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#a winter drama perhaps
starshipsofstarlord · 5 months ago
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Close, Suspiciously So
Pairing | Bucky Barnes x reader
Summary | Falcon gains an interest in to as to why the reader and Bucky are spending so much time together after missions.
Warnings | the reader enjoying annoying Zemo and vice versa, swearing, hints at previous smut, threats
Requested ✖️
Quick link to my masterlist, if you’re interested in reading more of my crap 😬
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Without much care for the expense, you dived upon Zemo’s couch, that was within his secret hideout, closing your eyes, and laying upon the comfortable furniture. The Baron simply scoffed at your behaviour, whereas, Bucky concealed his amusement, to Sam’s dismay.
Since the Falcon had called for your help, along with Bucky’s, the two of you had gotten close, always tailing each other on missions to ensure that the other did not get hurt, and there being no snide remarks emitting from the once winter soldier in your presence.
He was an utmost gentleman, and that was when Sam Wilson realised, the old man was trying to court you, as was done with more respect and less bluntness back in his war zone days. The man could see the adoration resonating in the eyes of the other, and he went to open his mouth, until Bucky turned abruptly towards the kitchen, Zemo trailing back over to Sam and you.
At his presence, you groaned, feeling his judgemental and high ranking eyes glaring predominantly at you, clearly wishing to sit on the space that you were occupying. Though, you made no movement to move, and instead, kicked your shoes off.
Sighing, Zemo rolled his irises around in the pools of his white, finally giving in to sharing thus another luxury with you and your darned companions. “There are bedrooms upstairs, you may take one y/n.”
At that, you smirked, moving upright to stand, making it clear that it had been your plan all along. “Thank you so much Helmet, is it to the left?” He nodded, wishing to get his hands rid of your presence, that was keen to trail away.
“She used to be a con artist before she joined the team, it’s clear she still carries some of the attributes.” Sam mumbled out into the air, watching as Zemo squinted honourably towards him.
“You tell me that as though I did not do my research before I became invested in stopping all superheroes, her included.” He simply sipped his tea, twiddling with the foil of a Turkish delight as he sat down, pleased that he now could.
“Was that an threat towards her to me?” It was no surprise, they all knew not to trust this man, he had done enough damage when he was free the last time, and now, it would be strange to suspect any different from him.
“No, simply a statement for now. I’d not have included her if your Labrador of a super soldier was in this room, but to my luck, James is not.” Another sip of his drink became audible in the air, as Sam turned around.
He was right, Bucky was no longer within the walls of the room, and his eyes began to flicker. They’d have seen him exit if he decided to leave, perhaps but he had been an assassins for a long time, so who knew, and there was no sign that the front door had been opened, no cold air was blowing inside.
But, he could have went upstairs, and gone to another bedroom. Who was he kidding, he’d be in the same room, it all made sense! And all along, he had been right, there had been something to suspect.
Though, the investigative part needed to know that he was right, and so, he, with the shadow of Zemo that he was defiant with not leaving behind, for he could run, the pair walked quietly up the steps.
Zemo pointed to the door whence they had reached the landing, and Sam, with a strained face, opened the door quickly, only for you and Bucky to jump away from each other.
Your hands fell reluctantly from Bucky’s shoulders, and he himself licked his lips, trying to rid the evidence of your lipstick from his mouth. But it was to no avail working, the pair of you had been caught out, and surely, the two of you would never hear the end of this.
“I knew it!” Sam bellowed, pleased that he had been right to have his suspicions all along. Bucky rolled his eyes at Sam, zipping up his fly that no one else but you, had realised had been undone. But the action drew attention to the feature, and it soon dawned on Sam that the pair of you must have just finished something before Sam had barged in. “Y’all are gross!”
“And you seem to be rather oblivious Samuel. It was clear that these two came up here to fuck, and I am surprised that you are only just discovering this now. Some would think you were asleep on jet, when the pair suddenly decided that they both needed to use the bathroom, or when I was beating up the dance floor in Madripoor, that you were incidentally left all by your lonesome as the two of them disappeared into the crowd.”
He took another sip of his tea that he had carried up here, and you crossed your arms, whilst Bucky scowled murderously towards the two men that had intervened where they shouldn’t have.
“The fact that you pay that close detail to us is weird.” You stated, your nostrils flaring as you stared at the Sokovian. “Do you not have anything better to do?” You retorted, causing Zemo to put his cup down on its adjoining plate that was held in his spare hand before he responded.
“Not really, no. Whilst you have taken me hostage, it is either watch the drama that is ongoing in your little group, or think about the mission ahead. And as much as I would like to kill Karli-“
“No.” Sam scolded him, frowning at the man, who only rolled his shoulders back before continuing, being strictly against taking a girls life, he allowed him to speak more, no matter how irritating the rest would be.”
“However, it has been clear to me from the very beginning what the two of you have been doing, and whilst this oaf has not accepted it, it was far too easy to put the pieces together. It’s like you never told him about that time that you used your con skills to make Sam get food whilst you were going against the accords, and Steve was occupied with bringing the team together, and you had some of your own fun in the front seat, where he had been sat.”
Sam’s eyes widened, and so did Bucky’s. “I’m going to kill you!” They both said simultaneously, Sam’s aimed at Bucky whilst Bucky’s words were prompted towards zemo.
“Seriously, you’re creepy dude!” You whisper shouted as you held Bucky back, Zemo smirking in reply.
“I hear things, and I’d say for a con woman, you speak far too much to your lover, and the walls here are only thin.” And with that, he picked his mug up once more, after having already spilt the tea.
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I’m not sure if anyone requested this yet, but can you write some sweet headcanons where Malleus, Vil, Riddle, Azul and f!s/o bond with their child? Like they've all graduated from NRC and they're adults and parents now. Thanks Raven!
Curiouser and Curiouser...
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As the ruling family of the Valley of Thorns, you are often busy with political and economic affairs. One day, your child will become the next monarch, so they follow you around to important meetings (when they’re not with their royal tutors) and sit in to watch you and father work. This way, they are able to learn while also spending time with their parents.
A beloved family past time is taking a stroll in the palace gardens, hand in hand--your child holding one of yours, and one of dad’s. Malleus knows just what their favorite flower is, and sometimes does little magic tricks to get them to giggle--a shower of petals, or perhaps making all of their favorite flowers bloom in unison.
Sometimes Malleus joins his child for their lessons! It can be boring studying history books or practicing the violin alone, so he might read aloud to them, or take up a string instrument himself to show them the ropes!
Malleus also joins his child for the occasional spar. Of course, he never really goes all-out, but he does try to push them to think quick on their feet. Each battle tends to end with Malleus lying on the floor and pretending he has been “slain”--and when his child cautiously approaches to check on him, Malleus strikes back by tickling them until they’re squealing with laughter.
He knows it can be hard to get a grasp on magic, so when the first sparks start to appear in his child, he makes the time to help them control it. Malleus keeps mint candies in his robes to help cool fiery belches, and he kindly guides his child through shifting from humanoid to dragon and back.
There’s always ice-cream--the king’s favorite treat--on hand! He loves to share it with his child (especially if they’ve expelled a fiery burp earlier). Malleus constructs large and elaborate sundae boats to surprise them after a long day of their studies.
Malleus’s imposing height actually makes him the perfect playground for his child! They love to cling to his back or ride his shoulders, all while reaching up for the sky--which they hope to one day soar through with their father.
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His status as an A-list celebrity tends to keep Vil away from home for extended periods of time, but he keeps in touch with his beloved family! That means lots of video calls with you and his child--and it makes all the moments you do spend together all the more meaningful. (Your child has a habit of pointing at magazine covers and the TV screen whenever they see their father on.)
Whenever Vil returns from work, he typically has a gift in hand for his child. It could be merchandise from whatever brand he has partnered with at the moment, a souvenir from abroad, or a plushie, flowers, or candy from his fans. It always brings a smile to his kid’s face--because their dad is thinking of them, even when they aren’t together.
Vil’s his child’s greatest supporter. He believes they can do anything they set their mind to, and he actively encourages them to work hard toward those goals. No matter how busy he is, Vil will show up to every sports game, every dance recital, every awards show his child is in.
He takes his child on lots of outings! The movies, restaurants, parks, spas, stores... anywhere, really! He thinks it is important for his child to see and experience as much of the world as they can--and besides, he loves doing anything and everything with them.
Vil allows his child to dig into his vanity and wardrobe for things to use for playing dress-up! He’ll sit at the kitchen counter and pretend to be a commentator as his child struts out in various outfits and looks they’ve thrown together.
Occasionally, Vil will sit down and let his kid make him “absolutely beautiful” with his own cosmetics. There’s a whole photo album in your phone of your husband in crooked lipstick and liner, or wildly messy eyeshadow, courtesy of your child.
If they have trouble sleeping,  Vil will read a fairy tale to them--and he’ll crack a little smile when his child tells him he’s like the prince in the story. Other times, he’ll sing lullabies to soothe them. When they’ve, at last, settled into sleep, Vil will brush their hair aside and kiss them on the forehead, wishing them sweet dreams.
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Riddle is stern, but not emotionally closed off. He has sworn to never be like the tyrant his mother was to him in his youth. Though he may be upset when his child does an oopsie, he takes a deep breath, brings himself down to eye level with them, and calmly explains why it is he feels the way he does. Together, they’ll talk out their feelings and find a compromise that works for both of them.
He plays tea party with his child, even going out of his way to properly address each of their stuffed animals by their full name and title. Riddle sits down in a small plastic chair and pretends to sip his “tea” (cola heavily diluted with water) and eat his “scones and sandwiches” (colored clay cut into lopsided triangles).
They look after the family pets--a pair of hedgehogs--together. Riddle shows hid child where the hedgehogs like to be scratched, and how to properly hold them and bathe them. They love to give the hedgehogs their food, the lie on their bellies and proper their faces up to watch the pets eat.
He sits down with them to help with their homework. If there’s something they don’t understand, Riddle can talk them through it--though he won’t just spout out the answer. He wants his child to be able to think critically for themselves--he’s there to provide a little nudge, if needed.
Riddle and his child often experiment in the kitchen. He’s sure to pick simple, kid-friendly and easy recipes, and makes sure that his kid follows proper safety precautions. They serve you up the dishes they make, from fruit sandwiches to pasta salads to no-bake cheesecakes.
Whenever he’s eating something with strawberries on it, he offers the fruit to his child, since he knows they also enjoy them. They typically banter back and forth a bit before agreeing to split the strawberries in half so both of them can enjoy~
He often takes his child out on strolls through the neighborhood so they can see what life is like outside of the house. If some neighborhood kids want to play with them, Riddle lets his child run freely--he’ll just keep a careful eye on them from a distance.
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Like their father, your child is ambitious and intelligent for their age. You can often find them trying to negotiate with their father for various things: later bed times, more allowance for the week, cake for dessert instead of fruit tonight... Azul usually still wins in the end, but he’s a good sport about it and allows the conversations to drag on a little to encourage his kid to put together a coherent argument.
Speaking of allowance, Azul is sure to make sure his child earns that money through various small acts, like doing the dishes or taking out the trash. That’s part of how he shows his love: by instilling values of fairness and working hard into his kid. He also does his part to teach them about the benefits healthy eating and exercise, so his kid can live a long and healthy life!
His child sometimes surprises him at his workplace. Whenever that happens, Azul grants them their own special table in the corner and serves them himself. There’s plenty of free finger foods and endless refills for them, but he’ll gently scold them if they run the risk of overeating or indulging in too many unhealthy foods.
Azul takes his child to the pool or to the beach to swim! He’s notably less enthusiastic about it if he has to do so in his true form, but he’ll do it if his child begs enough. They’re fascinated by his many arms--and to be honest, they come in handy when Azul needs to make a quick rescue or prevent them from drifting too far out on their own. When they’re old enough, Azul holds their hand, and they dive deep to explore the depths.
When the winter comes, Azul personally secures his child in a scarf and several other warm layers before sending them out into the cold. The Coral Sea can get to frigid temperatures during these times of the year, and he tends to worry for his child’s wellbeing and health because of it.
Azul doesn’t give his child gifts often (he wants them to be appreciative for what they already have), but when he does, they are generous ones--a big kitchen playset, a cash register with tons of play money, a lightning-magic powered car they can actually ride in...
Family board game night! Azul has a cabinet full of tabletop card games and board games specifically for these occasions. Monopoly in particular is especially... stiff competition. There’s betrayal and drama around every corner, but you still have tons of fun regardless.
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sweetlyscared · 5 months ago
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A Moment of Calm
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Pairing: Andy Barber x Fem!Reader
Word Count: 4k (one shot)
Summary: You're expecting your first child. Unfortunately, Andy's been busy, and you've been growing more insecure.
Content Warning: 18+, SMUT, angst, fluff, pregnancy, age gap (reader is in her late 20s, Andy in his early 40s), bad dialogue with too much exposition and, grammar errors. This contains spoilers for Defending Jacob, but deviates slightly from the TV show.
Click here for my main masterlist!
***
“You okay, babe?”
Andy looked up from his laptop screen where his focus had been directed since he’d gotten home from work. You could see red in the whites of his eyes, a stark contrast to the beautiful blue of his irises. If the soft purple bags under his lashes weren’t enough of an indication, he was tired and needed to rest.
“Yeah, just doing some last minute paperwork on the Tomlin case,” he sighed and leaned back against the leather desk chair.
You walked up behind him and squeezed his shoulder. He leaned forward, away from your touch, and you frowned. In the past, he would have placed a large hand over yours and brought it to his lips where he’d kiss your palm. He would smile when you giggled at the feeling of his beard tickling your skin.
Affection from him was rare these days.
Andy had warned you the winter months would make him more somber. Those who didn’t know him chalked it up to seasonal depression, but you knew the real reason. It was the time of year his old life had fallen apart, the anniversary of the “accident” that killed his wife and child.
It was why he’d left Newton and moved to Boston, where you met him at the firm you worked at. He arrived last year, the ghosts of his past written in the stern lines etched across his face. Oh, people definitely knew who he was. He was already a titan in the world of criminal law, but the murder trial of his son and the accident that followed shortly after made him a celebrity.
Even though a few years had passed since Jacob was acquitted, that sort of reputation lingers. At best, he was the father of a kid who was accused of murder, at worst, he was the father of a kid who got away with it. That, with the mysterious accident that resulted in the death of his family, Andy Barber was no stranger to gossip.
You ignored it, though, and did your job as best you could, prepping files and organizing schedules. You always afforded Andy nothing but polite and professional respect.
Perhaps that’s why he took a shine to you.
He never went for drinks after work despite his colleagues asking every week, but the first time you extended an invitation, he accepted, much to everyone’s shock. That night, you saw shades of who he must have been before the trial and accident. He cracked a few jokes and you even heard him laugh a few times, the sound rusted, like he hadn’t done so in a while, but rich and full nonetheless.
You didn’t mean to linger around him the whole night, but you couldn’t help but be captivated by his easy charm, which seemed to be directed solely at you.
He’s a lawyer, you reminded yourself. His job is to charm.
However, if you weren’t seeking out his presence, he was looking for yours. Though neither of you had more than a couple of drinks, you decided to blame the alcohol for how you ended up in his bed at the end of the night.
His lips were feverish against you as he placed heated kisses along your lips and jaw, shrugging off his tie and shirt before unbuttoning your blouse.
“Do you want this?” His voice was low, husky with need.
“Yes,” you whispered and he groaned, quickly removing your bra and lowering his head to latch onto a nipple. You writhed under him, your hands tracing the toned expanse of his broad shoulder and his back.
You couldn’t help but let out a small whimper when he went lower, looping his thumbs under your simple lace panties and tugging them downward. He hardly gave you time to feel self-conscious before he ran his tongue up your slit and swirling the tip around your clit before gently sucking the bundle of nerves into his hot mouth.
“Oh God,” you gasped as he continued to alternate between quick licks and sucks before dipping his tongue into your waiting pussy. He thumbed your clit while he fucked your hole and you fisted your hands through his hair as you came around his mouth.
You heard him hum, a cross between proud and hungry, at the feeling, and he was crawling up your body, peppering kisses along the way, his thumb still coaxing you through your orgasm as he leaned down and kissed you. You could taste the mild tang of yourself on his mouth and sighed, breathy and wanton.
“You ready for me,” his voice was gravelly, impatient.
“Fuck yes,” you moaned and he grinned at you.
You could feel the blunt head of his cock pressing against your entrance, and from what you saw earlier, Andy was huge. He gave you another quick kiss before pushing himself inside.
The groan he let out at the feeling of your tight walls against his length could make angels cry in sin, you were certain. If this night ended up being a one time deal, you could at least get yourself off to the memory of that sound for the rest of your days.
He started a slow but forceful pace, each stroke within you sure of its path towards your undoing. In no time at all, you felt yourself at the precipice, needing just one last push before going over.
“Andy, I’m-”
“I got you, baby,” he whispered between pants, and you felt the rough pad of his thumb touch your clit. It was enough.
You moaned his name, your nails digging into his back and you fluttered around his cock.
“Fuck fuck-” you heard Andy grunt while his hot cum painted your walls.
The two of you laid there, his softening cock still inside you, as you caught your breath.
“Shit, sorry…” he murmured, realizing he hadn’t put a condom on.
You laughed gently, “I’ll get some Plan B tomorrow.”
“Stay the night, and we can go together,” he looked down at you, a soft smile on his lips.
He wanted you to stay?
“Sure,” you whispered, suddenly feeling exposed.
“You don’t know how long I wanted this,” he whispered into your ear, and you felt your entire body flush at his confession. He leaned down and kissed you long, deep, and you returned every bit of passion he gave.
What you had assumed would be a one night stand turned into a secret relationship, neither one of you wanting to deal with the office drama. After all, you were the sweet secretary, and he was the legal world’s bad boy. The last thing you wanted was more gossip about Andy.
But then a few months later, your period was late. And another week went by, nothing. You started birth control soon after your first night with Andy, and so you assumed it was just taking a couple months for your body to get used to it.
Still, the unease you felt compelled you to take a test, just to rule out the possibility. Five minutes later, you sat on your bed, the two lines on the plastic applicator didn’t lie. You took another one just in case.
Same result.
Telling Andy was difficult. You knew him to be a gentleman, but the relationship was new, and while you were in your late 20s, he was in his early 40s, both of you with stable careers, a baby wasn’t ideal for him, especially not after what happened to his family.
You gave him a call, each unanswered ring another stab of anxiety in your heart. He finally picked up.
“Andy, we need to talk,” you said, trying not to sound scared but failing miserably. Both positive tests sat on your nightstand, like a waiting omen.
“I’m listening,” you heard him say with his ‘lawyer voice,’ so you knew he was hiding any worry he might have felt at your tone.
“I think it’s best if you come over,” you murmured. You tried not to sound alarmed, but it was difficult when your mind was running around with numerous different scenarios; what if he wanted to end things with you or wanted you to get rid of it?
“Should I be concerned?”
“No. I… I don’t know. Can you come over?” You tried to hold back tears and hoped he wouldn’t notice.
“I’ll be over in twenty minutes.”
You sat in the living room and waited, staring at the turned off TV, gaze a million miles away. A knock on the door came about fifteen minutes later, and you nearly jumped at the sound. It felt like a lifetime had passed.
You opened the door and there he was, wearing a simple T-shirt with sweats.
“Sweetheart, what’s wrong?” He asked as he walked inside.
You took a deep breath. Might as well get this over with. You went to your room and emerged with the tests, where you wordlessly handed them over, unable to get the words out.
It took him a moment to process what he was looking at but once he did, he let out a relieved laugh as he let go of the breath he was holding.
“You’re not mad?” You asked. He grinned and pulled you in, wrapping his arms around you.
“No, of course not. I thought something horrible had happened,” he said into your hair.
“What are we going to do?” You whispered.
“We’ll figure it out.” The confidence in his voice was soothing, and any doubt you had about your future vanished like smoke in the wind.
Andy was nothing less than supportive and was the one who suggested you move in with him shortly after. He had more room in his house, a couple of spare bedrooms that could easily be converted into a nursery. You were hesitant, the relationship being so new, but he did all he could to assuage your fears.
Things were great initially. He was attentive, sweet. He went to every doctor’s appointment and when you were craving something, he tried to get it for you. When you started to show and became more self conscious, he made sure to remind you how beautiful he found all the changes your body was going through. He took your mood changes with patience and understanding, never making you feel unreasonable no matter how much you could be at times.
“You’re making a whole person, sweetheart, it’s okay to cry,” he cradled you when he found you sobbing on the kitchen floor because you dropped a box of strawberries and insisted he leave you alone because you were crazy.
It was a dream and you wondered when you were going to wake up.
But then Winter came around, and he got more and more distant.
You were about 30 weeks along, and when he wasn’t spending late nights at the firm, he was in his home office, eyes glued to his laptop screen.
Though you hadn’t been with him long enough to experience it first hand, you knew January was going to be particularly hard for him. He seldom spoke about the accident that took the lives of his family, but he went into detail about that horrible day and the weeks that followed shortly after you moved in with him. He wanted to be open about everything.
The day of Jacob’s death came and went, followed closely by Laurie’s. You couldn’t comprehend the pain he must have felt, so you tried to be there as best he needed, even if it meant not being there at all. He needed space, so you let him know you were near if he needed you by gently touching his hand or shoulder before wandering off into another room. He’d smile, one filled with grief, appreciate, loss, and longing, before kissing your hand or cheek.
But then weeks passed and Andy continued being more distant. So when he leaned forward, out of your touch, you tried not to cry.
“I’m going to get ready for bed. Please let me know if you need anything.”
He hummed and you left the office.
The next day, he was working late at the firm again, and you found yourself struggling to stay afloat, insecurity threatening to pull you under the emotions that lurked beneath the surface of false calm. You kept most of this to yourself, not wanting your family to worry, but you did occasionally confide to Jess, your closest friend. Unable to tolerate the cold silence that perpetually echoed off the walls of Andy’s house, you picked up the phone and called her.
“Hey!” She beamed from the other end.
“Hi,” you said, unable to hold back the wobble in your voice.
“Oh honey, what’s wrong?”
“I don’t…” You sighed. “Andy’s just been distant.”
“Still?”
“I know he’s been through more than I could ever comprehend. I’ll never understand the loss he experienced, and I hope I never do. But... I feel like I’ve been going through this pregnancy alone the past several weeks,” you shook your head softly. “I don’t know what to do.”
“Have you talked to him about it?”
“No,” you sobbed, unable to hold back the tears that were persistent in their desire to fall, “I don’t want to come off as insensitive or unsupportive. He’s lost… he lost everything. It just feels selfish of me to go “hey, I know you’re hurting, but please pay attention to me.’”
“Oh honey, that’s not being selfish. You’re having his baby… You shouldn’t have to beg for his attention.”
“He missed the last couple of check ups at the doctor. And I know he’s busy. He’s taken on more work, and I don’t want to come off as ungrateful for everything he does. I just… I feel like he’s avoiding me… like he’s regretting this. I don’t blame him. It happened so soon after we started dating. I don’t know what to do.”
“Talk to him.”
“But I’m going to sound so insecure. I can’t even fathom what his loss was like. I don’t feel like I have any place to tell him how he should grieve. I’ve been trying to be there for him, even if that means sometimes, I’m not there at all. He seems like he wants space. Everytime I try to initiate any sort of affection, he pulls away. It’s just… it’s been really hard.”
“Okay, listen. You’re not telling him how to feel. He’s suffered an unimaginable loss, that’s for certain. But that doesn’t mean you can’t ask him to be there for you, too. That’s what relationships are built on. A mutual give and take. You can’t keep pouring from an empty cup, honey.”
You sniffled and didn’t respond.
“What are you doing Friday night?” Jess asked.
“Friday night?”
“Yeah, you have any plans?”
“Probably just mourning the fact I haven’t seen my toes in awhile,” you wiped away some tears and smiled a bit when you heard Jess sort.
“I’ll come over with some alcohol free wine and I’ll paint your gross swollen toes and we can just have a girls night in. How does that sound?”
“Isn’t alcohol free wine just grape juice? Also, rude, my toes aren’t gross.”
“Yes, and how would you know, you haven’t seen them in months.”
“... Touche,” you giggled. “That sounds like a lot of fun. Thank you.” For the first time in weeks, you felt slightly less burdened by your thoughts.
“Anytime, babe.”
“I feel better now. I think I just needed to talk about it,” you sighed.
“Well, I’m not the one you needed to talk to about this but, I’m glad I can help,” you could hear the affection laced in her voice, and it almost made you cry again.
“I love-” you tried to get up off the floor but your belly got in the way of your legs. “I love yo-”
“What’s going on?”
“I can’t get off the floor,” you whined and heard her snort.
“Need me to send over a crane?”
You laughed, “goodnight, Jess.”
“Bye hun, love you too.”
You set your phone on the nightstand and attempted to get up before giving up. Frustrated, you sat there and sobbed for a few more minutes, never feeling more pathetic in your life.
“Baby? What’s wrong?” You jumped when you heard Andy’s voice, his footsteps following not long after.
“I can’t get up,” you sniffled.
Andy laughed, a sound you missed so much, and helped pull you up.
“Why were you on the floor?”
“I was talking to Jess. She’s coming over Friday. We’re just gonna drink alcohol free wine and catch up.”
“I’ll probably be working late again,” he said.
You figured as much, and you couldn’t help but tear up again.
“Something wrong?” He asked, brushed a tear away with his thumb and you savored the feeling of his skin against yours.
“No, just… hormones is all.”
Andy chuckled, quiet and sad. “Yeah, Laurie was a mess the final couple months…”
“I bet,” you nearly whispered, and Andy didn’t notice anything was off. He left you alone to work in his home office. You couldn’t help but feel like he viewed you as a good deed gone wrong, a responsibility he took on before he realized the gravity of the situation and was slowly regretting his choice.
Thursday night rolled around, and Andy was working late again.
You were due in three weeks, and you started to feel more Braxton Hicks contractions, another reminder your life was about to change in ways you could never fully be prepared for. So you did what you could. You knew you needed to put together a hospital bag, knowing the baby could arrive earlier than you were expecting.
Using a checklist you found online, you started gathering the recommended items: comfortable, loose fitting clothes, a nursing bra, clean towels, toiletries. You tried to focus on the task at hand, but with every other thing you added to the duffle bag, you felt your heart getting heavier and heavier.
You couldn’t stop yourself from crying a little when you started packing for the baby, feeling like it was something you should have been doing with Andy. But he wasn’t home. He was rarely home.
The last part of the list had recommended items for your partner, should you have one. You sat on the closet floor, paper in hand, staring at the section meant for Andy.
Should you pack his bag for him? What if he wanted to do it himself? What if he didn’t want to do it at all? Did he even want to go with you? Would he even make time to be there for you when you went into labor? Or would he be at the firm or in his home office, starting at that stupid fucking laptop screen?
The gentle tears that started falling when you packed your baby’s clothes became a full storm at the thought that Andy wouldn’t even be there when you gave birth.
You’re being very irrational, the logical side of your brain reasoned, to which your emotional side said fuck off.
Unable to do anything else other than cry, you sat there, feeling sorry for yourself, every anxious thought spiraling into a million dreadful scenarios.
“Oh, sweetheart, what’s wrong?”
You squeaked a little, surprised when you saw Andy standing at the doorframe. He looked concerned, but no more or less than the dozens of other times he caught you sobbing over something seemingly inconsequential. Still, his presence was as painful as it was comforting.
“N-nothing,” you say between breath hitches.
His eyes scan over the open duffle bags, clothes and toiletries packed neatly inside. His brows furrowed a little, a twinge of guilt lacing the blues of his eyes.
“I would have helped you pack,” he offered calmly.
“Would you have?” If you had it in you to snap at him, you would have. But as it currently stood, it came out as a meek blubber. You wiped away some tears and felt the puffy skin around your eyes, warm and soft from the moisture.
You heard Andy crouch down so he was seated next to you.
“Of course I would have,” he sounded confused.
The flimsy dam that’s held back the deluge of feelings that have accumulated over the weeks broke, and before you could reason yourself off the ledge you were about to freefall from, you readily jumped in.
“I know you’ve been working, but… it just feels like you’re avoiding me. I know… I know this time of year is hard for you, so I’ve been trying to give you space. You just don’t seem to want to be near me anymore.”
“Swee-”
“I wanted to be supportive. I know you’ve been through so much, and I didn’t want to pressure you, not on top of everything else. I didn’t want to be another thing you had to worry about, but… it doesn’t seem like you’re worried about me at all. Everytime I try to touch you, you pull away, and it hurts. I don’t know if I’m just hormonal or if I’m being unreasonable, but… do you even want to do this anymore? I’ve felt like I’ve been doing this alone the past several weeks.”
You heard him try to say something, but you kept going.
“And I know it’s really fucking unreasonable and inscure of me to expect you to drop everything you’re doing to make sure I’m okay, especially given this time of year. I don’t want you to feel like you can’t mourn your family. I’m just… I’m really scared. I don’t know if you’re regretting this or not. If you are, it’s okay. I know this happened so fast.”
You felt Andy wrap his arms around you and you cried into his shoulder.
“I’m so sorry,” he said. “I didn’t realize I was…”
You heard him sigh.
“I didn’t know I was being so distant… I was scared. I am scared. With everything that happened with Laurie and Jacob, I’m… we’re bringing another kid into this world. What if I mess it up again?”
“None of what happened was your fault,” you mumbled into his chest, face pressed into the buttons of his shirt, content to have him holding you again, enveloped in his smell, something earthy and grounded.
“It feels like it was. It’ll always feel like it was. I was trying to distance myself from that feeling, feeling like I was failing again, helpless in stopping it no matter how hard I tried. I didn’t realize I was ignoring you, too. I’m so sorry,” you felt him kiss the top of your head. “I love you. I hope you know that, and I’ll be here for you. I’m so sorry I haven’t been.”
If you could bottle the relief you felt to save it for a rainy day, you would have. You started to cry again and mumbled, “thank you.”
“Anything else wrong?” He asked, his voice even, soothing, like gentle rain.
“I haven’t seen my feet in over a month and I don’t know why that makes me so sad.”
Andy laughed, “they look adorable, as always.”
“You promise you don’t regret this?” You asked, looking up at him. He smiled at you, the skin around his eyes crinkling.
“I promise. You’re the best thing that’s happened to me in a very, very long time.”
The future was still rife with possibilities, both beautiful and tragic, but for the moment where you and Andy packed for the hospital, there was a moment of peace, delicate and breakable, but whole while you held it.
***
Note: I don’t like this but I worked hard on it so… here.
I hit 600 followers, and I love you all so much for it!
Please reblog/leave feedback, if you want! Thank you for reading!
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fairytheo · 3 months ago
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enhypen as your boyfriend.
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boyfriend!enhypen x gen!reader. fluff. 1.9k. curse words. mention of bugs, food. not requested.
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🐈 ⸝⸝ HEESEUNG ˙𐃷˙
super-duper caring !!
he’s so whipped for you — he smiles just by thinking about you
also very giggly around you
LOVES lending you his beanies
(aka. you stealing them..)
+ you steal his earrings as well ! not that he minds
absolutely adores singing for you / he loves singing you to sleep :D
hold up, is being heeseung’s s/o just being his personal ramen cook 🤨🤨
he aaalwaays bugs you to play games with him (especially wii and nintendo switch lmao)
either that or you’re playing animal crossing while eating takeout at your dinner table
you’re the only person in the world who he’ll ever do aegyo for. 
he secretly enjoys it, but shhh you didn’t hear that from me
i think he likes calling you names like cutie, cutiepie or just a shorter version of your name <3 (if there is one !)
booping your nose is on his everyday to do list ☝️
lowkey therapist & boyfriend in one ngl
WAIT he loves making playlists for you two,, 
“y/n! i made another playlist, do you wanna listen to it? i made it while thinking of you.” <//3 
the type to write cheesy lyrics about you, then later cringes at his own writing bUT then leaves it like that because you like it !
you have his cover of lauv’s “i’m so tired” either set as your alarm or play it on loop everyday 
(random but for some reason i can picture him giving you a cassette with his cover on it just for the vintage vibes)
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🐈 ⸝⸝ JAY ˙𐃷˙
the mom-and-boyfriend in one ;] 
f a s h i o n  c o u p l e 
you are literally fashion icons. no disagreements. 
you have matching clothes or accessories ! even if it’s really subtle, the gesture behind it is super adorable <//3
cooking pt. 2 :D but this time there’s a gorden ramsay in your relationship
i can just SEE how you both two impersonate gorden ramsay while cooking which makes everything 10 times funnier !! checks every 5 seconds if the food is ready tho because he doesn’t wanna risk anything
never cleans up afterwards, either you do or no one does
since you’re both fashion icons your social media followers are going 📈📈📈
literally couple goals.
he loves taking pictures of you,, but also wants you to take pictures of him 
jay gets flustered easily so please make him flustered with sudden compliments, hugs, kisses, etc. !!
he’s also the only member i can really see calling you babe
confident but shy about pda at the same time ??? he’s both LOL 
you always tease him with his RAS moments and randomly quote them when you’re in the middle of a conversation with him lmao
random and idk if this fits here, but he likes making your lunch — leaves you encouraging notes too <3
last but not least: jokingly gets angry at you when he wants something from you, and you do the same thing back ♡
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🐈 ⸝⸝ JAKE ˙𐃷˙
sweetest and softest boyfriend to ever exist. i’m so soft for him JSHSHS
definitely calls you sweetie and darling. 100%. fight me if you think otherwise. 
shows you pics of layla everyday (it’s become routine for him >_<)
a tiny bit cliché BUT lends you his jacket whenever you’re cold (even when you’re inside !!)
random thought: jake puts his hands in your hoodie pockets...
💔💔💔
it’s his personal goal to peck your cheek and forehead at least twice a day — gets pouty if he wasn’t able to do that ))):::
talks in english a lot because you love his accent !!
if you’re an english speaker, you’ll have conversations in english all. the. time.
if you’re not an english speaker, no worries, he’ll teach you !
+ reads you bedtime stories in english (jake’s australian accent >>>) 
dreams of travelling with you to australia <33  
if there’s a bug in the house you better know that jake will NOT be removing them and runs out of the house
WILL stay over at one of the other member’s houses untill that bug is REMOVED . 
so if you’re afraid of bugs as well,,, i’m sorry bae, but it’ll be your task to remove these little... creatures 😐
ngl you have more photos of layla than of him on your phone lol
(spams you with her pictures and captions them with “y/n!!! look!!! layla with a flower!!!! layla with a butterfly!!!!” it’s just so sweet aaa)
we need some “””drama””” so you make jokes about him being a “🥶💸🔥💪” boy a lot in your relationship LMAO
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🐈 ⸝⸝ SUNGHOON ˙𐃷˙
ice skating dates.
this has been mentioned in other headcanons a lot already but i just HAD to include it,,
convinces you to eat ice cream after your date LOL even if it IS winter
btw. fashion couple nr. 2 !!! 
MIRROR SELCAS
MIRROR SELCAS 
ugh the visuals and the power you two hold,,,, i can’t,,,,,
has better clothes than you ngl so you share clothes lmao
it started with him lending you his sweatpants, but then you didn’t want to return them forgot to return them and BOOM 💥 here we are
extremely awkward and shy at first — don’t worry though, he becomes much more chaotic in the later phases of your relationship
he teases you SO MUCH. LIKE. SO MUCH.
always has small smile (smirk?) on his face when he’s about to make a cocky remark (so beware)
you tease him back just twice as hard which 1.) results in him in becoming flustered 2.) fails LOL
off-topic but he’d love a s/o that has a similar style to him ??? a more elegant, classy, dark style perhaps
when he’s away / busy he’ll send you some selcas and captions them with “how r u doing??” “did you eat yet?” “cheer up :P” 
kinda shy about pda but likes showing off too ???
i mean,, men... 🙄🙄 /lh
whenever someone mentions your name near him, he’ll just try to hide his smile while biting his lip (yk what i’m talking about???) and you’ll see his dimples and the affectionate look in his eyes and just AAAAA
the type of boyfriend that calls you love~
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🐈 ⸝⸝ SUNOO ˙𐃷˙
skin care routines with sunoo 24/7 🤝
he does your hair (if your hair is long enough to do different hairstyles with it ofc !!) 
send you daily weekly skin care products he thinks you two should try out / that’d be good for your skin <3
spa nights every friday at 9pm — he only lets you in if you wear a stylish pyjama LOL
you buy him peach items because they just remind you so much of him (。•́︿•̀。)
SELCA TIME !!! his phone is always ready !!! (apart from his storage maybe?)
PARTICIPATES IN SELCA DAYS OF YOUR FAVOURITE IDOLS AAA
loves to go on walks w u
does A LOT of aegyo,, 
and i know that you knew that this point will be in this headcanon.
for eg. instead of saying goodnight or bye he’ll just do aegyo for you not that anyone minds tbh
stages of sunoo flirting (?):
a — tries to compliment you (it sounds more like a flirty remark tbh)
b — realizes then blushes
c — cringes and runs away LMAO
playfully acts jealous, so you know it’s a joke but deep down he’s actually jealous
you two match each others vibes a lot — if one is sad, the other is sad as well
+ tells you your posture is bad when you sit like a banana or tells you to go to sleep early and when you don’t listen to him, he’ll show you an article that proves that (abc) and (xyz) is bad for you and says “i told you so.” 💀
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🐈 ⸝⸝ JUNGWON ˙𐃷˙
impresses you by doing kicks (does the kick cap challenge on tiktok and/or you play kick it by nct 127 for the funzies) 
poking his dimple is a MUST . 😩😩
though gets super shy when you kiss him and also if you buy him gifts !!
cheers you up whenever you feel down or are upset
compliments you a ton ))): will randomly come up to you and tell you that your fit is cute or that you look brighter today,,, little does he know it's because of him ;]
HUGS!HUGS!HUGS
poking his dimple comes first, then hugging
the other members tease you two everytime you’re over LOL it’s like there are two koalas clinging onto each other
our yang garden gained another sheep +1
you two randomly play sheep,,,, like,,, everyday ???? sheep cosplays 👍
idk why ig it’s just fun to imitate sheep and go “mmmeEeEeeEhh” to annoy others
talking of that, even THOUGH he is a responsible leader he will not hesitate to do stupid shit with you
“hey how about we ring on that house there and yell “sheep for sale!” do you think they’ll open the door?”
“i don’t know... let’s find out!” 🤝
let’s just say that this didn’t end well..
also kinda bullies you (in a loving way ofc !!) pand teases you nonstop
either calls you asshole or love aHA
in conclusion: a very unpredictable relationship,, would 10/10 recommend.
very random but i feel like his love language is acts of service
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🐈 ⸝⸝ NI-KI ˙𐃷˙
oh look it’s our tsundere 😼
can’t go a day without dancing so you two have vibing sessions at 2am everyday ft. the others telling you to go to bed
you’re the only one that can make him soft lol
if you’re older than him, you would definitely take care of him like your own baby !! 
if you are the same age as him or younger it’d be awkward for him at first, because he isn’t used to taking care of someone younger, so he’d treat you as if you were his best friend at the beginning
you love to watch him dance !! it’s so satisfying,, LITERAL asmr.
pranks you 24/7. boy has NO mercy. will not care if the others will scold him later. he will do the prank smoothly (?) — doesn’t care about the consequences LMAO
probably sets your alarm to someone screaming or a cringy aegyo song <//3
wants to film dance covers with you !! you don’t have to be the best dancer either !! as long as you have fun ^__^ 
the other members find you really cute but are also vERY TIRED OF YOU,, two energized teens in a relationship was not a good idea ☝️
likes to randomly hold your hand and swing it around 
probably distant at the beginning of the relationship because a.) he doesn’t want to pressure you/make things awkward b.) he doesn’t really know what to do either ???
(if you’re not japanese or don’t know how to speak japanese) he’ll definitely teach you some japanese phrases and words !! introduce you to his culture as well :DD and he really wants to know more about your culture too <3
teaches you phrases like “sunoo is a dumbass” for the funzies LOL
randomly makes micheal jackson impressions,,, it’s hilarious LMFAO
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countdraluka · 4 months ago
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Sacraments - an Alcina x Maiden one-shot
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[READ ON AO3]
“I never thought I would marry. I abhorred the idea, in fact, and fought against it until my dying breath. But now… Now, would you have me call you ‘wife’?”
On the first anniversary of her transformation into a vampire, the maiden awakes to an empty bed and a cryptic note from her dear Lady. What follows is a visceral exploration of family dynamics, lovers' gifts, and what it truly means to belong to another.
A standalone Novitiate one-shot. 
Rating: Mature (18+).
Includes sexual content and canon-typical violence.
Word count: 14064.
Cover photo: The Wedding Register by Edmund Blair Leighton.
Alternatively, read below.
“I love and only love the fairer sex and thus beloved by them in turn, my heart revolts from any love but theirs.”
― Anne Lister.
//
January 9th, 1960.
For the first time in exactly a year, she awoke to an empty bed.
The maiden found it positively strange, to open her eyes away from sleep and find the space to her right abandoned. She reached out to place a hand against the mattress, her touch lingering over the silken bedsheets and crumpled goose-feather pillow, both of which were still warm from the body that had laid upon them for the better part of the day. Her lustrous eyes then travelled around the room – finding the candles over the bedside table glowing faintly and the curtains pulled open to show the starry night-sky, a gift left behind by the merciless snowstorm that had fallen upon the village for the previous two days. Yet she was alone in the master bedroom.
She soon realized had been deliberately left alone, in fact, which was as uncharacteristic to her beloved as strolling around the castle with blood dripping down her chin, or wearing silver earrings with a gold necklace, or even just abandoning one of their many cadavers to rot in their living room. After all, Alcina was a creature both prim and predictable. And the maiden, ever the attentive observer, had transcribed even the tiniest of her idiosyncrasies into her memory to the last comma, dash, and period.
Alcina’s evening routine followed a long-perfected script, though it was not free from smaller variations that played up the dramatics whenever she felt overindulgent. She awoke early – often prior to sunrise, when the pink sunrays shone past the edges of the thick curtains like a halo projected onto the wallpaper, and always before the maiden could even consider abandoning her sunken dreams. It seemed that, no matter how late into the morning they had gone to bed, she was always up to indirectly witness the sun going down. She then smoked. It was the first thing she did - the consistency of the act so impeccable that the maiden sometimes wondered what would happen if the servants ever forgot to leave a fresh pack of cigarettes next to the silver ashtray of their bedside table. Supper settled for the week, she guessed.
How Alcina smoked, on the other hand, varied depending on her mood. On an average day, the ones filled with coven dealings and business discussions, she sat up against the pillows with the cigarette holder in her right hand and a book in her left, peacefully skimming the pages and taking deep drags until she heard the maiden’s hoarse “good evening” whispered to her left. Other times, she stretched herself on her side like a mischievous cat, blowing out thick clouds of smoke against the exposed nape of her sleeping lover’s neck. It was never too long before her fingers inevitably found their way beneath the maiden’s scarlet nightgown. Over her stomach, up her sternum, around her breasts. If they later wandered to indecent places, however, it was only because Alcina was trying to ward off the cold – or at least that is what she claimed, when the maiden woke up shaking and tittering over the edge. And then there were the days when she would get out of bed first – to chew away at her stress with a glass of her best wine and half a pack burnt away in quick succession – but she was sure to slide back under the covers before her absence was truly noted.
Hence why the maiden found it so odd to see the pattern neglected.
A shiver crawled its way up her spine the moment she stepped out from the covers and the winter air struck her exposed skin. The fireplace burned brightly at the end of the room, yes, but logs of wood and coal could only do so much to protect against the merciless chill, even more so in a building as old as this. She found her robe thrown over the back of a chair, just as she had left the morning prior. Alcina’s, which had been neatly folded and placed over the seat, was no longer there. Neither were her slippers, the maiden noticed, but the cigarettes were still sealed in their embossed pack. Dread began to settle into the pit of her stomach.
Thinking that perhaps Mother Miranda had called, and she had merely not heard the phone ringing, the maiden peeked into the dressing room connected to the main chambers. She did not find Alcina sitting by the vanity, phone pressed against her shoulder, her polite lilt concealing her despise for the other Lords’ incompetence as the maiden typically witnessed – this room, too, was devoid of her companion. No clothes had been picked out for the evening, either, which made her wonder if Alcina had left in a hurry. A quick look at the bathroom also proved fruitless, as did the blood-bathing chambers further down the hall.
“Oh, ma’am!”, one of the servants – they always seemed to fade into the background, did they not? - cried out upon noticing the maiden was about to head downstairs, “The Mistress instructed us to give you this note as soon as you awoke”.
“Note? Has she gone to a meeting?”, the maiden questioned with a fair dose of skepticism, though she gently took the folded piece of paper once the servant offered it to her.
“Not at all! I imagine she has taken the day off, ma’am. She told us to not expect her to get dressed so early, and to turn away any visitors – except for deliveries, of course.”
“Ah, I see”, she hummed with understanding slow to come at such early hours, “Thank you, then, and that is all.”
No immediate crisis, she thought with mild relief. Though it was not unusual for the slowly-inflected wounds to fester the deepest, even more so when it came to Miranda’s cloud-shadowed intentions.
They left her with a curt bow, and the maiden soon enough unfolded the note and turned towards the faint candlelight. She immediately recognized Alcina’s penmanship – undoubtfully beautiful, bordering near the masterful, but incomprehensible to the untrained eye, something the maiden attributed to her having learnt calligraphy back in the days of quills and ink. To her, however, it might as well have been typed out, with how easy it was to decode.
“Dearest - I await you in the living room.”
Right – a message as short and as cryptic as one might expect from someone with such a strong penchant for drama. It was simultaneously endearing and troublesome.
The maiden briefly considered whether the short sprint across the courtyard would be worth the frostbite that was sure to follow, but she eventually conceded herself to taking the long route around the east wing. All the maids stopped themselves to greet her cordially as she made her way down the halls, their surprise towards her rather casual attire perfectly concealed, if present at all. They looked happy, she thought. Eager to turn in for the night as the new set of servants started their shift, yes, but happy enough.
She became so caught up in the normality of domestic life that she did not quite notice she had already reached the mezzanine. Her awareness of this only came when a cloud of flies formed around her, stopping her in her path. Without any clear memories of having been approached in the same manner, three-hundred and sixty-five days prior, nor of any of the despair that had accompanied the event, the maiden merely laughed at the tickling sensation over her skin.
“Good evening to you, too, Cassandra.”
Her daughter, the second tallest in the family, pressed her chin to the top her head as she wrapped her arms around her. She must have just bathed, the maiden realized – her damp hair smelled of blood and roses, with a faint undertone of the aloe lotion her and her sisters had been rationing to the last drop before the local merchant was able to restock it, and her silken navy bedjacket was warm to the touch. It was hardly unusual for them to request that the chambermaid iron their clothes once more, to heat the fabric before they put them on, even more so in wintertime.
“Hello there. Sleep alright?”, Cassandra greeted amicably, though her hands reached to the maiden’s face and she took a step forward, directing both of them towards the other hall.
“As well as I can typically manage. I imagine you are not going to explain the reason why you are covering my eyes, are you?”
Cassandra paused her movements in order to let her chuckle reverberate properly. The maiden saw this as a chance to dig in her heels a bit – she was hardly one to be ambushed and dragged to a second location without any form of resistance, after all.
“I am not supposed to – Mother’s orders.”
“I knew this day would come”, replied the maiden with feigned woe. “She has grown sick of me, the dear Lady, and so she has sent you to snap my neck and leave me to freeze outside.”
It was nearly comical, the way Cassandra lessened her grip and floated around her frame so that she could face the maiden, her golden eyes blown wide in astonishment that contradicted the annoyed look she so bravely put on.
“Mama, that is a terrible joke!”, she was soon to accuse. Yet, beneath the nonchalance so typical of their bloodline, it was possible to sense a certain sensitivity towards the idea. As if fears of abandonment gripped her heart and twisted the atrophied muscle into a pulp – all their hearts, be it from mistress to maiden to daughter, even though it was a well-known fact that their vows to the family were tied in bonds of forevermore.
The maiden had quickly realized that immortality was no cure for anguish. Thus, she pushed her concerns aside with long-practiced charm.
Finger lightly tapping the tip of Cassandra’s nose, she teased, “It did make you let me go, though, didn’t it?”
“Ha ha”, her daughter spat as she returned to her characteristic wit. She only continued with a more uniform tone once the maiden’s eyes were once again covered, “But, honestly, the day she decides to let you go is the day…”
With them taking a left turn, the maiden recognized she was being led down the hall.
“Hm?”, she pressed, quite curious to catch what would follow. Cassandra paused for a beat, musing over what she had intended to say, then shrugged faintly.
“… Well, I was going to reply ‘the day she goes mad’, but I doubt even that would tear her away from you. Mother has got it so very bad.”
An outsider, in all their gullible ignorance, would have imagined such kind of talk regarding the great Countess would have resulted, in the best of cases, in a reprimand; and, in the worst of them, a tongue cut off and fed to the household cat. But outsiders were often impertinent and senseless, and so the maiden had no regard for their premediated opinions. In the end, she knew very well that Alcina’s reaction to Cassandra’s bashful teasing would not be one of violence – that she would most certainly scoff, instead, and tenderly point out that she was not the one practically begging for a kiss at every turn and corner.
She did have a point; the maiden was quite convincing with her desperate pleads and crocodile tears, was she not?
The thought elicited her a carefree chuckle. “That she has. Luckily for all parties involved, as do I – so do not go holding your breath while you wait for your wicked stepmother to fuck off to another story, love.”
At that, Cassandra very much groaned.
“Ugh, step-mother. It is one bad joke after the other, isn’t it?”
“I can see where we are heading”, the maiden commented the moment Cassandra’s hands dropped to gesture wildly at the air, rather than to let it show how the one detail had completely tugged at her heartstrings.
Mother, no “ifs” or “buts” nor “steps”.
Just mother – shortened to “Mama” at Daniela’s suggestion, since the differentiation became necessary when labeling Christmas’ gifts, holding multifaceted conversations, and calling for assistance amidst particular endeavors.
Bela needs help picking the right shoes to pair with her newly-tailored wool cape? Ask Mother, most definitely. Mama will just say that “black goes with everything” and it is no fun.
Cassandra accidentally jammed the chain rigging system in their room? Mama will fix it in under three minutes. Mother, on the other hand, still does not quite know what a screwdriver is.
Daniela caught them fresh prey and it is currently crawling towards the front door? Adorable. Invite Mother to join in the fun if you want it to die screaming, and Mama if you want it crying – which is why she always shouts for both.
The maiden snapped back from her thoughts when Cassandra silently went “Oh” and covered her eyes once again. Her need to be constantly in the midst of momentum showed itself subtly in how much she struggled to keep to the task at hand, a trait the maiden found impossibly lovable.
“Should have brought a blindfold.”
“Yeah, I should have”, her daughter agreed as she tugged them past the wine room. “Pesky things always disappear when I need them, though - just like spare rosin for my pointe shoes. I usually blame Daniela, and sometimes I am right, but the truth is that it is mostly Bela and I just cannot accept the reality.”
She smirked at the slip of tongue, as well as at the way Cassandra immediately sucked in a breath through her teeth once she realized the lead she has just offered up on a plate.
Time to see who won the bet – her, or Alcina.
“The reality that…?”
Like a deer caught in headlights.
“That Bela fu- no, never mind! Forget I even said anything.”
Cassandra pushed a bit more harshly, and the maiden nearly tripped on her own feet. Still, she kept both her composure and her all-knowing tone.
“This is not a convent, you know? Besides, it is sickly sweet how you three think your mother does not keep track of all comings and goings of the servants”.  She then turned her face as if to look over her shoulder, even if her eyes were covered. “Let me guess… the gardener?”
The silence that followed was an obvious answer – one the maiden noted away in her mind, to be brought up once she saw it fit to collect her dues before her dear companion, who had regrettably suggested it was the seamstress’ apprentice.
“You did not hear it from me”, Cassandra eventually admitted. Bela would soon repay her in kind for her treason, she was sure of it, so she intended to enjoy the pleasant evening that stretched ahead of them while she could. She did also consider fleeing before her elder sister had the chance to settle on a punishment, but it was much too cold to linger in any of the unused rooms. “Watch your step.”
After having made it down the stairs quickly enough, Cassandra all but beamed.
“Look who I brought, Mother!”
She removed her hands with a light flourish, and the maiden was greeted with a most pretty sight in their living room – Alcina, stretched out on one of the sofas, clad in her light-pink dressing robe and with her hair straight and brushed out. Having not yet applied her makeup, her cadaverous skin contrasted beautifully with the plum of her lips and the red of her nail polish. She blew out a cloud of cigarette smoke before smiling rather assertively.
“Well, well, well – if it isn’t sleeping beauty herself. I see that my constant proclamations of your magnificence are not enough to reassure you that you have no need for oversleeping.”
She then turned to offer Cassandra a peck to her cheek before her daughter sat across from her. “Thank you so very much, darling.”
“You do keep me up rather late, dear, but allow me to reserve pillow talk for later”, the maiden teased as she slowly approached, her arms crossed and eyebrow elegantly raised. “Any particular reason as to why you abandoned me in an empty bed and then had me escorted downstairs?”
Alcina very artfully shook her head.
“That is a question you are too smart for.”
She knew this, of course, though she still preferred to have a confirmation of her suspicions.
“Tell me what day it is, pet”, Alcina continued after putting out the butt of her cigarette on the ornate ashtray – engraved with what else if not a half-naked muse. Her hand came to rest beneath her chin as she waited for the maiden’s response.
“The ninth”, she said softly, eyes trailing around the main hall with a strange feeling of nostalgia. “A year later, almost to the hour.”
The note, tucked in-between the cracks of the dungeon’s wall, had contained a very clear message.
Escape.
And yet, despite all dripping death that coated the airs of the great Castle Dimitrescu and its tragedy-bound inhabitants, she had stayed.
She had stayed. For it was fate, was it not, that had led her there?
And so, though she had met her end in a most painful way that very same evening, the maiden was sure she had not been alive before. Not until she had crossed the threshold of the castle grounds - her single luggage in one hand, a reference letter grasped furiously in the other, and a lack of sanity stapled starkly against her soul. It had been so cold, that day. Her pain had been followed by what had felt like a sick game, bleeding out over the dining room table, and at last, the missing piece of the puzzle that was her life walking into the room in all her grace.
Some – many – would label the maiden’s tale as a horror story.
Fools, to them she would say.
For hers was a tale of love.
Love – there was nothing but love in the way Alcina sighed, pensive, and beckoned her closer with her elegant index. She complied gently, sitting on the arm of the sofa so that their eyes remained at the same level. Alcina reached out to her, taking the maiden’s hands in her own and using the pads of her thumbs to rub circles into her palms. She was warm – warmer than the maiden, at the very least – and the faint scent of smoke complemented her signature cologne as though it had been bottled alongside it. Without her makeup, the lines of her face softened.
The maiden wished to trace her lips over her cheekbone, along the bridge of her nose, then lower them to her mouth and shove her tongue down her throat as far as she could manage – but it was hardly the time, nor the company, for such carnal pleasures. Respecting this, she instead pressed them to the back of Alcina’s knuckles, once for each hand.
“And what a wonderful year it has been…”, Alcina completed in the near-mesmerized way she often found herself in whenever she was placed under the maiden’s careful ministrations. The maiden responded in a similar way to her words – every syllable taken in as gospel. “… A year of breathing in properly, of not feeling the sharp edges of a broken shard inside my heart, and of having rid myself of that goddamn emptiness. An entire year with you – which is why I thought tonight worthy of celebration.”
“Oh, my”, the maiden cooed once she comprehended what was happening. The empty bed, the cleared-out schedule, the living room arranged in perfect creature comforts.
It was all for her.
Alcina had planned the evening to cherish her.
Shock made her part her lips to mutter something about how appreciative she was, even if the words completely failed her at this point, but she was interrupted when a swarm of flies floated through the doors to her left.
The force of Daniela’s rematerialized body crashing against hers nearly pushed her into Alcina’s lap. Her younger daughter did not care one bit, however, as she enveloped the maiden in her surprisingly strong arms and sang cheerfully, “Mama, happy birthday!”
“Careful, Dani”, Alcina warned, hand placed on the small of the maiden’s back to prevent the two of them from falling over the couch, “I can almost hear her bones cracking.”
There was some exasperation concealed in her tone, which the maiden attributed to her romantic speech being interrupted, but she bore the frustration as elegantly as ever.
Though she had squished their cheeks together with an iron grip, the maiden could see how the front of Daniela’s rosy Victorian nightgown had been already soaked in blood – young, female, virginal blood. The smell was enough to tell. She hoped, for her daughter’s own sake, that it belonged to one of the servants, rather than to one of the dozen or so candidates her mother had just started the process of triaging. For Daniela rarely ever drew the line at biting, and to add a girl to the reject pile so prematurely would be a terrible waste.
And yet… Her birthday, huh? She had not quite seen it that way, likely due to her fact she had not celebrated her original one in over five years. But she recalled the festivities held in June of the year prior, when Alcina had hosted an extravagant ball in honor of their three daughters, as well as the much more delicate celebrations come October – during which, thanks to Bela’s tip, the maiden had managed to prepare a memorable gift. She knew Alcina rather well, after all.
But she felt rather silly, now, after having worried so much over something so wholesome as a birthday surprise.
“Nonsense. I am used to being…”, the maiden dismissed Alcina’s reprehension, and Daniela took it as a clue to hold her tighter, “… Crushed.”
“Crushed with affection, huh?”, her youngest added with laughter that blurred the lines between the youthful and maniacal. She turned, then, to place a kiss on the side of the maiden’s face and smear blood across her skin. “Mwah!”, she brazenly went.
Luckily, she scarcely minded the mess, the maiden.
After pulling back with a smile of pure satisfaction, Daniela approached her Mother. Knowing better than to smudge gore and grime on her prim attire, she opted for squeezing Alcina’s hands, all too gently, and grinned widely to see the affection reciprocated. She then retreated joyfully and flew to sit beside her sister, dropping her body over the seat in a way that was certainly meant to provoke annoyance.
“I see you got distracted on the way back from the entrance. Was the blood from the Duke’s assistant any good?”, Cassandra was quick to retaliate, “Oh, wait – you don’t know, because it’s all over your face.”
Rather than feed into the discussion, Alcina threw a disapproving look at the caked blood that had dried down Daniela’s neck, a leftover from the previous morning. “Did I not tell you to go bathe with your sisters?”, she asked in that respected tone and, almost as if the punctuate her inquire, used her thumb to wipe off the stain from the maiden’s cheek. The maiden watched as she licked her digit clean, her eyebrows raising delicately at the saccharine-sweet taste. She would be sure to note down the blood’s origins for future reference.
Doing her best not to come off as awkward, Daniela fidgeted with the lacy trim of her sleeve. “Yes, she was positively divine. And, yes - you did, Mother. I just thought it made more sense to go after I was done feeding.”
Alcina considered commenting on how bathing later defeated the purpose behind her instruction – that is, to have them presentable for a partially civilized night – but she was aware the complaint would go in through one ear and out through the other, so she settled for a restrained sigh and pulled the maiden down to sit on her lap. If her grandiose speech was delayed for later, then the very least she could do was express her passion in the subtler ways. Noticing this was her intention, the maiden leaned heavily against her touch, temple pressed to Alcina’s collarbone, and watched with keen fondness as Cassandra and Daniela engaged in their evening dose of sibling rivalry.
“Ugh. You are disgusting.”
“And yet you adore me.”
Just as Cassandra had settled on an insult that bordered on too mean, the doors to the dining room opened and Bela stepped into the main hall, an entourage of servants trailing obediently behind her. “You think everyone adores you, Dani.”
“And I’m right!”
“Sure you are. Sometimes, at least”, Bela soothed in that way only an older sibling too accustomed to breaking fights apart at the bequest of their parents could ever hope to achieve. She stood primly as the servants zoomed around the room, bringing in polished trays of crystal chalices and jars filled to the brim with thick, pungent crimson liquid. A careful observer would have noticed the nauseated look of the staff, a trait common even to the ones who had worked at the castle for decades. The mistresses paid the discomfort no mind.
“Mothers, breakfast is served”, Bela announced with a pleasant inflection, clearly proud of the work she had done. “Freshly drained, collected when the prey was still alive, so it is perfectly sweet. And, as we are commemorating someone rather special…”
She plucked one of the filled glasses and offered it to the maiden.
“… I picked one of your favorites.”
“Love, you are too kind”, she lilted warmly – more warmly than she would have ever conjured up in her imagination, back when she was a mortal. But now, despite feeling cold every second of her life, she was constantly surrounded by warmth. Genuine warmth, too, rather than the tepid pleasantries she had once become so accustomed to emulating, practiced over and over and over again, to tear down people’s guards and move unwanted obstacles out of her way. “Thank you.”
Bela seemed to hesitate for a brief moment, but she leaned down so that the maiden could place a kiss on her temple - right beside the ever-decaying wound which bound them to Mother Miranda. Validated by the gesture, her oldest swiftly handed another glass over to Alcina – which earned her a pinch to her cheek - and to each of her sisters, before finally selecting one for herself.
Ever the expert, Alcina spent the better part of a minute appreciating her first sip – letting the drink coat her tongue, aerating it properly, and indulging every small note that came to mind. Sweet as honey cakes eaten after giving a pretty thing an orgasm, she thought. The maiden, on the other hand, had to pace herself not to swallow it all in one gulp. Unfortunately, there were times when her proportionately recent Embrace left her balancing on the edge of something dangerous. Patience, she reminded herself. Patience. From how the side of her lip twitched briefly, Alcina at the very least appreciated her effort, even if her beastliness was something she awaited to tame. Her voice as she next spoke was ever as pleasant.
“Hm – the bouquet is just divine. You have certainly outdone yourself, darling.”
Had she the ability to blush, Bela certainly would have. In its place, her face lit up at the heartfelt praise, and she took her seat next to her sisters with a spring to her step.
“Cheers”, Cassandra raised her glass to Daniela and Bela, their quarrel forgotten as swiftly as slicing a poor manthing’s throat after their blades had been freshly sharpened. Alcina followed with the toast, tapping her glass to the maiden’s before resuming her methodical and elegant sips.
With the shock of how at home she felt finally wearing off, the maiden suddenly recalled what Cassandra had mistakenly exposed. She smirked, then, like a panther about to pounce.
“Oh, dear – before I forget…”, she began ever so innocently, which of course made Alcina look down at her and narrow her hazel gaze, “It seems that you now owe me a fair amount. Do remember to add this information to your balance book, please.”
She immediately recognized what she was referring to, and it was not long before her dangerous smile came to match the maiden’s. Cassandra nearly choked on her blood, while her sisters remained oblivious for the time being.
“Do I? How interesting”, came Alcina’s seducing accent. Her pointed finger drew a line down the maiden’s sternum as if she were tracing the spine of a book – an affectionate gesture, yes, but also one placed deliberately to distract from how her gaze had settled over Bela. “Well, I am sure we will have an opportunity to settle the score soon enough.”
Daniela, ever the hopeless romantic, was torn between awing and scrunching her nose. Alcina did not hesitate to push it forward.
“Tell me, Bela…”, she called, and her daughter sat up straight as if she had been hit with a hunting crop.
“… How are my roses faring?”
Though Bela’s panicked reaction was cute to observe, the maiden instead kept her eyes on Cassandra. She hoped her eyes were enough to convey her message – Did you really think we would skip on the opportunity of teasing you? Love, we are your mothers, for crying out loud.
“Splendidly well, Mother. Just beautiful”, was Bela’s half-composed reply. She threw a stern glance at Daniela, first, but the youngest sister picked at the dried blood underneath her nails as if it all had nothing to do with her, before raising her head up sharply as a thought came to her.
“How do you even know what the roses look like? We haven’t been outside in mon… – Ouch!”
Cassandra readjusted her elbow with a feigned expression of pain, unable to meet Bela’s eyes. “Sorry, muscle spasm.”
Impermeable to the bickering, Alcina concealed her amusement beneath a politely uninterested tone.
“They are being cared for by that curious little Italian gardener, are they not?”
Their eldest merely nodded, afraid to open her mouth to elaborate conversationally and end up confessing things she most definitely should not. She was the example, correct? The picture-perfect representative of House Dimitrescu? Then she ought to act like it, goddammit, rather than to have taken a liking to a mortal. She was not Cassandra – or, God forbid, Daniela. Besides, it was not even like that and…
“Do express my commendations the next time you see her”, Alcina added, smiling over the rim of her glass as she took another sip. It was then that realization struck Bela.
Her mother had fallen for a mortal. Granted, her Mama only remained alive and breathing for a handful of hours after they first became acquainted, but the idea still stood. It was hardly degrading, was it, if her mother did it as well?
The thought excited her a bit too much, therefore Bela focused on the fact that she had turned the other gardener’s son into jam. It was not like that, she reminded nobody in particular, it was not.
Restraining herself from pouring another glass, the maiden took to twirling her fingers around one of Alcina’s loose locks of hair, mindlessly noting how the gaunt tone of her own fingertips looked quite pretty against the raven shade. “And maybe ask her to bring a few of the blossoms to the castle, won’t you? I imagine she would feel much relieved to get a break from the merciless cold.”
“Of course! I shall… speak to her”. Then, in a much darker whisper, Bela completed, “I am sure Cass would love to come, too.”
They could not see this from across the center table, Alcina and the maiden, but Bela’s nails dug deep dents into the exposed nape of Cassandra’s neck, which she reached by stretching her arm over the back of the sofa and behind Daniela’s slumped frame.
“Actually, I am quite alright.”
To her merit, Cassandra did not yelp, which left Alcina conflicted about whether to praise her for her resilience or not; she settled on doing so in private, later on. Daniela, in contrast, whimpered softly and took the opportunity to cuddle up closer to her eldest sister.
“Well, all this talk of cold has left me shivering. Hey, you!”
Her voice went from syrupy innocence to bitter fury in the turn of a syllable, making every single servant in their immediate vicinity pray for their dammed souls upon Mother Miranda’s reckoning while clenching their teeth to the point of cracking. The servant to whom Daniela pointed, a maid with sickly parents and already too many scars to hide, took a shaky step forward.
“Where’s my blanket?!”, the youngest asked as if it were the gravest offense known to man, that the maid had not predicted she felt cold and readied the item before she could ask for it. A part of the maiden, one buried deep beneath her flaking sense of morality, informed her that a good person would intervene upon witnessing such abuse.
Fortunate thing it was, then, that the maiden had never been a good person.
“Ju-just a moment, miss Daniela.”
The servant’s salvation came from the fact that one of her colleagues had heard their mistress’ scream and already fetched the wretched thousand-thread Egyptian cotton duvet from the daughters’ shared bedroom. She merely passed it along to Daniela, hands shaking, and the maiden found it so alike herself – the way her youngest conjured up the most comforting smile.
A year. Nothing more, and yet it seemed like they already knew each other for a million lifetimes over.
“Thanks, cutie.”
Alcina merely pursed her lips at the sickly paleness that washed over the servant. All those handpicked retainers being so well-cared for upstairs, she lamented, but naturally her rebellious child would prefer to chase the insipid ones. And then, when she inevitably got sick on their flesh, Alcina would be the one holding back her hair as she puked – her only comfort now being that she had someone else to share the grueling responsibility with. At last, she felt, eyes wandering to the maiden.
“Since we are now all here, would you like to open your gift?”, she asked.
The maiden raised an eyebrow. “What gift?”
“Let us take a look at it.”
With a flourish of her hand, Alcina commanded the servants to bring in a large box – gift-wrapped in silken cream paper, with an intricate bow tied on top, although rectangular windows had been cut out with precision along the four sides. As it was placed in front of her, the maiden both smelt and heard the blood being pumped inside the box’s contents.
“A live creature! Not a human, however.”
Alcina chuckled deeply when the maiden stood from her grasp and walked over to the gift, curiosity promptly taken, while their daughters watched on with a healthy dose of skepticism.
“No, though I could arrange for it, if you would also enjoy it.”
“I am quite well-fed, but thank you.”
She threw a charming smile over her shoulder before reaching to open the box.
“Oh, Alcina.”
A Dobermann pup, with glossy dark eyes, adorably standing on its rear paws to look up at the vampire who stood in front of it. The maiden could already feel the unconditional loyalty pouring out from the creature.
“I discovered you had a fondness for dogs a long time ago, but since you never asked for one, I decided to wait and play my card at the right time”, Alcina explained with the languid satisfaction of someone who had just had their plans fulfilled to the last coordinated detail. “We have not had hounds in the menagerie for nearly a century, now. Though this pup is domesticated, I do hope her siblings will convince you to come hunting with me – in both traditional and Dimitrescu fashion, of course.”
She had lived for centuries, so it came as no surprise that, in that period, she had learned not only how to ignore all the mortal customs which served her no purpose, such as their notions of familial structure, but also how to conserve the traditions that did suit her very exquisite tastes. She hunted as nobles had in the times of her childhood, four hundred years past; she spelt connexion and wrote the long s and sometimes returned to thees and thous; there had even been a hilarious incident involving Victorian hair lockets, a pair of scissors, and the maiden awaking to Alcina’s hand between her legs – after the shock of which had worn off, she eventually allowed her to proceed; though it did take a fair amount of explaining what exactly she intended to clip away, and who the hell was this British noblewoman who had given her such a wild idea.
“I would be delighted to”, the maiden answered tenderly, taking the pup into her arms. “However, you will find you need to teach me how to ride a horse before even considering opening up the armory, dear.”
Alcina flashed her teeth, making it evident that she had already made plans for such lessons. “It is settled, then.”
“I will show you all the tricks”, Bela quipped enthusiastically.
“Mother, you have to let me come! I simply refuse to miss another spring season because it was too cold”, Cassandra complained fervently.
“Do you know the stuffed bear in the Opera Hall? I was the one who shot it”, Daniela mentioned proudly.
“Girls - calm, now.”
With a single gesture, their daughters immediately regained their posture, though it was clear that excitement bubbled beneath their gelid skin. Even the maiden pulled back her shoulders.
“All of you will come, and all will have a chance to teach your dear mama the traditional hunting practices. That said, we will only go once the weather permits it.”
“But…”, Cassandra began, a long rebuttal at the tip of her tongue.
“No buts, Cassandra. My word is final.”
With the evening having flown so delightful up to that point, it was a sobering reminder that Alcina expected of her progeny the same she expected of herself – that is, perfection, in all senses of the word.
Her love was unconditional, yes, but it also shaped them into their full potential. Relentlessly so. The maiden could only wish her own parents had treated in such a way, back when it mattered, and she subconsciously wondered how much farther in life that would have gotten her. Oh, well – no point dwelling on what was already gone.
“Your mother is right. We intend to catch prey, not become it”, the maiden instead tutted. The “when impertinent bystanders think to ambush us if the temperature drops suddenly” was left implied. There was a beat of frustrated silence, but Alcina did not get a chance to break it gracefully, for their grand chambermaid walked into the room and bowed dutifully.
“Ma’am, I do apologize for the interruption, but the book merchant has arrived with your weekly order. Should I ask him to come back later?”
There was a silent plea in their daughters’ eyes – one that begged for their Mother not to dismiss their one window to the world beyond so quickly. Outsider media was strictly prohibited, per Mother Miranda’s orders, but she did make an exception for the darling members of her very happy family, and the Dimitrescu seized full advantage of the privileges they were offered.
Knowing this, the maiden intervened once she noticed her beloved’s lips forming into the “Y” of a “Yes”. “Let them go, dear. It is the highlight of their week.”
She seemed to consider the request for a brief moment. She had planned for the evening to be spent with them all together. Nevertheless, something in the maiden’s gaze was enough to convince her.
“No need”, she waved her hand dismissively, then addressed their daughters directly. “Darlings, you may go, but remember to return once you have made your purchases. And allow me to reiterate that there are only so many bookshelves in this damned castle – so do not overdo it.”
Daniela jumped to her feet, grasping both her sisters by the wrist, and smiling wildly at them.
“Oh, thank you, mothers!”, she squealed, her frame already half-dissolved into a swarm of flies as she dragged a dazed Bela and an excited Cassandra towards the foyer door. “Come, come, come!”
It still caught the maiden off guard, how silent any room in the castle would become as soon as her daughters had left it – something Alcina also seemed to sense as she paused to breathe in deeply. Her eyes briefly scanned the servants, all of whom were standing still as statues along the walls, and she decided they had no need for an audience. Her two claps echoed around the grand space.
“Dismissed, all of you.”
It took precisely fourteen seconds for all mortals to flee – the maiden timed it herself, in fact, by looking at the clock over the fireplace. Somewhat amused by the sheer display of authority, she gently placed the puppy on the ground. It started exploring the corners of the room as soon as it managed not to slip on the polished floors.
“And suddenly there were only two”, she quipped, turning to find Alcina lighting another cigarette.
Pulling in the air so that the flame settled, her companion softly remarked, “Three, if you count her.”
The maiden watched as the animal scurried over and settled by the fireplace, docked tail wagging happily at the warmth emitted by the high flames.
“True. What should I name her? I am horrid at picking things of this nature – all my dolls were called Mary.”
“How awful”, Alcina laughed profoundly – a reverberating sound, rippling up her sternum and past the back of her throat, and the wisps of smoke that clouded her breath made her the picture of the dragon she so proudly claimed herself to be.
Not that the maiden had ever witnessed her in such a form. That, as many other affairs she had only just begun to comprehend, was something reserved to Miranda’s eyes only. Alcina, in all her beautiful contradictions, often asserted that it was for the best – that she had no wish for her beloved to view her in such a horrifying, twisted, repulsive state – and for the most part the maiden respected her wishes. Yet, deep down, she knew that the only sickness she would ever feel was the putrid-green jealousy decaying at the back of her mind.
Jealousy towards Miranda, God help her.
“Makes me a little glad I beat you to meeting our daughters first. I cannot imagine what you would have called them. As for this one…”, obliviously mused Alcina, eyes downcast to her perfectly-picked gift. “… Vesta? Like the goddess of the hearth?”
It took an uncomfortable amount of effort to inject cheerfulness into her voice. Still, the maiden had already made her plans, and she was not about to let her irrational emotions sabotage them before her very eyes.
“Yes. It fits her like a glove”, she wholeheartedly agreed, which provoked a soft smile from Alcina. “Speaking of which – could you lend me a claw?”
A smile quickly dropped as she narrowed her eyes and furrowed her brow. Without her thick foundation, which eventually cracked under the pressure of her extremely expressive face, her faint forehead wrinkles were less visible beneath the golden candlelight - making her almost youthful in her grimace.
“Please, dearest, do not tell me you intend to eat my gift to you.”
“What do you take me for?”, the maiden poked with artificial offense, eyes rolling.
“A minx, that is what”, was Alcina’s sharp response. However, upon noticing the very serious look placed upon the maiden’s features, she detected this was not a humorous request. And so, though she could only guess what would come of it, she extended the claws of her right hand and offered them slowly. Her lover approached casually, then reached without hesitation to grip the blade where it connected to Alcina’s nailbed, the sharp edge flush against the skin of her palm. Alcina watched wordlessly as the maiden slid her clenched fist all the way to the pointed tip. Her dark and viscous blood poured slowly, sliding down to Alcina’s hand like dripped paint.
Unphased by the wound, the maiden snapped her fingers and the puppy came running to where she stood, fretting by her feet. She then made a show of bending down to offer the animal the oozing cut, from which it licked the blood happily.
“Oh, I see…”, Alcina murmured rather proudly once she understood the reasoning behind the near-ritualistic procedure. The family cat had undergone a similar treatment, a little over a century ago, and the same had been repeated with all their horses – thralling, a method which derived both prolonged lifetimes and undying devotion from those subjected to it.
Eternally the scholar at heart, the maiden had made it her goal to exploit the benefits of vampirism to their maximum, and so she sounded sweet when she stated, “Now she gets to be mine, forever and ever, just like the rest of you.”
Alcina’s eyes remained on her the entire time – gold, blue, brown, and every mesmerizing shade in-between.
“And those foolish foreigners dare say that romance is dead.”
“I mean”, the maiden began as she stalked back towards Alcina, “I could technically tack in a lewd addendum of what being mine entails in your specific case, though I suppose you do already know.”
Her chin was grasped by Alcina’s bloodied fingertips as soon as she was within her reach. She pulled the maiden forward, gentle as she was aggressive, and her tobacco-warmed breath brushed past her skin like a phantom kiss.  Her voice dipped – fluid as the step of the same nature in an Argentinian tango.
“You dreadful, terrible, perfect little flirt.”
She showed no intention of closing the treacherous distance between them, nonetheless, which was why the maiden took it upon herself to slide back onto her lap – this time to face her directly, knees parted so that she straddled her thigh, and she leaned in to brush her lips along the side of Alcina’s jaw and up to her right ear. She felt the peach fuzz against her touch, thicker where it grew towards her hairline, and the maiden thought of how she could still faintly smell the perfumed salts from the bath they had shared the previous morning.
Alcina kept her pinned close as the maiden conspiratorially whispered, “So you mean to tell me the great Lady of the Castle is not only waltzing around in her nightgown and slippers, with her hair undone, but that she is also about to commit indecent acts in the middle of the main hall?”
Of course Alcina would take this as the perfect opportunity to slip her fingers beneath her silken robe and run her fingernails over her hips. Of course.
“Dear, this scandal will make us the talk of the village”, the maiden ended with a tone lost between encouragement and a growl. A moment of silence followed, the air between them charged, until Alcina applied a gentle pressure against her skin so that enough distance existed for them to look one another in the eye. Not enough distance for the maiden to no longer feel the motion of her every breath against her sternum, however – that she still sensed, right over her breasts, as well as the way Alcina took to inhaling deeper when they were close.
Alcina broke the silence with a smile. A predatory smile, in fact, of the kind that the maiden felt lucky to witness when their prey had finally been run into a corner, and her lover grasped the struggling critter by the throat, and they both dwelled in that unique second of transition between the thrill of the capture and the exhilaration of the bloodshed – that second when Alcina was immersed, guiltless, into her own monstrosity. A smile of hysteria, those who had survived it would go on to retell…
… Were they to exist.
The maiden found it completely hypnotic, that smile. The way it travelled to her eyes, her eyebrows, her cheeks.
How could she ever think of escaping?
“As if I cared”, claimed Alcina in all her powerful nonchalance. She laughed, a sound so powerful it could very well be a spell she had just cast upon the maiden, and her dignified courtesy broke into a thousand shards of plain lust. “Pet, I just cannot help myself.”
She proved her point immediately after, when she dipped her head and captured the maiden’s bottom lip between her teeth, licking skin tainted with sweet-tasting blood until the maiden’s jaw loosened and she was given the invitation to drag the tip of her tongue along the roof of her mouth. It was enough to make the maiden whimper. Her ministrations deepened – along her teeth, tongue on her own, then back to nipping at her skin - though the wholesome pattern soon fell into carnage as she made it seem like she was searching for the maiden’s tonsils. A beast at the cusp of devouring that which was better than fresh quarry. Eager, the maiden held her there, her touch so desperate that it left green-and-blue bruises over the curve of Alcina’s shoulders, though the evidence of it was quickly eradicated by her regeneration.
And then, as suddenly as she had initiated the act, Alcina turned what was a hungry kiss into a chaste, feather-like peck, and she rested back onto the cushions with a feline languor and a smirk of satisfaction that bordered on hedonistic. It was maddening, the way she looked on with lidded eyes as the maiden stood frozen over her, breath heavy and skin warmed and undead heart tricked into pumping frantically inside her ribcage. Alcina dared even resent the thickness of the robes that protected them from the bitter cold – for were it not for them, she was certain she would be able to feel the proof of her talent, damp where the maiden had sat over her thigh. Alas, she made her peace with the mild inconvenience.
After all, it was anything but difficult for her to tuck the fabric aside, right beneath where it was gathered by the sash, and exploit the newfound access – so that she could drag her index between the maiden’s folds, with a single and firm motion, from the back of her pubic bone to where the coarser hairs faded to the thinner ones that coated her stomach. She pretended to ignore the quiet moan that resulted from the gesture, as well as the sigh the maiden essentially chocked out when Alcina licked the slickness from her digit.  
“The Lady of the Castle does what she wants. Remember this”, she warned almost callously, thumb wiping the string of saliva that had dripped over the maiden’s chin. Hers, the maiden’s – one could hardly tell the difference, so touchy as they were.
There existed a hint of annoyance in the way the maiden next caught her hand.
The Lady did this often. Too often, driving her to precipices only to sink in her fangs and prevent her from falling at last. It left the maiden with two options to choose from – either she would lay back and allow herself to be mercilessly edged, to and from, until Alcina finally had her fill of corrupting her dignity, something that never happened before the maiden had collapsed into a needy mess; or she would bite back.
“My, you are cruel.”
Alcina chuckled at how wounded she could profess to sound.
“I am. However, I have no wish to accidentally traumatize our daughters when they inevitably burst in unannounced. So do behave.”
“No, not I”, the maiden retorted with a slow shook of her head, and she leaned closer, once again, her mouth lingering on the side of Alcina’s neck while her hands wasted no time in tugging lace aside so that she may map out all the curves she already knew by memory.
To nobody’s surprise, particularly not to Alcina’s, what followed the maiden’s tongue were her teeth. She pecked softly at the faint pulse point, lulling the pain with her soft lips. Ten, thirty, fifty kisses like so.  She then trailed lower, to where she could draw a line from the tip of Alcina’s collarbone, through the valley of her cleavage, down to the underside of her breasts. As she began to retrace her path back to her neck, however, Alcina very impatiently ran her palm flat against the maiden’s scalp, grabbing a fistful of hair so that she could hold her there, right there. What a heavenly thing, how sensitive her nipples were.
Unluckily, or perhaps luckily, Alcina’s technique was not as efficient as it typically was – for the maiden eventually returned her attentions to her neck, all but ignoring how strongly she was being pulled back to where had just been, and with the brightest of smiles she bit at her jugular. A bite impeccably clean, showcasing everything the maiden had been taught by her impressive mentor. She drank three mouthfuls of the darkened blood. Each sip was as alluring as it was raw, her devotion genuine as nothing else could be, and Alcina watched with dilated pupils as the maiden slowly dislodged herself, caught in just as much of a trance. The wound healed beneath her sweetened breath.
Lord, did it make Alcina ache.
Breath hitched, she mustered every ounce of her composure not to instantly close her eyes and drop against the cushions. Never before had this been an issue – to wish to allow a lover to take the reigns of their shared passion, rather than having it offered to her and promptly refused, or the handful of times the one person above her station had all but demanded her submission.
Then again, her dearest was unlike all maidens who had come before her.
Alcina, despite the nature of her position, was a woman who believed in fate. It was the one belief – then labelled as a delusion – that had gotten her through the somber years which composed the prelude to her meeting with Miranda, so many centuries back. The belief that, somewhere outside the cold castle walls that acted as her prison, there awaited companionship that would not make her want to recoil away. That one day she would be loved, loved by those alike herself, and that she would love them in return. That she would find such souls – somewhere, somehow, somewhen.
Fate persevered, despite the mercilessness of the world outside, and her with it.
And so, if fate had chosen her a bride to whom she could trust her vulnerability in rare occasions, who was she to disagree?  
“Pet, I -”, Alcina began – ready to give herself away completely - only to be interrupted by the ringing of the phone across the room.
Castle Dimitrescu possessed two phone lines: the residential one, operated by the servants along the eighty-nine rooms with connection points, and another reserved for Miranda’s personal use. From the timbre of the ring, it was impossible to mistake the two.
The maiden watched with dulled concern when Alcina turned petrified, her expression immobile as she took in shallow breaths and listened to the noise echo around the chamber, almost as if she were putting off answering the damn thing. Aware that the call would not come twice, the maiden nudged her gently.
“Do not leave her waiting. Not for my sake.”
It was with a pained sigh that Alcina carefully untangled herself from the maiden’s arms and paced to the end of the room. She waited a second longer before she picked up the phone, possibly so that she could employ the even and polite lilt that often felt like the bare minimum she would ever present in the name of her bloodline.
“Mother Miranda”, she greeted, “To what do I owe the pleasure?”
No use in trying to grasp the replies offered by the other side – yet, knowing what her brief year as a member of the coven had already taught her, the maiden had little need to guess how utterly arrogant Miranda presently sounded. Alcina’s scowl was enough confirmation.
“I see. Well, I regret to inform you that my schedule for the day has been cleared out. House Dimitrescu is celebrating – I do hope you will understand.”
From her expression, it was all it was. Hope.
“You are correct. It has been a year.”
Her eyes darted to the maiden, then, taking over her delightful form as well as her less delightful paled tinge. Conserving masks of humanity was a near impossible thing to achieve, using the methods they did, though Alcina knew not to complain of the small imperfections that were bound to occur – she was grateful, every single night, that none of them had turned out like that freak Salvatore.
Miranda’s reply must have been unpleasant, for she soon spoke through clenched teeth.
“She is perfectly fine, Mother, I assure you.”
Then, a bit bitter, she added, “Despite my carelessness, as you have put it.”
Whatever came next sure did intrigue her, however, because it seemed to knock Alcina into a much demurer mood. Her free hand came to offer additional support to the metal chassis of the speaker, as though she feared she would drop it, and the harsh lines of her mouth and eyes softened into a faded melancholy.
“That would be unnecessary. As I have mentioned in my latest report, she is stable, and with not a single unexpected side-effect.”
A beat passed in silence, and her eyes met the maiden’s as Miranda surely mentioned something Alcina kept too close to heart.
“Yes, my daughters are also fine, and so am I”, she once again affirmed, her voice taking an intonation that made the maiden involuntarily grip the sofa upholstery and think thoughts that would certainly brand her as a heretic if they were to be recited aloud. “Really, Miranda, we are all fine.”
Though the maiden abhorred referring to her using the honorific – her religious education had made her near averse to allusions to the abbey – she despised even more the familiarity that came with calling her simply that.
Miranda, a name like any other.
A woman like any other.
“Well, if it is new samples you require, then I am more than capable of collecting them myself. No need to bother with the long trip up.”
It was sickening.
“If you insist.”
It was absurd.
“We will be ready in an hour. I shall inform my staff to await your arrival.”
It was manipulative.
Most of all, it must be said, she despised how the same familiarity seemed to fester inside her own heart like mold on a humid wall. It kept her from feeling anything other than sorrowful sympathy when the ever-present conclusion to their distanced conversations was uttered across the line – a finale she had no need to hear, truly, when Alcina’s softly-spoken goodbye made it so blatantly obvious. It, and the pretense behind it all.
“And I, you. In life and in death, we give glory.”
She hung up the phone as she always did - gently, slowly, and strangely peacefully. However, when she stalked back towards the sofa and dramatically dropped next to the maiden, her exasperation involuntarily seeped through the cracks in her façade of noblesse oblige.
“I should have learned to expect this by now. To expect her to be… Her, I suppose”, she complained, finger massaging the sides of her temples as though she were trying to prevent a headache. Despite this, she pulled the maiden to her. To use her caresses as a distraction to all the troublesome notions that surely bubbled inside her dazzling mind.
The maiden allowed her to untangle strands of her hair for a handful of minutes, the room silent if not for the crackling of the fireplace and the tiny noises emitted by the puppy that explored every nook and cranny. Eventually, it came the moment to inquire the obvious. “Time for another one of her thorough check-ups?”
Alcina chewed the inside of her cheek rather than answer. Then, she flung her hands out in frustration and stretched over the maiden to pick another cigarette from the pack forgotten over the coffee table. Smoke before talking, the maiden figured. They both had to search for the lighter, which they found lost between the two cushions of their seat. Alcina tried flicking it on once, twice, three times, but the flame would not take – at which point the maiden silently stole the ornate item from her chilled hands and gave it a try. There must have been a draft from one of the opened doors. She succeeded at getting the flame to stabilize, luckily, and so she held it up to Alcina until the luxurious wrapping burnt an amber shade.
“She will never trust that I infected you adequately”, she confessed ardently after a long drag. “Part of me thinks she anticipates you to fall apart if I breathe too strongly in your direction.”
Alcina flayed her hands as she spoke, clearly looking for somewhere to spend her energy other than smacking one of the glasses straight into the ground. Fine, the maiden thought, let us face this. And so she took a cigarette for herself and lit it using the end of Alcina’s, her mind actively analyzing the details surrounding the situation.
“So she cares for me”, the maiden stated in-between puffs of smoke, “Is that a bad thing?”
The answer came too alike a reflex for her taste.
“No!”
She crooked her face, ever so slightly, and Alcina’s eyes darted around the room.
“No, it is not. I just… Do not wish for her to care too deeply. Her attention can be stifling, or neglectful, as you will slowly come to learn for yourself.”
She flicked the end of her cigarette, but missed the spot and spilt the ashes over the polished wooden surface of the table. The maiden sometimes wondered if the servants ever complained about the messes their mistresses left behind, be it the gruesome carcasses or the perfectly ordinary trinkets thrown about their daughters’ room; or if they only murmured an honest prayer for the fact that they were still alive to be able to clean it up.
The maiden would have complained, were she in their shoes. For sure. She had always complained. The wife of her previous patron had even called her ungrateful, way back when, which the maiden thought was a bizarre follow-up to asking her to fuck her against the door to her husband’s laboratory. Maybe that was why she had refused her proposition, come to think of it. She remembered being bored enough to bear it. So that must have been it.
Speaking of… What was her name, again?
The maiden did not get a chance to worry about such trivial things, for her attention snapped back towards Alcina the minute she continued with her endearing rant.
“Besides, she also wishes to see me and the girls. That makes it impossible to dissuade her.”
The animosity in her words was not something the maiden intended to leave be. Consequently, she discarded her cigarette into one of the half-drank chalices of blood and stood, confidence arranged into every fiber of her being.
“In that case…”, she began by offering Alcina her hand, “Accompany me to the dressing room, will you?”
“I am sorry, dearest, truly”, Alcina replied with a guilt that suited her terribly.
It would simply not do.
“Tosh to that”, the maiden dismissed with all her charming audacity, and held tightly onto the much larger hand that had been placed over her own.
Together they strolled up the great stairs – the puppy following them excitedly - then down the hallway to where the mahogany door with the prioress engraving had been left unlocked for their convenience. A maid was assigned each shift to watch over the communal dressing room, were any of the young mistresses to require a change of clothes after being met with guts carelessly spilt – or, at the least, that was the reason why Alcina had created the position. In practice, she could not recall a single instance where her daughters had followed her instructions regarding proper grooming, though they did make full use of the space whenever the seamstress came in for their bi-weekly fittings. Not even Bela had ever bothered changing a second time over the night.
Hence why this was likely both the dullest and safest job in the entire castle. Downstairs, any servant worth their salt would fight with teeth and nail to be assigned to it. The lower bound for vampiric encounters was alluringly close to zero, dammit. It was a most coveted blessing. And so, the maid assigned for that particular shift was more than happy to give the couple privacy once she watched them waltz through the door – she did have a near heart-attack of her own to recover from, after all.
The maid was wise enough to know the Countess consort preferred for them to dress by themselves whenever they were not preparing for some grand event, though she still went to search for one of their ladies’ maids, just in case. She even had to stifle a morbid chuckle on the way up, courtesy of the near-death experience. She found it incredibly hard to picture her Mistress kneeling down – her, kneeling, for heaven’s sake - to clip her dearest’s stockings into place, and even more difficult to imagine her having makeup carefully applied by the same steel-eyed woman who looked at everyone like they were either something to be tamed or to be broken. Still, the older servants were right to warn: any rumors around the castle were safer to be taken as true until proven otherwise.
And Beth the maid wasn’t taking any chances.
No siree, she thought to herself, before running face-first into Miss Cassandra not a second after.
As it turns out, only two things delayed Beth’s untimely demise. The first, a small guilt shared between the sisters, was that they had already abused Alcina’s tolerance for petty staff killings for the season, and so poking out one more maid’s beating heart was an assured way to have them all grounded.  The second, much more personal to Cassandra, was the faint recollection of what it had felt like to rot in the same bed she now shared with her sisters – a memory unburied by Mother Miranda’s imminent arrival. For these reasons, and these reasons only, did Beth the maid get to live another day. But luck was a double-edged blade, and Cassandra had no qualms in memorizing her face and filing away for later the observation of how pretty her squeal of pain had sounded, when she had grabbed her mortal by the throat and tossed her out of her and her sisters’ way.
Back in the dressing room, the maiden stared at her reflection on the vanity mirror as she applied dark lipstick with a brush. She could see Alcina out of the corner of her eye, frown disturbing her features as she appeared torn between a maroon Art Nouveau gown and the off-white Chanel replica she had just received. Knowing her, she was probably considering having something else brought down for their chamber’s wardrobe as well. She was terribly indecisive when it came to such matters, the Lady.
Aware of the time constraint placed in their moment of domesticity, the maiden blotted her lips as she helpfully mentioned, “Miranda will have us undress, so the jacket should be more practical, no?”
“You do have a point”, Alcina replied after tapping her chin slightly. Coming to a verdict, she began to open the drawers in search of the adequate undergarments, though her lips remained pursed the entire time. “Ugh, so much taking the day off from business.”
Having long learnt that reassurance was the only safe strategy in moments such as these, the maiden added, “It looks very pretty on you, dear.”
And it did – the white bra, the matching garters, the blouse – though she would look even better without.
Alcina merely hummed in response and carefully stepped around the sleeping puppy at the feet of the lovers’ seat.
“Do you wish to hear something funny?”, she lightheartedly bantered as she brought the polished leather shoes to where Alcina had taken a seat. She plopped them onto the ground and stood watching as the Lady adjusted her stockings before sliding them on, her kitten heels tapping mutedly against the carpet. “I think you and I just had our first misunderstanding.”
Alcina held her pearls mid-air, eyes locking into the maiden’s. She seemed confused.
“Whatever do you mean?”
She did not bother asking before taking the necklace from her aloft hands and circling to her back. When Alcina lifted up her curls, the nape of her neck sinfully exposed, the maiden briefly smoothed out the remaining foundation with her fingertips before bringing the jewelry over her collarbones.
“You and the girls – you saw today as my undead birthday”, she said as she closed the necklace’s clasp. “I, on the other hand, thought we would celebrate something else.”
Her dramatic pause had Alcina twisting to stare back at her – her eyes a ferocious gold, making it painfully clear that she had every intention of dragging the details out of the humble comment, be it with her claws or through other unorthodox means.
“Our wedding anniversary”, the maiden lilted at last.
She had intended for the small confession to be endearing – and it most certainly was – but at no point she anticipated that it would make Alcina clamp her hand over her mouth, and cause her to rasp in a shuddering breath, and induce a tinged tear to drip down the corner of her pristinely-painted cheek.
It hit the maiden like a train – the sudden realization that Alcina had attended but a single wedding celebration, four centuries past, and that to its rites she had been involuntarily committed, dragged, and forced to comply.
Her thoughts were reduced to a litany of “Fuck. Fuck! What have I done?!”.
What awful memory had she unearthed?
They had never had a wedding. But the two of them were married.
No.
No, they considered themselves so.
Meanwhile, the only marriage certificate locked away in the archives room had not her name signed beneath Alcina’s, but that of the man whose final resting place she so often visited when seduced by the throes of spite.
A union never consummated, the man’s, and a matrimony ended with a sliced throat. Oh, but how she wished to burn that damn paper. To feed his remains to her newly-adopted hounds.
She had the most elaborate apology already at the tip of her tongue – it had all but crawled its way out of her throat, ripped out from her chest, and with it came what was perhaps the first feeling of remorse the maiden had ever experienced in her many years of leading a morality-free life. But the apology died, decapitated, the second Alcina threw back her head and laughed what the maiden could only describe as an embarrassed laugh.
“It is uncommon for me to left speechless. But joyfully tearful? You are the first to ever drive this reaction out of me.”
Alcina sniffled. Countess Alcina Dimitrescu sniffled in the presence of another. The sight of it broke the maiden into fragments, and for a brief moment, short as it might have been, she felt the most human she had ever been.
“The only tears I will ever allow you to shed are happy ones”, she whispered softly, collecting the warm droplet with her knuckle. Alcina cleared her throat forcibly and straightened herself in her seat.
“Oh, but you have also made me rather sheepish, pet. You really know me better than I do, don’t you?”
The maiden took a seat by her side before confessing, “I’m not sure I follow.”
“Well, I suppose it is a silly thing”, she drawled with rare purity, her inwards willingly laid bare. “I never gave you your nuptials. No white gown nor embroidered veil, no bouquets for you to throw to the crowds, no father to give you away to me. No first dance, no party, no golden bands…”
As if she cared for such superficialities.
“… In my hastiness to make you mine, I forfeited our great romance in favor of vows sealed in blood. And though I have no regrets towards my decision, I would be lying if I claimed I did not worry you might have misinterpreted my intentions…”
As if theirs was not the greatest love story to ever grace a book’s pages.
“… You are mine – my passionate lover, my greatest of friends, my faithful companion.”
It was when Alcina grasped both her hands, her skin clammy from sweat and chilled from the winter air, that the maiden comprehended the tremendous amount of power she had been bestowed with.
“I never thought I would marry. I abhorred the idea, in fact, and fought against it until my dying breath. But now… Now, would you have me call you ‘wife’?”
For a simple ‘no’ would surely break the Lady’s heart. It would destroy her, then and there, and all that would be left to tell her tale of tragedy would be the crystallized remains of a monster speared by love. But there existed not a single ‘no’ in the maiden’s mind – only yes after yes after yes, to the point where it must have been a divine intervention that she did not accidentally screech such charming line as “Yes, you fucking brilliant creature! I have been calling you this inside my head for a year! Yes, yes, yes!”.
To her own surprise, the maiden’s reply was calm. “May I clear all your doubts, then, now and forever after?”
“You may”, agreed Alcina rather cautiously. A stranger to her intricacies would have mistaken her expression for one of anger, but the maiden knew she was instead at the verge of tears.
“Good.”
So lovesick as she was, she never stopped to think about the approval of the divine. The powers conferred upon her by no one were enough to sustain the rites which followed.
“I take thee, Alcina Dimitrescu, as my beloved wife”, the maiden proclaimed with all the due syllables, eyes never leaving those of gold and blue and brown so affixed on her own. “To have and to hold from this day forward…”
Her words trailed but for a moment before Alcina continued – in all her poise and magnificent elegance, even if her trembling bottom lip betrayed that she was not truly convinced that this was happening. That it was not some treacherous dream from which she would be ripped away the next moment, fate cruel as it was, and hopelessly awake in an empty bed of her own.
“For better, for worse...”
“For richer, for poorer.”
“In sickness and in health…”
“Until death do us part.”
“Until death do us part”, Alcina concluded in a tone more solemn that all of Miranda’s miracles combined. She drew in a breath as though she were about to say something, but the maiden gave her no opportunity to spend words, sealing the act with a kiss deep and divine. Her wife clung to her as if her spine had abandoned its primary purpose. It should have crushed her, her weight so carelessly placed upon someone so comparatively small, but the maiden endured it as though they were the exact same size.
They separated only when crows began to caw outside the castle walls.
“Come. Let us wrap things up quickly with Mother Miranda”, the maiden said as she stood from the lovers’ seat. “Once we are done, I will give you the gift I picked.”
After fixing what essentially was every article of clothing on her body, Alcina strolled to the mirror and re-applied her scarlet lipstick. Despite the professionalism she invoked from the depths of her soul, an unmistakable giddiness was proudly displayed in how she moved, how she stood, how she spoke. She was positively melodical.
“Do not tease me so. I still get shivers thinking about your cunning little surprise from last October.”
“This time, that is only part of it”, the maiden tittered, “I will not say much, but you should start figuring out how you will open up some space in one of our bookshelves.”
“An entire bloodline of female bookworms – some of my ancestors must be turning in their graves.”
At that, the maiden shrugged, innocent as a novice lost in prayer.
“Bastards are dead and buried, so they do not get to have an opinion.”
“My, you are vicious”, her wife cooed as she took one final look at the mirror, then another once-over of the maiden’s outfit, which had her bending down to adjust the diamond-encrusted choker the maiden wore to every meeting of any importance. Her red-painted nail traced the three rose pendants – the match to her dear brooch – then downwards to where the low neckline of the silk gown left the flower insignia of the coven on display, right above the curve of her breasts. Alcina thought she had done a tremendous job with the tattoo, if it was not too arrogant to say.
They lingered, safe in their little world of designer dresses and pretty shoes, but eventually a new maid knocked on the door and alerted them that Mother Miranda awaited them in the master bedroom.
And so, they left – hand in unlovable hand.
The maiden had one bad joke left in her, fortunately, which she shared as they stood in front of the door to their room, now pretty much turned someone else’s. “The bad news is that you married a catholic, dear. No returns allowed. Take it up with God.”
But, as tragedy added to time yields comedy, so could time and comedy lead to tragedy.
For it was tragic, was it not? The way Alcina was forced to watch silently as Miranda tilted the maiden’s face to the side, gilded talons pressed without restraint to the milk-soft skin she oh-so-craved to touch; as ice-blue eyes peeled apart all she held dear, inch by inch, the objectivity of science blind to the splendor of art; as she prickled and pinched and sampled that which did not belong to her, satisfying not only her curiosity, but also that dark and twisted beast Alcina dared not to put a name to.
Worse of all, however, was the rancorous reminder that her feelings beneath such hatred had never quite deviated. To have no choice but to accept how she craved her approval, even after all these years – Miranda’s fingers through her hair, her praises soft on her lips, her whispers of “special” and “outstanding” and “precious”.
She hated Miranda as much as she loved her. It was an all-encompassing feeling that dictated vampiric unlife. One the maiden knew. Oh, she knew. No point pretending otherwise, same as there was no reason to hide the way the maiden’s bottomless lake of a gaze lingered a moment too long on the wisp of blonde hair peeking from beneath Miranda’s black habit. Her bride was clever as she was dangerous, and so it had taken no explanation from Alcina’s part for her to comprehend that, if it came to the decision between preventing resentment and remaining in mother dearest’s favor, then they would be wiser to offer her a place in their matrimonial bed.  
But Alcina was Miranda’s favorite. Despite, or perhaps even because, of all the times she had deigned to bite the hand that had gifted her salvation.
“Remember from whence you came”, Miranda warned whenever her patience had worn too thin. To her so-called siblings, it was simple to imagine how that could sound like a threat – Moreau, stuck in a damp laboratory with a dead wife on one arm and a broken child on the other, mind already rotting; Beneviento and her ghastly family, wound up in misty strings of death and suffering; even that fool Heisenberg, dragged screaming and kicking from Lord knows where. But her? She had been in a castle, swaddled in both power and luxury, and Miranda visited countless times a week.
Yes, she had been utterly miserable, but there was beauty in her suffering. And Miranda held the beautiful near her heart, same as crows steal polished metal and glittering jewelry. Such a trait was smugly shown off in the way she casually inquired about what had made Alcina stop eagerly sharing her conquests – it was such a shame - and whether she would genuinely mind it badly if she sampled the maiden a tad more intimately. Alcina skillfully avoided answering her probing inquiries by instead insisting that she select a maid to her liking on the way out.
Miranda’s reaction was to chuckle darkly, “Rest assured I will”, and to insert the needle into the maiden’s arm with an excessive amount of force. Never was one of her actions not a display of dominance, this time directed at Alcina alone.
Then the same all over, with her beloved daughters, and herself, in due time.
One day, Alcina would go on to bare her teeth at the divine itself if it threatened to lay its filthy hands on her family. Extend her claws, open her wings, eat it to the last bone. A dragon in her truest form. Sadly, that day would only come decades later, and with countless dues to be paid alongside it. That was the balance of fortune.
The maiden, on the other hand, knew well how to count her blessings. A remnant from mortal years lived intensely as the sort of person who unsettled those who met her, for one reason or another, if she had not been careful enough to keep her ornate mask of goodness in place; a remnant she did not intent to discard any time soon. And count them she did.
Her gifts to Alcina – a night of unbound passion and an annotated edition of Le Fanu’s Carmilla - were presented after they had both scrubbed themselves raw off the formaldehyde and lavender smell, a feat achieved way past dawn. By midday they cuddled beneath the thick duvet, the fireplace so warm that the bedroom’s windows became coated in condensation, and by one in the afternoon Bela came knocking at their door. With her sisters in toll, she need not explain the reason for her visit. Alcina invited them in without questions and pressed closer to the maiden so that they could all fit on the expansive mattress.
When her oldest came to lay next to her, her thin arm covered in bandages wrapping around the maiden in search for comfort, it was possible to feel her trembling even so. Despite the centuries that separated them, the glossy look in Bela’s eyes validated the maiden in her decision to hold her tight. Alcina did the same to Cassandra, who clung to her back like a backpack despite her complaints of nausea, though it was Daniela who held onto both her mothers after she had slithered into the small space between them. She had stopped crying, but her cheeks were still wet from the salty tears – and the maiden realized instantly Dani would not be getting any sleep, courtesy of Miranda’s cruel observations.
Before blowing out the last candle, she noticed how the family cat had found the perfect nap spot. That is, using the puppy, who slept soundly at the foot of the desk, as his cushion.
She awoke to an empty bed, the maiden, but went to sleep in a full one.
A wife. Daughters. A home.
And that was enough.
//
“There is one thing that I wish for. There is one thing without which my happiness in this world seems impossible. I was not born to live alone. I must have the object with me & in loving & being loved, I could be happy.”
― Anne Lister, The Secret Diaries of Miss Anne Lister.
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accio-victuuri · 27 days ago
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Wang Yibo is Ranked #2 in Forbes China Celebrity List
On the day that the new generation idol Wang Yibo of the post-95 generation was declared as "Anta's Global Chief Spokesperson" by officials, he wore an advertisement for the brand's Winter Olympics franchise "national flag" clothing, which hit the Internet. This can be regarded as the most popular celebrity endorsement cooperation in the first half of 2021. On this day, Wang Yibo's WeChat and Weibo indexes soared to their highest values ​​in the past 90 days. In private, he loves racing, skateboarding, street dancing, and challenging all kinds of extreme sports. He “plays” almost every sport to the point of being professional, which coincides with Anta’s brand genes. And perhaps, it is precisely by virtue of this seriousness and drive that Wang Yibo has always been steadfast and has reached a high position.
After "Chen Qing Ling" became popular, he successively starred in "My Strange Friend", "You Fei", "Ideal Shines in China" and other film and television dramas with diversified styles. In ", he once again breaks through himself as an anti-drug policeman, interpreting the multiple entanglements between love and hate, justice and evil, reason and emotion.
Top 10 here.
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hobidreams · 6 months ago
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december 1869.
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the aftermath: quiet, laced with a raw truth.
pairing: joseon king!yoongi x reader genre: drama. words: 878 contains: tenderness.
moonlit throne index. this is drabble 27. start from the beginning?
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“Good morning, jeonha.”
The winter snow at your back, you open the door to his chambers and find your king already seated at the table before the mirror. He stares blankly at his reflection with his bandaged arm lying across his lap, robes slightly disheveled, smooth hair falling heavily over his shoulders.
“I’ve brought your meal,” you say, crossing the room to place the tray carefully before him.
Looking at the several silver bowls before him, he lifts the lid from the rice porridge, but then raises his head to meet your gaze through the mirror instead. Gestures with his right hand absently at his head. “Can you…” He starts, trailing off like he has every morning for the past two weeks. At least he has long dropped the expression of discomfort; exchanged it for something more natural that routine always brings.
Smiling, you say, “of course.”
You find his favorite comb where you left it yesterday. With one hand, your naked fingers weave between the delicate strands, feeling the cool texture slip past your skin. With the other hand, you grip the wooden brush and begin to run the thin teeth over his scalp, the pressure you use just enough to make his muscles visibly relax as the minutes slip by. His eyes soon flutter shut, his spine curving back into the chair so he can submerge, so he can wholly sink into the feeling of your touch and know nothing else for this precious moment. (Or so you wishfully think, as you chart the contours of his brow, his nose, his cheeks with your eyes, wanting to tuck kisses there instead.)
Eventually, you slide the comb into your waistband as you begin to gather the hairs at the base of his neck, nails scraping lightly across the nape. He sighs, the softest breath that seems to carry so much more than sound. You almost want to ask but end up holding your tongue as you always do while you tie his hair, secure the manggeon headband above his forehead with string.
“Are you not going to eat, jeonha?” You ask instead, the thought that he’ll rebuke you for the question no longer lingering in your mind. “The janggukjuk will grow cold soon.”
The king reluctantly opens his eyes and picks up his spoon. Stares down at the bowl, the beef and mushrooms floating amid the white, hesitating.
“Is there something wrong?”
He bites his lip. “…The advisors and landlords report to me that our country’s people are managing through this winter.” He lets the spoon clatter to the table. “Tell me the truth.”
You watch the steam from the bowl coil up only to disappear in the cool air.
“They are starving.”
You twist the topknot, securing the base with a thicker fabric.
“There was barely enough food to survive autumn. They didn’t have enough extra cabbage to prepare the kimchi for winter and now… Now, with the snow, there’ll be no chance to grow more crops. What stores the citizens have are dwindling by the day.”
“What about the merchants? The foreign traders?”
“They’re not doing much better. They are selling what little they can spare to others, but prices— they’re becoming more and more inflated due to demand. The people that run out of money are… well, frankly, they are dying.”
“Tch.” He levies a glare off to the side at nothing in particular as you push the final pin into his hair to keep it upright. Automatically, he reaches up to smooth the band but winces when he flexes his left arm, cursing quietly as he drops the limb back down.
“Let me check your wound.” You immediately shift and kneel, gently peeling away the layers of bandages until the injury is exposed in the slow, slow process of healing. To see it is to swallow a bittersweet draft, to know the truth that he was shielding your worthless life with his gilded one. “It should be much better before the year is over,” you say as you pull your medical supplies from a nearby drawer to give him a fresh dressing. “Try not to use it at all, if you can.”
“Useless,” he mutters, “just like the rest of me.”
“But you saved me, jeonha.”
He scoffs. “That was selfish too.”
He refuses to elaborate any further as you finish your work on his arm and promptly run out of excuses to be this close to him. But he doesn’t ask you to move, doesn’t ask you to leave.
Instead, he pushes the bowl of porridge towards you, places the spoon in your hand before he begins to pick at the side dishes with chopsticks. The king knows full well that the cooks prepare elaborate, excessive meals for you every day since it has been his longstanding order for so long, but perhaps it’s the companionship he wants now, over anything else.
You can give him that. You will always give him that, especially as he asks for it, asks for you more and more.
You slip the first mouthful of warm grain into your mouth and think that this small luxury should not be only yours. There must be something you can do on your own for the people. There must.
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lokitvsource · 3 months ago
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Inside Marvel’s ‘Loki’: Sorcery, Time Travel, and a Mystery Villain!
For a roughly 3,000-year-old god, Loki sure isn’t showing his age. In the trippy six-episode Disney+ series that bears his name, he’s full of his usual maniacal vigor and charm, and no wonder: This time, Tom Hiddleston’s god of mischief — first introduced in 2011’s big-screen Thor as the troublemaker, shapeshifting brother of Chris Hemsworth’s god of thunder — takes center stage.
Loki, a time-traveling procedural drama, opens up the complex character in ways fans have never seen in the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s many films, but still maintains his cool mystery. “Loki’s a mercurial shapeshifter who seems to present one thing on the external when there’s perhaps another thing going on in the internal,” Hiddleston says. “He’s always worn many masks.”
And in this series, he’s getting a whole new look: a prison uniform. The story kick-starts where we last saw the prankster, 2019’s Avengers: Endgame film. In an alternate post–Battle of New York 2012 timeline, Loki absconded with the Tesseract cube containing the megapowerful Space Stone, which grants him the ability to portal throughout space. Smart planning, Marvel! “We knew we were going to take Tom off on his solo story,” executive producer Kevin Feige admits.
This Loki is a darker, meaner god; he hasn’t yet undergone all that brotherly character development from Thor: The Dark World, Thor: Ragnarok, and Avengers: Infinity War. The bright side? You won’t have had to see all the latest films to understand what’s going on.
When we catch up with Loki, his stealing the Tesseract has led to his imprisonment by the bureaucratic Time Variance Authority, formed to “ensure that time unfolds according to its predetermined outcomes,” explains Hiddleston. They are basically the timeline police, and he’s in big trouble.
Loki’s been stripped of his powers and his trademark green and gold ensemble, making him more human than ever. But don’t expect that to dim his light. “You can take his scepter away, you can take off the cape and the fine Asgardian leather and literally put him in a button-down shirt and pants, and he’s still Loki — he’s more Loki than you’ve ever seen,” Feige says, playfully adding: “And that’s not just because Tom Hiddleston looks good in any clothes at all, but he does.”
Luckily for Loki, the TVA needs his help to track down a killer who’s wreaking havoc on the timeline. Reluctant yet powerless, the inmate has no choice but to say yes. (In the trailer, Loki appears to drop in on Pompeii’s collapse and seemingly becomes ’70s plane hijacker D.B. Cooper, so his time jumps, whether sanctioned by the TVA or not, are pretty bold too.)
TVA agent Mobius M. Mobius (Owen Wilson, sporting a bushy moustache) is assigned to keep Loki on a very short leash. Mobius’ delighted fascination — he holds “the highest academic honors in the studies of Loki,” notes Hiddleston — makes the manipulator even more guarded than usual. “It’s a little bit of a chess match to gain Loki’s trust, but in that shared endeavor, there’s an interesting dynamic,” says Wilson, who likens the partnership to “Nick Nolte getting Eddie Murphy out of jail in [the 1982 movie] 48 Hrs.” For his part, Feige predicts Loki and Mobius “will be one of the most popular pairings we’ve ever had at Marvel.”
Viewers can also anticipate some ambiguity, as in Marvel’s latest TV forays, WandaVision and The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. Both had watercooler moments (“It was Agatha all along!”) but also plenty of plot and character details left as question marks (we don’t know who Sophia Di Martino is playing either). And while Hiddleston says the key element that makes Loki a fan favorite is his ability to astonish viewers, this adventure could leave a certain god the surprised one. “What we try to ask is, behind the slippery trickster, who is he really?” the actor says. “Does he even know?” You can bet the discovery will be a lively, ruse-filled ride.
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just-come-baek · 7 months ago
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Pairing: Na Jaemin x female!reader
Themes: smut | fluff | kidna cracky | light angst | fake dating!au | college!au | idiots to lovers!au | love letters
Word count: 21.2k 
Summary: One day, Jaemin stops by with a strange request. Any other person would just laugh in his face and refuse in a second. Unfortunately, I, being the dumbass I am, agree to it. Soon enough, everything gets out of hand, causing much more drama than we could ever predict.
Or in other words, Jaemin shouldn’t bet on things he knows he can’t win.
Warnings: all characters share like 3 brain cells, and somehow they all belong to Ten??? | self-indulgent type 3 diabetes fluff | cursing | mutual pining | college duties negligence | scheming and plotting | double-crossing | hookup culture condoning | corny and cringy stuff | alcohol consumption | smoking | extreme winter sports | amateur matchmaking | professional wooing | manipulative behaviour | steamy smut | oral female!receiving | thigh riding | spanking | marking | overstimulation | protected sex | lots of teasing | made up warnings | I don’t remember more
A/N it’s an instalment for love letters event hosted by neosmutcollective, I hope you enjoy my jaemin entry as well as other entries written by my friends from the network, check out the event tags too, and yeah, happy valentine's day!  😏  💖
***
“What?” I yelled, almost spitting my tea. No, I must’ve heard him wrong. Jaemin wouldn’t be stupid enough to do that. It had to be a joke. Or I must’ve imagined him say that. “You don’t mean that,” I added, still in shock, trying to comprehend what just happened.
“Come on, Noona,” Jaemin whined, staring right into my eyes, wishing for me to say yes to his ridiculous proposal. “I wouldn’t suggest that if I knew we couldn’t pull through.”
With a sigh, I shook my head. Jaemin’s proposition was absurd, and I couldn’t believe I was about to ask him again to walk me through it.
Damn me and my curiosity.
“Before I make my mind about this… tell me what the fuck led you guys to make that stupid bet. Then, and only then, I will still say no, but in good faith,” I demanded, smiling at Jaemin, knowing I wouldn’t make it easy for him to convince me. The odds weren’t in his favor, and he really had to put in lots of effort if he really wanted me on board.
“So we were chilling after practice, and then Haechan started to tease me that I have no game anymore,” Jaemin started, and I rolled my eyes. Of course, I should’ve figured it out. A man in his age apparently is a failure unless he has a different girl in his bed at least 3 nights a week, moaning his name at the top of her voice. Even though Jaemin doesn’t have a competitive nature, it still provoked him into agreeing to this absurd bet.
Life must be though with an ego so fragile…
Jaemin isn’t a fuckboy, yet he still has a fair share of love conquests. Though I had no idea whether it was true or not, he must have fallen a little behind the others – otherwise, they wouldn’t tease him about it.
“And then I said his mother must’ve dropped him on the head if he really thinks that,” Jaemin carried on. I nodded my head, trying to wrap my head around this preposterous situation. “Then, I said I could seduce any girl I want,” he added proudly, making me want to flicker his forehead, hoping it would knock some sense into that empty skull at the top of his neck.
“Okay, but how the hell did you end up with having to seduce me? This is the part I have the most trouble understanding,” I pointed out, cocking my eyebrow.
“Then, Chenle suggested we bet on it, and I agreed to it,” Jaemin whispered, looking away, sounding both regretful and shy. “I urged them to pick any girl, so Haechan looked around to choose my next conquest. It was the time when you and Ten were walking to the dance studio, and that bastard suggested you.”
So it was Haechan’s doing – I should’ve figured this one out. He was the only one wicked enough to possibly ruin somebody’s friendship because of a stupid bet.
Or, it was quite genius of him – maybe he figured Jaemin would not cross this line, choosing our friendship over winning this imbecilic bet.
“And you were confident you can woo me? What about our friendship? Does it mean anything to you?” I inquired, curious of what was going inside his head when he agreed to this half-witted bet. Did he seriously think we could have sex and then forget all about it?
“It’s not like that! I don’t want to woo you. I mean… I could, and you would be very much aware if I tried to hit on you, and you would fall for me. No doubts on that,” Jaemin spoke confidently, grinning like an idiot with ego blown way out of proportion. “But–“
Jaemin was about to say something dense, so before more bullshit managed to leave his mouth, I hit him with a cutting board. Jaemin whined, but I was sure he was exaggerating for comedy purposes. My hit was calculated and balanced – it was powerful enough for him to understand it wasn’t a good idea, but at the same, it was not going to cause any permanent damage to his brain. I’d never purposefully do that to him.
“We’re not having sex. Get that shit inside your head,” I interjected, pouring my herbal tea down my throat, already thinking about making another cup. This conversation was making me uncomfortable, and I wanted to put an end to it. Perhaps another lemon balm tea would calm my nerves.
Ignoring his penetrating gaze, I shuffled around the kitchen, setting the kettle on the stove. In the meantime, Jaemin walked around the kitchen island and grabbed me by my shoulders, looking straight into my eyes.
“Come on, Noona, I am not asking you to sleep with me,” Jaemin defended his case, quite determined to pull me on his side.
“Well… it looks exactly like you’re asking me to sleep with you,” I cut in, walking around him to the cabinet to get a fresh tea bag. I’ve really had enough of this bullshit.
“We could just make it look like like we did,” he carried on, and I heaved a deep sigh, regretting even letting him in today. I had this extremely boring essay to write, and at this point, I’d rather begin my research on whatever topic my professor assigned.
“It’s still a no from me, sorry,” I replied harshly, crashing Jaemin’s expectations. Judging by the look on his face, it wasn’t the outcome he anticipated when he decided to knock on my doors. “What happens when you lose that bet? Well… except for your pride, of course.”
“500 dollars.”
“Ouch, sowwy, I hope you can afford that,” I added with a fake smile, patting him on the shoulder, being well aware this amount of money was a game-changer to Jaemin’s budget. If he won, he would have the time of his life, spoiling himself. However, if he lost, he’d have to eat instant ramen on every meal for the entire month. “Either way, I hope it will teach you a lesson to not bet on things you know you can’t win.”
“Ugh, fine,” Jaemin groaned in disappointment, reaching for my hands, holding them carefully as if they were made of china. “If you help me, I’ll give you half of the money,” he proposed, and I looked at our hands linked together, then quickly shifted my gaze to his eyes. “If you help me win, you’ll get 250 dollars, and you’ll be finally able to buy those fancy shoes you wanted so bad. What do you say?”
When did he get so persuasive?
It was a low blow.
Jaemin knew that these shoes were tempting me ever since I had seen them. Multiple times, my thumb hovered over the add-to-cart button. Every time, I resisted the temptation last minute upon seeing the price tag, though. This purchase was way out of my budget.  However, now, when the new income opportunity presented itself, it made me wonder.
Suddenly, the kettle began to whistle, bringing me down to Earth from that ridiculous train of thought. Shaking my head, I tore my hands out of Jaemin’s gentle grasp, fidgeting back to the stove, pouring boiling water into the cup.
“Okay, fine, but I have a few questions first,” I gave up after a short pause for intense pondering, and Jaemin smiled brightly in instant gratitude and relief. Without my help, he would be doomed. “And then, if I like the answers, I have a few conditions.”
“Anything.”
“Okay, so first of all, how much time do we have to do the deed,” I inquired as I blew some air before taking a cautious sip.
“About two weeks,” Jaemin mentioned after a while as he had counted on his fingers how many days we have to team up and win five hundred dollars for us. “Officially, we have to do it before Jaehyun’s birthday party,” he specified, and I hummed, realizing it is very little time.
“You seriously think I am that easy? Outrageous,” I gasped, throwing a fake tantrum as I made my way around him to sit down on the barstool on the other side of the kitchen island.
“No, of course not,” Jaemin quickly realized what I was getting on, so he smiled sheepishly, already trying to figure out the best wording to calm me down. “I am just that good,” he added, and I leaned over to smack his shoulder. “Kidding,” he defended himself, stepping out of my reach. “Renjun proposed this party, I mean, it’s the easiest way they can verify we did it,” Jaemin carried on, and I cursed under my breath.
How convenient.
“But we’re not going to do the fucking,” I stated, as a matter of fact, repeating myself in order to make sure we were both on the same page. As much as it would be pleasant to actually do it with him, never under these circumstances.
“No, we’re not, but I guess we can sneak out upstairs to one of the unoccupied rooms, and once we make sure they’re listening, you can just shout how good I’m fucking you,” Jaemin reasoned, and I sighed as regret once again washed through me.
“That’s creepy,” I commented as my mind conjured an image of a group of peeping Toms, eavesdropping on our sex session. Once again, I felt the temptation to drop out of this deal, but then, another thought crossed my mind. “Ugh, fine, I’ll do it. All I have to do is shout for two minutes, and then, these cute shoes will be mine.”
“Two minutes? Are you insane?” Jaemin hollered, offended by my comment. “It happened once, and it was ages ago. I’ve learned plenty of tricks since then,” he blabbered, acting way too defensive for his past mishap. “Just let me live in peace, please.”
“Okay, so we have established the deadline, and although it’s not enough time for anyone to woo me, let’s go with it.”
“Thank you! I knew I could count on you,” Jaemin replied with gleeful enthusiasm as he sat down on the barstool beside me and pressed a chaste kiss against my knuckles.
“But you have to go overboard with the courting,” I added, making Jaemin groan. Hard work wasn’t his best suit, but this time, he really had to try his best, or I’d have to turn him down at Jaehyun’s party. “You really have to make it believable and super romantic. Otherwise, I’m out,” I clarified, and Jaemin nodded, though unwillingly.
“Fine, any other wishes in mind?”
“Once we win the bet, we have to end this whole fake-dating fiasco immediately,” I announced, already planning ahead. It was easy to win the bet, but the most difficult part was getting back to normal. If we planned to fake-date in order to fake-fuck, then it was reasonable to figure out how we’re going to fake-break up.
“We should agree on admitting it was the best sex of our lives, but despite that, we value our friendship even more, so we decided to remain friends. How does it sound?” Jaemin suggested, and I had to once again resist the temptation to roll my eyes.
“I agree with the overall message, but later, we have to work on proper delivery.”
 ***
On the very next day, Jaemin and I decided to implement our secret plan.
Since I specifically asked to be courted in an over-the-top manner, Jaemin suggested going to the cinema. There were no attention-grabbing titles screened, yet ultimately, we agreed on watching the very last projection of the sequel to Wonder Woman.
“Go get the snacks, I’ll buy the tickets,” I ordered once we stepped into the cinema area of the nearest shopping mall. It was two o’clock in the afternoon, so the establishment wasn’t crowded. Except for us, there was only a family of three slowly making their way to the exit.
“See you in five minutes,” Jaemin murmured before he walked off to the bar to get us some salty popcorn and soda drinks. Though we both considered them way overpriced, it was a perfect way to celebrate the beginning of our fake relationship.
“We still have some time until the movie starts,” Jaemin shyly whispered as he cleared his throat. “Let’s take some selfies to make it public,” he added, and I nodded, sending him a timid smile, knowing this protocol had to be done in order to properly keep up appearances.
These days, everything had to be posted on social media, or it didn’t exist. If we didn’t leave a single digital mark, people might’ve grown a little bit suspicious of our alleged rendezvous. It would probably shock our friends, but it had to be done if we wanted to really sell it to them.
The circumstances were perfect for an impromptu first-date photo shoot. We were able to snap a few pictures without any annoying looks of prying eyes, choose the best angles, and finally post it with an ambiguous description confusing the shit out our friends.
Though Jaemin took about fifty photos, ultimately, I allowed him to upload three.
One picture showed me standing back to the camera as I looked at the cinema schedule, trying to pick a movie. I was wearing an A-line crimson red dress and a pair of warm black tights – the outfit really made my figure look pretty slim.
“What do you think about this one?” Jaemin inquired, showing me the photo of our interlaced hands. With a hum, I inspected the picture, giving him the green light. It was appropriate for our first date – it would signify we weren’t at the cinema as friends.
“This one looks good enough,” I commented as I reached to swipe across the screen of his smartphone. “I look cute here,” I added, showing Jaemin a picture of us. We were smiling, staring at the camera, almost stuffing our faces into the bucket of popcorn.
“What kind of description should I write?”
“Something vague, I guess,” I answered with a shrug, having no clue what kind of comment would be fitting for this Instagram post. “Maybe stick to emojis,” I suggested, and Jaemin went back to work, adjusting filters and typing the description.
With a chuckle, Jaemin handed me his phone, letting me approve his commentary.
“Are you out of your mind?” I hollered, quickly deleting the emojis. Having smacked his shoulder, I turned around, blocking him from seeing the screen. Three blushed emojis suited our fake-date better than a popcorn bucket, a wine glass, and an eggplant.
“Sorry, I couldn’t help myself,” Jaemin apologized, still laughing at his incredibly funny joke.
“Here, I posted it,” I said with an eye roll, throwing his phone at his lap. “The commercials must’ve started; let’s go,” I rose from my seat and extended my arm, wanting Jaemin to hand me the cup of coke. Jaemin, however, completely misunderstood my intentions, putting his hand into mine, holding it gently. “Give me my drink, Jaemin.”
“Sorry,” Jaemin sheepishly smiled before he yanked back his hand and turned his head around, too embarrassed to look at me. I, on the other hand, laughed hysterically. That should’ve served him right after that emoji faux pas.
“I was kidding,” I admitted when my laughter died down. “Come on, Jaemin. Let’s go; I want to see the trailers,” I added before grabbing his hand, hauling him inside the screening room.
At the last row, we plopped down onto our double seat, getting comfortable for the movie. With our belongings thrown onto the neighboring seat, we stretched our limbs before the lights went out, providing us with the best viewing experience.
“Do you think they’ve seen it?” Jaemin whispered into my ear as he placed his head on my shoulders. “I want to check it, but at the same time, I don’t.”
“Mood,” I replied, feeling just as anxious.
The movie began, and we quickly forgot about our bold social media statement, focusing much more on the screening. Residing to our typical behavior, Jaemin placed his head on my shoulder, snuggling closer, taking full advantage of the bucket of popcorn, which rested on my thighs.
It was peaceful and comfortable – just as things were before Jaemin had come up with his brilliant idea to fake-date each other for the sake of that ludicrous bet. Though we acted the way we used to with each other, it felt somewhat different with that supposed romantic connotations haunting us. Not necessarily bad kind of different, though.
Just as we expected, two hours was more than enough for our friends to spam our individual inboxes. We both had dozens of messages from group chats, as well as private ones. All of them were asking and/or speculating what happened and why.
“I don’t feel like answering any of these,” I muttered, dreading to read what Ten and Jiwoo wrote on our roomies’ group chat. “I don’t feel like coming home, either. They’re gonna eat me alive with questions. I am not ready to face them yet. Wanna hang out some more?”
“Fuck, even my mom has seen them,” Jaemin cursed under his breath, completely forgetting about his mother being a mad keen Instagram user. Now, when he looked at our arrangement from a slightly different angle, Jaemin realized it brought way more consequences than he was planning on facing.
It was bad.
Really bad.
With shaky hands, I unlocked my phone, checking the Instagram post Jaemin had tagged me in. Not only our friends flooded the group chats, but also, they didn’t forget to embarrass us even further in the comment section.
lucas_xx444: what the heck??? 😧 is this for real???
yuu_taa_1026: finally!!1 maybe they stop simping for each other now 🤡
_jeongjaehyun: another man down, shame 😔
choi.jiwoo21: 🙄🙄 some men actually grow up, jeong…
mama_nana: Why am I only finding about this now?
“Well… fuck,” I murmured under my breath, still unable to process the fact that Jaemin’s mom knew about it. It was supposed to be a harmless charade; however, with each passing minute, it was getting out of hand. “What is the damage control procedure?” I asked in concern, biting the bottom lip nervously. Lying to our friends was pretty bad, but keeping this relationship thingy up in front of his mother was despicable.
“You know how she is,” Jaemin started, and I sighed, wishing I had no clue of what she was capable of. Unfortunately, I did, and it scared the hell out of me. “Either we go and visit her, or she’s coming to visit us,” he wondered, unable to choose which option was worse. “Fuck, she’s calling me. What do I do?”
With panic flashed in his eyes, Jaemin handed me his phone, expecting me to handle the conversation with his gossip-girl type of a mother. As if that would ever happen…
“Pick up and tell her we’re awfully busy or something,” I ordered him, gliding my finger across the screen, pressing the device against Jaemin’s ear.
“Hi, mom,” he spoke through gritted teeth, staring at me in absolute fury. Quickly, his hand cupped mine before he grabbed the phone, adjusting it.
By Jaemin’s mom’s standards, the conversation was brief. Or rather, her monologue was because Jaemin didn’t speak a single word through the entirety of it. Except for a couple of mmm’s thrown here and there, he didn’t engage at all.
Ideally, Jaemin would schedule the visit after we will have broken up. He’d go there by himself and tell her a story of us coming back to our senses and deciding to remain just friends. Unfortunately, that would require at least one functional brain cell and a pinch of assertiveness – both of which Jaemin seemed to lack.
“And?” I inquired, praying to hear some good news.
With a sheepish smile, Jaemin cautiously looked up at me. “We’re visiting her for dinner on Friday,” he announced, and I gripped my hands, trying to refrain myself from beating the shit out of him.
I didn’t sign up for any of this!
I just wanted some shoes.
“I hate you, Na Jaemin,” I angrily declared, storming out of the cinema, ready to indulge myself with plenty of greasy food. It wasn’t the best coping mechanism, but I needed to consume a ridiculous amount of calories in order to forget I was stupid enough to agree to participate in this travesty. “Are you coming or not?!”
 ***
The last thing I wanted was to face my roommates. They must’ve had dozens of questions about this out-of-the-blue date, and I was dreadful because I couldn’t provide them with genuine answers. Perhaps, I could try to confabulate my way out of this, but it was, nonetheless, risky.
Having eaten at least two servings of a delicious greasy meal Jaemin and I went for a stroll under the pretense of taking some more photos for future references.
Around 8 o’clock, I unwillingly made my way home. Even with that romantic aura lurking around us, it was still fun to hang out with Jaemin.
Walking up the stairs to the fourth floor, I wondered about possible solutions to my problem. In a perfect scenario, I’d sneak into my room without anyone noticing, so I wouldn’t have to deal with any prying questions until, at least, early morning.
Unfortunately, the moment I pulled out my keys, the doors swung wide open.
“Well, well, well…” Ten tsked with a mischievous smirk dancing across his gorgeous face. Asshole. How dare he tsk me? “Had fun on your date?” He asked, and I tried my best to ignore him. It wasn’t that easy, though. With Jiwoo backing up his teasing, I was outnumbered.
“So… you and Jaemin, huh?” Jiwoo mused, cocking up her eyebrow in curiosity. “Spill the tea. I didn’t spam your inbox to not hear all the details,” she added, and I rolled my eyes, regretting all of my poor life choices that led me to this moment.
“I’ll bring wine,” Ten hollered before he disappeared in the kitchen, also keen on knowing everything that had happened between us. “Don’t say anything until I get there!”
They wanted to hear a romantic story of how two friends realized they had hots for each other, and that’s exactly what I did. Unwillingly, I provided them with an incredible piece of fiction of how we felt the spark when Jaemin stopped by the other day.
Admittedly, it was easy to go with the flow once the wine molecules were coursing through my veins. With some liquid inspiration in my bloodstream, I narrated how adorable Jaemin had been when he had gathered enough courage to ask me out on a date.
“So I assume you’re bringing Jaemin to the cabin on the weekend,” Jiwoo inquired in a teasing manner, and I blinked in confusion. What cabin was she talking about? “You forgot, didn’t you?”
“Forgot about what?” I asked, still clueless about the whole ordeal. With a confused frown, I wondered what this cabin trip was about. Positively, I didn’t forget about it. It’s impossible to forget about plans you weren’t even invited to.
So, Jiwoo explained everything in great detail.
Apparently, Jaehyun and Johnny planned a weekend getaway to the cabin by the sea. They invited plenty of people, but since it’s the middle of a hectic period of exams, only a small percentage of invitees would be able to make it.
Jaehyun, Johnny, and Lucas gave up trying to get the best grades two semesters ago, so their schedule was pretty much open. Renjun, Chenle, and Yeri were nerds with every necessary book memorized by heart, so they didn’t have to cram the weekend before the tests. Jiwoo, being heads over heels in love with Jaehyun, would even cancel her manicure appointment to make it to that trip. She was that serious about this fratboy for some reason…
And now, two individuals needed a perfect excuse to ditch an uncomfortable family dinner. When a chance presented itself in front of me, I just couldn’t say no.
“I’m going. I don’t know about Jaemin, though. He’s meeting his mom on Friday, but maybe he can make it work.”
“Fantastic,” Jiwoo shouted in excitement before finishing her glass of wine.
“Now, when I think about it, I am glad I’ve taken an extra shift at the gym,” Ten chimed in with a playful smirk as he sipped his wine. “You two simping for each other was painful to watch, but now, when you’re hitting it off, it’s gonna be unbearable.”
“What do you mean simping?” I yelled in a threatening manner, ready to fight him for spitting nonsense so carelessly. I might’ve had a tiny crush on Jaemin, but I wouldn’t call it simping. Also, suggesting the simping was mutual? He must’ve lost his freaking mind. Ridiculous!
“Shit, I didn’t think this through,” Jiwoo mentioned, now probably re-considering if the trip is worthwhile. She would love to hang out with Jaehyun and finally make a move, but on the other hand, she would have to deal with my and Jaemin’s romantic shenanigans.
“Why are you such drama queens? We’ve been on one date, for crying out loud! Stop acting like we’re some kind of overly touchy couple because we’re not,” I barked, having no more energy to argue with them. “We’ll keep PDA to a minimum, don’t worry.”
“No need to get so defensive,” Ten added, enjoying my misery a bit too much.
“I am not getting defensive,” I argued, though facing real trouble, unable to actually back up my perspective. “Anyway, I am going to sleep. Unlike the two of you, some people have real jobs,” I added before storming to my room, plopping onto my bed with a tired groan.
Having changed into my pajamas and sneaked under the covers, I finally dared to connect my phone to the Internet. My inbox was full of texts, so I read them all. I didn’t feel like replying to any of them, though. Instead, I opened my chat with Jaemin.
my love 💖 | 20:41 | I figured it out
my love 💖 | 20:41 | You don’t have to thank me
my love  💖 | 20:41 | Also
my love 💖 | 20:41 | Wtf Jaemin?
my love 💖 | 20:41 | What kind of name is that???
my love 💖 | 20:42 | Change it back
baNANA 🍓 |  20:43 | No. 😘
baNANA 🍓 | 20:43 | The name stays
baNANA 🍓 | 20:43 | You can’t make me 😝😝
baNANA 🍓 | 20:44 | And what don’t I have to thank you for?
my love 💖 | 20:44 | I might’ve found alternative plans for friday
baNANA 🍓 | 20:44 | Oh???
my love 💖 | 20:45 | Jiwoo invited us to the cabin for the weekend
my love 💖 | 20:45 | We’re gonna get so drunk!
my love 💖 | 20:45 | It’s okay if you can’t make it, tho
baNANA 🍓 | 20:45 | Wow
baNANA 🍓 | 20:45 | I have an exam on Monday…
baNANA 🍓 | 20:45 | But I can make Haechan give me his notes
baNANA 🍓 | 20:46 | I wouldn’t miss it
my love 💖 | 20:46 | Good, then it’s a date
baNANA 🍓 | 20:46 | Date??? 🥰🥰
my love 💖 | 20:46 | Stop being so cringy!
baNANA 🍓 | 20:46 | Good night, love~~ 😘
baNANA 🍓 | 20:46 | Dream of me 😇😇😇
my love 💖 | 20:46 | Ugh.
my love 💖 | 20:46 | Disgusting 🤢🤮
baNANA 🍓 | 20:46 | I love you, too
***
As brilliant as my plan was, it fell through. Only partially, though. The little getaway was still a thing, but unfortunately, regardless of how much we tried, we couldn’t reschedule the dinner at Jaemin’s family home.
We still had to pay his parents a visit, but, at least, there was a silver lining.
Thanks to our hectic schedule, Jaemin’s mom wouldn’t have a chance to force us to stay longer. Whether she wanted to feed us dessert or stay the night, it was out of the question.
Since Jiwoo had one more exam to pass on Friday, half of the guests would have to show up later in the evening. Johnny, Jaehyun, Lucas, and Renjun were about to take off around noon while Jiwoo, Yeri, Chenle, Jaemin, and I had to carpool later in the evening.
I didn’t complain, though.
“It’ll be fine. It’s just my mom,” Jaemin reassured me, slipping his hand into mine, giving it a gentle squeeze. “I bet it’s gonna be like any other time you stopped by,” he added, and I cocked up my eyebrow suspiciously.
“You better be right,” I spoke, though still unconvinced. I knew Jaemin’s mother. She had a tendency to be, hmm…, a little bit extra. Who knew how she would behave now when she found out we were dating?
Since Jaemin was carrying our suitcases, I knocked on the front doors. Jaemin’s mom rushed to let us in, but not before she gave us bone-crushing hugs.
“I think you’ve misunderstood. I invited you for dinner. I didn’t ask you to move in with me,” Mrs. Na jested upon seeing the suitcases in Jaemin’s hands, misinterpreting the situation in the funniest way possible. “It must be shocking, but I enjoy living alone with your father.”
“We’re going to the beach with some friends after the dinner,” Jaemin clarified, and his mother hummed in understanding, acting a bit too cool about it. It’s been a while since Jaemin paid them a proper visit, and she was a little too nonchalant for my liking. “They’re going to pick us up around seven.”
She must’ve done something or was about to do something.
“Here’s some wine,” I spoke up, handing her the bottle as a small thank you gift for inviting us over for a delicious home-made meal.
“Thank you, dear. You’re so thoughtful,” Mrs. Na accepted the beverage, guiding us to the dining area. “I didn’t feel like cooking today, so I ordered some Chinese takeout. I hope you don’t mind,” she added, and I chuckled at her typical antics.
She was an amazing mother to Jaemin, raising him well, but she really was a terrible housewife. She didn’t change one bit, and I loved her for it. She had so much love for her husband, her son, and her son’s friends, and that’s what really mattered.
“Your father will be home in thirty,” she announced before she made a beeline to the kitchen to get a bottle opener. “And the takeout was supposed to arrive twenty minutes ago. If it weren’t for that slow delivery guy, I would’ve got away with my little secret,” she blabbered, laughing awkwardly.
“It’s okay, really,” I reassured her, sending her a genuine smile. “I am craving Chinese food, anyway,” I added before I elbowed Jaemin, so he would say something, too. For a blabbermouth he was, right now, he seemed awfully quiet.
Before Jaemin managed to provide his mother with a proper response, someone knocked on the doors. Since we had already arrived, it must’ve been the delivery guy with food.
“I’ll go get it,” Jaemin excused himself, leaving me alone with his mother.
“So…,” Mrs. Na cleared her throat as he began pouring wine into fancy glasses. “You guys are finally dating. And if you want me to be completely honest, I am a little bit disappointed,” she made a pause to look at me in the eye. What? She didn’t approve of me? That’s surprising; I used to think she adored me. “I am a little bit disappointed either of you didn’t make a move sooner. I was slowly losing hope,” she added, and I sighed in relief.
For a while, I was seriously concerned she didn’t like me.
“Are you expecting any guests? There’s no way we can finish it all by the four of us,” Jaemin commented as he walked into the dining room, setting two plastic bags of takeout. It smelled heavenly, and I couldn’t wait to taste whatever dish Mrs. Na had ordered.
“I can always invite your friends inside when they pull up,” she spoke matter-of-factly, but as soon as Jaemin looked at her sternly, she seconded that idea. “Or, I can pack it up, so you can share it with your friends later.”
“Should we wait for dad?” Jaemin asked when his stomach growled, demanding food. In the morning, he was quite anxious about going to his parents’ house, so he didn’t even bother to eat. Now, Jaemin was starving. He couldn’t wait any longer.
“I’ll get the plates,” his mom spoke, not really answering his question. Within two minutes, she came back with a special set of tableware. In their household, it was used only for holidays and other rare occasions. “Dig in,” she urged us, waiting for us to fill our plates before doing the same herself.
Whatever restaurant provided today’s dinner, it was remarkable. It wasn’t too salty, nor too spicy. Even when I was full, I still stuffed my mouth some more, unable to stop myself.
“You have sauce on your chin,” Jaemin remarked, pointing at his own chin, helping me locate the stray drop of soy sauce. “Here,” he added with a tired shake of his head, wiping it clean with his napkin.
“You two are too adorable,” Mrs. Na cooed, smiling at us widely. “It was worth the wait,” she added, and I creased my forehead in confusion. “Oh, did you hear that? It must be your dad,” Mrs. Na said upon hearing noise from the garage. “You keep eating, I’ll go greet his workaholic ass,” she excused herself with a playful smile before walking away from the table to welcome her husband as any loving wife would.
With a deep sigh, Jaemin leaned toward me, resting his arm on my chair.
“It’s not that bad, actually. I was excepting to go through some kind of FBI-level of interrogation, but she seems kind of chill about this whole thing,” Jaemin whispered into my ear, and I giggled, agreeing with him. It was kind of suspicious, but I couldn’t complain.
“It’s kinda creepy when she’s talking like she’s been rooting for us to end up together, but this one thing aside, it’s bearable,” I replied, and Jaemin nodded his head.
“I am gone for a minute, and you’re all over each other,” Mrs. Na snickered when she returned to the dining room, seeing Jaemin leaned in, only inches apart from my face. “Jaemin, mama’s so proud,” she added before she walked around the room to set the plate for Mr. Na.
“Stop embarrassing me,” Jaemin whined, playing with the food on his plate, pouting. Though his mother pretty much ignored his childish tantrum, I chuckled, finding it absolutely adorable. Maybe she was a teaser, but little Jaemin knew, he inherited it from her. It was time he experienced the taste of his own medicine.
The apple doesn’t fall that far from the tree…
The rest of the afternoon went peaceful. Though Mrs. Na threw in some cheesy remarks here and there, we could handle it. We were slightly buzzed, after all.
“It’s time for us,” Jaemin announced as he heard a car parked in front of the house. “It was nice. We should totally do it again,” he sarcastically added when he reached for my coat and helped me put it on.
“Don’t have too much fun,” she added with a playful smirk upon her face, earning a judging look from her more conservative husband. “No, wait, I second that. Have as much fun as you want. I am a cool parent,” she spoke, changing her mind in a matter of seconds. “And I plan on becoming a cool grandparent.”
At first, I wanted to remind her that we’re too young for children. Besides, technically, we only went on one date. It was definitely too soon to even think about these things, let alone talk about them out loud.
Thankfully, before I managed to say something I’d regret, Jiwoo honked, urging us to get going. If it wasn’t for her impatience, I might’ve ruined the image I had built for myself in Jaemin’s parents’ eyes.
“Your mother was joking! Always use protection,” Mr. Na hollered before he closed the doors after us.
***
Except for a few playful comments shot toward Jaemin and me, the ride was peaceful. As soon as we threw our suitcases into the trunk and squeezed in on the backseat, we hit the road. Jamming to Jiwoo’s playlist, we chatted in excitement, all of us in desperate need of a little vacation. It was a stressful time of a year, but maybe this short trip would actually help us recharge the batteries and calm down after busting our asses off.
“How was the dinner?” Jiwoo asked, staring at us in the rearview mirror. Since there was a limited amount of space, I was almost sitting on Jaemin’s laps. Jiwoo didn’t miss it with her eagle eyes. The way Jaemin played with my fingers didn’t go unnoticed, either.
“Bearable,” I muttered under my breath, not really wanting to recollect these memories now. I’d probably tell Jiwoo everything later, and she understood the subliminal message in a heartbeat. “How was your test?”
“I probably failed, but, at least, now I know what to expect,” Jiwoo answered as she turned to the left as the navigation system instructed her to.
In about two hours, we arrived at our destination.
Having stepped into the cabin with our heavy luggage in our hands, we encountered the middle of the party. A handful of beer bottles were scattered around the living area, the boys fervently discussing some matter.
“You’re finally here,” Jaehyun spoke matter-of-factly, as he noticed us in the threshold. “Go upstairs and leave your stuff in your rooms. We’ve already assigned them; just read the post-it notes stuck to the doors,” he explained before he turned away.
Huh, apparently, they were pros at planning.
The guys rented a cabin that consisted of six tiny bedrooms. Generally, we wouldn’t have a problem assigning them; however, since Jaehyun, Lucas, and Johnny didn’t want to room with anyone, we were facing a dilemma. They guys wanted to have some privacy if they managed to pick someone up at the hotel in the neighborhood. In this case, the six of us had to share rooms. Jiwoo and Yeri could room together. Renjun and Chenle could occupy another one, so it looked like they put Jaemin and me in the last one.
Thankfully, it wouldn’t be the first time when I had to share a bed with Jaemin. He had stayed the night plenty of times before when he dozed off during our Netflix marathons. However, it still was to be a little bit awkward since everybody thought we began dating. We were going to pull through, though.
As soon as possible, we came back downstairs, ready to even the score of consumed alcohol. All of us needed it. Everybody had a different reason for it, but none of our troubles were to be discussed tonight.
In the fridge, there was a whole palette of different types of alcohol. Quickly, I grabbed two tequila-flavored beers, handing one to Jaemin, allowing others to choose their poison.
My plan for tonight was to test every kind of alcohol, gradually going up with the percentages. It was a bad idea, but that’s what college was about – having fun like there’re no consequences.
We partied like there’s no tomorrow.
At first, we kept it simple. Fervent conversations led us to shout at one another, trying to force one perspective over the others. We were going through so many subjects that any sober bystander might’ve had real trouble comprehending how we managed to switch among them.
Then, someone suggested playing a drinking game. Of course, it had to be never have I ever. Everybody had so much fun, especially when the participants yelled at Jaemin and me because we didn’t even bother to abide by the rules. We were sipping our drinks whenever we felt like it, even between rounds, and it didn’t sit right with the rest. Eventually, they kicked us out of their little circle, giving us the crucial task of bringing some snacks from the kitchen.
Sometime past midnight, Jiwoo proposed going outside. It was beautifully snowing, but at the same time, it was freezing. Though I was opposed to this idea, everybody seemed to love it. The guys were throwing snowballs at each other, bringing out their inner child.
As if this wasn’t enough, they decided to take a stroll to the seaside. Though our cabin was maybe a mile away from the seashore, I didn’t particularly fancy the saunter. Jaemin was by my side, offering to warm my hand in his pocket, but I still was on the verge of freezing my ass off. I’d much rather sit by the fireplace under a few blankets with a mug of the mulled wine in my grasp. Apparently, everybody besides me was really intrigued by an ice bath and other winter extreme sports.
Though it was dangerous as fuck, Jiwoo took off her shoes and rolled up her jeans before she walked into the ice water of the sea. Being the dumbass he was, Lucas instantly followed suit.
“They seem to hit it off tonight,” I nonchalantly whispered as I elbowed Jaehyun. Jiwoo and Jaehyun might have a thing going on, but neither of them acted on it. Jiwoo was too whipped to make a move, too afraid of rejection. Jaehyun, on the other hand, was just a fuckboy, not really looking for a relationship. “Look at them. Don’t they look cute?” I carried on, cautiously watching Jaehyun’s expression. They weren’t together, but he seemed slightly jealous and frustrated watching her have lots of fun with Lucas.
In my opinion, he didn’t deserve her, but I didn’t really have a say in that matter. Jaehyun was the person Jiwoo’s heart longed for, and I, being her best friend, had to support that. Or, in this case, I had to give him a little push to get things in motion.
Jaehyun had some feelings for Jiwoo, but he needed some time and character development to fully comprehend them. Until then, it was my duty to remind him what he’s missing out on by not being serious enough to ask her out.
“Nah, I wouldn’t call them cute,” Jaehyun murmured through gritted teeth, positively jealous. “What they’re doing is dangerous; somebody has to stop them,” he added before he kicked off his own shoes, running toward Jiwoo to pick her up and bring her back to the shore.
“What was that?” Jaemin asked, being shook as to what he had witnessed.
“What was what? What do you mean?” I smirked, winking at him, hoping he wouldn’t tell anyone about it. “I didn’t do anything.”
“You played him,” Jaemin spoke, still impressed by how easily I manipulated Jaehyun into stepping into the scene, pulling Jiwoo away from Lucas. “Is this even legal? You’ve never done this one me, have you?”
“No, of course, not! Don’t be ridiculous,” I answered, though my tone suggested a completely different message. “You would’ve known, wouldn’t you?” I teased, chuckling at Jaemin’s funny expression. He was mortified. “I think you’re overreacting. I just pointed out some facts, and Jaehyun reacted to them according to his emotional opinion. I really didn’t do anything,” I added, defending my case.
“Don’t you ever try pulling a trick like that on me, okay?” Jaemin stated, and I nodded, giving him a promise. “I mean… I wouldn’t fall for it, but still, don’t.”
“We should head back to the cabin,” Johnny shouted, gathering the gang. Surprisingly, he seemed the most sober amongst us, so it didn’t come as a shock to me that he tried to look after his hammered friends.
In my opinion, it was a perfect call. I was slowly sobering up, and I definitely needed a refill. With my schedule packed, I had no idea when I would have a chance for another getaway, so I had to make the most out of this one.
As we returned to the cabin, Jaehyun’s eyes didn’t leave Jiwoo.
Jaemin, on the other hand, went upstairs to grab his camera, deciding it was the best time to snap photos. Of course, he had to take pictures of us when we were drunk out of our minds. Why didn’t he take any when we looked decent without smudged make-up?
“Sexy,” Jaemin commented as he pointed his camera at me. “Ahh, sexy,” he kept calling me that, and I stuck my tongue at him, wanting him to go away pester someone else. My hair was a mess, and my lipstick smudged off my lips a long time ago. “So sexy,” he carried on, making me roll my eyes at him. At some point, I tried kicking him, but that bastard was beyond my reach.
Around 2 o’clock, one by one, we began feeling tired.
Lucas was the first one to go. Considering how much alcohol he had drunk, I was surprised he lasted that long. Better yet, it was a shock he could even stand straight. Jaemin and Renjun had to escort him upstairs, but nonetheless, his alcohol tolerance was impressive.
I didn’t even realize when, but Yeri and Chenle managed to fall asleep on the couch. Firmly, Renjun shook them away, ordering them to go to their respective rooms. With tired yawns, they made their way upstairs, falling on their beds face-first.
“Let’s go to sleep,” Jaemin pouted as he sat on the side of the armchair, resting his head on my shoulder. Entwining his hand in mine, he stood up, pulling me up.
“Have fun, guys. We’re calling it a night,” I announced, refraining from yawning.
“No, you have fun,” Jiwoo replied, sending us a wink. Shaking my head, I sighed before we disappeared upstairs. I don’t know what she was thinking; however, I didn’t have the energy to keep my eyes open, let alone other nighttime activities. Besides, Jaemin was just as spent. Even if we were in a real relationship, we wouldn’t engage in half-conscious unsatisfactory messy sex.
“Come here,” Jaemin whispered as he smiled. His eyes were already closed as he patted the mattress beside him, waiting for me to join. “Good job. I think we really sold it to everybody,” he added as he snuggled closer, wrapping his limbs around my body.
“That’s good,” I purred, slowly drifting into dreamland. It was a long day, and it was finally over. Though it had a rough beginning, I ended it in Jaemin’s arms. “Good night.”
“Good night, my love,” Jaemin muttered, resting his head on my pillow right beside my face.
“You were supposed to change that name,” I replied, too drunk or/and too tired to realize it was his spoken words and not a text message.
 ***
During the second week of our relationship, we grew to be less tense around each other. Better yet, we seemed awfully comfortable, almost as if that’s how everything was meant to be. It was a little bit alarming, but I decided not to point that out. Even if it was just an act, I enjoyed it much more than I’d ever dare to admit. As long as it lasted, I was to savor it.
Ever since we came back from the weekend trip, Jaemin would pop up out of nowhere at least once a day with a surprise for me, proving how over the top he could be in courting a woman.
On Monday, he spammed his social media feed with my pictures from the trip. Of course, he didn’t forget to put a corny description under it, making me flustered. Even though I wouldn’t consider myself photogenic, Jaemin managed to bring out my best features with his photography talent and editing skills.
On Tuesday, Jaemin was waiting outside the auditorium with a cute bouquet of my favorite flowers – white roses. He was there to congratulate me on passing my last exam of the semester. The professor would send us results by the end of the week, but according to Jaemin, there was no chance I’d fail it.
“I still don’t get it how you do it,” Jaemin mused, scratching his temple, trying to put two and two together. “I hardly ever see you study, but then, you panic before an exam only to nail it later on. What kind of black magic is this?” He wondered, and I giggled, unable to explain my poor studying technique. I just winged it last minute every single time in my academic career.
“You better be right about this one,” I replied, still anxious about my grade. I didn’t manage to answer all of the questions, so a passing grade would be a relief. “I’m craving pasta. Do you want t go on a celebratory date?”
“You’re reading my mind,” Jaemin said, grabbing my hand, leading me to our favorite restaurant.
On Wednesday, Jaemin invited me to a bowling alley. Every month he would visit the establishment with his friends. Only on rare occasions, their significant others were invited. None of them could really commit to a serious relationship, so it never became a repetitive custom of their group.
“You guys are disgusting,” Haechan whined after our turn. Jaemin and I were losing by an enormous margin, but we didn’t mind. We were having fun despite a low score. “But at least, we’re winning,” Haechan added, pointing at Chenle and himself.
“I am the winner here,” Jaemin boldly announced, giving my hand a light squeeze, making me almost spit my soda.
Everybody cringed at Jaemin’s bold corny statement.
“I second that,” Haechan mused, looking away from Jaemin. “She’s bearable, and you are just absolutely repulsive,” he corrected himself, and I chuckled. Never in my entire life, I thought I would agree on something with Haechan, but this moment occurred right then.
On Thursday, although my schedule was packed with work, Jaemin insisted on hanging out. Tired out of my mind, I let Jaemin inside the apartment. He was carrying Mexican takeout; I couldn’t send him back home. Not when he had goodies.
“What do you want to watch?” I asked as I handed him the remote, allowing him to choose the movie. I was going to pass out anyway, so he might’ve as well picked something he liked.
“Anything is good,” he answered as he unwrapped his quesadilla, taking a bite off of it.
“The Notebook it is then,” I teased, but since Jaemin didn’t stop me, I put it on.
Having eaten my portion of a delicious meal, I lay down on the couch, resting my head on Jaemin’s thighs. I didn’t even realize when I fell asleep. Only when the credits were rolling down on the screen, Jaemin shook me awake.
“When did you fall asleep?” Jaemin inquired, a little bit mad that I forced him to watch the ultimate romantic movie of the twenty-first century. It was toxic as hell, and the way their behavior got romanticized didn’t sit right with me.
“As soon as I lay down,” I answered honestly, as I rolled around, staring at Jaemin’s handsome face. “How did you like the movie?” I asked innocently, swiftly changing the topic. It was for the better if Jaemin didn’t find out I paid no attention to the film. Instead of a great viewing experience, it was just a mere background noise that lulled me to sleep.
“I didn’t,” Jaemin whined, tapping his foot against the floor, making me sit up instantly. “It was toxic and sad at the same time. Noah was a manipulative jerk, and Allie was moody as fuck. The only bright side of their relationship is that they ended up with each other, not ruining other people’s lives,” Jaemin spoke the truth, and I couldn’t agree more. “In conclusion, give me my 2 hours back,” he added, and I hit him with a cushion.
Unable to comprehend what I just did, Jaemin blinked in confusion. Then, a few seconds later, he smirked and grabbed another cushion, ready to fight back.
Unfortunately, our childish antics were interrupted by Jiwoo. She was hanging out with Yuta, studying for the exam they had to retake the next day. To be completely honest, she couldn’t have any worse timing. While watching a movie was explainable, it wasn’t the case when it came to an impromptu pillow fight.
“Should I come back later, or something?” Jiwoo asked, pointing at the doors, willing to leave if it meant for me to get laid.
“Nah, Jaemin’s leaving. I am trying to kick him out, actually,” I announced, sticking my tongue out.
On Friday, Jaemin and I planned on going to the arcade. Unfortunately, we had to raincheck that. One of Jaemin’s coworkers fell sick, and Jaemin had to take a double shift at the coffee shop in his neighborhood.
I already had canceled my other plans to hang out with Jaemin, so I didn’t really want to stay at home all by myself. It was a Friday night, after all. Surprising him at work seemed like a better idea. His friends liked hanging out there; therefore, it must’ve been an excellent excuse for a little bit of acting in order to keep up appearances.
Quickly, I assembled a cute outfit and put on light make-up.
About an hour before the closing, I entered the coffee shop. Except for a few students with their noses in their computers, the establishment was empty.
“Welcome to–,” Jaemin hollered, ready to welcome the customers. “Oh, it’s you. What are you doing here?” He asked as a wide smile spread across his face, enjoying my surprise.
“I just came to surprise you,” I confessed, though none of us paid enough attention to the gravity of my words. I genuinely wanted to hang out Jaemin him as his girlfriend. “And I also wanted to get some discounted goodies. What do you have left?” I asked, looking over his shoulder, trying to see what food didn’t sell yet. An hour before the closing, everything on the menu was discounted by seventy percent, and I just couldn’t walk past that kind of deal.
“You’re not the only one who came for cheap stuff,” Jaemin commented as he saw Haechan and Renjun on the other side of the doors. “Take a seat, I’ll bring you your favorite,” he added, and I smiled at him, walking to the booth by the window.
Having finished my Greek sandwich, I focused on my cup of tea. I was scrolling through social media feed, giggling whenever I stumbled upon a funny meme. It was a perfect evening; complete relaxation in the rhythm of soft foreign jazz music playing through speakers, Jaemin checking up on me once every a couple of minutes.
“Oh, hi, there,” Haechan hollered as soon as he noticed me. He must’ve been returning to his table from a restroom. “I didn’t realize you’re here. What’s up?” We weren’t close, so his question was more like a polite generic statement rather than genuine curiosity.
“I’m waiting for Jaemin to finish, so we can hang out at my place,” I answered, hoping Haechan would get the suggestive tone.
“Actually, there’s something you should know,” he said quietly, looking around, probably checking if Jaemin was within earshot. “I am so ashamed it happened, but I really have to tell you something,” Haechan added, and I couldn’t wait for him to reveal the secret.
Haechan was playing dirty. He wanted to tell me about the bet, ruining Jaemin’s chance at getting me to sleep with him. It was some top-tier double-crossing, and I found it impressive. I had no clue Haechan had it in him.
“We shouldn’t have done it. I don’t know why we even agreed to this,” Haechan added, scratching the back of his head, trying to sound genuinely regretful. “I think Jaemin’s not genuine about the thing you have going on. You see, we made a bet. He has to have sex with you, or else he owes Chenle 500 bucks.”
“What?!” I exclaimed, hoping my consternation was believable. At first, I felt the temptation to say something along, yeah, I know, what’s new, but then I decided to play along. It was actually a good idea to make it seem like Jaemin’s about to lose the bet. Knowing them, they wouldn’t call it off. If anything, Jaemin could double the stakes. “No, it can’t be true. Jaemin would never –“
Now, it was my cue to make a scene. Hopefully, it would play out exactly like in my impromptu prediction.
Reaching the stage of fake hysteria, I rose from my seat and stormed to Jaemin. He was energetically wiping off the tables, wanting to leave shortly after the last customer.
“Is that true? Did you really make a bet you can have sex with me?” I yelled at him through gritted teeth. Jaemin, on the other hand, was confused as fuck. “Did you really think you could get away with it? You disgust me!” I shouted, slapping his cheek. “Don’t ever call me again,” I added before I turned on my heel, storming out of the coffee shop.
Being the only employee at work, Jaemin couldn’t run after me.
Jaemin deserved an explanation. I had to fill him in on my wonderful plan before he would blow it in front of Renjun and Haechan.
my love 💖 | 20:46 | play along
my love 💖 | 20:46 | trust me
my love 💖 | 20:47 | kick them out pls
baNANA  🍓  | 20:47 | wtf???
baNANA 🍓  | 20:48 | that hurt
baNANA 🍓  | 20:48 | I didn’t have to kick them out
baNANA  🍓 | 20:49 | they ran out a few seconds after you
my love 💖 | 20:49 | good
baNANA 🍓  | 20:49 | what the hell is going on???
baNANA  🍓  | 20:50 | I am confused
my love 💖 | 20:50 | Haechan ‘told’ me about the bet
my love 💖 | 20:50 | he wanted to double cross you
baNANA  🍓  | 20:51 | what???
my love 💖 | 20:51 | so the plan is
my love 💖 | 20:51 | they know you don’t stand a chance
my love 💖 | 20:51 | so you double the stakes
my love 💖 | 20:52 | and then bam! we win double the money
baNANA  🍓  | 20:52 | wow
baNANA  🍓  | 20:52 | you’re a genius
my love 💖 | 20:53 | I know
my love 💖 | 20:53 | and since I’m acting like I’m not talking to you
my love 💖 | 20:53 | bye 
my love 💖 | 20:54 | see you @ the party!
 ***
Everything went according to my plan. The guys thought I was pissed with Jaemin, while Jaemin still tried to convince them he stands a chance to court me. It was kind of ironic, they wanted to play me, but it was them getting played.
Together with Jiwoo and Ten, we came extra early to Jaehyun’s party. Still being stuck in friendzone, Jiwoo went out of her way to help him out. Today it meant setting up all types of decorations all over the fraternity house and preparing different kinds of snacks.
Around seven, an Uber pulled up in front of our building. Not to brag, but despite the limited amount of time, we managed to dress up to the nines.
I decided to keep it simple. My outfit consisted of a pair of skinny high-waisted black jeans, a long-sleeved sequin embellished crop top, and a pair of ankle-high boots.
Jiwoo, on the other hand, was wearing a two-piece baby pink dress and a pair of massive mid-thigh black leather platform combat boots. She looked fierce, like a weird baby of 90’s Britney Spears and Marilyn Mason.
Though Ten’s outfit looked the most effortless, it took him longer than us to put it together. Having thrown every single thing from his closet on the bed, Ten experienced a mild crisis. Even though he looked gorgeous in everything, he didn’t seem to believe us. Only after the off-hand intervention, he agreed to play it cool with a pair of ripped jeans, a black shirt with three top buttons left untouched, and an oversized leather jacket.
Once we arrived at Jaehyun’s fraternity, nothing was ready. Thankfully, it wasn’t my problem. Jiwoo was the one who volunteered to help out. Ten and I were about to vibe in the corner, letting other people arrange the place according to Jaehyun’s vision.
Trying our best not to disturb others, Ten and I watched the way the smelly fraternity sex mansion turned into a festive valentine’s manor.
“I hope she’s gonna get laid today,” I whispered into Ten’s ear, looking at Jiwoo working like a busy bee around the house.
“She better; that’s really painful to look at,” Ten agreed, looking a little bit disappointed. Jiwoo was at Jaehyun’s beck and call, and it was about time he acknowledged her feelings.
Around nine o’clock, it was getting a little bit crowded.
Music was blasting through the speakers. Some of the fratboys were already looking for their next conquest. Girls were dancing on a makeshift dance floor in the middle of the living area, suggestively swaying their hips, teasing whoever was watching with their sexy moves.
Later on, when I was in the middle of my fourth drink of the night, Jaemin finally showed up. Together with Haechan, Jeno, Renjun, and Chenle, they walked through the threshold. They all looked great, but Jaemin stood out in the crowd. After all, he was the only one to put on a suit jacket over his white T-shirt. While the rest rocked the comfortable outfits, Jaemin opted for a more elegant look.
Almost as if he wanted to impress someone. Or at least, apologize properly, trying every sly trick to make me forgive him.
Upon entrance, his eyes searched me in the crowd, and when he met my gaze, a smile stretched across his face. Shyly, he raised his hand, wanting to wave at me, but since I stubbornly turned my head around, playing my role of offended woman, he lowered it.
“I’ve seen an ATM on our way here,” Renjun commented, knowing Jaemin didn’t stand a chance of winning the bet.
“It won’t be necessary,” Jaemin replied, following me with his gaze. “I didn’t lose it yet,” he added, and the guys laughed at him. There was no way he still thought he could woo me. “I still have a few hours left; I am not going to give up.”
“You’re such a loser,” Jeno interjected as regret washed through him. Although he didn’t actively participate when the bet was placed, he didn’t oppose it. He was an idle bystander, allowing other people to ruin our friendship. It didn’t sit right with him, but it was too late. The damage was already done, and Jaemin was going to embarrass himself even further. “She doesn’t deserve any of this.”
“It’s not like that,” Jaemin started, but he refused to explain how exactly it was like.
“You’re still gonna fail,” Haechan added with a nonchalant shrug of his shoulders. Back at the coffee shop, he ruined Jaemin’s chance for success. “Hey there, beautiful,” Haechan spoke when his attention was snatched by one of the girls who walked past them.
Once the boys divided to greet other friends, Jaemin strolled to the kitchen. I was there, and he needed to initiate the first step of our plan.
Sincere apology.
“Can we talk?” Jaemin whispered as he reached out to grab my hand, interrupting my conversation with Ten and Yeri. “Let me explain. You don’t have to say anything. I just want you to listen to me,” he asked, and I unwillingly complied, letting him lead me toward an abandoned corner in the living area. No one could hear us talk, but at the same time, everybody could see us.
“What do you want, Jaemin,” I barked, folding my arms across my chest, startling myself with how good I managed to behave like an angry ex-girlfriend. Though it was my last semester, maybe I should change my major to professional acting.
“Wow. You’re too good at this,” Jaemin commented before he proceeded with his part. “Anyway, I made this card for you. I hope it finds you well,” he announced before he pulled an envelope out of the inner pocket of his suit jacket.
Cautiously, I took the valentine’s card out of the envelope. Once I saw the front page, I couldn’t help but laugh. Jaemin must’ve done it himself, or he stole it from Jeno’s four-year-old niece. It was all covered in hearty stickers and glitter.
Jaemin definitely wasn’t a poet. He had never stood next to one, either.
Instead of a heartfelt apology and love confession, there was a short corny message which simultaneously made me cringe and chuckle.
Are you a ba-NANA? Cause I find you a-peeling.
From Your Love
P.S. it’s from me, your Jaemin
“You’ve really outdone yourself,” I spoke, shaking my head, trying my best not to grin. I was supposed to hate him, but it was too difficult. “I am gonna walk away now. Approach me once you raise the stakes.”
Although I didn’t want to party without Jaemin by my side, it was what I had to do. Having sent him a faint smile, I turned around and walked away, giving Jaemin some time to initiate part two of our plan.
Having drunk a few fancy shots Ten had made for me, we hit the dance floor. At first, we just jumped in the rhythm. However, when the DJ played the song we had practiced at the dance studio, everybody stepped to the side, making enough room to let us perform the choreography.
With alcohol coursing in my system, my moves weren’t as precise as usual – they still earned a round of applause.
“Hey, hey, hey, are you having fun?” Drunk as a skunk, Jaehyun shouted through the microphone connected to the DJ’s console. “How about we slow up the tempo?” Jaehyun yelled, and everybody cheered, making a lot of noise. “Tonight’s the love festival, and I, the valentine’s boy, specifically request every find a person to slow dance with.”
Having set the microphone aside, Jaehyun pushed DJ away from the console, putting on his Cigarettes After Sex playlist. The first song which graced our ears was Nothing’s Gonna Hurt You.
“Can I have this dance?” Jaemin appeared out of nowhere by my side, extending his hand for me to take. “Please?” He looked into my eyes, waiting for my response, looking hopeful.
As soon as I nodded, Jaemin grabbed my hand and gently pulled me against his firm body, resting his left hand on my back, holding me still, making sure I’d not run away. With my head resting against his chest, we swayed slowly, getting lost in our little world.
“They think I am a terrible person,” Jaemin whispered into my ear, his breath tickling my skin. “They seriously think I’d try to ruin our friendship with this bet,” he carried on, and I hummed, taking an inhale, getting hit with Jaemin’s musky cologne.
The boys truly underestimated the power of our friendship. Jaemin and I told each other almost everything. It was bold of them to assume I had no idea about the bet.
“Don’t worry about it,” I replied as I had closed my eyes, getting lost in the moment. “Everything will come back to normal soon enough,” I added, trying to ignore the bittersweet taste of my statement. Our fake relationship had an expiration date, and it was near.
“You’re right. Everything will come back to normal,” Jaemin repeated my words as he rested his chin on top of my head, pulling me even closer. “You’re the best fake girlfriend I’ve ever had,” he added, pressing an innocent peck against my hairline.
“How many fake girlfriends have you had?” I asked, chuckling, sounding a bit jealous.
“Anyway,” Jaemin started, trying to change the subject. “The guys took the bait. And now, judging by the stupid looks on their faces, they’re shitting their pants.”
“Once the song is over, we should initiate the third phase of our plan,” I commented, wanting to be over with this. In about a minute, I was about to pull Jaemin out of the dance floor and lead him to the bathroom upstairs, where we would do the deed.
When another song from Jaehyun’s playlist echoed in the room, all the other couples kept dancing. Jaemin and I, on the other hand, were about to not so discreetly sneak upstairs.
Unfortunately, we met an obstacle on our path.
It was Jaehyun, pointing his phone at our faces.
“It’s a kiss cam. Do what you gotta do,” he spoke, and I creased my forehead in utter confusion. What the hell was he doing? What the hell was a kiss cam? It was a frat party, not a baseball match. Didn’t he have a beer pong championship to win or something?
“What?”
“Do I really have to explain this to everyone? Jesus,” Jaehyun complained, taking a deep sigh, trying to ease his irritation. “It’s Valentine’s day! I am Valentine’s boy! And this is a kiss cam. You kiss, and I take pictures,” he explained, but I wasn’t convinced. “Hurry up! I have to take like 50 more of them.”
At first, I didn’t want to do it. But then, a thought crossed my mind. Who would believe Jaemin and I had sex if I refused to give him a kiss. It was just one kiss; it wouldn’t hurt.
Having licked my lips, I smiled at Jaemin before I wrapped my hands around his neck, giving him a chaste smooch. It lasted maybe a few seconds, but it still made me uneasy. Even if it was just a brief peck, it was too much for my poor heart.
“What the fuck was that?” Jaehyun groaned in disappointment. “One more time, guys. That’s how you kiss your mother, not your girlfriend. You can do better.”
“Show him how it’s done, Jaemin,” I encouraged him, giving him permission to assault my lips, hoping it would happen to be one hell of a performance.
Having smirked, Jaemin leaned forward, pressing his lips gently against mine. Cautiously, he deepened the kiss, knocking the air out of my lungs, making my legs shake under my weight. His hands held my chin in place as his tongue slipped through my lips.
Out of a sudden, nothing else mattered. Jaemin and I were in our bubble, and despite it being a one-time thing, I wished it lasted forever. Whatever expectations I had about this moment, it wasn’t even close to reality.
Jaehyun cleared his throat, wanting to pull us out of our trance. In vain, though. I moved my lips against Jaemin’s in slow sync, letting the sweet sensation strip me of the last remains of dignity. I was to savor every second of it, basking in bliss.
“Ekhem,” Jaehyun grunted, starting to feel a little bit flustered. “You guys done?”
Once we broke apart to take a breath, Jaehyun spoke again.
“Have you seen Jiwoo, by the way?”
“Yeah, I think she went for a smoke with Lucas,” I answered casually, watching panic display on Jaehyun’s face. It was evident he didn’t fancy the newfound information. “She went outside like half an hour ago, though. I wonder what it takes them so long,” I added, planting another grain of doubt in his subconscious.
As soon as anxiety downed on him, Jaehyun bolted outside. He better, though. If Jaehyun wasn’t going to make a move on Jiwoo tonight, I was about to find another guy to ship her with.
“You did it again,” Jaemin pointed out, and I just shrugged, dismissing his comment. So what? One push in the right direction wasn’t enough for Jaehyun to grow up, so I decided to be generous enough to give him a second chance.
“Are you ready for phase three?” I asked Jaemin, but before he managed to reply, I grabbed his hand, pulling him across the dance floor. Giggling, I ran through the sea of people, not so accidentally bumping into Chenle, almost spilling his beer.
“Oh my god, I am so sorry,” I hollered, giggling. Now, when I had Chenle’s attention, we could sneak upstairs to proceed with the final step of our plan. “Come on, Jaemin, let’s go. I am horny,” I added, probably overdoing my part. Unfortunately, the words were already spoken. I couldn’t take them back.
Having locked the bathroom doors behind us, I jumped onto the countertop. “Don’t you think it’s a bit creepy they’re gonna eavesdrop on us bang? It’s kinda off-putting, you know…”
When Jaemin wanted to speak, somebody knocked on the doors. It must’ve been one of Jaemin’s friends, checking if we were indeed fucking. “It’s occupied,” Jaemin hollered, mentioning for me to start my performance.
“Fuck, Jaemin! Eat me out, already,” I yelled, pressing my hands against my mouth, trying to stifle my laugher. This situation was ridiculous, and I couldn’t help myself but giggle. I had only a few drinks, yet I felt like I was high as a kite. “Yes, like that! Ahhh…”
“Can’t wait to fuck that tight hole,” Jaemin played along, almost dying of alcohol-induced tittering. We were definitely having too much fun.
“Right there, Jaemin!” I screamed, holding my stomach as it began aching due to excessive cackling. “Fuck, fuck, fuck, right there,” I moaned loudly, kicking my head back. “Don’t tease me, please!”
“I gotta get you ready for my cock, love,” Jaemin growled, and I gasped, my mind conjuring the forbidden image®.
“Just fuck me! I need your cock inside of me now!” I groaned, hoping whoever was on the other side of the doors heard enough of what was going inside. “Mmmm… you stretch me out so well…” I purred, almost falling off the counter when another round of uncontrollable laughter tried to erupt from my throat.
“Fuck, you’re still so tight.”
“Jaemin! Fuck, I am close. Keep going,” I yelled, mentally preparing for the big finale. This whole act was a vocal performance, and it was time I finished. “I’m coming! Come with me!”
“It was spectacular,” Jaemin whispered so only I could hear him. “I have one more favor, though,” he added, shying away. Oh no, he was about to ask about something stupid.
“What is it?”
“It could’ve been some random dude,” he admitted, scratching the back of his head, unsure how to voice his supplication. “Give me your panties. It’ll be the definite proof.”
“You’re joking,” I deadpanned, staring into his eyes, waiting for him to say it was just a harmless prank. “You’re serious,” I added as soon as I realized Jaemin meant it.
“Come on, I won’t be sniffing them,” Jaemin nagged, and I rolled my eyes. I didn’t even think about it, but now that he mentioned it, I had another reason not to comply with his weird-ass request. “I’ll give them back, I promise.”
“I can’t believe I am considering this,” I cursed under my breath. If any other person would like such a favor from me, I’d deny it in a heartbeat. Unfortunately, I had a soft spot for Jaemin, so denying him didn’t come easy to me.
Hell, I wouldn’t be here if I was able to say no to him.
“You owe me big time,” I caved in, jumping off the countertop, stepping behind the shower curtain, providing myself with some privacy. “Don’t peek. Even if I slip, you gotta stay on the other side. Got it?” I added as I stuck my head through the curtain.
“Scout’s honor,” Jaemin pledged, and I rolled my eyes. He was a scout for maybe a week. His honor didn’t mean shit.
Clumsily, I took off my shoes and jeans. “Here,” I warned before I threw my panties over the curtain. “I am too sober for this,” I nagged, trying to put my skinny jeans back on.
“Let’s do celebratory shots!” Jaemin suggested, balling up my undergarments, hiding them in his pocket. “We deserve it,” he added, landing me a helping hand when I was stepping out of the shower.
“Let’s go.”
***
Needless to say, Jaemin won the bet.
Unfortunately, it meant the inevitable end of our fake relationship. It was fun when it lasted, and though I’d miss these times, it was time to set the record straight.
As we had discussed, we had to arrange our break up.
Sometime next week, Jaemin stopped by to give me half of the prize. Since the boys had been stupid enough to fall for our little charade, I received a large sum of money. It was Chenle who sponsored the prize. Because of that, I didn’t feel particularly sorry about deceiving them. After all, Chenle was so loaded; he wouldn’t notice if he lost that kind of money on the street. I could finally buy these shoes which I had been dreaming of for so long! Better yet, I'd still have some money left to spoil myself some more.
“How should we do it?” Jaemin asked quietly. Ever since he came, he avoided my gaze, staring at the floor.
“I don’t know,” I unwillingly answered. This conversation was the last thing I wanted to do right now, but it had to be done. Better sooner or later, before I’d catch some real feelings for Jaemin. I had no idea how I would pick up the pieces of my broken heart if we kept this act any longer. “Let’s just delete all posts we published. Someone will figure out something’s wrong, and when they spread the word, we’ll explain we decided to remain friends.”
Maybe I wasn’t in tears, but I felt regret wash through me. Though our relationship had never been a real thing, it felt like it.
And it hurt.
“Alright then,” Jaemin complied, rubbing his hands against his thighs before he pulled out his phone to erase any digital footprint of our brief romance. His thumb hovered over the delete button for a while. After a few moments of hesitation, when he didn’t hear any sign of protest from my side, he pressed it, sending our memories to a bottomless void. “And it’s gone.”
“Are we cool?” I asked, hoping that nothing would change between us. I had a hunch it would take me some time to get used to how things had been before the relationship fiasco. Nonetheless, I still had hope we could remain best friends without any awkwardness.
“Of course,” Jaemin answered with a faint smile, but I didn’t fully believe him. Something was off, and it bothered us. Shame that none of us dared to begin this topic.
After he left that day, we saw each other very seldom. We barely even spoke to one another. If it wasn’t for the group chats we were both in, we wouldn’t talk at all.
Jaemin had said we were cool, but it was evident we weren’t.
It was eating me from the inside out, but whenever somebody asked me about the break-up, I’d always shrug it off, confirming everything’s great. I would tell our friends nothing changed between us. There was nothing wrong; our schedules are just incompatible these days.
When I had pretended I was in a relationship with Jaemin, it was easy. It came naturally, and everyone ate it up without any second thoughts. Unfortunately, now, when I was trying to play it cool, no one seemed to buy it. Thankfully, they didn’t confront me about it. Instead, they offered me their support if I ever needed anything.
In my head, I had a few wild scenarios in which I tell Jaemin we should date for real. However, at the same time, a little devil on my shoulder was telling me it should never leave the realm of fantasy. It’s ridiculous to think Jaemin would reciprocate my feelings.
I felt as if sadness took over my body. Though I was smiling on the outside, I was filled with regret. Barely anything sparked joy these gloomy days. Even this pair of shoes, which I wanted so badly, didn’t stir any positive emotion. I bought them, but I never took them out of the box.
Jiwoo had taken me out on a few girls’ nights to make me feel better. Men are trash – she would always say when Jaehyun ignored her yet another text. Even though they had fucked each other at Jaehyun’s birthday party and agreed to become exclusive, Jaehyun still had lots of problems committing to a monogamous relationship. They hadn’t officially labeled it, but everyone knew Jaehyun was slowly caving in.
Fratboys’ habits die hard, but Jaehyun was finally shaping himself into boyfriend material. He no longer slept around, as far to my knowledge at least, but he still lacked in some departments. For instance, it would take him way too much to text back.
“You were so adorable together,” Jiwoo began after she gulped down another rum and coke. Despite her high alcohol tolerance, she was already drunk, speaking with no filter. “I mean… you were simping for him for so long, and you finally managed to jump that dick.”
“Your point being…” I inquired, finishing my drink. Though Jaemin and I had never had sex, I didn’t want to admit that. What would Jiwoo thought if I told her it was all-pretend?
“I shipped you guys so hard,” Jiwoo confessed. “Ten shipped you too, but he will never admit that,” she added, and I giggled. Now, that was an interesting take. Ten was so random at many aspects of life; it came to me as a surprise he even had an opinion on my relationship with Jaemin. “Can I just take some duck tape and put my ship back together?”
“I am not sure Jaemin would like that,” I answered with a sigh, my mood instantly decreasing.
“Nonsense,” Jiwoo replied in a heartbeat. “This guy is even worse than you,” she revealed, and I rolled my eyes, not buying this. At least a few times a week, at my lowest moments, I happened to check Jaemin’s social media updates. He didn’t seem to mope around at all.
“I find it hard to believe,” I muttered, trying not to get too emotional.
“I mean it,” Jiwoo confirmed her previous statement, eager to explain her thesis. “Jaehyun and I went on a little date to the coffee shop where Jaemin works,” she started, and I nodded, not really sure what she was getting at. Nonetheless, I let her continue. I was curious what Jaemin had been up to. And since he didn’t seem to want to tell me anything himself, I’d accept any type of second-hand information from Jiwoo. “Jaemin misses you. You have no idea how many times I caught him daydreaming. He still has your photo set on his lock screen, and he stares at it a lot.”
Now, that’s interesting.
I had no recollection of Jaemin ever setting my photo as his background picture. Even if Jiwoo was right, it meant he set after we had broken up. It made no sense at all, and I was too drunk to try to comprehend the meaning of this.
Instead, I ordered another round, trying to stifle all the brooding emotions within me.
***
February was the month of parties. Too many birthdays fell during this hectic period, and I had trouble keeping up with them. Fortunately, Ten’s party was the last one of the month. After a small get together at our place, I’d have some time off to relax by myself, most preferably, without alcohol.
Being the semi-hosts with Jiwoo, it was our duty to help Ten organize everything regarding his party. Though our trio was a little bit disorganized, somehow, we managed to get everything ready before anyone arrived.
Maybe it wasn’t comparable to birthday parties at fraternity houses; it still had its charm. It wasn’t as wild, but guests still were having a great time in the company of their closest friends. However, what was the most important, Ten had a blast.
It was his day; he deserved everything he wanted.
Trying my best not to embarrass Ten, I decided to socialize with his friends.
It was time I move on. It took me way too long to mourn a relationship that wasn’t even real. I couldn’t let my brooding mood ruin the party.
“Hmm… Ten has never mentioned you before,” I confessed, not finding it particularly odd. Ten didn’t have secretive nature; he just wasn’t the type of person to over-share. And he often forgot to even mention stuff about his personal life.
“I can’t say I am surprised,” Hendery replied, making me giggle. It was fun chatting with him. Hendery was hilarious, and he knew many secrets regarding Ten. It was my mission to get as much information from him as it was possible. I would need it for blackmailing purposes, of course.
Hiding out in the kitchen, we sipped beer and exchanged rumors as if we were two gossip girls. It was too entertaining to stop. I was incredibly immersed in the conversation; I didn’t even realize when someone tapped my shoulder.
“Can we talk?” I heard the question, recognizing the voice in an instant. It belonged to Jaemin, and it seemed to be laced with both jealousy and irritation. The way he phased his plea gave me flashbacks of the conversation we had at Jaehyun’s party.
I really wanted to continue my discussion with Hendery, but I couldn’t say no to Jaemin. It wasn’t how my brain was programmed. Besides, I missed him a lot.
“Excuse me, I’ll be right back,” I told Hendery before I grabbed Jaemin’s hand, leading him to my room, locking the doors behind us.
“Nothing was supposed to change,” Jaemin started as he sat at the edge of my bed, leaning forward with his upper body propped on his elbows. His gaze was trained on the floor, too frustrated to look up at me.
“I know,” I whispered as I sat down in my chair on the other side of the room. My first instinct was to kneel in front of Jaemin, kiss his forehead, and assure him that everything’s going to be alright.
Unfortunately, it didn’t seem like a good idea, so I refrained from doing so. “I am sorry, it’s my fault.”
“Don’t,” Jaemin interjected before I embarrassed myself even further. “We’re both at fault.”
Despite the loud party noises coming from the other side of the doors, my bedroom was filled with deafening silence. It was awfully uncomfortable, and it was probably a good thing. One of us would get annoyed eventually and cave in, letting out all the bottled up emotions.
“I missed you,” I admitted, staring at my hands. I was all fidgety, and although I was too embarrassed to reveal my inner feelings, Jaemin deserved to know this much.
“I missed you, too,” he genuinely confessed, showing me a shy smile. “Actually, I missed you more than I thought it was possible to miss a person,” Jaemin carried on, and I held my breath, not ready to hear whatever he had to say. “You have no idea how much I wanted to text you or call you, but ultimately decided not to because I was sure you don’t want me to.”
“Jaemin,” I spoke, not really sure what I should say next. I had too many things I wanted to tell him about. However, now when he was here, I couldn’t properly voice my thoughts.
“Are you dating this guy you were talking to in the kitchen?” Jaemin asked out of the blue, catching me off guard with this random accusation. “Or do you want to date him? You two looked like you’re having a great time together,” he added, and I rolled my eyes. At first, Jaemin acted on his jealously, but then, insecurity crept in.
“I don’t know. I met Hendery today, but he seems like a great guy,” I answered honestly, thinking of possibilities of me trying to pursing something of romantic nature with Hendery. After our brief encounter, I could tell he’s fun to be around. And honestly speaking, I might’ve considered dating him if I hadn’t already had feelings for someone else.
Unfortunately, right now, I wasn’t in the right state of mind to date. Not when I was still hung up on my best friend.
“I probably won’t, though. I like somebody else,” I confessed, gaining Jaemin’s interest. Instantly, he sat up, staring into my eyes, patiently waiting for the reveal. “I am stupid, but I like this one guy. He’s such a jerk, I can’t even… he’s been ghosting me for weeks now,” I carried on, hoping Jaemin would get the hint.
Two weeks ago, we promised each other nothing would change. Despite our good intentions, it did. Even though I hadn’t told Jaemin how I really felt, I still lost my best friend.
My silence didn’t save this friendship. I tried to bottle up my emotions to secure our unbreakable bond. It didn’t work, so I figured confessing my feelings wouldn’t do any more harm. Surely, Jaemin was going to reject me, but at least, I’d clear the air between us.
Hopefully, my confession, followed by a harsh rejection, would help me move on.
Instantly, Jaemin ran up to my chair and knelt in front of me, trying to look into my eyes. “Please tell me this jerk is me,” Jaemin urgently spoke, unable to handle any more suspense. Jaemin’s gaze was hopeful, and it was too much for me to comprehend.
“What?” I asked, still being overwhelmed by confusion. What was going on? Why was Jaemin on his knees in front of me? Nothing made sense. How was I supposed to wrap my head around it? “I mean… yeah, it’s you. Who else could it be?”
“You have no idea how sorry I am,” Jaemin confessed as he grabbed my hand and yanked me against his chest, wrapping his arms around me, giving me a tight hug. “You could’ve said something… anything,” he added as he pulled back his head, placing a chase kiss against my forehead.
“I didn’t want to scare you away,” I admitted quietly, unable to break free from Jaemin’s cone-crashing embrace. I couldn’t believe he was so close. Na Jaemin was holding me in his arms, letting me listen to his rapid heartbeat.
“The worst two weeks of my life,” Jaemin spoke, once again breaking the silence. “It felt at least like two centuries,” he added, making me chuckle. Of course, it was an exaggeration, but it’s how I felt, too.
“How about we start over?” I proposed, taking a step backward to have a proper look at him. “Will you go on a date with me? This time around for real, no pretending,” I carried on, trying not to grin like an idiot.
“No.”
“What?”
What the fuck was that?
Did I misunderstand Jaemin’s words? I thought he felt the same, but apparently, he didn’t? Everything suggested he followed my flow only to crush my expectations, later on, leaving a big ass scar and more trust issues.
“I mean yes, but I should be me asking you out. Definitely not the other way around,” Jaemin clarified, making me relax. Thankfully, my mini panic attack was uncalled for. It was just my brain over-analyzing everything, conjuring the worst possible scenario.
“Then you better do your best to woo me,” I teased, wondering if he was willing enough to take the bait. It was just a mere joke, reminding me how it all began. He had wooed me once, and I wasn’t going to oppose to a second attempt. “Fun dates, romantic messages, silly gifts. I want it all,” I added, going a little bit overboard with my request list.
“Everything can be arranged,” Jaemin replied with a lopsided smile before he tightened his grip, almost crashing my bones in the process.
***
Jaemin and I began dating. This time around, it was real; no more pretending, no more stupid bets. Just two people who had discovered friendship could never be enough.
Even though I had told Jaemin I was just joking about this whole wooing thing, he refused to accept it, going to extreme lengths to make my heart flutter. I was already stupidly in love with him, yet he kept trying to make me swoon even more.
Despite our busy schedules, we made sure to see each other every day. It could’ve been a date at the arcade or just a quick coffee or a video call. In all honestly, I gladly accepted any form of contact from Jaemin.
I hated the prospect of going through a day without any message from him.
Except for many mini and maxi dates, Jaemin would also spoil me with plenty of encouraging notes of many kinds. Each massage from Jaemin was even sillier from the previous one. He never ceased to amaze me.
At first, Jaemin would stick post-it notes in different places in my room. Whenever I paid no attention, he would quickly write one for me to find it later. Whenever I saw sleep tight message stuck to my bedpost or you looked extra sexy today attached to the mirror, I smiled like an idiot, imaging Jaemin writing it.
If Jaemin forgot about post-it notes, he would always make it up to me by sending me corny direct messages. We would always text each other before sleep, and Jaemin never failed to make me smile with words such as:
If you happen to have wet dreams of me, you gotta tell me everything that happened. We can recreate it later.
I saw some sexy lingerie on my way home. Your ass would look amazing in it. I’m gonna buy it for you when I get my paycheck.
You’re the reason I wake up in the morning. Just kidding, I have to pee.
Whenever we went out, Jaemin would also scribble something either on a napkin or on a receipt. One time, Jaemin even gave a crumbled piece of paper that he was carrying in his pocket for some reason.
You know I’d give you my kidney, right? And a piece of the liver if you ask nicely. I hope you would do the same for me.
When we have kids, I’ll let you name the first one. Don’t fuck it up.
You’re my favorite pain in the ass.
You are stuck with me. You better get used to it.
Messy notes weren’t sufficient for Jaemin. Although I was more than content with the attention and affection he was giving me, it wasn’t enough for Jaemin. With each massage, he had to out-do himself.
Jaemin even wrote me a song! Or at least, he tried to write me a song.  It was really bold of him to assume I didn’t know the lyrics to Jonas Brothers’ Sucker. I loved this song, and even though I perfectly knew it wasn’t Jaemin’s piece of work, I still appreciated the gesture.
Later on, his love letters reached another level of ridiculousness. Jaemin sent me a love e-mail, and if that doesn’t prove how extra he can get, I don’t know what can.
Jaemin didn’t stop there. No, it was just a warm-up.
When I was checking the mailbox, I found a paper plane stuck in between bills. Jaemin must’ve put it there, probably after one of his frequent visits to my apartment. Though the paper plane was a little bit crumbled, I found it incredibly adorable. On its wing, it had “open me” written with Jaemin’s messy handwriting. Inside there was a corny message that turned my insides in absolute cringe.
Your wings already exist. All you have to do is fly.
A few days later, Jaemin gave me a CD with the love playlist he had made for me. Carefully, he had chosen our favorite songs and burned them on a disc. I had no means to actually play it, but I adored the gesture.
Jaemin’s creativity did not disappoint. At this point, he might send me a love letter via a fax machine, and I wouldn’t be surprised. There were no limitations to his imagination, and it was one of the many things I loved about him.
Neither of us dropped the L-bomb yet, but we really didn’t need to. Though that dreaded word has yet to be spoken, we perfectly knew how we felt about each other. We would do anything for one another; no doubt in that.
Having exceeded my expectations, Jaemin proved himself worthy of being my boyfriend. Or rather, he showed me he was way out of my league. When he was bending over backward, I was passively basking in the glory of Jaemin’s confessions. Relationships were about giving and taking, and it seemed our balance was off.
It was time we switched roles. It was only fair if I tried to creep my way into his heart the way he had been wooing mine.
As soon as I cleaned up the apartment and pampered myself a little bit, I pulled out my phone, quickly texting Jaemin. Hopefully, he wasn’t that busy.
my love 💖 | 18:12 | U want to come over?
baNANA 🍓 | 18:16 | 😏
baNANA 🍓 | 18:16 | You miss me???
my love 💖 | 18:17 |  🤡 🤡 🤡 🤡 🤡
my love 💖 | 18:17 | nvm forget I asked
baNANA 🍓 | 18:17 | 😧 😧 😧
baNANA 🍓 | 18:18 | I’ll be in an hour
baNANA 🍓 | 18:18 | want me to bring anything?
my love 💖 | 18:19 | nah, just get your cute butt over here
baNANA 🍓 | 18:19 | ?????
baNANA 🍓 | 18:19 | are you high??
baNANA 🍓 | 18:19 | should I be concerned?
Okay, I had an hour to prepare something for our impromptu date. It was fine; it was more than enough than I needed. The apartment was already clean, so I just had to whip something to eat and cool the bubbles.
For some reason, I felt in a celebratory mood. Whatever tempo Jaemin and I had, it worked in two week periods. We had fake-dated for fourteen days before we called it quits. Then, we didn’t talk to each other for two weeks. Tonight another period came by, and I wanted to celebrate it, hoping to break the unfortunate chain of bad luck.
The alcohol was already in the refrigerator. Having put on an apron, I opened all the cabinets around the kitchen, quickly analyzing the ingredients and what I can make out of them. It wasn’t much, but pasta would have to be enough.
It wasn’t a fancy dish, but I was made it with love, so Jaemin shouldn’t have any complaints. Pouring my emotions into the pasta was to make it extra flavorful.
When the sauce was slowly cooking on the stove, I decorated the table. I wanted to provide Jaemin with some high-end restaurant experience despite being in my cramped apartment. It was the best thing out of two words; we had all privacy in the world offered by a homely atmosphere, but at the same time, we would eat some beautifully garnished food.
Just when I was about to drain the pasta, someone knocked on the doors.
“Coming,” I hollered before I put the pot in the sink, wiping my hands on the apron before making my way to answer the doors. “Hey there, beautiful,” I greeted Jaemin with a playful remark, standing on my toes to press a brief smooch on his adorable lips. It took him off guard, but in some sense, he liked it.
“Hey, it’s my line,” Jaemin nagged when his hands found purchase on my hips, bringing me closer for another kiss since one was never enough. “What do you have there? It smells delicious,” Jaemin turned his head, trying to peek inside to see what surprise I had prepared for him.
“You know, just some carbs,” I answered vaguely, sending him a playful smirk, not wanting to ruin the surprise. I wanted him to sit down at the table and wait for me to bring the whole dish and pour us some cheap champagne.
Jaemin took off his shoes, kicking them to the side. A second later, he handed me his coat, and I put it on the hanger. Jaemin was wearing a pair of gray jeans and a mint oversized hoodie, and I drooled over this comfortable look. He didn’t have to try hard to impress me.
“Just wait here. I’ll be back in a sec,” I spoke when I guided Jaemin to the table, forcing him to sit down in the chair. Jaemin wanted to help me out in the kitchen, but I firmly refused. Tonight I wished to impress Jaemin; he didn’t have to move a finger.
“I know it’s not much, but I hope you’ll still like it,” I whispered when I put a plate in front of him. “Dig in,” I added as I sat on the other side of the table, carefully trying to pop the champagne bottle open. Though I hated doing it, too afraid of breaking something or hurting someone, tonight I wanted to try it.
“What’s the occasion,” Jaemin wondered as he fondly watched me fight with the bottle. “Do you need some help? You’re gonna hurt yourself,” Jaemin offered, genuinely concerned about my safety. However, I just turned around, wanting to finish it by myself.
It took me good five minutes to pop it. And when I finally did it, Jaemin gave me a round of pitiful applause, officially declaring it’s his job from now on.
“It was just painful to watch,” Jaemin playfully commented, and I kicked his shin under the table, showing him how much appreciated his remark was. “So… what’s the occasion?”
“Do I really need to have a reason to spoil my boyfriend?” I innocently asked, batting my eyelashes, and Jaemin smiled at the word boyfriend. We had never discussed labels, but it was self-explanatory we were in a loving relationship. “I figured it’d be nice to give you some more attention,” I absentmindedly added as I reached for my phone to play some soft EDM music through the Bluetooth speaker.
“Is that it?” Jaemin wondered, gazing into my eyes, searching for any ulterior motive I might have. “Are you sure you’re not trying to butter me up before you say something I may not like? What did you do?” Jaemin inquired, and I chuckled loudly.
“Calm down, Na,” I spoke, making Jaemin look up at me once again. I only called him by his surname when I was extra affectionate, so he was curious what I was going to say. “I just wanted to hang out with you. That’s all,” I confessed, but Jaemin scrutinized his eyes, not really buying my innocent talk. “Okay, fine. There’s one more thing.”
“What is it?” Jaemin inquired, grinning at me.
“Can’t you already tell? I am trying to woo my way into your pants, duh,” I confessed, and Jaemin choked on his champagne as he did not expect this wording. “Your heart! I meant to say into your heart,” I corrected when I realized my little Freudian slip. “Wait, no, screw it. I second that. I want to get into both.”
“You’ve already got into one,” Jaemin declared with a lopsided smirk pinned to his face. “But... if you don’t suspect it already, you’re welcome in both,” he added mischievously, taking a sip of his alcohol. I, on the other hand, looked away, feeling the heat in my cheeks.
“Good to know.”
“Where are Jiwoo and Ten by the way?” Jaemin wondered as he looked around the apartment, finding it suspicious they didn’t crash our date yet. Under typical circumstances, Jiwoo or Ten would haul another chair to the table and steal the food, third-wheeling our date.
“Ten is at the dance studio. He’s having a dance competition next week, so he goes there every time he has some free time to practice. And Jiwoo is with Jaehyun. He came here to pick her up a few hours ago. I don’t think either of them is coming home anytime soon,” I explained, smirking. We had the place to ourselves.
Finally, we could bask in each other’s company without any intrusive guests.
“I’d like to cheers to that,” Jaemin raised his glass, clinking it gently against mine.
Having eaten the food, we moved to the couch.
“What now?” Jaemin asked as he stretched his arm, resting it on the back of the couch right over my shoulders.
“I have one more surprise,” I announced before I jumped to my feet. “Wait a second,” I added before bolting to my bedroom.
“What is it?” Jaemin inquired, having no clue what else I could surprise him with. “What do you have there?” He pressed, tilting his head to the side, trying to see what I was hiding behind my back.
“Let’s take some pictures,” I announced in excitement, showing him my Polaroid camera. “I finally bought some film, and I really want our photo in my wallet,” I added as I plopped down onto the couch, resting my head against Jaemin’s chest. “You take it,” I ordered, handing him the camera. After all, he was the prodigy of photography. Besides, his hands were longer than mine.
“I think that’s more than enough,” Jaemin spoke after snapping the twelfth picture.
Having put the camera on the coffee table, he wrapped his arms around me. Jaemin pulled me on his laps, embracing me tightly, placing a round of pecks against my temple.
“Wait! One more thing,” I hollered, leaning forward to reach for the envelope which was lying on the coffee table next to our photos.
“You can’t say it’s the last thing and then bring another one. That’s not how it works,” Jaemin nagged, a little flustered that I managed to find another excuse when he wanted to cuddle. “Who are you? A fitness instructor? When you say it’s the last one, it should be the last one. You can’t come up with new ones every three minutes.”
“I promise it’s the last one,” I sat cross-legged on the couch beside him, handing him the envelope. Cautiously, he pulled the card out of it, and I looked at him, studying his expression in excitement.
“Annoyingly, I like you way more than I’d originally planned,” Jaemin read the cover of the card, smiling widely at the passive-aggressive message. “It’s already good, and I didn’t even read what you wrote inside,” he commented before he leaned forward to kiss my forehead. “I don’t get it,” he added in confusion as he saw the blank page inside the card.
“It’s my love letter for you,” I clarified, but Jaemin was still clueless.
“It’s a blank page. You really have that little to say?” Jaemin asked, trying to make sense out of my card.
“That’s not how you were supposed to interpret that!” I yelled, climbing on his laps, wanting to tear the card out of his ungrateful hands. Unfortunately, Jaemin’s hands were longer than mine, so even when I was hovering over his thighs, I couldn’t reach it.
“How was I supposed to interpret that then?” Jaemin challenged, holding my hips, forcing them down on his laps.
“I wanted to write something meaningful, but I just couldn’t decide what. I have so many things I want to tell you, it wouldn’t even fit on the card,” I started, trying to find the best way to form a coherent sentence. “One way to interpret it is that you have to imagine it’s written in a very tiny font. Because I have so much to tell you, I wrote everything down, but you just can’t read it.”
“I like it,” Jaemin whispered, pressing a gentle kiss against my knuckles.
“Or you can say it’s blank because whenever I’m with you, my head is completely empty,” I added, chuckling at the corny confession. “Or you can assume there are no words to describe my feelings for you.”
“How is it possible that without writing anything, you managed to top all of my love letters?” Jaemin wondered, smiling at me. “What kind of sorcery is this?”
“No, Jaemin. You’re not giving yourself enough credit. I loved your love letters. They were silly, but at the same time, I could feel you really meant everything,” I reasoned, looking down at Jaemin’s lips, slowly leaning in for a delicate kiss.
“Okay, I have an idea,” Jaemin suddenly spoke as he grabbed my butt and threw me off his laps. “I need a pen,” he added, looking around the living room, finding the pen on the coffee table. In a hurry, he scribbled down something on the blank page of the card, making sure I couldn’t peek. “Here, I found my way to interpret it.”
“Oh?”
“Yes,” Jaemin answered confidently, handing me the card. “Read it out loud for me.”
“Okay, I guess,” I cleared my throat before I opened the card. “My beloved Jaemin,” I read, looking at Jaemin’s face with a raised eyebrow. This was going to be good.
“Carry on,” he urged, and I shook my head, unable to believe I was going to do it.
“You’re the most handsome man I have ever seen. You’re also the smartest and the funniest. Not to mention, you’re the best kisser in the world. What the fuck is this?” I interjected, having doubts, knowing it was a bad idea.
“Just keep reading, babe,” Jaemin ordered, wanting me to carry on with his antics. “Though you’re no poet, it’s, by a huge margin, the best love letter I have ever received,” he added, blowing his ego way out of proportion, and I rolled my eyes.
“Now, when I look at you, I understand there’s not a chance I wouldn’t fall for you. So, since there’s not much space left, I just wanna tell you that I love you. I really love you, Jaemin.”
Before I managed to complain that he forced me to say the L-word first, Jaemin interjected.
“Finally, took you long enough,” he teased, and I sighed, wondering where to hit him first. “As if you haven’t figured it out yet, I love you, too.”
“You’re impossible,” I commented, still not quite sure if we just confessed to each other.
“I’m impossible not to fall in love with,” Jaemin corrected, once again hauling me back on his laps, taking my breath away with a fervent kiss. “How about you show me how you want to get into my pants, babe?”
Having had enough of Jaemin’s teasing, I decided not to comply with his request.
“I think you should go.”
“You’re right,” Jaemin agreed too quickly, and it made me alert. “Let’s go to your room because once I start pounding into you, I will not stop even if a group of nuns was about to break in and steal all of your shit,” he added as he picked me up, carrying me to my bedroom.
“You’re impossible,” I repeated my words when Jaemin threw me onto my bed before he landed on it right beside me.
“I think we’ve already discussed this,” he remarked, reminding me of the remark he had given me earlier. “So… where were we?” Jaemin asked as he put his hand on my side, pulling me closer. Soon enough, his palm slipped under the hem of my shirt, caressing my skin.
“Is it weird that the only thing I can think about is you eating me out?” I wondered out loud, stripped of all remains of dignity. Jaemin was in my bed, and I was planning on taking full advantage of it.
“Not at all, love,” Jaemin replied, showing me his eager smile. Quickly, he sat on his calves between my legs, taking his time to take off my jeans. “I thought about eating you out way too often ever since that thing in the bathroom,” Jaemin confessed as he threw my jeans across the room.
Though my panties were still on, Jaemin began his teasing. His soft lips trailed across my thighs, driving me crazy. His lips touched every inch of my skin except for the area I wanted the most. At this point, my panties were dripping wet, yet he didn’t even think of pulling them to the side, giving attention to my much-ignored core.
“You’re killing me,” I whispered, slowly losing patience. If Jaemin kept up with his antics, I’d combust out of sexual frustration. “Bold of you to assume I won’t let you taste your own medicine,” I warned Jaemin. It worked because as soon as I voiced my mischievous threat, Jaemin’s finger hooked under the hem of my panties, quickly pulling them down my legs.
“You’re no fun at all,” Jaemin clarified before his lips finally landed on my clit, making me buckle my hips in an instant. Slowly, his mouth moved against my sweet spot, and I arched my back with each swirl of his tongue.
Though he barely started, I could feel the electricity coursing through my body. In my state of permanent frustration, it wouldn’t be difficult for Jaemin to make me come against his mouth.
Getting into it, Jaemin squeezed my hips, trying to keep me still when he ate me out. His jaw was dripping in my juices as he made his way down to lick my folds.
“Fuck,” I moaned loudly when Jaemin’s nose rubbed my clit when he was running his tongue all over my entrance. “I think I am gonna come,” I admitted what made Jaemin smirk through the kiss. Jaemin barely touched me, but I was already close.
“Come for me,” Jaemin urged, releasing my hips from his firm grip. Now when I could buckle my hips against his face, my orgasm was just seconds away. With my hand in his hair, I rocked my hips, basking in pleasure.
“I need your fingers,” I begged, and Jaemin quickly obeyed my shameful plea. I expected him to tease me further, denying me his long fingers, but he was kind enough to do anything to make me come.
Thanks to my juices and Jaemin’s saliva, his two fingers slid right in.
“Fuck,” I shouted at the top of my voice when the wave of pleasure shot right through me. Jaemin’s jaw still played with my clit as he continued his actions throughout the orgasm.
“You blew my mind, Jaemin,” I muttered after I regained my focus after he had made me come on his face. “I came so hard,” I confessed, smiling like an idiot. It was way too long ever since someone made me feel this good.
“You better get used to it because I am planning this to be a frequent occurrence,” Jaemin whispered, looking at my face as if it was an art piece. “Do you have condoms?” he casually asked as he pulled down his jeans. His erected cock was restrained in the denim fabric, and Jaemin needed to get rid of it.
“As a matter of fact, I do,” I replied as I opened the bedside table and threw a brand new package of condoms at Jaemin’s chest. “Jiwoo got me those after she walked on our pillow fight the other day. Apparently, she doesn’t want any cum stains on the couch.”
For a while, we were lying on the bed, staring at each other. Jaemin gave me some time to recover from my orgasm. According to him, I needed to take breaks because he didn’t want to over-stimulate me too soon.
“I really love you,” Jaemin confessed genuinely, and I quickly rolled closer to him, giving him another chase smooch. His confession was music to my ears, and I could listen to it on repeat without getting tired of it.
“I love you, too,” I quickly replied, leaning in for another kiss. With his hand on my cheek, he deepened the kiss, giving us another chance to get lost in the love trance.
Having thrown my leg over his hipbone, I hovered over his erection.
“Let me take care of you,” I said as I pulled away from the kiss. With a playful smirk upon my face, I grabbed the hem of my shirt and pulled it over my head. Slowly after, my bra followed suit, and Jaemin grunted upon seeing me completely naked in front of him.
“Sexy,” he purred before he eagerly took off his hoodie, throwing it onto the floor. “On a second thought, maybe you should put something on. You’re too sexy, and I’d like to last longer,” Jaemin explained, handing me his hoodie so I could cover myself up. “No, it’s even worse. Take it off,” he changed his mind after seeing me in his clothes.
Carefully, I pulled Jaemin’s boxers down his legs, letting his rock hard cock spring free. Biting on my lips, I grabbed his erection, giving it a few gentle strokes.
“Fuck it, I am ready,” Jaemin yelled, placing his hand over mine, making me stop. “You have all the time in the world to blow me. Right now, I want to feel you,” he added, quickly pulling out a condom from its packaging.
“Let me at least roll it down for you,” I offered, and Jaemin sighed, weighing his options.
“Nah, I am not willing to take that risk,” Jaemin answered, proceeding to wrap his cock by himself. “Now, come here, sit down on it,” he urged, and I shook my head. Smiling like an idiot, I guided his cock towards my entrance, slowly sinking down on his length.
“You’re good?” I asked, trying to guess what was going on inside his brain. Judging by his sour expression, he must’ve been thinking about something terrible in order to stop himself from coming too soon.
“Yes, everything’s cool,” he reassured, and I took it as permission to gently rock my hips back and forth. Whenever I moved, Jaemin kept grunting quietly. Apparently, he also suffered from sexual frustration.
My hands were wandering all over his muscular chest, admiring his athletic built. My hips were moving at a steady rhythm, but whenever I happened to increase the tempo, Jaemin would slow me down with a firm grip on my hips.
“If you keep doing that, I might spank you,” Jaemin warned me, but it only made me want to disobey more. “Why did I even expect you to be a good girl?” Jaemin asked, rolling his eyes.
“Spank me,” I ordered, trying my best not to chuckle. “I dare you,” I added, pushing the right buttons. “Like that,” I moaned when Jaemin’s hand collided against my butt, shaking me with newfound excitement.
“You’re impossible,” Jaemin comment, still in shock after discovering how much into spanking I happened to be.
“I’m impossible not to fall in love with,” I remarked, using Jaemin’s own words against him.
Unable to handle my teasing, Jaemin sat up. “I love you so much,” Jaemin stated once again before he looked at my lips, kissing them. Now, when I was distracted by his tongue, it was easier for him to control my movement.
In our upgraded position, I significantly slowed down. Carefully, I moved up and down Jaemin’s cock, while he sneaked his hand between our entangled bodies, rubbing my clit. I was close, and I was about to come again.
I didn’t know what he was so self-conscious about. No doubt I would come first.
“Jaemin, I am coming,” I breathed out, messing up my rhythm. It was difficult to maintain the same tempo when Jaemin was playing with my clit. Jaemin’s lips moved down my neck, finding a perfect spot on my collarbone to leave a hickey.
“Me, too,” Jaemin whispered as he began thrusting from underneath me, now desperate to push the both of us off the edge. “You’re so tight, fuck,” he cursed as my walls started to swell around his throbbing cock.
Jaemin moaned against my skin, muffling his sinful sounds. I, on the other hand, screamed Jaemin’s name at the top of my voice, telling everybody in the world he was the person, making me feel this good.
Having fallen onto the sheets, we looked into each other’s eyes. We were panting as if we just ran a marathon. Not that I had any doubts, but Jaemin turned out to be a passionate lover, and it made me love him even more.
“You’re beautiful,” Jaemin complimented me, staring at my face in utter admiration. “I am so lucky,” he added, and I moved closer, snuggling up to him. It was still early, but I was so fucked out, I could fall asleep right there in his arms.
Having pulled me closer to his chest, Jaemin threw a duvet over our sweaty bodies. His fingers were tracing shapes on my shoulder when he pressed yet another peck against my temple.
“Are you down for another round?” Jaemin asked as he discarded the full condom. His cock was still semi-hard. In a few minutes, Jaemin would be ready for some more. “It’s cool if you’re not,” he added, trying not to put any pressure on me.
“I want you to do me all night,” I confessed, looking over my shoulder at the clock. It’s only 8 pm, and I could stay up till daylight with Jaemin.
“Do you want to go bowling tomorrow?” Jaemin asked, and I eagerly nodded. It was fun the last time I had joined the boys on their monthly trip to the bowling alley. Besides, I would be the first woman to break the unfortunate one-time-only curse. I couldn’t wait to show up two months in a row.
“I’d love that,” I answered, snuggling closer to Jaemin’s side.
In content, we basked in happiness until Jaemin regained enough energy to go for the third time. However, this time around, it was slow and steamy. Under the covers, Jaemin crawled on top of me, kissing every inch of my body.
“Do you want to roll it down on me? I think I can handle that,” Jaemin asked, and I reached for the condom, carefully rolling it down his length. “I wish I could fuck you without one, though,” he added, and I flicked his forehead, making him whine. “I’ll pull out.”
“I trust you, but it’s still a no from me,” I replied, guiding his cock into my entrance. Inch by inch, Jaemin pushed himself all the way in. “You fill me up so well,” I praised, purring into his ear. “I love your cock.”
Distance between our bodies was practically nonexistent. Jaemin was slowly snapping his hips, rubbing his pelvic bone against my clit, turning me into a moaning mess. I wouldn’t be surprised if my neighbors called the police because of all the noise coming from my bedroom.
“One day, you’ll let me fuck you raw. I’ll make sure you do,” Jaemin carried on, and I hissed, feeling the approaching orgasm. I didn’t even bother to comment on Jaemin’s statement. I was whipped for him. I knew I wasn’t able to maintain my assertive stance for long. Eventually, I’d cave in, letting him fuck me without a condom. It wasn’t today, though.
“In your dreams, lover boy,” I answered, but Jaemin just giggled, knowing I wasn’t serious.
“You have no idea how many times we’ve done it raw in my dreams,” Jaemin confessed as he picked up his pace, pounding into my pussy, making me moan at the sudden speed. “One day, I’ll tell you all about my fantasies, but right now, I really want this pussy to cream around my cock,” he added, his filthy words making my walls squeeze around his length.
“You wait until I tell you mine,” I challenged with a smirk. If Jaemin thought he was the only one with a dirty mind, he was seriously mistaken. While most of my fantasies were PG-13, there was still a large portion of naughty scenarios. Now, when Jaemin and I were finally together, it would be fun to try to recreate at least some of them.
“You better come because I can’t go much longer,” Jaemin warned me, pounding in and out, chasing his own release. “Fuck,” he yelled, falling on top of me as he shot his load into the condom. His cock twitched inside of me as he moved slowly, riding out his orgasm.
“Jaemin,” I hollered, coming undone underneath him. Despite the other peaks, this orgasm hit me the hardest. For a brief second, my vision turned black as I gave in to the pleasure.
Breathlessly, I lay in the sheets, slowly descending from my high.
“I think all I can do tonight is cuddle,” I commented, feeling too fucked out to engage in any other form of affection. “I don’t think I can walk.”
“It’s okay. I can carry you around the house,” Jaemin answered, finding a solution for my problem. Having pulled his limp cock out of me, Jaemin rolled down another condom, putting it aside.
“What is it?” Jaemin asked as he heard a noise from the living room.
“It sounded as if someone was knocking on the doors,” I spoke, trying to identify the sound. “It must be a courier for Jiwoo. She keeps ordering stuff online. It’s probably the late evening delivery she forgot about. Can you get it?”
“No problem, babe,” Jaemin answered as he put on his jeans, walking around the bed to answer the door.
At first, I wanted to wait for Jaemin in bed. However, it’s been like three minutes, and he didn’t come back, so I found it weird.
Having put on Jaemin’s hoodie and a pair of leggings, I made my way out of the room.
Jaemin was standing by the doors, looking inside a plastic bag. Whatever it was, it smelled like Thai food. Unfortunately, it didn’t explain anything. We were here alone, and we didn’t order anything.
Just when I was about to open my mouth and ask Jaemin what the hell was going on, Ten walked out of his room. It was strange, but I saw him leave, and I didn’t hear him come back.
“What the hell are you doing here?” I asked angrily, trying to hide my embarrassment. If he was here the whole time, he must’ve heard us having sex.
“I live here, duh,” Ten answered matter-of-factly, choosing not to give me the explanation which I desperately needed. “I think it’s mine,” Ten spoke as he walked up to Jaemin to take his Thai takeout.
Although Jaemin and I were standing in the living room in complete consternation, Ten didn’t seem to pay any attention to it. In front of his bedroom, Ten stopped in his tracks, turning his head to face me.
“Congratulations, by the way,” Ten spoke, making me even more embarrassed. “Three times, wow. It’s impressive. Don’t fuck this up, dear. He’s a keeper,” Ten added, sending me a playful wink before he disappeared inside his room.
603 notes · View notes
chimoona · 4 months ago
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Beneath the Ground | JJK | 5
Chapter 5: Forget Me Not
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Pairing: Yandere!Florist!Jungkook x Fem!Reader Genre: Murder Mystery / Drama / Smut / Fluff Word Count: 5K Synopsis: According to the morning paper, there’s been a local death. A victim of suicide, discovered by his wife in their winter lodge. It was all just so convenient for Jungkook, the small-town florist, knowing nothing pairs best with tragedy and happiness than fresh-cut flowers. Opportunity awaits. Now is his chance to get to know her just a little better. Rating: M (18+) Warnings: Obsessive/possessive behavior, emotional manipulation, mentions of death/suicide/murder, intrusive thoughts/voices, teasing, cursing, nipple play, praise kink, forced oral (bordering dubcon), nonconsensual bukkake, separation anxiety, implications of memory loss due to trauma, Koo desperately rides for his noona and cries and is so dramatic...my heart just </3.
A/N: Cough. Hi 👁👁 This is me, totally not updating after an unintentional 8 month hiatus. Cough.♡ I’m sooo sorry it took me this long to push out a chapter, but I’m incredibly grateful to everyone who patiently waited! The support for this series has been overwhelming—there’s no way I could have continued to write without it. Thank you to everyone who’s followed this story and supported it throughout; it means the world, truly. ♡♡♡
Going against my original plotting of 5 chapters, this series has been extended to 6 (maybe 7). I hope you enjoy this piece and look forward to the finale soon! As always, I absolutely adore feedback of any form and welcome it all. If you’d like to chat, please share your thoughts! xoxo
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The edges of the bleached stain seem to be tinged with red, but it could be a trick of the light. Perhaps he’s seeing what he wants to see.
Jungkook finds himself wondering how you felt as the mess began to spread. In his mind, he can see the glaze of terror in your wide, shock-sticken eyes, seeing your husband wobble before he collapses.
But...did you like what you saw?
...Were you happy to see it?
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Sometime In The Past
The florist shop downtown was beginning to become a second home to you. There was this spunky kid, Jungkook, who worked there and always knew a thing or two about common house plants. In fact, you hadn’t encountered a plant he wasn’t aware of, which was exactly why you decided to bring a wilting orchid for emergency care. If anyone would know what to do to save it, surely he would.
A stark white wildflower caught your eye on your way to the shop, just outside your home. It looked invasive like a weed but had beautiful white flowers, gathered in small clusters at the top. Being the curious soul you are, you decided to pull up an handful and bring it along too. 
“A-ah—” Jungkook reached across the counter as you walked up and pinched the delicate stem from your fingers. “Be careful with that. It’s hemlock...very poisonous.” 
“Oh!” You wiped you sweaty palms on your jeans. “I didn’t know.”
The florist motioned for you to come behind the counter and wash up, which you did with expedience. 
“You’re fine, you’re fine,” he smiled assuredly. “If you simply touched it, the most that will happen is skin irritation. Here…” He extended out a fresh hand towel. “Dry off and we’ll take a look.”
You wicked away every droplet of water from your hands, then Jungkook warmed them in his palms and inspected them closely. You could feel his gentle breaths tickle your skin, inching close to see even the smallest bump.
“You’re okay, see? No irritation.” 
You took a look for yourself and released a heavy sigh of relief. 
“Poisonous? What the hell are poisonous plants doing growing wildly near my home?”
Jungkook shrugged. “Why do weeds push between the cracks of sidewalks?”
You shrugged. “Why do invasive plants thrive off nothing, while..” You nudged your chin in the direction of your withering plant—the main reason you visited the florist’s shop. “While it’s damn near impossible to keep my orchid alive?”
“We’re asking a lot of unanswerable questions right now,” Junkook laughed.
“Heh, gosh, you’re right.” You shook your head and smiled, slowly forgetting the embarrassment and fear you felt a moment before. 
“Well, almost unanswerable,” he corrected, pointing to the orchid pot. “It’s been overwatered. I like to call it ‘loving too hard.’” That made him laugh lightly to himself. “Not enough airflow to the roots, but nothing we can’t fix.” 
The young florist was always good at making your problems melt away. His warm smile crinkled his eyes at the corners as he spoke. It was the way he held himself, so self-assured yet approachable. What’s more, you admired his quick wit and wealth of knowledge.
“How did you know it was poisonous? It’s not necessarily your average top-seller.”
“We would never sell such a plant here, but I’ve done my research. I want to do this work full time someday,” he stated proudly, large doe eyes glimmering at the prospect.
You brought your dried hands together and intertwined your fingers. 
“Perhaps I should have done a bit of research too. Thought it was pretty and plucked it without a moment of hesitation.”
“It’s a beautiful flower, I can understand why you wanted it for yourself.” Jungkook’s eyes fell to the countertop, lacing his fingers together too. “It has tempted those with even the strongest will.”
You smiled. “Being?”
“Socrates,” he proudly stated as he unclasped his hands and crossed his arms over his chest, shifting his weight to lean a hip against the countertop. “Socrates was so enamored by its power, he famously chose hemlock tea to die by.”
“...Chose?” Your eyes darted over to the glossy stem and tried to imagine how a simple plant could take down the Socrates. “Huh, I think I knew this. He was a very opinionated man...I suppose it makes sense for him to request something so specific to die by.”
“Don’t let the romanticism of a tea-induced death fool you though. It was likely very painful.”
You looked down at your hands, which trembled slightly. Jungkook noticed too. 
“Drinking it is far more potent than touching it to your skin. Trust me. Like I said, I’ve done my research.”
He looked up everything, it seemed. It was admirable to see a young mind so starved for knowledge. His dark wondrous eyes practically dilated whenever he had the chance to impart his findings on patrons. Even more enthused when you rested your elbows on the glass countertop and nodded for him to continue. 
“What is it about western philosophy that’s captured your interest, Jungkook?”
He crooked a brow. “He had a prolific view of the world. Believed in happiness through moral fulfillment over materialistic possessions.” 
“I see.” 
Morality. Sometimes the line between right and wrong was so blurry, you forgot it ever existed. You’d done good deeds; paid it forward—bought coffee for the person in line behind you. But you’ve also cut people off in traffic to make an appointment, or skipped tipping your waiter because you just didn’t feel like it. 
Do the good deeds ever outweigh the bad? Is it only then that humans are capable of feeling pure happiness? You wondered as Jungkook continued describing the other facets of philosophy he found inspirational. You listened in, and appreciated the teachings of socrates through the young florist’s imaginative filter. 
“So…” He interrupted your thoughts with a calm voice. “About that orchid.” 
“O-orchid?”
“What you came in for.” He nodded at the withered flower you left on the edge of the counter. He tightened the strings on his apron and moved to block your view of the toxic white plant. 
“I think I have just what you need to keep it alive.”
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Present Day
What did she say to them? 
Sloan...
You wonder about this as the second hand of your kitchen clock ticks dreadfully slow. There’s an all-black police cruiser parked in front of your home. It’s been there for days. Now, you begin to wonder if it’s a figment of your imagination, like so many other things. 
A tall vase of white, freshly cut Queen Anne’s Lace compliments the entryway window, which you stare out of like a one-way mirror. You’re sure that through the tinted windows of the cruiser sits a real human, trying their damndest to peer into your home and gain intel. 
What intel are they trying to gather? You wonder about this in the quietest moments, when Jungkook’s sleeping breaths are so faint you can hear your nails growing. 
What did she fucking say?
A sour taste rests on your tongue as the second hand continues to tick and tick. Hours pass on, only soothed by the presence of your caring florist, who doesn’t leave your side for anything in the world. 
Over a few short weeks, Jungkook has only further solidified his bond to you. He kisses you deeply when you return from the market—a proper greeting you’ve become custom to. He also doesn’t let you wash yourself without proper assistance, often snatching the washcloth from your hands and using it on his own. You don’t mind much, as he’s just as desperate for touch as you are for his. He’s just not as good at hiding  it. 
Today, each kiss is more desperate than the last.
Jungkook cups your face and stares up at you with those soulful eyes, gliding his ruby lips against yours and planting sweet little pecks. You gave him all that you had, but he wanted more. Your body became exerted, weakened by his crazing lust to feel your skin against his. By the greed in which he tugged you close, you knew no amount of affection would ever be enough. Be it by his undeniable influence or your own freewill, being apart was simply not an option...for either of you.
“Noona...please.”
Those two words healed you from the inside out. It must be love. If it isn’t, then you must feel an entirely new emotion, birthed alongside your new sense of self. 
“Yes, baby?”
“Need you.”
He always needs you. But you need him too, so you fold into his arms and let him stroke your hair lovingly. He breathes in the scent of you and hums with eyes half shut. The warm breath of his nostrils tickle your scalp and make you giggle. 
Giggle? 
It’s nice, so you do it some more, tickling him back with teasing strokes of your fingers against his ribcage. He’s lean, but fills out nicely. The couple of times you two spent at the nursery didn’t give you nearly enough time to admire him fully. 
Ribs protrude as he gasps for air, and hide beneath his tan skin as he relaxes. Heaving buckets of roses seems to provide him with unintentional strength, and to your pleasure, he’s begun to use it without realizing he had the power within.
“Sorry, sorry,” Jungkook chuckles, stilling his hands from pinning you further. In the shuffle of your tickle battle, he had won by a landslide—pinning your wrists above your head and digging it into the couch arm while the other hand palmed your bare breast. 
You smirk and kiss his jaw. “No, you’re not.”
“Nuh uh,” he captures your lips and continues his shameless grope, kneading and pinching to earn a response. “I think you like it. You do, don’t you?” His innocent gaze scans yours for assurance.
“Mm—hah, I like it.” 
“Like what?”
You groan as your already tender nipple is accosted with a particularly harsh pinch. 
“This.”
“Tell me, so I understand. What do you like, Noona? Do you like it when I…” The florist wets his thumb and rubs it over the stiff peak, watching in wonderment as it turns dark with blush. Before you can answer, he tongues it. Holding eye contact, drawing you in with his precious wide eyes and sinful mouth.
Funny how quickly you forget that your muscles ache when he looks at you like that. As if he didn’t already have you on every surface of your home in less than twenty-four hours. 
“What about here?” Jungkook tongues your other nipple and sucks it messily. Saliva strings from his lips and sticks to you in a glistening sheen. When you arch your back off the cushions, that’s when he knows he’s found the spot.
“Yeah, there…” You guide your other hand up above your head and allow him to pin both wrists, sacrificing your freewill. There’s a shift in his gaze when you do it. 
His lips part in an o, seemingly bewildered by your willingness. It’s understandably shocking how you grimace less and less each time his fingers tighten around the slice at your wrist, almost as if you don’t feel it anymore. 
“Kitchen,” he breathes against your chest. “Now.”
You comply in a haste and follow his lead, dragged from the living room by your wrists like a convict. It’s the last room of your home that he hasn’t staked his claim to. That, and your husband’s old office, which can be seen from the center island. 
The florist leans against the cool marble countertop and openly strokes his cock. It’s rock solid, again. Insatiable is an understatement, he’s positively ravenous for touch and only temporarily satisfied when he coaxes it from you. What he truly craves is evident, so you give it to him without having to ask. 
“Let me.” You humbly offer your mouth, sinking to your knees and lining the leaky tip with your pout. Sleek arousal wets your lips, on full display as you leave it for the younger man to admire—musky, erotic and deviant.
“Mm, ah..” Jungkook’s lips part. You’re surprising him today. 
First, your tongue encircles the tip before cupping it between your petal lips. Jungkook’s head drapes back the second his length begins to disappear from sight. Just knowing a part of him is buried inside you makes his abs flex and hips naturally rut up for more. 
“Look,” he chokes on a sharp intake of breath and steadies his balance to look too. “At me, look—hah. Look up..” 
Before you can oblige, he cups your chin and tilts your head to meet his gaze. There’s ferocity in those precious doe eyes that makes your blood run cold. You begin to wonder if he possesses the power to see through you, into your soul. 
“Pretty,” he gasps.
He hasn’t had you at this level of servitude. You can sense how badly it affects him as he continues to stare, soaking up every detail of your face. When you open wider to flatten your tongue against his shaft, you feel his eyes scan from your cupid’s bow down to the base of your plush pout. 
“M-more...” Jungkook gently rocks his hips to chase the feeling, slow but eager. His lashes flutter as his swollen tip brushes past your gag reflex and you continue to take him in. “Jesus,” he says in a breathy sigh.
In an effort to avoid cumming too soon, his gaze travels around the room and lands on inanimate objects. There’s a ceramic cookie jar in the shape of a chicken. Quaint. A standing mixer that looks like it's never been used. Practical. No kitchen would be complete without hand towels to match the drapes. Wholesome. But what captures his attention more than you or any object in the room is a worn patch of flooring in your husband’s office, easily spotted from his seat against the kitchen island. 
‘A victim of suicide, discovered by his wife, Y/n, in their winter lodge…’
He remembers it clearly from the newspaper article, how your husband’s case was summarized in just a few short sentences. A victim, even by his own hand. 
He deserved it, he thinks. ..Asshole. 
Jungkook’s shimmering dark stare zeros in on the patch, entranced by the history of it. Hot blood once stained that bamboo wood to the point where you were forced to scrub it on your hands and knees. He gasps as you grasp the base of his cock to pull it away, licking around it dutifully between short breaths. 
“Are you okay, Kookie?” 
Your angelic voice tickles his ears. It’s sweeter than music, lustfully laced with salvia and pre cum. 
“Wha-ah, I’m okay,” he exhales, licking his lips, fingers skimming your scalp as he readjusts the weight of his hand at the back of your head. “I’m fine. It’s...amazing.”
You smile. It warms his heart. How could someone like you find yourself in harm's way? He knows, but it’s hard to understand sometimes. How could someone like you end up here, with someone like him? That part is harder to understand, so he doesn’t think about it for long. 
“More?” He asks in the smallest voice. It almost sounds juvenile. 
You nod. “Yes, baby.”
Before he can take a breath, your tongue flattens against the base of his cock and licks up the length of him languidly. It’s enough to wet him again—fresh beads of arousal appearing from his slit, which you lap away before wrapping your pretty lips around his tip. 
The patch seems to have grown. Or maybe Jungkook is seeing things. The edges of the bleached stain appear to be tinged with red, but it could be a trick of the light. Perhaps he’s seeing what he wants to see. A bright pool of blood would make more sense than mismatched floorboards in the center of a well designed home. At least to him it would.
He finds himself wondering how you felt as the mess began to spread. In his mind, he can see the glaze of terror in your wide, shock-sticken eyes, seeing your husband wobble before he collapses. 
Did you like what you saw? 
He pets back your hair and ruts into your mouth a little harder, earning a wave of tears, thrusting a little deeper to watch them well. 
Were you happy to see it? 
He may never know. What he does know is that you’ve avoided that office like the plague since your first showed him around your house. As you proudly carried today’s gift—a bouncing arrangement of red amaranth—you ushered him into your bedroom instead, which you didn’t hesitate to ravish him in. 
Lately you’re eager to forget. It’s nice. 
Room to room, you kissed passionately and battled to remove each other’s clothing, like newlyweds on their wedding night. You couldn’t keep your hands off him, and he didn’t want to stop you. The floorboards creaked as he sloughed off his boots and kicked them across the room to meet your other articles of discarded clothing. 
There’s something about an empty house that breeds mischief, and neither of you were opposed to indulging in it.
Then he brought you here, to the kitchen. He remembers the layout of your home like he’s roamed it dozens of times, but your late husband’s office is much closer than he recalls. He can hear the lewd suckles of you working harder to please him, and once again, he is not opposed to losing himself in this cardinal lust you two have bred. 
It should be a crime to tilt back his head and enjoy the warmth of your mouth while being so close to the place your husband died. When he closes his eyes, he can almost feel his presence trying to drive a wedge between the two of you, attempting to tug you away. So he reinforces the grip at the back of your head by tangling his fingers in the thick of your hair.
“No,” he whispers, clamping his eyes shut, driving his hips forward. “You c-can’t...have her.”
No one can have you, aside from him. This thing you two have created is deeper than you can fathom, and he only deepens it with comforting hugs, doleful puppy eyes, and messages written on hand-pressed stationery. Each stroke of your tongue is another precious moment, deepening his bond to you, forever logged to memory. If only he could transmit the feeling to paper like poetry.
You muffle something around his length, delicate hands pressing against his thighs. It fades into the flurry of voices and clattering that ricochet in Jungkook’s mind, many of which are indiscernible and sound like gibberish. They scream louder the longer he stares at that scrubbed patch of floorboard. 
“It’s...too late,” he pants, moving his hips to fuck into your mouth. He can feel your nails embed into his skin, but it compliments the tightness of your throat. One by one, each muscle in his body seizes to restrain from pushing further. But here you are, struggling on your knees, akin to the day you hunched over this floor to sop up that bloody stain.
His eyes fly open. Damp lips part and strain through the pressure of his front teeth as they bite the tender flesh ruby red. Needy whines resound in his throat, low and animalistic. 
“Mmf—agch...f-fuck, fuuuck, Noona, I—” 
Your mouth is so hot around his shaft he thinks he might lose all control; and he does, a bit. Strained, garbled breaths sift into your lungs through punishing thrusts. He can feel you dragging nails down his thighs and slapping them with open palms until the skin stings. All this effort, and it’s still not enough to make him realize he’s hurting you again. 
If you could see how he looks at that floorboard, you might struggle even harder to break free. Not to run, but to soothe him, just the way he likes. It’s fucked up and you know it. He’s literally choking the life from you and yet you continue to lick around his cock, starved for his affection. It’s just...it would be so alarming to see how his eyes water, quavering over the expanse of your home, then back to that very spot. Heartbreaking to see a glassy tear roll down his cheek at the realization that this space you inhabit doesn’t include him. The office lounger is reserved for someone else, as are the matching dusty trench coats hung on the back of your mudroom door. Everywhere he turns are frozen memories of a life you’ll never forget, and neither will he. You’d want to quell his worries with plump kisses, but you can’t see his face to trigger the emotion. He holds the back of your head to keep you still and loses himself to the greed of claiming his space.
“Cumming, I’m cu-cumming.” He repeats it a few times, abusing the back of your throat, causing your vocals to fry from the strain. “Feels so good. Fucking...cumming, hah..” 
His words taper out until all he produces is an airy sigh of relief. Clarity begins to wash over him as he releases into your mouth, hips stuttering between deep plunges. His grip loosens a bit, enough so you can push back and suck in short breaths. Even then, he can’t stop, but sheds another tear as the realization of what he’s done takes hold. 
Silence follows, and it’s the most empty silence he’s felt in your home with you present. It shouldn’t feel this hollow...not anymore. He’s had his way and yet, his cock still throbs to continue on, until you’re covered in his scent head to toe.
Your lungs burn. Your throat is fucked raw. Eyes water to match his—reddened and startled. Flushed cheeks and chapped lips are painted in his arousal. It’s sobering, and the bliss he feels dissolves the second he looks at the mess he’s made.
“I—” Sorry. He strains to say it because he knows it won’t make a difference. You’re too forgiving, already wiping the sheen of his cum off with the back of your hand.
He falls to his knees and you don’t even flinch. Instead, you brace your throat with one hand and scoot to wrap him with the other. The warmth of your body seems to combat his own. It takes a long while before your breaths sync, but they get there like they always do. 
“It’s okay,” you softly croak.
“No it’s not, I...”
He lost control again. This was the worst of it, he thinks; he hopes. At this point, there’s no knowing when it’ll take hold—when the voices will taunt him in a suffocating haze of possession. 
Jungkook huffs out a soft sob. “I love you so much.” 
Tears well up once again and trickle down his hot cheeks. 
“Please don’t leave me. I’ll...die. Noona, I’ll die. Please.”
“I’m not..” You shake your head gently and close your eyes to focus. “Why would you say that?”
“Just don’t.” His chest shudders against yours. Arms clasp around your waist tight to desperately hold onto something stable.
You coo away his worries and rock him in your hold. The floorboards creak beneath your bottoms like an eerie symphony. It’s oddly calming for both of you as no words could quell the florist’s distress. But you try anyhow...
“I’m here, baby.” You whisper your assurance. “I’m not going anywhere.”
If only he believed you. He wishes he could, but the cruiser outside your home tells a very different story—one he’s been stringent in avoiding for as long as he can. It’s foolish to think this could last forever, but he wishes it would. Sadly, even Jungkook knows all good things must come to an end.
His eyes drape shut as he inhales the sweet scent of your hair. Perhaps he’s made it up in his mind, but he’s almost certain he can still sense traces of yellow carnations, even after all this time. As he breathes deeper, he catches notes of acidity—tart quince and the floral finish of dandelions. 
He wonders where you placed that bushel of red amaranth. It’s a mature plant—lush and full with a color that reminds him of fresh blood. Its drooping tassels are unique and pair beautifully with springs of foliage that he pressed into the rice paper wrapping to hold its shape. As you rock him, he envisions the bushel cascading down your bedside table and drying out before you have a chance to save it with water. 
Now that...would be a shame. 
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The Next Day
Morning sunlight beamed into your half-lidded eyes as you opened the door to your home, ready to leave arm-in-arm with the florist for a cup of coffee. That was your first mistake. 
It isn’t until your tender gaze adjusted to the natural day that you felt the heat of Detective Burke’s narrowed copper eyes. Then you realize why it was a mistake. 
“Ma’am.” Sheriff Cyrus spoke for the two of them, lingering behind her partner on the entry steps. She looked through the doorway and past you, directly at Jungkook as he stood timidly in the foyer.
You swallowed past a tight knot in your throat. 
“Good morning, officer.”
Cyrus skipped the formalities. Her power stance indicated she wasn’t in the mood for smalltalk.
“Miss, we have a warrant to enter your home.”
“A warrant? Why would you...need..” Your attention was drawn to a file held tightly in her iron grasp. Why?
Burke cleared his throat. “We’ll only take a minute of your time.”
“I apologize, we were actually about to head out, and—”
Cyrus lifted the warrant to reinforce her motive and shook it lightly. 
“I think it’s best we step inside,” Burke added, nodding towards a handful of neighbors who gathered along the sidewalk to gawk. “Unless you’d prefer an audience.” 
“No, I..” You swiftly dampened your lips, which began to feel painfully dry. “Of course,” you nod, “come inside.”
It took every muscle in your body to step aside and allow them to pass through, back into your home. 
That was your second mistake. 
It took you a second longer to realize why, but it became very apparent when Cyrus unclasped a pair of handcuffs from her belt while passing through the foyer.
Jungkook stepped aside too and flashed you a look of worry—eyebrows furrowed, bottom lip tucked tight between his teeth. His gaze followed the two strangers until they stood in the kitchen, right where you were kneeling the day before. 
“Why are they here?” He whispered coarsely into your ear. With a gradual tremble to his tone, he didn’t hide his concern. “You didn’t have to let them in. Is it even a real warrant...you don’t know..”
Sheriff Cyrus must have heard despite Jungkook’s manners, because she almost seemed to find pleasure in what she said next, lips curling to a smirk. 
“Mrs. Y/L/N, please clasp your hands behind your back.”
Jungkook wrapped his arm around the small of your waist and held you close to his body. Like an obedient guard dog, he tried his best to protect you from danger. The blazen look in Burke’s eyes read danger. It was understandable why the younger man felt the need to intervene. 
“We’re placing you under arrest...”
“N-no,” Your protector coarsely whispered, struggling to find his voice again as he wrapped two arms around your body.
“...for the murder of—”
“Stop!”
His torso clung to you so tightly you struggled to breathe. Perhaps it was the cacophony of voices and the chilling way your home began to cave in from the center that made you embrace the feeling. 
Murder…
There it was. There was that word you dreaded to hear. 
‘According to the examiner’s notes..’ Officer Cyrus’ voice shifted from present to past, reminding you of exactly what you tried to forget. ‘...there were signs of foul play. Poison and struggle...’
“Mr. Jeon, please step aside,” Burke’s baritone sliced through your thoughts. “Mr. Jeon...”
Your wrist hurt something fierce. A deep searing pain you hadn’t felt before suddenly swelled as you faded in and out of the present. It made itself known, just as prominently as it could, at the most inopportune time. You ignored it as best as you could, but the stinging sensation caused you to pinch your eyes shut and curse under your breath.
You remember falling to your knees. Dramatic, of course, but what else were you supposed to do? Your legs couldn’t hold the weight of your body and buckled under pressure. The entirety of your form trembled as you tried to brace the young florist with sweaty palms. In a flurry of curses, you sensed he too was outraged by the circumstances. Through teary eyes you saw him step in front of the two law enforcers—to what...spare you time? 
Time had run out, it seemed. Just as he had feared the night before. 
The exchange became a blur, like you expected it would. Suddenly, you began to recall patches of memory you seemed to have lost since that fateful night. In the simple span of your arrest, you became too aware of what transpired leading up to your husband’s death. You wished you could forget it all over again as tears soaked your lashes so badly you couldn't see straight, stumbling down the cold steps from your home. 
Your husband coughed for a long while—you remembered the sound of it clearly as it tugged from the dark recesses of your mind. For days, he coughed. It was maddening. You remembered how he struggled to breathe that night. 
Why?
That part was...black—blotted from your consciousness. However, you feared it wouldn’t be for long.
Detective Burke’s voice could be heard in the background, filling in the details, reading off your rights. Their voices merged into a cacophony of white noise—even Jungkook’s, who cursed when you were tugged at the wrists by cold metal and ducked into the police cruiser. 
“She didn’t do it!” You heard him shout from outside the car. “ Let her go!”
Sweet boy, you thought. What could he possibly know?
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©Chimoona 2021 | Please do not edit, translate, or repost.
Series Masterlist
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weirwoodking · 5 months ago
WHY WAS MICHELLE CLAPTON SO AGAINST LETTING ARYA BE PRETTY? (trying to help you in reaching your daily anti got post quota)
okay the first thing I saw was the words “Arya” and “pretty” in the same sentence and I thought you were trying to start up that discourse with me and I got scared for a sec.
But honestly, the real question is why wouldn’t Michelle Clapton let anyone look good? That woman was apparently on a mission to be the sole person responsible for the decline of creative costume design in the period drama genre. She tended to just design one outfit for each character that would last them 2-3 seasons. It looked stale and boring, especially since GRRM puts so much description and meaning into the clothing in the books. Like when Tyrion thinks about how Sansa “wears sorrow on her long dagged sleeves”, or how the blinded Arya has to learn to tell the difference between her different colored socks by feeling which one has stitching along the top. The Night’s Watch are the only group who wears all black, and you have to keep it that way, or else it loses its meaning. Cersei likes wearing green because it brings out her eyes. All of the clothing in the books adds into the character. And it’s also just creative. GRRM gave Clapton so much to work with (each house literally has its own colors to wear, it shouldn’t be that hard!) and she just chose to ignore all of it. Again, this is just a general problem with the whole production, like how D&D said that following the books “wouldn’t earn them bonus points.” They had zero respect for the material they were adapting, believing themselves to be better at doing this story than THE ACTUAL AUTHOR.
Since you brought up Arya, I’ll just focus on the outfits that people tend to hate the most: the costuming of show!Dany, show!Sansa, and show!Arya during the last two seasons. Obviously, they were horrible, and they only got like 2-3 outfits each throughout that whole period (maybe there were more, but they were so unmemorable and indistinguishable from the others that it doesn’t even matter). But let’s just brainstorm on what to do instead.
Dany: simple. STOP WITH THE FUCKING MONOCHROMATIC DRESSES. They were so lazy throughout the whole show. It was just blue, then white, then black or white fur. Dull dull dull. Put Dany in some winterized Dothraki-inspired clothing, with riding leathers, a chainmail shirt, thick horsehair pants, a black and red cloak, and flat-soled boots. If you’re going to keep ignoring her short hair, at least stop with the Party City wig that keeps magically conjuring more volume of hair out of nowhere. Give her a long braid.
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Arya: Put her in the fucking Stark colors. And let her wear more than one outfit. The one she had was fine as a single outfit (that one-shouldered cloak thing wasn’t too bad), but not every single episode. Like Dany, Arya would most likely choose to wear pants most of the time, but she probably wouldn’t mind throwing on a wool dress once in a while. Perhaps have her in the formal dress style of her House/the North when they all meet Dany. For her hair, I don’t know why they wanted to scrape all the hair back off of Maisie and Sophie’s foreheads like that. Was it in their contracts that as much of their faces had to be showing on screen at all times possible and the hair would block that? Anyway, it’s just horrible styling for a couple reasons. 1) one of Arya’s characteristics is that her hair is always messy, it shouldn’t be in a tight style, and 2) if you’re gonna do braids in dark hair, you need to make them stand out, or else they get lost and the audience can’t see them. There’s a line in the books that mentions how Alys Karstark has strips of leather in her hair, and I think that that’s a great thing to build off of. Braid strips of leather or fabric into the northern girls’ hair, or add bands of bronze or iron around the braids. For Arya, I would either have her hair be completely loose and wind blown, or with small braids in the front of her hair that have accessories in them so they can be seen:
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Sansa: holy shit just put her in a grey and blue wool dress. Everytime I think about show!Sansa’s costumes I just think about how Michelle Clapton said she gave her those dumb circle-chain necklaces because that’s what she likes to wear in her own life. Lady... if Sansa was your fashion-self-insert... you have bad style. For Sansa, I would, obviously, dress her in her house colors, as well as blue. I’d have her in mostly wool and fur, very little leather or metal, and inspired more by Celtic and Slavic folk clothing. For her hair, again, why, oh why, did they scrape it off her face like that? It makes her look so severe, and older than she was. You also can’t even see the back of her hair where the action is, because she’s facing the camera most of the time! I would give her braids that would be seen, and would frame her face. Perhaps braided pigtails:
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Or a crown braid:
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Now, something that annoys me about the whole show in general, not just with Dany, Sansa, and Arya, is the lack of crowns. Where’s Robb’s crown! Where’s Dany’s crown! Where’s Stannis’s crown! For the Stark sisters, I think that they should have had circlets, because they’re princesses. Jon was the king... he was their brother... they were princesses. It also solves the empty-foreheads problem. I would give Arya a simple, light bronze circlet, akin to the one Val is described to wear. And I would give Sansa something a bit more intricate, and made or dark iron to contrast her hair. One of my favorite hair styles in all of film is Éowyn’s hair during the funeral in The Two Towers. I think something like that would’ve been great for Sansa.
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Also, last note, but I think it would be neat to show the characters doing their hair. Sansa walks into Arya’s room and we see Arya finishing up one of her braids. Arya walks into Sansa’s room, and Sansa is letting out her hair for the day. Show women interacting with their hair more, don’t make it feel like it’s just LEGO hair that they pop on every morning.
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thehumming6ird · 10 months ago
Video
Tom Hiddleston Narrates New Doc 'Earth at Night in Color' Revealing the Nocturnal Lives of Animals 
By Kathleen Rellihan 16th November 2020
While you might have had to cancel your safari trip this year, you can still escape into the wild with Apple TV+'s new docuseries Earth at Night in Color. Filmed on six continents, as far afield as the Arctic circle to the African grasslands, this docuseries, for which Newsweek had a first look video, follows the moonlight journeys of animals, revealing never-before-seen behaviors of animal activity when the sun goes down.
With groundbreaking technology, this pioneering nature series is able to capture the earth's last true wilderness—the night. Revealing the secret life of animals at night in color, the storytelling is dynamic and the drama is high as it's all filmed in total darkness. Golden Globe winner Tom Hiddleston narrates, and while the British actor might be known for his breakout role as Loki in Avengers and Thor, this isn't the first time he's narrated a nature series. In his earlier career, he was the voice of Charles Darwin in a BBC documentary Galapagos.
It's not just Hiddleston's British accent that adds to the drama, to capture this secret nocturnal world the crew's limits are tested as they are only able to film with the light of the moon. That means the crew could only film for about three nights on either side of the full moon when it's at its brightest. So for each full moon, the crew had to deploy multiple shooting teams to different parts of the world at exactly the same time. In the jungles of Borneo, a cameraman climbed 130 feet (the equivalent of a 10-story building) into the canopy to film, and in the wetlands of South America, the crew attached a gyro-stabilized camera to a small boat to document jaguars stalking the rivers.
Earth at Night in Color shows strange things happen at night in the wild. At what once was a shadowy world is now in full-color with next-generation cameras showing the life of animals at night clear as day in a way we have never seen before. The docuseries shows the nightlife of lions, cheetahs and bears, as well as lesser-known nocturnal animals such as eagle owls and peregrine falcons.
Did you know Africa's lions, who are mostly nocturnal, have night vision that is six times better than a human? Or that hippos are more active at night? And due to hunters, bears have had to become nocturnal and they interact with each other silently to avoid predators.
But perhaps the breakout star of Earth at Night in Color is the spectral tarsier, the most harmless-looking nocturnal creature, who is barely larger than a tennis ball and pulls at its ears in order to prime itself for hunting. Captured in the jungles of Southeast Asia, this little creature's eye is bigger than its brain giving it night vision that's 100 times better than humans.
So while we might be locked down this winter, we can still escape into the wonder of the natural world to see what goes bump in the night.
Earth at Night in Color is produced by Offspring Films and will premiere globally with six episodes on Friday, December 4, exclusively on Apple TV+. The second half will follow in 2021. This series is part of a trio of documentary Apple TV+ series that celebrates humanity and the wonder of the natural world.
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yeonjuncore · 7 months ago
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take my heart (and please don’t break it) ;; masterpost
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PAIRING; yeonjun x reader, soobin x reader, beomgyu x reader, taehyun x reader, hueningkai x reader — reader’s choice !!
TAGS; multiple endings, reader’s choice, reverse harem, fluff, crack/humor, smau (at least partially), valentine’s day
WARNINGS; (throughout the fic) mild language, perhaps mentions of getting a drink, cheesy cliche romance, the unbearably corny concept of all five members chasing the same girl, the inevitability of breaking 4 hearts no matter which ending you choose
WORD COUNT; 33.5k+
A/N; in honor of the ~season of love~ here is the corniest possibly reverse harem romance i could have mustered. for once, no angst. just pure, cheesy romance, now with five times the pining of a regular fic!
SYNOPSIS; As the owner of an up-and-coming boutique, you’ve been doing everything to have your fashion prowess acknowledged. Accepting a styling gig for Bighit a few months ago was a no-brainer, and you ended up making some friends on the job, too. But things get tricky when all five members of Tomorrow X Together develop a crush on you at once... and even more so when they find out you like one of them back.
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Day 01 ; all women do is lie ; 2.1k+
The boys aren’t happy with you disappearing after your job finished nearly a month ago and never bothering to say hi. You stop by to make it up to them.
Day 02 ; bribes and valentines ; 1.7k+
Somehow the conversation circles over to Valentine’s Day, and you say the wrong thing. You and Beomgyu meet up downtown later for some window shopping.
Day 03 ; shopping for a sibling ; 1.7k+
You agree to meet Yeonjun tomorrow, and in the meantime, Kai enlists your help to find a gift for someone important to him.
Day 04 ; feeling kabe-done ; 1.7k+
Taehyun and Soobin book the rest of your week. You finally get to meet up with Yeonjun to deliver his present.
Day 05 ; birthday boy ; 1.7k+
Taehyun may be working on his birthday, but that doesn’t stop you from trying to make it as special as you can. You end up confiding in him about a recent dilemma.
Day 06 ; between the lines ; 1.7k+
The boys air their complaints about their leader in the group chat. Fortunately for Soobin, his gentlemanly charms can undermine any bad habit.
Day 07 ; this is (not) my drama ; 1.5k+
It’s the first day in nearly a week that you don’t have plans with friends. Suri drops a bombshell on you after a styling meeting, but you don’t believe it until you read the texts the boys meant to send to their band chat.
Day 08 ; et tu, rae? ; 0.8k+
Rae’s no-nonsense attitude is exactly what made you turn to her to hear your woes. Unfortunately, her tactics are just as straightforward as her words.
Day 09 ; hue-ri on ice ; 2.0k+
Your offer to stay away from the boys until you can figure yourself out is instantly shut down, so you meet up with Kai as planned. He’s no skating prodigy, but he does have something to teach you.
Day 10 ; boxed in ; 2.0k+
The boys are quick to shut down any lingering self-doubt your chat with Suri has left you with. Later, Soobin helps you out at the boutique— not unexpected, given what you know— but his bold move afterwards sure is.
Day 11 ; studio snooze ; 2.0k+
The atmosphere finally begins to thaw, and the things seem to be returning to normal in the group chat. Beomgyu lets you break his no-food-in-the-studio rule when you come bearing takeout, after which he makes a small request of you.
Day 12 ; early morning munchies ; 2.0k+
The boys’ company has asked them to do a Valentine’s Vlive. You go for a late night/early morning ramen run with Taehyun, where the two of you pick up a conversation from your last meeting.
Day 13 ; one warm winter daybreak ; 2.0k+
Yeonjun takes you somewhere special to watch the sunrise. The other boys think you’re crazy for making plans so early, but you end up having a pleasant chat that reaffirms your decision to confess.
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Day 14 ; Hueningkai Ending ;; the way you look at me ; 2.0k+
It’s Kai. It’s always been Kai. And it’s time you told him so.
Day 14 ; Taehyun Ending ;; the only one i see ; 2.0k+
It’s Taehyun. It’s always been Taehyun. And it’s time you told him so.
Day 14 ; Beomgyu Ending ;; very very extraordinary ; 2.3k+
It’s Beomgyu. It’s always been Beomgyu. And it’s time you told him so.
Day 14 ; Soobin Ending ;; even more than anyone that you adore ; 2.0k+
It’s Soobin. It’s always been Soobin. And it’s time you told him so.
Day 14 ; Yeonjun Ending ;; all that i can give to you ; 2.0k+
It’s Yeonjun. It’s always been Yeonjun. And it’s time you told him so.
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highsviolets · 10 months ago
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waterfall inquiry: javier peña x reader
pairing: javier peña x young analyst!reader
summary: words should not make you feel so much.
warnings: age gap. kissing. and - the worst of all - f e e l i n g s. (soft ones)
a/n: [edited 10 June ‘21] this was supposed to be three parts...and now there’s more. I regret nothing :) 
[next] [series masterlist] [main masterlist] * gif: @anakin-skywalker​
“Bow swung finds tongue to fling out broad its name”
 “as kingfishers catch fire” | gerard manley hopkins
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Neither of you should be here. Strictly speaking, at least.
The Embassy maintains regulations about these sorts of things, you’ve heard in jagged claims that coat the walls in a sickly iridescent sheen. Not the pretty kind that makes glitter sparkle. No, it’s the perverse shine — pyrite and oil spills on tepid water and those cheap kaleidoscopes they sell at county fairs.
Everything, it seems, is whispered here. Here at the Embassy, anyway; Colombia itself is a messy, irreverent place. A dreamlike people, an altered state where God acts as the intermediary between man and demons, not angels.
Perhaps that is why the Embassy is always quiet. The shrill clang of a phone ringing makes everyone start, fearful of keeping demons at bay. Even the PR reps speak in hushed tones, the words soft and soothing like cotton balls dipped in baby oil gliding across skin — crafting press releases each word slotted for a specific purpose, hand-picked with evolutionary precision.
It harasses you, stinging pricks drawing blood from beneath the surface of your bronze skin. Words should move freely, you believe. Like the way the Mississippi runs in during the spring melt: coarse, unimpeded, roiling in caught light, caressing the riverbanks as it soaks up all the world gives it — thrusting forward after a winter fraught in immobility, reveling in flinty purpose.
There’s a difference between words of fabrication and phrases of culled authenticity — the ones that stream from bleeding hearts, bound tightly by shoves and glares and hands that can’t keep still. Hands that grasp for something tangible. Anfractuous reminders of why they must be so careful, why they must keep the truth of themselves limited to brief instances of throwing back light or heat.
There is one man, you know, who thinks like you do — and he laughs at the fact that your jobs depend upon other people being careless with their words. Bandying about locations, codenames, numerals, what to buy at the grocery store. You can almost hear him, that marmalade voice spreading over you, eyes gleaming in smoke and fervor: yeah, carelessness gives us both a job. But it hurts, too.
Tonight, though. When you both are here when you really shouldn’t, you really fucking shouldn’t, not when you’ve been dreaming about him for…for how long? How long have you been in this country that makes a mockery of verisimilitude? Long enough, apparently, for everything else to blur when you look at him, for you to have memorized the way his shirts pull tight over his back when he’s leaned over his desk.
Eyes climb up the length of his torso, the slope of it heightened by the way he’s bracing his weight on his hands. His palms are spread wide and god as much as you think you want to stop the way your mouth runs dry at the sight his large palm, you can’t.
A sigh leaks out. The man in question spares a glance your way, matching the twist of his neck to the cigarette he brings to his lips. “You alright?” he mumbles around the thing, and you grip the desk’s edge a little harder at the sound, at the sight, of him in his element. His exhale — a finely tuned purse of the lips, discreetly directed away from your work — should feel the same as your sigh, but it doesn’t. It washes over you instead, and you rock in the way his existence ebbs and flows in and out of your person. Easy. Like breathing. Like all you have to do is breathe, and he’ll be there.
There are stories about him. When you had been sent down to Columbia as a junior analyst after the death of Escobar, you had quickly dived into the mythos the man. How could you not, when he was everywhere, the scent and swagger of him drawing eyes from every corner of the barricaded building?
The others — the replacements, someone had once termed the batch of new personnel flooding the country to fight Cali — had told you the stories; where they had heard them, you weren’t sure. Huddled over tepid drinks in the bar after work, blazers shrugged off and shirtsleeves rolled up, you had let them regale you of how he fought for years to bring down Escobar, only to be in Miami when his partner did the deed. How he fucks his informants; although, one of them admitted with a sigh, he hadn’t been known to do that in a while. How he was ruthless in the pursuit of justice. A fucking legend, man, someone had crowed about the older man, tongue loose with overpriced alcohol.
And through it all, there was you, eyeing the man himself across the bar. The embrace of his hands against the whiskey glass, the way he barely shuddered at the consuming burn of the stuff when he tossed it back in a behavioral gesture. He seems sad, is what you had thought. Whatever opposite of sad existed in this opulent measure of time by which you both abided — that’s what you wanted to do for him. To make him not-sad. He is aged, perhaps, but not old, rather like someone who could be young if they could shed the pallid skin of responsibility.
But you can’t play God in this country of fallen beings. Being consumes you instead, devolving into an obsession, hanging onto the ledge of yourself — gripping humanity and slicing rocks and graphite that stains your skin even as it slides away, too smooth to be held in hands that ache, swollen, from typing up reports detailing the tumbled-gravel sins of humanity.
He likes you. You think he might, anyway. He consults you before any of the others, and once or twice he’s dragged some Columbian officer into your tiny workspace, asking you to confirm the intelligence on whatever operation he’s desperate to get approved so he can do something. He asks with words that curl up and over themselves like whitecaps, one hand resting on his hip as he nods along to your recitation.
But it’s really his eyes you watch in these moments, aching in fluttering hope whenever they rest on yours. Javier Peña’s eyes when he visits you in your workspace are pleading thermoses of life under sterile fluorescent lights. He likes to send you a half-smile and a nod when you’re finished, tossing them over his shoulder as he escorts the man back to the Ambassador’s office. You are both too good at your job not to love it in some sick & twisted way, and he knows.
Other times he simply drops by. Leaning against your cubicle, he fiddles with a cigarette and chats with you as you work, asking questions that he knows he’s the only one examining.
Talk to me about the families of la cartel de Cali, he mutters, the hoarse sound deep and aching in your gut. About their mothers, daughters, sons, cousins, in-laws. Is anyone sick? Do they want to go on vacation? What’s the drama of the week, no, don’t laugh, — he smiles, here, barely, the delicate minutiae of the expression an external revelation of his magnetism — there always is in families. They’re human just like us. And that’s when he sighs, and looks across the hall, where in his office there’s a diagram of the Cali bosses splayed over the wall. Yeah...they’re like us.
Javier makes a slowly forms a habit of it, of stopping by your cubical and wrapping you in currents of charisma and truth. He does you a solid, too, bringing you to the attention of your superiors when he mentions your diligence. And you repay him in kind, taking care to slip into his office with new intelligence before the brass gets word. You tell yourself it’s simple mentorship. Mere patronage. He’s paying it forward, helping the young analyst get ahead in their career. These meetings are nothing to him, and they ought to be equally as empty to yourself. It’s just exchanges of information. Conversation between colleagues.
Of course, that doesn’t explain why you look forward to his fingers touching yours when you lend him a pen, or, when he makes some half-whispered joke in Spanish, it makes you shiver. Or the pride that blossoms in your chest, embracing you all soft and balmy, when he considers your words. He handles them like he does his favorite cigarettes, rolling them between his fingers, palming their weight, letting the texture seep into his skin before he lights them on fire.
You drop your pen a lot; he brings a finger to his mouth in thought. You don’t see the way he smiles when you do that, grinning at the muttered curse and roll of your eyes. And he decides that he likes the way you laugh about it; poking fun at your own mistakes, the skin that matches his own gleaming in the warm sun.
He can never do that. Perhaps he should? But he doesn’t make mistakes like that, toss-away interruptions of intended action. The mistakes he makes get people killed. All the more reason to keep checking with you, he reasons, to double-insure the intelligence. Can’t have another mess. And he likes to hear your laugh. Nothing wrong with that, he says. Nothing wrong with something that makes his heart stir and entices the eyes hidden behind yellow aviators to trace the length of your neck a little longer than strictly necessary when you throw your head back in unmarked joy.
And tonight, in his office? Tonight he seems melancholic again, like the first time you saw him across the bar. He keeps shifting his weight, one hand on his hip, and then on the table, and then shrugging off both his jacket and his tie and tossing them unceremoniously onto the couch, limbs extending listlessly. It’s as close to careless as he gets.
Or maybe it’s just the exhaustion fusing into you both. You feel slow and hazy, torn between staring at him and bleary eyes glaring at the map beneath his fingers. if you just look at it longer, you think, you can will it all to fall into place. and maybe if you did he would kiss you, and maybe he would kiss you the way he has always wanted to live.
Maybe if you traced your tongue along his exposed collarbone, penning of licks of hope in the space where his words seem to get caught, where his perpetually open collar leaves him defenseless to an onslaught of physical impressions…maybe then, he’d exhale in blessed adoration, taken outside of himself for just one moment.
He’s asking you a question. You alright? He does that a lot, you realize. Checks in with you. When you answer, he laughs — those delightful eyes seeping warmth into your weary bones as they crinkle in a smile — and he reminds you to call him Javier. He — Javier — has rebuked you at least three times tonight alone, but you’ve yet to oblige his request. If you do, if you let your tongue caress his sacred name and rest in its life-sodden weight, you fear…
you do not know what you fear. you do not know how saying his name will shift the tides in your life. but you know that you will remain forever anchored to him, tethered to his lunar opacity.
“What’s this?” you ask instead, shifting to rest against the desk. You’re beside him now, hip adjacent to his as you look up at him. Latent smoke hovers overhead, and locks of his hair have come undone after the long hours of work and now rest over his forehead small waves. It looks like it aches, being so out of place, and yet so distinctly him. Caught. Destined to arch over his tanned skin, all the while lingering in a place where it should not. Not here, anyway. Not tonight, in his office, far after everyone else has gone home.
“What’s what?” Javier rejoins, distracted, still bent over the desk, still bracing his weight on those fingers.
Rustling papers catch his attention, and he twists to meet your gaze. “This.” You point to the unfamiliar word, stamped out in standard font. “My Spanish is decent, but I’ve never seen this word before.”
The wrinkles behind the shield of his fallen hair press together as he cranes his neck, adjusting his stance to read the word on the paper you thrust in his direction. It clears rapidly though — the visage sailing and unfurling itself when he absorbs the story hidden in-between letters on a page.
He repeats the word back to you, leaning into the sound the way he leans into you, inching closer in his explanation. You stare at his lips, completely captivated — his tongue catching between his teeth — the purse of his lips — the rearrangement of his jaw as it conforms to the aerodynamics of structured syllables.
“Strictly speaking,” he says, eyes roving your face, deep and dark, “it means elf, or spirit. Something ethereal. It’s used in stories a lot.” The words are smooth, smokey, whiskey-like as you let them drip down your skin, the insides of your thighs. “Entiendes?”
Your body temperature rises. You can feel it — the way your mouth’s run dry and the paper’s slippery in your grip. Did his voice drop lower when he used the familiar form of the verb, not the formal? You think it did. Oh god, he’s so close, he could just extend a hand across your body and it could rest on your hip. You had never really noticed his height either, always in heels. Tonight, though, the heels are in the corner with his jacket and tie and you realize that he’s inches above you, yet somehow still within reach.
“What’s” — you swallow thickly, desperate to remain professional despite your wide eyes, the tongue tracing your lower lip — “what’s the non-strict definition of the word?”
He gives you one of his trademark smirks. “It can also mean,” he says, “enchanting. Charming. For someone or something to be magical.”
Nodding slowly, you drop your eyes down to the paper again, desperate to avoid his gaze. It follows you, watching your eyes hide even as you adjust to be ever-closer, a bare foot extending outward and brushing against the fabric of his dress pants. “I suppose that makes sense.”
“Say it,” you hear him urge, your head bolting up, incredulous. And you try, you really do, but it’s so new and unfamiliar and you’re so goddamn nervous with him looking at you, that you fuck it up. Words are but the vessels by which emotions themselves are expressed, so maybe the act of speaking should not make you feel all by itself. But it does — oh, god, it does, and you feel like you’ve shrunk in the process, dwarfed by this man with rolled up shirt sleeves wrapped around muscular forearms, who grins impishly around his cigarette.
“Not quite.” He stubs out the thing, and to your surprise, brings hand to your jaw, cupping your chin in-between his thumb and forefinger. “Say it again.”
“No, I can’t; I..“ you protest, and for what? because you don’t want him near you? no, that’s not it, but you’re being branded by his touch all the same.
“Say it again,” he commands again, more gently this time, his words accompanied by an encouraging nod.
You comply readily, sounding out the syllables. His strong fingers manipulate your movements, guiding you in pronouncing the difficult phrase. It’s forceful and noble, a tender yet compelling influence that teaches you how to wrap yourself in the meaning of the word as much the word itself. You’re tingling; is it from the thrill of achieving or from his sturdy hand against your bare skin?
He doesn’t back away when you’re finished speaking, but holds your stare. Dimly, you register the steady crescendo in your breathing. He’s not immune to your proximity either: his Adam’s apple bobs as he pushes down the deficit of hope flooding oppressive maxim of his presence. Times stretches as you remain caught in his hold, coursing through you, carrying you downstream in brash, coarse recklessness. Are the emotions you swim in those eyes yours, or his, or some measure of both?
The pads of his fingers migrate, drifting to rest along your cheek and tumble into his touch like a moth to flame, or fish to water, or whatever trite phrase people use to make sense of such profound belonging.
Javier is mesmerized with the way his fingertips trace your cheekbones, the shell of your ear, along your jaw, returning to outline your lips.
“Tell me to stop.” His voice scrapes along your bliss, and you force your eyes open to see that he’s moved even closer, closer-than-close, so tight against you that you’re nearly leaning back over the desk.
“Do you want me to?” His eyes are dark and still now, but for the way they’re trained on yours as you whisper fate into existence.
“No — fuck — I shouldn’t, I —“ his jaw shifts again, this time in agitation, but it is you who does the deed, cutting him off, reaching out to tug on his collar. The action pulls him forward, pressing himself against you, caging you between the desk and the broadness of his firm chest.  And you do know it’s firm now, at last slipping your hands underneath that truant fabric and gliding along his smooth skin. His hands find your waist, gripping your hips as he meets your lips in an open-mouthed kiss.
He — Javier, now — kisses you a single-minded intent, letting his lips slide over yours lazily, over and over, memorizing the imprint of you against his mouth. One hand drifts upward again, cupping your cheek as he tilts your head slightly, letting his tongue delve into your mouth and trace your teeth. It makes you gasp, and you retaliate with a gentle nip to his lower lip, silently begging for more. Javier moans into your mouth, the pressure sending a jolt of pleasure through his body.
Tightening his grip on your waist, Javier lifts you, placing you firmly on the desk, feet dangling a few inches from the floor. You know what he wants before he even has to ask and you give it him readily, wrapping your legs around his waist. Javier’s weight conforms to your own, molding against your body as you press into him, back arching in your submersion to his touch.
He is so eager; his kisses drench you in a deluge of incubated affection interspersed with need. Grasping at his shoulder, you pull him even closer, your other hand anxiously fiddling with his buttons as you sigh, reveling in the storm of his attention. Slowly, painstakingly, driven by a clamoring need for oxygen, he drags himself away from you, parting slowly, ever-loth to break the kiss.
You can’t help the shy smile that dances around your lips when you look up at him, standing above you. His chest is heaving, out of breath, hair somehow even more mussed than it was before. You suppose you can touch it now, so you do, two fingers brushing aside the fringe on his forehead.
Time, and space, and whatever else this stuff is made of have prevented from this alternate reality. until now. it has broken through the dam and caught you up in its awakening, broad and unrepentant.
Javier captures your hand as it lowers, pressing a kiss to the side of your palm. He’s so tender it makes you ache, and you wonder if this is why he stopped fucking his CIs. He requires something more intangible than what they could give him. “Javier,” you whisper.
He hums a question, rubbing a thumb over your knuckles as he watches you consider him, emotion lapping at the shores of unkempt eyes.
“You asked me to use your name. Earlier, I mean.” Should you feel embarrassed? Kissing a man several years your senior? Maybe you should. But you don’t. There’s a cordial warmth spreading through you, bolstered by his gentle touch, the outward connection of him and you that’s been built through months of inanimate remembrances.
“I know.” Javier nods and leans in again, his breath rippling across your skin. “Can you say it one more time, princesa? They say you need to do something three times” — a kiss to your cheek — “to make sure you really —“ a kiss to your forehead — “understand” — a kiss to the corner of your mouth.
The words fall out of your mouth, splashes of unrestrained affection dappling each letter. “Duende, Javier,” you murmur against his lips. “Duende.”
javi tags: @frannyzooey @yespolkadotkitty @rentskenobi @goldenkenobi ​ @goldafterglow @teaofpeach ​ @justrunamok ​ @huliabitch @cri-me-a-river @littlevodika @catsnkooks @themarvelousbear @likeshootingstarsinthenightsky @ladytrashbird @princessxkenobi @roxypeanut @dracos-jedi-marvel @a-seeker-of-imagination​ // taglist link in bio!
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batwngs · 8 months ago
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JASON TODD: LOVE LANGUAGES
i. jason is quite tough to love (or so he thinks) but like cracking eggs, once done it’s so easy and fast for it to happen
ii. an important note about jason’s love languages though is that his traumas stop him from expressing and accepting love easily— jason thrives on love, he’s the most at peace when he’s loved and he’s aware of it (“grief is just love with no place to go,” there is much more to be said on the relationship of grief and love) but his past and his pain stop him from accepting any, or rather from recognizing his capacity and worthiness for love. he rejects it so that it hurts less for him. this way he has the power in the situation to not be hurt from an eventual rejection and/or heartbreak
iii. which is why jason, at first, is pretty opposed to touch. it reminds him of his flaws, his mistakes, his second chance at life— being touched means being known and being known means that this, in some way, is all real, that this isn’t something that was dreamed up in the moments before the timer tauntingly ticked to zero, that this isn’t some “life flashing before his eyes” experience 
iv. and he hates his body that’s riddled with its scars, how it’s a story that’ll haunt him as long as he can feel, as long as air continues to fill his lungs; so, it will take a very long time before he can trust someone enough to touch him— casually/platonically, romantically, or sexually
v. but when you did lean in to kiss him that first time (when he was finally ready for that kind intimacy), with your hand gingerly holding his face, thumb caressing his cheek and his jaw resting against the warmth of your palm, he was scared. scared that this kiss might hurt, that your touch might burn him and leave him to dust, that he’ll mess up in some way and you won’t want love him anymore; but when your lips did meet his, he didn’t know how to react. he didn’t expect to be met with such a cherry softness, such a red gentleness he didn’t know was possible. no matter how he tries to mask such tenderness as unworthiness, sharing those kinds of kisses with you always felt right. even the gentlest, faintest touch of his hand against yours— in passing, by accident— it felt like the missing stroke to a painting he’s been agonizing over for years, like the perfect phrase used to describe the color of the sea tucked between the tip of his pen
vi. quality time is something he values at some level but never really practices/acts upon it. even when he was robin, he would end up skipping out on hangouts/dates (which were in itself few and rare) halfway through to go help batman. of course, as red hood, he doesn’t have such an intensely strong loyalty to bruce, rather he’s just kind of doing what he wants even more so than he used to. he’s always been a very introverted, lonely person, so he never really knows how to spend time with someone
vii. so when he does decide to spend some time with you, it’s a somewhat awkward at first; he doesn’t know what to do, what to expect, how to act (a common theme with his romantic life). he’s nervous, but he hides it with his caustic remarks, a defense against being noticeably vulnerable. over time though, the awkwardness of sitting on the couch together watching period dramas fades into a comfortable warmth that felt so natural and true to your ever-growing love for one another
viii. acts of service has been and continues to be something that jason values and uses to express his love. at one point, he did feel that love was transactional: to deserve love you have to earn it, to fight for it. he truly feels he has to earn your love, so if there was something bothering you or stressing you out, jason would go out of his way to do everything to minimize that stress for you. you might come back from a terribly stressful day to see your home cleaned, your laundry done, your groceries put away, etc. it’s his way of repaying you for trying to love him and care for him— a ‘thank you, i'm sorry’ for the tenderness he still questions his worthiness for 
ix. with gifts as well: he’ll always try to gift you the things you mentioned offhandedly to him or the things he’s noticed you searching for. he tries to give you things that he knows you will love, things you want and need; he never wants to disappoint or upset you as he’s afraid he’ll lose your love, your warmth, you, and that thought alone terrifies him
x. despite all the things he does for you and gives you, he’s always thrown off when you do things for/ give things to him. in the winters when you would apply lotion onto his hands, massaging the cream into his skin with such care and gentleness and warmth saying that you don’t want his hands to be dry but really because his hands hurt in the cold, he feels like he could cry. he’s always at awe, slowed to a pause by your unashamed and unconditional tenderness; confused and moved by your love that seemingly comes from nowhere (at least in his mind) but he loves it anyway, he loves how you love him and how you make him feel loved, even if his usual snark and comments
xi. it’s a slow process with him, he's gradually learning to love and to accept love. but he always underestimates how easy it is for you to love him. there’s a passion, a kindness, a warmth, a tenderness within him, one that he doesn’t notice (perhaps he doesn’t know what to call it), but one that shines so bright— blindingly almost, putting even the sun to shame— when you dare to look through the cracks 
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inevitably-johnlocked · 4 months ago
Hi Steph! Would you happen to have any fic recs that involve John meeting the Holmes family? I always think that's such an interesting dynamic to see! Also, I think this goes without saying but I love your blog and appreciate your contributions to the fandom! Thanks!
Hey Nonny!
Ah, thank you! I’m glad you enjoy my blog!
Oooo! Yes, I love that dynamic too!! ANNNNND!!! You’re giving me the chance to make a part 2 for a REALLY OLD LIST!!! So YAY!!! I found a bunch on a text doc I haven’t posted yet, so HERE WE GO! Hope you enjoy, and as always, everyone please add your own!
PARENTS AND FAMILIES Pt. 2
See also: 
Parents & Family
Meeting the Family With a Fake Relationship
Do You Love Me? by whitchry9 (K, 641 w., 1 Ch. || Friendship, Family, Epic Bromance) – John asks Sherlock perhaps the most important question.
Once Upon A Time by ProfessorSquirrell (T, 908 w., 1 Ch. || Family, Snippets of Life, Romance, Sherlock’s Mind Palace, Implied Drug Use, Angst with Happy Ending) – There is a room in Sherlock's mind palace where nothing gets deleted. And it looks like this...
Crisis Averted by Spartangal22 (T, 2,188 w., 1 Ch. || HLV Fic, Missing Scene After Confronting Mary, Canon Compliant, Sherlock Whump / Mary Shot Sherlock, Family / Friendship, Hospitalization, Sherlock POV, Holmes Brothers) – Lying in the hospital, Sherlock receives some surprising visitors, and manages to deal with two problems he's been having lately. A missing scene from HLV about a formal introduction that was never made and a visit that was never shown.
The Only Available Transportation by blueink3 (T, 5,379 w., 1 Ch. || Post S4, Fluff and Angst, Insecure Sherlock, Caring John, Parentlock, Sherlock’s Birthday, Family, Misunderstandings) – It’s possibly the desperation that’s seeped into his voice despite his best intentions, or perhaps it’s just a mother’s intuition, but she knows that whatever he’s calling about is Serious, hangover be damned. “What’s happened?” she asks, tone soft and as comforting as a hot cup of tea on a cold winter’s night. “Mummy,” he begins, voice catching. “I think John may be moving out.”
On the Steadfast Approach of an Oncoming Darkness by 2bee (T, 7,772 w., 1 Ch. || Apocalypse, Minor Character Death, Sort of Parentlock) – The world is ending. Not fast, but slowly, like falling asleep with a fever.
The Name Game by ItsClydeBitches221B (K, 8,958 w., 1 Ch. || Humour, Family, Platonics / Friendship, Sort-of Parentlock, John/Mary, Mary is Nice, Five and Ones, Baby Watson, Mycroft Loves Baby Watson) – The names that baby girl Watson comes up with for her extended family. Or: how everyone—Watsons, Holmes, and others alike— just learned to give up and embrace their weirdness.
The Burning of the Leaves by blueink3 (M, 15,915 w., 3 Ch. || Post S4, Angst, Reichenbach, Parentlock, Past Jolto, Idiot John, Sherlock’s a Mess, Puppies, Fluff, Possessive / Jealous Sherlock, Pining Sherlock, Sherlock POV, Matchmaker Sholto, Melancholic Feelings, Emotional Sherlock, Domesticity, Love Confessions in the Rain, Kissing in the Rain, Pet Names) – After the events of series 4, Major Sholto invites John and Sherlock to lunch one day. It nearly proves to be too much for their tenuous relationship as the past haunts the present, putting the future that Sherlock so desperately wants at risk.
Permanent Fixture by vitruvianwatson (E, 18,836 w., 9 Ch. || Post-S4, Parentlock, Slow Build, Friends to Lovers, They’re Good Parents, Blushing Sherlock, First Kiss/Time, Explicit Consent, Sexual Content, Emotional Hurt/Comfort, Mutual Pining, Big Feelings, Crying, First Kiss, Fluff, Anxious Sherlock, Inexperienced Sherlock, Emotional Communication, Love Confessions) – Now, as Rosie sat curled up against Sherlock’s side, John watched and wondered exactly how he had ended up here. Domesticity had never suited him before, not at any point in his life. His disastrous marriage had been proof of that. But somehow, here in the warmth and safety of 221B Baker Street, here with Sherlock Holmes reading medical jargon to his daughter, Sherlock’s bony feet nudging against his leg, John couldn’t imagine anyplace that would make him happier.
Dropping the Act by jadztone (T, 27,258 w., 10 Ch. || Parentlock, Fake Relationship, Mary’s Family, Post-S4, Cuddling & Snuggling, Bed Sharing, Pining, Christmas) – Sherlock and John are quite happy living together with Rosie in Baker St. They might be even happier if they didn’t act towards each other like their love is only platonic. Mycroft brings troubling news in the form of Mary’s parents wanting to know just what their grandchild’s home life is like. The boys decide to spend Christmas pretending like they are in love in order to seem more like a "normal" family. It's easy enough to pretend when all you're doing is dropping the act.
An Acquired Taste by kinklock (E, 31,059 w., 4 Ch. || Vampires AU || Vampire Sherlock, Misunderstandings, Bat!Sherlock, Pining Sherlock, Humour, Magical Realism, Fluff and Angst, Blood Drinking, Holmes Family, Slow Burn) – At Montague Street when Sherlock was forced to sate his body’s needs, he was at least able to wander about the flat as much as he pleased. At Baker Street, it was mini-bags in a mini-fridge and bedroom confinement.
Chaperones by MissDavis (T, 34,114 w., 7 Ch. || 11 Years Post-S4, Fake Relationship, Parentlock, Disney World, Bed / Room Sharing, Friends to Lovers, Fluff, First Kiss, Obsessive Sherlock, Insecure John) – Right. Of course. Everyone assumed they were a couple and no one would question it. John put his elbows up on the table so he could rest his head in his hands. "You want to pretend to be a couple so we can chaperone a trip to Disney World with Rosie's class and you won't have to share a room with a stranger?" "Exactly." Sherlock beamed at him. "Don't worry about the cost. The Birmingham case last month paid more than enough to cover expenses for all three of us."
Where The Ghosts Have Voices by HappyJuicyfruit (M, 37,691 w., 12 Ch. || Supernatural AU || Ghosts, Magical Realism, Light Horror, Fluff and Smut, John Can See Ghosts, John Whump, Emotional Manipulation, Dark Magic, Coma, Injury Recovery, Blow Jobs, Anal, Happy Ending, John’s Past, Mr Holmes, Powerful John, Holmes Brothers, Sherlock’s Past, Past Viclock, Drug Abuse, Hair Pulling) – John has lived his whole life as an outcast. It is only when he meets Sherlock, that be realizes being a freak might not be such a bad thing, and that the curse he has lived with his whole life may be a gift after all. (TO READ)
Anchor Point by trickybonmot (E, 49,856 w., 80 Ch. || Truman Show AU || Psychological Drama, Suspense, Slow Burn, Dark Characters / Fic, Alternating First/Third Person, Protective John, Anxious/Worried Sherlock, Tender Moments, Love Confessions, Hand/Blow Jobs, Cuddling, Jealous John, First Kiss/Time) – The world tunes in nightly for Sherlock, the ultimate in reality TV: Sherlock Holmes, a real person with a legendary name, unknowingly lives out his life in a staged setting contrived by his brother. Things get complicated when a retired army doctor joins the show to play the part of Sherlock's closest friend. This fic borrows its concept from the 1998 film, the Truman Show. However, you don't need to have any knowledge of the movie to enjoy this story.
The Hollow Woman by ScopesMonkey (M, 51,335 w., 22 Ch. || Post-TRF, Major Character Death, Mystery, Romance, Friendship, Family, Angst, Crime, Reunion, First Kiss / Time, Nightmares, Doctor John, Jealous Sherlock, Jealous John, BAMF John, Angry John, Dub-Con, Rough Sex, Bottomlock, Possessive John, Villain Mary, Open Ending) – Forced to return to London sooner than expected, Sherlock falls into a case too close to home. Part 1 of the Hollowverse series
Repairing the Broken Things by BakerTumblings (M, 75,252 w., 15 Ch. || S4 Compliant, Angst, Hurt/Comfort, Medical Trauma, Hospitals, Big Brother Mycroft, Misunderstandings, Realizations, Severe Accident, John Whump, Pneumonia, Medical Procedures, Bed Sharing, First Time, Healing, Happy Ending) – "I'm calling today to notify you that there's been an accident."
Points by lifeonmars (E, 53,791 w., 42 Ch. || PODFIC AVAILABLE || HLV Rewrite / Canon Divergence, Married Life, Pregnancy / Baby Watson, Drinking to Cope, Boxing / Fisticuffs, Clueless John, Angst, Minor Medical Drama, Tattoos, Christmas, First Kiss/Time, Eventual Happy Ending, Love Confessions, Doctor John, Sexuality Crisis, Slow Burn, Case Fic, Drugging, Blow/Hand Job, Emotional Love Making, Parenthood, Passage of Time) – What if His Last Vow never happened? This fic picks up a few months after John and Mary's wedding, in an alternate universe where Magnussen doesn't exist, but Mary is still pregnant. Life continues -- just in a different direction. And slowly, Sherlock and John find their way to each other.
The Monument of Memory by J_Baillier (M, 79,663 w., 14 Ch. || Post S4 Fix It Fic / S4 is Canon, Angst, Family Drama, Guilt, Case Fic, John Loves Sherlock, Complicated Feelings, Mentalism / Hypnosis, Murder, Grieving John, Sherlock is a Bit Not Good, Team Work, Trust Issues, BAMF John, Psychological Trauma, Protective John, Autistic-Spectrum Sherlock, Parentlock, John POV) –  A genius traumatised by a past he's only beginning to recall. The psychopath sister that time forgot. A missing woman and a mentalist who may or may not be a murderer. And, in the middle of it all, stands John Watson.
Kintsukuroi by sussexbound (E, 91,823 w., 20 Ch. || S4 Compliant / Post-TLD, Grief / Mourning, PTSD, Internalized Homophobia, Therapy, Past Abuse, Alcohol Abuse, Nightmares, Emotional Hurt/Comfort, Depression, Anxiety, Bed Sharing, Love Confessions, Cuddling, Suicidal Ideation, Masturbation, Minor Character Death, Sexting, Frottage, Inexperienced Sherlock, Rimming / Anal / BJ’s, Emotional Turmoil, Finding Each Other) – “I love you.” Sherlock sees the words hit John with almost physical force. He reels back a little, jaw twitching and eyes filling. “I love you,” he repeats, a little softer, a little more gentle, as earnest as he possibly can. Because they’ve been teetering on the brink of this thing for years, and it had become painfully obvious over the last few months that they were at a tipping point. This had to happen. Now it has. Now they can see where they end up. The tears in John’s eyes spill over, and he wipes at them angrily. “Do you even know what that means?”  
The Summer Boy by khorazir (T, 94,706 w., 6 Ch. || Post S3/Post TAB/Alternate S4, Friends to Lovers, Asexual Sherlock, POV Sherlock, Flashbacks, Bullying, 1980′s Kid Sherlock, Emotional Hurt/Comfort, Inexperienced Sherlock, Grief/Mourning, Pining Sherlock, Case Fic, Sherlock’s Past, Awkward Conversations, Anxious Sherlock) – About half a year after the fateful events at Appledore, Sherlock and John embark on a private case in Sussex. For Sherlock, it’s a journey into his past, bringing up memories both happy and sad that he has locked away for almost thirty years. For John, it means coming to terms with the present – and a potential future with Sherlock. Part 1 of the The Summer Boy series
The Wedding Garments by cwb (E, 105,390 w., 36 Ch. || PODFIC AVAILABLE || Alternate Future AU || Alternate First Meeting, Dating / Arranged Marriages, Romance, First Kiss/Time, Heavy Petting, Cuddles, POV Sherlock, Virgin Sherlock, Idiots in Love, Slow Burn / Falling in Love / Dev. Rel., Nervous/Anxious Sherlock, Jealous/Cranky, Hiking, Vacation Homes / Honeymoon, Sherlock’s Family, Horny John/Sherlock, Patient John, Massages, Hand Jobs, Assassination Plots, Hand Jobs / Oral Sex, Case Fic, Emotional Love Making, Bath Time Fun) – This is the story of a young consulting detective who wants nothing to do with marriage and an army doctor who wants to find true love. It's 2020 post-Brexit England and the British government is encouraging arranged marriages. Candidates meet through state-run agencies and date in hopes of finding love (and tax benefits). Sherlock doesn't need or want a spouse, at least not until John Watson shows up. Hesitant to give in to his more carnal urges because of the way they derail his mind, how will Sherlock progress toward the more intimate aspects of a relationship? The answer lies in a very special wedding gift.
The Bang and the Clatter by earlgreytea68 (M, 137,049 w., 37 Ch. || PODFIC AVAILABLE || Baseball AU || Slow Burn / Dev. Rel., Possessive/Obsessive Sherlock, Jealous Sherlock, Mutual Pining, Body Appreciation, Depression, Closeted Sexuality, Family, Sherlock’s Mind Palace, Ogling Each Other, Anxious Sherlock, Panic Attack, Drunkenness, Talk of Forever, Big Feelings™) – Sherlock Holmes is a pitcher and John Watson is a catcher. No, no, no, it's a baseball AU. Part 1 of Baseball
The Lost Special: Family Matters (As Do Relationships) by ShirleyCarlton  (M, 144,688 w., 40 Ch. || S4 Fix It Fic, Unreliable Narrator, John’s Mind Bungalow, Friends to Lovers, Happy Ending) – Sherrinford is not really the name of some high security prison. That was just a figment of John’s frantic coma dream. And Eurus is not actually Sherlock’s sister. That’s just something random she said to John before shooting him. Sherlock and John were never actually estranged. That was just their act to cover up what really happened to Mary – or Rosamund Moran, as her real name has turned out to be. Sherlock does have a secret sibling, though, and his name is Sherrinford. After finally eliminating Moran – though in a rather dramatically different way than they had envisioned – and exposing the truth about Eurus, John encourages Sherlock to delve into his past and to find out whether the reasons to keep Sherrinford away from Sherlock were the right ones, and to discover what really happened in 1981. Along the way, Sherlock and John gradually, finally, stop keeping each other at a distance, and eventually become a proper family of their own.
Proving A Point by elldotsee & J_Baillier (E, 186,270 w., 28 Ch. || Me Before You Fusion || Medical Realism, Insecure John, Depression, Romance, Angst, POV John, Sherlock Whump, Serious Illness, Doctor John, Injury Recovery, Assisted Suicide, Sherlock’s Violin, Awkward Sexual Situations, Alcoholism, Drugs, Idiots in Love, Slow Burn, Body Image, Friends to Lovers, Hurt / Comfort, Pain, Big Brother Mycroft, Intimacy, Anxiety, PTSD, Family Issues, Psychological Trauma, John Whump, Case Fics, Loneliness, Pain) – Invalided home from Afghanistan, running out of funds and convinced that his surgical career is over, John Watson accepts a mysterious job offer to provide care and companionship for a disabled person. Little does he know how much hangs in the balance of his performance as he settles into his new life at Musgrave Court.
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kookie-min-monster · 5 months ago
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Run BTS 138: just another hug (cr: queen peaches)
There’s a lot of whispering around KM’s penchant for hugs and/or their avoidance of hugs or touching. And sometimes when I see these posts I wonder if I’m viewing the same content that y’all are watching. And, I don’t mean disrespect by that -- we all have different perspectives, but what I don’t see is KM *actually* avoiding each other, being frosty or weird in ANY content. In fact, I have rarely ever seen anyone in the group by frosty, avoid-y, or otherwise weird with one another. Sure, conflict does happen; we’ve seen the actual fights and difficult conversations. We’ve also seen the subtler stuff -- who visits who on solo shoots, who gravitates towards who, etc, but even that footage doesn’t tell the whole story. We will never know who texts who, calls who, who stays up late chatting who, etc. Remember, we’re only seeing marketing and entertainment content.
What I notice lately with our favs is that they are constantly hugging and seeking or doling out affirmation to one another. Jimin gets a question right? Fist bump from Kookie. One completes a difficult task? Big, excited hug. Lots of handshakes, touches, semi-hugs, looks, words of congratulations, or even encouragement. If they stop short of a full-on embrace, it might just be that they’ve already done it 500 times that day. If you’re at work, constantly hugging your friend/co-worker can get excessive, don’t you think?
Their constant affirmations are the most telling to me, way beyond any moment they may cut short. And, these affirmations go beyond any social miscalculation. What do I mean by that? Have you ever tried to high-five someone but they wanted a hug instead, so you awkwardly end up doing a bit of both? Or, have you ever tried to kiss your partner on the lips but they thought you were just going for the cheek so you end up somewhere in between? Now, imagine every little interaction between you and a friend or partner was being scrutinized by thousands online. Personally, I have no problem with people scrutinizing content that is put out into the ether -- that’s sort of what it’s there for -- but I think some perspective is in order. If you’ve had a lot of social experience as an adult, you may recognize these interactions more easily. In Run 137, Jimin went for a big hug while JK couldn’t be bothered to stand, so he hugged his waist/hips. He also avoided mushing all his makeup into JM’s expensive sweater. He wasn’t avoiding being close to JM (gasp!); he was being practical and maybe lazy, imo.
I’m in no way trying to, annoyingly, act like people should not have fun over-analyzing things, but I do think being wary of seeking out drama is important. If you’re looking for drama, watch TV or a movie instead. The only real drama surrounding BTS is with the fans themselves and how they behave toward one another, lol.
Sometimes it feels like there is an element of entitlement -- that people expect KM to act a certain way, and if they don’t, there must be something wrong. And the same goes for the group as a whole. Well, we’re not entitled to anything beyond what we purchase as *actual* customers when money changes hands, and even that has its limits. Run BTS is a free program. Social media is free content. Winter Package is a hybrid fashion editorial/variety content DVD package. If you’re upset your pair didn’t get enough “play time,” perhaps the expectation was off because this format is about the members showing off fashion concepts and then choosing what they want to do.
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binniesthighs · 6 months ago
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a/n: and we’ve got another lil valentines day drabble eeee hope you all are staying cuddly and fuzzy! 
sweet like strawberry | reader x felix
Paring: self insert, gender neutral reader x lee felix 
Genre: fluffy fluff hehe 
Tags: valentines day special, coworkers au, friends to lovers, cafe au, two cuties in love, stuck with you au, wintertime au, teeeny bits of magical vibes, mentions of food, teensy bit of food play (sfw but like a leeetle suggestive), that good good makin’ out hehe 
Word count: 4.7k 
Tagging: @stayhavens​ thank you for letting me join for Felix as well ❤️
“Oh! And one more thing, for some reason, the security system keeps acting up. If the doors don’t lock up the first time around, just try it a couple more times and I think that it should work...I kind of just try it enough times until it works.” 
Felix nervously adjusted his cap with the little embroidered yellow chick. 
“Okay. Sounds good to me.” 
Your boss tucked his neck deep into his cable scarf, then tipped both you and your coworker a little salute. 
“Thank you both for being here on Valentines Day. Just a couple more hours! You can do it!” 
The back door to the café slammed shut from the blustering winter wind behind your boss’ coattails. 
“It’s really coming down out there isn’t it?” Your friend, and coworker-in-suffering Felix, shifted from foot to foot. 
Outside of the shop windows, the howling of wind shook at the shutters of the the display case filled with little mock-up cakes and pastries. The snow storm had been unexpected, but it hadn’t seemed to dampen anyone’s spirits on the holiday. Since the snow had picked up in the afternoon, customers still came rolling into the cafe with flakes all caught up in their hair, scarves and hats. On this day in particular, you had seen dozens of school girls and boys come in carrying their stash of valentines letters, bouquets of flowers and all kinds of candies. Little groups of friends would share slices of your special Valentines Day cake and smear cream over each other’s noses in a tizzy of laughter. 
You didn’t mind Valentines Day; there was something extra heartwarming and universal about it all. One day, out of all the days of the year, everyone stopped for just a few moments to say “I love you” or give out an extra hug or kiss on the cheek. How could you not feel all lovey and gushy from it all? Maybe you were a romantic, or maybe you really had just watched one too many dramas to make you feel this way. 
Earlier, you had been making a couple lattes, and a couple sitting by the window had arranged to meet right at the loveseat by the door to exchange gifts. One of them had given the other a couple books and a journal, and the other gave them what looked like hand-knitted mittens. They held the frayed fabric in their hands while the watched how their partner reacted. Of course, they accepted the mittens with a wide smile then pulled their love in to give them a giant hug. 
I love them. So much. Thank you. 
You thought that was what they had said from as far away as you were. 
This kind of love, was your favorite kind. The kid of love that was unconditional, that was given no matter what time of day, no matter what it looked like or how it was expressed, it simply was. 
You had always hoped, this was the love that you would have some day. But, you hadn’t found it yet. Not in all your years of crushes from afar, or love letters written in the night when you should have ben doing work. You had wondered, what was it really like to have someone love you like that: a love that existed in the early mornings, and dead of the night; the kind of love that looked over at you for no reason, and smiled at you just because. 
Perhaps you would spend your whole life looking: and while it saddened you, in a few ways, you had come to terms with it. If you had to wait, that just meant that you were waiting for something really great...right? 
You wondered what kind of love Felix wanted. The thought had crossed your mind time and again. You figured, he was the kind to fall in love fast and all the time. He would even get crushes on people who would come to the register to pay for their coffee and custard tart. It was supremely adorable. He’d stammer over his words with hands trembling at the keys of the register, and the tips of his ears would turn rosy pink. 
“U-ummm here-here’s your receipt....” 
A tiny smile would spread across his freckled face after they would leave, then he would rake his cute little hands though his hair, stammering even more about what a fool he had made of himself. 
“Well, when you think about it, you might never see them again?” You’d joke to him with a playful jab to his side. 
“But what if I doooooo??” 
Maybe Felix was the kind of person who wanted a love that would last forever, or the kind of love that he could daydream about. You thought that this might’ve suited him. It seemed as if that boy was often in a faraway place. There had been a couple times when he would stare out the shop windows wistfully with his mop in hand, or would giggle a little when he made designs into the lattes and mochas. He was just so happy all the time, but for what, you had no idea. 
Maybe Felix already had a love. You wouldn’t put it past him seeing how dreamy he was often. Felix deserved love more than anyone in the world you had decided. He deserved some to love him so hard and all the time. Admittedly, it made your heart ache a little thinking about how badly he deserved it. He deserved someone to kiss away on all those freckles on his cheeks on his cute little wrists. He deserved someone to shower all their love into his strawberry pink lips, and ruffle up his golden hair just to make him laugh. 
Maybe...you wished that you could’ve been the person to do so. 
“Do you think that we’ll get any more customers?” 
Felix had squatted down on the floor behind the counter into a pseudo-sitting position. His tan apron crinkled on the ground. 
“Don’t you think that everyone’s gone out by now? And the snow is picking up?” 
You squatted down next to him. “I don’t think we’ll be seeing anyone else. There’s only one more hour left anyway.” 
A sly smirk started to sprout on his lips, “What if we left a little early? No one is coming so...” 
“Have somewhere that you need to be?” You patted his head. 
“...No, unless spending the night with my cats counts as “plans.”” 
“No...date?” 
“Date?” He scoffed, “Me? Nooooo.” He paused, and with a tentative air, met your eyes. “Do...you have plans tonight?” 
“Mm-no.” 
Felix sucked in a tight inhale, as if he was mustering his courage. 
“Well, m-maybe, after we leave, --only if you want--we could--” 
The bells over the café door tinkled, sweeping in snowy and white air in with it. 
“I’m sorry, are you still open?” 
The old woman carefully closed the door behind her and clung tightly to her shawl that was wrapped around her shoulders. Only dressed in the thin fabric, you figured that she must’ve been freezing. Both you and your coworker sprung to your feet to attend to her. 
“Yes! How can we help you?” 
She was an odd woman, the kind that you could only really describe to look witch-like. While she had warm features, her aged skin had grown stretched with little marks and veins feebly showing. Bags under her eyes were deep, but they didn’t look tired, but like they held many years of wisdom, like he had witnessed much, and knew much. 
“A-aren’t you cold?” Felix rushed to the other side of the corner to help her to a chair. “It’s so freezing outside, and you’ve barely got on a hat.” 
His tone was gentle, like the one that you guessed he would speak to his cats with. 
“I’m fine. Nights like these, I’ve lived through many of them. They don’t phase me any more. I just thought that I could come inside for a moment to have a slice of that strawberry cake that you have in the window. It looks very delicious.” 
You nodded quickly then plated the second to last slice for her. You brought the dish over quickly with a little fork. “Anything else that we can get for you?” 
The woman shook her head politely, then took up the fork in her shaking hands. She ate quietly, merely making little “mm’s” as she licked the cream away. You and your coworker didn’t really know what to do, seeing as she hadn’t paid, and wasn't shivering from the cold at all. Felix shot you a confused glance, then rushed to the back of the café and to his locker. You heard the usual metallic clang, and he came jogging back with his own scarf that he had worn that day. 
“H-here. Please put this on.” He offered her the periwinkle blue fabric. 
“Oh. Dear, you are so kind. I just knew that you would be such a sweet soul. I could sense it.” 
The woman dabbed her mouth with the napkin that you had placed under her plate. 
“That was wonderful, I could really taste the love that had been baked into that cake. It’s always refreshing to feel that.” 
You and Felix nodded, still unsure of the situation, but smiled as politely as you could. She then swaddled her neck in the scarf, and sighed in her contempt. 
“No one has ever offered me something like this before. You are quite special young man.” 
She had voiced the comment about Felix, but she had held your eyes as she said it. Her eyes were a bit hazy, some kind of color that must’ve been blue at some point, but here now a type of soft grey-lavender. They were enchanting, and mysterious, but you had felt that you had known them somehow. 
The old woman rummaged around in her pockets, the pulled out two gold coins that were hefty in size, and thick like the kind of candy ones. You had never seen anything like them before, and they were a bit comical to look at, but still shone like the golden sun. On both sides of the coin, there was no writing, but merely an insignia of two arrows crossed over eachother. 
“I think that should suffice.” Her chair creaked under her as she rose, and placed one in your hand and the other in Felix’s. “Thank you so much for taking care of me. Both of you deserve all the love that’s coming to you. I hope that you remember this.” 
Felix muttered and turned over his coin in his hand. “T-thank you.” 
You shot Felix a glare. You had not the slightest idea how you could have accepted this as payment, but Felix seemed completely fine with it. 
The woman’s crinkled hand wrapped around the door handle, and she pulled her shawl around her once again, then buried her neck back into Felix’s scarf. 
“Happy Valentines Day!” She waved to you both, and you found yourself waving back. 
The door slammed, and you felt as if you had been snapped out of some kind of hypnosis. 
“Wow.” Felix whispered with a little smile. 
“What. The heck. Was that?” Your body trembled in the way that you would’ve have as if you had plunged right out of cold water. 
Felix stood smiling and gazing out, not even paying attention to your remark. 
“Felix? ...Felix?” 
“Hmm?” He turned nonchalant. 
“Did you hear me?” 
“What?” 
You reached your hand down the pocket of your apron to study that strange coin only to find that you couldn’t feel the cold metal. 
“...What?” You rummaged around even further. “I could’ve sworn...” 
In Felix’s hands which he had left cupped in front of him, his gold coin had vanished too, and he hadn’t even noticed. 
»»————- ♡ ————-««
“I hope that this works.” 
Felix’s mittened hands tapped over the keys of the security system keypad and he mouthed the numbers as he did so. The pad illuminated with a green light and made little beeping sounds with each number. Once he finished the sequence, it flashed with a red light. 
“...Does that mean that it didn’t work?” 
“I think so?” 
The two of you had shoved your bodies together in the little corner nearest the back exit of the café. 
“I should try it again?” 
“Isn’t that what we’re supposed to do?” 
Felix gave a determined nod, then did the passcode, only for it to flash red again. 
“Oh my god, what if we mess this all up and then someone breaks into the café and then we get fired--I mean--I get fired because it would be all my fault--” 
You snarked out a laugh and pushed him lightly aside, “Here, let me try. No one’s getting in trouble.” 
You pressed in the same code, getting red once more. 
“What do we do????” 
As if it was his security blanket, Felix tucked his neck into his coat collar. 
“One more time, alright? Maybe there’s a manual in the office or something. We can try that.” 
An ahhh circled Felix’s mouth and he let out a relieved exhale. “Right. Right. That’s a good idea.” 
This time, you pressed the numbers in hard, as if that would make any difference, but you thought it best to try. But, red again. 
“I’ll go check the office,” Felix announced, and shuffled closer to the manager’s office near the back door. He wiggled the doorknob, finding it locked as well. “We’re doooooommed.” 
“No, we’re not. I’m not giving up.” 
In your head, you cursed out the damned security system up and down. If it wasn’t going to work, you would make it work. 
“5. 9. 2. 5. 0. 8.” 
beep beep beEP! 
“Oh my god!!! It worked!!” Your friend jumped up and down in his excitement. 
“Thank God.” 
Felix hiked up his backpack on his shoulders, grabbing the door handle at first, but then stopped. 
“Wait.” He licked his lips, “Before we go out there, I...I wanted to ask you, since it seems like we’re both not doing anything tonight, would you like to maybe...do something...with me?” 
His anxious eyes widened, and you could see his breaths quicken under his wool coat. For a moment, you couldn’t even believe that he had said such a thing. Normally a timid boy, his strike of courage was something that was astonishing to you, but it also made your heart beat just a bit louder in your ears. 
“You want to do something...with me?” 
“Y-yeah.” 
“Me?” 
He giggled lightly. “I just said you.” 
“On Valentines Day?” 
“I-is that weird? I-I’m sorry if I’m weirding you out, I didn’t mean to. I know that we’re friends a-and I think that you’re really cool--I’ve always thought that--but, I never really had the guts to say so, and honestly I don’t know how I’m getting it out now but, I just don’t like the thought of being alone right now, or you being alone. So--” 
“--Felix! Felix, calm down...” Even though your chest was thumping, your sweating hands squeezed your palms to calm yourself down. 
“Sorry...I ramble when I get kind of nervous.” 
His hands nervously fidgeted at his sides, and under the light of the emergency exit sign, a glimmer of gold winked between his fingers. 
Felix asked his question with glimmering eyes. “Would you like to?” 
“Yes. Yes. I would really really like to.” 
“Really?” His smile was filled with the very sunshine that he seemed to carry with him every day. 
“Really.” 
“Okay.” He reached for the handle once more, yanking it down, but instead of it swinging from it’s hinges, it clanked, glued to the wall. 
“What?” Felix shook at the handle once more. “It’s not...budging.” 
“Let me try.” You mirrored his action, and sure enough, the door had locked itself in place. “Wait. I thought that it wasn’t supposed to lock after we exited?” 
“I...thought the same.” 
Once giddy, Felix turned solemn and worry chased across his brows. 
“No. Nononono. This can’t be happening.” 
“It’s okay. We’ll just unlock it again.” 
You went back to your mortal enemy, the keypad, and pushed in the buttons, but no green light came from the action. 
“Is it on? Is that supposed to happen?” Felix’s tone edged with anxiety. 
The display screen on the interface had turned blank too. You had seen in movies that if you slapped the thing, maybe it would turn on, but after you had tried, nothing happened. 
“I’ll try the other door.” Felix scuffled over the the front of the café, and you could hear the answer loud and clear even from the back. The other door also had locked and it’s metallic clang resonated through the empty tables and chairs. 
“What do we do?” He asked once he returned to you in the back. 
Even though your heart was racing its way up your throat, you remained as calm as you could. “We call for help. It’ll be okay. Look, there's a phone number here on the panel to call the service company.” 
You drew your phone from your pocket, and it added yet one more object to your list of worries. “I-I don’t have service?? What the hell?” 
Felix opened his phone screen too, and showed you his non-existent bars. “Me too. It’s gotta be the storm right?” 
Your coworker’s eyes flicked back and forth in the darkened hallway, and you could hear his breaths start to quicken one after the other. 
“Hey, hey, it’ll be okay.” You fluffed his hair like you had down a few times before, an action that never failed to make him giggle, so you hoped it helped put him at ease. He keened his hand into your hand a bit like a cat would, and it was just too frickin’ cute, even in a situation just as this. 
“So we’re just gonna wait? Wait until our service comes back?” 
“I guess so.” 
Felix started with taking his coat off, and hung it back up in his locker. “Who knows how long that we’ll be here?” 
You did the same, but left your hat on, merely liking the way that it warmed up your head. “Maybe we can make ourselves something to drink? How about, I make something for you, and you make something for me? Sounds kinda fun?” 
“Sure.” Felix responded with a faint smile. 
In the dim lighting of that hallway, you reached for his small hand at his side. 
“Um, looks like we’re still getting to spend tonight together. I wish that it wasn’t like this, but, it’s something, right?” 
He was startled by your action, but let your fingers lace between his. The small connection was the one that had made you feel butterflies just thinking about, and now it really was happening. 
“Felix...I’ve thought before, I think that you’re really cool too.” 
»»————- ♡ ————-««
You knew that using the ingredients for your own experimentation was against the rules, but you had hoped that your boss would’ve understood considering the situation. The rule had been written on the little spreadsheet that he kept taped to the side of the syrup holder, but that wasn’t going to stop you. 
“No peeking.” Felix giggled as he shook something together in one of the hand-held mixers. 
“No peeking to you either.” You said, scooping some macerated strawberries into the bottom of a cup. 
For a boy as sweet as him, you knew exactly what you wanted to make: it was your own version of the strawberry milk that you had made in the café, but it had chocolate dripping down the sides of the glass and it was topped with chocolate shavings and a lovely amount of whipped cream. 
“You done yet?” You asked while adding your finishing touches. 
“Juuust about.” He rummaged around the little array of fresh prepared herbs that you kept in the minifridge under the counter. “Oookay! Now I am!” 
In the corner of your eye, that last slice of strawberry cake called your name. You thought to yourself, I could always make more. It was the last slice anyway. 
The two of you made a little set up at one of the tables and Felix even thought to turn off a few of the light fixtures, and brought out a couple of those birthday candles that you would use on customers, and arranged them in a cup to burn. 
Celebrate! 
Happy Birthday! 
You Are Special! 
Congratulations! 
“Aw, cute.” You slid your drink for him closer, and admired the way that the yellow glow of the candles flickered in his soft brown eyes. 
“I-I thought that it would make it more special, considering that where we are isn’t like, the most special place. Especially for tonight.” 
“I think that it’s special. Or, who you’re with is what makes it special.” 
Your coworker smiled coyly, then took a sip of your strawberry milk. 
“Try yours!” He pushed the iced drink in front of you. It looked a bit like lemonade, but not exactly. Swirls of purple juice danced along with the pulp of the lemons. He had garnished it with a sprig of mint. “It’s blackberry lemonade. I’m sorry if it’s kind of tart. It was my first time making it, but I thought that you would like it.” 
You took a sip, and the second that the concoction touched your lips, it was heavenly. While it was a little tart, the juice of the lemon bit wonderfully on your taste buds, and was complimented well with the sweetness from the ripe berries. 
“Good?” 
“Really good. Thank you.” 
He sighed a sigh of relief, then passed you a fork. 
“Maybe this isn’t so bad after all.” 
“You thought that being trapped with me would be a bad thing?” You teased. 
Felix’s eyes adorably widened, looking as if he had spilled his strawberry milk all over the table. “N-no, I didn’t mean that, I just thought that being locked up would feel--” 
“--I’m kidding! Kidding, okay?” 
A tiny oh formed on his mouth, so he took another sip to fill the gap of silence between you. “Your drink is really good too. How did you know that I liked strawberries so much?” 
“Hm, it was a hunch.” 
Actually, he had said it a dozen times or more, but, it was much cuter letting him think that he hadn’t said it before. 
With the light of the candles now dripping a bit of wax onto the table, all of his features seemed so much softer: he was like some kind of dream, almost like a mythical being that you must’ve imagined. 
You wondered, maybe this was the kind of love that he wanted: the kind of love that was sharing something that you had made, something special to you in a simple place, a place that was not much else other than the people who made it. Or, maybe this was the kind of love that you wanted. 
Your pants pocket felt a little heaver, and you snuck your fingers in. The touch of your fingertips felt the cold and smooth metal first, then they ran over the outline of the arrow shapes on the flat side. 
“Mmm. You made this cake so well!!” Felix did a little dance while popping in a bite. 
“Felix?” You ran your finger over the golden piece. “I’m glad that we’re stuck here together.” 
“Me...too.” He shied. 
Carefully, you took your fingers to trace the yellow strands of his hair dipping over his forehead, taking in the way that they tickled your skin. In his nervousness, he took another sip, gulping loudly with eyes fluttering. On his lower lip, a bit of the cream streaked, and all you could do was wonder how it might’ve tasted there on his strawberry pink lips. 
“Can I...kiss you?” 
You could nearly see the way that his heart was beating as fast as a hummingbird in the way that his shoulders rose and fell with his anticipatory breaths. 
“Yes.” He whispered. 
You leaned forward slowly as to not scare him, tilting your head to the side as you pressed your lips against his. You had thought right: there really was nothing sweeter. His shaking breaths quivered over your lips while he tentatively kissed back, and it made your chest ache thinking about how nervous he must’ve been. You didn’t want to startle him, bur rather gently kissed him slow, carefully and respectfully. He shivered at the feeling, and his hand crinkled the napkin in his hand. The other, he had drawn out to rest on your leg, and rubbed his thumb into your jeans. The sweetness of the cream on his lips caught on yours, and it was unlike any kind of flavor you could have ever imagined. 
After a moment, you drew back, and Felix appeared like he was about to burst with giggles but held himself back. 
“I-I really liked that.” He tried his best to keep his composure. 
“Me too.” Turns out, you really didn’t know what to do with yourself either. Instead, Felix made the decision for you. In seconds, he had launched his small body into your arms and wrapped himself around you in a hug so tight that it was nearly suffocating. 
“I always kinda wondered what that would be like...with you.” He squeezed you tighter. “I can’t believe that just happened.” His smile cracked though his words. 
You wrapped your arms back around him and you could have sworn that you could feel his fluttering heart against your own. 
“Me too Felix.” You breathed in his scent which was that of daisies and candy floss. 
“Can we...do it again maybe?” He leaned back with arms slung around your shoulders and pleading eyes. 
“Of course.” You wove your hands into his puff-ball hair. “Can I try something?” 
An even more sickly sweet idea crept into your brain. 
“What’s that?” 
You took your thumb to scoop up just a little bit more of the cream bubbling on his drink, then carefully wiped it over his bottom lip, just as if you had been coloring him like a finger painting. You sucked off the excess, and he watched as you did so with wonder. 
“You’re just so sweet, I can’t get enough of you.” You hushed into him, leaning closer once more. 
His eyes fluttered closed, and with his quivering breath, he waited for you to kiss away the taste there, sucking the flavor into your mouth, then going to kiss over his parted mouth. A rather awkward creaking of chairs echoed, and he pulled his body closer to yours, and let you fill him to the brim with kisses in all of the places that you desired. A smile tugged at the corners of his mouth and he even giggled into some of your kisses too. His hands found the sides of your face where he held you there gently. Once he was comfortable, the warm feeling of your tongues met, and he nearly melted from the sensation. Your hands crept around his tiny waist, and you never let go. 
It felt like the moment that you had been waiting for. 
Your lips broke, and Felix threw his arms over your shoulders again, dipping his head into the crook of your neck where he stayed for a while as you ran your fingers up and down his back. 
Outside it was a much colder and harsher world, but here, it was your own kind of paradise, and it was sweet like strawberry. 
»»————- ♡ ————-««
At some point, you had fallen asleep together on one of the loveseats: a pile of legs and arms all tangled up together. When the morning came, the snow had subsided, but rather was caught up everywhere in the streets and sidewalks, and sparkled like diamonds. 
It was your manager that had woken you up, and of course you had gotten in trouble, not at first for sleeping in the café, but for leaving the all the doors unlocked. 
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lokiondisneyplus · 3 months ago
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For a roughly 3,000-year-old god, Loki sure isn’t showing his age. In the trippy six-episode Disney+ series that bears his name, he’s full of his usual maniacal vigor and charm, and no wonder: This time, Tom Hiddleston’s god of mischief — first introduced in 2011’s big-screen Thor as the troublemaker, shapeshifting brother of Chris Hemsworth’s god of thunder — takes center stage.
Loki, a time-traveling procedural drama, opens up the complex character in ways fans have never seen in the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s many films, but still maintains his cool mystery. “Loki’s a mercurial shapeshifter who seems to present one thing on the external when there’s perhaps another thing going on in the internal,” Hiddleston says. “He’s always worn many masks.”
📷SEE ALSO'Loki' Sneak Peek: Owen Wilson and Tom Hiddleston Meet For First Time (VIDEO)Marvel Studios introduces Agent Mobius in clip from six-episode series.
And in this series, he’s getting a whole new look: a prison uniform. The story kick-starts where we last saw the prankster, 2019’s Avengers: Endgame film. In an alternate post–Battle of New York 2012 timeline, Loki absconded with the Tesseract cube containing the megapowerful Space Stone, which grants him the ability to portal throughout space. Smart planning, Marvel! “We knew we were going to take Tom off on his solo story,” executive producer Kevin Feige admits.
This Loki is a darker, meaner god; he hasn’t yet undergone all that brotherly character development from Thor: The Dark World, Thor: Ragnarok, and Avengers: Infinity War. The bright side? You won’t have had to see all the latest films to understand what’s going on.
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When we catch up with Loki, his stealing the Tesseract has led to his imprisonment by the bureaucratic Time Variance Authority, formed to “ensure that time unfolds according to its predetermined outcomes,” explains Hiddleston. They are basically the timeline police, and he’s in big trouble.
Loki’s been stripped of his powers and his trademark green and gold ensemble, making him more human than ever. But don’t expect that to dim his light. “You can take his scepter away, you can take off the cape and the fine Asgardian leather and literally put him in a button-down shirt and pants, and he’s still Loki — he’s more Loki than you’ve ever seen,” Feige says, playfully adding: “And that’s not just because Tom Hiddleston looks good in any clothes at all, but he does.”
Luckily for Loki, the TVA needs his help to track down a killer who’s wreaking havoc on the timeline. Reluctant yet powerless, the inmate has no choice but to say yes. (In the trailer, Loki appears to drop in on Pompeii’s collapse and seemingly becomes ’70s plane hijacker D.B. Cooper, so his time jumps, whether sanctioned by the TVA or not, are pretty bold too.)
TVA agent Mobius M. Mobius (Owen Wilson, sporting a bushy moustache) is assigned to keep Loki on a very short leash. Mobius’ delighted fascination — he holds “the highest academic honors in the studies of Loki,” notes Hiddleston — makes the manipulator even more guarded than usual. “It’s a little bit of a chess match to gain Loki’s trust, but in that shared endeavor, there’s an interesting dynamic,” says Wilson, who likens the partnership to “Nick Nolte getting Eddie Murphy out of jail in [the 1982 movie] 48 Hrs.” For his part, Feige predicts Loki and Mobius “will be one of the most popular pairings we’ve ever had at Marvel.”
Viewers can also anticipate some ambiguity, as in Marvel’s latest TV forays, WandaVision and The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. Both had watercooler moments (“It was Agatha all along!”) but also plenty of plot and character details left as question marks (we don’t know who Sophia Di Martino is playing either). And while Hiddleston says the key element that makes Loki a fan favorite is his ability to astonish viewers, this adventure could leave a certain god the surprised one. “What we try to ask is, behind the slippery trickster, who is he really?” the actor says. “Does he even know?” You can bet the discovery will be a lively, ruse-filled ride.
Loki, Series Premiere, Wednesday, June 9, Disney+
This is an excerpt of TV Guide Magazine’s latest cover story. For more of the exciting, action-packed fun, pick up the Sci-Fi Spectacular issue, on newsstands Thursday, June 3.
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