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#I’ve been drawing Andre a lot and
nfxtuated · 10 days ago
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AHAHDBKEFB I COULDNT STOP GIGGLING WHILE I WAS SKETCHING THIS
I made another one for the tik tok gang yaaaay ✨ I was scrolling through my likes on tik tok and when I saw this I couldn’t help but think it was perfect for Andre bc of the STD part HAHAHAHA help I’m having too much fun w these
Next one will be Gigi 👀 I have something special for her and another meme idea of Gigi with A.T. - while I work on those tho I’ll also work on oc/sona interactions with A.T. I’ve been wanting to work on this week sjdjekrne
Also can I just say I’m way more happy w how this one turned out 💕 it’s the second one I’ve made but I’m more comfy w the tools that I used on this one than in the first one, so the quality of the rest of these series will be the same as this or might improve and I’m excited
Anyway this is the tik tok I used for this post
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cognitosclowns · 4 days ago
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Ooh those headcanons for Andre and Jr have me wondering how alpha beta would handle his partner being sick. It's such a Human thing so he wouldn't have any first hand experience really. Imagine if he has to go to the gang and ask how to deal with it fjskdbskd
ANONNNNN YOU'RE IN FOR IT NOW
brief mention of needles/blood work/dialysis
UHHHH THIS ONE IS <333 ASSUMING HE’S FREE ROAMING AND REPAIRED BC,, REASONS <33
It takes him a solid Minute to figure it out but when he does it's Instant Panic
You're warm your face is flushed you don't look right why are your eyes puffy Oh. o h.
he's never had to deal with somebody being sick before and therefore will overcorrect MASSIVELY
Doesn't matter if it's seasonal flu, as far as he's concerned you're Actively Dying
He might be,, A Little Messed Up from his whole 'brief glance at the internet' thing. He's seen,,, a lot of Unpleasant Things. he's painfully aware of how fragile humans are, and right now his human is looking Significantly Less Okay.
He thinks he's being slick but he has this Constant Worried Look on his face. Just,, Mildly Distressed Frown and vv tense eyebrows.
HE PROBABLY LOOKS MAD. HE ISN'T. HES JUST WORRIED.
also :
'I'm fine, it's just a cold. It's November.'
'but just in case I'm going to draw a teeny little blood sample?'
'Honey (derogatory)'
He Just Needs To Check Once to give him peace of mind that you don't have some,, Horrible Maiming Illness. He might ask to do other tests but dw, he won’t push those.
he knows how people work Theoretically but also makes some,, Very Distinct Errors?
He nearly short circuits when you refuse to take medicine because ‘it tastes bad’. 
He can’t understand. It’s a momentary discomfort, that will shorten the length of your cold. That makes no sense. Why would you not just take the medicine. Why are humans like this.
He’s not gonna force you but he’s definitely gonna give you A Look (tm) or two smnsd.
Lots of similar things like that?? Exercise would help, he reminds you of that, but for some reason you refuse? He creates this Horrible Concoction of ingredients that,, Yeah, Theoretically Would Help Your Throat but it also tastes like Dogshit and you won’t drink it? 
YEA HE ABSOLUTELY GOES TO THE TEAM FOR HELP. BECAUSE HE IS,,, GOING MAD.
‘I’ve offered them all the advice I can - what the hell am I supposed to do at this point?’
LISTEN IM NOT SAYING MYC GOES FOR THE THROAT BUT,,,
maybe he’s projecting a bit bc he’s made a lotta the same mistakes as A.B his first time taking care of a human, and he didn’t have smb to tell him that he was being a tit. but shh I didn’t tell you that.
‘... did they ask?’
“excuse me?’
‘You really think they want to be lectured by some limp-dick android whos never been sick in his life? No, what they want is for that limp-dick android to shut his trap long enough to be their boyfriend.’
‘They’re being needlessly stubborn!’
‘They’re a fucking human. They’re supposed to be stubborn. What yer excuse, mister ‘ infinitely adaptable AI’, is your unending wisdom unable to produce a soup recipe?’
‘.............. >:( ...... ᵗʰᵃⁿᵏ ʸᵒᵘ’
MMMMMM DOES HE FEEL A LITTLE SILLY YES PERHAPS MAYBE JUST A TOUCH PERHAPS HE FEELS A LITTLE FOOLISH. A BIT OF A DUNCE, PERHAPS. MAYBE JUST A LITTLE DOES HE FEEL A BIT SILLY HE DOES HE DOES IN FACT FEEL A BIT SILLY HE
ROUND 2 ELECTRIC BOOGALOO
‘I brought some tea, to help your sinuses. Oh - and your favorite blanket was in a box in the basement, so I thought I would bring it up...  is there.. anything else you need?’
‘... who are you and what’d you do with my boyfriend?’
‘oh come on, was I really that bad? >:(((’
‘you suggested putting me on dialysis, I think that question answers itself - also gimme′ and a little smooch on the cheek
HE,, BECOMES SURPRISINGLY DOTING?? You’re impressed <33 he genuinely makes an effort to Not Offer Any Advice?
He definitely isn’t perfect - but,,, his little bits of fussing does convince you to finally take some medicine. gee golly the moral was balance and communication <333
DEAR GODDDD YOU’VE NEVER BEEN MORE COMFORTABLE THAN CUDDLING THIS MAN WHEN YOU’RE SICK <3
he ups his temperature a bit, so he’s Extra Warm?? Like a heating pad?? 
And you just lay your head on his chest n wrap an arm around him while you cozy up with a bunch of comfort movies?? he pets your head and GIVES YOU KISSES, BC HE CAN’T GET SICK???
you could actually just melt into goo. You barely move for the rest of the week <3
You See The Relief On His Face When Your Fever Breaks <333
does a lotta the stuff that happened during that week become running in-jokes you use to tease him?? yes. But <33 yknow what I think it all turned out pretty okay
UHHHHH FUCK THIS GOT LO N G  LONG MSNDMS GOODBYE OFF I GO-
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youngjusticestories · 9 months ago
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Jealous Much
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I've been binge watching a lot of my favorite old shows from when I was growing up and I came across a scene from episode 19 of Victorious. The scene was when Andre, Cat, Beck, and Jade were at a new karaoke place when two girls started flirting with the boys and Jade got jealous and challenged them to a singing battle. I got inspired from that and wrote this based on it. I hope you enjoy reading it.
Word Count: 2134
"Come on (Y/n), were going to be late." You heard Dick call from downstairs where he was waiting for you finish getting ready to meet up with Wally and Artemis. "Are you ever patient with anything you do with me Dick?" You asked him playfully while coming down the stairs ready to get going.
"Most likely not because of how much time you always take to get ready for small things." He said with a smug smirk appearing on his face. "Its not my fault that It is not easy for me to look good with as much little effort as you." Dick put a hand to his heart and pretended to act offended by your comment.
You rolled your eyes at him and made your way towards the front door with Dick following right behind you. He opened the door for you while grabbing the car keys from out of his leather jacket's pocket. "Guessing by the time we get to the place Wally has already eaten everything they have on the menu."
"Probably knowing him, he would have done it in the first 5 minutes of being there." He said before bending down to kiss you on the head softly. "Let's hope Artemis can stop him from eating that much then." You said getting in Dick's brand new car.
The both of you drove to the location for a much needed day off with Artemis and Wally from the hero work. You loved helping people but sometimes you need a break from everything that is going on in your life right now.
"How are things going at Wayne Enterprises?" You asked him out of curiosity from him know being the new CEO of the company. "Things are going very smoothly but I feel like I have big shoes to fill since Bruce retired so early."
You gave Dick a reassuring smile as he continued his drive to the the brand new restaurant all four of you have wanted to check out since seeing the opening a few weeks ago when catching up with one another. Lost in your thoughts you didn't realize that you phone had started to buzz in your right hand.
"Hey babe, you might want to check who is calling you at the moment." Dick said trying to regain your attention while still having his eyes straight on the road driving. You snapped out of your very thoughts and looked down to see Artemis's caller ID shine bright across your phone screen while still buzzing from you not answering the call.
You pressed the green answer button and brought your phone to your ear but flinched when you heard Artemis basically screaming at you through the speaker. "(Y/n) where are you and Dick we have been waiting for you guys to arrive here for the last 15 minutes straight!" Artemis sounded very annoyed with you and Dick just from her tone of voice when she was using to speak with you.
"We're stuck in traffic right now, but I promise we will get there in the next 10 minutes." You said with a promising tone in your voice. "You better be because i don't know how much longer I can hold Wally off from swallowing this whole place." Once she finished that sentence you could hear Wally say something about how rude Artemis was for saying that about him. The call ended after that  and you went to looking out of the window of the car.
"(Y/n) we're here now so lets get going before Artemis comes outside and beats our asses for being late." Dick said while trying to shake you to get out of your daydreaming and get out of the car. "Oh sorry, I didn't notice." You replied to him while quickly shutting the car door behind you.
When you were both at the front door Dick took the handle and opened it for you while saying "Here you are my precious lady." You started to giggle at his playfulness and decided to play along with his little game. "Why thank you my good sir" You said while pretending to courtesy to him for his actions. Both of you only got a few steps into the place before spotting Wally and Artemis already at the booth all of you reserved for the rest of day.
"There you guys are I thought you both would never arrive here by the the time (Y/n) said you would be here soon because she always lies about that." Wally said to you while never taking his eyes off his own menu looking at all of the food options. "And I see you still won't change Wally." You said while rolling your eyes at his terrible comment at you.
All of you took your seats and decide what you wanted to order for your meal. "i am gonna go get the drinks what do you all you want to drink?" Artemis asked everyone at the table. "I'll take a water" Dick said rather quickly knowing exactly what he wanted. "I will have one too" Wally pitched in on what he wanted to drink with his meal.
You were looking at the menu, but nothing you could see was what you wanted for a drink so you Artemis "Can I go with you to see if there are any drinks I would like?" Artemis said yes so the both of you went to the drink stand to see what the place had to offer for the moment of time.
"Dick can you explain now since the girls are gone now why you and (Y/n) can never make it to a place on time?" Wally asked while glancing at his phone from time to time. "You know how (Y/n) is when getting ready to go." Dick said with a look that says she is killing me with that habit of hers. "Yeah I know how she is but you love her no matter what happens." Wally said with a bright smile showing on his face.
"Yeah (Y/n) really is amazing and I love her but man she kills me sometimes, but I'm guessing you have your fair share of pet peeves when your dating Artemis yourself." Dick said giving him a very questioning look at his redhead best friend. "Don't you even get me started on her, she drives me crazy but that's what I love about her." The boys went on with their conversation while having no idea of being watched by some ladies across the room from them.
"Oh my god Amelia look over at those two guys at that table they look so hot!" Rosa gushed to her friend about how hot those guys were that she never even spoke to. "I know I see that Rosa but that guy with dark raven hair looks yummy to me." Amelia said before taking a sip of her coke from her glass. "I know but just look at that redhead he looks like he knows what to do when we are along together." Rosa added a playful wink to her comment as Amelia choked on her drink after hearing what her friend just said to her.
"Rosa control yourself we are in a public building with people around us at every corner you look at." Amelia scolded her friend on her inappropriate behavior when dining out to a place to eat. "Your no better Amelia with you saying about how yummy a guy is without even ever meeting him before" Rosa shot back at her friend's scolding.
The two friends constantly went back and forth for a few minutes before finally decided to talk to the the guys both of them were staring at from earlier. "What happens if they reject us Amelia in front of everyone here that's eating?" Rosa said while panicking about the worst results that could happen to the both of them.
"Nothing will wrong I promise just look at how hot we both are those guys won't be able to take their off us for the rest of the day." Amelia said trying to reassure her friend about talking to them. "I know but maybe we just don't go up to them after all." Rosa said while slopping down in her seat. "Come on when are we ever gonna see guys this hot ever again this is our chance we can't screw it up, Rosa." Amelia declared by dragging Rosa over to the two guys sitting at their table having a conversation.
Wally could see from the angle he was at while talking to Dick could see two girls looking the same age as them coming over to their booth. "Oh shit Dick I think some girls are coming over to us right now." Wally said in a very low whisper trying not to draw attention to himself. "Why does this always happen when will all go out in public and where are (Y/n) and Artemis right now?" Dick groaned out.
"Just go for it Rosa nothing will go wrong just come along." Amelia said when she finally finished Rosa over to the guy's table. Both of the girls saw the two guys stop their conversation together and went to look at the strangers right in front of their table. The two girls sat down next to both of them without even saying a word to them.
Artemis and you were walking back from the drink stand with all your guys drinks and saw two girls putting there hands all over Wally and Dick." I'm going to kill wally when I get over there." Artemis said with a glare on her face while still walking over to the table. The closer you got to the table you could see how uncomfortable Dick was in this moment. You have always know Dick to be a sweet caring person and not wanting to hurt anyone's feelings so you know how he was feeling.
"We're back with the drinks you two." You said calmly as you could after seeing what is going on right now with your boyfriend and a random girl. You and Artemis set the drinks on the table with the girls still touching Wally and Dick. "Excuse could you move so I can have my seat back?" You asked politely to the girl was glaring daggers at you from where you were standing up.
"No I'm sorry I started to get to know this handsome man over here" She purred out in a sultry tone trying to seduce Dick. You started to laugh at her actions because you know Dick would never leave you because he follows you like a lost puppy everywhere you go. Both of the girls gave you a weird looking but went back to trying to seduce the boys.
"You better get your hands off my boyfriend in the 5 minutes or you won't have hands anymore." Artemis said giving a very threatening look to the girl who was roaming her hands all over Wally and she didn't like it one bit.  "If I don't what are you gonna do about it blondie." Rosa almost shouted at Artemis.
You could tell that Artemis was furious at the comment she just heard about herself. It was one thing to touch her boyfriend but if you make a comment about her hair fists are about to be flying in this place. "No need to get angry right now lets just get our seats back and we can all just forget this ever happened" You said trying to calm down Artemis from how pissed off she was.
The Rosa girl that was sitting next to Wally went running from the table because of how afraid she was of Artemis. The way Dick pushed the girl out of the booth was the funniest  thing you saw since the last time Bruce tripped down the stairs of the bat cave.You could hear mutter under her breath about how much of a bitch you guys were.
The rest of the night was filled with laughter and catching up with one another. When you and Dick were heading out of the door you were pulled by the air and brought into a passionate kiss on his soft lips. "You should be jealous more it looks beautiful on you." Dick said smugly pulling you over to the car with a very red blush coating your cheeks.
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favescandis · 8 months ago
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New Q&A with Alexander Skarsgård and Esquire Middle East
‘Alexander Skarsgård on pro wrestling, death metal, the joys of Godzilla vs Kong’ - by William Mullally, March 25, 2021
The Swedish star speaks to Esquire Middle East about his latest film, being home in Stockholm, and staying ripped for The Northman during quarantine
Alexander Skarsgård did not have the 2020 the rest of us did. There was no quiet quarantine, no tubs of ice cream devoured at three in the morning, no existential boredom, no staring out the window as we wondered if we’d ever be able to start doing things again.
No, Skarsgård had to spend the year staying in the best shape of his life to play an honest-to-god Viking warrior and Nordic prince Amleth in Robert Eggers’ upcoming epic The Northman. Not that he minded, of course.
Skarsgård is in a very good place. Before The Northman, he filmed Godzilla vs. Kong, which was one of the most joyful experiences of his career. It’s a film that is much better than anyone could have hoped, that fixes the flaws of the previous outings of the franchise in Kong: Skull Island and Godzilla: King of Monsters by making its supporting characters actually interesting to follow—including Skarsgård’s turn as a conspiracy-loving mad scientist named Nathan Lind—and making the battle between the legendary behemoths the stuff of Hulk Hogan vs. Andre the Giant.
Esquire Middle East caught up with the 44-year-old Swedish actor, who is aging like a vampire, fittingly enough, over Zoom ahead of the film’s release.
Read the full ESQ&A with Alexander Skarsgård below:
Alex, it’s great to see you again. How are you?
I’m pretty good. You’re in Dubai, right? I’m in Stockholm, Sweden at the moment.
How long have you been home?
I’ve been here for two months now since I wrapped The Northman.
How’s that been?
Yeah, it's been really nice. I mean, it's obviously a difficult time, but considering everything, I'm lucky, because everyone is doing alright. It's a nice opportunity for me, as I'm constantly on the road normally. It’s great to just be home, and not just for a week around Christmas or weekend over summer. I actually get to be here and spend some real time with my family.
You didn’t have any downtime in 2020?
Well, I was actually shooting for most of 2020. When the pandemic hit, I was in Belfast about to start filming the Northman, then we shut down for three months, and during that I had to train basically. It's a very physical role, so I had to keep working out. I was still in work mode for the whole lockdown. Then in July, we started shooting till the end of the year.
Did you prefer it that way?
I was very grateful to be able to work. It was definitely different from the normal set because we were completely isolated. We got tested three times a week and I basically lived in a bubble up in the hills of Northern Ireland and didn't see anyone didn't do anything for six months other than work and sleep and train.
I have a friend Adlai who lives in that village in Northern Ireland and I kept trying to get him to go break into your set because I needed to know more about this movie.
It was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. The most amazing experience.
You’ve been making a habit of working with great horror filmmakers, with Robert Eggers (The Witch) on the Northman, and Adam Wingard (You’re Next) on Godzilla vs. Kong.
What’s interesting about all these guys like Adam and Rob Eggers is they produce these really dark and twisted movies but they are two of the nicest human beings I've ever met. They're so sweet and genuine.
What do you and Adam like to talk about?
Death metal, probably. He's a big metal fan.
Are death metal people sweethearts, generally speaking?
Yeah, actually. Sometimes I feel like that's sometimes the case when you meet musicians in death metal bands they're like the sweetest, loveliest people who talk about their grandmothers and stuff.
Why do you think that is?
Maybe it's cathartic. It's a way to get out all that dark energy onto the big screen or as a musician onto an album.
Did you and Adam click immediately?
I met him years ago for another project. We didn’t end up working together on that but it was such a memorable meeting that we stayed in touch over the years. He’s not only a wonderful guy but so intelligent, such a film buff who knew everything about not only the horror genre, but even just films in general. When Godzilla vs Kong came up, I was just really excited to get an opportunity to work with him.
Were the words ‘Godzilla’ and ‘Kong’ enough for you, or did something specific draw you to this one?
I think it was a combination. I had just come off of a couple of really dark intense projects. I did the Little Drummer Girl, which is a limited series based on the John le Carré novel about conflicts in the Middle East, and I just come off Big Little Lies, two seasons of domestic abuse.
Did you just need something different?
It was just really two of the most rewarding experiences of my career but also really, really draining really intense experiences. I was just craving something fun and exciting. I hadn't done any big tent pole matinee-style movies and since Tarzan.
But you said it was a combination—are you also a Godzilla nerd?
Oh man, I was like a little boy. I just got giddy when I saw the renderings, the drawings, the storyboards, like the world that they wanted to create. I thought tonally they were the right people to make this kind of movie because I thought they had the balls to go all the way and make it as big and crazy and fun as it as I think it deserves to be, with the right amount of sarcasm and irony, but while still taking the topic seriously, and the characters seriously, and really caring about both Kong and Godzilla.
Did you and Adam share a lot creatively back and forth?
Oh, yeah. He would run up to me and ask what if they run into a creature that almost looks like an owl and start explaining how it works. And then you start sketching something on a piece of tissue. And then a week later, he would come back with something amazing that the visual artists have created. To be part of that from an early stage is so exciting to me.
As a pro wrestling fan, that balance of ironic and serious you mentioned sounds awfully familiar to me. Did you guys make a pro wrestling movie on purpose?
It’s a lot like pro wrestling. Like, you want the fights to be big spectacular, fun, and entertaining. But you want to care about the wrestlers, right? You want to root for them. I think Adam did such a great job in finding that tone. They beat the sh*t out of each other on an aircraft carrier, but you also want to connect with these creatures and care about them. The movie asks, what does Kong really wants other than beat up Godzilla? What is he longing for in life?
That’s exactly what I think when I watch the Undertaker throw Mankind off Hell in a Cell.
Absolutely!
Godzilla vs. Kong is in theaters now across the Middle East
https://www.esquireme.com/content/51448-alexander-skarsgard-on-pro-wrestling-death-metal-the-joys-of-godzilla-vs-kong-the-northman-interview
Photo from WarnerBros. Entertainment. Thanks to SophTop on Delish for the find!
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ilithiyarys · 8 months ago
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Minefields: Chapter 2
Summary: After a young woman is kidnapped, Hailey becomes emotionally involved and in an effort to find her, she goes undercover but at what cost?
Here’s chapter 2!
Chapter || 1 || 2 ||
Tags: (i’m just assuming if you reblogged or replied to chapter 1 you wanted a tag hehe) @mashleighh @anniesardors @morganupstead @carissalizz @agent-bash @number2chicagopdfan @thatoneblog3467 @thelittlepterophyllum 
https://archiveofourown.org/works/30067296/chapters/74206212
Hailey and Jay returned to the district a few hours later after talking to various witnesses in Mia’s apartment building. Everyone said the same thing about her: she was sweet, quiet, hard working, and didn’t seem like the type to be caught up in anything shady to be kidnapped over.
It was just past midnight at this point, and everyone had begun to feel the fatigue and exhaustion settle in. They’d basically worked a double shift, finishing at around 5pm the previous day, only to be called back in five hours later. Jay and Hailey knew that the rest of their team would be on edge from working an all-nighter case, so on their way back they’d bought two cases of coffee and a dozen donuts from Dunkin’ Donuts, one of the only places they could find that was serving coffee this late at night.
Everyone’s faces lit up at the sight of them two walking in with the goods.
“Yes!” Adam cheered, rushed out of his seat to grab one of the coffee jugs from them.
“Our heroes,” Kim added, taking a break from staring at her computer. Kevin and Andre quickly followed, also eager for a cup of coffee. Jay and Hailey laughed, placing the coffee and donuts on one of the unused desks.
“So where are we at? Find anything new?” Jay asked.
Kim nodded, pouring herself a cup of coffee. “Dug into Mia’s family history. Tragic story. She lost her parents and grandparents when she was young. They were in an accident in their family vehicle, and she and her brother were the only survivors.”
“The two of them had godparents that they’d stayed with until Mia was of legal age to take care of her younger brother, Aiden, and the two of them moved out soon after,” Cooper added.
Adam continued. “Then her brother fell ill a few years later. He was diagnosed with leukemia. It looks like she tried to take care of the bills for his treatment.”
Jay began to piece it together. “So it’s safe to say that she was probably struck for cash to pay off her college tuition and her brother’s medical expenses?”
“It seems so,” the officer nodded.
“What happened to her brother?” Hailey asked. 
Adam frowned. “He passed recently. Just over a month ago. The worst part is she wasn’t allowed to see him or be with him when he passed because of COVID.”
Everyone had collectively let out a sigh of sadness, shaking their heads and clenching their jaws. They felt bad for the young woman. She’d already been through hell losing her entire family, only to lose the one person had left and couldn’t even be with him until his last breath. Hailey felt a looming sadness come over her, something stirring in the pit of her stomach. She barely even knew this young woman, but already felt so deeply for her. Although their situations were different, she knew all too well the feeling of living through hell and trying to take care of a younger sibling on your own.
“Could that explain her financial situation?” Jay asked.
Kevin nodded. “Yeah. She was behind on this month’s rent payment, working two jobs to make ends meet. Her building manager mentioned that she was normally pretty good with making payments on time, it just so happened that she was a few days late this month. Also found large amounts of money being randomly deposited and then immediately taken out via cash withdrawal. A red flag.”
“Any leads on the blood from the doorframe in Mia’s room?” Hailey asked.
Andre nodded. “Yeah, just got the lab results back. Blood belongs to Travis Williams. Linked to a few B&E’s, robberies but nothing conclusive. He’s suspected of being a part of this new crime ring, but again, nothing conclusive.”
“What’s special about this new crime ring?” Kim questioned.
Hank responded, coming out of his office having heard the team’s updates. “They’re smart. They’ve brought drug trafficking and dealing, weapons trafficking and dealing, and money laundering together to fund their activities.”
“So how come they haven’t been taken down yet?” Jay asked.
Hailey answered this time. She knew of this new crime ring from a tip she’d gotten from one of her CI’s. “No one knows where they operate or who their leaders are or even what they’re called. It’s a tight knit operation. Last I heard was that they don’t operate in just one area, but multiple. Fanning out means less attention.”
“I’ll talk to guns and gangs to see what else they’ve got on these guys,” Hank noted.
“Serge, mind if I come with?” Hailey asked. Everyone stopped to turn around and look at the blonde detective. It was strange that she was willing to hop with Voight for something. Even Jay glanced over, furrowing his brow at his girlfriend.
But instead of questioning her, Voight just grunted. “Okay.”
Hailey nodded.
Hank continued on. “Halstead, bring Ruzek with you to find this Travis character and bring him in. The sooner we find this girl, the better.”
The rest of the team nodded, returning to work.
“Hailey, with me,” the unit sergeant said, leading them to the parking lot.
The moment the pair had gotten into the SUV, Hank looked over at his detective. “What’s going on, Hailey?”
“Nothing, just wanted to ride along,” She answered.
“Halstead do something?” He asked. He wasn’t quite sure what was going through his detective’s mind right now.
Hailey knitted her brows, shaking her head. “What? No, we’re good. Just wanted to tag along with you.”
“Hailey, there’s something you’re not telling me,” he said in a low voice.
She sighed. “I think I’ve got an angle to play.”
“Please elaborate,”
“If Mia had gotten caught up with this crime ring, it probably means they’re looking for women to help front their operation. Large sums of cash being deposited and withdrawn? It seems like she’s laundering money for them, and in return, they’re paying her, probably off book to help pay for whatever debts she has,” she speculated.
“So what are you suggesting?” Hank questioned.
“Let me go under. Women are the most unassuming for these kinds of jobs, which is why I’m thinking why they’ve been so successful. Mia is the exact kind of person they’re looking for to help run their operation - a young woman with a steady job, a relatively normal life, no family, nowhere to go, and nowhere to run. She would’ve easily gotten involved needing extra cash to pay her debts. I have a CI that’s acquainted with these guys, I could probably get an intro to one of their higher ups, get an in, try to find Mia and get her out,” the blonde explained.
The unit sergeant gave her a warning look. “Hailey… What you’re suggesting is incredibly dangerous. We don’t have much intel on these guys and how they run things,” Hank cautioned.
Hailey nodded. “Serge, I know. That’s why I wanted to come with you to find out what else guns and gangs know.”
The older man grunted. “Okay. But I need to know, is your head on straight? Or are you saying this because you empathized with Mia’s situation because of how similar her life is to yours?”
For a moment, Hailey’s stomach dropped. Her boss could read her like an open book. She knew he'd seen her file growing up: abusive father, getting out of the house as soon as she turned eighteen, taking legal custody of her brother because they’d been able to prove they were abused and raising him all on her own. Hailey knew what it was like, what Mia would’ve gone through.
But instead of getting defensive, she calmly responded.
“Serge, a young woman is missing and involved with the wrong crowd. I just want to help find and bring her home. I’m good, I promise.”
“Okay.”
Across the city, Jay and Adam had tracked Travis’ last known location to a house out in West Englewood. It didn’t slip past them that this was one of the most dangerous neighbourhoods in the city, so they’d geared up in their vests as a precaution.
Jay knocked on the door. “Travis Williams! Chicag-”
Before he could even continue his sentence, gunshots rang out and bullets flew through the door and windows, forcing the pair to the ground.
“10-1, shots fired at the police!” Adam shouted into his radio. “You good?” Jay asked, helping the officer up, as he spotted someone running out back. “Yeah, I’m good,” Adam nodded.
“5021 George, in pursuit of an offender, send patrol to 352 South Ashland Avenue, our offender is Travis Williams, 5’10, short brown hair, medium build, black hoodie and blue jeans,”
“Copy, sending patrol now.”
Jay and Adam sprinted through the alleys after Travis.
“I’m going around back to cut him off!” Adam shouted, breaking away from the detective. Jay kept up his chase, keeping Travis in his line of sight. Suddenly, he took a sharp turn into an alleyway, escaping Jay’s sight for a moment.
Jay followed, drawing his gun. He couldn’t hear heavy breathing, which was alarming. Travis had either slipped away, or he was waiting for the right moment. He continued down the alley, training his gun firmly ahead of him.
Then out of nowhere, shots were fired at his direction again, and he felt his breath hitch in his throat as something threw him to the ground. He felt a stinging sensation radiate through his body. 
“Ah!” he hissed, crawling towards cover. He’d been shot. He frantically searched if it had gone through.
Thankfully it didn’t.
Not too long after, he heard Adam over the two-way.  “5021 Ida, suspect in custody.”
On their department-issued phones, Adam called for Jay.  “Jay, you good? I heard shots, where are you?”
He slowly reached for his phone that was in his vest pocket. “Just down the same alley. Caught one in the vest.”
“Copy, I’m on my way,”  Adam responded. On his two way, he’d called out for an ambulance.  “5021 Ida, officer injured. Roll an ambo to my location ASAP.”
A minute later, the younger officer appeared. He offered out his hand to the detective, slowly helping him up off the ground. Jay yelped, already feeling the bruising starting to settle in on his abdomen.
“Hailey’s not gonna be happy you got shot again,” Adam quipped.
“Yeah, yeah, I know. I’m trying not to think about it,” Jay grimaced, slightly hunching over to relieve his body of the pain. He knew how strongly Hailey felt when he would get injured on the job. They’d always feared it even before they started dating, but ever since, they both had a heightened sense of fear for one another whenever one of them was injured. He just happened to be more of a bullet magnet than his girlfriend was. Though his vest had protected him, he could already see her worried face. He tried not to think about it. In fact, he was already thinking about what he was going to say to her.
Adam noticed the detective spiraling in his thoughts. “Sorry bro. Good thing we decided to wear our vests tonight. Could’ve gone a completely different direction.”
Jay frowned, realizing how badly tonight could’ve gone had he not been wearing his vest. The wound would’ve been critical if not for the Kevlar that was protecting his body. “Yeah, you got that right,” he shuddered.
The officer motioned for Jay to follow him towards the ambulance that was already incoming. “Come on, let’s head to the ambo.”
He nodded, as Adam gently patted him on the back.
It was nearly 2am by the time Jay and Adam returned to the district. Kim, Kevin, and Andre heard the whole thing go down on their radios.
“God, are you guys alright?” Kim worriedly asked, seeing the two of them walk up the stairs. Jay was holding an ice pack to his abdomen, slightly hunched over.
“Yeah, yeah. We’re good. Jay took one to the vest, but he’ll be fine. Just a few bruised ribs,” Adam answered.
“Thank God you two were wearing your vests in the first place,” she said.
“Yeah, we’re counting our lucky stars,” Jay breathed.
“Where’s our guy?” Adam asked.
Kevin responded. “Down in holding. Just waiting for Serge to get back before questioning him.”
Shortly after, Hailey and Hank made their way up the stairs. She immediately spotted her boyfriend nursing an ice pack to his ribs.
“Oh my God, Jay, what happened?” she asked, quickly making her way towards him.
He shrugged, trying not to worry her. “I’m fine, just took one to the vest while trying to bring our guy in.”
“How bad?” she asked. He could tell she was desperately battling the tears from falling in front of everyone. He knew how much she hated it when he got hurt,  especially  if she wasn’t by his side.
“Just a few bruised ribs. Nothing I haven’t experienced before,” he half-smiled, trying to calm her nerves.
Hailey let out a sigh. “Thank God you were wearing your vest.”
The brunette nodded. “Oh believe me, I know. Tonight could’ve gone terribly wrong. We knew we were dealing with someone linked to a dangerous crime ring, it didn’t hurt to proceed with extra caution.”
“I’m glad you’re okay,” she said, looking down and letting out a shaky breath. Jay noticed, gently reaching for her hand, locking his fingers between hers.
“Yeah, me too."
“Glad you’re okay, Jay,” Hank expressed. “Listen, it’s been a long night. Everyone, go home, we’ll pick this up first thing in the morning. Go get some sleep, we’ll reconvene at 8am.”
Everyone nodded. They didn’t need to be told twice.
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jessie-writes-things · 6 months ago
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All's Fair in Love and Cake: Chapter 1
I hate writing first chapters, but here we are! Finally finished! I'm planning to get one chapter out a week. Obviously, that depends on how everything pans out health-wise in the next week or so.
Also, sorry for any misuse in French. These are phrases I've heard either through talking with French friends or at work years ago. My level of speaking skills is still pretty low so some phrases might be out of context. 😅
Pairing: Marcus Pike x Reader (can be read as gender-neutral in this chapter, but later chapters will be more 'female' based)
Words: 2.4k
Genre: fluff, romantic comedy
Warnings: swearing, heavily mentions food and cake, mentions of marriage and weddings.
Summary: A cake theft is threatening to ruin an old friend's reputation. On top of that, a pair of old lovers pop back into the picture and somehow you find yourself faking an engagement to your colleague, Marcus. Nothing could go wrong, right?
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If someone had told you last month you’d be stood in the middle of a bridal shop with Marcus Pike, you would have laughed in their face. You might have also broken down crying too, but that was a whole other story.
Giving credit where credit was due, Liv had an amazing shop. Three floors, all open plan with high ceilings and an expensive chandelier that costs more than your monthly rent that dangled above the fancy stairwell.
And there was just so much white. Everywhere. White marble floors. White couches. White roses in white and gold vases lined the white painted walls. Much to your surprise, the least white thing in the store was the dresses.
Of course, there were rails upon rails of different shades of white gowns, but you were starstruck by the rainbow selection kept at the back of the second floor, a row of brightly coloured silk and lace organised perfectly to form a rainbow.
Liv disappeared through the double doors, giving you strict instructions to stay put while she talked to the kitchen staff.
And, so, you were left unattended amongst a bunch of pretty and expensive dresses. It would be a crime not to snoop around a little!
You never really thought about wedding dresses. Not out of disinterest, it was all Liv ever talked about and you were happy to listen as she flicked through the latest collection she had her eyes on.
You just never thought you would be the type to get married. Or find someone who was willing to even try. Especially after what happened last time.
You really didn’t want to be thinking about last time.
Snooping was a good distraction, skimming through the rainbow dresses before moving across the room to the more traditional styles. The various shades of white and beige blended together, your hand stopping on a pretty ivory gown with a low-cut top and puffy bottom, Liv’s voice chirping in the back of your head giving you the sales pitch of a lifetime.
“This one is a tea length gown with handcrafted embroidered detailing along the body and skirt, giving it a vintage inspired look that is very in right now. The light fabric makes it perfect for this spring weather. It’s easy to style, which you would like, plus it makes you look like royalty.”
You had to agree with your friend’s imaginary voice, it was a dress worthy of royalty. Until you flipped over the price tag and your heart near jumped out of your throat.
‘We’re in a wedding store.’ Marcus leaned over with a chuckle, sounding nowhere near as shocked by the six digits slapped on the garment, ‘Everything is overpriced. Not sure you can afford that one.’
‘You would know.’ You quipped back, ‘How many times have you been married again?’
A bit harsh? Maybe.
But you caught the playful roll of his eyes, hip bumping into your side suggesting he at least found some humour in your crude joke.
Marcus turned back to the painting he had been looking at, arms crossing his chest, and shit was he getting defensive?
Lips pursed, nose winked, his head tilted to the left like a puppy trying to act cute waiting for a treat and you couldn't tell if he was just really into analysing the painting of a...hyperrealistic black and white rose or masking the pain of the shitty joke.
'She didn't steal it, did she?'
Luckily, his smile came back, putting your mind somewhat at ease, 'Not that I can tell.'
Liv popped her head back through the double doors, ‘He’s ready to see you.’
The two of you followed her through another hallway, thankfully not white this time, but just as frilly with large bunches of flowers and more expensive paintings framing the walls.
‘Just to warn you, he’s not in the best mood right now.’
Not the best start.
‘I’m sure we’ll survive.’ You joked trying to ease some of the tension that was gathering in the air, ‘As long as nothing rotten is thrown in my direction, I’m good.’
The shock on Marcus's face was priceless, ‘That’s happened before?’
‘Once or twice.’ You shrugged like it wasn’t a big deal.
Liv laughed as she pushed open the double doors.
The kitchen was exactly how you remembered it from the last time you visited. Shiny, stainless steel worktops spanning around the whole room with another giant island of similar benches in the middle. A mixer ran off in the corner, omitted a sweet vanilla smell that had your mouth watering.
You were home.
‘Where’s the uniform?’ A voice boomed across the room, soon followed by an elderly man dressed head to toe in an all-white chef’s uniform walked out of the fridge. His frown and dark facial hair matched perfectly with the cold nature of the room, ‘I was expecting uniforms. Or badges.’
‘Always nice to see you too, Andre.’ You snarked back, biting back a laugh at the way he grunted, slapping down a ball of fondant onto the metal workstation with such vigour it made Marcus jump, ‘I’m doing a favour for Liv.’
Liv nodded frantically, voice so shaky she stumbled over her words, ‘I didn’t want the store getting in the news for trouble.’
‘So, no uniforms or badges.’ You gestured to you and Marcus.
The elderly man let out a huffed response, on the move as he continued muttering to himself. All eyes were trained on him as he shuffled around the kitchen, pulling at a draw aggressively and rummaging around until he presented a large wooden rolling pin
Andre turned, his weapon of choice directed in Marcus’s direction, ‘And him?’
Wide-eyed and caught in the headlights of a grumpy old French baker, Marcus faulters.
‘This is Special Agent Pike. He works for the arts division. He’s doing me a favour.’
‘Arts division.’ Andre scoffed. ‘I do not need arts division. I need answers. Someone is stealing my cakes. My work.’
‘And this is why we’re here, but my division works more with USFDA. Stolen cakes aren’t really my territory.’ You bumped your hip into Marcus’s leg, earning enough attention for him to snap back from the shock, ‘Agent Pike, on the other hand, knows a lot about priceless works of art.’
‘Oh, yeah.’ Marcus nodded, deciding now would be a great time to jump in, ‘Yeah. I’ve seen photos. Your cakes are truly beautiful. The best I’ve ever seen!’
That was enough to draw a smile out of Andre, lowering the pin with a chuckle. Marcus could finally breathe again.
Nothing like buttering up an old man with flattery to get him on your sweet side, ‘I make cakes for royalty, you know?’
‘As you like to tell everyone.’ Liv joked with fondness, ‘But we need to move things on. These two are very busy people.’
Andre waved his hand in dismissal as he shuffled back to his station, ‘Chut! What could be more important than this?’
‘I have six restaurants under investigation that I need to visit today.’ You shifted a little closer, voice a little lower as you said, ‘One of them being O’Neil’s.’
That caught his attention. The old man slowly glanced up in your direction, that soft sparkle in his eyes turning to something more murderous.
‘Espece de merde!’ the metallic slap of fondant against the bench rang out through the room, ‘I knew that bastard was up to something.’
The fondant was now a perfectly flat circle which he attacked with just as much anger. It was somewhat amusing. You had never seen a man slice out such flawless delicate curves with such rage.
‘Here is what you need to know; someone has been stealing my cakes. They remake them and put them to sell on the internet. People have been giving them bad reviews. They think it’s me and…’ tears clouded Andre’s eyes, a thickness in the back of his throat clogging the words but he quickly pushed all that down ‘...I would never make such low quality.’
Andre grabbed the rolling pin, his wrinkled hands shook with each hard hit. Marcus honed in on the switch of the knife, each swipe ending with a scrape of metal on metal as Andre drew the blade back towards himself.
He swallowed thickly before asking, ‘And you think O’Neil is behind this?’
‘O’Neil is a piece of shit who cannot tell a crème fouetté from a crème pâtissière.’ Spite dripped from his words, the knife clattering to the bench. Ever so carefully, Andre picked up the thin ribbons of fondant and began sculpting, ‘Of fucking course it is not him.’
‘Is there anyone else it could be?’ You leaned in to get a better look, watching in amazement as he layered the pieces of sugary paste, twisting them here and there into an intricate pattern, ‘Anyone new working here?’
‘There is a new boy. He brings in the flowers. Other than that, I do not know.’
‘You mean Liam?’ Liv asked, ‘He’s only been working here three weeks. This cake theft has been going on for months.’
Marcus shrugged. ‘There’s no harm in asking him. We don’t have much else to go off.’
Liv nodded and shifted from one foot to another nervously. She had been acting off all week. Barely sleeping. Barely eating. The business was her baby, and now that it was under threat, she didn’t know what to do.
You took her hand from across the table and she looked up at you with tears swimming in her bright eyes, ‘We’ll figure this out.’
She flashed you a watery smile, doing all she could not to break down right on the spot.
‘Voilà!’ Andre held up the sweet pink rose with gentle hands, his new prized possession.
Softly, he placed it into the palm of your hand. It looked so real, as if he had picked up one of the roses from outside the shop and dusted it with icing sugar.
You opened your mouth to thank him, but he held up a finger, telling you to wait before shuffling back into the walk-in fridge. Andre reappeared moments later with a large white box decorated with an elaborate bow, ‘Incentive. For your work.’
You raised an eyebrow, ‘Are you bribing FBI agents, Andre?’
He pushed the box closer with a smile, ‘Piss off! Be good. Find my cakes.’
There was no way in hell he was going to take no for an answer. Not that you were ever going to turn down free cake.
You took the box, carefully placing the rose inside, asking Liv to send you an email with all possible suspects.
'Do you really think you can catch him?' Liv asked while showing you and Marcus out. She kept her voice low, the shop was already starting to get busy for the day, 'I know this isn't really your department.'
'How hard can it be? World-renowned baker gets his work stolen, Pie deals with this kind of stuff all the time.' You could hear the eye roll from the agent behind you, 'We'll catch him. Search into a few of these sites, nothing more than a few questions and some deep web shenanigans.'
For the first time in weeks, Liv was something other than a purely anxious mess, 'Thank you again, both of you.'
You said your goodbyes just as a larger group bustled into the shop, being boisterously loud for seven in the morning and you did not envy your friend one bit as you and Marcus made a quick exit.
There was nothing more beautiful than DC in the spring. Tree and flowers were beginning to show colour again. The few people you caught passing by appeared to be somewhat happy.
Everything just looked less depressing, for a better word.
It was still early morning, far too early to head to HQ without raising suspicion from your supervisors, the pinky-orange sun still hanging low in the sky.
‘Is O’Neil’s really under investigation?’
Marcus had asked once you had settled in a local park. For the first time in months, it was warm enough to sit outside. Although, the bench was still slightly wet from the weeks of showers DC had been subjected to, making your jeans cling to your thighs uncomfortably. But the smell of rain and damp grass was nice, so was the light breeze that rustled through the newly budding blossom trees.
‘What? Oh, fuck no! Dude’s held a clean record since he opened five years ago. I just needed Andre to speak, knew he had beef with O’Neil. Voilà!’
‘You’re horrible.’ He choked on a laugh, brow raising when he saw you trying to unknot the bow securing the deliciousness out of your reach, ‘Are you really going to eat those?’
‘Yeah, why not?’
‘I don’t know. It’s just, don’t you guys in the food department get poisoning from these things?’
You eyed him a moment. Did he really think you to be that stupid? That after years of training, you would willing eat something without a care in the world? And it wasn’t like Andre was a total stranger with some vendetta on your head.
But then it hit you. This was nothing to do with you, ‘Oh my god, you’re one of those types.’
‘What types?’
‘I know you were a goodie-goodie please everyone types, Agent Pike. Didn’t know you were this by the book.’
‘It just seems wrong taking a bribe from an old man.’
‘You’ve never taken a bribe before?’ You waited for a response, but nothing. The most you got out of him was a sheepish glance and a flattening of his lips as he shuffled awkwardly, ‘Seriously? Never!’
‘I mean, I have. Just, you know?’
‘You scared the mean old man is going to come after you with a rolling pin?’
‘I’m not scared of him. He’s like sixty. I could outrun him.’
‘Eighty-four.’ You pulled the ribbon in the most dramatic manner. Flicking the lid, you were greeted with the most delightful smell; six samples of cake by one of the world’s best bakers.
You picked up a slice, going for your favourite four-tier Belgian truffle chocolate with raspberry chocolate ganache, the gold leaf finish glistened in the early morning sun.
You were so ready to take a bite, only to catch Marcus starting down at you with wide eyes. Cake slice halfway to your mouth, you reaffirmed him before shoveling in the glorious chocolaty goodness. ‘Andre is eighty-four years old. He will outrun you and he will beat you with that rolling pin of his.’
Marcus stared at you, mouth parted in shock.
You offered him the slice of cake, ‘You want some?’
‘I’m good.’
‘I promise you it’s not poisoned.’
You waited, and waited, and waited. A good few seconds passed before Marcus finally stopped starting, getting over whatever moral complex he was having, and took the damn slice.
And from the look on his face and the soft moans he gave, it was the first time he had tried one of Andre’s masterpieces.
‘This is really good!’
Laughing, you pushed the box into his lap. There was something wholesome about the pure joy he omitted as he opened the box, pointing to each flavour and asking you to give a rundown of what it was.
‘Marcus?’
You had never witness joy melt away so quickly.
Marcus’s back straightened out, fingers tightening around the box so hard you were afraid he was going to have smashed cake decorating his lap for the rest of the day.
Slowly, he turned towards the woman’s voice, his smile strained but from the outside appeared to be nothing less than picture-perfect, ‘Hey!’
When you turned, your heart dropped. You hadn’t expected her to be so pretty, and she was in workout gear with her hair pulled back and sweat dripping down her face, for crying out loud! Cheeks flushed red, she hardly panted with her hands on her hips.
She smiled sweetly at the both of you, ‘I wasn’t expecting you to be here still. How have you been?’
‘Yeah, I’m still here. I negotiated a stay deal with HQ. Here I am.’
'Here you are.’
There was a pause.
A very long, very awkward pause.
And there was nothing you could think of that would help that moment but hope and pray for his sake whoever this woman went away.
‘Crap! Sorry I’m being rude.’ Marcus scratched the back of his neck. You knew better than to embarrass him in front of an old friend, but lord, you hated him for dragging you into this mess of a conversation, ‘This is Emma. Emma, this is-‘
‘Wait.’ Your cheeks heated under Emma’s gaze, her eyes squinted like she was trying to remember where you were from, ‘You’re Aaron Hill’s ex, right? I’ve seen some photos of you.’
Photos. AKA, Facebook.
And if you thought your heart had cracked when you saw her, it practically shattered from just hearing that dick's name, ‘Yep. That’s me.’
‘Sorry, I didn’t mean that to be creepy! Marcus and I used to date. Me and Aaron are actually engaged now.’
Shattered. ‘Congrats!’
‘Thank you.’ She held up her left hand as, you don’t know, proof? To brag? Either way, the giant rock on her finger shimmered in the light, ‘Never thought I’d be getting married, to be honest. But here I am!’
‘Here you are.’
‘But I see you’re doing well for yourself? Found yourself someone new.’ She gestured between the two of you, her smile dropping at the confused looks on yours and Marcus’s faces, ‘The cake box? Liv Your Best Dreams? Me and Aaron have been trying to book an appointment there for weeks but it’s always too full.’
Right. The cake box. From the bridal shop. You just came back from. With Marcus. Your colleague. Totally not your fiancé or any other kind of romantic relations.
‘Yes!’ Marcus was the first to jump in, his arm subtle sliding across the back of the bench, ‘Your best friend runs the store, isn’t that right, honey?’
Honey?
Of all things, he was going to call your honey?
Honey.
A sour feeling boiled in your stomach, but you smiled through it. You leaned a smidgen closer into Marcus’s touch because, hey, if this was happening, you might as well make it somewhat believable.
‘Yeah, she does.’ You finally choked out, still trying to get your mind off honey, ‘She’s a bit run off her feet at the moment, spring is always her busiest time. But I’m sure I can put in a word for you, if you want?’
‘Oh my god, really? You can do that?’ The smile on her face was sickly sweet, ‘That would be amazing!’
And yet, that sour feeling lingered as you passed her a pen, giving her room to scribble her number on the top of the white box lid. Each line was another painful score to the heart, digging deeper and deeper and with all your mite you wanted to just yell at her to go away.
But you didn’t. Of course, you didn’t. The guilt would have eaten you up for weeks.
Marcus's hand rested on your shoulder, fingers brushing along the stiff muscles of your arm. It was surprisingly relaxing, the warmth of his touch seeping through the thin material of your jacket. You couldn’t turn to look at him, your chest was already too tight, too close to tears and you were scared if you did look at him, see that forced smile he was undoubtedly wearing, you would break.
‘Thank you so much! You’re a lifesaver!' And just like that, Emma clipped the lid back on the pen and handed it to you, ‘I guess I’ll see you two lovebirds around then.’
‘I guess so.’
You shared a wave as she jogged away.
The two of you sat in silence for a long time after that, even when the woman disappeared around the corner to some other part of the park. Slowly, Marcus’s hand melted away from your shoulder, falling back into his lap in defeat and you wondered if that interaction was just as hard on him as it was on you.
Still not knowing what to say, you handed him the silence of cake.
‘Well, that was…’
‘…Interesting…’
‘…yeah.’
Oh honey, this was going to be a mess from the start.
***
Tags: @grogusmum, @wyn-dixie, @winter-fox-queen
Let me know if you wanna be added to the tag list!
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tizzymcwizzy · a year ago
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Marichat May Day 1 - Witch Au
Day 1! Let's see how this goes haha, (´-﹏-`;)
I had this little witch Marinette sketch on my wall for a while, so it feels good to finally draw her!
@marichatmay
I have some plot for this, maybe expect more? I’m not sure.
Marinette is a witch. Well, she only recently became a witch actually, her parents aren't the least bit magical, but somehow she was blessed at birth to gain magical powers at 14, at least that's what everyone tells her.
Magical people and magical beings are no stranger to her, but she had never expected to be magical at all, just plain, like her parents. So, going to an ancient boarding school in the wizard district of town is very new, and very frightening.
One day, her new best friend and guide through her new uncanny life, Alya, recommends she goes and tries this roadside food cart that's famous around town,
"I'll take you there, I promise!" Alya says gathering her books to leave for the newspaper club meeting. "It’s gonna be so great, but I’ve got to run, I'll see you later girl!"
Well, that later was, in fact, a not-later because of delays with the newspaper, making Alya need to stay behind and help out. And that would have been fine, right? They could just go some other time, Marinette was exactly that keen on going anyway. Except, that Alya, being the blabbermouth she was known for, had told her clubmates about their little rendezvous to the famous food cart. Now, Marinette has to make the trip by herself to an unfamiliar part of town, deep in the magical district. Great.
But, Marinette will be fine, she has a broom and GPS, and she'll do anything for a friend! Of course, she will be fine. Of course.
Well, considering she'd only learned how to ride a broom about 2 weeks ago it could've gone a lot worse.
Marinette arrives at the cart, list, and pile of money in hand, as well as a little disoriented from the broom ride, but in one piece, which is a win in her book.
And actually, the food cart is really good! If she hammers down the warped edges of her route here, she could probably pick up lunch for herself every day. The prices are great, and surprisingly, it tastes a bit like home.
So, Marinette goes to this food cart every other day, ordering something for herself and taking requests from her fellow students as she's found the quickest route to the cart.
And it's all fairly normal, as normal as her life can be, until one day, she comes on a Tuesday instead of a Monday, it rained pretty bad Monday and one of her classes was canceled due to a magical mishap or whatever so she came on a Tuesday, but, there was one thing that was special about Tuesdays.
"-that's why I'll never go into the sea again." Andre laughed, shining a cup and putting back on the shelf behind him.
"Aw come on, I bet it wasn’t that bad," Marinette said, taking another sip out of her smoothie.
"You didn't see its eyes as I did, Marinette, it had the eyes of the devil," Andre made a face and stared her down before they both burst into laughter. They settled into a comfortable silence as Andre continued to clean his utensils and wipe down the counter of the cart.
Then, something quite peculiar happened.
A small black cat hopped up onto the barstool next to her. She paid it no mind, as animals seemed to come and go as they pleased for the most part. But, the cat leaned up onto the table and dropped a single silver coin in front of Andre. Andre took the coin silently and turned around to get something off the shelf. She didn't really see it, she was too focused on the cat. It glanced at her out of the corner of its eye. Then, Andre placed a small bag on the table in front of the cat. It took the bag in its mouth, nodded to him, and then turned to her. Its eyes were bright emerald green, more dazzling than any gem she'd ever seen in her life, and it nodded to her once, before hopping off the bench and walking away down the crowded street.
"D- did that cat just pay for its food?" She sputtered, turning back to an unimpressed Andre.
"That cat used to steal those pastries, every Tuesday at the same time. Once I caught it and gave it a good talking to about stealing and such, it started to bring me a silver coin in exchange." Andre looked off in the direction the cat had left. "Well, anyway, Marinette it's almost 12, you don't want to be late for your charms class." He turned around and closed a box of pastries on the shelf.
"R-right," She whispered, sliding off the bench, but still watching down the road the cat had left.
She started coming on Tuesday instead of Monday.
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cecilspeaks · a year ago
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175 - The October Monologues
[static] [slightly distorted] The trees are dying again. You know it, I know it. The trees know it. They have known it for decades, centuries in some cases. The shiver of cyclic, symbolic death. A rattle in the cold night air. A rustle in the footsteps of a hungry deer. It is October and something is different. It is October and the trees draw the crackling red and orange curtain in the year’s final act. It is October, and so listeners, dear listeners, Night Vale community radio is proud to introduce The October Monologues.  
Faceless Old Woman: I am lonely. Oh, I see people. I see lots of people every day. I see you right now. I see you, Caleb, sitting in your rolling desk chair, hunched over your computer. I am a faceless old woman who secretly lives in your home, watching you download yet another video game, Caleb.
But seeing people and being with people are different things. Different ideas altogether. I miss touch most of all. A father’s hand, a friend’s arms. A lover’s chest. I still touch, am touched, but it is not the same. It is not a mutual touch. My touch is unwelcome, unfriendly, unwanted. Yet I touch because I love.
And I love you, Caleb. I do. I know you don’t believe me after what I did to you tonight, but I do. My love is not romantic nor maternal. It’s not platonic, either. I love you the way a deer loves a cornfield. It is safe, it is nourishing. It is in its DNA to want to be there, to hide, to eat, to play. You’re very much like a cornstalk, Caleb. You are loved and you are benign. Better than benign, you are a contribution to this world. The cornstalk is unaware that a deer loves it so much that it will bend it and stomp it until its edible morsels spill out from its crumpled empty husk. The cornstalks, there are so many cornstalks, do not understand that they are so loved by the deer as to be devoured.
You’ve seen a kitten before, Caleb, I know you have. Sometimes kittens are so cute. So so so so cute that you wanna put them in your mouth. Do you understand that kind of love, Caleb, that kind of touch? You do not, no one does. And this is why I’m lonely. But I think you know that. You’re different. You’re lonely too. That’s not what makes you different, we’re all lonely in our own way.
You’re different, Caleb, because you know I am here. You see me even when I do not want to be seen. No one has been able to do that in at least 200 years. Sometimes you speak to me. Not in terror, not in rage; I’ve heard many of these voices in my life from those who feared and detested my presence. No, you ask me my name. I won’t tell you, not yet. You tell me about your day, I’m sorry your new boss is so mean, I will rectify this. And last night, you prepared a dinner for me. You’re not a good cook, I can smell that much, but it was your gesture of generosity that touched me. You made cashio e pepe, a recipe you learned from TikTok, and you prepared a bowl just for me. You waited to see if I would appear, and when I did not, you told me you understood wanting to eat alone, so you left it for me on the dining room table, as you went to play the new flight simulator.
Few men have ever been this kind to me before being frightened into it first, or without using their kindness as a disguise. I think you genuinely understand your own quiet desperation among the mass of men. And in turn, you understand others too. I don’t trust the kindness of men, Caleb. I don’t trust the kindness of women, either. Or anyone else’s kindness, to be truthful, but I especially don’t trust men’s kindness. There are exceptions. Andre, whose kindness was loyalty and honesty, and Albert, although his was a much different kind of kindness.
But Caleb, 23-year-old, unshaven, video game loving, boss hating aimless Caleb, your kindness frightens me. I’m scared of what you want, what it is you plan to take from me. Kind men have stolen my childhood, my morals, my money, my love, my life, and my family. What will you take from me, Caleb, that I have not already lost? I’m afraid. I’m afraid to respond to your gentle bait of friendship, because I am afraid you will take my loneliness from me. I am lonely, and that is a choice I have made for myself.
One day, Caleb, you will die. I know exactly when. It will not be of my hand, although I will do nothing to stop it. It is my fate, my path, to know such things. And in your death, you will return my loneliness to me, and it will be a horror to behold, bloody and misshapen. My loneliness, not recognizing its former owner, will howl an unholy and unceasing cry, and I will not be able to bear it.
This is what I fear, Caleb, and this is why I took the bowl of cashio e pepe you left for me and hurled it against the wall, just missing your cheek. I’m not sad that you screamed at me, I’m happy that you did so. This is how it has to be. We are not enemies, Caleb, no no. I love you deeply. Deeper than you can know. I am your deer Caleb, and you are my corn.
Cecil: The fiery flash of fall leaves stuns us, captivates us. Fireworks in slow motion. Or the crackling embers of a finishing flame. Upon the leaves are written instructions for how to make oxygen, how to give life, with every exhalation. How  to find flair in fading grace, and how to raise new life by falling to your death. The leaves know they will return again, so much will return again. We return now to the October Monologues.
Michelle Nguyen: There’s this new song I like, but I don’t wanna tell you what it is. I find it kind of embarrassing. Usually I love to talk about my favorite music. There was that summer I was obsessed with the new single by Saint Vincent. The single came in the form of a glazed vase containing three blue flowers. Only one was ever made, and I got the only copy. I found it very catchy, but the flowers eventually died. Or the year I spent listening over and over to that new Janelle Monae album. I forget the name, but the cover was a black and white picture of a well, and if you didn’t share it with someone else in 7 days, you would die. Of course no one ever died, because the album was so good, people just couldn’t stop telling their friends to listen.
My favorite song of all time is a blank cassette tape still in its plastic wrapper. It was owned by a man named Gary Joy. He was a real estate lawyer, reasonably successful, but he always dreamed of being a singer/songwriter. He dreamed all the time of quitting his job and writing songs, but he had never even written one song. Then one day, in a fit of optimism and energy, he bought this cassette, intending to make his first memo. But the day got away from him, and then the week, and then the rest of his life, and he never quit being a lawyer, and he never even wrote one song. This blank cassette tape, still in its wrapper, contains the potential of all the songs he could have written but never did, which is better and more powerful than any song anyone’s actually managed to write. The potential of the thing is always more perfect than the reality of the thing. However, and this is the crucial drawback, the potential is absolutely useless and the reality, however imperfect, can be quite useful. Anyway, I like to hold Gary Joy’s unwritten demo and imagine what it would be like. Hold on, sorry. There’s a customer.
[bell dings] Welcome to Dark Owl Records. What? No, no. No. No! No. OK, bye! [bell dings] Sorry about that. Some people are so unreasonable. I don’t even know what a Taylor Swift is.
But there’s a new song I like, and it’s not cool like my other favorite songs. It’s not a song that fits the kind of image I like to project. When I put on my mirrored leggings, my extra long jorts, and my really big hat, people expect something from me. They expect me to be on the cutting edge. They expect me only to be into bands that aren’t popular yet, or will never be popular, or that frankly don’t know how to play their instruments very well. And the song I like now is not any of those things. It’s… ordinary. It’s… popular. I don’t wanna say what it is. Remember when I only listened to the sound of beez buzzing? That was a good summer. Of course I got stung once or twice or 30 times. [sighs] Hold on, sorry, there’s a customer.
[bell dings] Welcome to Dark Owl Records! Hey. Hey! Hey! Hey! HEEEEY! Thanks, nice to see you again. [bell dings] Sorry about that.
I’m tired of being cool. I was going to say trying to be cool, but trying implies the possibility of failure, and there has never been a moment when I’ve failed to be cool. But here’s the hard truth I’ve come up against: being cool is a young person’s game. And that’s not because young people are better or more interesting than older people. God no. God no. God no! It’s that coolness itself is a concept tied to youth. Coolness is a reactionary manifestation of insecurity. The more insecure you are, the cooler you need to be. It’s colorful plumage. But as I’ve gotten older, I no londer need flashy plumage. I just wanna sit in the comfort of who I am, and not worry about what that looks like from the outside.
Anyway, I can’t stop listening to “Karma Police” by Radiohead. It’s just… a good song, you know? Hold on, sorry, there’s a customer.
[bell dings] You! You’ll never catch me alive! [sound of running] [bell dings]
Cecil: An abundance of words, words falling, fluttering to the earth. Words crunching beneath our feet. They were beautiful once, the words. Now they are beginning to rot, to wilt, to compost, to ferment new growth. To fertilize new words growing upon great trunks of paragraphs and chapters, but not now. Those will come later. Now the words sputter and drop in spiraling arcs to the ground. Here, then, are the final few brightly painted words falling upon you now. The October Monologues.
Steve Carlsberg: What does it mean to be believed? I’ve always known that Night Vale isn’t like other places. As long as I can remember, I could see that. I could also see that no one else could see it. I was alone in my knowledge. Knowledge may be power, but power is often lonely. My grandfather knew. He could see that I was like him. “Steve,” he would say, “us Carlsbergs have always been the town pariahs, but just because they hate you, doesn’t mean they’re right.” I would sit at night as a kid and listen to Cecil on the radio. He was the same age as he is now, and at the time he seemed so wise. But I would hear him dismiss what I knew shouldn’t be dismissed. I would hear him cover up what should be uncovered, and I would know with a child’s certainty that it was wrong. I loved him still. Everyone in town loves Cecil. It is possible to love someone who you know is doing wrong. It’s terribly easy, in fact.
What does it mean to be believed? As a teenager, I started trying to express what I saw about the world. I gave a presentation in my social studies class called “Night Vale – there’s literally nowhere like it”, and I thought it was informative. The class all plugged their ears in unison. The teacher stopped me a minute in, glancing nervously at the 8 surveillance cameras monitoring the classroom. “Are you trying to get us all killed?” the teacher hissed at me. I remember that her breath smelled like Strawberry Jolly Ranchers, and there was a lose crumb of mascara in the sweat of her temples. “No,” I said. I didn’t know what to say. It’s not the kind of question that demands a sincere answer. The report earned me a trip to the principal’s office, and then the re-education pit, which honestly is not as bad as its name. I mean, almost not as bad. It’s pretty bad. It’s a pit, for re-education. So, certainly learned something from that re-education. I learned that you’re equally likely to be punished for being right as you are for being wrong.
What does it mean to be believed? I was a young man entering the workforce, and I had long ago learned to hide away what I knew about my city. I had learned the handshake and the smile, the nod and the necktie, all the signifiers that hid what I truly signified. All of life is a code, and I had been thought the key against my will.
I got a job as a bank teller at the Last Bank of Night Vale. I studied with great interest the townsfolk who came and went there. I learned about their lives and their secrets, and what kind of money they made for the whispered deals out back of quiet parking lots just before the sun went down, pulled up next to a black Sedan that contained their handler who they only knew by a false first name. but I couldn’t forget what I knew, even if I learned to playact that I had. What I know shapes who I am. I can’t close my eyes, not to this town I love. This weird and secret town I love.
What does it mean to be believed? Then I married into the family of Cecil Palmer, host of Night Vale community radio! And he hated me, because he could see that I knew. And after all these years, my mask had slipped a little. I’d lost my interest in hiding. I wanted to speak the truth as I knew it, nothing could be more threatening to Cecil. His life and livelihood depended on speaking the truth as the City Council wanted it. Or as the Vague yet Menacing government agencies crafted it. And here I was, pointing out to him the sky. There are glowing arrows in the sky, there are dotted lines and arrows and circles. The sky is a chart that explains the entire world! I tried to tell him, and this only made him hate me more. I tried to share who I was with him, and this only made him recoil. 
Abby listened to my stories, but she never shared my enthusiasm for the truth. “Let it lie,” she would say, “let it lie.” But that’s he point, I can’t let it lie and I can’t lie! We’ve done that for too long! We’ve let our town sit heavy under the weight of euphemism and half truth, and unless someone just said what they saw for once, we would be crushed eventually by that weight!
And then it all changed. I wasn’t alone. The others saw that we lived in a weird place. And you know what? We kept existing. Our world didn’t end merely because we dared acknowledge it. Cecil and I are friends now. I haven’t forgotten how he treated me, but I understand it and I forgive it. Forgiveness and understanding are not the same as forgotten.
What does it mean to be believed? It means everything. It means all.
Cecil: And as the leaves are done, so are the October Monologues. All that can be said has been said. And all that can be said will be said again.
Today’s proverb: Listen, it might seem like everything’s bad right now.
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carewyncromwell · 8 months ago
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The next Cinderella AU part is here...and I am so thrilled about this part, because not only do we get a new character (who I’m quite sure you can identify from the sketch above -- only my second time drawing him ever, and I’m actually pretty happy with it!), but we’ll also get a nice serving of drama! Goodie!!
Robin Hood as a legendary figure first originated through the oral tradition, so its history is a little hard to plot out, but his first reference in writing is a ballad from the 15th century. Although our modern image of Robin Hood is that of a chaotic good heroic figure, his original incarnation was decidedly less saintly -- he was a bandit, and although he did refrain from stealing from women, he was rather violent, reckless, and hot-tempered, as well as flagrantly against both clerics and all nobility. Robin Hood’s backstory of being a disgraced nobleman who turned outlaw after losing his title and land and who remains loyal to the “good king” Richard while opposing the unlawful regent Prince John was added later, presumably to make him a bit more “approachable” to an Elizabethan audience who was more accustomed to hearing tales about nobility (just look at a lot of Shakespeare’s plays from that period -- many of them center around royalty or the upper class). Plays about or referencing Robin Hood then increased in popularity on the British Isles throughout the 16th and early 17th century, until the rise of Puritanism in the 1640′s put a halt to theatrical productions. (Bloody kill-joys.) For more information on the history of Robin Hood’s development, I strongly recommend this analysis done by Overly Sarcastic Productions (...actually, just watch everything on their channel, it’s all great XD).
Previous part is here -- whole tag is here -- Katriona “KC” Cassiopeia belongs to @kc-needs-coffee -- and I hope you enjoy!
x~x~x~x
Carewyn had a lot of trouble returning to her daily routine at the palace the following morning. Getting so close to the border with Orion and hearing about how much scarier it was likely to get on the battlefield made her all the more worried for Jacob’s well-being. Even if the spell Charles Cromwell had paid for nine years ago made it so that Jacob would stay alive as long as he willed it, Carewyn dreaded the thought of what harm, physical and emotional, that Jacob might face. If she only had some idea which battalion he was a part of and where on the front he’d be, then she could always just try to send a letter his way...maybe even ask Orion to drop it off to the camp for her, since his father was an officer. But Carewyn had combed every military roster she could get her hands on, but hadn’t been able to find a single record of Jacob anywhere.
‘He must be under another name,’ Carewyn told herself. 
It wouldn’t be too unreasonable that Charles wouldn’t want Jacob to advance in the ranks on the back of their family name. And really, Carewyn knew full well how displeased her grandfather would be if he found out she was trying to reach out to her brother without his approval -- he could’ve even forced Jacob to take on another name, just to try to make it that bit harder for Carewyn to contact him without his approval...
Carewyn’s friends noticed a rather abrupt shift in her mood. She was singing as always, but her choices were a bit less upbeat and her voice sounded oddly distracted and nostalgic. At one point, Andre mentioned offhandedly that he’d been designing themed outfits for his friends to wear to his mother’s New Year Eve’s Masque Ball, but Carewyn had trouble putting much attention on it.
“I’ve already finished some ‘owl wings’ on a cape for KC and a fur-trimmed wolf mask and gown for Erika...I was thinking perhaps a stag for Bill, a dragon for Charlie, and a lioness for Ginny? I considered a horse at first, but I think a pale gold would make her just glow, don’t you think? Yours I’m most excited for, though...I’m hoping to actually make your newest pair of shoes with fabric on the inside for comfort and diamond on the outside for sturdiness, if I can manage it!”
“Mm...that sounds great,” said Carewyn absently.
Her gaze was drawn out the nearest window, as far out as she could.
“...Andre,” she said slowly, “I realize this is very last minute, but...may I have this afternoon off, to go see my family?”
Andre blinked. “Is something the matter?”
“Oh no, no,” Carewyn lied with as pretty and reassuring of a smile as she could. “It’s just...well, it’s nearly Tristan’s birthday. My uncle keeps him very close to home, compared to my other cousins...I merely thought I might stop by and bake him a little something, as a surprise.”
Andre frowned slightly. “You...get along better with your uncle and his son than with Iris, then?”
“No, but Tristan is only a boy. It’s hard to hold any bad behavior against him. And well, maybe if he and the others don’t know I made it, he’ll enjoy it better.”
Carewyn could see Andre still looked confused and a little dismayed, so she quickly added, “I’ll be back by tomorrow morning, in time for my rounds. I won’t allow it to interrupt my duties.”
Andre offered a hesitant smile. “Well, all right...if it really means that much to you.”
Carewyn’s eyes softened. “Thank you, Andre -- I really appreciate it.”
Fortunately for Carewyn, Andre wasn’t the best at picking up on other people’s pretenses. Unfortunately for Carewyn, two of his most regular confidantes were his cousin KC and fencing instructor Erika, and they did pick up on Carewyn’s odd behavior.
“She said she wanted to surprise her cousin with something for his birthday?” asked KC, frowning deeply. 
“Well, yeah,” said Andre. “I admit, it seemed a little weird to do something so nice without even wanting credit, but Carewyn is an awfully selfless sort. From the way she made it sound, she just wanted to do something nice for him.”
“And you believed her?” said Erika rather coldly. 
She whacked Andre’s practice sword out of his hand with her own, making the Crown Prince hiss in pain. 
“I’ve told you before, Prince Henri -- you all may think Carewyn Cromwell’s nothing like her family, but that’s absolute bunk. She might be more pleasant than them, but she’s not stupid and she’s not honest. Or did you not notice that that weird guy she hangs out with keeps calling her ‘his lady,’ as if she weren’t the penniless orphan of a deadbeat merchant?”
Erika picked up Andre’s sword and tossed it back to him with ease. 
“Then of course that guy himself is shady as all get out.”
Andre frowned. “You mean Orion? Come on, Erika, he isn’t that bad -- I thought he seemed quite amiable, myself. Don’t you agree, KC?”
“He is,” said KC fairly. “But Erika isn’t completely off-base. There is a lot about Orion that we don’t know -- that even Carewyn herself doesn’t know. She admitted as much to me, after I first met him. That being said,” she raised her own sword and got into position to attack Andre, “I don’t think Orion’s a threat. You would think anyone with the ability to sneak over the palace walls not once but twice would’ve tried to make some move to attack you by now, but he’s only ever come looking for Carewyn. And although I don’t completely understand the reason behind why she’s acting like a lady around him,” she shot Erika a faintly reproachful look as she and Andre traded blows, “I’m pretty sure it has more to do with her own insecurities than because she’s a terrible person -- ow! Damn it!”
Andre had successfully disarmed KC. 
“Insecurities?” he said, his eyebrows furrowing in concern. “What is there for her to be insecure about? I mean, yes, she has no dowry, and taking Orion’s wardrobe into account, I’d suppose he has to come from a family with modest wealth -- but Orion seemed to enjoy the Weasleys’ company quite well, and their family is poor. I think they’d make a lovely match, really,” he added with a rather smug grin. “They even matched at the Festival, without realizing it.”
KC massaged her wrist, frowning a bit sourly. “Yes...but Carewyn is solely under Lord Cromwell’s charge. He’s the one who sent her here. He’s the only guardian she really has. And I think it’s quite clear how much influence he has over his family -- even his daughters who married into other esteemed families still live at his estate with their husbands and children, rather than moving out onto their own estates. And in Carewyn’s case, she doesn’t even have a parent to help shield her from Lord Cromwell’s will. She doesn’t have a penny to her name. So that means, in effect, she’s chained to him, and in those circumstances...well...”
She hesitated. 
"Well what?” Andre prompted her. 
KC looked incredibly uncomfortable. 
“I didn’t want to say anything before without knowing for sure...but I think someone’s been looking at our military ledgers, documenting troop placements. Everything’s neatly put away the way they should be, but there are more fingerprints on them than before. And usually I’m the only one who has much use to look those up, whenever I’m ready to suggest a new war strategy...”
Erika’s eyes narrowed very sharply and she got right up into KC’s space. “And you’re only just saying this now?! That information could be critical to Royaume’s enemies! What if that guy Orion sneaked in not just to see Cromwell, but to get his hands on those? Or what if it was Cromwell herself, working in collusion with him?”
“Impossible,” Andre said forcefully. “Carewyn would never be a spy for the enemy -- it’s not in her character.”
“And I don’t think Orion would know where those documents would be, even if he did sneak in,” said KC. 
Erika, however, looked unconvinced as she made for the door. “You can coddle those two all you want, but I plan to tell the King and Queen -- they’ll want to interrogate Cromwell and this ‘Orion Freeman’...”
“Erika, belay that!” Andre said in a suddenly much sharper and more authoritative voice. “That’s an order.”
Once Erika had stopped walking and turned back around, the Crown Prince exhaled heavily and crossed his arms in a business-like manner. 
“I’ll get to the bottom of this,” he said firmly. “If Carewyn is heading to the Cromwell estate, she’ll have to take the road through town, correct? I’ll simply take a horse and follow the road after her.”
Erika and KC looked startled. 
“Uh, Andre,” said KC, “you haven’t forgotten that you’re not allowed to leave the palace, have you?”
Andre smirked. “No. I’m just sneaking out.”
Before Erika and KC could articulate an argument, he added in a much sassier voice, “Look, I’m doing it whether you come with me or not. I’d appreciate the company if you want to come along -- all I expect is that you’ll dress appropriately. I hear linens and cottons are fashionable for those who don’t wish to attract attention.”
And so Andre, KC, and Erika made preparations to follow Carewyn...completely unaware that a half-hour earlier, Bill and Charlie Weasley had -- after having a similar, but much more concerned conversation with Badeea Ali about Carewyn clearly lying to Andre’s face -- decided to take their horses and tail their friend themselves. And sure enough, the two eldest Weasleys soon enough found themselves following Carewyn on the road heading northeast, avoiding the Cromwell estate all together.
At the very same time, in Florence, Orion had finalized his plan. Today was the day he was going to request a formal audience with Prince Henri, as Prince Cosimo VII. As Carewyn had said, he’d need to act fast if he was going to stop his father from finding a way to complete his own ruthless strategy -- the battlefield itself would be a difficult place for Orion to make his case, with so many distractions, but he knew a more balanced, peaceful setting wouldn’t be. And so he wrote a long letter to the King, explaining everything that he had learned from Royaume and its people as well as Florence’s own, so as to make a case for peace. He then had the court magician Severus Snape deliver it to the Florentine camp in his stead, while he dressed in his finest and prepared to leave for Royaume. 
When he made as if to take his own horse, however, Orion found Skye and McNully waiting for him, a black coach already prepared. 
“If you’re planning on going to meet Prince Henri, you really should arrive in style,” said McNully with a wry smile. “A good first impression to the King and Queen would help your case by a good 45%.”
“And you have to know there’s no way in Hell we’re going to let you go out and expose your true identity to the enemy without back-up,” Skye added, her arms crossed over her chest. “
Orion’s black eyes softened. “...Thank you.”
As he climbed into the carriage, both McNully and Skye’s faces nonetheless betrayed some hesitation. 
“Are you sure you want to do this?” McNully asked. “There’s a 74% chance they’ll respond badly to it -- I reckon there’s a 39.5% chance they’ll try to arrest you on the spot and hold you as a prisoner of war...”
“I carry no weapons with me, and I come with the explicit purpose of diplomacy,” said Orion levelly. “Therefore I’m not an enemy combatant. As long as I follow their direction while under their roof, then any harm they might do me would be violating the conventions of war...and the Royaumanians, for all of their flaws, do have honor.”
“One could make a case for you having been involved in espionage, though,” McNully pointed out, but Orion ignored him and settled down in the carriage, crossing his legs offhandedly. 
“What about Lady Cromwell?” said Skye, her voice a bit lower and more concerned. “She’ll find out you’re a Florentine. And not just any Florentine, the Prince of Florence.”
Something sad flickered through Orion’s confident, unflappable expression.
“She was going to learn the truth sooner or later,” he murmured. “If our time together has come to an end...then at least I may have the memories to hold onto...and the knowledge that by ending this War peacefully, I may have spared her of more heartache.”
He closed his eyes and began to meditate, clearly having said his piece on the matter. Skye and McNully, however, couldn’t help but exchange a look that was both anxious and very sad. 
As long as they’d known Orion, he’d always been a little reckless, but he was also passive and avoided direct confrontation. This plan to directly appeal to Royaume’s royal family, however, required a lot of guts  -- far more than either of them had thought Orion possessed. And they knew such courage could only have been encouraged by one person...the very same person who Orion loved so much that he would choose to follow her example and protect what she loved, even if it meant destroying their relationship forever. 
Orion meditated during most of the journey to the Royaumanian palace. It was merely fortunate that, as they approached, McNully broke him out of his trance by tapping him on the shoulder and pointing out the window. If he hadn’t, then Orion would not have seen a rather familiar trio of riders on horseback, riding through town past them -- a short, stocky lady with dark red hair and freckles; a very tall blonde with a square jaw and sharp eyes; and a very handsome dark-skinned man dressed in a purple tunic, emerald green pants, and gold-buckled black boots. 
“Stop the carriage!” said Orion, his soft, level voice nonetheless very firm despite not rising in volume. 
He barely waited for the carriage to completely stop before slamming the door open and jumping out.
“Andre! KC!”
Andre, KC, and Erika all stopped their horses in an abrupt halt and turned around as Orion dashed up to them.
“Orion?” said Andre, startled. 
KC looked from the rather finely dressed Orion to the expensive-looking black coach behind him and back. Erika’s eyes narrowed critically upon Orion as he came to a stop in front of them, his hands clasping in front of him. 
“I...had not expected to see you out and about,” said Orion, trying to put on his most pleasant, calm expression. 
Andre glanced over his shoulder up the road, frowning deeply. “Yes, well...some business has come up.”
“Orion, have you seen Carewyn?” KC asked him, her face very serious. 
Orion blinked. 
“Not since last night,” he said. He could feel his heart starting to beat faster. “Why? Is something wrong?”
“Never you mind,” barked Erika, as she turned back to the road. “Come on, we don’t want to lose the trail -- ”
“Erika,” reproached Andre, before he turned back to Orion, his face visibly concerned. “...Carewyn asked for the afternoon off to go see her family, but it was very last minute, which isn’t like her. And according to what we’ve heard in town, there’s been no traffic down the road toward the Cromwell estate in the last four hours...”
“So Carewyn had to have been lying about where she was going,” finished KC, her face much more stoic but her voice no less tense. “We need to find her and figure out why.”
Orion’s eyebrows had furrowed over his widening black eyes. His heartbeat was slamming in his ears as the memory of Carewyn in the woods returned to him -- looking northward, toward the army camps, as if longing to run toward them --
“I know where she’s gone,” he said at once. 
He rushed back to the coach, grabbing onto the window frame and standing on the boot of the carriage. 
“To the northern border,” he urged Skye, who sat in the driver’s seat. “Quickly!”
“The border?” repeated Skye as a sharp whisper. “But Orion, your meeting with the Prince -- ”
“Can come later,” Orion told her very firmly under his breath. “Both he and I must get to the war front.”
He shot a significant look over his shoulder in Andre’s direction. McNully, putting two-and-two together, nodded and inched himself up to the window of the carriage. 
“If you tie one or more of your horses to the carriage, we should decrease our travel time by a good 21% per horse,” he told Erika, KC, and Andre. “If Carewyn left an hour ago, then with one horse, we should be able to overtake her within an half-hour -- two, within twenty minutes, and three, within ten. Though with Orion on the boot, there’s a 12% chance he’ll fall off if we ride at full speed, so we might have to go at 95% instead -- ”
KC fixed the blond-haired man with an incredulous look as she leapt off her horse. 
“Are you really calculating all that on the fly,” she asked, looking as if she wasn’t sure whether to be impressed or amused, “or are you just pulling those numbers out of fat air?”
McNully couldn’t help but grin. “Excellent! Now I can officially say that I’ve been asked that question over a hundred times before.” 
Still looking faintly bewildered, KC moved to help Andre, who’d quickly started attaching his, Erika’s, and her horse’s to the front of the carriage with the two black ones already pulling it, ignoring Erika’s incredibly sour and distrustful expression. There was no time to lose. 
From the boot of the carriage, Orion directed Skye down the same road he’d taken with Carewyn the previous night, Andre, Erika, and KC riding with McNully inside the coach. Once they’d reached the forest, Orion caught sight of a familiar-looking golden eagle with a bandaged wing -- at the sight of the Florentine prince, the eagle gave a loud shriek and flew down into the trees, and Orion urged Skye to pursue him into the woods. The road took them deep into the trees, until at last the eagle landed on a branch over the heads of two familiar-looking ginger-haired men, who were bound with thick rope to a tree. 
Bill and Charlie were stunned at the sight of such an elegant coach, but were absolutely beside themselves with relief at the sight of Andre, KC, and Erika. Erika immediately yanked a knife out of her ankle boot and set about sawing off their bindings -- once she’d cut Charlie free, he immediately rushed forward and grabbed Andre’s shoulders. 
“We’ve got to hurry!” he said anxiously. “They’ve got Carey!”
“‘They?’” said Andre, very startled. “They who?”
“This band of Florentine bandits,” said Bill, his voice very low and urgent. He kept maneuvering his bindings as Erika cut them to try to sever them faster. “They cornered us so they could try to rob us -- they were willing to let Carey go since she was a lady, but she bartered with the leader, saying that they could take her so long as they left us alone. Claimed that they could probably get more money from holding her hostage than us, given her family...”
Both Skye and McNully glanced at Orion. The Prince’s face had lost most of its color -- he’d turned his face away and closed his eyes, breathing in and out slowly as he tried to stabilize his emotions. 
“The bandits in these woods are Florentines, so I doubt they will harm you,” Baroness McGonagall’s words returned to his mind, “but I cannot be sure how they would respond to a Royaumanian, especially one related to one of their wealthiest noblemen.”
“They took all three of our horses and tied us to the tree so that we wouldn’t follow them,” growled Charlie. “They left us a knife so that we’d be able to cut ourselves free, but it’s so dull I reckon it would’ve taken us hours to do it ourselves...”
Bill succeeded in snapping the weakened ropes in half and leapt back to his feet, massaging his wrists. 
“They must have taken her to a camp of theirs,” said KC, her dark blue eyes narrowing. “Even bandits need some base of operation.”
McNully nodded, resting his arms on the edge of the coach’s window. “The lady is right. Given where we are, I’d say the odds are fairer that it’s southeast of here.”
“Closer to the Florentine side of the border, you mean,” presumed KC, and McNully nodded again. 
“They were heading south through the woods,” said Bill. “But we won’t want to bring the coach. They stopped us because they wanted money -- if they have any reason to think any of you have it, they’ll no doubt want to imprison you too...”
“On the contrary,” said Orion in a very low voice, “this carriage may be just the thing we need, to ensure that they don’t imprison us.”
Everyone looked at Orion, their faces all a mixture of incredulity and revulsion, but he seemed disinterested in explaining himself. 
“We must be quick, McNully,” said Orion, and although his voice and face were as level and unreadable as ever, they both betrayed a slight edge. “Time is not on our side.”
With Bill now sitting with the driver’s seat next to Skye and Charlie hanging off the boot with Orion, the black coach set off again. Overhead Orion caught sight of the wounded eagle again, which shrieked at them warningly -- the Prince thought it must mean they were close, but did not respond fast enough to the trap set out in front of them. 
The coach rode right through a certain cluster of vines, and within seconds, they had magically sprung to life, lashing themselves around the limbs of the five horses pulling the coach. The steeds reared back, panicked -- Skye immediately yanked out a sword from her belt and began hacking away at them, and Erika and Andre both leapt from the carriage with their own swords to help, but it was no use. The vines only lashed onto them, binding all three of them fast and making it impossible for them to move. And when things seemed like they couldn’t be any worse, without warning, a group of green-dressed men and women had swung down from more vines attached to the nearby trees, surrounding them in a tight noose-like circle and pointing their arrow-decked bows at them. 
They were trapped. 
“Well, well,” said a voice from the trees above, “we don’t often see coaches that ritzy out here.”
The voice’s owner leapt down to the ground. Unlike his companions, his hooded tunic was yellow instead of green. When he lifted his head enough that they could see his face, it was the host of a mischievous smirk. 
“Especially ones crafted in Florence,” the dark-haired and eyed bandit said breezily. 
Andre, KC, Erika, and the Weasleys all stiffened. 
“Florence?” breathed Bill. 
They all as a unit whirled on Orion. His face was remarkably calm and solemn as he stepped off the coach and in front of the others and faced the bandits’ leader, his hands clasped in front of him. 
“We do not come seeking trouble,” he said. “We merely come to retrieve a lady who surrendered herself to you. Frame like a robin’s. Hair the color of a red sunset. Eyes the color of the sky.”
The bandit’s leader raised his eyebrows curiously. “The maid called Cromwell?”
“That is her.”
“And what reason would you desire her in your custody?” challenged one of the green-dressed bandits with a cocked eyebrow, a dashing man with tanned skin and dark brown hair. 
“Wants to ransom her off himself, no doubt,” sneered another woman with messy brown hair and cold magenta eyes. “He probably works for Lord Malfoy -- we all know he’s the sort to make money off illicit enterprises and keep it all to himself, rather than give it to anyone who actually needs it...”
Two of the other bandits -- a pair of women with long red and short pink hair, respectively -- exchanged a sour look. 
“We have nothing to do with Lord Malfoy,” spat Skye, vainly tugging against the vines binding her. “We wouldn’t collaborate with that rat if you paid us -- !”
“Skye,” said Orion in a quelling voice. 
The last bandit, a very strong-looking man with dark red hair and emerald green eyes, frowned deeply at the leader, who considered Orion carefully. 
“I know your face,” he murmured. 
Orion inclined his head, his black eyes boring into the other man’s face. “I’m sure you do.”
The leader’s thin-lidded eyes narrowed critically -- then they widened, realizing. 
“Bring out Lady Cromwell at once,” he said abruptly. 
The others all whirled on him. 
“What?!” cried all three women and the dashing man. 
“Jae, are you mad?!” said the woman with the magenta eyes. 
“Do it,” said the leader called Jae firmly, without flinching. 
The strong bandit -- the only one who hadn’t questioned the leader’s direction -- grabbed a vine, which immediately retracted back up above them. 
Jae glanced at the magenta-eyed woman. “Merula, have the vines set them loose.”
Merula looked rather scandalized. “What? Oh come on, you know how much of a pain it is, to have to recast a spell after it’s broken -- ”
“Better that we do it now than wait around for the spell to expire on its own,” Jae said dryly. 
Still looking very reluctant, Merula nonetheless did as she was told, holding up her hand, which glowed with light green. 
“The terms are now invalid,” she muttered sourly at the plants. 
The plants sparkled with a similar green flare before falling limply off of the horses, Andre, Erika, and Skye. KC and Bill moved to detangle the now harmless plants from their companions and around the horses’ legs, and Charlie moved to soothe the frightened steeds. 
Within a minute, the strong bandit was back, holding onto the vine easily with one hand and holding Carewyn under his opposite arm. She had her ginger hair tied back in a loose bun and was dressed in the green peasant dress she’d worn to the Festival and her slightly oversized brown shoes -- no doubt because it was the most comfortable dress for travel she had. Orion was also beyond relieved to see that she was perfectly unharmed -- not a single cut or bruise. 
“CAREWYN!” cried KC, Andre, Bill and Charlie in relief. 
All three of the men immediately dashed right over to her and threw their arms around her in a group hug. 
“It’s all right,” Carewyn reassured them with a small smile. “I’m all right.”
“They didn’t hurt you?” Bill interrogated her. 
“You must have been terrified -- ” said Andre. 
“Where are the horses?” asked Charlie. 
“Tied up in a makeshift stable over there,” said the pink-haired bandit with a wry grin and a vague hand gesture. 
“A bit tricky to lug them up into treehouses,” added the red-haired one cheekily. “And no, for the record, we did not hurt Carewyn Cromwell. She may be a stick in the mud, but she’s a decent sort.”
“And brave too!” said the muscled man, beaming. “She wasn’t scared at all, not even when Merula stuck a knife in her face!”
“I was only getting fed up with her smart remarks,” huffed the magenta-eyed bandit called Merula. “You’d think she was the Queen of Sheba, with how she acts...”
“She is a proper lady, to be sure,” said the dashing bandit, shooting Carewyn a rather Casanova-like smile. 
Carewyn tried to stifle a snort of laughter behind her hand as Jae approached her. 
“Seems you’ll have an escort after all, Carewyn,” he said, lowering his bow with a slightly more serious look. “I don’t think I can convince you to reconsider, but under the circumstances...well, just make sure you’re careful. I’d hate to hear of Royaume losing one of its only honorable citizens due to their own stupidity.”
Carewyn inclined her head to him, her blue eyes very solemn. “I’m far from Royaume’s most honorable citizen, Jae, nor from any other country, I daresay. But thank you.”
Jae nodded. He then looked up at Orion. 
“By your leave then, your Highness,” he said with an abbreviated bow. 
He then nodded to the other bandits, and one by one, they all disappeared back up into the trees. 
None of the people on the ground, however, gave them much mind. All of them had turned back around to face Orion -- Carewyn felt like her heart had stopped still as she stared, taking in his neat ponytail and finely tailored black doublet and hose and boots. 
“...‘Your Highness?’ ” repeated Charlie, shocked. 
Andre’s eyes widened. “Then...then you’re...?”
Orion swallowed, but somehow managed to keep his composure as he nodded. His eyes were locked on Carewyn’s face, never shifting and as turbulent as a black ocean. 
“King Cosimo’s new heir,” KC breathed, her face flooding with fresh understanding around her amazement. “Cosimo VII.”
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bittykimmy13 · a year ago
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The Clandestine Queen (GT Story)
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Premise: A trinket no taller than the pieces on a chessboard takes a champion player by surprise.
Another trinket short that is comparatively tamer than others, but intense in its own way ;) I binged The Queen's Gambit, and it inspired me to write a GT story involving chess. I had a lot of fun writing this one! Enjoy! :D
Warning: mentions of dehumanization The print / trinket universe belongs to me and the lovely @little-miss-maggie​ / @marydublin5​ <3
(( Read more about the print and trinket universe here! ))
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The wheels rolled smoothly along the carpet. She sat on her knees in a prim posture, her hands on her lap and her back straight. The glass walls around her were so polished, she could almost forget she was trapped. The steaming room-sized meal on the plate beside her kept her from forgetting entirely, though. With each door the waiter wheeled the cart past, she braced herself. He didn’t come to a stop until the last door on the right—room 3218. A luxury suite.
The waiter knocked. “Room service!”
Footsteps thudded on the other side. The door swung open to reveal a man with dark hair, dark clothing, and an even darker look on his face. How curious for someone to look so inconvenienced by the arrival of a gourmet meal they ordered.
“Good evening, sir,” the waiter said.
“Make it quick,” the man muttered, stepping back to allow the cart to pass through the door.
This gave her a full view of the suite. The first and only thing she noticed was the chessboard set up by the window, illuminated by a single lamp and the moonlight glowing through the panes. This man was here for the tournament. No wonder he looked so irked by the interruption.
Her eyes went glassy. Trinkets were supposed to be anonymous once they went through the facility, stripped of their past identities before they were sent out to whatever random bar, hotel, brothel, or business they were assigned. Since the beginning of the tournament that week, she had no doubt that her placement at this hotel was intentional, designed to taunt and torture her until she drew her last breath.
Tearing her eyes away from the chessboard, she looked up at the man as he spoke. She wondered if she had met him at some point, in her other life. He didn’t look familiar.
“I did not ask for a trinket,” the man said, barely looking at her. He had an accent that suggested Spanish or Portuguese as a first language. An international player.
“She’s complimentary, sir,” the waiter said. “A token of congratulations for your victories today.”
The man didn’t blink. “I don’t want her.”
“Would you like me to bring one that suits your preference?”
He sneered. “I am not interested in spending my night with a felon.”
The waiter cleared his throat. “Well, you can simply leave her in the case. Should you change your mind, your room key has a sensor to open it. Please ensure you place her back inside and shut it properly before leaving the room or setting the tray outside. Though, I can assure you our trinkets are well-behaved.”
The guests were less so. Twice now, she had been sampled by other people on the way to their rooms after she’d been sloppily left on the tray outside the door.
“Fine.” The man whisked the tray off the cart before the waiter could, setting it on the coffee table in front of a lounger. All the while, she held perfectly still and kept her eyes trained up at him, trying to figure out if she’d met him before.
“Have a lovely night, Mr. Soto,” the waiter said with a nod, pulling the cart out of the room. “And best of luck tomorrow.”
Soto. The name made her jaw clenched. Andres Soto. A 30-year-old champion from Argentina, visiting the U.S. for the first time. There was no way they could have met before, but they certainly would have crossed paths at some point, had things turned out differently.
She continued to stare at him as he grabbed the plate of food from beside her and took it over to the chess table, ignoring her entirely. Just when she thought that was the end of that, Andres returned to the tray.
Fear. She couldn’t stop it from coming, but she had long since learned what to do when it showed up. Even before she was a trinket. Imagine your spine turning to steel, Kate would tell her. And look your opponent in the eye.
She wet her lips and willed her spine to turn to steel, certain that he did intend on toying with her despite his disgust toward her. However, when his rattling steps paused in front of the coffee table, he merely reached down to grab the glass of red wine across the tray from her.
Again, he made it clear that she was beneath his notice.
“Is that a chessboard?” she blurted before he could walk away.
He turned back, his dark eyes locking on her. What a stupid thing to say. Why would she draw his attention when everything was in her favor? A night of being ignored was a blessing she could not have dreamed of, and here she was throwing it away. She could be like the poor trinkets that had been gathered downstairs in the dining hall, being used as game pieces by drunken tournament losers.
“Obvio,” Andres said simply, starting toward his board again.
“May I see?”
Another pause. Frustration mounted in his stance. He walked back to the coffee table with heavier steps. He loomed over her and stared down. She couldn’t be sure if he was purposely trying to intimidate her, or if it was a side-effect of him trying to figure her out. Chess players had a particular look about them, the way they tried to analyze the person before them. Which meant he viewed her at least somewhat like a person. Fascinating.
“I’m studying,” he growled out. Intimidation. No doubt. “I have no time to entertain you.”
“I’m not asking for entertainment,” she said. “Only to see the board.”
“You are bothersome.” He filled more of her vision as he bent down to pick up the tray. He started for the door. “Shall I toss you into the next room? Perhaps they will enjoy you more.”
“I want to play,” she informed him calmly. But on the inside, her heart felt like it was ripping to bloody pieces with each step that carried her away from the chessboard. She needed to see it.
Andres stopped in his tracks, making her waver in her seat only slightly. “You?” he asked skeptically.
“Me.” She shrugged and cocked her head at him. “Or I can help you study. You’re replaying today’s games, aren’t you? That’s what I’d be doing. I didn’t like it when they brought me trinkets, either.”
He lifted the tray higher and narrowed his eyes at her, his stare on the tipping point between intrigue and dangerous aggravation. “Who are you?”
“I’ve been told that my name is Queenie.”
He didn’t take the bait and ask for her real name. Some pathetic and silly part of her wanted to tell him herself without prompting. A talented player like him would recognize her name—for better or for worse. But she kept her mouth shut. For all she knew, he’d go on a power trip knowing he had a former chess champion at his mercy.
Setting the tray down, he swept up the case and carried it over to the chess table. He used the sensor on his room key to open the door for her. She stood slowly to accommodate the soreness of her knees, then stepped out onto the table. She admired the board with a fluttering heart, hiding a smile. It was a fancy one—the squares lit up where the pieces were put. Half the pieces were set aside, while the ones on the board were in active play.
Andres took a seat and picked at his food with a fork. “Here you see the twenty-second move from my last match this afternoon,” he told her. “I was black. It was her turn.”
Folding her hands behind her back, she strolled around the outside of the board, weaving around discarded pieces. She tried hard not to think about the fact that the king and queen were taller than her.
“You know,” she said. “There’s an app that can sync with this board. It allows you to record the moves of your previous games. It sets up the pieces for you, turn by turn.”
He scoffed. “You think I am not aware? I find that doing it the old-fashioned way is better. Keeps the mind sharp.”
“I agree.” She examined the placement of the pieces on the board and felt a tingle of familiar exhilaration, able to see different avenues of victory for Andres. He had his opponent cornered by this point. “How many moves left until you beat her?”
“Six, counting her next one.”
“Hm. You could have done it in three.”
He raised his eyebrows, more surprised by her impudence than annoyed. “Imposible,” he murmured in his mother tongue as he eyed the board to find what she meant. Then he shook his head. “I don’t see it.”
She gestured at the board. “May I?”
Waving his hand dismissively, he sat back and took a sip of wine. Against all odds, she was not garnishing a drink or plate tonight. For that moment, she was in the past—simply having a conversation with a rival, trying to outdo one another and pick each other’s brains. The illusion was lost when she had to actually climb onto the board. The squares lit up beneath her feet as she stepped on them.
“Let me guess,” she said. “She moved the bishop here?” The piece was only slightly shorter than her. Pushing it in a diagonal line, she gave Andres an expectant look.
“Good guess.”
Tapping her chin, she turned slowly to examine the slightly altered layout. In her mind’s eye, she could see the pieces moving and track the placement of each turn that created the five remaining moves leading to Andres’ victory. Without having to ask, she knew precisely what he and his opponent had done.
“May I show you how you could have put her away quicker?”
“Do it.” Andres watched in silence as she moved a black piece, then white, then black again.
“Checkmate,” she announced, planting one hand on her hip.
Andres set the wine glass down so hard, she thought it would shatter. He dropped his elbows on the table, rattling the board beneath her feet. Steepling his fingers, he scoured the board with his eyes and muttered to himself. Finally, his eyebrows quirked up again when he looked at her.
“Insightful. I will study this strategy.” He did not thank her, but then again, players rarely did under normal circumstances. She did sense a begrudging sense of gratitude lurking somewhere underneath, particularly when he spoke up again. “Let’s play.”
Not an offer. Not a suggestion. An order.
“I am yours tonight,” she told him just to see the faint disgust on his face at the reminder that he was spending the night with a felon.
Piss off your opponent when you can, Kate would say. Makes ‘em more likely to fuck up. Oh, and if you manage to stay classy while pissing 'em off? Honey, you're golden.
He gave her no time to move out of the way as he began to arrange the pieces into their starting positions. She was forced to stay in the middle of the board, lest he bump her with his quick movements. Although she tried to appear as calm as ever, there was a tightness to her mouth as his hands flew over her, fingers and chess pieces narrowly missing her head. Months ago, she arranged boards just as effortlessly. Now she needed both arms to move a single piece.
“Black or white?” she asked when he was finished.
“Your choice.” He plucked up a black and white pawn, one in each hand. His hands vanished under the table as he shuffled the two pieces out of her sight. Then he held his closed fists in front of her. She shuffled two steps back; he moved so quickly, she couldn’t be sure he would stop. “Choose,” he said when she stayed frozen for all of two seconds.
She pointed to his right hand, and he opened it to reveal the black piece. He placed it in front of her, and she slid it over to its spot.
And then the game began.
Andres made the first move, nudging a pawn from its place on the front line. The surreality of the situation almost left her breathless. It had been so long since she played, but all at once she felt herself fall back without a second thought, as if she hadn’t missed a single day. She was able to move the pieces on her own, up until she wanted to move a knight that was still nestled among the other pieces with no clear pathway out.
Just as she was considering carrying it around the outside of the board, a massive hand filled her vision. She flinched to the edge of the board and nearly fell off, staring up at Andres with wide eyes and a clenched jaw. He picked up the knight and weighed it in his hand.
“Where do you need it?” he asked matter-of-factly.
“F6,” she croaked.
The spike of fright did not derail the strategies that unfolded in her mind. The game went on. When she began taking some of his pieces, he did not hesitate to help her out, setting them aside without waiting for her to struggle or ask. He was just as focused as her, eager to keep the game flowing—all the more so as the game entered its thirtieth move.
She paced up and down the edge of the board, rubbing the back of her neck thoughtfully. He was good. But she knew she was better. The problem was a stark disadvantage with her size.
“I need to see the whole board,” she realized aloud. “It’s frustrating to gauge it like this.”
Laser-focused on her plight, she didn’t see Andres’ hand coming. In the forty-five minutes they had been playing, she had gotten used to him plucking up pieces and avoiding her. A fresh thrill of fear closed around her heart as his fingers pinched her waist and swept her up. She gave a choked cry, her hands digging into the sides of his fingers as her legs dangled over empty air. She was perfectly accustomed to being held like this, but amid the game, she had forgotten the reality of her life.
“You said you wanted to see the board,” he said to her reaction, and she was surprised to hear the slightest note of apology.
She looked across at his face, the way his eyebrows were furrowed in faint concern. Wetting her lips, she swallowed hard and focused down at the board. Her breathing calmed as her world began to make sense again. She could see several pathways to victory for both of them—which meant she knew exactly how to thwart him.
“Thank you,” she said when she was done, squirming slightly in his pinched grip. He put her back down with more care than he did the pieces.
Three moves later, doubt began to creep in. Not doubt that she could beat him—doubt if she should. He was a champion. She used to be. Now she was nothing but a trinket—even less important than a pawn on a chessboard. Even if she was superior in commanding the game, he held all the power over her the moment it was over.
If he was a sore loser, he could quite literally kill her.
Pursing her lips, she analyzed the board and spotted a trap he was obviously setting up for her by using his last rook and bishop. A lesser player would fall for it easily. She took the bait, pretending to be sure of herself.
“Check,” he said upon his next move.
She moved her queen, protecting her king while sealing her doom. “Right back at you.”
A little smirk lifted the corner of his mouth. He took out her queen. “And that’s checkmate.”
Sighing, she tipped her king over with both hands. It clattered and rolled a short distance. “Guess I’m out of practice,” she said.
His accursed hand moved for her again, and for a second, she thought she had thrown the game for nothing. He was going to torment her anyway. A part of her was royally ticked off—she should have let herself beat his ass if things were going to end up like this anyway. But his hand stopped just short of her, finger extended.
“Good game,” he said. “Tough game.”
She released her caught breath, looking from his finger to his face and back again. She pressed her hand to his fingertip. “Tough game,” she agreed.
“It went on longer than any of the others I played this week.” He examined her once again. It was more overwhelming when he looked at her with a multitude of things other than disgust and detached interest. “Chess is clearly close to your heart. A shame this happened to you.” He gestured vaguely at her miniature stature.
She shrugged. “Chess saved my life. And then ended it.”
He nodded as if he had any clue what she meant by that. In a way, she supposed all serious players at least understood the first half.
Andres’ hands flew around her again as he began picking up pieces and setting them back into their starting positions. “Again?” he asked. And this time it was undoubtedly an offer.
She eyed the squares on the board, the white team forming in front of her in a whirlwind. There would never be another opportunity like this again. Despite all odds, she had returned to her haven of sixty-four squares. A distraction from the real world, just for tonight.
“Again,” she said, smiling for the first time at him.
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The next night, she couldn’t decide if she was surprised to be requested back in the same room. She did not allow herself to win the night before. It was enough just to come close and know she could decimate Andres’ strategies if she wanted to. Perhaps he wanted another night of analyzing his games of the day.
One night of bliss was lucky. Two was unheard of.
Andres wasn’t any friendlier with the waiter tonight, and strangely, the moment the door shut, his hardened expression didn’t become any less guarded with her. He set the tray down and lifted the glass case before his eyes. Maybe he always needed time to thaw out.
“Congratulations,” she said, noting the gold trophy by the window. “You should be out celebrating.”
“I’m not the celebrating kind.”
She snorted. “I never would have guessed.”
The slightest smile touched his lips—obviously involuntary. His eyes did not move from her, seeking something. “When I finished my opponents early today, it gave me the time to think. And the time to replay our games from last night. You see, something was bothering me.”
Goosebumps rose along her arms, but she said nothing and kept her expression neutral.
“Anyone who plays an entire match like that would not fall for those endgame strategies so easily. Certainly not five times in a row.” He brought her closer to his face. There was nowhere to hide. He knew. He knew everything. “You threw the games. All of them.”
She played dumb. “A smart man like you should understand why a trinket in my position would do that.”
Scoffing, he reached into his pocket to pull out his room key. He opened the case, and rather than reach inside to grab her, he tilted it and made her slide out onto his palm. She couldn’t breathe for a second, scrambling to sit up and redeem what little dignity she could. Her heart thundered like a galloping horse as he carried her over to the chess table and gruffly dropped her on the middle of the board. When he took a seat, he leaned down and propped his chin on the backs of his fingers, putting himself nearly at eye level with her.
“I studied your moves,” he went on. “I researched female players with the same playing style.”
He knew.
Shuddering, she started to back away.
“I found someone who matched,” he said. “And she vanished from the chess world four months ago.”
“Andres…”
He straightened, touching the top of the queen piece on his side with his fingertip, toying with it. “Lorelei Weaver. The night after you came in second in the U.S. Championship, you were arrested for first-degree murder.
Her voice started to rise. "You don't understand—"
"You pushed the champion, Kate Miller, in front of a subway train in New York.”
“She was my friend!” she shrieked. “You don’t know shit! I was framed!”
He cocked his head. “Sentenced to be a trinket.”
She collapsed onto her knees and covered her face, shoulders wracking with sobs. She had not cried since she was human. For a moment, she was gone. All she could hear was the roar of the train. The screaming. Her own screaming. It echoed so loudly in her ears, she was surprised she wasn’t doing it in front of Andres. He said nothing, merely observed her as she cried herself out and gathered her bearings again.
“Louis Mclean came in third,” she went on in a thin voice, dropping her hands to her knees. “I humiliated him in the semi-finals. I beat him in less than ten moves because he was cocky. Just like that, in ten moves, all of his training was shot down and meaningless.” She swallowed hard, feeling tears brim up again. “Then Kate beat me. Oh, I was pissed. But she was my friend. And Mclean wasn’t done playing.”
She sniffled, flinching when Andres’ hand appeared beside her. He touched her shoulder with his fingertip, his expression unreadable as he regarded her.
“Go on,” he said.
“One, he invited us out to eat the next night. Two, he made sure we were standing in a blind spot while we waited for the subway. Three, he pushed her. Four, he jumped back while I tried to catch her. Five, he screamed that I killed her. In half the number of moves it took me to put him away in the semi-finals, he eliminated us both. Six moves, if you count him puking when he looked down at Kate’s blood on his clothes.”
Her words hung in the air like falling snow, until it settled.
Andres did not speak for a full minute. Then he gave a slow nod. “I see.”
She wiped her eyes. “You believe me?”
“Whether I believe you makes no difference, does it? That game is over.” He folded his arms on the table in front of the board, looking down the bridge of his nose at her. “But I vowed not to leave this place until I beat every worthy competitor. It would be an honor to play you again, Lorelei Weaver. And this time, don’t you dare go easy on me.”
She stood slowly, her body and mind still deciding whether to fall apart or put itself back together. Then she straightened her back, turned her spine to steel, and looked up to meet her opponent’s eyes.
“Black or white?”
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freckled-petals · a year ago
Text
Secret Study Time: Talbott/Reader
Summary: You’re desperate to practice for your upcoming Palmistry exam, but, as it turns out, Transfigurations class isn’t the best place for it.
Pairing: Talbott x Reader
Word Count: 2500+
“Hey,” you smiled, your eyes settling on a familiar face as you made your way to your afternoon Transfiguration class.
“Hey,” Talbott’s deep voice responded as the hints of a smile teased his lips. You could tell he was pleased to see you, though interacting was nothing new between you two. “Have you perfected your Avis incantation yet?” He questioned as he leaned casually against the doorway.
You couldn’t help but admire his tall and handsome form as he practically hovered over you with intrigue. It wasn’t often the reserved Ravenclaw showed any sort of interest or affection towards you - that sort of interaction was really only shown during your dates. It was nice to see him spreading his wings - pun intended.
“I’ve been—“ you began, only to be cut off as a venom-laced voice interrupted.
“Out of the way, Winger,” Merula’s voice snapped, her small form pushing Talbott out of the way as she led the other Slytherins out of their finished Transfiguration class. Talbott stumbled back a few steps from surprise, a hard look on his face.
“So rude,” you grumbled, glaring at Merula’s back as Talbott returned to your side once more. Turning back, a frown graced your features as Talbott’s rumpled uniform. “I don’t understand her,” you continued. You mindlessly reached out to smooth his sweater, only to flush and retract your hand halfway at the realization of your actions. “I, um—“ you cleared your throat awkwardly.
“McGonagall‘s motioning us in,” Talbott’s voice broke the awkwardness as he turned to head in, though you swore you saw a hint of flush to his cheeks.
“Go, go,” Tulip ushered from behind you as the others made their way into class.
You were aware of your classmates taking their seats, but you didn’t immediately move; your eyes were trained on the back of Talbott’s head. You had a plan for today’s class, and it was already going swimmingly.
Taking a deep breath, you advanced into the room, though you didn’t make it to your regular seat. Instead, you found yourself sliding onto the bench beside Talbott.
“What are you doing?” His level voice drawled, though you picked up on the mild surprise in his tone despite his attempts to mask it.
“You asked me about Avis,” you said, not quite meeting his gaze.
“I did,” he responded shortly with a raised eyebrow, but you were continuing before he could question further.
“And truthfully, I haven’t practiced as much as I should have. You see,” you quietly rambled as McGonagall began scanning the classroom to check attendance. You felt her eyes linger on you for a moment at your unusual placement before continuing on. “I’ve been rather distracted with our upcoming Palmistry test and I was hoping...well, I was hoping you would help me practice...” you continued to ramble, your voice growing even quieter from your lack of breath. You could even feel him leaning towards you to catch your last few words.
“Palmistry’s a very wooly topic,” he responded, though you knew how he felt about Divinations class in general.
“But also worth a large chunk of our grade,” you pointed out, your eyes finally shifting to his face, where you could tell he was silently mulling over your words. “Please?” You added, and his gaze immediately shifted to you.
“Fine,” Talbott responded, and your face lit up brilliantly.
“Thank you,” you breathed, gripping his sleeve in appreciation.
“We can meet up after dinner in the library,” Talbott told you with a faint smile of his own, the familiar blush returning to his cheeks as he inspected your smile carefully. Memorizing, almost.
“Oh,” you frowned, retracting your hand. That caused the hint of a smile to drop from his face as well.
“What?”
“Well...we have Divinations before dinner, so...”
“So?” He frowned.
“So, I was hoping we could practice now,” you said, looking up at him hopefully.
“But we’re in class,” Talbott said, like it was the most obvious thing.
“Very observant,” you drawled with a grin.
“And McGonagall will have our wands if we aren’t paying attention,” he added. As if on cue, McGonagall cleared her throat, giving you both a pointed look for your whispering.
“Yes,” you continued after a few moments, once McGonagall had turned back to the board. “But she won’t know. Talbott, please,” you murmured, glancing over at him pleadingly. “You don’t want me to fail, do you?” You asked innocently.
He shot you a look, clearly debating with himself over the option with the least amount of consequence. “Be very, very discreet,” Talbott murmured after a moment, placing his hand on the desk for you.
Your face lit up, your eyes scanning his unamused features. “You’re the best,” you grinned, turning to rummage through your bag for your Divinations textbook. “Okay,” you let out a breathy hum, locating the page in your book before turning back to Talbott’s outstretched hand. “Let’s see,” you hummed quietly, pulling up his sleeve a bit before pulling his arm even closer.
You began inspecting his hand closely, cross-referencing the lines with the ones shown in your book. Frankly, it all looked like gibberish to you. Letting out another hum, you subconsciously began rubbing his arm as you turned to read one of the passages in your book. It wasn’t long before you felt his arm tense beneath your fingers.
“So tense,” you whispered with a grin, glancing back up at Talbott who appeared to be struggling to focus on McGonagall’s handwriting.
“This doesn’t feel like you’re doing it right,” Talbott remarked, casting a quick glance in your direction.
“That’s why it called practice,” you countered, grinning at him before turning back to trace one of the lines on his hand. “According to this...” you hummed, your brow furrowing before you checked the book again. “No, that’s not right...” you pouted.
“Hm?” He questioned softly, casting another glance towards you. “According to this,” you pointed, quirking your lips. “...you’re already dead,” she stated.
Talbott immediately let out a snort, drawing the attention of a few of your classmates. He quickly cleared his throat in an attempt to cover it up before turning back to you. “You’re going to fail,” he said bluntly.
“Shh,” you quietly snapped, pursing your lips unhappily. “You’re distracting me,” you grumbled, pulling his hand even closer.
“I’m distracting you?” Talbott scoffed, rolling his eyes.
“Yes,” you pouted, gripping his wrist to give it a shake before turning back to his hand with a huff. You could practically feel him smirk at your mild frustration. “Now, your love line,” you hummed, quirking your lips once more.
You could feel him tense yet again, though you couldn’t bring yourself to look at him this time. You decided he deserved some teasing, though. “Oh, well this is no surprise,” you hummed.
“What?” Talbott questioned and you couldn’t help but grin at his sudden interest. You didn’t look up, though, needing to remain composed.
“Well,” you continued, feigning seriousness. “Your love line curves this way,” you hummed, tracing your finger along the crease on his palm. “Which can only mean one thing.”
“And that is...?” He trailed, his eyes squinting as he examined his hand.
“It clearly means that you’re in madly in love with your classmate. You know, that cute one with a knack for Quidditch and curse breaking,” you cooed with feigned innocence, cutely cocking your head to meet his bewildered gaze.
“You really are bad at this,” Talbott responded, clearly flustered. “Really bad,” he repeated, yanking his hand away from you.
“Oh, come on,” you grinned, reaching for his hand once more. You gazed at him steadily, grinning when he didn’t pull away again. “Well? What do you have to say? Going to dispute my inner eye?” You joked, resting your chin on the back of your hand.
“McGonagall,” he spoke in a hurried whisper.
“Huh?” You frowned, only to turn and find McGonagall making her way down the aisle. Before you could even react, Talbott was snatching your hand and tugging it beneath the desk, out of sight. With your free hand, you pulled your notebook over you textbook to hide it and plastered an innocent smile on your face.
McGonagall glanced down at the two of you suspiciously before continuing along to call several students up to the front to practice Avis. You watched McGonagall until she was back up front before a quiet sigh from Talbott drew your attention back to him.
“That was close,” Talbott murmured.
“You’re holding my hand,” you responded, glancing down on your linked hands resting on his lap.
“No—“ he began to protest, but your maintained your grip firmly.
“Your palm is sweaty,” you continued, glancing up at him playfully.
“I—”
“It reminds me of our first date,” you murmured softly. It was so reminiscent of the first time you’d held hands in the courtyard those many months ago. At those words, you felt Talbott’s hand relax in your own.
“I think about that night a lot,” Talbott confessed, glancing down at you with a soft expression. You could feel your insides beginning to flutter, almost as if someone had cast Avis within you.
“You’ve told me that before,” you grinned at him, but you were sure you cheeks were just as flushed as his were.
“Oi,” Andre called in a loud whisper once McGonagall was safely out of earshot with the first group of students. Both Talbott and you turned to face Andre, only to be met with his smirk. “You think just because you’ve been on a few dates, that gives you the right to flaunt your affection?” He teased.
“Some of us are trying to pay attention, you know,” Tulip chimed in teasingly, leaning forward in her seat behind Andre.
Just like that, you felt Talbott’s hand tighten around your own. No one liked teasing, but you were sure it was especially difficult for someone who preferred to fly solo.
“You’re both hysterical,” you retorted in a harsh whisper. “A regular comedic duo,” you said, though that clearly only made their grins grow.
“When’s McGonagall gonna teach us to conjure lovebirds?” Tulip questioned Andre playfully. “I’m sure these two would excel at that,” she hummed.
“That’s enough out of you lot,” Talbott said evenly, a slight edge to his voice. Tulip and Andre exchanged a final glance before turning back to their books with matching grins.
You let out a breath, turning back to your own desk, only to cast a glance in your desk mate’s direction.
“Interesting bunch of friends you’ve got there,” Talbott remarked.
“You fell in that category not too long ago,” you hummed, lifting your joined hands back onto the desk. You really needed to study at this point, or there was no way you’d pass Trelawney’s exam. Detaching your hands, you began inspecting the lines on his palm once more.
“Not anymore?” Talbott’s voice questioned after a few moments, and your gaze drifted back to his face.
“Well, no...” you trailed, biting your lip. You could tell he seemed a bit disappointed with that response, so you quickly continued your explanation. “You have your own category now,” you smiled, resting your hand on his exposed forearm. “A special category,” you said, your eyes glued to his.
You could see the different expressions crossing his face, mulling over your words. You knew this was all new to him. To you, as well.
“I-I see,” Talbott responded, clearing his throat slightly.
“Unless you don’t want—”
“No,” he was quick to cut you off. “I like my category,” he murmured bashfully, the blush spreading to the tips of his ears.
“Me too,” you smiled softly, scooting slightly closer to him so that your arms were brushing. “Now let me study or I predict my own failure,” you chuckled softly.
“You don’t need to have the sight to see that,” Talbott drawled with an amused grin.
“Hush,” you responded, and he did just that, allowing you the rest of the lesson to inspect his hand. You were aware of him watching you from time to time, studying you studying his hand, but you didn’t much mind.
By the end of the lesson, the topic was starting to make some semblance of sense.
“Thanks for letting me use your hand, Talbott,” you grinned at him as the class began packing up their things.
“Any time,” he drawled with a grin, slinging his bag over his shoulder.
“Mr. Winger,” McGonagall called out, and his eyes immediately went wide. You quickly tried to duck out, but she was calling out your name before you could take a step. “You, too.” Her stern voice was intimidating and you could only imagine what she was going to say as the two of you made your way up to her desk.
“Yes, Professor?” You questioned, trying to keep some sort of innocence in your tone. You knew she wouldn’t buy it.
“I trust you two are well aware of my classroom’s policies, but in case you have forgotten, this is a time to learn, not a time to socialize with your significant other,” McGonagall said sternly.
Both Talbott’s and your heads shot up at her use of the term significant other, as neither of you had exactly put a label on whatever it was going on between you. You’d only been on a few dates, after all. You both snuck a glance at each other, but McGonagall’s voice quickly snapped your gazes back to the floor.
“Frivolity of this manner is best reserved for the weekends, not my classroom. If this persists, I will have to separate you. Have I made myself clear?”
“Yes, Professor,” your voices sounded, and she gave a short nod. You two were quick to retreat into the hallway, pausing once you were out from under McGonagall’s sharp gaze.
“Well, that was something,” Talbott said, and you both broke out into little fits of laughter.
“I swear, she’s got eyes in the back of her head,” you laughed, leaning against the wall. Your heart was beating a bit quick from adrenaline, and you needed a moment to catch your breath.
“You weren’t exactly being discreet, like I asked,” Talbott drawled, leaning beside you. You feigned appall at his words, only to smile once more.
“You know, significant other has a certain ring to it,” you began, biting your lower lip before glancing up at him.
“Does it?” Talbott questioned, clearly surprised that you were mentioning it. He didn’t seem off-put by it, though.
“Doesn’t it?” You posed, leaning slightly closer against the wall. “McGonagall is rarely wrong, you know. And I think my reading of your love line was pretty spot-on,” you laughed, your eyes disappearing into crescents.
You reached for his hand, playfully pretending to inspect the lines once more. Talbott rolled his eyes, but the smile remained on his lips.
“You’re really something, you know that?” He laughed, boldly reaching to tuck a strand of hair behind your ear.
“Your something?” You pressed, and his smile didn’t fade.
“If that’s what your inner eye sees, who am I to deny that?”
“Do you know what else I foresee?” You continued, leaning up on your toes.
“I think I can guess,” Talbott responded softly, just as your lips came to meet his. Looking back, you weren’t sure where your concern had come from about your palmistry exam - you were clearly an accurate reader.
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thisissirius · a year ago
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beauty in the small things eddie/buck, vermont au
for day two of @eddiediazweek | therapy. for @hearteyesforbuck who has been waiting oh so patiently for this.
I don’t want therapy.
I don’t want to self-medicate.
I don’t want to be a failure to my son.
How, then, is a guy supposed to deal with everything he suffered during war without damaging himself and his family?
Yeah, writing wasn’t my first thought either, but here we are.
“Mom thinks you should stop doing that,” Sophia says.
Eddie snorts, swirling the drink around in his glass, and gives Sophia a look over the top of it. “I’m not going to drown my sorrows in drink.” He makes a face. “I’m not about to self medicate.”
Sophia knows him better than anybody else in the family. Adriana is his little sister and he adores her, but they don’t have a lot in common. He and Sophia are closer in age, and they were never really their father’s priority in the way Adriana is. “Eddie.”
“I’m not,” Eddie says. He puts the drink on the small table and tips his head back, staring up at the sky. Christopher is playing in the garden with Sophia’s two kids—twins—and giggling. Eddie lets the sounds wash over him and he swallows down the urge to lie. It’s not easy to talk about everything, but Sophia is the one person he can trust with his emotions. “I don’t want to do that kind of thing. I don’t want to—it’s hard, I’m not gonna pretend, but I know guys who have self-medicated and I’m not. For Chris’ sake.”
“And your own.” Sophia’s words are quiet, and she surveys the backyard. “You have to talk to someone.”
Eddie rolls his eyes. “I don’t see why. There’s nothing wrong with just not dealing with it.”
“So what do you do,” Sophia says, leaning forward in her chair and hitting his knee, “when you’re having a nightmare you can’t wake up from and Chris finds you? What if you have a flashback and Chris is right there? What if—”
“You made your point,” Eddie snaps, rubbing his hands over his face. He doesn’t want to think about it, but he can’t deny those thoughts have run through his own head. Chris needs him to be everything he can be; bad enough that he’s gotta deal with Eddie holding down three jobs while trying to keep their heads above water.
Chris giggles again, looks back over his shoulder. “Dad! I’m hungry.”
“So are we,” Alexa says. Andre echoes his sister a second later.
Eddie snorts. “Alright, Chris. Give me a sec, okay?” Giving Sophia another sharp look, he ducks back into the house, blowing out his breath slowly. It’s hard to hear, but civilian life isn’t easy to adjust to. Eddie’s finding it difficult every day, and it doesn’t help that his parents are breathing down his neck, telling him what he should and shouldn’t be doing for Chris. It’s hard not to wonder if they’re right and he should leave Chris with them. Maybe going back overseas—
No. Eddie’s made a promise to Chris and he’ll never break it.
When he finally makes it back outside with sandwiches, he runs them by Sophia.
“Bromundo,” she says, kicking his leg. “I’m not Mom.”
Eddie winces—both at the kick and the nickname—and sticks his tongue out at her. Childish, but it’s so easy to be so around Sophia. “Kids! Food!”
With the kids settled, Eddie relaxes back in his chair. He can feel Sophia watching him and he doesn’t know what to say in return. He rolls his eyes. “What?”
“You should write about it,” Sophia says.
Eddie snorts. “What are you talking about?”
Sophia slips her sunglasses up onto her head. Her eyes are bright, worried, and Eddie tries not to let it bother him. He worries about her, so it’s only natural. “Eddie, I don’t want this to get bad, understand? No,” she says, watching his eyes dart back to Chris, and she touches his knee, squeezes. “You, Eddie. I know you’d never let anything happen to Chris if you could help it, but I want you to be okay for you.”
“You didn’t want me to go in the first place.”
“Of course I didn’t. No sister wants her brother to go to war. Even less when they’re the one thing protecting you from a disaster of a home life.”
Eddie snorts. Their childhood wasn’t that bad, especially not with Abuela checking up on them, but he knows what she means. “And you’ve never forgiven me.”
“Nope,” Sophia says, settling back in her chair with a grin.”So I guess you should listen to me.”
Eddie doesn’t make any promises, but later that night, when he comes awake suddenly, tears drying on his face and the phantom memory of sand, death, and the smell of blood, he can’t help but reach for his laptop. His hands are shaking as he opens a document, fingers hovering awkwardly over the keys.
Everything feels so much and he blows out a breath, thinks of Chris in the next room who deserves so much more, and starts to write.
It can crush you, the fear.
Buries you under tons of pressure, memories, and horror. Sometimes I’m scared I won’t wake up; that I’ll be left in Afghanistan amongst the blood, screams, and echoes of the bombs. I worry that my son will find me trapped in a memory and I’ll scare him. I’m afraid that I’m not the right person to be raising him, that somehow, my worries and fears will drag us both down.
I’m trying to be the reason he turns out as a good person.
Facing your fears is the hardest lesson, but a worthwhile one to protect those you care about.
Eddie hates Thanksgiving.
It’s the worst kind of pressure, having all the family around to remind him of things he’d rather forget. His abuela’s here, though, currently lavishing attention and kisses on Christopher, and his parents have all but avoided him for most of the day. That will change once dinner happens, of course, but he can hold out until then.
Adriana comes up behind him, throwing her arms around his neck. “Eddie!”
“Hey, Adi,” Eddie says, whirling and hugging Adriana. “How’s college?”
“Exhausting,” Adriana says, with a grin. “But I’m almost done and then I can get out of here,” she says, waving a hand.
Eddie’s never been fair, really, to Adriana. He and Sophia are close, assuming that Adriana loves being the apple of her father’s eye, but it’s easy to see why she hates it. “Nice. Where will you go?”
“New York probably,” Adriana says. She leans against the fence, staring off across the garden to where their parents are laughing with the kids. Eddie feels a rush of anger when they stick close to Chris, but he shoves it down when Adriana nudges him. “Are you sticking around?”
“I don’t really have a choice,” Eddie says.
“Actually, you might.”
Eddie jumps, and Adriana peers around him as Sophia dances towards them. There’s a nervous expression on her face, but she’s also brimming with happiness. Eddie raises his eyebrows. “What are you talking about?”
“Okay, don’t be mad.”
“I don’t think anybody’s ever heard that and not been mad,” Eddie says carefully. “What did you do?”
“So,” Sophia says, holding out a sheet of paper. When Eddie tries to take it, she snatches it back, holding it out of reach.
“Sophia—”
Adriana is smaller, slips behind Eddie and takes the paper. “Oh, fuck.”
“Adriana,” Eddie snaps, gesturing at the kids.
“Eddie,” Adriana says, showing him the paper.
“Listen,” Sophia says. “I found your book when—”
Eddie stares at the piece of paper, hands shaking. “This was private!”
“I know,” Sophia says, stepping closer. She looks nervous again, swallowing and holding her arms. “I didn’t mean to find it. I wasn’t even sure you’d listen to me. But I was transferring pictures on your laptop to send to Pepa and I read and it knew it would be amazing, Eddie.”
“I can’t publish it.” Eddie’s staring at the words, though, of someone who wants to do just that. “I didn’t even write a book, not really. It’s just words. How did this even happen?”
Sophia reaches out, touches Eddie’s wrist. “You might not think it was, but Eddie, I couldn’t put it down. I love you, you’re my brother, and I didn’t know half of what was in there. I know it’s an invasion of privacy, but I want this for you; for people to see how brave and intelligent you are.”
Eddie doesn’t feel like either of those things, but he also doesn’t want to be stuck in his head anymore. Hasn’t he done that enough? Doesn’t Chris deserve better? “I don’t know.”
“I think you should do it,” Adriana says, shrugging when both Eddie and Sophie stare at her. “I’m not stupid, Eddie. I know what Mom and Dad wanna do and I know why you don’t want to live here anymore. Isn’t this the way out of that?”
The signing bonus is making Eddie feel a little sick. “I don’t know.”
“It’s your choice.” Sophia leans in, hugs him gently, and Eddie lets it. A beat later, Adriana joins in. When they pull apart, there’s an interesting look on Sophia’s face. “But if you don’t, Christopher will grow up here.”
Eddie knows what she’s trying to do. He’s not angry, not really. It does hurt that she’s done it all behind his back, but when he thinks about it, the chance to move away, to give Chris whatever life he wants, that means more than any hurt he feels. “Alright.”
Adriana and Sophia cheer, drawing the attention of everyone else, but he doesn’t care what they say; there’s a life opening up before him and Christopher free from everything else.
Hope is a strange thing.
I’ve had hope at many points during my life.
When I thought of my family. When we got my son’s medical diagnosis. When I was shipped out. When I wanted to come home.
It can give you the courage you need to go forward. There’s a sense of euphoria that comes from your hope being rewarded. There’s also a sense of despair that comes with hope not being enough.
My son’s mother left. Confirmation of my son’s disorder. Ending up in Afghanistan. Getting shot once, twice, three times.
Hope is a fickle thing.
That doesn’t mean that you ever stop feeling it.
Sophia is true to her word;
The book gets published under a pseudonym. Eddie pays off his medical bills. His parents ask where he got the money from, but Adriana and Sophia keep his secret. Chris is happy; Eddie can work less and still be around, he can watch him grow.
Eddie doesn’t care to watch what happens with the book; it’s embarrassing enough that it’s out there. People are apparently reading it, which he finds out from Sophia and Adriana both. They have a phone chat, constant messages that he wades through every day, and notes the occasional update on his book sales. Apparently, it’s a bestseller, whatever that means, but Eddie can forget it easy enough.
Chris takes up a lot of his time.
Much like Valentine’s Day, which he spends with Christopher’s school class. It’s interrupted by a phone call, and Eddie picks it up, sending an embarrassed look towards the teacher.
“Hello?”
“Is this Mr. Diaz?”
Eddie frowns, listening to the voice on the other end of the phone, and leans against a wall so that he doesn’t fall over. The words are going in but it’s taking him a while to understand them. The caller is a woman with a kind voice, who seems to understand what he’s feeling.
“Is that satisfactory?”
“Are you serious?”
“Of course,” she says, sounding amused. “I’ll give you some time to think it over, Mr. Diaz. Give us a call back within three days, or we’ll assume you’re not interested.”
Before she rings off, she gives him the signing bonus, and Eddie thinks he’s about to throw up, has to lean over and breath slowly through his nose. When he recovers enough to go back into the classroom, he knows he’s distracted and that Chris knows.
“Is everything okay, Dad?”
“Yeah,” Eddie says, voice shaky, but there’s happiness welling in his chest so he crouches down, touches Chris’ face. “I think things are about to get even better for us.”
Chris looks excited, even if he doesn’t know what Eddie’s talking about.
Later, when Chris is in bed, Eddie calls Sophia.
“I was just about to step into the bath. You have the worst timing, Bromundo.”
“Please stop calling me that,” Eddie says. Then, “I think I just got a movie deal.”
There’s silence from the end of the phone.
“Sophia?”
“Wait, wait, I’m calling Adriana.”
Eddie frowns down at his phone, but Adriana joins the call and he snorts, puts the phone back to his ear.
“I’m studying,” Adriana snaps. “Do you guys know how hard it is—”
“Eddie got a movie deal,” Sophia says in a rush. Eddie can hear the happiness in her voice, the excitement, and he lets the same bubble up in his chest. He’s been trying to keep it at bay, to ignore it, but now he lets it loose, grinning up at the ceiling in an attempt to control himself.
Adriana lets out a cheer—which is probably gonna piss off their parents—and Sophia laughs. “Eddie, that’s awesome!”
“I don’t think I really believe it,” Eddie says. “I don’t even know what it means.”
“You didn’t get the paperwork for the option?” Adriana asks.
“What?”
Adriana sighs, laughing but also sounding annoyed. “Eddie, they have to option a book before they can greenlight it. If you’re getting the green light, it means that they love your book. Like, a lot.”
Eddie doesn’t understand it; he doesn’t know what happens when a book gets picked up. “It doesn’t even feel like a book that gets a movie.”
“It’s about a war veteran,” Sophia says quietly. “Whatever people think about that, it’s a story that needs to be heard, Eddie.”
“So,” Adriana says, cutting across the silence Sophia’s words leave behind. “How much are you getting.”
When Eddie tells them the cheque they’ll cut him, his sisters scream again, and Eddie feels a tremendous weight lift away from his shoulders.
State of change means to change from one state to another without a chemical composition change.
My chemical composition doesn’t change, but my mind does. My body does. My emotions do. I may look like a breathing, living human, but inside I feel like I’m flying apart in a million different directions. There’s a monster on my shoulder. A voice inside my head. A shadow following me down the street.
No matter where I turn, there’s something reminding me of what a failure I am; of a son, of a father, of a brother. I have made mistakes that I can’t escape from, but that doesn’t mean I stop trying to be better. I can break out of a cycle I have forced on myself. I can fight the monster on my shoulder. I can silence the voice in my head. I can see the light beyond the shadow.
It’s a hard fight, and I have a million reminders of the ways I am still failing, but I am strong enough to continue on.
Change can always be a good thing.
Vermont.
Freedom and Unity.
Mountains are green. Or something.
Eddie hates it.
There’s a tree in his fucking house. Chris is crying, scared, and Eddie wraps an arm around his shoulders, and tries not to cuss. Holding Chris tight, he carries him out of the room, shushing him gently, and taking him through to the living room.
“You okay?”
There’s a yell from the front door, and Eddie looks up to see his neighbour Bobby and his wife Athena. “There’s a tree in Christopher’s room.”
Athena immediately comes forward, crouching down in front of Chris, and touching his cheek. “I’ve got Chris, Eddie.”
Eddie nods, reluctant to leave Chris, but lets Bobby lead him towards Christopher’s room. Bobby lets out a low whistle when he sees the damage, and Eddie presses a hand to his face. “He could have been killed.”
“Eddie,” Bobby says immediately, resting a hand on Eddie’s shoulder. “You can’t think like that, okay? Chris is fine, he’s alive. There’s damage, sure, but—”
“It’s not just that,” Eddie snaps, stepping away from Bobby. “It’s everything. Busted pipes, the outlet that almost set the whole damn kitchen on fire, the fact that I have nobody here. My son loves his school, loves the state, but every time I walk out of the house, I feel like I’ve made the biggest mistake of my life. I don’t know anybody, I miss my sisters, and I just want to not feel like a failure.”
Bobby lets him get it out, just stands in the middle of the room, amongst the debris, and Eddie tries not to imagine it’s him, in the wreckage of his life. “You feel better now?”
Eddie snorts.”Not really.”
With a kind smile, Bobby gestures to the mess. “I’ve got a tarp in the basement. I’ll grab it and we can cover this up.”
Eddie nods, folding his arms across his chest. “Thanks.”
“I’m gonna give you some advice, alright?”
Not sure he’s going to want to hear it, Eddie nods. “Sure.”
Bobby smiles. “You have friends, Eddie. I think the fact that Athena and I are here is proof of that, no?” Eddie’s got to nod at that. “There are plenty of people in this town, however small, that would like to get to know you. You’ve kept to yourself for a long, long time.”
Eddie admits that is true. “I find it hard to—I can’t make friends easily.”
“It’s not easy,” Bobby says. “But you have people in your corner, Eddie. You just have to want it.”
With another nod, Bobby gives him the out, and leaves the room. Together, they cover Christopher’s room with a tarp, making sure it’s weighted down with bricks and sturdy debris that won’t get dislodged during the storm. Athena gets them a safe place to stay for the night; her friend Hen lives across the street. Eddie recognizes her immediately and almost says no on reflex; she lets her dog pee in his yard every fucking morning and he’s tired of it. Except that she’s got a kind smile, apologizes immediately—”I thought you were an asshole,” she says, sotto voice—and offers up their son’s room for Eddie and Christopher to sleep.
“We shouldn’t—” Eddie starts.
“Trust me, you don’t wanna be outside in this,” she says, waving a hand. “Besides, I can call my contractor in the morning and get you some help.”
Eddie agrees because Bobby is right; he could do with some friends.
Loneliness is a difficult feeling.
I used to think I had everything. Family, friends, a job I loved. That’s before war; my friends couldn’t put up with me flaking because of my PTSD. My family couldn’t handle the memories I couldn’t share. My job was responsible for everything falling apart.
Suddenly, I was lonelier than I had ever been.
Covering those feelings isn’t easy. People are watching; when they think you have problems, they always do. Even if those problems are certified, medical, and something nobody would want given the chance.
Friends are something I can’t afford.
Or is that just something I tell myself?
Evan Buckley is—
Evan Buckley looks—
Well, fuck.
“Hey.” The guy standing on Eddie’s doorstep has muscles on top of muscles. He’s dressed in shorts, a tank, and a flannel shirt. He’s wearing boots that are scuffed and dirty, and his toolbag is slung over one shoulder. He grins, smile lighting up his face and fuck, it’s been a long time since Eddie’s felt the gut punch of attraction. “I’m Evan Buckley.”
“Diaz,” Eddie says, internally wincing. “Uh, Edmundo—Eddie, Eddie Diaz.”
Evan’s smile widens. “So—Which one of those should I call you?”
“His name’s Eddie,” Chris says, coming up behind Eddie. “And I’m Christopher.”
If Eddie thought Evan’s smile had been brilliant before, it’s so much more as soon as he lays eyes on Chris. “Hello, Chris,” Evan says, bending down. “Those are some cool crutches, buddy. You like Nemo too?”
Chris’ crutches had been one of Eddie’s superfluous purchases; specially made with Nemo decals and themes. Chris adores them, and Eddie’s proud of himself for that one choice. Chris grins. “Dad got them for me!”
“Did he?” Evan says, looking back up at Eddie. “He sounds cool.”
“He is,” Chris affirms, and Eddie’s chest flutters. “Do you like being called Evan?”
Evan winces. “Actually, how about you just call me Buck?”
“Okay, Buck,” Chris says easily. “Are you here to fix my room?”
Eddie clears his throat. “Sorry.”
Evan—Buck frowns. “Don’t be. Nothing’s wrong.” To Chris, he winks. “You bet I am. Wanna show me?”
Buck seems content to walk at Christopher’s pace, following them through to Christopher’s bedroom. He stares at the ceiling, eyebrows raised, then back to Chris. “He was in here?”
Eddie nods, not wanting to think about it. He looks away for a moment.
“Can you fix it, Mr. Buck?”
“I’ll try,” Buck says, then leans down and pretends to give him a conspiratorial look. “Can your dad not do it?”
Chris giggles. “Dad’s okay with some things, but abuela says to never let Dad have a hammer.”
“Hey,” Eddie says.
Though he tries to keep his tone light because he knows Chris is just joking, it hurts that his mother is talking about him like that. There’s something knowing in Buck’s look, but he covers it quickly. “I better take a look outside first. Then I’ll do all the hammer work, buddy.”
As they work, Eddie tries to keep Chris out of the way, but it’s a lost cause; Chris is following him around, asking questions at a mile a minute, and while Eddie’s expecting it to bother him, Buck doesn’t seem to be annoyed. He answers every question, seems enthusiastic with his replies, not that Eddie can tell what those questions are.
Buck is—well, Eddie can’t stop watching.
Whether it’s the way he flexes his muscles, the smile on his face, or the stretch of skin between shorts and shirt that gets exposed when he stretches. Eddie’s doing his best to not have an emotional breakdown. When Christopher is busy with lunch, insisting on eating it outside so he can see Buck work, Eddie hovers nearby, leaning against the entrance to the doorway so that he can see both Buck and Chris.
“Thanks for doing this.”
Buck gives him a quick glance, flashes a smile. “No problem.”
Eddie searches for a subject, latches on to the first one he can think of. “What’s that tattoo of?”
Buck’s got a lot of tattoos and he grins, gesturing at himself. “Which one?”
“The one over your heart,” Eddie says. “I can’t read it.”
“Want me to come closer?” Buck’s expression is guarded, but there’s a look in his eyes Eddie hasn’t seen in a long time.
“Um,” Eddie starts. “I don’t think—”
“It’s a quote,” Buck says, turning back to the roof. He shifts along on his knees, working on the next beam. “From my favourite book.”
There’s a pause. “Well?”
“You’ll find out one day,” Buck says.
Eddie tries not to hear it like a promise.
I missed you all the time.
Those are the words I focus on more than I like to. They’re words my son said to me when I first came home from Afghanistan. Knowing that I would have to do so again, that I needed the medical coverage from the Army was heartbreaking. I didn’t want my son to miss me. I didn’t want to be the kind of father who would leave.
Leave I did. Because I thought I was doing the right thing.
Sometimes, the logical choice isn’t always the right choice.
I am here now. For my son and with a ton of baggage I wish I could shed. My son doesn’t seem damaged by what I have done and every day, I’m grateful. I know I am not the only person who has raised my son, but sometimes it’s hard not to be proud of everything he is; that kindness I have yet to find in somebody else.
“Want me to check out the rest of the house?”
Eddie’s a little offended that Buck looks at his house and thinks it needs more help, but given the way he yelled at Bobby and started this whole thing off, he supposed it’s right. He sighs, scrubbing a hand over his face. “I thought this would be a good buy.”
“It still can be,” Buck says kindly. “A lot of houses in town were like this. Though if it’s the money—”
“Not a problem,” Eddie says easily, then thinks about how that might sound. “I mean, it’s not—”
Buck smiles gently. “You bought this house, Eddie. However much help it needs, it’s nice. Big. I assume you have some money. Or is that too forward? Chim’s always saying I talk too fast and don’t think first.”
Eddie laughs, feels his nervousness slip away in the face of Buck’s own. “It’s okay, Buck. I’m still figuring out this friend thing.”
They lapse into silence. Chris is at school so he’s not there to break the silence, and Eddie doesn’t know how to fill them himself. He’s still figuring out how to be a person comfortable in his own skin. Maybe he should re-read his own book. Apparently it helps people and besides, the movie’s supposed to hit theatres soon.
It takes the better part of the late morning for Buck to go around the whole house, marking down on paper what needs fixing. It’s a long list and Eddie’s stomach drops with each new thing. “That much?”
At least Buck’s expression is apologetic. He softens it with a smile. “I can fix them all though!”
“Great.” Eddie can at least count on Buck being around a little bit longer, even if it’s only a few days.
“Although,” Buck starts. His face falls along with Eddie’s happiness. “I’ve got classes and other jobs lined up that I can’t just—it’ll take me a few weeks to get it done.”
Buck keeps talking but Eddie’s not really paying attention. He’s thinking about weeks and having Buck around—okay, so he’s mostly thinking about the fact that Buck’s gonna be mostly shirtless in his house for even longer.
“I could always see if Chim can find someone else,” he starts.
“No,” Eddie snaps quickly. At Buck’s surprised look, then hurt expression, he takes a step forward. “I mean, Chris is pretty shy. I don’t want—someone else would be a pain. You could—you could stick around.”
Buck’s smile is brilliant.
Love.
Love isn’t something I see for myself.
Attraction. I’ve had that. Comfort. That’s been there. My son’s mother was a beautiful person, a good soul, but she just couldn’t be a mother. I respect her choices, loved her for them, but I am not sure if I loved her. I don’t think I’ve ever loved someone in such a visceral way that isn’t my son.
Someone who will care for me, will look at my fears, my experiences, and not see someone who needs to be fixed.
But see somebody, broken, put back together, but worthy of a love that consumes us both.
A few choice words could be the life raft you need to come home.
To be seen. To be found. Isn’t that what we’re all searching for?
Buck presses Eddie down onto the couch.
Eddie traces his fingers over the curve of Buck’s ribs, follows the cursive with his hand. “This quote. I know it. Where’s it from?”
“My favourite book,” Buck says, leaning down to kiss Eddie’s jaw, moves slowly across to his lips. The kiss is lazy, wonderful, and Eddie’s hands drift down to Buck’s waist, holds him in place. It’s comfortable in a way he’s never expected he could be, and Eddie closes his eyes, hums gently. “It’s called Tango Uniform.”
Eddie freezes. “What?”
Buck rocks back a little, straddling Eddie’s hips. He looks pleased, pink blushing over his cheeks. His fingers rest against Eddie’s chest. “Have you heard of it? It’s by this virtually unknown author and he’s so good, Eddie. His writing is perfect.” Buck ducks his head. “Not that you want me to talk about that.”
Eddie opens his mouth, closes it. He’s not sure he knows what words to find, but then Buck’s ducking back in, kissing whatever he would say right out of his head.
Everyone deals with trauma differently.
I hear that so often, so many different ways.
I’ve always felt as if my trauma didn’t matter. My son has a whole future ahead of him that’s going to be difficult. People I knew, friends, died in Afghanistan; their families had a future of nothingness. People out there have suffered the unimaginable, and I have dreams sometimes, can’t stop myself having episodes of memories.
Trauma never felt like the right word, but maybe that’s because I don’t believe myself worthy of having trauma.
Believing that I am is the first step to becoming the person I want to be.
“Are you kidding?”
“Shut up,” Eddie groans, resting his forehead on his arms. “I couldn’t even tell him.”
Sophia cackles. “I can’t believe this is happening. I love it.”
Eddie narrows his eyes at her, but it doesn’t help. “He took his shirt off.”
This time, Sophia’s laugh is almost hysterical. “Oh my gosh, I can’t wait to tell Adriana about this.”
“Nope,” Eddie says, holding up a hand. “You can’t tell anyone else!”
Sophia shrugs easily, leaning on the table in front of her. Her kitchen looks immaculate, and Eddie knows he caught her mid-clean, but he’s not sorry, he needed someone to talk to. “I love you so much. Though, honestly, I have half a mind to come up there and knock some sense into you.”
Eddie snorts. “No, don’t do that. I’m absolutely certain I would never survive you and Buck meeting.”
“I like the sound of him.” Sophia sounds gentle, and her smile is warm. “You look happy.”
“This whole book thing,” Eddie starts. He struggles for the words, finds them. “It’s made me happy. I have you to thank for that.”
Sophia looks embarrassed, but she smiles brightly. “You did the work, Eddie. You wrote everything, you put those feelings onto the laptop. I just spurred you into action.”
It’s true, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t grateful. “Thanks, Sophia.”
“You’re welcome, Bromundo.”
“What did I say about that!”
Someone once told me; your punishment is that you lived. Now make it worth a damn.
Everyday, I try.
The next time Buck comes over, this time to finally fix the sparking outlet in the kitchen, Chris is sitting at the table. He’s doing his homework but spending most of the time trying to talk to Buck.
“Work,” Eddie warns. “Otherwise I’ll send Buck home.”
Not that he could; Buck’s only got so many spare nights and Eddie knows it. It gets Chris moving, though, focusing back on his homework. Buck snorts, working against the counter, and Eddie looks at him, admires the curve of his shoulders, the length of his body. It’s hard not to stare, to remember the way he’d felt pressed against Eddie’s hips, the way he’d fucked into him, curling hands around Eddie’s neck and whispering sweet nothings in his ear.
“Eddie?”
Eddie looks up. “Sorry, what?”
Buck laughs gently. “I was saying, I think I’m done.”
“You alright here for a second, Chris? There’s something I wanna show Buck.”
“Okay, Dad. As long as we get pizza for dinner.”
Eddie pauses, narrowing his eyes. He knows it’s bribery, but he doesn’t care. “Alright, fine. Pizza.”
Chris goes back to his homework, pleased, and Buck raises his eyebrows. Whatever, Buck doesn’t know anything. As they walk through to the bedrooms, Eddie thinks about how things have changed; Buck’s clothes are in his closet; there’s a toothbrush in the bathroom that doesn’t belong to Chris or Eddie; there are textbooks and movies and items Buck’s brought over that are still there. Buck’s in every area of Eddie’s life, and Eddie doesn’t want anything to change. He’s worried it will, though.
“I have to tell you something,” he says, turning to face Buck head-on. “It’s not bad, or I don’t think it is, but it’s a lie.”
Buck raises his eyebrows, face expressionless.
“It’s—that book?”
“Tango Uniform?” Buck frowns, then something clears. “Have you read it?”
Eddie opens his mouth, closes it. “I wrote it.”
Buck laughs.
Eddie feels his stomach drop. “Someone once told me; your punishment is that you lived. Now make it worth a damn.”
“Everyday I try,” Buck finishes. “Eddie.”
Eddie looks down at the floor, unsurprised when Buck rushes out of the room, and he swallows down the urge to cry. He can’t, he won’t allow himself. All he can think about is having to tell Christopher why Buck’s gone and he can’t bear it—
“Listen,” Buck says, and Eddie’s head snaps up. “This,” he says, shoving a dogeared book at Eddie, “is my favourite part.”
The book is his, Eddie realizes. His hands are shaking as he takes it. The shape of the book; Buck’s obviously read it a lot. There are pages turned over, things bookmarked with pieces of paper and highlighter, and he feels something burst in his chest. “Buck.”
Buck’s hand is on his chin, and Eddie lifts his head at Buck’s prompting. There’s an expression on Buck’s face he can’t understand. “This book? It’s the reason I’m here, Eddie.”
“In my house?”
Lips quirked up, Buck shakes his head. “Vermont. Here, wherever I wanted to be. It gave me the courage to be the person I thought I couldn’t be. I’ve read it so many times. I fell in love with every word before I even really knew who you were.”
“You love—”
“You,” Buck finishes.
Eddie doesn’t know what to say.
“It’s okay if you can’t—”
“I love you too,” Eddie says. “Buck, I love you.”
When Buck kisses him, Eddie knows that every moment that’s come before is nothing to this; the future he, Chris and Buck have stretching out before them.
For Buck; I am seen. I am found.
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official-weasley · 8 months ago
Text
The Irreplaceable Charlie Weasley: Pt. 3, Ch. 5
PART 3: THE YEAR OF QUIDDITCH & MAGICAL CREATURES Chapter 5 - Telling Charlie
Nova
I rushed down the stairs as fast as I could as I didn't want Bill questioning me about Penny any longer! As much as I felt my cheeks go red, it would be a miracle if he doesn't realize what is going on with Penny at this point.
She didn't even admit to me that she has a crush on Bill and I already have to do damage control!
I was running to the Quidditch pitch as fast as I could, hoping Charlie didn't already finish and leave for breakfast; I really wanted to catch him alone.
As I was getting closer, my confidence started to shrink. Bill's words were quite encouraging and I am so glad I've decided to talk to him and ask him for advice but it didn't make the matter any easier for I had to do the talking to Charlie part alone.
I ran to the Gryffindor tent and listened for voices. I couldn't hear anything but then I heard a whistle coming from the pitch. They just finished!
I took a deep breath and blinked a couple of times. I hope Charlie won't notice I was crying.
“Nova! You're alright!” He spotted me immediately. He dropped his broom and ran to me. He squeezed me in a hug so tight that he could give Molly a run for her Galleons. He kept me in a tight hug as his teammates passed us, giggling.
“Where have you been?” He pushed me away and poked me in my shoulder. “I was worried sick! I thought you got hurt at the tryouts so I went to the Hospital Wing but you weren't there. I went to the Courtyard in case you were drawing there. I rushed to the Owlery but was only greeted by Pip. Library...empty, well except for Penny. Went to Hagrid's, you weren't there either. Not down by the Black Lake.” He stopped for a second. “But I still waited there for a while just to be sure the Giant Squid didn't take you. And I ended up sitting next to Tonks in the Great Hall and she said she hasn't seen you either. Neither has Bill. So...” He frowned. “Where...have...you...been?” Poking a finger in my shoulder with every word.
It was for moments like this that I cried in the Owlery this morning. Just imagining doing something that would tear our friendship apart and not seeing his worried freckled face made me want to be fed to the Giant Squid.
“I'm sorry I disappeared like that. I was in my dormitory the whole day.” I scratched the back of my head.
“Tonks was right. Should've asked Tulip.” He had a bewildered expression on his face. I think he was thinking just how many times Tonks has been right or given good advice this year.
“But why were you in your dormitory? Did the tryouts go so badly?” His worried face made me want to just lie that I didn't make the Team but I had to focus! I had to tell him.
“No, the tryouts weren't so bad.” I started slowly. “And I kind of hid from you.” My cheeks started to burn.
“From me?” He looked confused.
“Well, let's just say that the tryouts didn't go as we daydreamed about all Summer. I didn't become a Chaser.” I bit my lip, stopping myself from saying anything else. Why was it so hard to tell him!
He looked me deep in my eyes and I could see he was going through several scenarios of what could have happened differently than what we talked about during the Summer.
“Oh...” Was all he said. He gestured to follow him, grabbing my hand and we went up the stairs to one of the stands and sat down.
“You became a Seeker for Ravenclaw, didn't you?” He asked softly.
My eyes started to water but I blinked the tears away. I didn't want to cry in front of him. I nodded, looking down at my lap.
He gently lifted my chin with his finger and looked me in the eyes.
“And you thought that I was going to be mad?” I nodded quickly, trying to avoid his gaze.
“Why?” He asked with a rather confused voice. “You know I will support you no matter what you do! I just wanted you to be on the Team, no matter which position they assigned you!” Now he looked mad. Well, more disappointed than mad.
“I can't believe you would think that I would be mad at you for working hard and getting on the Ravenclaw Quidditch Team.” He frowned at me. Now, he was mad.
“Yes I knew you would be happy for me but Char, we are both Seekers, we will have to compete against each other. Fly around and chase each other after the Snitch!” I tried to explain my worries, which to be perfectly honest, seemed like nonsense to me now.
“So we chase after the same ball. So what! It's one game per year and you have to admit it's going to be fun competing against each other!” He put his arm around my shoulder and squeezed it, a smirk on his face.
“And besides, imagine the look on your face when I snatch the Snitch right in front of your nose!” He grinned at me.
“Not before I do the same to you! You have some competition now, Weasley!” I ruffled his hair.
“See,” he grinned, “that wasn't so bad was it?”
“Oh, stop it! Your reaction could've gone in a totally different direction.” I poked him in the ribs.
“Really? You really think I would be mad at you?” He winked at me. “We talked this over. We leave our friendship in the tents. At least Madam Hooch is going to be happy when the Seekers don't try and kill each other for once.” I giggled.
“Now,” he turned to me rather hastily, “tell me how in the bloody hell did you go from trying out for a Chaser to becoming the Ravenclaw Seeker!” His eyes were glowing. I could tell he couldn't wait to hear about my tryouts since yesterday.
I told him all about it. About Skye and Orion and Andre's rage and how everything went awry in a second and how before I knew it Orion was asking me if I was going to be able to compete against him.
Charlie laughed a couple of times as I was describing our Friendly as if telling an unbelievable story. I was relieved that I didn't lose my best friend and mad at myself for thinking that something like this could break our friendship.
Charlie, of course, couldn't hide how proud he was of me and said that Ravenclaw might actually have a chance to be second this year.
“Second? What do you mean second?! We're going to beat your arses, Weasley!” We both started laughing.
“Oh, this is going to be so much fun!” Charlie clapped excitedly. “And we can compare the strategies that we learn during our practice matches and during Summer we can practice catching the Snitch together!”
“I think our Captains are not going to be happy about that.” I chuckled.
“Eh, I don't care, we can say we were doing it to beat the Slytherins and Hufflepuffs.” We both laughed again.
“Nova?” His face turned serious.
“Uh-huh?”
“Promise me you will never overthink our friendship like this again, okay? I was really worried when I couldn't find you yesterday.” He said with a sad expression on his face.
“I promise.” I smiled at him, my cheeks pink.
“Alright then! What do you say I get changed and we get some breakfast. I'm starving!” I chuckled and we went back down to the tents.
We hurried to the Great Hall as we only had half an hour to catch breakfast. On our way there we already went through several scenarios of how he catches the Snitch, how I catch it instead, and how awesome it will be to be on the Quidditch pitch together, even if on the opposite team.
“Look who made up.” Bill grinned as we sat down next to him. At first, Charlie looked confused but then he knew exactly what I have done before talking to him.
“Did you go to Bill for some brotherly advice?” He mocked me.
“Well, thank Merlin I did because if it wasn't for him, I would hide from you forever!” We all laughed.
Tonks, Tulip, and to my surprise, even Penny joined us. Penny asked me about the tryouts to distract herself from looking at Bill as soon as they sat down. I told them all about it and just as I was finishing the story, an owl dropped a long package right in front of us.
I recognized it at once!
“Waffle, what did you bring me?” I petted him on his head and he hooted happily.
“Well, open it!” Tonks thought we were observing the package for way too long.
I tore the paper and revealed a brand new broom. Charlie, Penny, and Bill gasped.
“Is that the Comet 260?” Asked Bill, finally closing his mouth.
“It is!” Charlie said excitedly.
“Who is it from?” Penny started to look for a card.
“There you go, Nova.” Tulip who was also searching for the card handed it to me.
A big grin appeared on my face as I read aloud.
Dear pumpkin,
a little birdie told me that you've made it on the Ravenclaw Quidditch Team. I can't express in words how proud mum and I are of you! Here is a little present for you. Now, beat Gryffindor for me, will you! Mum would be so jealous if you do!
Love and lots of hugs,
Dad
“Hey!” Charlie acted offended when I read that Ravenclaw should beat Gryffindor.
“A little present, huh?” Chuckled Tonks.
“Bill, were you the little birdie again?” I looked at him, smiling.
“Not this time no. However, I do wonder who was so quick to tell your parents?” He narrowed his eyes, thinking.
“That would be me, Mr. Weasley.” We all turned around to see Professor Flitwick standing behind us.
“Professor, you?” I asked in shock. “But why?”
“Mr. Amari told me that you were the only one who didn't bring your own broom to the tryouts. As I taught your father and he was as excellent at Charms as he was at Quidditch and a proud Ravenclaw too,” Flitwick beamed, “I took the liberty to write to your parents, telling them to send you your broom. I had no idea they were going to buy you a new one.” He clapped excitedly.
“I didn't own one, Professor.” I said.
“That would explain it. Congratulations on making the Team Miss Blackwood.” He grinned at me. Then he turned to Charlie. “To you as well Mr. Weasley. Even though I am sorry to say that you have picked an unfortunate year to join as my Ravenclaws will beat Gryffindor for sure!” A proud smirk on his face. “Go, team!” He swung his arm into the air and walked away, leaving Charlie with an open mouth.
“Who would've thought that our Heads of House were such big Quidditch enthusiasts.” We all laughed as we remembered Professor McGonagall last Summer when Charlie tried out for the Gryffindor Seeker position and she was more than happy when he made the Team.
Winter was approaching fast and so did our first trip to Hogsmeade. We were all so excited that I really can't tell who wanted to go more.
Tonks, Tulip, and Jae couldn't wait to go to Zonko's Joke shop. Charlie and I couldn't wait to try Madam Rosmerta's Butterbeer as it was rumored to be one of the best and Penny couldn't wait to buy some sweets.
Overall, I knew we were all just waiting to spend some quality time together as we were so busy with school that we have barely seen each other. Tulip and I made a pact to only talk to each other in our dormitory to have time for other friends. Charlie and I were busy with Quidditch as we both had practice two to three times per week. Penny spent most of her time in the Library and already started to nag us about exams.
Tonks, Tulip, and Jae were Merlin knows where most of the time and the free time we did have, we visited Hagrid, or I drew or we were down by the Lake. Which didn't mean hanging out at all as our noses were in books or writing essays for classes, or reciting potion ingredients or translating runes.
Penny was handling her crush on Bill very well lately. She rarely excused herself anymore when he sat down next to us in the Great Hall or joined us by the Lake. She turned less pink and she even helped Bill with his Potions homework once. Bill was happy to see Penny was talking to him again and I wondered if he ever got around to talk to her about why she was avoiding him.
With all the work our professors gave us you can imagine how happy we were when we read about the first trip to Hogsmeade announcement!
I woke up on a Saturday the Hogsmeade trip was scheduled and I shrieked as I saw that it was snowing. That, of course, woke Tulip up, who sat up so abruptly that Dennis jumped out of the bed and hid under it.
“What is going on?” She rubbed her eyes.
“Tulip, look! It's snowing! And we're going to Hogsmeade today!” That was all I had to say and she was wide awake. We got dressed and took our hats, scarves, and gloves with us.
We were surprised to see Tonks fully awake when we sat down at our usual spot in the Great Hall. I guess all you need to do to wake her up is allow her to go to Hogsmeade. As we ate breakfast, we were making a plan to have a snowball fight by the Lake on our way back to the Castle.
Just walking there was beautiful and I was grateful that I put on the jumper Molly gave me for Christmas in my First Year as it was freezing. Once we arrived Jae, Tonks and Tulip ran to find Zonko's at once. Bill, Penny, Charlie, and I were standing in front of Three Broomsticks, ready to go inside.
“Nova, could I talk to you for a mo?” Penny grabbed my hand, stopping me from going inside. Charlie and Bill looked at us.
“We'll join you in a second. Order two Butterbeers for us, will you!” I said and allowed Penny to drag me away.
We started walking down the street and she linked our arms.
“Penny, are you okay? What do you have to talk to me about?” I looked at her. Her face was so red that I didn't know was it from the cold or was she blushing.
“Listen, Nova. I know we didn't have that much time to talk in private these past few months.” I nodded as I agreed with her. I was busy with Quidditch and Advanced Transfiguration and she was busy hiding from Bill and studying in the Library.
“I know! I am so jealous of Tonks and Tulip as they always find the time to be together. I feel like I haven't seen you all year. I miss you, Penny.” I couldn't deny it.
“I miss you too and I've been meaning to talk to you about something and I feel bad and I hope you don't think I'm avoiding you or something.” She wasn't making much sense until it dawned on me.
“Is this about your crush on Bill?” I mocked her.
“Shhh!” She put her finger on my mouth. “How do you know I have a crush on Bill?” She whispered and looked around if anyone heard that.
“Oh, c'mon Penny, it's super obvious!” I giggled.
“Does everybody know?” She lowered her head.
“I think, Penny, and I mean no offense when I say this, that you are the only one thinking about crushes. So no, I was the only one who noticed and even I wouldn't if we weren't alone that day at breakfast when you blushed when I mentioned him.” I reassured her.
“Oh, good.” She nodded. “Because I wanted to let you know that it's not a big deal, I will get over it and nobody else needs to know, promise!” She pointed her finger at my face. I giggled.
“I promise, Penny. I was thinking about talking to you about it, you know, to see if you wanted to get it off your chest but you have been in the Library hiding so much that I really didn't get a chance to do so.” I smiled at her.
“Was it that obvious?” She frowned.
“Again, only to me.” I reassured her again. “Tonks and Tulip are too busy planning pranks with Jae, Bill is too busy being a Prefect, studying for O.W.L.s and his Career Advice Meeting and Charlie is so oblivious to these things that I think not only would he not notice if a girl had a crush on him and wouldn't believe a girl even if she told him straight to his face. But I am also pretty sure he wouldn't even know if he had a crush on a girl either.” I chuckled.
“Well, that certainly puts me in a better mood. I am getting a hang of myself around Bill.” She said proudly.
“I have noticed. Well done!” I tried keeping a straight face as I didn't see this as a problem.
“And thank you for wanting to talk to me about it. I just really didn't want to make a big deal out of it.” She blushed, playing with her braid.
“It's not, Penny. So you have a crush. It can happen to anybody and besides, Bill is kind of cute, I guess.” It was hard to imagine Bill as anything else but a friend, especially after the talk we had in the Owlery, I began to think of him more like an older brother.
“I know it's not. I just didn't want anyone to find out. I wasn't going to act on it. I'm too young for that and Bill probably likes someone else anyway.” She looked at me hopefully.
“Oh, don't look at me! I wouldn't know anything about that. We don't talk about these sort of things.” We stopped in front of Three Broomsticks.
“Ready to go inside?” I smiled gently.
“Yes, I want to try the Butterbeer already!” She hugged me and we joined Bill and Charlie.
I have only had Butterbeer once before but I can tell you Madam Rosmerta makes the best one as we were already ordering another round.
Penny started a conversation about O.W.L.s with Bill. I really didn't want to think about my Fifth Year yet so I turned to Charlie and we started to discuss our first Quidditch match that was happening right after the holidays. It was the first game of the season and we were playing against Hufflepuff.
After about half an hour Tulip, Tonks and Jae joined us. Their hands were so full of stuff that Charlie joked if Bilton was left with an empty shop. As Bill decided to head back early and check on the Gryffindors that stayed behind, Charlie, Penny, and I decided to get some sweets from Honeydukes. They had so much candy to choose from that I got a little bit of everything.
Now as our hands were as full as Tonks, Tulip, and Jae's before, we were ready to head back to the Castle. We decided to skip the snowball fight as we were all freezing and we didn't want to lose all our stuff in the snow.
The next morning at breakfast both Charlie and I got the same letter from our mums. My mum wrote to me that she arranged with Molly to spend Christmas with them and Molly wrote to Charlie that he and Bill have to come home for Christmas this year and that he needn't worry as I was joining them as well.
I was happy to spend Christmas with the Weasleys even though I couldn't help but feel sad that my dad couldn't get time off work again. I was relieved, however, when I found out that we would have one more Hogsmeade trip before the holidays, as I had to go Christmas shopping for quite a lot of people this year!
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p-artsypants · a year ago
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Longest Night (43) Eating
Ao3 | FF.net
--
Bonus Scene from last Chapter:
Emilie reclined on the couch next to her husband. She had a glass of whiskey in her hand, her drink of choice. A silken robe covered her form as she rested against the plush cushions.
But she was not relaxed. Not in the slightest.
Gabriel had pulled up the Ladyblog on the smart TV and proceeded to go down the timeline of akumas. Thankfully, Alya had organized the blog to skip all the theories and fluff articles. Only the actions of the heroes and Hawkmoth were shown.
Emilie had scooted away from him when he said, “I was a terrorist.” But she stayed long enough to hear that none of his damage or casualties were permanent. And that he had some regret about his actions. He had been desperate to get her back, and admitted that he had crossed the line so many times.
So now he was admitting to all of his crimes. He was coming clean to her, so she could judge him fairly and for herself.
“I had no idea that Adrien was Chat Noir. I didn’t know until his identity was revealed.”
Emilie found this to be a lie, however, since he reached an Akuma in the timeline when he suspected Adrien to be Chat Noir.
Gorizilla, that was the name. The bodyguard Emilie had known forever was the poor victim. He had turned into a giant blue ape and had Adrien in his grasp.
And then...and then...
Emilie watched in horror as the Akuma dropped her son, her baby, off the side of the building.
“I had hoped that he would transform to save himself, but he very cleverly called my bluff—“
The glass of whiskey was now empty, as it’s contents were in his face.
Perhaps he had been too honest.
“My baby!! My precious little boy! My innocent sweet sunshine boy! You let him get thrown off of a roof on a hunch?!??”
“I wasn’t going to let him hit the bottom. Ladybug saved him.”
“WELL I’M GLAD SOMEONE WAS ON TOP OF IT!” She shouted. “I can’t believe you! Of all the low down, dirty, rotten, conniving tricks!”
“Emilie please—“
“I should throw you off the building and see how you like it!”
“Please calm down.”
“Calm down?! CALM DOWN?!” She found one of her heels she had kicked off earlier. “Gabriel Maurice Agreste! I’m going to murder you!”
He looked at her flatly. “We haven’t even gotten to the worst part.”
Emilie’s primal scream of rage made something click in his brain.
It was time to go.
--
To say that Tom, Sabine, and Gabriel were surprised would be an understatement.
There, standing at the top of the stairs, arm and arm, were Ladybug and Chat Noir. Not Adrien and Marinette, but the costumed heroes that everyone loved. With added hats and scarfs to protect from the December air.
Tom was the first to recover and gave them a disarming smile. “Hey kiddos! Where’s the fire?”
“No fire.” Said Ladybug. “Ice Cream.”
“Ice cream? In January?” Asked Gabriel. “If you want Ice Cream, you could have just asked.”
Ladybug shook her head. “Alya figured out where Andre’s Ice Cream cart is. We want to go.”
“Okay, well, we could drive you—“ started Sabine.
“No!” Ladybug shouted. “I need to get out of this house or I’m going to explode! I need to get away from the smothering! I need to feel the sun on my skin and the wind—“ she choked. “I need to get out there for just a little while.”
“Your suits will draw attention.” Gabriel said it as a thought to be considered, and not a warning.
“I know. But won’t it help? Isn’t everyone asking about us?”
Tom gave a little smile. “What’s the harm? Can you just text us when you get there?”
“I can do that.” Ladybug smiled.
Gabriel spoke up. “Did you make sure Adrien wanted to go?”
“It was his idea.” She said cooly.
“Well, I have been disarmed.” Gabriel shrugged. “Just please be careful.”
“There’s nothing to worry about.” Ladybug assured.
After they both left, Tom looked at his wife and Gabriel. “They amaze me. They are doing so well!”
“I agree. Especially Marinette,” said Gabriel. “For her to not be afraid to go out in their suits...”
“I think the suits are for strength.” Added Sabine. “For them to be able to walk that far, and for protection.”
“That makes sense.”
She frowned. “Actually, I think it’s the suits that are letting them do this well. I found them sleeping in them the other night.”
Tom winced. “That’s not a great sign.”
Gabriel screwed up his lips in thought.
Outside the mansion, Ladybug and Chat Noir descended the stairs and went out to the gate. It was at the point where the media no longer lingered outside the mansion. No one had gotten a glimpse of the heroes, and they weren’t likely to for a while still.
“Do you want to walk? Or take the roofs?”
“Walk. I’m still not strong enough for rooftops.”
“Okay. He’s not that far from here.”
They made their way, hand and hand, to the Ponts des arts.
As they walked, occasionally they were bugged by passerby. Mostly with handshakes and cheek kisses, occasional selfies. Thankfully, since it was January, there weren’t a lot of pedestrians.
Finally, they reached the bridge. Andre spotted them from the other side. “Ladybug! Chat Noir! Oh my favorite duo!”
Ladybug gave a soft smile to the man. “Hello Andre. One please.”
“Of course! On the house!” He prepared a cone, and started to scoop. “One scoop mint chip, for Chat Noir. One scoop cherry chip, for Ladybug, and one scoop cookies and creme, for true, pure love, riddled with trials and tribulations.” He stuck two spoons in the ice cream and handed it over. “Come see me whenever you like. You’re always welcome here!”
“Thank you. This looks delicious!”
It was unseasonably warm. Sitting on a bench looking out on the river, ice cream in hand, everything felt normal for a little while. A lovely ice cream date, something Marinette had always wanted to do with Adrien.
He let out a long sigh.
“Are you okay? Comfortable?”
“I’m fine.” He smiled at her. “My butt hurts a little, but I’ll survive.”
“We don’t have to stay long. We’ll just finish our ice cream.”
“No, you were right,” he breathed. “Just being outside for a while is nice.” A tear rolled down his cheek. “I can’t believe how much I missed this. It wasn’t that long but…”
“The sunlight.” Ladybug finished for him. “It’s nice. I can feel it.”
“And the wind. And hearing the birds. Hearing the water. It’s all nice.”
They ate in companionable silence for a while. Living in the moment with blank minds.
“Hey, you beat us!” Alya called as they approached.
“We decided to get out before school let out and everyone ruined our fun.” Said Ladybug.
Alya and Nino got their ice cream and joined them on the bench.
“So, how’s the dynamic duo today? Haven’t gotten to spend a lot of time with you since we both moved back home.”
“Well, we have sweethearts ice cream. Not much to complain about.”
“Anybody give you trouble on the way out?”
“A couple people wanted pictures, and to express sympathy. It wasn’t bad.”
“It helps that it’s not tourist season, and it’s a weekday.”
“I’m sure. What kind of ice cream did you get?”
“Neapolitan. Or as Andre now calls it, Ninopolitan. Just for us.”
“That’s adorable.”
“I’m not usually a fan of strawberry ice cream either, but Andre’s is so good.”
“His chocolate is amazing.” Added Nino. “I want him to make my wedding cake out of it.”
“What, you don’t want my dad’s better-than-crack chocolate cake?”
“Half and half!” He protested. “I shouldn’t have to choose!”
Chat Noir smiled broadly, his shoulders shaking with mirth.
“Oh, before I forget. Did Chloe tell you about the Mayor’s ball a few weeks out?”
Ladybug groaned. “Yeah. The supposed ‘Hero’s Ball’ in honor of Chat and I? No thanks.”
“It can’t be too bad. A chance to get all gussied up, eat good food, and mingle with rich people.”
“Old Marinette would be excited, but...”
“You’ve got to stop referring to yourself like that, girl. You’ve changed, but you’re not a totally different person.”
She laughed. “I’m not?”
“A lot different, but there’s plenty of things I recognize. Right now, you seem to be doing really well. Besides the hair cut, you can hardly tell.”
“That’s good then.” Said Ladybug. “As long as someone recognizes me.”
“Are you designing a dress for the ball?”
“Gabriel and I are collaborating.” She stated it so plainly, like she didn’t even care. “He found a design he liked in my sketchbook, and he’s altering it. Same for Adrien. He’s designing a dress for my mom from scratch.”
“Oh that’s cool!”
“Poor man, he’s trying so hard to be a good father, but he’s so awful at it.”
Chat Noir snorted.
“He doesn’t get points for trying?”
“No. Not when he’s being awful when it matters. I’ve been yelled at for talking for Adrien, since he still isn’t ready to speak. Gabriel is impatient and bossy. He’s plenty generous, but he lacks understanding.”
“And it’s easy to be generous when you’re rich.” Added Nino.
Chat nodded in agreement.
“How are you today, bro?” Nino asked.
Chat shrugged, and pointed to his ice cream with his spoon.
“Gotcha.”
As they say, all good things must come to an end. And the simple peaceful outing turned into chaos when one person shouted. “There they are! It’s Ladybug and Chat Noir!”
From both ends of the bridge, people came running. Calling out for attention. Swarming.
“We didn’t even get to finish our ice cream,” Ladybug lamented.
Chat Noir, however, trembled at the noise and shifted closer to her, Alya, and Nino.
Alya stood, allowing Nino to wrap a protective arm around both of the heroes.
“Back!” Alya shouted at the crowd, raising her hands. “Back, you animals!”
The mob heeded her commands and stopped just a few feet away.
“Ladybug and Chat Noir are not ready for visitors! They aren’t doing autographs, and they aren’t doing hugs! They’re just out for ice cream and sunshine! So be on your merry way please!”
“Ladybug!” A little girl cried out. She weaseled her way through the crowd and ran at them, ignoring Alya completely to crash into Ladybug’s legs and nearly crawl into her lap.
“Hey!” Alya shouted. “What did I just say?”
“I’m so so sorry!” A woman called, catching up with the girl. “She’s just so excited! She loves Ladybug!”
“It’s alright.” Ladybug assured, petting the girl’s head. “How are you Eva?”
The girl beamed. “You remembered my name!”
“Of course I do. I’d remember any akuma that took six hours to beat.”
The girl giggled. “Sorry not sorry!”
Ladybug lifted the girl so she could properly sit on her lap, while the rest of the crowd stood back and listened.
“How are things at home? Did they ever get better?”
Eva gave a little shrug. “Mommy and daddy ended up getting divorced. But now that they don’t live in the same house, they get along a lot better. Sometimes we have dinner together. It still hurts, but at least they don’t yell anymore!”
“I’m really glad to hear that. I’m sorry that they divorced. That’s never an easy thing to go through, but I’m glad things worked out.”
“What about you? Are you feeling better?”
Ladybug swallowed the lump in her throat. “I’m…I’m doing alright. Somedays are better than others. Today we felt good enough to go out and get some ice cream.”
“Ice cream makes everything better!”
She smiled. “It sure does.”
“What about you, Chat Noir? How are you?”
He nodded with a smile.
“He said he’s good.” Provided Ladybug.
“Oh yeah, his voice hurts. That happened to me last year. I coughed and coughed and then I sounded like a frog. Do you sound like a frog when you talk?”
He shook his head.
“No? Well that’s good! Wouldn’t sound much like a cat if you croaked!” She reached up and petted Chat Noir’s head like a real cat.
He couldn’t help but purr.
“Oops, you found his soft spot.” Ladybug snickered.
Eva giggled and scratched him again. “What kind of ice cream did you get?”
“Mint chip, cherry chip, and cookies and creme.”
“Cookies and creme is my favorite! Did you like it?”
“I did! Though, I don’t think there’s any bad ice cream.”
“I do! My dad likes pistachio ice cream! Bleh!”
“Oh but pistachio is good!”
“No it’s not! It tastes like butt!”
Ladybug laughed. “Why don’t you ask your mom for some ice cream?”
“Oh hey yeah! That’s a great idea!”
The woman with Eva came closer. “Can I get a picture with you together?”
“Sure.”
“Mom! Get Chat in the picture too!”
Chat Noir leaned in, as she wrapped an arm around his shoulder.
A click, and Eva was scampering off of her lap. “It was nice seeing you Ladybug! I’m going to get ice cream now!”
Ladybug smiled at her. “I’m glad we could talk, Eva. That was nice. See you later.”
“Later!”
Ladybug let out a blissful sigh. The crowd was still surrounding them, waiting to be prompted.
“I’m kinda tired.” She announced. “What about you, kitty?”
Chat nodded and yawned.
“They’re going to go home now folks! Go on, get!” Alya shooed them away. “Sorry your outing was interrupted.”
“Mmm, actually, that wasn’t as bad as I was expecting.”
Adrien awoke from his nap feeling only a little groggy. He was down to one nap a day now, though it still usually lasted over an hour.
Marinette laid in his arms, her back pressed against his chest. It looked like she was awake as well, as she scrolled through her phone.
Adrien nuzzled closer, pressing a kiss behind her ear. “Whatcha reading?” He asked softly.
“Ladynoir FanFiction.”
He chuckled softly. “I thought you hated our FanFiction.”
“I did. But not so much anymore. Alya said a lot of authors on the blog are going back and editing their stories, so that our names and backgrounds are right. It’s kind of fun to see what people assume about us. The innocent things, like what our favorite Pokémon is and what flavors of ice cream we like.”
“Hmm.” Adrien hummed in her ear, savoring that perfect level of comfort. “What is your favorite Pokémon, my lady?”
“According to fics, it’s Ledyba.”
He scoffed.
“But I think I like Spheal. He’s a spherical seal. He’s a good boy.”
“He is a good boy.” Adrien said sleepily. “Wanna guess mine?”
“Is it Arcanine?”
“...yeah, it’s Arcanine.”
She giggled, turning her phone off and turning to face him. “I’m afraid you’re an open book to me.”
“Only to you.” He promised, kissing her swiftly.
There came a knock at the door.
“Adrien? Are you awake?” Gabriel’s voice came from the hall.
“He’s awake,” Marinette answered for him.
They adjusted themselves to be a little more presentable as Gabriel entered. He actually looked nervous, and excited? It was hard to tell on a man so stoic. He rubbed his hands together. “So, Adrien, we have a guest joining us for dinner tonight, and I thought you might want to see her first.” He beckoned the guest at the door.
Seeing Aunt Amilie, even after all this time, made his heart squeeze. She looked just like his mother, right down to the side ponytail.
Wait.
Was this some sort of joke? Amilie was in white, and her hair was tied on the other side, just the way his mother used to—
“Hi Hunny Bunny.” Her voice was so soft, so gentle. Tears gathered in her eyes as her hands raised up for him. “Look at how much you’ve grown!”
All of a sudden, he wasn’t in his bedroom. He was in that cold dark room, where they had been kept in crude cages. He was looking at the corpse with his mother’s face on it.
Then it morphed into everything wrong. Mouths for eyes, snakes for teeth, dripping fingers, as she just continued to smile at him. “It’s me, Adrien…I’m home.”
Adrien shook his head frantically, trying to shake the vision. But it wouldn’t leave. It was acid, wasn’t it? LSD? That’s what Dr. Boucher said was in his system. That hallucinations he had down in the catacombs would continue to haunt him. They were as unpredictable as they were vivid.
“Adrien honey?” Her voice was too sweet. It was wrong. Why was she here?
Adrien scrambled off the bed, placing himself opposite of the mattress from her, and he watched her with careful eyes.
“Adrien,” Gabriel tried. “It’s alright, your mother is home now. She’s back.”
Between the horrible visions and twisting thoughts, he had half a mind to take offense. She was back? She was fine all this time? Where was she? Why did she leave him alone? He couldn’t find any joy in the utter wrongness of it all. It made no sense, and it felt like some sick twisted joke.
His eyes wandered over to the windows on the other side of the room. His reflection was so small, so disgustingly thin and dirty, bloody, and pale. And her reflection…
It wasn’t his mother.
Gabriel nervously bit his thumb, waiting for Adrien’s reaction. So far, he just sat there, staring at her with impossibly wide eyes. Then he scrambled out of the sheets, his eyes never leaving her face. But there was no smile, no disbelief, no awe. Just shock and fear.
“Adrien, it’s alright. Your mother is home now. She’s back.”
Adrien quaked in his spot, shaking like a leaf, ready to burst. His listless eyes turned and caught sight of something in the window.
Gabriel never did know what his son saw, but whatever it was, it was horribly upsetting.
Terrible enough to rip that scream from his throat. Frightening enough make him flail his fists around, at him, at Marinette, and his own mother.
“Hunny bunny?” she asked once more, pleading with him.
It didn’t work. It only further exasperated Adrien, so that he shouted at her, like if he yelled loud enough she was disappear in a puff of smoke.
That’s when Gabriel conceded that his plan had failed epically. He grabbed Emilie’s wrist and pulled her from the room, as Adrien continued to scream after her.
Sabine caught her in a hug just outside the door. “It’s alright, dear.”
Emilie clung to her. “He doesn’t know me!”
“Of course he does,” Sabine soothed. “He’s just confused right now.”
Gabriel had made sure to close the door as they left, but it did nothing to suppress the noise from the room. The banging, the crashing, the clattering of books and trophies being flung off the shelves.
And Marinette’s rational voice trying to reach him.
“I hate her!” He yelled, like an arrow to Emilie’s heart. “She’s a liar! That’s all she’s ever been! I hate her! I hate her!”
Gabriel pressed a kiss to his wife’s head. “He doesn’t, he loves you so much.”
“Where did so go?! Why did she leave me alone with—with him?!” He voice broke off into ugly sobbing.
“Oh my baby boy,” Emilie wept. “My poor baby…”
“Well, I really hate to be the one that told you so…” Plagg spoke, phasing through the door.
“Don’t sound so smug.” Gabriel bit.
“I’m not. I swear I’m not.” His ears hung sadly. “But’s like I said. He doesn’t know where she’s been. To him, she ran away without a word, and she’s only coming back now? Because of what? The fact that he was tortured on screen?”
Emilie covered a mouth to hold back a sob.
“That’s not what happened, and you know it!” Gabriel yelled back.
“Of course I know! But he doesn’t! And you’re going to have to explain all of it to him.”
“What do you mean, ‘all of it’?”
Plagg looked at him levelly. “If you want Adrien to accept his mother, you’ve got to tell him about being Hawkmoth.”
Gabriel looked at the door. “Do you think he’s ready? Either of them are ready?” Plagg shrugged. “His world is rocked either way. I think you’ve got to decide which parent he needs more. Because the way I see it, he’ll reject the other. Maybe both of you.”
Emilie and Gabriel shared a very meaningful look.
Finally, Emilie hugged Sabine. “You’ll go comfort him, right? He needs a mom right now.”
“Of course dear.” Sabine opened the bedroom door slightly and crept inside. Emilie watched from the crack as she approached Marinette and Adrien, who were huddled together in a corner. It didn’t take any convincing for both of them to accept her embrace.
“I’ve missed so much.” Emilie whispered, teary-eyed.
Tom squeezed her shoulder. “It’s not your fault. You didn’t do anything wrong.”
Gabriel sighed. “And hopefully, you won’t have to miss anything more. I’ll tell them tomorrow. Even if…even if Adrien hates me, he deserves my honesty. And…I haven’t been very good to him since this whole mess started. You’ll be better for him, I know.”
“Gabe…”
“It’s alright. I suppose this is my punishment. But as long as Adrien gets everything he needs, then it’s all worth it.”
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A Night to Remember (Part 1)
A/N #1: It is finally here! The Celestial Ball fic!!! 23 pages total, hence why I divided it into two parts and will also insert text dividers so that if you can’t read it in one shot, you can easily find where you were. Here are the other fics in the series: You’ve Got a Friend in Me | Distraction | Something There | One Step Closer | Fashion Emergency | Get Your Head in the Game | Der Walzer von Alice | Of Quidditch and Ballgowns | From Paris, with Love 
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There was only one day left before the Celestial Ball. The last exam before the Winter Break had been less than a week ago, so everyone was busy preparing for the ball. Alice and her friends were helping Penny complete the decorations in the Great Hall. Many students could be seen running around Hogwarts as they tried to finalize their ball outfits or tried desperately to find dates.
“Why is everyone so desperate to find a date?” asked Alice as she handed Penny a star.
“Because it’s way more fun to go to a ball with a date,” explained Penny, as she hung the star.
“Really? But it looks so stressful to try to get one. If it weren’t for the fact that prefects are the first ones to dance, I would just have gone with all you guys. Do you have a date for the ball, Penny?”
“I was so busy with the decorations committee that I just asked Andre,” she replied, hanging another star.
“Thanks a lot, Haywood. Now I feel really special,” shouted Andre, near the ceiling on his broom, hanging decorations.
“Come on! You said yes because you don’t have the guts to ask the Hufflepuff seeker to the ball,” replied Penny, acting fakely offended.
“I don’t know what you are talking about,” said Andre before flying to another section of the Great Hall.
“What are you talking about?” asked Alice, handing her friend a big moon.
“Andre has a thing for Artemon Spooner, Hufflepuff’s Seeker. Another player told me that, when they practice together, they spend most of their time flirting with each other,” replied Penny.
“Why would a Keeper practice with a Seeker?” asked Alice, looking at Andre before bringing her attention back to Penny.
“Excellent question! Probably why nearly all Quidditch players know about the crush they have on each other,” said Penny, rubbing her chin.
“But why don’t they just admit it to each other?” asked Alice.
Penny stared at her as Alice looked back with her wide eyes. “Well, sometimes, it’s not that simple. Fear of rejection plays a huge part in whether you are willing to reveal your feelings to someone or not.”
“But… They flirt with each other. So… Isn’t it obvious they have a thing for one another?” asked Alice, scratching her head.
“Oh, some people can be oblivious to that. Believe me, I’ve seen it,” said Penny, looking back at her friend with a small smile.
“Really? When?” asked Alice, but before Penny could say anything, Charlie ran up to them.
“Alice, it’s time for our last dance practice,” said Charlie, pointing at his watch. 
With that, Alice and Charlie walked out of the Great Hall together. Penny looked at them leave, a small smile gracing her features. “Merlin, she’s oblivious,” she whispered as she shook her head.
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In the evening, when Alice finally returned to her dorm, the first thing she saw was Rowan looking mortified. She turned to see what was causing her friend such distress.
“Tulip!” she exclaimed, looking at the red-haired Ravenclaw.
“What?” asked Tulip as she poured something in a small cauldron on her bed.
“What are you doing?” asked Alice.
“A face mask mixture! I heard some girls talking about face masks to have smooth skins, so I figured it’d be fun to try one before the ball.”
“Hum… Since when have you been so… girly?” asked Alice, raising her eyebrows.
“She omitted to tell you her main ingredient,” pointed out Badeea, who was busy sketching on her bed.
“It’s dungbombs…” whispered Rowan, still staring at Tulip.
“Of course it is… Tulip, do you want to repeat the dungbomb incident of last year?” asked Alice.
“Well… It was technically this year, since we are still in 1988,” pointed out Tulip, adding another ingredient to her cauldron.
“Tulip…” grumbled Alice. “I covered your arse last time. I don’t think Flitwick would believe me if I told him you had an ‘accident’ again.”
“Ugh, fine, fine! I guess we won’t have soft skins then,” she said as she opened a window, dropping the content of her cauldron outside.
“Wait! Don’t!” shouted her three roommates, all running towards the window.
They heard a splash followed by a scream. They slowly looked out the window. All the way down on the ground was Filch, covered in Tulip’s mixture. They all quickly took a step back before he had a chance to look up.
“Tulip, slowly close the window,” whispered Alice. “Rowan, scourgify Tulip’s cauldron and hide it.”
“She can put it in my trunk,” said Tulip as she closed the window.
“Hide it from Tulip,” specified Alice. “We don’t want her to make our dorm stink or explode before the ball.”
“I just love how you trust me,” said Tulip.
“What can I do?” asked Badeea.
“Hum… Oh! You can sketch our alibi! Just draw Rowan reading and Tulip playing with her dungbombs.”
“What about you?”
“Well, I arrived moments before the incident, so having a full sketch of me doing something wouldn’t be very credible. So just a vague shape on my bed.”
“Alice, don’t you think it’s a bit much? It’s not like we are trying to get away with murder,” said Rowan.
“It’s Filch. He’s going to look for a culprit. He probably knows it came from the Ravenclaw tower. Which Ravenclaw do you think he’ll suspect?” 
“What can I say? He’s so fun to mess with,” said Tulip, shrugging.
Alice sat on her bed, massaging her temples. “I swear, Tulip… I have enough stress as it is with the ball fast approaching, I really don’t need the extra stress of Filch conducting an investigation.”
“Alright, alright. I’ll be nice until this is all over. I think I’ll be able to stay out of trouble for one day,” conceded Tulip.
“What about Winter Break?” asked Badeea.
“Oh, I’ll get to annoy my parents back home, so it’s all good.”
Rowan stared at Tulip before turning back to Alice. “Why are you stressed? Your dress is ready; you have every element for your outfit, you have someone to dance with… Oh!”
“Yeah… I will be dancing in front of everyone. Everyone will be staring. One false move, and I can already hear Merula laugh.”
“Why do you care so much about what Merula thinks?” asked Badeea
“I don’t really care about what she thinks, but she’s been a thorn in my side since our first day at Hogwarts. If I screw up, she won’t just think I suck; she’ll keep bringing it up, which is so annoying. There are days where I wish I could just cast Silencio on her,” explained Alice.
“Alice?” said Tulip.
“Hmm?”
“If Merula is an arse during the ball, can I use a dungbomb on her?”
“You have my blessing.”
“You sound like the Godfather,” remarked Badeea.
Alice looked at her before realizing what she was referring to. “Should I make her kiss my ring?” she said before laughing.
“Your godfather makes people kiss his ring?” asked Rowan.
“And he asks people to use dungbombs?” asked Tulip.
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The next morning, the Great Hall was abuzz with conversations about the ball. At the Ravenclaw table, Andre was busy suggesting various hairstyles to Alice. 
“What about Audrey Hepburn’s hairstyle at the beginning of Breakfast at Tiffany’s?”
“Too much,” replied Alice between two bites of toast as Barnaby sat next to Andre.
“What’s going on?” asked the Slytherin.
“Andre is suggesting hairstyles for tomorrow.”
“I don’t think you have enough hair to make that hairstyle,” said Barnaby as he looked at a picture and then at Andre.
“It’s not for me! It’s for Alice,” replied Andre, letting out a sigh. 
“I like Alice’s hair right now,” said Barnaby, looking at Alice with a smile.
“But it’s too plain! We need something amazing!”
Alice narrowed her eyes. “Thanks, Andre. But honestly, I don’t want a hairstyle that is too over the top. The dress is already dazzling, not to mention the hair accessory I have…”
“But…”
“Andre. I won’t be a contestant in a beauty pageant. I don’t need to outshine everyone. I just want to look good for myself. I want to be able to recognize myself in the mirror,” pleaded Alice.
“Alright, alright. Anyway, with the outfit I’ve put together for you, you’ll outshine everyone.”
“I have a question,” said Barnaby.
“Yes?” said Alice, turning her attention to her Slytherin friend.
“Where can I get a buccaneer?”
“A buccaneer?” repeated Alice, taken aback.
“In the Caribbean, about two, three centuries ago,” answered Andre. “Why?”
“Well, I heard Merula and Ismelda talking about it last night in the common room. Merula said her date better have one,” said Barnaby pensively.
“Kinky,” mumbled Andre, stifling a laugh.
“Did Merula say anything else about the… buccaneer?”
“Well, she did say she hopes the flowers won’t clash with her dress.”
At the mention of flowers, both Alice’s and Andre’s eyes lit up.
“Ah!” exclaimed Andre.
“A boutonnière!” said Alice.
“Showing off your French, Beaumont?” snickered Andre.
“Shut up,” mumbled Alice. 
“Wait, isn’t it what I said?” asked Barnaby, rubbing his chin.
“Not exactly… Anyway, a boutonnière is a single flower you wear on the lapel of your suit. So I guess you could go see Professor Sprout for one,” explained Alice.
“But it’s really not necessary. I wasn’t planning on wearing one, and Charlie’s suit doesn’t have any lapel…”
“Oh! Speaking of Charlie’s outfit…” started Alice, her curiosity piqued.
“Tonight,” replied Andre.
“Awww, come on! All he told me was ‘Dragons!’ I’m starting to imagine a suit covered in little dragons.”
“That sounds so cool!” exclaimed Barnaby, resulting in Andre staring at him.
“You know I would never do that,” said Andre as he kept glancing at Barnaby.
“Could you cover mine in bowtruckles? No, wait, puffskeins! Oh, oh, no, even better…” said Barnaby, visibly excited at the idea of a dress robe covered in magical creatures.
“No! Your dress robes shouldn’t look like a 5-year-old’s pyjamas!”
“Aww, come on, Andre, at least give him a little embroidery,” said Alice, drinking her tea.
“Ugh, fine… Can I go to Paris this summer?”
“Only if you shut up about you-know-what,” replied Alice, not looking up from her cup.
“Could you make me some PJs with all the creatures after?” asked Barnaby as he got up.
“We’ll see. Alice, think about your hair and your makeup while I’m busy with the man-child,” said Andre before following Barnaby.
“Be nice!” shouted Alice at him, smiling before taking another sip.
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Back in her dorm after breakfast, she stood in front of the mirror, playing with her hair and the tiara her grandmother had given her. She tried various hairstyles, holding her hair up, then half-up-half-down, her tiara at the top of her head, then at the back. She sighed and dropped on her bed, her face in her pillow.
“UGH!!!” she let out, the pillow muffling the sound of her exasperation.
“Are you ok, Alice?” asked Badee in a soft voice.
Alice looked up from her pillow. “Uh? Oh! How long have you been here?” 
“I just came in,” answered Badeea, sitting at the edge of Alice’s bed. “What’s going on?”
“I’m trying to figure out a hairstyle for tomorrow that goes with this,” said Alice, pointing at the tiara on her nightstand.
“Oh! It’s lovely!” exclaimed Badeea, delicately picking it up and observing its details. “The craftsmanship is amazing. Did Andre make this?”
“Hum… No… It was a… family friend,” replied Alice, unconvinced by her lie.
“I see,” said Badeea, a small smile appearing on her face as she glanced at Alice. “So, what kind of hairstyle are you going for?”
“Something simple. I don’t want to look like a wedding cake topper.”
“What about… a braid, going around the back of your head?” suggested Badeea.
“Like a milkmaid braid? Sorry, but I forgot my dirndl at home,” replied Alice, raising her eyebrows.
“No, no. Not a milkmaid braid. I was thinking more of taking parts of the hair at the side of your face and braiding them towards the back of your head until both met. Your tiara could go just underneath.”
Alice stared at her for a few seconds before jumping out of her bed and hugging her. “That’s brilliant!”
Startled by the hug, Badeea was rendered speechless. It was extremely rare for Alice to initiate physical contacts. She slowly tapped Alice’s back before the latter took a step back. 
“You think you could make a quick sketch for Andre? It doesn’t have to be super detailed, just for him to understand the idea,” said Alice. 
Badeea simply nodded as she watched her friend, who said a quick thank you, run out of the dorm. 
As she ran down a corridor, smiling brightly, Alice bumped into Andre, who was coming back from the Slytherin common room. 
“You look like you are in a hurry. Your cheeks are all flushed! Actually kinda looks good on you,” noticed Andre, staring at his friend.
“There you are,” said Alice, ignoring his remark. “Badeea came up with a brilliant hairstyle for tomorrow! Taking the hair at the side of my face and braiding them towards the back, like a braid crown, but only at the back, and we could place my tiara right underneath it! She’s going to make a sketch so you can see,” she said as she started to drag Andre in the direction she came from.
Andre stopped her in her tracks. “Woah, slow down there, Alice. Breath in, breath out. Now, I’m glad you figured out your hairstyle, but what about makeup?”
“Make… Up… Awww, great. I forgot about that… Well, I can already tell you that I don’t want to look like Cyndi Lauper. Her music is rad, but her overall look is a bit too over the top for me,” said Alice as she crossed her arms, leaning against a wall.
“Oi! I could make some suggestions,” said Tonks, who’s head popped up from behind Andre.
“No! After the Camden incident, I want your makeup ‘skills’ to stay as far away from me as possible,” exclaimed Alice, terrified at the prospect of Tonks applying her makeup.
“Do I wanna know?” asked Andre, looking between the two girls.
“Nah, just that little Miss Sloane Ranger here doesn’t like edgy makeup,” replied Tonks, doing her best not to laugh at Alice’s face.
“Edgy? I looked like a panda! So did you, for that matter,” said Alice with a huff.
“Sloane Ranger?” said Andre, raising an eyebrow as he stared at Tonks.
“Yeah… Think Lady Diana, Princess of Wales,” summarized Alice. 
“Oh… Oh!” exclaimed Andre, his eyes lightening up.
“What?” asked Alice, furrowing her brows as she looked at her friend.
But before she could say anything else, Andre had grabbed her wrist and had started running towards the Ravenclaw common room, leaving Tonks behind. Once inside, he dragged her to his dorm.
“Oi! Egwu! What’s going on? Why did you drag me all the way here? Am I even allowed to be here?” asked Alice, looking around the boys’ dorm.
“Yeah, you are,” said Andre as he started to rummage through his trunk. “Guys are not allowed in the girls’ dorm, but girls are allowed in our dorm.”
“Could you two keep it down?” said a voice behind them.
Alice turned around to see Talbott staring at them from behind his book. “Oh, sorry, Talbott. Didn’t see you there.”
“No wonder. You stormed into here,” grunted Talbott.
“I thought you would be hanging in the owlery like you always do,” said Andre, barely paying attention to his roommate.
“The owlery is too busy, people sending thank you notes to their families for the stuff they sent for the ball,” explained Talbott, his attention back to his book. 
“Oh, are you going to the ball, Talbott?” asked Alice.
“Nah, I avoid crowds,” replied Talbott.
“Oh, that’s too bad,” said Alice, a light pout appearing on her lips.
“Let him be…” said Andre, suddenly raising a magazine above his head triumphantly. “There! Found it!”
“What?”
“Your makeup inspiration! Princess Diana at Canne last year!” said Andre, shoving the picture in her face.
Alice took a step back to have a better look at the picture. “Oh! How lovely! It looks really natural and timeless. I love it! But maybe not the blue eyeliner I’m kinda seeing…”
“Don’t worry; blue wouldn’t go with your green eyes. I was actually thinking of forgoing the eyeliner, and simply go for blush and mascara, and perhaps a natural shade of lipstick.” 
“There’s just one problem… I don’t have any makeup with me.”
“Mmm… I might know where we can get some… To the Hufflepuff common room!!!”
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“Penny!” exclaimed Andre, standing beside Penny, quietly reading while her face was covered with a clay mask.
“AH!” screamed Penny, making her mask crack. “Ugh! Look what you’ve done! I’ll have to start all over again.”
“As if you needed a clay mask… We need your help, Penny. We finally figured out a makeup style for Alice, but we don’t have any makeup!”
“How the hell did we get in here…” mumbled Alice, looking around.
“What do you need?” asked Penny.
“Blush and mascara.”
“I can do the blush, but sharing mascara is very unhygienic.”
“We could use Scourgify on the brush?” suggested Alice.
“Every time I dip the brush in, I contaminate the product, so even if you clean the brush, it’s pointless.”
“Don’t you have a spare?” asked Andre.
“Well, I do, but…”
“Please! It’s for Alice’s big night. She’ll be dancing in front of a huge crowd with, you know, Charlie,” said Andre, winking.
“Huh? Oh!” exclaimed Penny, suddenly realizing what Andre was hinting at. Tonight might be the night the Dragon Boy and the Curse-Breaker would confess to one another. “Alright, you can have it. I’ll just go and fetch it.”
“Thanks for reminding me of the huge crowd…” grumbled Alice.
“Oh, you’ll be fine. You’ll be in the arms of Charlie Weasley, dancing to the sound of a waltz, in your own little world,” daydreamed Andre.
“All that’s missing is an evil step-mother, and we’d have a fairytale,” said Alice, rolling her eyes. 
“Oh, Alice, where is your sense of romance?” asked Andre, letting out a sigh as he looked at his hopeless friend.
“Andre, I don’t have time for romance. I have to protect you guys from ‘R,’ whoever that is, and I have to find the portrait vault. Romance would just be a distraction. Anyway, who would be interested in a danger magnet like me?”
Andre stared at his friend, letting out another sigh. Everyone could see how much Charlie was smitten with her, except her. “Fine, fine. Why don’t you go and eat lunch? It’s going to be makeover time after lunch!”
“Why am I afraid?” said Alice as she left the Hufflepuff common room, just as Penny arrived with the makeup.
“There! Alice will look like a fairytale princess for the big confession.”
Andre didn’t say anything as Penny handed him the blush and mascara. He just kept staring at the now-closed door of Hufflepuff’s common room.
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A/N #2: That’s it for Part 1! Part 2 is HERE! I hope you enjoyed it! Let me know what you thought in the comments! (Kinda fit this challenge’s “Ball” prompt...) Oh, and what are your thoughts on the text divider?
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roguescarlett · a year ago
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Meme: OC Inspiration.
I was tagged by both @vespertine-legacy​ and @a-muirehen​. Thank you both for the tags-- I will consider doing this for two OCs instead of picking one. Before I’ll start with this, I’ll gonna tag some mutual if you wanna do the thing, no pressure! @the-sith-in-the-sky-with-diamond​ @crqstalite​ @greencrusader13​ @darthvronton​ @nhylluan​ @lhunuial​ and anyone else who wanna do this thing if you haven’t. :3
What three fictional characters is your OC a combination of?
This doesn’t apply to every OC - not even mine - but its certainly true for a few : Many of our characters are, to an extent, inspired by characters we see in movies, books, games, TV shows, etc.Does this apply to any of your OCs? Was it a conscious decision on your part or not? Is your OC a combination of three (or more) fictional characters?If so - post some GIFs / pics and tell us about them! What does your OC draw from other characters?
Ok, I’m going to be extremely honest and say, I am not 100% confident or perfect at writing descriptions or explaination behind the inspirations for my OCs. (hello writing insecurity, my oldest friend). It’s a tricky area for me to pinpoint a number of fictional characters to defer inspirations from. Not counting the fact I’m also extremely insecure on discussing or sharing any contents regarding my ocs in general. For this meme, I will choose Roxana and Revenant as they’re pretty much the main characters for my Transformers: Nexus idea (they’re taking over my current hyperfixiation after I lost all the creativity I had for swtor). Unfortunately, I do not have any arts of Revenant in his mech form to make up for the meme, but I can settle on the Sims 4 screencap of Roxana with Revenant in his alt-form instead.
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---------------------------------------------- Roxana Valiente Inspirations.
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Sari Sumdac - Transformers: Animated. Roxana’s techno-organic origin story arc are heavily inspired by Sari. My Transformers OCs went through massive reboot this year as I couldn’t bear the idea of Revenant outlive a human child due to the short lifespan. Until, this inspiration happened. I found the concept of techno-organic of Cybertronian with Human DNA quite intriguing and fascinating in the sense. Though I admit, I’m sad this lore was never explored heavily across continuities. There are few similiarities between Roxana and Sari in my ideas. Both are PoC with unnatural red hair (yes, I know, I’m weak for unnatural red hair colour). They thought they were raised as “human” at first, however thier true origin, and activation, was not revealed until much later on in their life BUT the reveal was played differently for Roxana’s story. However, I meshed ideas from both Sari and Ciri that played heavily into Roxana’s role for my ideas. Also, Sari is ridicolously adorable in this show and I loved her. <3
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Jade from Beyond Good and Evil. The whole protagonist with a digital camera as one of the weapon idea comes from this character with good intentions in Beyond Good and Evil. One of the main headcanon development that one of Roxana’s prized possession is a vintage 2000s digital camera that sparked her interest for photography at the young age, however, with an excellent eye detail and hobby, her skills are very useful to help Elita Prime and her team with every advantages to gain intels and knowledges if the mission went backfired. This is the only inspiration I’ve got for Roxana and her hobby from this character because both sides have a love for photography. I could also add both are also courageous and strong women who never gave up.
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Ciri from The Witcher. Ok, I’ve been thinking about this all day and recalled specfic things from Ciri that also served as another main inspiration for Roxana throughout developments and worldbuilding ideas. Ciri holds the power that others wanted to take for themselves and she constantly had to be on the run because of it. This inspiration played major story arc ideas for Roxana’s childhood involved in moving from one town, or city, to another with her Guardian--she had to be protected but she presumed her Guardian’s past came back to haunt him, when infact there’s more than meets the eye. What kind of powers that attracted the attention of others remained a secret between Revenant, Elita Prime (formerly known as Elita-One) and Ratchet. Although, I had to add couple of setbacks onto Roxana to make the ideas work and deeply flawed as a person by including her hearing impairment and fibromyalgia disabilities. ----------------------------------------------
Revenant Inspirations.
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Drift (Deadlock) from Transformers: IDW comics and Bayverse. When I rebooted Revenant after I did roleplay with Relay314 and Darkrider a couple of years ago, I realised a lot of the ideas I had for him are heavily inspired by Drift regardless of which continuity versions. If you ask me the most common version of Drift for my OC, I think looking at his G1/IDW and Bayverse version are a good place to start with. The most common inspiration from two Drift versions into Revenant’s backstory that he was a former Decepticon assassin and his defection lead to him trying to atone the crime and to make right to what they put wrong, but the past would always come back to haunt him. And also, a triple changer (mostly from Bayverse version). Not to mention throw in the loner attitude and traces of old personality still lurking within to the mix. After Revenant was freed from shadowplay control, he had a lot of regrets for what he did as a Decepticon during the decades years of war, much like Drift wanted to ignore his past personalities. However, the only difference between my OC and Drift was that Revenant was a victim of Shadowplay, whereas Drift was not. Revenant has a different route to how he defected from the Decepticons with strong reasons. Also, I loved IDW Drift designs, and it’s my ideal reference, alongside with Tekkaman Blade mecha designs, to predict what my OC would look like. Drift was a fascinating character in Transformers, I got to admit. Revenant was like my OC version of Drift, whereas Roxana was the hearing impaired version of Sari, but my OCs have their own characteristics.
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Geralt of Rivia from The Witcher. Where to start with this inspiration? There are some I could think of the similiarilty from Geralt onto Revenant to my basic knowledge. Strong stotic nature at heart, but also protective of the child that made him turn into an adoptive father--this is 100% the aim of what I went with Revenant on his relationship and bond with Roxana. Even though, Revenant raised Roxana up by himself. Oh, and while Revenant may be stotic af but he also does swear. a. lot. Another thing to mention that much like Drift and Geralt in terms of fighting style and capablities, Revenant is also an expert in melee specialisation. There’s not much I can add to this but Geralt still counts as an inspiration.
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Thane Krios from Mass Effect. Alright, I know I already mentioned this but there is another character inspiration with ties in to being an assassin and it’s Thane Krios. I am not speaking about the character as a whole, but I am looking what Thane represented as a skilled and honourable assassin who preferred to get up close personally with melee weapons. Like Thane, Revenant also used a mixture of hand-to-hand combat, melee and firearms in his fighting styles. I had a hard time thinking up of a third fictional character for this until I remembered Thane.
The quote from the intro trailer really summed up a lot about Revenant and motives within his days as the Decepticon assassin: (huge thank you to andre and greencrusher on writing out what Thane said from the trailer due to my poor hearing impairment and assisted me).
“Do not mistake me for a common soldier. I act alone. I act without mercy. I bring death to those who deserve it. And, occasionally, to those who do not. Sometimes I feel regret, sometimes I feel remorse, but most of the time I feel nothing. I was chosen for this mission because killing is an art, and I am a master.”
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Bonus: Inspiration for Roxana and Revenant’s familial relationship.
Ok so, I know none of you asked for this, or expected this, I want to point out that Revenant and Roxana’s connections are 100% father-daughter with a strong bond link they shared together through their sparks, a way like similiar to a binary-bond, in which Revenant can feel Roxana’s feelings, pains and emotions through his spark. All of this was due to Roxana was forged, and created, with Revenant’s CNA coding, making him her Sire, in other word, her father. I do have three major parent-child characters heavily inspired from the likes of notable characters: Geralt and Ciri from The Witcher:
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Sebastian and Lily from The Evil Within:
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And, Joel and Ellie from The Last of Us:
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---------------------------------------------- well that got.... really long, I’m so sorry! I had a lot of feelings for my Transformers OCs who are going to be my main focus for OC asks and development, and potentially some oneshots.
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29. Clara
It took a while to get a hold of Chester, and from a working standpoint it was understandable; I figured that it was a busy time for all employees at the Ministry. All hands on deck, so the saying went. But on Halloween, he was able to meet with me at Flourish and Blotts. Admittedly, Chester did not leave a very big impression on me--after all, he was Ravenclaw's Prefect in my younger years, and the only time we actually interacted was after he graduated when Tulip introduced me to him so we could talk about the Frog Choir. Somehow, though, he still remembered me. I suppose it came with being a prefect at all--you kind of have to commit everyone's faces and trouble-making streak to memory.
Initially, he was hesitant to help with my cause, and I probably should have been a bit more considerate with my response given that it was a huge risk to have a student sneak into the Ministry, but he eventually hinted at a lead that could potentially help--an Invisibility Cloak, perhaps not the fabled one, but a working one nonetheless.
Even if it was a knock-off, I knew it was better than nothing, and I knew Jae would help with getting one for me.
As I reached out to my good old detention buddy again later that day, I was a little downhearted to hear that the person who dealt with these items was not in the best mood with him. Just to make up for a small business flop, he proposed to gift him a few items. A Remembrall he already secured, but the other item he said he needed help from a "fashionable wizard".
There was only one friend I knew who fit that bill.
The Great Hall was packed with students preparing for the Halloween feast by the time we had arrived, some of them trying to finish their homework with their friends at the last minute before the feast began while others were just conversing with friends and passing sweets around. I glanced over at Jae tucking the Remembrall in his pocket with a pained expression over his face, and felt a wave of unease ripple through my nerves. Even if Jae and I did bond in detention last year, I wasn't always sure about his dabbling in mostly illegal trades. Perhaps it wasn't deemed to be as dangerous as dealing with the Cursed Vaults, but it was still dangerous nonetheless.
The frayed nerves eventually steeled as my eyes honed in on Andre, sitting at the Ravenclaw table now looking through a fashion catalogue. I couldn't help but let out a small chuckle at the sight.
"Andre Egwu, style wizard," I called out dramatically as I approached. "Just the man I wanted to see.”
“Cheers, Curse-Breaker!” Andre greeted me with a huge grin, though that faltered instantly when he saw Jae. “Huh, looks like you came to see me in time. Looks like your fashion crisis is much worse than I thought.”
“What? You mean me?” Jae’s face morphed into one of pure horrification, eyes widened at Andre. “What’s wrong with my look?”
“Noting, if you just got out of bed,” Andre quipped shortly.
“Hold up, Andre--I didn’t come to see you because Jae needs a makeover,” I tried to reason. “I came to see you because...well…”
My eyes shifted sideways towards Jae, who quickly caught on with my glance. “We need your help getting fashionable socks,” he explained to Andre. “Preferably clean, no holes would be nice…”
Now Andre’s interest seemed to pique with his raised eyebrows. “Fashionable socks, you say. Well, those are given, but do you want ankle or crew cut? Argyle or striped? Cashmere or lambswool?”
“Uh…” Jae glanced over at me with a puzzled expression. “Yes…?”
“What kind of shoes will they be worn with?” Andre pressed on. 
“Uh...regular ones, I suppose?” Jae responded.
Andre shook his head, his piqued expression melted away. “You don’t shop much, do you,” he finally noted.
“Hey, if I could wear this hoodie forever, I would,” Jae remarked with a laugh. 
“Seems like we’re more helpless than we thought,” I added with a chuckle of my own. “Will you help us, Andre?”
“Of course. You know me, I never turn down an opportunity to make the wizarding world a stylish place,” Andre replied with a nod. “If it’s not Jae, who is it that requests my expertise?”
“A back alley seller who is currently not my biggest fan,” Jae responded, his eyebrows narrowed in suspicion.
“We’re hoping that gifts would convince him to forgive Jae and secure me an invisibility cloak,” I explained further. “I need one to sneak into the Ministry of Magic. Rakepick’s Dark Artefacts are stored there--artefacts that she needs to get into the final Cursed Vault. If I can get my hands on them, I can draw her out and stop her.”
Andre glanced between me and Jae, potentially waiting for one of us to say that we were pulling his leg--but he didn’t question either of us when the catch didn’t come.
“So your ability to stop Rakepick from getting into the final Cursed Vault depends on my fashion sense?” Andre finally deduced. “Well, brilliant! I love a challenge. Now, tell me--why does this seller need fashionable socks?”
Jae did most of the explaining while I looked around at the decorated Great Hall, set with decorated pumpkins all aglow. I knew that any normal student would be looking forward to the fabled Halloween Feasts, especially given the incredible entertainment that Dumbledore arranges every year and the scrumptious food that the House-Elves prepare every year. I would be lying if I said I didn’t feel the same--especially now as I gazed at the giant pumpkin that had the castle carved on its face. Only one person I knew well could have brought this design to life--the one person I swore to protect.
Not that I doubted Badeea’s ability to replicate the castle’s design, but I’ve known little Em’s ability to make something wonderful out of something ordinary. The crafting talents she had never really went unnoticed between me and my brother, and now here it was, on display for all the other students to see. They should at least see that she was no Emily Tyler. She is nothing like the pink-clad gossiping sass that sashayed through the halls with her haughtiness.
“So let me get this straight,” Andre finally said, twiddling his index fingers at Jae. “The seller wants fashionable socks because he’s been losing all of his to baby dragon fire?”
“He had been smuggling in baby dragons recently,” Jae clarified with a nod. “I figured it would be risky business to bring in something dangerous and untamed.”
“Then why don’t you give him a pair of fireproof socks?” Andre suggested. “They’re used in dragon care, so they’re practical, but also very stylish as well.”
“Sounds perfect!” Jae agreed with a nod. “He’ll love them.”
“I’m all in for that, but where can we get a pair of fireproof socks?” I asked.
“I got a pair for Charlie’s last birthday,” Andre responded. “I think I may have a spare that I can lend...if you bring me along to see this merchant.”
Now Jae looked skeptical at Andre’s bargain, and he tilted his head in intrigue. “Are you sure you want to come with us? This merchant isn’t exactly the best company.”
“Of course I do! I want to see the look on his face when he sees we’ve got him the perfect gift,” Andre said with a nod. “Besides, I feel guilty going with Cedric instead of helping Clara find Sickleworth.”
“Don’t be, Andre. Everything worked out alright,” I said lightly, shaking my head. “I did manage to track down Sickleworth--he lead me to my brother again.”
“That’s fantastic!” Andre beamed. “But I’d still like to come, if it’s not too much trouble.”
“Well, who am I to turn down extra help?” I grinned and nodded. “The only thing we have to ensure is that we are back in time for the Halloween Feast, so everyone get a move on. We’ll reconvene in Knockturn Alley.”
---
Dust swirled around the ankle of my boots as I stepped into Knockturn Alley once more with Andre and Jae behind me, the both of them carrying the gifts we needed for the merchant. Hopefully they would be able to appease him. Whatever kind of dodgy deal gone wrong couldn’t be worth just a few more items to aid him personally.
“There he is,” Jae whispered, gesturing to a tall man with a hood that looked all too familiar. No, it wasn’t the anonymous messenger who kept threatening me back in fourth and fifth year about death coming to Hogwarts. This trader I met only once or twice, but it was enough to associate his name with his look and demeanour.
“Huh. I think I see why you asked for fashionable socks--for a dark wizard, he’s actually rather stylish,” Andre remarked with a thoughtful nod.
“Do you think these gifts will be enough?” I asked Jae then.
“Yeah, for sure. But stick close, just in case.”
Jae lead the way now, walking right up to the trader without a falter in his step. Andre and I glanced at each other before following him.
“Kim. You’ve got a lot of nerve showing your face in front of me,” the trader growled, eyes narrowed and mouth twisted in a snarl. “Don’t think I forgot about the fake love potion you sent me.”
“Alistair, I had no idea that potion was actually Butterbeer,” Jae insisted. “If I knew, would I have sold it to you?”
Alistair? So I was right. The name rang a bell in my mind, and I jumped into the conversation before I could back out.
“Hold up--Alistair Fidgen?” I confirmed, mouth dropping in shock. “You’re that dodgy wizard who sold me and Charlie a fake dragon egg just last year! You thought you could pass an Acromantula egg off as a dragon egg and get away with it!”
“Oh, you again,” Alistair said with a roll of his eyes. “Look, Lin, I said I could get you one, not that I would. It was your fault for not being smart enough to figure that out.”
Andre folded his arms and shook his head at me. “Talk about hypocritical,” he mouthed to me, and I nodded.
“Look, Alistair--we both did things that we probably shouldn’t have. At least I can come clean with that,” Jae started. “So why not put our pasts aside for Clara’s sake? See, Clara’s in the market for an Invisibility Cloak, and I know you’re in the market for mending our broken business relationship. And we brought gifts for you too!” He gestured to the Remembrall and fireproof socks. “What do you say, Alistair? My sincere apologies and our gifts for an Invisibility Cloak?”
“Oh, I’ll do better,” Alistair sneered. “I’ll take the gifts, keep the Invisibility Cloak, and get my revenge all at once!”
He raised his wand, and an unknown spell flew towards Jae, leaving him completely winded though still on his feet.
“Jae!” Andre rushed to his aid, and Jae leaned heavily on his shoulder.
“Guess...he was more...upset than I thought,” Jae muttered, shaking his head.
“Get back, Jae.” I stepped forward and shielded the two boys from view with an arm. “Avis!”
The flock of birds that shot out of my wand with a BANG whizzed past Alistair’s ear and out of sight, though that was enough to shift his focus towards me instead now that Jae was out of commission.
“That,” he growled, pointing his wand towards me, “was a mistake, Lin.”
I readied my wand as well, pointing it towards him with a hardened glare. “We’ll see.”
Alistair Fidgen did not hold anything back--in fact, he was much tougher to beat than I initially thought, for one who dealt with something so dirty. In the end, I fell down once from a powerful Flipendo, only to have Andre pull me back up for another round. It was not until I managed to push him back with a powerful Depulso that had him completely out of breath, signalling the end of that duel.
“You make...quite the convincing argument,” Alistair finally acknowledged, mopping the sweat off his brow. Some of his grey hair clung to his forehead, and I cringed as they gleamed in what remained of the light. “Tell you what, then. I’ll forgive Kim and get you your Invisibility Cloak for one last thing.”
I stowed my wand in my dress and put my hand on my hip, though the attempt to look intimidating must have been rather futile. “You just lost, Fidgen. Should you really be in a place to bargain?”
“That’s funny. I was under the impression that you wanted an Invisibility Cloak,” Alistair shot back.
For someone who handled dirty dealings, he definitely had a way with his words. I clenched my fists and took a deep breath, trying to steel my nerves yet again. “Okay, fine--what do you want then, Fidgen?”
“Bring me a real Love Potion--the one Kim was supposed to bring me before--and I can secure you an Invisibility Cloak,” Alistair finally proposed. “Bring it here, or don’t bother coming back.”
With that, he turned on his heel and left, snatching the items away and stowing them into his pocket. I turned to Andre and Jae, who looked positively defeated at how that interaction went.
“That just...went completely downhill,” Jae remarked in a low mutter.
“And you don’t have any Love Potions on hand, I assume?” I asked.
“Nope. I’ve run out--I’m not expecting my next batch for a while,” Jae responded.
“Maybe Penny might be willing to lend her potion brewing talents again for this cause?” Andre suggested. “After all, she did brew the Beautification Potion, the Wit Sharpening Potion…”
“A Sleeping Draught, a Draught of Peace, a Forgetfulness Potion, and a Polyjuice Potion,” I recalled with a nod. “Well, I just hope she’s up to it. My ability to stop Rakepick from finding the last Vault might depend on it.”
“We better head back to Hogwarts in the meanwhile,” Jae said. “The Halloween Feast should be starting soon.”
“Yes, let’s. We’ll talk this through with Penny when we can.”
So many things were riding on my ability to beat Rakepick to the last Cursed Vault. I just hoped against hope that my friends would not abandon me for this crucial mission once more.
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ejzah · a year ago
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A/N: This chapter deals with the second part of Little Angels. I tried to trim it down to scenes where it could be from Deeks’ POV.
***
The Agent and the Lawyer, Part 13
“What did Callen say?” Kensi asked, glancing at Deeks briefly before she returned her eyes to the road.
“Andre Maragos has requested a lawyer,” he said dryly. “Do you think he’d accept me?” Kensi snorted at that, glancing at him again. Her eyes were appraising.
“Well, you certainly can look the part of a lawyer a guy like Maragos would hire.”
“Again, not sure if that’s a compliment,” he said with a frown. Instead of making another joke at his expense, she said,
“I really am glad you’re here today. You’re making this whole thing a lot less terrible.”
“Anytime.” He glanced behind them where the transport van was following. “So what do we do if Lucas doesn’t actually know or show us where the bodies are?”
Kensi’s eyes narrowed on the road, her expression deadly. Suddenly, Deeks was very glad that he wasn’t on the receiving end of her rage.
“Then you might have to stop me from shooting him.”
***
“I think this is one of the most horrific things I’ve ever seen,” Deeks muttered to no one in particular. And he’d been party to some pretty awful stuff.
Lucas Maragos had lead them directly to the edge of a small hill, radiating smugness the entire time. It wasn’t clear if he was enjoying bossing them around, or having the opportunity to finally show off his work.
Either way, Deeks was reconsidering his position on guns. He sighed as several forensic experts dug up the spots Maragos had pointed out.
“Mr. Deeks, Agent!” A woman dressed in protective gear said, motioning for them to come over. “We found something.” If her expression was anything to go by, it wasn’t pleasant. Then again, that’s what they were hoping for.
Kensi, who’d been talking with Maragos, hurried over. They both glanced in the small grave, where the skeleton of cat lay.
“Well, now we know he wasn’t lying about the cat part.” Deeks said, holding back a shudder.
“You should call Sam,” Kensi told him, a deep frown growing between her eyebrows. “I’m going to see if I can’t get anything else out of Maragos.”
“Sam, you need to get out here,” he said when the agent picked up.
“So far they’ve found the remains of five cats,” Kensi said once Callen and Sam had arrived. “Lucas isn’t being particularly helpful at the moment. He keeps repeating that his brother is responsible.”
Sam and Callen shared a dark look, something unspoken flowing between them. There was clearly something going on with Sam, but now was definitely not the time to ask about.
“Any other sites?” Sam demanded.
“You should ask my brother, these are his,” Lucas responded, apparently trying to appear genuine.
“You seem to be enjoying the attention. Give me the keys.” He directed the last part to Kensi, grabbing the keys to Lucas’ cuffs from her.
“Is that a good idea?” Deeks asked as Sam unlocked the handcuffs. Lucas’ legs were still bound, but Deeks didn’t trust the man not to make a run for it. Or try something more violent.
Kensi caught his eye, shaking her head as Sam dragged Maragos several feet away, ignoring the man’s protests. Sam seemed to just barely be holding himself back from inflicting physical damage. Callen watched it all with obvious concern, but didn’t attempt to intervene.
“Does Sam have a personal history with this guy or something?”
“No,” Callen answered shortly. Sam returned a few minutes with Lucas, who actually seemed a little frightened and was in a much more sharing mood
Deeks could only imagine what Sam had used to gain his cooperation and that worried him.
How strong could the team’s case be if they resorted to threats and potential violence?
***
“What do we now?” Deeks asked, as they drove to the mission.
They’d found the remains of the third girl who was originally buried, but not Amanda. Both Lucas and Andre had proven uncooperative, blaming the other for the murders.
Then Andre had made an ill-planned attempt to leave the country with his family. It was certainly suspicious behavior, but they’d taken a swab from Andre and it didn’t match any of the DNA on the remains.
They also had a signed statement from Andre’s mistress and a home video the two had made. Deeks could have happily lived without ever seeing Andre Maragos naked. To say that Sam had not been pleased when they interrupted his interrogation with Andre to tell him would be an understatement.
“We look at the evidence again. We look for what we missed before,” she said and then sighed deeply. “And we pray that we come up with something before Amanda runs out of time.”
As they watched the video of Amanda for the countless time, it was not lost on Deeks that they were grasping at straws.
“Hey, take a look at this,” Sam said suddenly, pointing to a bare finger that was just visible at the edge of the video. There was a note of something close to excitement in his voice. “When he picked up the camera, he took off his glove.”
“Different MO,” Callen said. “Makes sense, glove would have been shredded after all the digging.” Sam wasn’t about to be talked down from whatever idea he had. Kensi walked over as Deeks stood up, to get a better look at the screen.
“Hear me out on this, G. What does this guy do with his gloves afterwards?”
“Well, first thing you would, uh, burn ‘em, shred ‘em. It’s full of DNA.”
“What if he’s going fast, got careless?” Sam continued, sounding like he was telling a story. “Left a glove behind, like in a box or in the dirt in the hole.”
“The case is closed,” Deeks said immediately. “I mean, we catch him the second we find that glove.”
“But there is no glove,” Kensi said, echoing Deeks’ own thoughts.
“We don’t know that,” Sam said and Deeks heard warning bells going off in his head. “Maybe neither does the killer. He’s going fast, he’s scared, he tosses everything only to realize, he left a glove behind.”
“Right, but he didn’t,” Deeks said, not liking where this was going at all. What Sam was suggesting was sketchy at best.
“We could make him believe that he did,” Callen said, nodding in agreement with Sam.
“What if it doesn’t stand up in court though?” Deeks asked, thinking of how he’d tear apart “evidence” like that.
“We’ll do whatever it takes to make it stick,” Kensi said as Sam instructed Eric to modify the video. He turned them out for a minute, distracted by his concerns.
“You’ll need to sell it to Lucas Maragos, Deeks,” Sam said, drawing him out of his thoughts. “Make him believe that the glove is real. We’ll do the same with his brother.”
“Me?” Deeks repeated, startled by the suggestion, especially coming from Sam.
“You’ve already got a connection with him. It’ll be easier than if Callen or I do it. Kensi will back you up if you need it.”
***
“I do not like this,” Deeks muttered, his voice barely audible as they waited in the interview room again.
“You’ll be fine,” Kensi said. “And it’s for Amanda.” She flashed a warning look his way as the sound of guards drew closer and he pressed his lips together, holding back any further comments.
He pulled in a slow, shallow breath, trying to calm himself. This was no different that cross examining a difficult witness. He just had to play to his audience, frame the story they needed to hear, and pretend he believed every word he said.
Deeks snapped his eyes back open the second the guards were at the door, adopting a relaxed posture as they led Lucas in. Kensi said nothing as he opened the laptop on the table, started the DVD with Amanda’s video, and sat next to Lucas Maragos.
“See that little sucker right there? It’s a glove that got left in the dirt,” he told the man. Lucas’ eyes were laser focused to the screen, a change from his earlier careless attitude. “And it is filled with DNA.”
He didn’t glance at Kensi, putting all of his attention on Lucas. Deeks hoped he wasn’t playing it up too much. Maragos cleared his throat after a moment, now looking anywhere but at the laptop.
“I don’t know why you’re showing me this,” he said. Kensi leaned forward then.
“Because when we get a DNA match, we’ll be able to find your partner. And believe me, we’ll get him to turn on you,” she said, her matter of fact tone chilling.
“You can take him back,” Deeks called to the guards. “But let us know if he has decides to talk. Who knows, he might be able to escape a death sentence.”
It was only after they were outside again that he allowed himself to let out a shaking breath.
“You ok?” Kensi asked, eyeing him with concern.
“Yeah.” He was surprised to find it was true.
“Eric’s calling,” she said, putting her phone to her ear and had a rushed and confusing conversation. She shoved the phone in her pocket and started jogging towards the SUV. “Eric says we need to get to Angeles Forest now. Callen and Sam are following someone in one of Andre’s vehicles.”
***
“I can’t believe it was Andre’s kids,” Deeks said, shaking his head as Kensi returned from putting the younger boy in the back of an LAPD cruiser. He knew they were hardly the first to commit a heinous crime, but it was still shocking.
“I guess they learned a lot from their Uncle,” Kensi said darkly.
“What will happen to them?” Deeks had defended juvenile clients before, though never one charged with attempted murder. And in his own experience, the courts could be pretty brutal when it came to kids.
“Well, I’d guess their dad is going to higher them the best lawyers he can find,” Kensi started. “And then it depends on how they’re charged. I could see the FBI wanting to try them as adults, but I doubt it’ll go through.”
“I don’t know if I’m relieved or disappointed,” he said and Kensi rolled her eyes.
“C’mon, we’ve got lots of reports to file.
“Not me, I’m just a legal consultant.” Kensi made a rude noise at this.
“Nice try. You never get out of paperwork. And if you don’t do it, Hetty will hunt you down. And no one wants Hetty hunting them down.
***
“You know, you did really well today. I was surprised, but you did good,” Kensi told him as they walked out of the mission, taking their time.
It had been eye opening to watch Deeks question Lucas. She had expected him to hold back and certainly hadn’t considered that he would taunt Lucas. The images he’d produced had been horrifying, and affective during their first interview.
“I think you’ll find I’m full of surprises, sugar bear,” he said, grinning that annoying smirk of his. Kensi held up a hand, turning to face him so he was forced to stop in the middle of the hall.
“Woah, sugar bear? I don’t think so.”
“What, I think it’s very appropriate. You’re very sweet and-“
“And you are absolutely forbidden from calling me that anywhere another person might hear it,” she finished for Deeks, shaking her head. Of course, now she’d left herself wide open to being called “sugar bear” in private.
“What about “Princess”?” he asked, undaunted by her implied wrath. She started walking again before he could see her slight smile. Their shoulders brushed as they walked, an unnecessary physical reminder of Deeks’ presence. Technically, it violated the rules of their bet, but Deeks didn’t mention it.
“Definitely not.” Before he could suggest something even more ridiculous she said, “Be serious for a second. Ok? I know that defusing tension is a big thing for you, but I really need to know how you’re doing.”
He sighed and this time he was the one to stop. He tossed his head back for a second and it was amazing how suddenly his face transformed. She saw the weariness and a surprising amount of anger that he’d hidden for the majority of the case.
“I’m...good,” he decided after a pause. “Which I know is weird to say. I didn’t realize how much I needed to see someone like Lucas Maragos get what he deserves.”
“So we didn’t scare you off with our serial killers?” She was actually curious; he’d been obviously horrified, but not nearly as much as she’d expected. He’d dealt with the possibility of seeing girls buried alive better than many seasoned Agents would.
“I mean, the kids following in their uncle’s footsteps is pretty awful, but again, I’m glad they’re not out there hurting more people. I don’t see nearly enough of that as a lawyer. And it’s even worse if you’re a public defender or district attorney.”
“And here I thought you’d be running out of here after a couple days,” she said.
They were in the parking garage now, which was mostly deserted and had stopped walking again. Kensi found she was reluctant to go to her own vehicle.
“You’re not going to get rid of me that easily Kensi Marie Blye,” he said, then made a face that she recognized meant he was holding something back.
“What?”
“Nothing...just um,” He rubbed his chin before continuing, “How often do you threaten people or make up evidence to get results?” She nodded, knowing he was thinking of the way Sam had treated Maragos and the planted glove.
“Sometimes you do what you have to,” she said simply. “The important thing is that we found Amanda in the end.” He still looked serious, so she cleared her throat and added, “And now, I think you owe me some Mexican. I’m calling in my first special delivery. I expect it on my doorstep in an hour.” She did a smug little dance to accompany her victory.
Deeks rolled his eyes, chuckling under his breath.
“Yes, technically you did win,” he agreed. “Although I would point out that if this wasn’t such a tense case, you would have been all over me.”
“Those sound like the words of a loser,” Kensi teased, ignoring the thought of being “all over him”. Deeks scrunched his face at her.
“You are a very annoying winner.” Kensi grinned at him. His hair was more disheveled than normal after tramping around in the heat all day and his light blue shirt was now untucked. He looked anything but a high price lawyer. He also looked completely delectable.
“But as I am a man of my word-“ Kensi grasped the sides of his face, cutting him off mid-word as she kissed him roughly, pushing her tongue past his lips and letting out a sigh when his hands settled on her waist.
“Oops, I guess I lost,” Kensi gasped out several moments later. She stepped back from him, her skin feeling flushed and a deep need running though her body. His answering grin was breathtaking as he pulled her back to his chest.
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kim-sala-bim · a year ago
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Sixth Year AU: New Senses (Part 4): Questions
Summary: While Hakon needs time to warm up to what had been said the night before, Kim tries to get used to her new form and touches base with her old friends. However, a new glimpse into the vampire world becomes the catalyst of an investigation.
Word Count: 5,689
While the backlog of homework wasn’t serious, can’t say my meetup with the rest of the Cursed Vault Club went very well. Penny swooped in and gave me a massive hug, surprising me since we sort of had a frenemyship – I wasn’t that nice to her ‘cos of my former prejudice towards Hufflepuffs. …okay, fine, I shed a few tears. I didn’t think I deserved forgiveness for being cold to her. Yet there she was, hugging me like I was her best friend. That must’ve been why Rowan loved her so much; she knew how to make anyone smile.
Beatrice is fun, too. After we saved her from the portrait, she adopted a punk goth look to be more like Issy. She followed us around for a little bit and I wanted to tell her it was getting annoying, but Ismelda didn’t seem to mind. I think she found it flattering. You could say we ended up adopting her in a way. But as much fun as we do have with her, we’re trying to keep this whole vampire thing under wraps.
Talbott. Two words: Stealth tears. Badeea gave me a painting of flowers so I could look at it when I’m stressed. Tulip had Dennis sing me a little song – two notes, but great performance. Tonks kept ruffling my hair and calling me names like Jiggery-Pokery and Boogity-Woogity, trying to get me to laugh. Jae just greeted me with a simple hey. Andre gave me fashion advice like dark blue starry robes, which got Badeea all excited for new painting ideas.
Barnaby and Liz… holy crap, I didn’t realize how much I missed them until Barney hugged me. We used to have a close bond in first year to second year but we drifted apart. So the three of us caught up on magical creature talk. And… sneaky old Barnaby, he got a Puffskein from under his vest and let me play with it. I wanted to throw it in the air and catch it but didn’t think Madam Pomfrey would be too pleased to see magical creatures in the Hospital Wing. So I made it smile by pressing at the corners of its mouth, and I squeaked in delight. Merula would’ve enjoyed it. She and Jason love Puffskeins – Jason even calls her his little Puffskein. Too bad at this time we’re not talking. We need some distance for a while at least.
Charlie gave me a drawing of a dragon. I asked him if it was one of the drawings from his childhood cos of all the crude lines… He said he did it yesterday. I, uh, kinda made the guy cry by saying that and I tried patting his back and saying, “There, there.” All that came out though was a series of mumbles. Hey, don’t judge me! I already know my social skills suck! The drawing is still on my bedside table. In its own quaint way, it’s nice. Charlie ain’t all bad; just eccentric when it comes to dragons.
Speaking of dragons, I remember my wings. I didn’t have chance to properly look at them but I presume they’re bat wings. A part of me is excited while another is terrified of how they must look in full view. Either way I’d have to learn how to fly. With Hakon out of commission, who could teach me…? Talbott? No, he can’t know. Looks like I’m doing this on my own.
 I wait until it’s dark before I go to the Training Grounds. It’s open, it’s dark and I doubt anyone will see. I take off my top and bra ‘cos I remember how tight my shirt felt last time.
I will for my wings to grow at full length, which end up towering over my head and my wing tips barely touch the grass. I put my bra back on but leave it unhooked. I take a few steps back then attempt a glide, but there isn’t enough wind and I end up tripping over my own feet. I scrape the dirt off my knees and try again.
This time I let my animal instincts take over as my wings crouch on their thumbs. I ready myself before galloping faster than an Abraxan. When I think I have enough air current to support me, I try to glide again. …No luck. Can’t hold my wings steady and this time I land on my butt. …Okay, I’m gonna do something else. I will for my bat ears to grow, then my sense of smell and night vision. I wait and hear for any potential disturbances. Night patrols are common but they’re within the castle walls this time.
I flap my wings as a warm-up before setting off again. The cold wind snaps at me but it enlivens me. I gallop again and off I go!
I feel the thrill of having my feet off the ground. I flap more, taking myself higher, nearly as high as the Hippogriff and Griffin had taken me. The adrenaline rushes through me as I want to fly higher into the sky. Just a few minutes won’t hurt, right? I mean, I won’t be like Icarus and fly higher into the sun until his wings fell apart. For one, it’s nighttime and the last thing I want is a sunburn.
My flight lasts all but ten seconds but now I want more! I go for it again (13 secs) and again (9.5 secs) and again (12 secs). The thought of learning more in books sounds thrilling but actually doing the flying is one of the best things in the world!
Well, that is until I see two red eyes in the distance. Of course, Mrs. Norris. She does her trademark yowl but I think, “Hey, since she can’t talk, why not give her a scare?” So I crouch and bare my fangs with a loud hiss and she immediately bolts off. Ha, turns out being a vampire is not so bad after all!
Hmmm, what else should I try? I look at the wall, then at my wing thumbs, then at my feet. Curiously, I take off my shoes and socks, and visualize my feet growing into claws… but they don’t. I try again. Nothing. Okay, maybe I’m not meant to climb… yet.
All of a sudden, I spot the shadow of a large bird. The image of my attacker flashes through my mind, nearly making me recoil.
“Kim, what are you doing?”
It’s Talbott. …Well, busted. I transform back, my back to him so he doesn’t see my chest. So much for thrill-seeking.
I dare not say a word. Ugh, why was I so stupid? Hakon’s gonna kill me!
“So this is what you are now?” Talbott asks calmly.
I put my top back on and turn to him and nod. I remember us keeping our Animagus forms a secret. Should’ve known he’d be out and about during this time.
“Um… surprise?” I say. He just looks at me, his expression unreadable. That creeps me out to no end.
“Talbott, stop being so stoic! Aren’t you gonna say anything? Anything at all?”
“…I had guessed.”
“You… You what?”
“I didn’t want it to be true. Turns out it is. Did Hakon do this to you?”
“No!” I shout. “It’s not his fault at all!”
“Then who did?”
“…First of all, how’d you know Hakon was a vampire?”
“Pretty obvious, isn’t it? The sunglasses, the nights out?”
“…Okay, fair point.”
We look at each other a while more. There’s so much to catch up on and I’m not talking about the vaults. Just… everything. Ever since I started dating Issy officially, our fifth year in Hogwarts had been a massive domino effect. Merula confessed her feelings to Issy and I, then there was Madam Puddifoot’s advice on polyamory, then Jason dating Meru and me in sixth year, then Hakon’s arrival and then the attack. It was just… a lot of thing at once. How am I supposed to explain it all in one night?
“Badeea and I were worried about you.”
That did it. I run and give him a hug. I didn’t show it much but I appreciated Talbott and Badeea. Their calming presence whenever I meet them, how do I describe it? And they act like I’d never drifted away? How do I deserve those people? Ever?
“…I’m sorry,” is all I can say before I weep silently. Talbott puts one hand on my back. He doesn’t believe in being all touchy-feely but I think this time, he knows how much I needed to see him, just to have a friend in my corner.
 “So you two do flying races?” I ask Talbott as we walk together.
“We’re neck and neck, or should I say, wing and wing.”
“Look at you, making jokes at yourself.”
“Barnaby may have taught me a thing or two. He’s really good at acting the fool.”
“Good old Barney… I still don’t understand something. How are we still friends even after everything that happened?”
Talbott looks at the sky pensively, “I just had a feeling this friendship is not easily shaken. When you helped me find my mother’s feather necklace, that meant more to me than you know. Helping you become an Animagus was the least I could do. You underestimate the lot of us, Kim. We all care for you. You just don’t know how to see it, sometimes at least.”
I look down. “…Yeah. I’ve been a real jerk.”
“You’re not a jerk, Kim. Just oblivious.”
I open my mouth to object but stop. “You’re right. How do I fix it?”
“I wouldn’t call this “fixing.” “Improving” is more like it.”
“…Heh, you always know what to say, don’t you?”
“No, yet that’s how I got Badeea. She has an affinity for the brooding kind. You’ve no idea how many times she’s tried to scrutinize my face, even when she’s not painting me.”
“She really loves you, huh?”
Talbott looks away but I can sense the heat in his cheeks.
“So how have things been at home?” I ask.
“Um… they could be better.”
“Uh-oh, trouble?”
“It’s nothing. You’re dealing with enough already.”
“…I guess that’s fair.”
“Until next time?”
“Yeah.”
Talbott transforms into an eagle and flies off. I watch him go, feeling… glad.
 I was discharged the following morning. Normally I would’ve jumped around, screaming “Sweet freedom!” for all to hear. The first thing I did though is head back to my dorm, pull the covers over myself so I’m all nice and cozy… and sleep. I feel pats on my shoulder and kisses on my forehead before I drift off.
 I open my eyes to a hideously-colored red room. Everything from the bedpost to the wall. Had a mix of cream and brick red like it was trying to resemble bacon, something Merula’s grandma Dolores’ pigs would eat, or so I was told. No way I wanna live on a stinky old farm, not even with the All-You-Can-Drink buffet. I’m starting to think maybe other students would be more flavorful… Okay, that was messed up. No way ‘cos that’s how vampires get intimate or make out. Or both. Okay, enough, brain!
I get up from the bed and open the door. At least the halls were decently colored. Beige, plain beige. The portraits on the other hand were a mixed bag. One has a poufy wig, four black beady eyes like a spider and incisors that glint over his lower lip. Another looks like a porcelain doll, elegant in her gown and seated with one arm supporting her lean, like a petulant cat with that come-hither look in her golden eyes.
…Golden eyes? I look closer. Golden eyes, small nose, delicate features and a slim figure… all like mine. Who could this woman be?
Before I can look at the other portraits, I hear a door slam. When I look, I see three people—two men and a woman—all dressed like they’re in Marie Antoinette’s time. Poufy wigs, buttoned clothes, heads held high, white pants that made their butts look big. Not the kind you want over for Sunday dinner. Personally, I never had Sunday dinners ‘cos we never had other family members over for reasons unknown. Wait, the woman… she’s from the portrait! Same baby face, pouty lip and all, except her dress is a minty green instead of powder blue.
“Can we move this along?” she asked the stout man leading the walk. “The sooner I know your plan, the sooner I can yawn at it.”
“You don’t always know what’s best, Fantine,” the stout man in yellow says, not even sparing a glance. “Don’t forget you married into this family. Without our name, you’re useless, my dear girl.”
Fantine hisses, her face instantly turning beastly, bat-like even. “Don’t try to challenge me, Georges!”
“It’s unseemly to have such a temper. Then again, such is expected from peasant stock.”
Fantine holds her tongue as I seethe along with her. I know how she feels, especially since Jacob had sullied the Sala name, not that I ever wanna see that bastard again. I’ve already had enough dirty looks from other students in the past to last two lifetimes. It shouldn’t matter anymore anyway.
“What is this plan, Georges? The anticipation is killing me! Hoo-hoo! Get it? Killing?” the other man, in red this time, jests. Georges keeps walking and Fantine rolls her eyes. Me, I just slap my forehead with my palm.
“You’d do well to keep your infantile jokes in your own chambers, Lestat. Just because you’ve had a book character named after you doesn’t mean we’re not above ripping your head off,” Georges warns. Lestat can’t care less though. I like him already.
“Lestat, why must you rile him so?” Fantine asks.
“That is why you married me, non?” Lestat retorts with a coy grin.
“Not here, you silly buffoon!” Fantine warns with a blush.
I follow the three to an alcove leading to one secret tunnel after another. Sidenote, Lestat and Fantine are adorable.
We arrive at a board room with twelve seats. I stick behind them, hoping they don’t see me.
“Now then,” Georges’ voice rings through the room. “To my brilliant plan!”
Fantine and Lestat just stare at him indifferently until a fly whizzes by, which Lestat catches with his frog-like tongue.
Georges gives a disgusted wince. “We’ve all been plagued by this low breed of vampires?”
“Excusez-moi?” Fantine is about to pounce.
“Lower than you, Fantine,” Georges corrects. Fantine sits back down and fans herself. Tough crowd. “Our kind has always thrived on purity and nobility. Surely we don’t need other vampires demanding more than their fair share.”
“You overstep, Georges,” Fantine says. “Such families have helped us for centuries. The Odinsons are a great help to us with their medical aid. Yet their jobs are thankless. They’re treated like scum without a second thought!”
My eyes widen. The Odinsons! Hakon! Lestat tries to place a hand on her shoulder.
“I’ve been trying to defend these people, to search for a better answer, but does anyone listen?”
“Silence!”
“Equity!”
Georges slaps her, making me and Lestat jolt. “That. Is. Enough.”
Fantine scowls, her face red, tears starting to form.
“Now then, before I was so rudely interrupted, I have a plan to be rid of these peasant families once and for all!”
Lestat looks away. Fantine clenches her fists. I stand there in shock.
“We. See. Hadúr. Tonight.”
Both of them gasp.
“See Hadúr? That’s suicide!” Lestat cries.
“Unless there’s a proper plan in place! Please, Georges, have you gone mad?” Fantine exclaims.
I lean in, curious as to who the bigwig is, and I’m not talking about the big wigs there already.
“Oh, Fantine, you deluded, deluded girl. Once he knows what I have in store, he’ll be eating out of the palm of my hand.”
Lestat starts giggling.
“What, pray tell, is so amusing?”
Lestat bursts out laughing, making me join in as silently as possible. “Out of it? He’ll be eating your hand and all the rest of you!”
Georges growls and bites his throat. The cackles turn into violent screams as Lestat is nearly drained to the last drop. I cover my mouth for a different reason this time.
Fantine is near hysteria, shaking in fear one moment but violently enraged the next. Her golden eyes glow like fireballs as her fangs extend and her dress melts into her skin. Her body lengthens into a skeletal figure with long spindly arms and legs. Her gaping maw shows off a collection of teeth as sharp as hypodermic needles.
I’m surprised Georges isn’t fazed but it doesn’t take me long to figure out why. Like Fantine, his clothes melt into his skin but his skin becomes pure white leather. His jaws elongate into a cold, manic grin as his wig becomes a mane from his head to the small of his back. The whites of his eyes turn black, bringing out the color of his blue irises. The transformation ends with a stout tail and a pronounced pot belly.
Fantine lunges at Georges with lightning speed, biting at him again and again and dodging every blow Georges throws at her. Hisses and screeches fill the air. Lestat barely makes it to a corner when the two bring their fight to the top of the table, rolling and wrestling each other in a bloodied mess. Neither of them has their wings out. Smart move. Who knows how long it’d take for wings to recover from fractures if at all? The two grunt loudly as the fight grows more intense. Claws and fangs out, they go for the jugular but end up evading each other’s attacks.
I want to hide, but where? I try to run but I can’t! There’s an invisible barrier preventing me from doing that. When Georges pins Fantine to the other side of the table right next to me, I nearly scream. Fantine is a fighter though as she plunges one of her claws into his eye, making him scream and expose his throat. That’s when she makes a mighty gash in his jugular.
I close my eyes from the grisly sight, waiting for all this to go away…
 My eyes finally open to the safety of my dorm room. What did I just witness? As I sob into my pillow from the shock, I hear someone coming in.
“Kim, what’s wrong?”
I look up. It’s Liz.
“Oh, Liz!” I cry before wrapping her in a hug. “Liz, I’ve missed you so much!”
Liz hugs me even tighter. “I’ve missed you, too!”
“How have the magical creatures been? Freda’s not having too much fun, I hope.”
“Freda is fine. She just got spayed. Fifty Kneazle kittens is enough.”
“My gods, how’d you manage?”
“Barnaby comes over to help. He’s a cat dad!”
“Awww, I wanna see them again one of these summers! Thanks for the Puffskein by the way. Wish I could keep him.”
“Oh, well, at least you can juggle them in Care of Magical Creatures class.”
“Meru was so jealous you handle them so well so she surrounded herself with them while she sulked. Issy and Beatrice had fun throwing them around though. Me, I just played Puffskein Piano. You know, the game where you touch their heads and they hum a different note?”
“Professor Kettleburn always danced to that! It’s always fun to see him do a different dance each time!”
I smile widely at how much fun we’re having.
Suddenly, we hear a knock. We look at the same time.
“Chiara?” I call.
“What’re you doing here?” Liz asks. I dunno how often people from other Houses visit each other’s Common Rooms, but it’s unusual to say the least.
“Someone owed me a favor,” Chiara replies then looks behind at Merula, who looks at me and blushes before walking away. Liz takes that as her cue to go.
“And what favor might that be?” I ask.
“Merula and Jason came to me and asked for my side of the story when you-know-what happened. They know now it wasn’t Hakon who attacked you.”
“I think we still need time for things to settle,” I say. Chiara looks away guiltily. “Chiara, are you okay?”
“I’m trying to stay strong after this whole thing, you know. It always lurks in the back of my mind. What if I had been with you instead of Hakon? Would things have been better or worse? I’m sorry, Kim. So, so sorry. I… just feel like a failure.”
Chiara covers her mouth as tears roll down her cheeks. I get up and hug her softly. She buries her face into my shoulder and hugs me tightly. I just stand there, rubbing her back while still hugging her.
“I don’t know what I’d do if I ever lost you, Kim. I really don’t.”
“I’m still here, Chiara. I’m fine.”
“No, you’re not. All this is because of me.”
“It wasn’t your fault, or Hakon’s. It was my attacker’s. You two had no way of knowing.”
“I just feel so stupid! I wish I’d protected you! I l—!”
Chiara freezes, realizing she was about to say something she doesn’t want me to know. That’s when she tears herself away from my arms and tries to run off.
“Chiara, wait, please!” I cry out and hold her hand. She looks at me, her face all red and streaked with tears. “There’s a lot we need to catch up on. Can you at least do that for me? …Please?”
Chiara looks at our hands, then at me, then back at our hands before letting herself relax.
“What do you want to talk about?”
“Well, since you know about my condition,” I stop. No, I’ll leave that subject for now. “Why don’t we talk about something fun?”
Chiara tilts her head as if the concept of fun is foreign to her. She looks like a puppy when she does that, which is cute. “What kind of fun?”
“Like things you do away from the Hospital Wing?”
“Oh,” she says then looks away, “I like… skipping stones?”
“Oh,” I nod, “That sounds fun!”
“It is. I’m trying to make it to six skips. Five is my record.”
“I wanna see that sometime.”
Chiara rubs the back of her neck. “Maybe we can go together at some point. Eep!”
She covers her mouth. I chuckle.
“Go on,” I egg her on. She looks at me, maybe a second more than what I’m comfortable with, but I let it slide given her vulnerable state of mind.
“I gather herbs in the Forbidden Forest. Sometimes Liz tags along so she can stock up for the magical creatures in case they get sick. Sometimes we find little snacks for them to eat.”
“What about Barnaby?”
“Oh, yeah, he comes along as well. Sometimes he gets distracted with new creature friends, which is always.”
I laugh. “Good old Barney the creature whisperer.”
Chiara nods. I look at the floor then go on.
“I, uh, used to go to the Magical Creatures Reserve quite a lot.”
“I know. I used to see you there, too. What made you stop?”
“Two words: dating fiasco.”
She raises an eyebrow but nods anyway.
“You don’t understand, do you?” I ask.
“Either that or I’ve been spending too much time by myself.”
Is it me or is there something cute about the way she said that? I mean cupcake-cute, not dreamy-cute.
“Do you usually spend time alone?”
“Yes. People tend to see right through me and not talk to me. that was until I met Hakon during our third year. We got talking about his home and mine and the things we have in common, or don’t,” Chiara places her index finger on her chin in thought. “It wasn’t until recently when I found out his condition.”
“Ummm… yeah… I know about what you two did.”
Chiara blushes. “And you’re not mad?”
“Well… maybe a little.”
“I’m sorry, Kim.”
“It’s okay.”
“I’m really sorry.”
“I already told you, it’s okay.”
“It’s not okay. At least not to me.”
“What do you mean?”
Chiara blushes even more. Oookay.
“I should go,” she says.
“Uh, okay. You sure you don’t wanna chat more?”
“Next time. When I’m ready.”
“Okay then.”
Chiara nods. “Bye, Kim.”
“Bye, Chiara.” I nod back.
I escort her back out but, on the way, I notice Merula playing Wizard Chess with Liz. Hell really has frozen over; at first year Merula couldn’t stand Liz ‘cos she either kept correcting her or had better ideas in general. So her resolve has softened then. I want to show her a weak smile but keep an indifferent expression as Chiara and I exchange goodbyes again.
I turn back and near the table where Merula and Liz are having their little game. Liz looks up and waves me over. I sit next to her, the crackling from the fireplace soothing my nerves.
“Well, I’m tired. Thanks for the game, Tuttle. It was… nice.” Merula shoots me a rueful look before heading back to our dorm. I heave a sigh.
“You okay?” Liz asks, placing a hand on my shoulder.
“Mm,” I manage to say. I think that’s my cue to take a walk.
 Few people out tonight. Fred and George just hexed Andre’s scarf into making it think it’s a snake. Andre nearly threw it on the ground before the twins undid the spell. Run, boys, run!
Diego is courting his femme du jour (girl of the day) by waggling his eyebrows while sitting next to the Hufflepuff girl, who is giggle-snorting. He’s already got, like, what, seven girlfriends? Maybe, I dunno. I’m not a busybody, not with things I’m not invested in.
Penny is sitting alone and looking at a photo of Rowan and herself. Oh, man… I sigh and approach her.
“Uh, hey?” I greet. Penny’s lower lip quivers before she looks at me.
“Hi, Kim,” she replies before wiping a tear away. I wrap an arm around her and let her sob into my shoulder.
I feel my nose crinkle and I cry a bit. “I miss him, too.”
Penny can’t bring herself to talk. She just hugs me and cries. It hurts to see her like this. I wish I hadn’t disliked her to begin with, wish I could take it all back.”
“I’m sorry, Penny, for everything.”
She tightens her grip on me, as if holding on for dear life.
“You’re a great person. You always have been. I was just too dumb to see it.”
“I don’t think you’re stupid!” Penny cries. I gulp before wiping her tears away with my thumbs. “How do you stop hurting?”
“I…” Oh, boy, what am I supposed to say to her? That everything will be alright and be all sunshine and daisies again? It can’t be. If I lost either of my loves, I dunno what I’d do either. How do you comfort someone who’s grieving over their lost love? Besides, uh, words of affirmation and hugs? Sigh…
I let Penny cry her heart out and she and I part ways after making sure she’d be okay. Andre passes me by and heads in the same direction Penny went. I head back into the castle and am about to head to the Great Hall for a bite when I bump into Mr. Filch… and Mrs. Norris.
“Hi, Mr. Filch.”
“Sala, what are you planning?”
“Nothing.”
“So I shouldn’t be worried that a bat-like creature scared my cat?”
I raise my eyebrows. “What’re you talking about?”
“A little kitty told me there’s been some extraordinary nightly activities in this castle. I would be delighted to get my shackles on that creature. Mark my words.”
Mr. Filch departs and Mrs. Norris shoots me one last evil look before skulking off with her master. Sheesh, how did Mr. Filch know about that? Mrs. Norris couldn’t have told him unless she was an Animagus. …Wait… Merlin’s sainted beard, I really hope that’s not the case.
I head into the Great Hall and scarf down a few drumsticks and pastries. It’s good to blend in for once. I catch up with Skye who tells a daring tale of herself, the Snitch and a rather crude representation of Merula. Well, somebody’s jealous. Merula got the position of Seeker fair and square. I don’t let it bother me all that much.
I wander over to the Ravenclaw table to see if there’s anyone to talk to. Erika and Clarice are being all lovey-dovey. Clarice has her arm around Erika’s and is cooing sweet little names like Honeybear and Sugarbeets. Erika stays there with a hue of red on her cheeks then does the same with Russian and German pet names like Matryoshka, Einhorn and Eichhörnchen, making Clarice squeal and bury her blushing face into her girlfriend’s arm.
When I remember what my loves and… I shake my head. Maybe now’s not the time to think about such things.
I head over to the Astronomy Tower, hoping no one will be there.
Surprise of surprises, my wish is not granted.
Hakon is there, stargazing while using a telescope. I dunno if I should bother him or not. May be best not to ‘cos he needs time to think about what Issy and I said the other night. Maybe I should go to the library and research on my own.
The walk feels much longer than it usually is. I know I can go anywhere I want to in a matter of seconds, but I’m not in the mood, not to mention I’d get caught. I want to talk to Hakon but I don’t think he wants to talk to me yet. I sigh. I need to get my nose in a book fast.
I couldn’t get to the library fast enough as was humanly possible. I skim through the shelves for anything on vampires, and find book after book after book. Unfortunately, I find rather unsavory depictions from the infamous Nosferatu to the famed classic Dracula. Whether any of this rings true is the question.
When it comes to history book on vampires, I find Vlad the Impaler and the Bathory woman who bathed in the blood of her enemies. Issy might’ve read these already. I wonder where she is. Maybe she’s around somewhere. I get back to researching. Worse comes to worst, I’ll go to the Restricted Section and I don’t care who tries to stop me.
Three hours later… these books are useless! Stupid Muggle interpretations, always getting in the way. Only one thing left to do.
I eye the Restricted Section, make sure no one is looking and sneak over. I test to see if the door is unlocked and by some amazing stroke of luck, it is. I look behind me one last time and slip right in.
 The lamps glow a bright blue, my favorite color. I take it as a compliment as I explore the shelves. I skim through the shelf labels. Secret artifacts, secret ancestries… I think I might just look into that. There might be some info on the vaults, too. Would be nice if I had taken others with me. The image of Fantine comes to me. Maybe there’re some vampire genealogies here I can look at. If my dream is anything to go by, there must be clues here.
I walk and walk until I find the Vampires section. I pull out every book I can find and get reading. So, vampires went back millennia ago, once worshipped as gods of the harvest moon in some cultures but England started the whole “Kill ‘em!” trend. The ignorance of the masses is really something else, and not in a good way.
The vampires in my dream, they transformed at will and their final forms were grotesque. What kind of vampires are they?
“You won’t find anything there.”
Ismelda comes out of the shadows. There’s my songbird.
“Hello, Issy, my old friend,” I sing.
“I’ve come to talk with you again,” she sings back beautifully. “Come to look for answers, have you?”
“How could you tell?” I joke, aware of the pile of the books I’ve left open strewn on the floor.
“I’ve been trying to do my own research on vampires. What could be so secret that the Restricted Section could have nothing on it?”
“I might have an idea where to look.”
I lead Issy to the Genealogies section.
“What’s this about?” Issy asks. If there’s anything that bores her to tears if it’s without a purpose, it’s looking into family trees.
“I had a vivid dream today. Three vampires want to meet Hadúr but ended up fighting among themselves.”
Issy stares at me, dumbfounded. “You want to research something because of a dream?”
“A vivid dream.”
Issy heaves a long sigh. “Okay, say it’s real. Care to run me through it?”
I fill Issy in on what happened in my dream.
“Wow… if only my dreams were that gruesome. B-B-But seriously though, that’s… a lot.”
“You’re telling me.”
“So if these vampires are as powerful as you dreamt, that means Hogwarts is in danger.”
“You mean more than it already is? Issy, Hogwarts is a proverbial minefield! No one does anything except us! This whole Circle of Khanna thing will fall apart if we’re not careful!”
“I’ll get the color-coded tags. I think some organizing is in order,” Issy says about her trusty notepads.
“And I will do some origami.”
“Not with my parchment you won’t! You already made more animals than Merula’s farm. We’ll go to the others with this in our next meeting and decide where to go from there.”
“Only if they don’t laugh at me!”
“Your dream will probably wet a few trousers.”
“Fine, I’ll get a few newspapers for them if they ever, uh, need to answer to nature.”
“Kim Sala, ever the thoughtful one,” Issy smiles and chuckles with a lilt.
“Speaking of, I hope Lockhart likes to be folded into a chew toy.”
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rafaelhills · 7 months ago
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12, 14, 16, 18, 22, 34
► meme.
    TWELVE: WHAT HAVE YOU DONE RECENTLY THAT WAS CREATIVE?
You know how kids have this amazing imagination? Just, the whole freewheeling creativity thing that you kinda lose when you grow up? Well, my daughter drew us in these amazing outfits decorated with, uh, flowers? Like, flowers that sort of pop out of the fabric, all blooming-like? So I’ve been spending the free time I get where she’s with her friends or Franny trying to bring that to life. She said she dreamt of it and the dream had looked so real she had to draw it... so there you go.
I’ve finished her skirt, and I’m working on my skirt, but they’re coming out really cute so far. The flowers are made of patterned fabrics. I’ve still got to find a blouse that’ll work for what she drew-- or maybe I’ll modify one I find, change the sleeves a little-- but I’m confident I’ll get it done before her birthday.
I mean, I hope I do. Shit, I gotta remind Franny about the new Fortnite Nerf guns for her...
    FOURTEEN: WHAT KIND OF PERSON ARE YOU?
I’m a regular man prone to wretched thoughts. I get horny when I’m lonely.
I’d say I’m kidding but I’m not really. I don’t know. I’m normal! What do you want to hear from me!?
    SIXTEEN: HOW DO YOU TAKE CARE OF YOUR MIND AND BODY?
Body? Eat, sleep, stay hydrated. And I’m really into kickboxing, but I’ve been lazy about going to the gym lately... at least the biking makes up for it a little bit? Sort of? Franny and Salomé have tons of dance parties too, so it’s not like I’m completely inactive or anything.
Mind-- it’s a lot of organising, I guess. You gotta make sure you have enough time for all the things you wanna get done, and then you gotta know which stuff is worth more than the other stuff. You know? I mean, I got the whole doctor thing going on, which takes over my nights, but my days are my time. As long as I’m in touch with my family, checking on my friends, working on my hobbies, my mind’s okay.
On especially bad days, I like to curl up on the couch and watch spaghetti westerns with sweets to eat. Or play video games, or something. The point is, a TV is required, and that’s always great. If it’s not that, it’s lying down in the grass listening to my Walkman-- sometimes Salomé joins in, but a lot of my, uh, winding down stuff is solitary. Sometimes a man’s gotta recharge his batteries away from the eyes of others.
    EIGHTEEN: WHAT ARE YOU LOOKING FORWARD TO?
My daughter’s birthday! That’s in June. So excited.
Eh, besides that... a colleague of mine back at Boston’s been continuing the next phase of my research while I get settled here. I don’t know if it counts as “looking forward to”, but I’m anticipating the results immensely. I won’t lie, I miss sitting in front of microscopes sometimes.
Oh, one more thing I’m looking forward to is how the new Fortnite season ends. I have a month left! A month!!! Though, now that I think about it, having a month left means... I really gotta start grinding out levels for those extra rewards...
    TWENTY-TWO: WHAT OR WHOM LIGHTS YOU UP?
“Rafi don’t name your family challenge”? Right? Right? (It’s my family.)
I guess, at the risk of sounding super pretentious, it’s the sunrise. Night shift means I get to see that basically everyday after work, and it’s been a welcome addition to my daily routine. I love seeing the sun rise and finding out my horoscope for the day is total shit. Nothing refreshes the palate more.
Nicolas Cage, too. My man.
    THIRTY-FOUR: WHAT LEGACY DO YOU WANT PEOPLE TO REMEMBER ABOUT YOU WHEN YOU’RE GONE?
By this, you mean something people will associate with my name, right? Man, all I ask for is that my daughter grows up well and happy. That I raise her right. If people meet Salomé twenty years from now and she can proudly say that she had a great time with her old man, then that’s it. I’m set for life. I can die content.
My legacy’s in my daughter, I think. Sure, I’m doing lots of work in cancer research, but I don’t need people to know my name for that. I do the work for people, not for glory. But Salomé carries my name, my DNA, the lessons I’ll give her, all the memories we share... and all I want for her is that she grows up at peace with whoever she becomes.
Is that too deep? Maybe it’s too deep. Does it also count as a legacy if my picture’s up at Andre’s Café in Boston for eating four specialty roll-ups and fries within 45 minutes? I hope my face is up on that wall forever.
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