He’s clearly surrendering since he’s able to make jokes like that again, and you couldn’t be happier with the timing because talking more about the cheerless prospect will turn you into a defiant brat that will cry all day long.
It feels like no matter where you are or what you’re doing, every step forward is rewarded with two steps back, the journey tenacious and hard with no clear destination. Not that you’re new to stumbling through life, but this feels a lot like poising on a thin wire without a safety net and a bottomless drop. Not that Narukami needs to know how you really feel. You can clearly see that whatever special bonding moment you’ve had with him prior is a picture he’s currently erasing from his mind. Why he’s still putting up with you exceeds your imagination, and you’ve always been bad at the guessing game. You can only apologise in silence that you aren’t the friend he so clearly deserves and instead make everything more complicated.
“A friend invited me to Destinyland.”
“Why do none of my friends invite me to Destinyland?” Your eyes follow as Akira scurries around the room and prepares the last steps for his practice presentation. You’d expected seeing him after the fateful night would be awkward, but he didn’t disappoint you and hasn’t mentioned it at all since you joined him up in his room, and you can’t decide if you should feel relieved or personally attacked. It sure doesn’t help he hasn’t really looked at you since you passed Sojiro downstairs who’s let out an unnecessary comment about Akira better keeping his hands to himself or he’ll sleep outside. Whatever Sojiro saw on your face, he luckily misinterpreted it and thought it was because of more Phantom Thieves news on the TV. People are growing impatient. Okumura is still walking outside, no change of heart whatsoever and the public isn’t happy about that.
“Not that I really care about them, but I wish people would start talking about something else,” he’d said, preparing his cigarette for outside. “At least you kid are not losing your mind over them.” Akira had simply shrugged, and yes, now that Sojiro mentioned it, Akira has really stopped talking about the Phantom Thieves and you really like that about him. How he doesn’t pester you because he wants to know your opinion unlike your fellow students or random passersby.
Upstairs, Akira still doesn’t meet your eyes, which is no problem at all because it gives you the perfect opportunity to gawk at him because you are weak. It’s the first time you see him without his black blazer, and the sight now makes you reconsider if your sexuality isn’t simply boy and girl, but specifically Akira himself. The turtle neck sweatshirt does wonders to his slim neck. For whatever reason, the school didn’t think that was enough for comfort and threw in some suspenders. An easy combination that on him looks like he’s the new cover model on the Vogue for the autumn issue. Though he could probably wear a garbage back and still look handsome.
You make it your job not to goggle too obviously and sit on his bed, trying to ignore your bouncing thoughts of Oh Christ, it’s his bed, where he sleeps and maybe eats because teenagers are like that, and because he’s a teenager, he probably masturbates here too—
“You okay?” Akira asks, looking a little lost standing in the middle of his room. “You look like you’ve got a fever.”
“No, I’m—“ You clear your throat. “I’m good. Let’s start. Try to impress me.”
“Easy enough.” So Akira starts his presentation about Japan’s government holding the excitement of a cashier working a double shift. He’s slumping like a kicked sack of potatoes, but he has a way with words that leaves little room for improvement, and you wonder where he’s picked up to express himself like a well-spoken politician. At some point he even starts to gesture; a flick of his wrist here, a wave of his hand there and all you can think about are his slender fingers on your skin and your hair, and that inevitably leads you to think of his mouth on yours, hot and greedy, and you want nothing more than to draw a map on his skin with your own teeth and hold him forever, and Christ, his legs—
“Are you even listening?”
Akira lowers his paper sheet and shuffles awkwardly from left to right, successfully making you look up but hey, can someone blame you? It’s not your fault he is blessed with legs for days and his school decided to fabricate the pants as tight as possible. You should send them a flower basket. And yes, maybe you could have given him the worksheet that requires him to insert the right conjunctions, but he’s got to learn how to speak without looking too much at his notes, sooo—
“Obviously,” you say, but don’t dare to ask what the question was. Akira looks at you for a long minute, probably considering the pros and cons of calling you out on your bullshit, but then he goes back to his speech, and you go back to staring at his legs until he drops a paper sheet to the ground.
“Oops,” Akira says as dry as possible, turns around and bends over to pick it up.
Your mouth goes dry.
When he raises again, you meet his smug expression with your own void of any emotion. You feel like your soul has left your body and ascended on a heavenly level.
Akira smiles pleasantly and winks at you, the lesson he wanted to teach you obvious: Play with fire and you’ll get burned. Cocky brat. The rest of his little presentation proceeds undisturbed, you ask him a few questions about the heir of the throne and Akira answers like the good student he is, and the tutor session ends rather unspectacular—that is until you clean up the papers and he decides to lean down and kiss your temple.
You flinch so hard away, your shoulder smacks Akira’s chin and he goes down with a miserable sound.
“What are you doing?!” you hiss, your hands flying around like butterflies set on fire.
Akira gives you the look of a man robbed of all his possessions. “I— What’s the problem? We kissed yesterday? I thought we—“
“Well, that was—“ You stop, dreading to speak it out loud. But something about Akira’s hopeful eyes gives you a little push to take the last step off the cliff. “It was just a kiss. That doesn’t automatically mean we’re—“
“I like you. You like me,” Akira cuts you off, his expression turning serious. “It doesn’t have to be that complicated.”
Something inside you recoils at that; takes the wind out of your sails. “Well, no. But—“
“Or did you want it to turn into an one-night stand?” he goes on, voice hard and cold like early winter-ice.
You lean back, feeling like he punched you in the gut. “No, I don’t want to have sex with you at all!”
For the briefest moment, Akira’s face goes slack, a confused, almost frightened look in his eyes—there and gone so fast you wondered if you’ve imagined it before his face goes blank, looking like a board wiped clean. “So I’m not even good enough for that?”
Knowing that he’s thought about you the same way you have about him—hidden beneath blankets in an intimacy that leaves you both vulnerable but safe at the same time—is like a fist closing around your heart and squeezing hard. You stop thinking about that before those images form completely and haunt you forever. “No, wait, I didn’t mean it like that, what I mean is,” you start but words fail you, and what you finally get out conveys the same as the trumpets heralding the Last Judgement. “God, you’re only sixteen.”
Akira looks at you for a long minute, and you wonder if he too sees the shame and fear pool from every pore in your system. There’s silence, then—
You look up, shocked. “What ‘and’? You do know it’s illegal, right?”
Akira tugs at his front bangs, his eyes darting all over his room without ever landing on you. “I know,” he says eventually. Relief floods you, but when you open your mouth, Akira continues, “I just don’t care.”
Now it’s your turn to stare at him like his very existence is an unsolved riddle. That is until his words reach your brain and it switches from defence to attack mode. “That’s easy for you to say! They’ll think I forced you to do it, or manipulated you, or—”
His hands clasp your cheeks so you have to look up at him, his smile uneasy but honest. “I’m pretty sure it was me who started it,” he says, his voice lowered to a whisper. He’s so close you can see your reflection in his steel grey eyes with its black pupil almost swallowing the colour around it.
Before this conversation, you would have leaned into this touch, closed your eyes at the proximity and his warmth. Now you wrestle out of his grasp and jump to your feet to get as much distance between your bodies as the little room allows.“It’s not that easy.”
Akira rolls his eyes. “Because you make it complicated.”
“You don’t even understand, you’re still a kid. I’m the adult here and I will be held responsible for it!”
He thinks about that for a moment, and then much colder says, “Is that what you really think or is it just a convenient excuse so you don’t have to commit?”
You inhale sharply and turn around, ready to snap when something in Akira’s eyes stops you and he uses that short moment of hesitation to continue his onslaught. “I can accept that me being younger might be a problem. But is that really enough for you to give up before we even started anything?”
Fury whips like a hot bullet through you, hijacking your brain. “You think the world will cut you some slack because you’re young, but here’s some news, Akira, it doesn’t work like that once you finish high school,” you snarl. Are you frustrated because he doesn’t care at all what will happen if you guys get busted or because even though he’s been a victim of injustice as well, somehow Akira can still see the bright side and believe in it. It’s the display of this naiveté paired with stubborn defiance, the iron will to fight for his believes that made you fall in love with Akira—and now it’s out, the thought exists in the world and you can’t take it back. The bottom fell out of your stomach. It was like putting a foot wrong on a frozen creek, the crack of ice, the sudden drop, the knowledge that there is nothing beneath but dark water. You’re in love, love, love with him, which makes the next words coming so much more painful. “Also, maybe stop projecting what you feel for Akechi onto me, and then talk to me again about starting anything.”
Akira goes rigid. He looks like he’s just taken a terrible blow and is still trying to understand whatever it was that has hit him. His eyes drop down to his hands like he’s disappointed in them. “I wanted to talk to you about that,” he starts slowly—no, carefully, and you’d rather he rips your heart out with his bare hands in one go instead of removing the muscle with careful, precise cuts.
“Well, I don’t want to hear it.”
He scowls. “You can’t just pull the covers over your head and pretend this isn’t happening.”
“Can and will.”
“You’re being a brat.”
“And you’re being inconsiderate and selfish, and it makes me want to throttle you,” you say, turning around to pack up because any minute longer and you’re going to do things you’ll regret.
“You can’t run away whenever you’re afraid of a conversation,” Akira says and cuts you off on the way to the staircase, standing in your way. You look up to him, and it’s ridiculous that the gap between you isn’t your age anymore but your hearts.
“And you can’t just hold onto me when your heart is in a different place,” you say, and even though everything inside you doesn’t want to, you raise your hand and place it on his chest. His heartbeat is a wild jumble of a frantic rhythm you don’t know which notes to play. He opens his mouth, and closes it and with that shuts the door. When you push him to the side, his body obeys like a cordless puppet. He doesn’t stop you and halfway downstairs, his voice travels as a faint echo after you, calling your name. Despite better judgement, you turn around.
“What I said about him ... that’s true. But what I did with you wasn’t any less from the truth.” The corner of his mouth pulled up in a rueful smile. His eyes were almost sorrowful.
You exhale slowly. “I really want to believe that.” But belief isn’t enough for you, and how can you when Akira is like a cat—purring whenever someone shows him affection, and you wonder where this starvation for it comes from. You only know you won’t be the one to satisfy his hunger until he decides to move on.
The walk home is lonely, and whenever your thoughts drift to Akira and how he must be enjoying himself with his friends in Disneyland, something sour spreads in your stomach. Shouldn’t he have tried harder to stop you? Shouldn’t you have made it a little easier for him to understand where your concerns and fears come from? All those questions have nowhere to go and keep spinning around and around like a broken merry-go-round.
You stumble out of the train and right into a huge mass of people crowding around the televisions behind the windows of an electronics shops. They shout in confusion, their phones recording a news channel throughout all the panic and hectic moving, and after a moment of observation, you finally see the reason: Several news channels show the live transmission of Kunikazu Okumura’s death.
You’ve heard and read a lot about the mental shutdowns, about people going slack and becoming completely unresponsive. But watching it actually happen, you’re chilled to the bone. There’s so much blood running from his eyes, nose and mouth, his jerks harsh and sudden like puppet that’s chords are tugged by children fighting over it. It’s a picture right out of a horror movie or a nightmare, only watching it right here on the streets is real and you can’t believe it’s shown all over town.
“It’s the Phantom Thieves!” someone barks behind you, and a new ripple of outrage goes through the crowd.
“Christ, they didn’t have to kill him,” an office worker standing right to you mumbles, his eyes glued to his phone where he’s scrolling up and up and up to read all incoming news about the incident.
“Looks like all that fame went to their head,” a high school girl tells her friend, disappointment palpable in her voice. “In the end they’re also just criminals. So much for reforming society for the better.”
You can’t listen to this anymore. It can’t be the Phantom Thieves’ fault, it just can’t because if they turn out to be the same as the people they pledged to stand against, then what was the whole point and God I need to delete the request I put up, I really need to —except maybe it’s all different and can be explained if they’d only talk. Maybe avoiding conversation really is an underlying disease people need to be cured of before it’ll spiral into the ruin of civilisation.
Your phone vibrates with a message and hoping it’s Akira who’s realised in those past two hours that he can’t live without you, you fumble for your phone. The excitement is quickly replaced by dread when your dad’s name flashes on the screen. At first you actually consider ignoring it and moving on, but maybe, just maybe it’ll be some good news for the very first time. Maybe he’s watched the news coverage as well and fearing the Phantom Thieves might come after him next, he’s reconsidered his behaviour.
You read the message, and the world tilts.
[D.]: Your brother is in critical condition. Your mother and I are currently out of the country and won’t be able to check on him. D.
From this point on, everything is a blur. You don’t remember how you reached the underground station and it’s a miracle you change to the right line, past countless other faceless passengers that remain ghosts in your peripheral sight as you grow sick with fear. You’ve lost so much already today—first Akira, then your hope that this rotten society might see change, but if Kinoe disappears as well, if he’s gone—
The sobs that shake you are like the lashes of a whip once you finally reach the entrance of the Psychiatric Clinic. Only a few heads turn in your direction, the patients and visiting families and acquaintances lost to their own worries and problems.
A young nurse takes on the challenge of calming you, but she’s little successful as fear is a cold hand gripping your heart in a tight clutch.
“Miss, you really can’t see Doctor Oyamada right now, he is in a very important team meeting,” she persists for the third time, but she looks a lot more rattled and if you fail to break through her walls with this last attempt, she’ll surely turn away from you.
“I beg of you, he’s my brother,” you say with a rasping voice, your throat aching from the pain. “I just need to know if he’ll pull through.”
“I told you, he’s currently monitored and there appear no problems as of now with the blood transfusion. You can wait here, but chances he’ll regain consciousness today are low.”
“He shouldn’t have been in critical condition in the first place,” you cry. “How can Dr. Odayama explain that?”
“Well, he supervises a lot of patients—”
“I want to hear it from him,” you plead, desperate enough by now to sink to your knees and beg if it will get you anywhere. “Please.”
The nurse looks from you to the reception desk, hoping someone would help her to get rid of you. But whatever she sees in your eyes, it’s apparently enough to rekindle her sympathy. Or maybe she just knows what it’s like to fear for someone more than to fear for one’s own life.
“You can wait in front of his office. It’s on the third floor, room 330. The meeting should be done in about 20 minutes. But you don’t know anything from me,” she hisses, and before you can properly thank her, the nurse disappears hectically between waiting people, not looking back.
The room is at the end of a hall, a plain blue door with a little sign that says Shoichi Odayama. A quiet voice drifts through, and you can’t want to barge in and drill him with questions. Before you can open the door though, you clearly hear Odayama’s voice saying your father’s name, and your hand freezes on the handle.
“I really can’t say why he’s relapsed so badly. You haven’t spoken after your visit couple of months back, right?”
There’s silence, and no answer but Odayama continues and you realise he must be talking to your dad on a phone. “You said that, but you do realise I cannot mislead my staff for much longer. Some nurses have grown rather fond of him and hope for his recovery.”
Another pause. Another response you’d do anything to hear because any second longer and your heart is going to burst out of your chest with how hard it beats.
“Still, to think that you condone his self-harm. You certainly could have thought of a better way teach him how to deal with his condition—” He pauses a second, and that moment is enough for your mind to go blank and wreck every surety you’ve ever built about anything. It’s like you don’t really want to understand what Odayama just said. There’s the tiniest part inside you that refuses to believe any of that; the absurdity of the truth—if it is the truth—would rather make you double over in laughter if it were not for the much larger part that finally sees the big picture and assembles the last pieces of the puzzle.
He told Kinoe cutting would help him. And then he locked him up here where he can do so for how ever long he wishes. And Odayama knows. He fucking knows. Move, your mind screams, get inside and turn this bastard’s life into hell. But you can’t. Your muscles have locked up; a high whine of terror fills your head. It feels like someone put a rug under you only in order to jerk it from under your feet, when Oyamada suddenly continues, “No, of course. But my silence doesn’t come as cheap anymore. Like I said, my staff has come rather … intrusive.”
You’ve heard enough, covering your face with your hands. You want to blot out this knowledge, carve it from your skull. I need to help him echoes in your head as loud as I need to get out of here ; the sharp stink of disinfectant is like thousand tiny needles drilling into your senses, each intake of breath suffocating you more and more until the sweet crisp night air is the only thing you’re faintly aware of as the doors of Hell gape wide open behind you.
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New York Hustle // Chapter Nine
I grab my phone and check my messages. Hannah texted me like twenty times, asking if I already made out with him. She even asked if I made out with one of his friends. I laugh, shake my head and put my phone away again.
“Okay guys, I have to go.”, Chase says.
“Where to?”, Jayden asks his brother. Chase just smiles at him. “You’re not actually telling me you’re gonna see her.”
“That’s exactly what I’m doing.”, he says with a smirk.
“Wait, who are you talking about?”, Isaac asks. “The girl from the party?”. Jayden and Chase nod, Chase’s still smiling like he won something. “When did that happen?”, Isaac asks confused but still laughing.
“Just now, she texted me.”, Chase says and grabs his wallet.
“Dude, a booty call, really?”, Nero asks with raised eyebrows and a smile.
“You know what that makes you, right?”, Fynn asks cleaning up a few of the bottles. “A hooker.”, we all laugh Chase just rolls his eyes.
“Come on boys, leave him alone.”, I say with a strict voice. They fall silent and look at each other. “Some people need to work hard for their money.”, I say and burst into laughter again, so do the boys.
“I don’t like the new girl.”, Chase says and laughs with us. “But I’m gonna go now, thanks for the nice words.”, he says and opens the door.
“I’m coming with you, you can drop me off on the way.”, Isaac says and grabs his phone from the charger, that is plugged into the wall. They both say goodbye and leave the apartment.
“Fynn we have to head out too if we want to meet with your cousin.”, Jayden says and takes a look on his watch.
“Yeah you right.”, Fynn says. “You guys wanna join?”, he asks looking at me and Nero.
“No.”, Nero says “I think we’re good.”, he says and looks at me. I just smile at him and nod.
“Aight, I’ll see you later.”, Fynn says and leaves together with Jayden.
Now it’s just Nero and me alone in his apartment. I get nervous again. Nero looks at me with a small smile on his face, his arms rest on the kitchen counter. I’m not sure what to say or do. So I just look at him and feel really awkward. I wish Hannah were here, she’d know what to say. The shirt Nero is wearing has shorter sleeves than the one from yesterday. Because of that, it reveals that above the gunshot scar is another scar, same cause.
“How many times did you get shot?”, I ask, my gaze still focused on the two scars on his right upper arm. Nero looks down and pulls on his sleeve to cover up at least one of them.
“More than I should have been.”, he says and tries to laugh but fails.
“How many scars do you have?”, I ask quietly, my eyes meet his.
“Too many.”, he says thoughtfully.
“Can I see?”, I ask carefully. Nero opens his mouth but doesn’t say anything. He comes closer but stops halfway. He grabs the hem of his shirt and pulls it over his head. Nero is well trained, the partying and all the alcohol don’t seem to affect his body much. I get up from the ground and walk closer to him, I look him in the eyes for a few seconds then down to his chest, I see seven scars, including the two on his arm. And a tattoo, right underneath his chest. It’s a snake biting into a hand that is trying to shake it. Right under the tattoo are three words "Trust No One". I look at him for a second, he just gives me a weak smile. I focus on the scars again, the largest one is on his abdomen, it’s at least six inches long. Three smaller ones are on his ribcage two on the right and one just a little above the first rib on the left side. The seventh is a little longer and near his collarbone. They all look so painful, it’s hard to explain what I mean, but they look like they didn’t get proper treatment, like he just went home, after whatever happened to him, put a bandage around them and that’s it.
Nero slowly turns around, I gasp at the sight of his back. There are three smaller ones, but there is one scar that starts at his right shoulder, goes down to the middle of his back at this point it splits into two ways. One of the two branches stops just above Nero's jeans, the other one stops at his rips.
I reach out my hand and with my index finger, I touch the highest point of the scar and follow it until I reach the splitting spot.
“What happened to you?”, I whisper ask. Nero turns around again and looks me deep into my eyes.
“You don’t wanna know.”, he says with a deep voice in the same volume I did.
“What if I do?”, I ask staring back into the now almost black eyes. Nero shakes his head, looks away, and takes a deep breath. He even laughs a little.
“Then you’re crazy.”, Nero says looking back into my eyes.
“I’m okay with that.”, Nero smiles at me and raises his hand. He tugs back a hair strand that has fallen into my face. When his finger touches my cheek I get goosebumps everywhere. I put my left hand on the arm that isn’t touching my face right now, and move my thumb over his soft skin.
“Come on, let’s go onto the fire escape.”, Nero says and puts his shirt back on. I follow him outside, the weather is still cold but warmer than last night. We sit down on the stairs leading up, Nero has to look down to catch my eyes.
“You sure you wanna know what happened?”, he asks again. It seems like he doesn't mind telling the story, more like he’s scared of how I will react. I give him an honest smile, hoping to ease his nerves. “Most of them I got from unnecessary fights, which escalated a little too much.”
“How many of them came from gunshots?”
“Five.”, Nero says. “The ones on my abdomen and my collarbone came from a knife.”, Nero says touching the one near to his neck. I title my head to the side and look at him confused.
“Did you do it to yourself?”, I then ask. Nero lets out a weak chuckle.
“No, I didn't.”, he says shaking his head. “Someone who doesn’t like me did.”
“Did he want to hurt…or kill you?”, I ask curiously. Nero shrugs with his shoulders.
“I don’t know actually and I don’t care either.”, Nero says and scratches the back of his head. “That Fucker paid for what he did.”, I take in a sharp breath and look at Nero, trying to figure out what he meant with that. “I didn’t kill him, don’t worry.”, he says seeing the panic in my eyes. I let out a breath of relief. “You probably wanna know where I got the scar on my back from, right.”
“Yeah.”, I admit. “But if you don’t want to tell-”
“No no, it’s fine.”, Nero interrupts me. “I can’t remember everything that happened but…”, Nero sighs and looks away. “Well let’s just say.. the.”, he visibly has problems telling me about what happened. I pull myself up, so I’m sitting on the same step as he is, now I can look him into his eyes pretty eyes, he is avoiding my stare though.
“Nero, stop. You don’t have to tell me the story, but thank you for showing me your scars.”, now he looks even more confused.
“Why would you thank me for something like that?”, he asks. I raise my eyebrows and let out a chuckle. I wave my arms in front of my face, neck, and chest.
“Look at me, I’m like eighty percent made out of scars.”, Nero lets out a loud laugh. “I know how hard it can be to talk about them or even show them, so thank you, for showing them to someone who you met like a day ago.”
“Well in that case.”, Nero says with a grin. “You’re welcome.”
“So now that we got the depressing part mostly over, let’s do something fun.”, I say with a bright smile and bright shining eyes.
“Like what?”, Nero asks with raised eyebrows. I get up and put one leg through the window again.
“Drinking! You stay here, I’ll go and get the alcohol.”, I say and walk back inside.
“Some is in the top cabinet and I think a bottle of tequila is underneath the kitchen counter.”, Nero yells after me, laughing.
I open the cabinet that hangs on the wall, it’s full of plates and glasses. I move to the one next to it and find a few bottles of a different kind of Gin, Vodka, and Whiskey. Since I want to play a drinking game, Whiskey isn’t the right choice. Vodka tastes just awful and I’m not really in the mood for Gin, so I close the door again and kneel in front of the counter.
When I see how much more alcohol is in this one I laugh to myself, thinking they probably never do anything else in their life. I push away the three six-packs of beer, the awful lot of wine bottles, and something that looks kinda like Baylis, and in the far back I can see the red cap of the Tequila bottle. When I try to reach out for it I accidentally knock down one of the wine bottles.
“Shit.”, I say to myself. The one bottle causes a domino effect and stumbles over two others, one of them is the Tequila. Luckily none of them broke, I reach in again, pick up two of them, and put them to the side.
When I try to grab the bottle I was looking for in the beginning I can’t see it anymore, it must’ve rolled into the back. I reach out my arm as far as possible and feel over the ground of the cabinet. Instead of the bottle, I feel something kind of cold and when I pick it up it’s weirdly heavy. I pull my arm back out, still holding my founding.
When I see what I just found, the color of my face fades. I start to sweat too
It’s a gun. So many questions pop up in my head.
Doesn’t he know it’s there, or why would he just let me open this cabinet? Did he ever use it? Is he planning on using it? Is it just for show? Did he ever threaten someone with it?
I try to find excuses for him too. It’s New York, right? And he lives alone, can I blame him for trying to be safe. He does live in a bad neighborhood. I guess he also meets a lot of bad people if he’s dealing. According to his scars, he has many enemies who are willing to hurt him.
But still, we see so many bad things in the news, about people accidentally shooting their kids, parents, and friends because they acted too fast and misunderstood them for thieves.
What am I supposed to do? Just put it back and act as nothing happened? Can I even act like I didn’t just found a weapon?
“Yoo Bella!”, Nero says a little louder while he jogs back into the living room. “Maybe don’t open the cabinet that’s-”, Before he can finish he sees me kneeling on the floor holding the gun inside my hand. Just like it happened to me the color of his face fades completely. “Fuck.”, he says quietly to himself.
Boone County Brunch
Please enjoy some lighthearted Clyde smut that no one asked for! Spring is in the air!
Boone County Brunch
Clyde Logan x Reader
Word Count: 5.1k
Warnings: NSFW. Smut. Language. Humor.
Spring blossomed around you in luscious shades of pinks and greens, brimming with more potential than you had ever before recalled. The season for romance and new flourishing love had fully consumed you this year as it never had before.
You had gone on a number of dates with a handsome bartender named Clyde Logan and he was always so so good to you. A perfect gentleman at every turn. He was kind, a genuine sweetheart to you, and shockingly gentle, his temperament at odds with his massive body and rugged appearance. Even his years in the Special Forces hadn’t been enough to train the sweetness out of him.
Clyde would hold you in his powerful arms, caressing your body, as he kissed you passionately for long enough to steal your breath. Never rushed, he would happily spend an evening indulging in you while a forgotten movie played in the background. You would be rendered breathless, sighing, and dripping long before the credits rolled. He was just as affected as you, his giant cock swollen, heavy, and pressing against you through his jeans.
You both knew where things were headed between the two of you but, allowing his shyness to get the better of him, he had yet to make his move. Or you to make yours.
A simple bet started it all. Clyde had bet you a simple kiss that he could beat you at jeopardy one afternoon as he lazily flipped through channels, searching in vain to find something engaging to watch with you. It was on a day when a heavy downpour had made you both decide against going out for your date, choosing instead to remain inside the cozy warmth of his cabin while the rain hammered on the roof.
Calling out almost every correct answer before your mind had even wrapped around the question, he won the game of jeopardy easily. Clyde’s range of knowledge was impressive by any measure.
Your loss that day had prompted you to find new and obscure trivia on topics of interest to Clyde in an attempt to stump him on his own turf.
Most people incorrectly assumed that Clyde was unrefined and unintelligent due to his accent and upbringing, but nothing was further from the truth. He was surprisingly well read on a remarkable range of topics and acutely intelligent with a deadpan sense of humor that many slower witted people missed entirely.
“I bet you can’t tell me what the largest and most successful diamond heist in history was?” You asked teasingly, leaning against Clyde’s bar top one evening as you kept him company on a late night.
“I reckon that’d be the Antwerp diamond heist,” Clyde told you with a wink.
“I’m impressed,” you told him fondly. “Do you know how much they got away with?”
“‘Round about a hundred million bucks, if I recall correctly.” He smiled, setting a fresh drink down in front of you. “One of the thieves never got caught and the diamonds were never recovered. What else do ya wanta know, darlin’?”
“You know your heists, I’ll give you that,” you teased, reeling him in for your real question. “But do you know how many guns they used? I’ll give you a bonus prize if you can tell me the make and model of their guns.”
Clyde’s brow furrowed at your last question. His lips formed a slight pout and he ran a huge hand through his hair while he combed through his mental archives.
“Well, bein’ as how they were in Europe and all, I’m guessin’ they each had not much more than a little derringer,” he guessed uncertainly.
“Trick question, handsome. But you’re dead wrong,” you laughed, clapping your hands together at your victory. “They didn’t use any guns. Just electrical tape, a broom, a fire extinguisher, and hair spray.”
Clyde tried to deepen his pout at his loss, but his lips were drawn into a shy smile at your playful gloating.
“Now, down to business,” you continued, lacing your fingers together in front of you on the bar top. “What do I get for besting you?”
“Whatever your heart desires, darlin.’” Clyde leaned in to kiss your cheek. “Though ya know ya could just ask me for anythin’ ya want anyway.”
“It’s more fun this way,” you told him, stroking his jaw while his face was close to yours. “I think brunch with you would be fun. This Saturday.”
Your agenda was simple. An earlier start to the day meant more time together.
“Brunch?” Clyde asked you, feigning confusion. “I dunno. That sounds like somethin’ awful illicit to me.”
“What it sounds like to me is that you can pick me up at 10am this Saturday,” you commanded pleasantly.
Wanting to look extra pretty for your date, especially given as how Clyde had even succumb to adopting your terminology and calling the event ‘brunch,’ you had dressed in a yellow sundress and sandals, befitting of a warm sunny outing. Spring in West Virginia was already sweltering, making you regret complaining so ardently about the cold and snow during the winter.
The low rumbling of a diesel engine alerted you to Clyde’s arrival. Early as usual. You expected nothing less from your military man and you had grabbed your things and bounded out of your door just in time to see Clyde climb out of his truck. Dressed in a simple black t-shirt and jeans, dimples framing a shy smile on his full lips, he looked just about as handsome as you had ever seen him.
A wave of moist heat hit you as soon as you stepped into the sunlight, despite the early hour and the breeze that played across your legs beneath your dress.
Meeting you in front of his truck, he leaned down to kiss you sweetly, smoothing his right hand down your back. As your lips parted to deepen your kiss, his arm tightened around your waist, pinning you against his broad chest. Bending at the knees, he playfully hoisted you up in a one-armed bear hug, easily lifting you off the ground as though you were nothing and smiling against your lips.
Clyde’s kisses were the best you’d ever experienced. His lips left you feeling cared for and protected, like you were the most precious thing in his world, and also shuddering with lusting anticipation.
After a few moments of chasing your lips as you giggled too much for proper kisses, he returned you to the ground. His hand left your back to take your purse from you as his honey-toned eyes made a pass over your dress.
“You look gorgeous, darlin.’ The prettiest girl I’ve ever laid eyes on,” he told you before chewing his lip. “But I’m gonna need ya to go change for me.”
“Not your color?” You teased, raising a questioning eyebrow.
“Every color’s my color if you’re wearin’ it.” He smiled back at you, shifting your purse to his left hand and reaching his right to caress your shoulder. “I changed our plans a little bit today. I agreed to this ‘brunch’ a’ yours but I didn’t make any agreements as to where.”
“Is that so? Am I violating the dress code?” You laughed.
“I’m afraid ya are, darlin,’” Clyde told you, leveling a teasingly serious tone and pinching his brows together. “I need ya in somethin’ casual and easy to walk in. Jeans or some of them leggins ya like would be just fine.”
“For our brunch date?” You asked, leaning your cheek into his hand that had moved to stroke your skin softly.
“Yes, ma’am. I made us reservations someplace real nice,” he told you with a grin. “Today’s a perfect day for it.”
“Alright. Give me a few minutes,” you told him as you reluctantly pushed back from his gentle touch, walking back to your house.
“I’ll keep the a/c runnin’ for ya.” Clyde stepped back to his truck, placing your purse inside, before calling back to you, “And bring a bathin’ suit.”
Casting a slightly confused glance over your shoulder as you opened your front door, you saw his lips turned in a mischievous smirk while he watched you step back inside.
Deciding on a pair of loose-fitting jeans and a simple tank, you changed quickly, grabbed your bikini, and headed back outside.
Clyde was leaning back against the front of his truck, resting his arms on the hood, watching you walk toward him with a smile.
“Much better, darlin,’” he told you as he moved to open your door. “Ya know you’re just the most beautiful woman in the world whatever ya happen to be wearin.’ But save that pretty yellow dress for another day anyway.”
After closing your door, Clyde walked back around to climb into his large truck himself, the truck canting with his heavy weight when he took his place behind the wheel. Leaning across the seat, he gave you another kiss before reversing out of your driveway and pulling away to an unknown destination.
“So, where is this mystery spot you’re taking me?” You asked as you watched the luscious green of the Virginia forest stream by your window.
“I don’t want to spoil the surprise. But it’s real exclusive.” He smiled at you, tearing his eyes from the road long enough to give you a wink.
“Do they have mimosas?” You teased, knowing full well that Clyde wouldn’t be caught dead sipping a mimosa from a champagne flute if he could help it.
“Now darlin,’ what kinda man would I be if I agreed to take ya to brunch and it wasn’t to someplace with damn fine mimosas?” He told you with an exaggerated drawl, playing his country boy aesthetic up for you.
Clyde tended towards being quiet and shy, preferring to listen instead of talk, but he was easily drawn out by your smile and emboldened by your touch into many a pleasant conversation.
Such was the case now, as you drew Clyde out into regaling you with tales of the funniest mishaps he’d encountered at his bar throughout the week.
He was driving you deep into the mountains on a route you had never travelled with him before, the road snaking tightly through a jungle of green as it gained in elevation. Dancing lines of searing humidity hazed the asphalt where it dipped over the horizon and around you the trees grew denser the deeper into the forest you drove.
Turning off onto a small dirt road, Clyde continued to drive for several bouncing miles until he finally pulled off the road to a stop in a small clearing. A substantially overgrown trail twisted away through the trees.
“Haven’t ya heard, darlin,’” he said in response to your confused expression, bringing his huge hand to squeeze your thigh. “They have the best mimosas in Boone County just a couple miles ahead on up the mountain.”
“We’re going hiking? I’m all for that, but I think you picked the hottest day of the year so far,” you questioned, placing your hand on top of his, stroking the back of his huge paw.
“Believe me pretty girl, the weather’s just perfect for where we’re goin,’” he assured you with a sly grin.
Stepping out of the truck, he moved to unpack some things from his backseat. He had a heavily filled backpack, which he stuffed your bikini into, and a large cooler with a handle.
After pulling on the backpack and grabbing the cooler in his right hand, he walked to where you now stood at the front of his truck near the trail.
“Want me to carry that?” You asked, indicating the cooler.
“‘Course not. What kinda gentlemen would I be gettin’ my girl to carry things for me.” He dipped to press a kiss to your cheek before walking ahead onto the trail.
Setting out behind him, you could feel sweat begging to moisten your brow and back after only a few minutes. Humidity hung thickly in the densely wooded forest, undisturbed by a breeze, the temperature climbing ever hotter as the sun rose higher in the late-morning sky.
This better be worth it, you thought grumpily to yourself as you trudged along. So far, you were not enjoying the substitution of sweaty strenuous activity in place of a romantic brunch date.
It was truly unfair how effortlessly Clyde outpaced you on his long legs, despite being heavily laden with supplies. An occasional glance over his shoulder preceded a stop so he could turn and look around at the views offered by the wilderness around you, tactically allowing you to catch up with him.
“Are ya doin’ alright back there?” Clyde asked, smiling at your exertion.
“Fine,” you huffed, breathing hard and wiping the back of your hand across your forehead. “But I look absolutely awful now. And sweaty.”
“Nah, ya don’t look awful at all.” Clyde paused before deciding to poke some fun at your sweat-slick face and chest. “You’re practically glowin,’ darlin.’”
“Funny.” You glared halfheartedly at his broad back as he turned to continue hiking ahead.
Around you the scenery grew progressively more beautiful as you walked deeper into the forested mountains. Clyde walked at his leisurely pace for the better part of an hour, looking completely composed with only a light sheen of sweat on his brow and his shirt darkening under his pack in sharp contrast to your sweaty bedraggled features.
When he finally came to a stop it was in a shaded, grassy, lightly wooded area in a more open glade of the forest. Sunlight streamed down through patches in the canopy of trees above you mottling the emerald grass with spots of peridot.
Only a few yards ahead of you was a small lake nestled in the apex of a valley between two mountains. Its crystal-clear water shimmered with beads of sunlight. The water was so clear that the light and reflection of nearby trees were the only barrier preventing you from seeing the bottom of its depths. You had seen pictures of mountain lakes before but nothing truly compared to the real thing, you realized as you took in the beauty before you. Even the smell of the air coming off of the water was fresher and crisper.
The branches of the largest tree near the lake extended out over the water from its place ten or so feet higher up the bank. From the thickest branch, hung a thick weathered rope, no doubt having been used for swinging for decades.
Looking at you instead of the view himself, Clyde smiled broadly at you, knowing by your expression that he had done well.
“I’m glad ya like it,” he told you softly. “It’s the only spot I could think of that’s even half as pretty as you are.”
“It’s beautiful, Clyde,” you affirmed as you closed the distance between you.
Reaching to the straps of his backpack, you pulled him down to meet your lips in a slow lingering kiss.
When he pulled away from your lips, he paused to smile down at you before walking to the flattest spot in the grass and setting the cooler down.
“Are there animals out here?” You mused as you looked around the forest.
“‘Course there are,” Clyde affirmed, shrugging out of his overstuffed backpack.
“Are there bears?” You asked, thinking of the large cooler of food Clyde had carried with him.
“Bears?” He huffed a laugh, smiling warmly at you. “Just me, darlin.’”
While you admired the beauty surrounding you, watching the sunlight dance in patches on the pristine water where it peeked between the trees, Clyde knelt beside you to remove the contents from his backpack.
First to be freed was a large plaid blanket that consumed the majority of space inside his pack. Clyde spread it out on the ground beside you, setting the cooler in its center. He then retrieved two towels and each of your swimsuits, setting them all to the side.
You were beaming at him as he took a seat on the blanket, holding his hand out to motion you closer.
“This is wonderful, Clyde,” you told him as you sank down beside him, placing a soft kiss on his lips as you took your seat.
“I’m glad ya like it. I’m just happy to see a smile on those pretty lips a’ yours,” he replied softly, reaching for the cooler.
Unpacking the cooler yielded two large water bottles, fresh fruit, and enough small sandwiches to feed at least two Clydes. They looked delicious and artisan, not a redneck bologna and miracle whip special, but similar to something that you would actually find at a nice brunch.
“I may have googled some fancy sandwich makin’s for today. They’re easy enough to put together no matter what kinda uppity ingredients ya use,” he told you when he noticed your impressed gaze. His huge chest swelled even larger with pride at having surprised you so pleasantly.
“I love it, Clyde. Everything about this is perfect,” you replied with a shining smile.
“I’m not done just yet,” he continued, pulling a large Yeti thermos and two red solo cups from inside the cooler.
Handing you a cup, he poured the contents of the thermos into it, filling your cup with a bubbling orange concoction.
“Oh my god, Clyde! You didn’t!” You laughed, smiling at him elatedly. “Mimosas?”
“Well, I could’ve rustled up some moonshine but it’s a long way to carry ya back,” he joked, poking fun himself at his rural stereotype.
“This is excellent,” you praised after taking your first refreshing sip.
“Don’t go tellin’ anyone and ruinin’ my reputation now, darlin.’” He smiled at you, blushing from your words as he took a drink himself.
Throughout lunch, your eyes kept drifting to the inviting water of the lake and the rope swaying in the gentle breeze. Clyde was right. Today had the perfect oppressively hot weather to entice you into ripping all your clothes off and plunging into the cool water.
“I want to see you swing into the water on that rope,” you challenged around a sip of mimosa.
“I haven’t done that since I was a young, dumb teenager.” He smiled at the memory, before his face fell slightly at an unwelcome reminder. “Since before I got all blown apart, too. I don’t think I’d put on a very good show for ya these days.”
“Of course you will. You couldn’t do anything other than impress me,” you assured him genuinely, before changing your tone. “Besides, you know that I just want an excuse to get your shirt off.”
“So long as ya don’t have any high expectations for a perfect pike when I hit the water,” he capitulated.
Downing his drink in a long swig, Clyde grinned at you before pushing to his feet. Offering you his hand, he pulled you up to stand beside him. You helped him remove his prosthetic, setting it down on the picnic blanket. Clyde retrieved his swim trunks from his backpack and lumbered into the trees to change outside of your view.
You were reaching for your bikini when a better idea occurred to you.
Quickly stripping out of your clothes, you bounded naked toward the lake. You gasped when your feet plunged into the cool water, moving rapidly up your body as you walked deeper and deeper into the lake.
By the time Clyde emerged in his black trunks, you were treading water, only your head and shoulders showing above its surface. Your lascivious gaze followed Clyde as he walked toward you, tracking every ripple of heavy muscle as he moved. Standing tall and broad as he walked, he moved with an unconscious swagger, the kind of walk that belied a huge cock and an ample knowledge on how to use it. You licked your lips, watching as he moved to stand below the rope tied high in the tree.
Tightly grabbing the rope in his right hand, Clyde took a run at the edge of the bank. Launching himself off the edge, he swung powerfully out over the water, hoping to put on an impressive display for you. Instead, he swung through the air comically off balanced and awkward, which to your eyes was even better than what he intended. He released his hold at the apex of his swing, falling with a rumbling growl into the water below with a gigantic splash.
Watching from a few yards away, you laughed at his inelegant lopsided cannonball that sent waves crashing around you.
Erupting from below the surface, sending water splashing wildly, Clyde’s laugh carried across the lake as he wiped the water from his face with his right hand and shook his head back and forth like a shaggy dog, his thick mane of dark hair slinging water in all directions.
Meeting your shining eyes with his own smiling gaze, he swam toward you in an easy sidestroke.
Leading with his right arm outstretched in the water, he wrapped it around your shoulders when he reached you, pulling you toward him to crash his large nose into your cheek in a sloppy, goofy kiss.
Clyde was still nuzzling your cheek, tickling you with his goatee, and placing a series of smacking kisses across your skin when you turned your body into his. Looping both arms around his neck, you pressed your naked body against his.
A harsh grunt escaped his lips against your cheek, like you’d just punched him in the gut, and every muscle in his body tensed rigidly at the feeling of your tits pressing against his chest. The realization that you were completely bare beneath the water hit him harder than any punch he had ever taken.
Lifting his head slowly, he chewed his lip as he looked down at you almost shyly, meeting your smirk with a blush that spread across the broad expanse of his chest. A moment passed before his left arm moved to hook behind your back, pulling your body even more flush to his, as he brought his lips to yours.
His kiss was searing. No more lingering shyness or trepidation hampered his ministrations. All of the passion he had long harbored for you poured from his lips to yours, as you both turned in a slow circle in the water from his right hand keeping you both afloat.
Beneath the water, you felt his cock swell, nudging insistently against you. Bringing one of your legs up around his ribs, you rubbed your center against his rock-hard cock, contained behind the thin material of his trunks. Clyde groaned into your mouth at the feeling of your pussy rubbing him, the feeling of your desire for him, the feeling of his effect on you. He felt dizzy with an excited ecstasy thrumming through his body as he kissed you and held you tight, a feeling that only you had ever given him.
Slowly, Clyde swam you both back toward the bank, his lips and tongue continuously building your arousal.
His feet hit the ground first, your body still fully suspended in the water. Pulling your legs around him to lock around his waist, Clyde wrapped his left arm under your ass and his right holding tight against your back, pinning you to his chest. He walked you both out from the water like that, carrying you and kissing you like it was the easiest thing in the world back to the picnic blanket.
Without setting you down, he dropped to his knees on the blanket, lips never breaking contact with yours. Bracing himself with his right hand, he gently lowered you down onto your back below him.
Instead of following you down, he broke your kiss, pulling away to sit back on his heels and admire the beautiful view of you spread out before him. His cock stood thick and long and proud, arching upward in anticipation of finally being hugged tightly by your hot silken embrace.
Lifting your left leg, he brought your heel to rest on his shoulder, turning to kiss at your ankle while his right hand rubbed and kneaded its way up your thigh. His goatee tickled your skin as his hot mouth trailed its way down the inside of your calf and knee. Moving onto your inner thigh, his kisses turned to licks and bites, growing more heated by every inch he descended as he slowly lowered himself to the ground.
When his lips reached your pussy, he kissed you the same way he’d kiss your lips while he positioned himself resting on his elbows between your legs. Shucking your right leg over his shoulder, pinning his head between your thighs, he pulled your hips closer to his face, eagerly diving in to run his hot tongue through your folds.
Shuddering at the feeling, your hands flew to fist into his dense hair to pull him impossibly closer.
“You’re the sweetest fuckin’ thing I’ve ever tasted. You’re sweeter than a peach, darlin,’” he growled low into you, the vibrations of his deep voice shooting through you. “I could eat ya for hours.”
Nose nudging insistently against your clit, his tongue licked eagerly into you, seeking every drop of your arousal.
When he felt you begin to clench from your building pleasure, he trailed his mouth up to replace his nose with his lips around your clit. Moving his hand from your hip, he reached down to plunge two thick fingers into you, giving your pussy something to squeeze as he worked you closer and closer to the edge. The light scratch of his beard against the slick of your pussy sent electric shivers through you with every rub as he sucked at your clit while you moaned and writhed beneath him.
Every sigh and whimper he pulled from you was music to Clyde’s ears, and every sharp tug on his hair and buck of your hips against his face was his favorite commendation.
It was the pleasured groan vibrating through your core from Clyde’s lips as he sucked at you that pushed you over the edge into a blinding pulsing orgasm. Your pussy seized around his fingers as they curled and stroked inside of you in clenching bursts of pleasure in time with the electric pulses that coursed through you.
Clyde kissed and licked you until your thighs loosened their vice-grip around his head and rested limply on his shoulders. He flashed you a wet gleaming smile before returning his lips to your skin, kissing his way up your body as he crawled over you. Your legs wrapped around his waist, pulling him closer against you, as he rested his forearms on either side of your body, caging you beneath him.
The thick velvety head of his cock nudged against your entrance, slipping inside of your wet heat easily when you raised your hips to meet his firm thrust. Despite your dripping arousal, the stretch of his enormous cock was almost painful. You had never felt anything like the delicious burn of his cock plunging into you, pulsing veins and coarse ridges rubbing against your silky walls.
“Look at your perfect little pussy. Takin’ all a’ my fat cock so well, like ya were made just for me,” Clyde whisper-growled in your ear.
His lips caressed your cheek as he waited for you to adjust to his size, hips rocking gently against you for several long moments. When you turned your head to capture his lips in a needy kiss, he began thrusting into you, rocking your body with his every powerful motion.
Already sensitive, your entire body on fire for the huge man above you, you felt every slam of his cock push you closer to another gushing wave of pleasure.
Clyde’s pace grew faster and rougher the closer he brought you both. Soon, he was propped above you, looking down at you with a feral tooth-baring grin, his hair falling wildly around his shoulders and face, jostling with every hard thrust.
Your head pressed back into the blanket, your back arching into Clyde’s chest and hips rolling in time with his rhythm. Nails digging into his muscled shoulders, his name fell from your lips in a lewd moan that echoed through the forest and across the lake.
“Does my lil’ darlin’ like that?” Clyde’s voice was low and husky as he panted between thrusts. “You like me fuckin’ you hard? Splittin’ your pretty pussy open with my big cock?”
“Fuck yes, I do!” You almost screamed from the pleasure. “Keep fucking me just like that!”
“I know ya like it. I can feel your pussy tightnin’ up on me like a juicy fuckin’ vice.” Clyde was huffing now with each rough thrust, panting above you like a wild animal. “You gonna cum all over my cock, darlin’?”
Your second orgasm hit you even more intensely than the first, crashing over you in heady waves of ecstasy, your pussy tensing hard around his cock, trying to pull it in impossibly deeper.
Clyde’s jaw clenched tightly as he fucked you through your aftershocks, a growl rumbling deep in his chest.
“Fill me up, Clyde,” you sighed, feeling weak and limp beneath him. “I want to be full of you.”
“Yes, ma’am,” he almost snarled, completely lost in the pleasure of your body. “Ya want to be filled with my cum? I’ll give ya so fuckin’ much that it’s gonna be runnin’ outta ya the whole hike back.”
Clyde pounded his cock into you until his hips stilled, burying his cock as deep as possible. A rush of heat spread through you as he pumped you full of his thick hot cum, just like he promised.
With a heavy sigh, he relaxed some of his weight down on top of you, panting as he regained his breath. Stroking your hands along his densely muscled back soothingly, you reveled in the feeling of his massive body resting on your own.
After a moment spent catching his breath, he leaned down to meet your lips in a tender kiss. Clyde kissed you slowly and deeply, bringing his hand up to stroke your cheekbone sweetly, unable to keep a grin from tugging at the corners of his mouth. You ran your fingers through his damp hair and traced your nails along his neck and shoulders, making him only grin wider.
When Clyde pulled back to look down at you, a huge toothy smile beamed across his face. His eyes were full of pure unadulterated adoration as he regarded you.
“I think I’ll take ya to brunch more often, darlin.’” He told you, punctuating his intention with another soft kiss.
Tagging some buddies: @babbushka @finn-ray-nal-beads @maybe-your-left @contesa-lui-alucard @historyandfandoms50 @hopeamarsu @fizzywoohoo @sacklerscumrag @clydesfavoritegirl @caillea @clydesducktape @mind-p0llution @roanniom @mariesackler @cas-backwards-tie @barbers-glimmerin-darlin @glassbxttless @daydreamsofren @the-wayward-rose @wayward-rose @mrs-zimmerman @reyloaddict55 @tashastrange89
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ATTD: A Magician, Not a Healer (3)
The alternate title of this one is, “Repressioooon... Repression!” to the tune of Tradition from fiddler on the roof
this is the last part of this chapter; i think next time we will meet our... Nominal Antagonists :)
TW for: implied past non/dubcon; implied/referenced trauma response/flashback; mild body horror and reference to past Stabbing; Detailed Descriptions Of Food; hints of disordered eating; self-blame and guilt; grief/mentions of death.
The boy called Will sat in the Healer’s waiting room with his face in his hands, happy enough for now to let the Magician remain in the room with the Healer, negotiating payment. He felt more than guilty—slightly mortified, in fact—at putting the Magician out even more than he already had, but he was also grateful for the moment to sit here, in an empty room, and recover from having embarrassed himself so completely.
The Healer’s hands had been gentle, and her magic had been cool against his skin, and it should have been a relief when it slipped in and touched the burned, itchy edges where the knife tore into his stomach.
Except that he had felt her magic slide under his skin and his mind had gone utterly blank with panic. He had felt it as a violation—an invasion of his person—and had knocked her well-meaning hands away and leapt backward off the bench and had to be coaxed out of the corner like an anxious cat.
And of course the moment there had no longer been hands on him he had remembered where he was and been fully aware that he had embarrassed people who had no intention but to help him. Again.
Thank heaven the Magician had handed him his sword belt back as soon as the Healer had finished with him. He had not removed it voluntarily since leaving his father’s House. Its weight made him feel immediately less exposed, and now he could catch his breath, and be less of an obvious wreck by the time the Magician emerged.
His head was the clearest it had been since he had left his father’s house, as well. He had not realized how completely the fever had clouded his judgement.
The Magician—Jasper—seemed honestly to mean well, and wish to help. And what had he done to repay that kindness, but put the man in increasing danger—more danger, even, than that brought about by his presence alone, or even by Chorus’s—and continually be expensive and inconvenient?
It felt like compounding his guilt to leave when he was, in the most literal sense, in the Magician’s debt. But there was no way to spend a second more with the Magician without bringing more trouble and telling more lies even than he already had, and it wasn’t as though he had any way to repay the Magician, even if he—
Well. That was not quite true.
At home. At home it would have been quite obvious how to pay the Magician back.
The boy squeezed his eyes shut, trying to swallow around his suddenly dry throat, and in doing so he waited too long, and the door to the Healer’s room opened and produced the Magician in question, who looked at him with sympathy that turned the boy’s stomach.
Will was still there when Jasper emerged from the Healer’s room, several coins lighter. Which was honestly a bit of a surprise.
The boy looked up at him. Will looked—miserably embarrassed, honestly.
Jasper had been debating whether he should—ask, point-blank, what had happened. It seemed—awkward to dance around it, when clearly something had happened, something more than being lightly stabbed in a mugging, or whatever. Watching the boy react to the Healer’s magic had been almost painful.
Jasper was prepared to admit that there was a certain—intimacy to healing magic. A Healer had to know the inside of the human body very well indeed, and did their work by reaching in and tugging at one’s insides with their aura. Which. A lifetime ago, it had felt natural from the very beginning to accept such a thing from Silex, who was soft-voiced and soft-handed and the warmest heart Jasper had ever met (and who was dead, and dead, and dead), but—he could imagine. How one could feel… vulnerable. To be touched in such a way. By a stranger.
That did not mean he could think of any way at all to talk about it.
Will looked at him, and as far as Jasper could tell, he was just as eager not to broach the subject (who are you really, and where did you come from, and were you so ill-used there, that an old woman’s magic should undo you in this way) as Jasper was himself, so Jasper clapped his hands together briskly and said, in a slightly-too-bright sort of voice, “Alright, boy, I don’t know about you, but I could eat an entire cow. Where shall we go for lunch?”
“Oh,” the boy said, and hurried to his feet, and bowed, the way he had for Lia—with one foot pointed in front of him, and his hand over his heart. The gesture tugged at something in Jasper’s brain, but couldn’t quite find whatever memory it wanted to connect to. “Thank you, Magician Jasper.” The boy straightened, and looked at him, very earnestly. His too-blue eyes were even more striking, now that they weren’t glassy with fever. “For all your hospitality. You have given me more than enough, please. I could not possibly accept more.”
“Uh-huh,” Jasper said doubtfully. “What exactly are you planning to do instead?”
The boy smiled, easy and warm; it was very charming, and Jasper was in no way inclined to believe it. “I can make my own way, now that my head is clear. I have kept you from your own business more than long enough, sir.”
“Right.” Jasper looked the boy over. He was standing without swaying, now, and his eyes were clear and clever. There was color in his cheeks, even.
He was still absolutely swimming in Jasper’s borrowed tunic, a few inches of hard-to-look-at ribs and knife-sharp collarbones sticking out above the low collar. And he had no pack, and nothing in his pockets.
“How much money do you have on you?” Jasper asked him, almost amused. “Planning to pawn your sword, maybe, to pay for dinner tonight?”
The boy’s smile twitched, just a little, in either discomfort or dark amusement at the thought.
“Truly, Magician,” the boy said, bowing his head very politely indeed. “I have no appetite at all at the moment.”
“Hm,” Jasper said. “Is that so.” He looked at the boy thoughtfully.
It was time, Jasper thought, to be a little bit cruel.
“Have you had a chance to try the local cuisine?” Jasper said. The Healer’s waiting-room had two large glass windows at the front, and Jasper walked toward one, deliberately turning his back on Will. “There’s an inn two blocks from here that keeps its own chickens, and you’ve never had a bird so tender. I left a Safe-Against-Thieves spell for the owner when last I was in town, so she’ll cook some for free, I imagine, if I ask. Sear the skin crisp and leave the inside juicy. And she mixes spices like a master. You’ve never had a meal like it—sharp and spicy, with dried fruits stirred in for contrast.”
Jasper turned back to survey his handiwork. Will had one hand over his mouth, and the other on his stomach, and a look of deep betrayal on his face. When Jasper looked at him, the boy’s stomach growled very loudly.
“…fine,” Will said, with as much dignity as he could manage. “If you insist. You may. I suppose. Buy me lunch.”
Jasper grinned, and clapped the boy on the shoulder.
The boy was better at hiding his answering wince now that he was no longer swaying with fever, but now Jasper knew to look for it, and Will couldn’t hide it entirely.
A better man than Jasper might have asked, then. Where the boy came from, and was he safe here, and did he need somewhere to stay. Jasper had nowhere to stay himself—would have had to put his years-long quest on hold, to help the boy properly. But he could do it. No one was here to stop him. He could buy the boy a room, stay with him until he was on his feet properly, and no longer flinched that way at a casual touch.
But Jasper—wasn’t that. His heart was old, and all the room in it was used up with longing for the dead.
And there had to be one of the Company left.
“Good man,” Jasper said, hoarsely. He ushered the boy out, and was careful not to touch him again.
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Let Me Love You Chapter List
Alastair woke up with a throbbing ache throughout his body, especially across his chest, where the wound was. A single glance told him he was in the Institute infirmary. Cordelia was conversing silently with Brother Zachariah by the door. He tried to sit up but immediately laid back down, feeling lightheaded.
“Alastair!” Cordelia ran over to him, Jem not far behind. “Are you all right? How do you feel?”
“As if I’ve died and you’ve had Lucie resurrect me,” he said weakly, and his sister frowned at the mention of her parabatai’s unnatural power.
I expected just as much, Jem said. The Rahab poison is a nasty sort, and a bit of it is still left in your system. You’ll be feeling better with a few more hours of rest.
He rebandaged the cut across Alastair’s chest, which wasn’t very deep but would leave a scar. It was mostly healed by now, and wasn’t nearly as bad as he’d first thought it was.
“It was awful,” Cordelia told him once Jem had left, “I thought you were dead. We all did. You very nearly were. They wouldn’t let anyone see you; everyone’s been worried sick. I forced them to let me in, but I’ve been here all day, and—”
“Yes; Thomas brought you in last night, and I only got word of it early this morning.” Alastair’s heart skipped a beat at the mention of Thomas’s name, and Cordelia must’ve seen it in his face. “He’s terrified for you, you know. I think he blames himself a bit for what happened.”
“It’s not his fault—”
“I know it’s not. Grace and Christopher told us everything. Still, he thinks he could’ve done something more, I suppose.” She hesitated. “He cares very dearly for you.”
I swear, on the Angel, on my life, on everything I have. “I know he does. We—we made up, before everything happened.”
Cordelia smiled. “That’s good. Especially now that everyone knows—I think Matthew would jump at the opportunity to beat you up if he thought you’d hurt Thomas.”
“Wait, what? Everyone knows?”
“Well, by everyone, I mean the Merry Thieves, your friends, Lucie, Jesse, and Anna. Eugenia invited us all over a few days ago and forced Thomas to tell us everything. She, Grace, and Kamala were all quite rude to him. If the discussion hadn’t been about you, I would’ve found it quite entertaining.”
Alastair laughed, though it hurt a bit to do so. Of course his friends had done that. He didn’t know quite how they’d even gotten to be friends, but once they had they’d stuck together. It was necessary, really, given that all of them were in a position where it was often hard to get people to like them otherwise.
He remembered when he, Eugenia and Grace had sat down with Anna and helped her understand better her situation with Kamala. They’d been somewhat abrasive but had gotten the point across. A “romantic intervention,” Grace had called it, and the name stuck.
“I really ought to stop talking to you, don’t I?” Cordelia said after a few more minutes of conversation. “It’s getting late, and you need to rest. I should really be going.”
A part of him wanted her to stay, but he said nothing. “Goodnight,” she said, kissing his forehead. “Sleep well. I’ll be back in the morning.”
Sleep evaded him for hours. Slowly the poison-caused ache dissipated, and he was able to sit. He wanted to stand up, walk around, find someone, anyone to talk to. He was bored and lonely in the dark infirmary, lonelier than he felt he’d been in ages. The nightmare he’d had was still in his mind; it was what kept him awake. He knew none of it was real, but the words that had been spoken... most of them he’d heard before. Most of them were true. He finally fell asleep wondering if he ever truly woke up from nightmares like that. If anyone did.
It was sunlight that woke him the next morning. He could rarely sleep long past dawn, unlike many people he knew, and once he was awake it was a struggle to fall back asleep. Something about the light prevented him from resting.
For a while he simply laid there, willing himself to fall asleep. It did not work. Finally, he gave in and got up. No one else would be awake for hours, so leaving the infirmary would do him no good. Though, he wasn’t sure if Silent Brothers slept or not; perhaps Jem was still around. Alastair decided against looking for him, in favor of pacing through the empty room. He remembered when it had been crowded with those struck down by the Mandikhor. Barbara
Lightwood, Thomas’s sister, had been among the injured, and later, among the dead. Alastair decidedly pushed the thought out of his head, his heart breaking for Thomas and his family, though it had been months ago.
“You could have left at any time if you’d wanted to,” Cordelia said when she came in, earlier than he’d expected. “You are not a prisoner in here.”
“You say that. And yet, if I had left with no one knowing, it would have caused quite a panic.”
“I suppose that’s true.”
They left the Institute and went to Cornwall Gardens, where their mother was waiting for them. Cordelia had not been lying when she said everyone was worried for Alastair. She also said, when asked, that the Merry Thieves were off doing something in the city, and James had refused to tell her what. Alastair pretended he wasn’t at all suspicious or concerned.
He wanted to see Thomas. There were a million other things he should have been thinking about, but none of them were important. He wanted to see Thomas, to hold him, to tell him it wasn’t his fault. That was all that mattered.
Hours later, Cordelia left, and Alastair went out for a walk. Without realizing it, he walked all the way to the Lightwoods’ house. He’d been there a few times to see Eugenia, so he knew the way fairly well. He knocked on the door and she opened it, her face lighting up when she saw him. She said she was glad he was okay, and told him where to find Thomas.
Alastair stood in the doorway and watched him. He was writing what appeared to be sheet music, occasionally playing a note on the piano. Alastair was a bit surprised; he didn’t know Thomas wrote music. But the other boy didn’t notice him, he was too focused on what he was doing.
“Tom,” Alastair said softly, and Thomas looked up. When he saw him, his lips parted slightly and he stood up quickly, crossing the room in a few steps.
“Alastair. You—you’re okay. You’re here. I was just thinking about you, and here you are. I didn’t think—I was worried—Alastair, you almost died. I was so scared.”
“I know. But I didn’t die. I’m okay. We’re okay.” For a moment Thomas seemed speechless, and Alastair pulled him in for a kiss. He could stay like this forever, he thought, with Thomas’s lips against his and his arms around him. He was far more experienced than Thomas, he knew, but every kiss with him was new and exciting; a wonderful feeling that he would never get tired of.
“Kheyli dooset daram,” he said when they pulled away. I love you so much. He was surprised when Thomas smiled, as if he understood.
“Manam asheghetam, Alastair.” I love you too, Alastair.
He was shocked; he hadn’t known Thomas spoke Farsi. In the moment, though, it only added to the list of reasons he loved him.
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Hello! I adore how you write the characters and the scenarios you put them through, so I thought I'd let you know! And if it's alright, could I request you write for Jigen and Goemon (separate), where the reader owns/works in a flower shop? And reader has a crush on him that the rest of the gang finds obvious? I hope it's not too much/too confusing!
S/O is a florist
Characters : Jigen & Goemon
⚠️ Warning : cursing, Jigen doesn't lie he sasses, Goemon lying for an uncomfortably long time, Lupin is a half-ass Cupid, S/O is clueless as to who they are, an apex predator, men in underwear
Over 4000 words for Jigen and Goemon, separate. Prepare for a long read. I lost track of all time and energy, but loved every ounce of it. Took me long enough. I hope this is worth the wait.
Also, comments and reblogs would be wonderful! I could use feedback at the moment.
Content below the cut!
You stripped a light pink rose of its leaves and raked them off the tabletop and into the trash, missing a couple. An audience of new flowers sat off to your side. You gathered the roses together in a bundle, snipped off their stalks at the bottom, then dropped them into a tall cylinder vase of water.
You shuffled over to the coolers and pushed them to the very back of the lowest shelf, not before fluffing their petals to add oomph into their character. Your whiter than white walls renew your spirit for every hour you put into making business, and within this little shop space you praised how kind your fate had been to land you at this ideal job in this provincial life.
You were unwrapping another set of roses, white ones, until you heard your sliding door knock against its stopper. That hat, with its hatband and swoop of the wide brim. You had known the piece didn’t sell for cheap. It was designer in lavish markets in some parts of the globe, and with this extravagant piece, the man with the rugged swagger to rock it.
You had hoped to see him again even after he said he would be out of town on business, saying he wasn’t sure if he could stop by another time as your best paying customer. All you had ever done with your fantasies was make missteps into false hope.
But divine intervention brought Jigen back to this rural coastal town, your heart sighed, and he brought with him one of two men you had seen him with.
Said man perused your display cases with his hands rumpling in pockets over his thighs. Being in the conditions of your work everyday, you could have guessed he was cold. How Jigen looked at him was like he making sure he wouldn’t knock your coolers down like a line of dominos. They looked nothing short of siblings, but they couldn’t be. By blood, at least. They seemed thick as thieves.
The pearly glow from inside the coolers were fazing the edges of the new man’s silhouette as he was zooming to and fro between one case and another. It was as if he was stricken over the back upon seeing the pink carnations you had shoved deep in amongst your heady selection.
“Well, if it isn’t my favorite customer." You panned your eyes down and broke out in a coy smile when Jigen made a beeline for you. That look meant more to you than what it could have meant for him. All that had been was hapless attraction. Your hands were plucking leaves again. “I’m assuming you’ve settled whatever score you had with that...”
“Groom,” finished Jigen, leaving his friend to your flower cases.
“Groom, with a bouquet? Was your bride stolen away from you or did he break your heart?”
You had tried your sarcasm, but what had come was the viscera of your own jealousy, to your absolute horror. Jigen harrumphed when he was adjacent to you, his shadow a black divide stretching across the white oak you were working over; it plastered itself against the morning’s newcomers.
“Psh. Don’t kid. It’s all in the name of business.”
“Some business you have going on settling scores with newly weds.”
Maybe he had found himself paving the road of a soon-to-be love affair. Maybe he had been seeing someone and that someone, whoever they ended up being, had to be married off; all while he was still devoted to them. Maybe all those flowers he had been commissioning you were to supplement just that, a touch-and-go romance.
“He’s the fat cat billionaire who wants to rip off the town mayor into letting his goons in to sack you out of your homes. You don’t know this, but this land, it’s hiding something real precious that anybody would want for themselves as long as they had the money and power.”
Jigen made half a semicircle with his shoe across the smooth cement floor and kept at his mild tirade. “He’d be the last person on anyone’s list to wanna marry. Don’t ever, in your life, marry anyone the likes of him. Don’t marry at all if you can’t do that. I’d hate to see it.”
You chuckled. He’d hate to see it. The way he phrased it sounded like he didn’t want you to peddle yourself to anyone unless he was the one behind the swiping and choosing; maybe the one down the aisle in a tux, waiting to read out his vows with the help of inky bullet points in his palm, then say your I do’s.
This was too much of an imagination to have on a man whose posse along with whom asserted themselves into the neighborhood without so much as a moving truck to help. They bounced out of yellow car one could only dream could fit three grown men their size, then crossed the wooden bridge to the abandoned boathouse over the water. It had been a month since.
“You helped me into his wedding. So, thanks, if you’ll take that from me.”
You wondered if the humidity inside your hands was from all these plants you were touching or you getting clammy because your crush recognized your help for the first time outside of paying for it. From your flowers to Jigen, his offhand smile showed you its owner was waiting for you, face half-shrouded in darkness.
“You meant my flowers helped you. That I’ll take, and you’re welcome.” You smiled at him before averting your gaze, growing shyer as his warmth was so tangible next to you. Jigen turned a stray rose petal over onto its convex side and applied compressions on it his pointer finger like it needed to breath, only inches away from your dutiful hands.
“Hope you don’t mind the chimp.” He pointed his curtain to his friend in the brightly colored jacket who was still, after all this time, weighing which flowers he fancied more from the looks of it. “He wanted to come and see for himself what you got. By the way, those flowers were really something. You outdid yourself.” He was charming today, you noticed. You hummed graciously, pleased at that.
“Yup. Needs something to smuggle – to bring – to an ex’s wedding. They’re on speaking terms I guess. That’s gonna help in getting...to end on even better terms, right.”
“Another wedding huh? You guys run a gate crashing business?”
“We don’t, but if that’s what you wanna think, it’s non-profit. Hit me up if you’ve got a wedding you want us to crash,” he deadpanned, then chuckled when you cracked a hard-to-control grin. Your head shook behind a thicket of baby’s breaths.
“Everything’s for profit if it’s a job.”
“We usually just take want we want and dip, literally.”
“Wow. Crash, stash, and dash. Am I speaking to a thief?”
“Who knows. As far as I’m concerned, you’re talking to a businessman.”
You were holding up and unwrapping plastic around some roses until they barreled out of their confines. “Whoa,” Jigen exclaimed as he took a step away from the tumbling flora. You looked down at the mess at your feet and cursed. You had readied to sweep your apron aside to crouch, but Jigen was already reaching down.
“You dropped these.”
There he was, looking up from under your station and holding out to you a bunch of yellow roses, their tips ablaze with red. The blooms and his thumb were pointed at you, and he had one knee on the floor and a hand gripping your table's edge. He realized how he looked.
He was a torchbearer who had stumbled and was now too embarrassed to get up to light the Olympics flame. You were already in flames though, abashed with thumbs tucked inside your palms. Jigen felt a jolt shoot up his shoulders, and you looking down got him more nervous.
Gulping and ducking your head, you grabbed the roses by their stalks after he turned them towards you. Jigen got up and craned his neck, whistling away and shifting his weight. A moped on the other side of your window disappeared into his left only to reappear out his right. Its engine crepitated in a series of childish humor off in the distance behind you; it was wall-shreddingly loud.
You unleashed the breath you had been holding in and it sounded like you were clearing your throat, but your crisping lungs would have like to differ. After sorting out the roses with much symbolism, you pressed down on the table and flexed your arms all together as you had been going all morning without fail. A fleet of fresh flowers needed to be put into the coolers; some needed to be taken out.
Talk. Your heart was faster than a thumb on a retractable pen. Talk or neither of you will recover.
With your voice hushed, you said : “Um, just between you and me: the townsfolk think they’re onto you; they think you guys are trouble. I mean, who am I to hop on a bandwagon formed by group paranoid misfits, right?”
Thankfully, that got Jigen’s attention back onto you, even if it was fleeting. You understood as you couldn’t focus on his face either.
“Paranoid?” He scoffed, incredulous by the way his nose shot up in disdain, yet it seemed like he was acting in stage play. “Like we ever did anything. What’d you hear on the grapevine?”
“A name's being thrown around by the locals, mostly by the girls. I knew it wasn’t yours because I’d met you before I caught wind of it. I knew it couldn’t the other guy in the flared pants, so it’s gotta be...”
You pointed at the gangly man who just had to turn around right at this moment. You were quick play it off by rolling back ribbons on the rack dispenser behind you, basic concealing fuckery, but he had seen everything. He walked over to where you and Jigen stood and looked inquisitively enamored.
“You’ve made friends with the florist already, Jigen?”
“Like it matters to you? You always make a big deal out of everything I do. You done yet?”
“Why, ‘course it does! People who’re anything but important to you barely get a joke out of you, that’s why. Swinging with commoners isn’t your thing the last time I heard from you.” The man called Lupin threw an arm around Jigen’s shoulders then knocked his fist on the bearded man’s chest. A little growl escaped him and Lupin pulled away with hands raised and pearly whites out, giggling with doubt.
“Say, you like it here? We can lounge here for another month or two and scout around for more mysteries. Maybe we should so you won’t have to be too far for this cute commoner to miss.” He winked at you, the one who had been staring the entire time, the one who then mumbled an apology with their red face down. You regained your composure.
“Hi, I’m Y/N. Anything I can help you with?”
“Wow, they jumped straight down to ground zero with me.”
Jigen went ‘hah’ at this and his lips curled up in amusement. Lupin did have an image of the bouquet he wanted in his head, so he ran you by the flower types and details. You slipped out a check from the drawer behind you, spun it on the table, and pushed towards Lupin with a pen. He looked puzzledly at this.
“You don’t do online banking?”
“We’re on the old-fashioned side. The nearest ATM is a 15-minute drive. Pain in the ass how I’ve gotta keep up with them, if you could call that keeping up. Jigen gets it.”
The hesitance at Jigen’s name was like a thwack to Lupin’s buddy instincts. Something was broiling here, he presumed, even more convinced after seeing your glance at Jigen which brought upon a closed surreptitious smile onto your face. It was at this moment he decided to do Cupid's work.
“Well, the – pardon my French – old bags and goats here couldn’t be more of a good reason to that now, can they, Jigen?” Lupin peered up at Jigen, an air of mystique surrounded him and that face he had on. He was bending over the table to fill out his check, and Jigen stood his right, questioning the use it. He pointed the front of his hat at Lupin threateningly.
“They’re the perfect reason, and why’re you asking me?”
“It was meant to be rhetorical, yeesh, old man.”
“You just wanted to call me old, didn’t you? Shut the hell up or your skin’ll be polishing the car.”
“Jigen’s a one diamond in the rough, I’ll tell you that,” Lupin commented with a little laugh and the feeling of being pinned by his waggish tone wouldn’t peter out. “Also, couldn’t help but overhear your earlier conversation.” He put your pen down; Jigen rolled his eyes at him and grunted. Lupin asked : “My name get thrown a lot in these parts?”
You answered : “Oh yeah. Older ones think you’re bad news; younger ones think you lot came here for something. I’m not one to swing with rumors though. For what it’s worth, the grannies and girls think you’ve a got a cute face. They think you’re mixed. Are you?”
You held this conversation with your eyes politely level with Lupin’s, his check outside of what your vision could take in.
“You’re likely to think we are here for something. Anyways, I’m half-Japanese and half-French. Biracial men your thing? Or perhaps, a chunk from the Big Apple?”
“This must be hell, Y/N. Excuse us.” Jigen had crossed his arms while the two of you talked, feeling left out. Lupin had on a wolfish grin when they locked eyes. “Can’t you not be stupid for at least five seconds a year?”
“The next joke you’ll catch is gonna be my fucking fists.”
It was hellish and annoying. You wanted to tap Lupin with a haymaker, but that would have been too violent of you. You were able find a playful light in this situation and fired a flirtatious remark at Jigen.
“Maybe if you’d lose the hat. An easy way to the make the rounds here at least is to have a face. It’d get your name around twice as fast with the bearer being a pretty one.”
“Oof. If I hadn’t known better, I’d have said you weren’t trying to hit on my guy.”
Jigen coughed and tipped his hat down in acknowledgement of your words. You saw a telltale smile coming onto on his lips. He saw what you did there. The check curved into a ‘U’ as you held it under your thumb on its shorter side. You fanned yourself with the piece of paper and read it in finalization. Lupin reached out to it only to miss you by a few seconds.
“Ah ah ah I’d rather you don’t –”
Pay to the order of Y/N Florist
The bouncy regency coquette in you fizzled away at the payer’s name.
Signature Carlisle P. Eggers
You scrunched the paper rectangle under your thumbs with a scorn and huffed at this criminal sketch you found yourself in. Jigen saw the immediate shift in your demeanor and asked if something was wrong.
“Isn’t your name Lupin? Who the hell is this?”
Lupin had to save his heart-shaped arrows for another time. You flipped the check around and showed them exactly what you mean. When you turned to Jigen for answers, he had already drawn a long, gravelly sigh before throwing himself into the question-asking with you.
“You took his debit card?! We’ve stooped the lowest of lows, and a debit card?! You’ve gotta be kidding me!”
“It was there for the taking. I didn’t know what else to do! Have you forgotten?! Some delinquent broke in and stole our money jar last night!”
Jigen had already taken his partner by the collar and shook the breakfast in him from liquids back to solids. That made him dozy. Lupin waved his hand to signal a stop from the two of you, but you heeded it not.
“Is he that groom?” You demanded of Jigen as you backed away to the staff room, growing warier of the men by the second. Do you call the cops? Jigen had to come between you and that in question. He stormed to you and slammed a hand by your head just when you reached for the doorknob.
You jumped in fear and spared a moment to look into his eyes. They flared the color of freshly varnished wood with golden sand, if the sight varnished wood could make your heart skip a beat. The panicked rise and fall of your chest told Jigen he had just buried himself and Lupin in a bigger pickle.
“Pull yourself together. You don’t have to do this so early in the morning, now do ya?” Jigen tried to reason, but this was already beyond reasoning for you. His air-conditioned breath trickled onto you and you groveled with eyes clenched, uncertain what your fate from here on would be.
“How?! You leave me no choice! This isn’t something I can let run past me. This is larceny!” This response squeezed out of you by your own sense of justice, to the infamous soundtrack from ‘Pretty Woman’ playing at the back of your mind.
It must have been love, but it’s ooooover nooooow.
Even with the song as the perfect musical score for this sordid realization, you couldn’t strip yourself from the desire for Jigen to prove themselves as good men despite incredulity being out of question. You couldn’t tell yourself to turn away from that desire to pursue something nice of him, something sweet.
You groaned, aggravated and overwrought, and held onto your wrist for a layer of self-assurance. There were hints of a handsome face. There was a handsome face. His cheeks were hollow and his nose straight, and his most searing of impressions were made by the natural line of his lips that you paid attention to the most. While his beauty stayed, everything was losing their order.
“You aren’t wrong and there’s no lying around what we’ve done,” Jigen claimed and blocked the staff room door with his body when you tried your luck again. He was nervous; his teeth were bared. He had no other way to express his hysteria at the moment.
When he slipped around deftly to match you as you tried to maneuver past him to get your phone that was charging, that only served to fire you up some more. Lupin was waving at you from the other side of your glass door, a position he had taken to insure you wouldn’t go storming out without having heard a complete explanation from his partner who he knew you were fond of.
You two, to the eyes of unknowing passers-by, would have looked like a couple of dummies playing eagle and chicks if the game had been pulled out of its roots. You were the eagle, the staff room was the unmoving chick, and Jigen was the mother hen. Well, a rooster with its hackles raised and clucking at every jump. His Adam’s apple bobbed in his throat.
“I wanna tell you as nicely as I can that a stolen credit card should be the least of your worries with us, Y/N.” Jigen popped out of the door frame. He shoved a hand into his pocket and threw his jacket flap back to reveal his revolver in his belt. “You should’ve taken the rumors without a grain of salt,” he husked, the weight in his gaze hitting you like torrential waves.
“...Are you threatening to kill me?” You winced, your legs wobbled like a stack of Jenga blocks played wrong and you were actually scared for your life. You could no longer look at him.
“Mph! I’m just showing you – I’m coming clean!” He was gesticulating like a madman. “Look, my hands aren’t cleanest and I made you think that they were. Just...put us on credit. I’ll get the money. You can call my number and block it after. I promise we’ll be out of your hair, just don’t call the cops on us, not now.”
Jigen had, again, driven you to a corner. You peaked over his shoulder at Lupin idling in their clown car with nicotine actively entering his lungs. You hunkered down to think. Who was Daisuke Jigen? What was his reason being here? What was his business with that recently-revealed seamy, billionaire groom?
You need to do more than that was what you replied him with. The skin between his eyes on his nose crinkled with confusion when you slowly pushed him away from you.
“Okay, I won’t call the cops on you, but I wanna know more the town’s secrets and why you’re involved. I want answers so I’ll know who I’m lending my flowers and service to because, honestly, I don’t wanna cut ties.” Ironically, you peeled your hands away from his chest when you had said that. “I wanna believe you're good, that is... if you'll let me.”
The drought in Jigen’s throat was fully felt when he had tried to rush his answer. He gave himself time to think. The gap of silence made your stomach a little upset. If you couldn’t handle him turning you down on this, then you aren’t ready for cruel rejection either. “My place at 9 P.M. tonight. I'll be waiting at the bridge and I’ll explain everything. And wear something warm, okay? It gets windy.”
Jigen had put a hand on your shoulder in the blur of the moment. He exchanged an awkward goodbye with you before heading to the car. He had to repeat the series of events in his head to reflect on how lucky he had been that it was you and not anybody else who had found them out. He guessed the two of you were growing to be friends; two friends who bonded over his lies and eventually truth.
He could see himself make something real special out of you, and maybe you him. Your first innocent pass at him didn't go unnoticed after all. He thought it wasn't cleverly subtle, but clever nonetheless because the butterflies in him still hadn't stopped. You had called him good-looking, in a sense like you'd always known under the discreet preservation of his face, which tickled him.
He positioned himself in the driver's seat and twisted the key in the lock cylinder. “They like you, you know.” Lupin flicked the ash of his cigarette out the window and took another drag, making rings of smoke that faded quick under the sun. The two men looked ahead as the engine revved under Jigen's foot.
Jigen observed through his window and through yours. You were bringing your fingertips to your chin like in distraught prayer, yet he doubt that was what you were doing. You took in a deep breath and pushed it out just the same, then began carrying flowers to the refrigerated displays, the anxiety having lessened to a good degree. He was glad you didn’t look the way when he had pinned you.
“You know what I mean. I’m guessing the reason why they covered us is because they didn’t wanna disappoint you. Good for you, you lucky bastard. Good on us.”
“...Well, even so, they want in. I’m gonna run them through our plan tonight at the boathouse.”
“Taking them home to meet your family already? Mercy, slow down or you’ll lose yourself to your whims.” Lupin gave life to the cigarette poking out of Jigen’s mouth and smirked at his partner’s direction. “But gotta admit though: cute commoner, ain’t that right, Goemon?”
“That is a judgement I can only make tonight,” Goemon responded from the back seat.
“Yeah,” Jigen chuckled behind the smoke. He plucked the tab and brought it with his hand to the steering wheel between his knuckles. Giving you a parting glance as he worked the gears, he sighed : “Cute.”
It had been a month since a man died of old age in that boathouse. He went by Mr. Inoue, and he practically kept to himself when he was alive. You had never gone to meet him personally, but you knew he had brought with him an ageless gem from his motherland all those years ago.
A man of the same origin brought said gem, though of a different variant, to you yesterday. He was one of three men who had settled into the late Mr. Inoue’s empty boathouse a week ago, and you weren’t too cultured then to know the name of the garbs this fine man wore apart from the ever-westernized ‘kimono’. The difference was : you knew his was authentic.
He approached you after a woman had dropped off an order and was turning to leave, not before staring up at him in all his foreigner swank that brought her hatred onto the surface. Her mouth tugged into a sneer at him. She stormed out of the premises as soon as he glared back at her.
The Japanese man had been at a loss of an explanation when you were finally available for him. You were staring up at him with your thumbs fumbling the sides of your apron. He was too embarrassed to say it right away, the same man would confess to you.
“I’m sorry about her. I’m Y/N. Can I help you?” You broke the silence, your lips between a pucker and a patient smile.
You took in the item on his person that you now had memorized as his standard baggage wherever he went : wooden sword, by the looks of it. When you first met, he had this and a sick bonsai tree partially hidden behind his large sleeves. He held the pot before his groin and looked at you like you needed a fogging, and it was intense; it was unintentional.
“This tree is dying and I don’t know what I’ve been doing wrong. After searching high and low for the best person to turn to for help, I find you are as close as I can get to an experienced gardener,” he droned with a hint of despair, and you were taken aback. You weren’t a gardener. You were a florist!
The wise timber in his voice could have shaken the paint off your walls and brought you straight from sitting to standing. You asked him if he had checked the internet on how to revive a bonsai tree himself and his face held so much revolt you thought you would be evoking just about anything from this guy.
“No, not that wretched place. I can never find my bearings there. I told my partners I would be seeking help on my own.” He lowered the bonsai tree onto the floor arduously as he didn’t want to drop the carved sword clamped under his arm. He delved into the left paunch of his kimono and produced a long wallet, the billfold peeked under his bare chest.
“I need corporeal assistance, please. I am willing to pay extra.”
That had been Goemon. He was willing to throw his money away without a guarantee that you could do what he asked. He had been down to his last straw the other day, being turned down left and right from distrust. You were the only person who not only let him speak his trouble, but also agreed to help him without expecting anything in return.
Now, on this partly cloudy afternoon, you were walking along an asphalt road in hopes of stopping by a bridge to cross. After a long walk alone, fronds overhead began to clear up and the shrubs cut into a panoramic view of the sea. The road you were following dissipated into natural land right before your toes, and you saw that a distinct, little yellow car was nowhere to be seen.
Squinting at the boathouse beyond over the water, your eyes trailed back on the bridge that would take you there. Mother Nature greeted you with the brush of her hand as sea breeze as blew against you when you walked to the front door that hadn’t been fully closed. You pushed it open with your fingers and called out to Goemon while taking in the golden wood interior.
You stepped inside after waiting for long enough, and without warning, Goemon swooped down from above you and you screamed bloody murder. He didn’t even apologize. He just held up a lightbulb and said he was in the middle of changing it when you arrived. He flipped a switch to show off his work, smiling up at it like he had sent a colony to live up at the moon.
Whatever that stunt was that he had pulled off, you weren’t that interested. You understood how little achievements like this would light up the man’s face. Light up. “Where’s yesterday’s bonsai?” You asked him after closing the door. He turned for you to follow and lead you through a rather long corridor of window panels.
There were two of the same. One corridor would have brought you to the late Mr. Inoue’s living quarters. In it, two bedrooms and a toilet. Past it, his living room, kitchen, and dining room. You were in the one that headed straight for the jetty branching out on the boathouse’s right.
Goemon opened the door and you were met with a beautiful open space that boasted the likes of a beachside bar if it didn’t sell anything and had only one table and a few comfy chairs. Everything was kept in by half walls and a canopy. The view took your breath away and Goemon couldn’t help but to feel pleased.
“I left it out to soak in the sun while I fished. It’s been out here since.”
“You gotta make sure not to fry it though. I searched it up; it says nothing past five hours for bonsais. I saw yesterday that the thing could be showing clear signs of being overwatered.”
You marched over to the bonsai tree by the jetty gate and your full footfalls were followed by Goemon’s close behind you. His looming presence sure is something, you thought, and it flustered you since a spin would have brought you face to face with his smooth chest. He bore it without a care and that was a point in his general appeal.
Your mind went astray until you had to ask : “Are you a relative of Mr. Inoue’s? You know, coming to pay your respects? Mr. Inoue lived alone and I’ve never seen his family come and visit even once, and now he’s passed.” You seated yourself in a wicker chair and looked up at Goemon in silent permission-asking. He nodded a side-eyed nod.
You assumed he really was related to Mr. Inoue, being Japanese too and living in the dead man’s home. Goemon couldn’t allow himself any longer to quaint his senses to the sound of waves and calming winds. He had to lie to uphold a facade he didn’t think he had to craft on the spot.
“Without doubt I am the eldest son of the Inoue family, Goemon Inoue.” That name sounded ungraciously off to him. He sat in a wicker chair of his own across of yours and let his hands engulf both sides of the bonsai. “My family sent this bonsai tree prior to me to honor him during his funeral. We didn’t think that no one would care for it after. They left it on the doorstep.”
Goemon got one thing right. The bonsai tree was nothing but a parcel when he had first discovered it, mailed all the way from Japan from an address set in the city of Osaka. It came with a lengthy condolence letter in his native language. It was from distant family, half sister specifically, with a couple of pitch-ins by a few nephews and nieces who had outgrown their school uniforms. It was a shame it didn’t get read out.
“That’s horrible. I’m sorry about your father, Goemon, and I’m sorry the people here aren’t nicer.”
“I’ve lived through it. Why I am less inclined to venture out during the day.”
“Oh! And here, I want you to have them.”
You lifted the paper bag of forget-me-nots into view with a gentle lift at your lips end and Goemon was gobsmacked. He threw himself a pity party he didn’t deserve and now he had the nicest person he came across give him flowers for ‘his loss’. Your condolences and flowers were flying over his shoulders in disuse, and after zeroing in on, these flowers were kind of meant for him. He hushed his easily moved heart.
Being completely honest yourself, commemorating Mr. Inoue’s memory wasn’t the real reason you brought these flowers with you. You just thought bringing a gift would set off your newfound affiliation with this man on the right foot. Also, blue looked to be his signature color. You couldn’t perish the thought of him holding it against his chest with a smile you had yet to see.
Little did you know you were both dirty liars.
“You’re too kind.” Goemon choked out. Not from tears, but from the guilt in his chest. You reached over the table and patted his forearm sparingly as means of comforting him. He flinched and you pulled your hand back with an apology. He muttered out a series of no’s and apologized too. You watched Goemon’s fingers tighten around the bonsai pot and release.
“I know you have the strength in you to power through this, Goemon. Your dad must’ve missed you a lot in all those years alone, in this town where nobody could love him. He would’ve been proud to see you, his son, turning out the way you have.”
He hung his head low and you caught the silky glint dancing atop his raven hair. When he lifted his face once more, you felt this man’s brand of masculinity in the midst of his starkly beautiful face. Knifelike, slender and pointed towards the edges, yet so delicate and arcane like a burning paper lantern touching down over a still lake in the moonshine.
Leave this grieving man alone. He just lost his father. Goemon only stared back because he thought you were onto him; but all this extra attention, and you holding out little blue flowers to him, caused him to blush and feel around under the table for his Zantetsuken.
“T-Thank you. This dark cloud over me will pass. I will try my best to follow through with your wishes.” His mouth was a funny, quivering, squiggly line. Goemon’s conscience was raving angrily at him, but he bullshitted away to ensure his and his partners’ cover wouldn’t get blown, and he also wanted to keep the bonsai alive for as long as he would be here.
The two of you had derailed from your visit’s objective for long enough, now was about time for you to put the pedal to the medal. You went straight to business. It kind of looked like you were barraging him with bonsai basics and ordering him around. That was what he had agree to do with you anyway.
“Firstly, tell me how you water it.”
“I mist over the roots and leaves on a regular basis.”
“But do you penetrate to the roots inside?”
“The roots inside?”
“Where do you keep it?”
“I take it out here with me most mornings and put it in my room when I leave at night for...work.”
“That’s cute, Goemon, but it’s a little tree; it’s not a baby.”
You had begun unpotting the bonsai over at the jetty when Goemon went to grab a spare pot. Well, he scouted the entire house until he found one. This was to ensure the roots wouldn’t stick onto the inner walls of the pot, you had told him. Goemon admired the black ceramic and went his merry way, holding the container like a lunch tray.
You rocked forward and fell into the low tide just in time for Goemon to witness. The bonsai was out, wobbling on its soil’s base like a roly-poly. When he ran to look over the half wall, you were holding onto the nearest underpinning and were oddly silent for a person who had just fallen head first into saltwater stupidly.
“Y/N! Are you okay?”
“Hey! Are you listening?!”
No response still.
Your eyes were unblinking and you had stiffened up to the point where ripples couldn’t be seen, except from up under the jetty. This repeating overlap of mysterious origin didn’t stay in one place. They were coming closer to you, well-nigh 10 meters, and you were high on your life ending shortly after a handsome man had stepped into it who was a fresh breath from another world.
Goemon started stripping the second he caught sight of what was lurking.
A crocodile, and it was larger than average.
How it had stranded so far from where it should be didn’t even baffle him as he had seen enough in his life to even give time to mull it over. A dolphin trekking desert dunes was feasible to him. Goemon had one thing in mind : he had to save you and get you out of the water.
You couldn’t heed Goemon’s cries. You looked into the eyes of the beast and watched it curve out from under the jetty to swim around the second last underpinning from you. The crocodile churred and you rounded the wooden pillar in a hopeless attempt to back away from it.
You weren’t equipped with the knowledge on how to survive from crocodiles. Swimming away? Land was a tiring, pointless swim away, so was the steps up to the jetty. The crocodile’s scutes break the water’s surface and you had counted your blessings.
SMACK SMACK SMACK. SLOSH SLOSH.
Far away, Goemon had jumped into the water and was making a commotion. He heaved and splashed and heaved and smacked with all his might, the clumps of wet hair gathering over his forehead like claws. Goemon looked like an apparition. Long dark hair with barely pale skin, a lone ghost head in the water.
The animal froze, then veered to swim in his direction in timid speed at first, then all at once.
Goemon looked to be exceptionally trained, physically and mentally, because watching him fight off the reptilian fiend was the human world equivalent to watching an ancient knight battle a fire-breathing dragon, or a Greek hero against any mythological monster because Goemon had the armor for that comparison.
He had none. He was practically nude.
“Get out!” He shouted and you complied.
He was curiously stoic even when the reptile teared its jaws open to show how it truly was the deadly chainsaw of the animal kingdom. Goemon saw that as leeway to an opportunistic attack. He drew back his otherwise sword-sized stick and jabbed it at the back of the reptile’s mouth to incapacitate it.
That had been a mistake.
Goemon’s weapon was caught when the crocodile chomped down, and when he tugged, unsheathed the scabbard of a real life sword. You had swum by to see that, and you were already up on the jetty when Goemon delivered the last blow. He put a shallow cut across the animal’s snout and that had scared it enough to retreat under water. It swam away and his scabbard was left floating where the crocodile had been.
Goemon made a fast retreat himself. He clicked his blade into the scabbard, bit it, then swam for the jetty steps, up which he climbed like he didn’t just battle an apex predator and make it out unscathed. You gaped at his gradually emerging form, shamelessly. Even with the sun hiding behind clouds, the ever-present light of day bestowed his dimensions with a look of a dripping-wet, plump-pec’ed, tanned gloss.
The seawater beads trickled down his bare skin and at certain places water flowed freely onto and past the wood beneath his feet like taps had been turned on. You weren’t all that different. You looked like someone had thrown wet food onto pavement; Goemon looked like drizzled-on Roman statue with facial features from the Orient. When he stretched an arm down to you, the shallow veins protruded under his skin and the honest curve of his bicep flattened.
“Y/N, how did you fall?” Goemon’s voice boomed involuntarily. It felt like you were being questioned by God.
“I lost my balance. I’m sorry.” You coughed loose the squeaky knot in your throat, basking in this mysterious, hunky reverie. The lean hunk grabbed your elbow and pulled you onto your feet. You bumped against his sturdy build. He examined you, again, like you needed a fogging, but that was just his default serious face. It all changed when his lips turned up to a manly smile.
This day just kept getting weirder and weirder, but so far, you were loving it.
“Don’t be sorry. I’m relieved that no harm was done to you. Perhaps you’ve hurt yourself on your fall? I can check you for any injury you might have got.”
“Oh totes no. I-I’m okay, really!”
“Sure? Very well. Come, we shall dry off inside.”
Goemon must have thought you were incapable of walking the jetty alone, as he had taken your wrist on your trip back to the boathouse which you simpered at.
What he wore around his waist. It left little to the imagination.
Moving on. High on his back, his skin harbored less than severe sunspots, then a multitude of scars going down, then gunshot wounds. That alarmed you.
“Hey, um, how’d you learn to fight like that?”
“...I come from a long line of martial artists. We train in natural conditions.”
“Oh that makes sense.”
The bonsai tree sat in peace in a new pot on the coffee table and you heard the breaks to a car sound out the kitchen window. Goemon tore away at the ply and tossed paper towels over your feet, beneath which a puddle had formed. You stepped over and onto them. “I’ll be back with towels,” said Goemon before he turned to leave. Your polite cry was jammed in your throat.
You batted the ghostly image of his butt away; threatening to swarm and stamp onto your brain. Audibly shushing yourself, waves of heat emitted off your freezing body you felt could have made boiling water. “Oh I’m going to hell.” Muttering to yourself, you pressed a knuckle against your teeth. You settled down.
Goemon had more blemishes on his back than he did on his front which meant nothing really. He had blemishes, that was the point, and they didn’t at all strike you as ‘martial arts’. They looked to you as straight up savagery. What had he gone through to be a decorated fighter? Your heart ached. You were afraid you were beginning to not trust him.
You were there in the kitchen, alone, until you weren’t.
“Goemon, daddy’s back! So, how’s the bonsai? Not dead yet I hope.”
These two roughed-up men had only come to register your presence after following the wet trail to where you stood by the fridge. You greeted them a nod each, masking the look of abject horror as you did so. They nodded back, and they had no pants on. When Goemon returned to pass you a towel, everybody in that room apart from you was in some way or another in their underwear. You threw your gaze to the ceiling, overwhelmed.
“Friend of yours, Goemon?” The one in the black briefs asked. “And how come the two of you are wet?”
“They fell off the jetty. There was a crocodile and I had to shoo it away,” reported Goemon before looking over to you. “These are...my business partners.”
Noted, and shoo it away? He went X Games mode on a crocodile in its own habitat, and he talked it off like it was a goose. The bearded man who had asked wasn’t of high spirits. It could just be now, but he looked belligerent and sapped of all joy. It might have been due to the huge leaf bitten out the rim of his admittedly nice hat.
“Crocodile, huh. Must’ve been one of them that escaped.”
“Hm, and it swam all the way here. It must be fate that it found its way back to us.” The one in the striped boxers shrugged and hooped his thumbs under his waistband in the vein of two front pockets. What he said struck you as strange.
Found its way back to us?
Striped Boxers took interest in the dainty paper bag that brimmed with forget-me-nots. It sat by Black Brief’s arms, so he nudged him with his elbow to pass it over. “Where’d these come from?” They both wondered out loud in unison, peering into the bag, each person a finger pulling it open by the sides. Goemon turned away from the chopping board and shot into a frenzy. He snatched the paper bag away and held it to his chest, visibly blushing.
“They’re from me.”
You let yourself be known, and the three of them counted the steps you took out of the pulp at your feet. “I’m Y/N, a florist.” You let the towel hang around your shoulders. You saw how their heads turned to one another after seeing the pink tinge up on Goemon’s cheeks. We’ve jumped to a conclusion and we’re gonna make Goemon suffer was what their faces meant, but you didn’t know that.
Striped Boxers adjusted the knot and tattered shoot that had once been a tie, then he turned to you with a less than subtle smile. Goemon began to internally panic. “Why don’t you dine with us and we can have fried fish like we have been for the last six days? Goemon’s –” His sideburns were in full view when he passed a cheeky look at the man in question who had succumbed to speechlessness.
“– cooking tonight. He’ll love it if someone who isn’t us tasted his food. He’s a connoisseur of classic Japanese cuisine, but...we don’t have anything for any of that now.”
Would he be exposed by their idiot mouths? Jigen hadn’t uttered a word, or he wouldn’t be, but knowing him, he was likely to drop a bomb at the very last second. Goemon was waiting for them to slip up; he couldn’t protest because if Lupin and Jigen were to pick up on his unusual behavioral patterns, they’d be firing more than detrimental questions to his fake identity as an Inoue.
“We’ve miso, and even Goemon can turn that into fine dining. Surely you haven’t tried Japanese food by a Japanese man. Well, we have one right here, so there’s your chance.”
Damn it, Jigen.
“I...I shouldn’t. I really should get going, since I’ve done what I came here for.” You were looking around for your bag, ready to book it out off here and maybe come see Goemon again tomorrow. Your heart fluttered. Another day of leave to spend it with the man you had found yourself being drawn to. Maybe you could ask him where he got all his scars from, if he was willing to open up to you.
“Oh right! You’re the help!” Striped Boxers clapped his hands along with that revelation. He leapt off his barstool and waltzed over to lift the sodden towel off of you. “Don’t be silly! You’ve been a great help I assume. Take the bathroom and we’ll get you something dry to put on. Yo, Goemon, what’s taken you so long to do that and leave them drenched like this?”
“I had planned to, until you two came and opened your mouths.”
“Oh forgive us, Ishikawa-sama,” Black Briefs gushed. “We didn’t mean to help expedite your –”
“Inoue! I am Goemon Inoue.”
This was it, Goemon thought. The tension between the three men was getting to you, and you had only caught that name slip after registering it in the silence. They instantly knew what they had fucked up. Goemon predicted well, that Jigen would pull something harmless that would doom them all.
“Ishikawa? So you’re not Mr. Inoue’s son? And you’re here, living in the home of a man who just passed away?” You shot at Goemon who still hadn’t put any clothes on. But in all seriousness, you were surprised, but not all that disappointed. This meant your flowers weren’t a secondhanded offering at least, but hell, this meant were two lying assholes.
“Jesus, Goemon. I didn’t think those flowers were for that. I thought you were being courted by the pretty stranger. Thought forget-me-nots were a bit ‘eh’ to give to a potential conquest.”
You beat yourself up after that. The sideburns guy’s got a point. I gotta think of something else next time.
“Silence, Lupin! And you, Daisuke Jigen!”
“How was I supposed to know you were someone’s son? Give me a break! I nearly lost a limb to a crocodile myself. I just wanted food in my stomach!”
“I only wish you did! I forced myself to make an unprincipled lie not to have you gut it out before me and make me face the disgrace!” Goeman had furiously yet carefully slammed the bouquet onto the island-top. The man across him flinched, but kept a tough face.
“Y/N, I’m sorry for taking advantage of your sympathy towards what should have been a grieving relative, but I’m not that. I’m no eldest son, and the man who once lived in this house wasn’t my father. I do not deserve these flowers you’ve given me.”
You were as guilty of lying as he was. You didn’t snip and arrange those forget-me-nots with the intention of celebrating the life of a hermit you didn’t know. You followed through with it because Goemon had left an adorable impression in your life. He intrigued you. As hardboiled as he appeared to be on the front, some parts of him were pitifully naïve and mouse-like. You wanted to keep that, only if he would let you.
You couldn’t take it anymore. The sight of him hiding behind his coarse hair in a bow with the bouquet extended out to you with two hands was too much to bear. The sigh that came out of you sounded pained, and when you pressed down on his wrist do refuse the flowers, he barely moved a muscle.
“They’re for you; they always have been for you, Goemon. Just...get out of that bow. Please. Fuck. C’mon, you’re making me feel bad!”
Goemon was forced to meet eyes with you when you hauled up his arms. His mouth was agape in a way you could only see the lower half of his upper front teeth. “I don’t understand. They were meant for me?” He made you to repeat yourself. “Yes. Man, didn’t you hear me the first time?” Your attitude was surfacing because the Lupin guy was making a knowing face at you, so was that Daisuke Jigen.
“Think of it as a housewarming gift, me welcoming you into the neighborhood a week late, alright? I’ll be coming again tomorrow to check up on you – your bonsai.” You pushed your flowers to Goemon and nearly slipped on your way out of the kitchen. You heard him call after you, but you shouted, “It’s good! I’ll let myself out!”
Lupin and Jigen gathered around Goemon to try to emblazon him, but he wasn’t having it. He wretched the flowers away from Lupin’s grabby hands, then away from Jigen’s prying eyes. He hugged it to his body protectively like it was the last fruit on earth. He clicked his tongue at his company, still pink in the face. Jigen chuckled at him which egged on his temper and boyish heart-skipping.
“You like ‘em too?”
“So cruel, Goemon? You should thank us.” Jigen tossed the Fiat’s keys up and down in his hand. Lupin added, “Yeah. We found ‘em out for you. And you met yesterday? Your pretty face really does work like witchcraft. I wish it had been me.” The three men connected in a row of mismatched undergarments and swayed the one in the center, the one with his butt cheeks out, from side to side.
“So, are you driving them or am I, prince charming?” Jigen dangled the keys in front of Goemon’s eyes. “Mph!” He went, and took the keys.
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Crawler - Chapter 26
Nestor Oceteva x OC
Warnings: smut, anal play, fertility issues.
2000 word count
Gina ties the knot.
"Ready mija?" My mom asked me with tears in her eyes.
"Is he there?" I asked letting my insecurities sneak through.
"Of course he's there you silly girl." She replied as she helped me to stand up and put my hand into my dads. "She's all yours Ric."
I watched her walk out and blew her nose as she sniffled back tears. I blinked away my own but I knew they would make an appearance today.
"You look beautiful Regina." My dad said as he kissed my cheek.
We heard the music begin and he tucked my arm in his with a supportive grip.
"Last chance for a getaway." He said as he jiggled his keys in his spare hand.
I laughed and the last of my nerves disappeared.
"Not this time pops. No more running." I said before thinking and adding, "Except from the cops."
"That's my girl." He said proudly before leading me out of the room.
The doors opened to the church and everyone stood as they watched Tessa walk down first with her basket of petals. I couldn't help but smile at the little girl who went crazy when I asked her to be flower girl. She excited skipped along throwing the petals high in the air. Next came Dia and I watched Marcus' eyes light up as from where he stood beside Nestor.
Nestor. I felt my cheeks burn at the intensity of his eyes. Once I had him in my sights, no one else existed. He looked so handsome I wanted to scream and run down the aisle. I wanted to jump his bones right then and there but we would definitely burn in hell. His pale blue fitted suit looked perfect, he knew it was my favourite colour on him. He usually avoided wearing it and white, since his job often led to blood stains, 'a highly unpractical colour' is how he described it.
My dad nudged me and I realised I was still stuck frozen watching my husband to be. My legs finally got the message from my brain and began walking my way closer to him. I looked at all the people that had gathered to join us today. The thieves and murderers, sinners and degenerates, the lot of them. Mayans and Sons had come, along with both Galindo and Salazar cartel members. James and my crew stood alongside my mom and abuela at the front. My dad looked like he was about to cry as we arrived at the alter. He patted my arm before placing my hand in Nestor's.
"Look after her, son." My dad choked out, getting emotional.
"With my life." Nestor said and nodded seriously all while looking at me.
I couldn't tell you what the priest said, all I could focus on was Nestor and the smile that never left his face. Our vows came and went in a blurr as I repeated the generic words. Nestor and I had said our piece to each other last night in private. Suddenly, my centre of gravity shifted, the thing that held me to the spot I stood was released as the priest finally gave the permission we had been waiting for.
"I now pronounce you Mr and Mrs Oceteva. You may kiss your bride." The priest said smiling.
We met in the middle, our gravity for each other pulling harder than ever, and his arms snaked around my waist. I threw my arms around his neck and it was like the first time all over again. Electricity flowed through us, shocking energy enough to light up the state of california. The terrible biological need for oxygen depraved me of more of his kisses and when we broke away the church exploded with cheering. I laughed at the raucous they were making whistling and hooting at us.
The first moment we had of just the two of us was right before we walked into the reception. I held him back as the rest of the bridal party entered.
"I have a surprise before we go in." I said as I handed him the piece of paper I asked Dia to hold.
"What's this?" He asked as he took the invoice.
"That is the invoice for 12 eggs that I had frozen last month." I said as I nervously bit my lip. "So we can try IVF, if you are ready for that?"
"The doctors said there wasn't anything wrong though." He said slightly confused and it wasn't the excitement I thought he would have.
"I know but even they can't tell us why I haven't got pregnant yet. It's been over a year and still nothing." I sighed. "I thought you would be happy about this."
"Sorry," he said shaking his head, "I am, it's just a surprise." He finally smiled as he looked at the invoice and the image of the eggs. "We can do it as soon as we get back from our honeymoon. I'm still going to fuck you senseless in the meantime."
I shivered at his husky voice and rubbed myself against him and felt him chuckle.
"Later, we have a room full of people waiting." He rasped almost painfully as he grabbed my ass through the layers of silk and lace.
He took my hand and we walked into the room as everyone once more stood and cheered. It was hardly the formal event one should have as a wedding reception but it was way better. Alcohol followed freely and soon I was towing my husband to the dance floor. I noticed a lot of the Mayans had brought the girls from the whorehouse as plus ones and I shook my head at them with a smirk.
"Nate would be pissed he missed this." James surprised me as he pulled me away from Nestor saying. "She's all yours now, I just want one last dance."
I held his shoulder and hand as he danced around pretending he knew what he was doing. I was in fits of laughter as he tried to spin me and accidentally let go. I almost toppled over but Nestor caught me and glared at James.
"Can't you see I'm busy here." He growled before smirking and grabbing my abuela's waist and hand to dance with her.
"He's a taken man, Nana." I laughed. "So hands above the belt thank you, no funny business."
"You young ones, you think you invented sex, I could blow your mind." She laughed and whispered in Nestor's ear and I watched his face twist painfully.
"I did not need to know that." He said shaking his head. "Don't make me repeat it." He pointed to me before dancing away from us.
"You come from a long line of extremely entertaining women." James laughed as we started dancing again.
I felt hands pull me away once again and I smelt his cologne encompass me. "I'd like to dance with my wife if you don’t mind James."
The song changed to a slower song, John Legends 'Conversations in the Dark' and he pulled me closer as everyone else gave us space. I saw my mom crying into my dads shoulder as they joined us. The alcohol burned in my system and the overwhelming need to have my husband led to some serious grinding when the music picked up again. It wasn't long before he was leading me out the doors to the car that was waiting for us.
All the ladies crowded around behind me as I faced the car and tossed the bouquet. I heard my brother and his friends all ripping into Angel as Luisa held the bunch of flowers triumphantly. I laughed at the panicked look on her man's face and climbed in the car ready to get to our hotel room.
His fingertips trailed down my spine to the base and unclipped the hook. He pushed my sleeves down and the dress pooled on the floor like an ivory cloud. I stepped out and he bit his lip as he watched from the bed. I was now naked except for my white heels.
"Leave them on." He said as he began unbuttoning his dress shirt.
I made my way to him and as I climbed on his lap he rolled us over. He looked down at me with nothing but love and adoration. I pushed his shirt off his shoulders and ran my nails lightly down his chest. I sighed as he placed soft kisses between quick bites as he worked his way down my body. He teased as he kissed his way past the place I needed him the most and kept going down my leg before kissing and biting his way up the other one.
"Nestor, please, I need you." I begged as he kissed my hip bone. "No more teasing, I need my husband."
He smirked cheekily and winked. "As my queen wishes."
He devoured me and relished in the sounds of my encouragement. His tongue left my legs shaking and trembling. He lapped up the juices that escaped like it was an oasis in the driest desert. I felt his fingers dip inside me as he stood at the edge of the bed undoing his belt one handed.
"I have another surprise." I breathed as I was still high from my first orgasm. "First zip of my suitcase."
He walked over to the bags and pulled out a small box. He pulled the ribbon off and opened it before smirking. Walking back he carried with him the small gun metal butt plug, dangling it between his fingers. He ran it along my folds, using nature's lubricant before running it further back. I moaned as he pressed it softly against my ass, nudging it until it slipped in so only the diamanté handle showed.
I moved where he wanted me and found myself on all fours facing the mirrored closet. I looked at his reflection as he lined up behind me and entered me in one deep stroke. The feeling of him filling my pussy and pushing the plug in had me seeing stars. He groaned, a deep guttural sound, at the new sensation. I pushed myself back onto every thrust as I needed to feel him harder, deeper than I was.
"Fuck me Nestor, harder!" I cried out as I neared another orgasm.
He pulled me up against his body and watched me through the mirror as I quivered from fingers that joined the assault. My eyes rolled into my head as his fingers, his cock and the butt plug threw me into a raging orgasm. He slipped out from how tight my pussy squeezed and still I shook as wave after wave of pleasure hit me. Still his fingers kept running over my clit and I felt like I would explode and moments later I did. I fell back onto my hands as small squirts spurted out of me.
"Oh fuck, oh Nestor!" I cried out as every movement made the plug move and caused another tremble. "It's too much, take it out."
He knelt behind me and held my hip as he pulled the plug out slowly. I was still dripping pussy juices as it stretched my ass then it was suddenly gone. Nestor chuckled deeply as he ran his dick along my soaking core and plunged in again. I was already on edge but it was bearable now. Sounds of slapping wet bodies filled the air and my moans of Nestor's name quickly followed. I felt him loose his tempo as my third orgasm came, clenching him in its grip he bottomed out and I felt the twitches of his seed being shot deep in me.
"Want me to call room service?" He asked smirking as we lay down on his side of the bed. "We need dry bedding."
I buried my head in his neck, embarrassed, right over his tattoo that said 'Pray for me'. "Dear god, please wipe my husband's memory."
"My queen makes it rain." He laughed kissing my head. "In more ways than one."
"Asshole." I groaned before letting it go. "I love you."
"I love you too Regina. So fucking much.”
Click here for chapter 27.
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Mary Woodhull--I Would Like to Hire the A-Team//Annastrxng
Despite it being a warm night, Mary Woodhull felt a shiver crawl up her spine as she studied the neighborhood around the nightclub and the sort of people who were coming in and out of the establishment. It was nearly two in the morning…did these people not have proper homes and beds to return to?
This plan was a fool’s errand….she should just give it up and return home. Only…if she returned now to her father-in-law’s house, she would have to explain to Richard why she was returning at such an hour. Mary had told him that she needed to go to her sister’s house because her sister was ill. If she came back in the middle of the night, instead of returning in the mid-day hour as she had planned, he would ask questions to which she had no answers.
The kind of questions she had been avoiding as she struggled to find out where Abe had disappeared too.
Resisting the urge to lean closer to the woman standing at her side, though in this moment of uncertainty the familiar figure was most welcome, Mary instead folded her hands in front of her and squeezed them together tightly. To think it was Anna Strong she had taken on this misadventure….there had been a time when she had not gotten on with the other woman. Now though, they had a common agenda—Abraham and Selah had both gone missing and the Army seemingly had no interest in finding them.
Ben and Caleb, God protect their lives, were doing everything they could….but red tape tied Ben’s hands in particular. She could not blame the Major for that…but she could resent the Army for seemingly abandoning her husband after everything he had done for them.
Though it was un-ladylike, Mary barely suppressed a snort. They had needed the money….Abe had not told her how bad the finances had gotten but had quietly taken up with military intelligence again. It was steady pay, he said, and nothing to worry about. Thomas would have everything he needed….but then Abe rarely told anyone the full story.
And then Abe disappeared…..leaving her in the care of his father and trying to raise her son in some semblance of normality.
She tried everything she could to find her husband. Petitioned Richard to use his contacts. Petitioned the military until she was physically ordered to stop. When the military stonewalled her, she started begging Ben and Caleb to do more than they already were. They soon reached similar walls, with General Lee himself telling Ben to keep his attention focused on his official tasks. Anna hit the same dead-ends…and more of them because she had no influential father-in-law to appeal to at least (for all the good asking Richard to help had done in the long run…)
All of these stone walls led Anna and her here, following rumors and a few articles Anna pilfered from one of Ben’s more classified files. They were searching out the A-Team…the last stop for everyone truly desperate and abandoned by the respectable world in their darkest hours. Why else would decent citizens seek out a team of thieves, traitors, and accused murderers unless everyone short of God Himself had already forsaken them?
Unclenching her hands slowly in a bid to release tension, Mary finally turned toward Anna slightly. “What do we do if they don’t show up this time? They’ve already led us on a ridiculous tour of the city. We waited at the lion exhibit at the zoo until the staff asked us to leave, we wandered around the fashion distract until we got lost and no one contacted us until you found that note in your purse sending us to Mr. Lee at the laundry….and he sent us here! Given their situation, I can appreciate the need for secrecy but this is getting rather ridiculous.” She hissed.
Her observations cut off sharply when she noticed one of the nightclub’s patron’s lurching out of the door, followed by a slightly soberer friend…but that did not say much given that neither of them seemed to fully realize they were not standing on the deck of a ship. She hoped they would realize that the doorway was no place to re-gather themselves and move along but her hopes were for naught as the men just started staring at them.
Drawing in a deep breath, she rolled her eyes upwards and glared at the neon lights above their heads. “How long have we even been waiting out here, Anna? I think the battery in my watch died.”
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Sea of Thieves (2021)
“This,” says La Jongleuse, seated backwards and upside down on a rotting
tavern chair between two frilly pillars of kelp, “is a ridiculous story.”
Across the table, the thief is hunched in green brocade, sequined and salt-crusted, the color of slime in ships’ entrails. She whispers, though La Calenture is empty but for her and the pantalooned fool, “I haven’t started yet.”
“You said it was a tall tale.”
“I ordered salt ale.”
La Jongleuse’s spidery hands clasp an imaginary lute, strike invisible chords on invisible strings. “O sing to me, muse, a most towering tale / of one copper-haired thief and her cup of salt ale – that’s consonance, so you know, and beseeching the muse harks back to ancient tradition, which is a clever trick – why do you look as if you’re about to be sick? I prefer coins as payment, easier to sweep into a pocket, less…wet-”
“Not necessarily,” says the copper-haired thief, and then shakes herself. “I mean – you shouldn’t sing of me.”
“Or what? Miséricorde à minuit? Dear girl, even la guillotine would dance if it heard me sing.”
The thief chokes politely on her salt ale. Still hoarse, she says, “There’s something you should know.”
La Jongleuse’s pointy-toed shoes slide to the floor with a sticky-sounding shlap.
All at once the fool is sitting upright, and instead of a face, the thief is gazing into the mass of motley ribbon dangling from the brim of the fool’s plumed velvet hat.
Then two hands, recently plucking at a nonexistent lute, reach up and part the ribbons with a flourish, revealing a long nose at the center of a moon-pale face. Tendrils of black hair curlicue to either side. Eyes, mussel-black and scimitar-sharp, mirth flashing in their depths like silver coins, fix upon the thief with a sudden intensity. “I am only a fool by occupation. I know the Spinning Court hunts you – the alchemists decoct you by quicksilver and seafoam, the spiral priests speak your death in stanzas over spiral rosaries, L’Ordre des Entrailles Sanglantes seeks you with little blades inside infant beasties – yet you are here, in this corpse of a tavern, choking on salted ale, begging wisdom off a fool.”
“Only by occupation,” says the thief dully, and half-toasts the empty air.
“What they will do to you when they catch you, even I would shudder to sing.”
“Oh, not out of respect. To hear how La Dame d’Enfer flayed your muscles into red petticoats might put people off their drinks, which I am not paid for. Or how she fermented you whole into sweet ritual wine, or packed your mouth full of salt and stitched it shut, or – you’ll enjoy this – took a live squid, and-”
“I thought you preferred getting paid in coin,” says the thief, who is looking rather green beneath her freckles.
“Coin,” says La Jongleuse, shrugging in a wide, practiced motion that makes her sleeves billow outwards like two sails. “And stories, to feed my poesy. Though, should some Spinning Court lout interrupt us halfway through, I can only promise to sing you a tasteful funeral dirge as they drag you away with a butcher’s hook through both your feet. That happened, once. The poor boy sobbed all the way to the door – ’twas my song moved him to tears.”
“You’re too kind,” says the thief, whose name is Milou.
La Jongleuse props her elbows upon the greasy table, and her head upon her hands, and gazes at Milou. The wavering tavern light gives the fool’s eyes the dizzying appearance of stars twirling under black water; Milou is struck by the mad sensation that the entirety of La Jongleuse’s face is a stage, and in drawing the ribbons back from her features she has drawn the curtains for a play.
The fool says, “Go on. Tell me a story.”
At the whirling emerald heart of the salt-sea of Sycorax, a thief prowled upon cathedral steps, barnacled and brine-slimed and lined with half-crumbled lapis archways that towered into the sunless sky. Whole ships could sail beneath each arch, a whole ship on each vivid blue stair, and where the stairs ended, the organic mass of the cathedral spiraled up and out in spires and nautilene coils, like a coral reef set to stone, or an immense organ in a church.
She was a marionette in comparison, a doll’s doll, a toy-sized thief in green and gold, orange-haired and shoeless. She had come in a dinghy, letting the currents carry her to the steps, so as not to stir the water and wake anything asleep beneath the waves.
Now the rock was cold and slippery beneath her bare feet as she darted upwards, under archways, clambering over the places where the sea lashed at her through crevices in the stairs.
Always the cathedral grew overhead, blue as tears. At long last the thief stood framed in the doorway.
And saw – she did not know what.
A lapis nave, a lapis basin, enough lapis archways for an entire city decaying upside-down upon the ceiling. The walls were so luridly blue she might have been barefoot at the bottom of the ocean, and the rippling play of the light across her face might have been the watery light of the surface fathoms above, pressing down on her lungs and the stems of her eyes. She might have slipped upon the stairs and this was her afterlife, a cathedral that looked as if it had drowned alongside her. It was not entirely unbelievable.
Yet, the altar – she supposed it had to be the altar; as a thief, her only real religion was thievery, and as such prayer took place with her hands in other peoples’ pockets. Yet she thought this was abnormal.
She couldn’t tell what it was, besides a bizarre sculpture: a skeletal conch shell, glistening wet as though newly harvested from the inside of a body, paler than skin, paler than anything living – yet crusted with brine and opal and cabochon rubies, swirling gold and tourmaline. And inside, as though the shell were a womb, the crook of an elbow, the curve of a foot, the knobbled pathway of a spine…until, pouring out of the shell, the crescent-moons of two closed eyelids, a carven face, skin cold and luminous as a pearl fresh-molded into the anatomy of a girl, no older than Milou herself.
Countless times the thief had been tossed to the sea with her wrists and ankles bound in rope, but never, until she looked at this gleaming girl, had she felt so close to drowning. For the first time in all her sordid life Milou felt an inkling of what might lead a person to worship.
And the jewels were likely worth a lot of money.
The girl’s flesh was crusted with them too, like precious, glittering infections, some that looked like organs sculpted onto the outsides of her body.
Milou took a single step forward, and her foot knocked against something small and hard, sending it skittering towards the altar.
She picked it up to squint at it, finding her eyes unwilling to leave the pearl-skinned girl for even a moment.
It was a shell. Or something like a shell, striped black and amber in a pattern that almost resembled slitted eyes, with calcified tendrils sprouting off each side of its spiral. It was very small, about the size of a coin.
She looked at it for a long moment, and then slipped it into her pocket.
From another pocket she drew a dagger with a blunt, half-shattered blade.
The largest gem on the pearlmaid’s body was inlaid atop her heart, an intricate, anatomical labyrinth of garnet so deep that in the girl’s own radiance, blood appeared to pulse through its facets.
Milou levered the dagger into the place where garnet met pearl, and began to push. Nothing happened.
She pushed harder, drove her entire weight into the blade; already she was picturing, with a tinge of regret, how she’d have to shatter the heart with a chunk of lapis if the whole thing didn’t come free.
With all the strength in her spindly arms, the thief gave the dagger a final shove.
There was a resounding, crystalline crack as the dagger finally sank, not beneath the jewel, but deep into the pearlmaid’s chest.
For the space of a single breath, there was only the crashing of the waves.
Then pearlescent slime began to gush from the wound.
Milou snatched her arms back, instinctively, but not fast enough.
“Eugh,” said the thief, and then, “Eugh,” once more, with feeling.
It was on her hands. It was cold. The fact that the altar had bled was immediately less pressing than the fact that the altar had bled on her, and she flapped her wrists through the air trying to get it off, only to freeze a heartbeat later.
The altar had moved.
Just a twitch – deep inside the conch shell, the arch of a foot. Then the slow twist of a spine. Pearly elbows rose, serpentine, to either side. Fingers unfurled, knuckle by knuckle. Jeweled organs clattered to the floor.
“Ma déesse,” said the thief without meaning to, as the pearlmaid uncoiled, painfully slow, from the lip of the shell, and paused half-in and half-out. Her flesh took the drowned blue of the light and turned it silvery-gold; shrunk to hand’s length, she might have been a pendant for an empress.
Then the pearlmaid opened her eyes and Milou could think of nothing else in the world.
No irises, no pupils, just a thousand thousand flecks of every-color light.
There was no thief-shaped fleck in those eyes, nothing to suggest the pearlmaid even saw Milou, yet one of her bright hands travelled up across bright flesh to the dagger buried in her chest, under where the garnet heart had been, where her actual heart would be, if her jeweler had given her one under all that pearl. It didn’t seem that she felt any pain, yet the thief found her mouth opening to apologize for stabbing her.
Which was ridiculous. She was a thief. She hadn’t known the girl was alive, if a gemstone girl asleep inside a conch-shell could be considered alive. And the girl was still covered in that luminescent muck, like the insides of an egg, which, besides being gross, suggested that she had just been…born, somehow, even though she looked to be around Milou’s age, if not younger.
The very cleverest of thieves would take the jewels and vanish back into the sea, and never think again of cathedrals or opal eyes. There was no reason to stand here any longer. Milou had gotten what she had come for, after all.
Yet – those opals. Could they see her at all?
The thief stood so close to the altar, the pearlmaid just above her in the shell, mimicking every divine tableau Milou had ever seen painted on the walls of shrines…if she left now, she would never know what the girl was, where the girl had come from, who had sculpted her and abandoned her in the Sea of Sycorax…and the girl, she thought, was bending towards her ever so slightly as though she wanted to whisper, and it was beyond Milou’s power not to move forward as well, into that unknown, like the most un-clever of thieves, until she too was haloed in the girl’s cold glow…
The pearlmaid’s lips parted; Milou prepared herself for divine revelation.
With a horrible, gargling sound, the pearlmaid vomited an entire pool of that iridescent slime onto the cathedral floor, splattering Milou’s feet, legs, and tunic.
Like before, the slime was cold, and viscous, and shimmered prettily in the light.
There were no words strong enough to express what the thief felt in that moment, yet her mouth had scarcely fallen open to try when – as if being vomited upon had not been horrid enough – the pearlmaid’s hands snaked forward to clamp closed around Milou’s neck.
Milou choked, toppling to the floor, and the pearlmaid came with her, sliding free of the conch shell to sprawl in a slimy mass atop the thief. Great glistening gobbets of that luminous muck hung from every inch of her pearled body; this close, each pupil-less eye was an opal expanse of loathing, of such a boiling, inhuman hatred that if the thief were not trapped on the floor slowly dying, she would have leapt from the nearest ledge and tried her luck with the sea monsters instead.
Struck as she was by the slime and the loathing and the strangled sounds coming out of her own throat, the thief did not realize that the girl was talking to her until the pearlmaid’s face had lowered to a mere inch away from her own.
Her voice was not the voice of a living thing, but a living thing thrice-drowned, every soft inner tissue scraped raw and salted, each word a fresh wound.
She was murmuring, low and feverish, and Milou only caught the very end.
She’d said, “Is there any worse insult than an incompetent assassin?”
Vomit, Milou would have answered, getting vomited on, but the girl’s hands were tightening even as she spoke, and rainbow sparks were waltzing across the thief’s vision, and all she managed to wheeze out was, “Not!”
Which made the pearlmaid’s hands freeze in their choking motion, but only for a fraction of a second.
“Not?” the pearlmaid hissed. “You lie as poorly as you murder. Whose dagger is buried to the hilt in my heart?”
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