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#i got my photoshop to work again lol
hsogolden · 7 months ago
Traditions | 17.3k
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a/n: it's been a while since I uploaded writing and for some reason I decided to sign up for this challenge and by some miracle actually managed to write something for it 🤯anyways, this is for the Valentine's Day Challenge by @1dffchallenges and it's honestly just a bit of fun, enemies to lovers little bit of angst and some smut! so i hope you enjoy! I'd always love to know your thoughts!! (also pls excuse any errors, I wrote this in a week with little editing lol)
prompt: doube date
dialogue: “So let me get this right. You want to hire me as your date for a Valentine’s Day Party?”
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Pink and red were speckled throughout the entire office, whether it was a bouquet of chocolate roses, a banner of hearts, or stuffed bears residing next to bowls full of heart-shaped candies. Every employee’s section of the office had been filled to the brim with decorations as well. Pink and red ribbon taped carefully around the edges of their desktop computer, little store-bought balloons, also heart-shaped, grouped together and tied to desk chairs. 
And Y/N, dressed in her typical all black outfit, rolled her eyes as she paced through the office toward the one section in the back that was immune to all things heart-shaped, pink, or stuffed. 
She sat down at her desk with a loud sigh, her purse hitting the floor in its usual spot just before she slipped out of her jacket and draped it haphazardly between her back and the chair. It’d be wrinkled by the end of the day, but she didn’t care all that much, nor did she put much thought into the stains on her purse from leaving it on the floor. All she concerned herself with, after settling in, was getting straight to work… which was put on hiatus when she came face-to-face with both a pink and heart-shaped sticky note plastered onto the center of her computer screen. 
Groaning, she ripped it off and moved to turn her computer on before she bothered to read whatever was written on the note. She considered three potential suspects while she pulled her keyboard down onto her desk and logged in. There was Kayla, who worked front reception and was one of the main culprits of all the Valentine’s decorations. A strong contender. It could’ve also been Ines or Carmen, her closest work friends whom Y/N knew both owned a pad of pink, heart-shaped sticky notes. 
However, when she finally let her eyes fall to the note as her computer loaded up, the handwriting didn’t match any of the women she knew, and she was quite positive that none of them would have written was was sprawled out in black ink either.
Roses are red, violets are blue. I will fill your office with teddy bears and balloons, if you don’t send me your half of the proposal by two.
She crumpled the note and tossed it into the bin under her desk. He could go fuck himself for all she cared. Sure, she was nearly done with her portion of the work and would be able to send it to him before then, but now that he’d pestered her about it, he’d be lucky if she even bothered to send it to him at all. 
She didn’t doubt the promise, i.e. threat, he made on the note, but being surrounded by teddy bears and balloons would be worth making Harry’s life just a tad miserable.
After opening all the apps she’d need to get her work done, namely Photoshop and Illustrator, she connected her drawing tablet and set up the rest of her work station for the day, both on screen and off.
Harry had worked at the company for about two years longer than her and she’d started off as an intern while she was still in college and, after graduating, was hired as a permanent graphic designer. They had never really gotten along ever since Harry—jokingly—asked her to get him a coffee once… or twice. Unfortunately for her, though, they ended up working well together and their boss had stuck them both on the same projects ever since. Especially after the month-long project last spring that had been their most successful one to date. 
While she came up with the design parts of client projects, Harry handled the more technical side of things and they’d never really argued much over each other’s work even though they clashed constantly at a more personal level. 
“I see your feeling festive.” Just as she’d gotten into the groove of her typical morning and had forgotten all about Harry’s stupid note, his voice interrupted her entire thought process. So when she swiveled around to find him leaning into her little office space, it was hardly a surprise when she glared at him, even though he feigned offense at her bitterness.
“You got my note, I presume.” He let himself into her space anyway, holding a mug of steaming coffee she was sure he’d just made in the workroom, and leaned up against the opposite side of her desk that housed a much larger, digital drawing tablet for when she needed to do more intricate design pieces. 
She just swiveled back around to face her computer again and went back to work as if he was no longer there. Pretending to ignore his existence proved to be quite difficult when the very particular woodsy, vanilla scents of his cologne met her nostrils and filled her entire office. Not to mention, the sight of what he’d been wearing singed the backs of her eyelids so that she still saw him every time she blinked. It was as if her brain refused to let her forget what he looked like in his white button-up, sleeves rolled to the crooks of his elbows, all tucked into his fitted black trousers that tended to get the imaginations going of all the women in the building. 
Not her though, of course. She was better than that. Obviously.
He cleared his throat, still very much present in her space and still very much giving her a migraine. “So will it be ready by two?”
“Well, I planned to send it to you before lunch.” She tweaked the spacing between letters of a potential logo for the millionth time. “But now… I think I might need the rest of the day.”
She heard rustling behind her and knew he was shifting his weight impatiently and running a hand through his hair as he often did when he was… displeased. “I told you I’m leaving early tomorrow and I need it no later than two.”
She cocked her head to the side, still staring at her computer screen and not giving him an ounce of satisfaction. “Did you tell me that?” She teased, an amused smirk lifting the corners of her mouth when she heard him groan behind her. “I must’ve forgotten.” Shrugging, she went back to her work.
“Unlike you,” he snapped, “some of us actually have a love life and I’d appreciate you not fucking up mine.”
She froze then, only for a split second, when his words sank in. Two thoughts raced through her head. The first a string of curse words because of his assumption that she didn’t have a love life. But the more prominent and worrisome part of his statement was that he did have one. And that he was leaving early tomorrow—Valentine’s Day—so he could get ready for a date.
Throwing both her prickly exterior and heartbreaking smirk up again, she turned to face him. “I’ve known you for three years now and if anyone has the potential to fuck up your love life, it’s you.”
He narrowed his eyes at her and her gaze fell to the hand that seemed to wrap a bit tighter around his Bugs Bunny mug. His knuckles whitened and she met his heated stare again, pleased with herself for getting him riled up before he’d even finished his morning coffee.
“So,” she continued before he get get a word of retaliation out, and sat back against her chair, crossing her legs confidently as she folded her hands in her lap. “Who’s the poor girl you’ve tricked into going on a date with you this time?”
Harry had a terrible track record. The longest relationship he’d been in lasted for two months, and that was well before she’d known him. Everything else he had was just a one or two night thing and nothing more. Sure, it was all more than she had, but she preferred it that way. Harry seemed to resent the fact that he couldn’t keep a girlfriend to save his life.
“You don’t know her.”
Her smile widened. “How long have you been seeing her?”
“Couple weeks.”
“Ooh, that just might be your second longest relationship, Styles.” 
“Well at least I’ve had one.”
His jab didn’t have an affect on her however, and he knew it wouldn’t because it never did. He knew she didn’t give a damn about relationships, or at least that’s what she claimed anyway. He couldn’t think of many twenty-four year old women who actually wanted to be alone. He actually couldn’t think of a mid-twenties anyone who wanted that.
“You’ll have to try harder than that.” She said nonchalantly, which irked him even more than he already was, and then swiveled away from him one last time, picking up her drawing pen and getting back to work.
“What’s your issue with relationships?” He went on and she knew he was headed right down a path intended to hurt her feelings just as much as she had his. So, she tensed slightly and braced for impact. “Is it a commitment thing? Or can you just not find anyone to put up with you for longer than five minutes?” 
She let his words sink their teeth in and then smiled to herself. “Hm. Seeing as you’ve been in my office now for,” she checked the time at the top right-hand corner of her screen, “eight minutes, maybe we should date.” She lifted a brow, awaiting his next response. 
It felt a bit like a cat-and-mouse chase bickering with Harry and since she was usually the cat, it brought her way too much pleasure fighting with him.
He scoffed. “Like I’d lower my standards for you.”
That one hurt, she had to admit. Not out loud or to Harry, but it still stung because it was true. He’d have to drop his standards to the floor to even consider dating her and she knew it. 
“Maybe,” she began, still half focused on her work, and ignored his comment all together, “some of us like being alone.”
“Nobody likes that.” He responded quickly and she heard a shift of his weight again and then his voice once more a few moments later. “It’s nice to be by yourself sometimes, yeah, but you can’t tell me you don’t want someone to come home to at the end of the day.” He crossed one leg over the other as he gripped the edge of her desk for support and just when she thought he was done, he kept going, “Someone you can vent to about your annoying co-worker.”
She glanced at him through the little portable mirror hanging above her desk—mostly used to make sure she looked decent before meeting with clients or, sometimes, Harry—and saw the tight smile on his lips. Almost as if that’s what he wanted, like he was talking about himself and not her. 
She’d slowed her progress down while he’d talked until she was no longer working at all. She no longer swiped her pen across the pad or had any idea what she was even doing when she focused solely on his words. Because, once again, whether he was talking about himself or about her, he was right.
“Yeah well,” she quickly hid herself back behind her wall and made her hands function properly again. “Some of us also don’t have the luxury of choosing whomever we want.”
She imagined him smirking at that one because, buried deep within her words was a compliment. That he was handsome enough to actually have anyone he wanted.
Instead, when she glanced at the mirror again and found him, there was the complete opposite of a smirk on his face, and as he stared down into his mug, clearly lost in thought, she wondered what the tightness in his jaw and the frown pulling on his lips meant.
She sighed and stole his attention away from his coffee. “I’ll have it to you before lunch. You can go now, unless you’d like to argue some more and slow me down by another…” she glanced at her clock again, adding up all the time he’d been standing in her office, “fifteen minutes.”
Without another word, she listened to the drag of his footsteps as he finally left her office space. And although she was glad to be rid of his distraction, the room felt so much bigger and so much colder and emptier without him in it. Shivering, she slipped back into her jacket and spent the next few hours doing nothing but staring straight ahead at her screen as she made final adjustments to her designs. 
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Any other conversations with Harry were had over email as he worked in his own respective office, messaging her with every little concern he had in order to get his work done efficiently so that he wasn’t stressing to finish it tomorrow before he had to leave. Even though Y/N considered not responding to him a few times, just to spite him and slow him down for her own amusement, she found herself feeling guilty after leaving him hanging a couple times. Sure, she hated Valentine’s Day and everything surrounding it, but she’d almost hate even more the idea of both her and Harry being miserable tomorrow, so she inevitably gave in and cooperated with him. She’d probably regret it when he came back on Thursday spreading around the office all the gory details of his date, but at least he wouldn’t also be in a shitty mood. Her days were both boring and slow whenever Harry wasn’t having a good day. And although she’d blame it all on selfish reasons, it did also make her sad to see him frowning around the office and sulking when all she wanted to do was bicker with him and make him smile again, even just a little bit. But it was easier leaving him to his own devices than risk him finding out she cared about him enough to not wish sadness upon him.  
She couldn’t say the same for him. Harry probably relished in the days she came into the office in a sour mood. He probably celebrated and threw a party whenever she was upset, and, even so, it didn’t change how she felt about him.
The sun had long set and most of the office was gone by the time she finally called it quits and began packing up her things and giving her computer a rest for the night. There were still quiet murmurs from other workaholic employees, which comforting her knowing she wasn’t completely alone in the building, since the last time she’d done that, it took everything in her not to have a panic attack all the way to her car. 
Even though her boss told her countless times not to stay past five o’clock, as he told every other female employee that worked for him that he didn’t wish to see attacked after sunset in the city. Of course, when she was the only one who didn’t listen to him, he hired more guards and one of them rounded the corner into her office space, ready to escort her all the way down to her car.
“Figured you were still here.” He leaned against the walls of her cubicle and watched as she startled, twisting to meet his eyes for a moment before she settled and returned to slipping her belongings into her purse. 
“I don’t need you to escort me.” Zipping her purse, she rose from her chair, checking one last time across her desk to make sure she’d grabbed everything she needed to take home with her before turning to him as he still lingered in the opening of her little office. 
William had been hired a couple months ago, and was only a year older than her, but even so he was more than a foot taller than her and his biceps were about as big as her head. While the entire office drooled over him, she tended to keep her eyes and her thoughts to herself. 
“You say that every night you stay late. Just let me do my job and shut up about it.” He smirked at her and when her eyes met his again, sharply, glaring at him, she groaned and whirled past him toward the elevators. He followed swiftly behind, knowing she’d close the doors on him if he didn’t keep close enough pace with her, mostly because she’d done it before.
As he took his spot beside her and she pressed the button for the parking garage at the basement of the building, a familiar voice rang out through the office.
“Wait!” As if she wasn’t already annoyed enough with William’s presence, his stupidly large arm held the elevator doors open as Harry slipped inside a moment later.
“Thanks, mate.” Harry said exclusively to William as he caught his breath and stood wedged in the middle between the guard and Y/N, who was inching closer and closer into her corner to get away from Harry.
“You have any plans tomorrow?” Harry asked, his attention solely on William again while the elevator took off down through the levels of their building. Not fast enough for Y/N, of course.
William sighed, crossing his arms and trying to resist smiling. “Me and my girlfriend take turns surprising each other every year. And it’s her turn this year… so I guess I have plans, but I don’t know what they are.”
“Damn, way to make us feel incompetent.”
Y/N whirled her head to glare up at the side of Harry’s face. “Speak for yourself.” She warned.
Harry just ignored her though. “What did you guys do last year?”
Again, William stifled a grin. “I had been saving up for a while and took us both to Paris.”
“Shit.” Harry’s eyebrows rose and Y/N rolled her eyes away from him, watching the LED screen above the elevator doors as they neared the bottom levels of the building. She knew Harry and William had become friends, mostly because Harry was annoying and befriended everyone. Except her, of course. She heard his stupid voice again and wished she could just transport herself directly into the front seat of her car and be done with the both of them. “And now she has to do better than Paris.”
Y/N glanced around Harry just in time to see William smirk and she should have known what was about to come out of his mouth before it did. “Well, I don’t consider much better than her mouth ar—“
Y/N cut him off. “Ew! Are you serious?”
Both men eyed her curiously just as the elevator came to a stop and, with a ding, the doors opened. She flew toward them quickly.
“Y/N wait, I have to—“
Again, she cut him off, turning once she was out on solid ground. “I’ll be fine, besides trying to rid my mind of that image you just burned into it.” She turned on her heel and headed off toward her car.
William made a move toward her and Harry grabbed his arm, “I’ll walk her. Forgot she’s a bit of a prude.” They shared an amused look and Harry jogged out onto the concrete and asphalt until he reached her side.
“I heard that, you know… and I know for a fact your car is not parked in this direction.” She seethed and he just smiled to himself, happier than ever that she was in the mood to bicker with him, because he wasn’t quite in the mood to leave yet, where he’d have to wait till tomorrow morning at nine-thirty to see her again. And she wasn’t always the most talkative person on Valentine’s Day, either.
“Why are you the only female in our building not foaming at the mouth over him?” He asked instead, referring to William.
He heard her scoff. “Just because he’s attractive doesn’t mean I have to be interested… or want to hear about his girlfriend sucking his—“
“Cock?” Harry finished for her and within a second she spun around to face him, forcing him to stop in his tracks just inches from her now. His smirk only grew when he saw just how quickly he’d gotten her all flustered. 
And then, as they started each other down, the hardness in her face softened and she drew out a breath, forcing his eyes to fall to her lips and his smirk to fall from his mouth. He thought back to last spring, when there were numerous late nights with her just like this one. When he went home and couldn’t stop thinking about…
“Why are you looking at me like that?” She asked and he blinked a couple times before he lifted his eyes.
“Like what?” He furrowed his brows, trying to track down all the resentment he had for her but he couldn’t find it anywhere anymore. He couldn’t summon it and say something that would save his ass from being caught looking at her like he wanted to kiss her.
Like he wanted to taste her and feel her against him, and hear what she sounded like when he tugged at her hair for more.
“Nevermind.” She shook her head, silencing the chaos going on in his brain. And then she turned, continuing the walk to her car with or without him, but, when she heard the echoing click of his shoes against the asphalt once more, she knew she wasn’t rid of him yet.
“I don’t suppose you’ll give me a ride back to my car, will you?” He easily stepped back into place beside her like nothing had happened.
She didn’t say anything for much longer than he was comfortable with. And then, finally, they reached her car and she sighed. “Get in before I change my mind.”
As she went for the driver’s side, he took quick steps to the opposite side, watching her over the top of her little Honda as she unlocked her door, and then, after clicking the button, his door as well. They both slipped in at the same time and while she fastened her seatbelt and settled in for her drive home, he sat perched with his backpack in his lap, knowing he’d be out of her car within only a couple minutes.
He still glanced around at his surroundings as she backed out of her parking space. “Should’ve guessed your car would be as neat as your desk.”
She didn’t say anything as she drove in the opposite direction of the exit toward the section of the garage Harry always parked in. It was closer to the elevators because he always came in before her and snagged a prime spot. She preferred an extra few minutes of sleep over walking an extra fifty steps.
And he started up again when she continued to not talk to him. “Most artists I know of are super messy.”
“I’m not an artist.” She gritted out through her teeth as she came to a stop once she spotted the rear-end of Harry’s BMW. Although she knew it well enough to distinguish it from the other black BMWs in the garage, it also helped that Harry had an old, faded license plate cover filled with a collage of cute pictures of puppies. He’d said it won him bonus points with women, but she also knew his screensaver at work was a picture of puppies as well, and no women he was interested in ever saw that.
He peeled his eyes off his car and looked over at her. “I know you can draw, too.”
She paused, gripping her steering wheel. She did enjoy both art and design and she knew Harry knew the difference between the two. She just didn’t know why he always insisted on bugging her about it. 
“Yeah, well that doesn’t make me an artist.”
When he didn’t say anything, she glanced at him just in time to find him shrugging a shoulder like he was agreeing to disagree. Even if she couldn’t draw, he’d still consider her an artist because the things she managed to design always blew his mind and if that wasn’t art… 
She rolled her eyes. “Are you going to get out, or do I have to drag you?”
He grinned, and it was almost as if her eyes refused to see anything else but his dimples and the bright whites of his teeth, and the birthmark to the side of his mouth… 
“I’m going.” He assured, and yet he still hadn’t moved an inch. “Even though I’d love to see you try to drag me.” With her knuckles whitening on the steering wheel, he chuckled and unzipped the small pocket on the front of his backpack, withdrawing his keys as he finally swung her door open.
Once he was out, he gripped the top of the door and leaned back in to find her staring straight ahead. “Drive carefully, yeah? Would be quite tragic for your bitter ass to die on Valentine’s Day.”
She reached over and, despite having to brush her knuckles along the side of his thigh, grabbed the handle of the passenger door and yanked. His body remained in her way, however, and he was unfortunately a lot stronger than her.
Then she finally looked up at him, and those thoughts he had earlier surfaced again as much as he’d tried to bury them. This time though, he didn’t fight it as he glanced at her lips once more, then back at her eyes, which had widened slightly just before the dimples reappeared in his cheeks. “And I guess I would miss bickering with you every day.”
With that, he was gone and she retreated back to her seat as he shut the door for her. She had no idea what to think about what had just happened. Why he’d looked at her like that again. What that look even meant. 
By the time she reached the freeway, she’d convinced herself she was just seeing things. Harry wasn’t looking at her in any other way he had before when he was intent on pestering her. But, as she took in the scent of him still lingering in the cabin, she allowed a small part of her to hope she was wrong.
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Her eyes fell on the man down the hall from her door as she slipped her key into the lock, her brows furrowing as she watched him. It wasn’t unusual for their paths to cross, as they tended to get home around the same time, but it was quite odd to see him sitting on the floor outside his apartment, his head in his hands. 
They’d said hi to each other a couple times in the mailroom, but she definitely didn’t know him well enough to go up and ask what his issue was or try to fix it for him. And after it was confirmed that he hadn’t, in fact, lost his keys, as they sat beside him on the floor along with his phone, she figured it best to leave him be. 
Turning her key, she pulled her gaze from him and disappeared from the hallway.
The second she was inside her apartment, she felt all the weight lift right off her shoulders, especially when her cat came racing up, screaming at her from the floor while also coaxing her toward the kitchen to fill the food bowl. Whatever was going on with her neighbor still very much on her mind, she tried to focus instead on relaxing and getting both her and the screaming Pretzel some dinner. 
She tried to remember his name as she heated up leftover pasta. She knew it started with an A, but her brain was coming up short. So, while Pretzel crunched on his food in his corner of the kitchen, she tried her hardest to remember. 
And it was no question why she cared so much. Her neighbor was someone she was actually interested in, and she had been since she first saw him. Of course, she was never foolish enough to think he was into her, but she still let herself fantasize. He was tall, nearly black curly hair atop his head always in a state of disarray, and he had the most beautiful blue eyes she’d ever seen hidden behind his glasses. And, if she was being honest with herself, he was just a darker-haired version of Harry. Maybe that’s why she liked him.
The beeping of her microwave tore her thoughts from the dangerous path they’d been headed down. Harry’s voice rang in her head a moment later.
Like I’d lower my standards for you.
She’d needed to hear him say that, because sometimes her thoughts got carried away when it came to Harry and sometimes she did let herself be a fool who hoped. But after he’d said that one damning phrase, it was enough for her to stop. She didn’t meet a single one of his standards, inside or out. 
Still, she tried her hardest not to go back out into the hall and make sure her neighbor was alright. Maybe he just needed someone to talk to and it wasn’t like she was doing anything important. Even if she didn’t have a dumb crush on him, as she did Harry, she still didn’t enjoy seeing him in the state he’d been in.
Before she could work up the nerve, however, a knock sounded through her quiet apartment.
She held her breath as she opened her door, really hoping it wasn’t the boy from across the hall, since she was still blanking on his name, but she couldn’t imagine anyone else knocking on her door this late into the evening. 
So when she inevitably found him there, looking down at her through his annoyingly long lashes as she took in the horrible state he was in—red, inflamed eyes and hair that needed to see a brush rather than his hand—she completely lost her breath instead.
“Uh, sorry, I… saw you come in and I know we don’t talk and this is a weird thing for me to ask but…” He ran said hand through said messy hair and she found her breath again while looking up at him like she’d do whatever he’d asked just so he’d stop frowning.
He sighed, glancing down the hall toward his apartment and then met her curious and somewhat concerned gaze. “Can I come in?”
She recoiled. “Um… why?”
“Well, um, I was hoping you could help me with something and I’d rather not have the entire floor know about it.”
She was beyond confused now, but still, she stepped aside and let him pass, assuming that if he was actually a murderer he would have done her in a lot sooner than this. He had plenty of other opportunities. Plus, something in his face just… made her want to trust him.
She closed the door and turned to him, watching as his eyes scanned her kitchen and where her food still sat before he twisted around, eyes wide. “Shit, I’m sorry for interrupting.”
She shook her head. “It’s fine.” And after clearing her throat, she crossed her arms over her chest. “What do you, um… what do you need help with?”
He swallowed and she watched his Adam’s apple budge in his throat. “I don’t imagine you’ll like me very much after I ask but… I need a date.”
“What?” Again, she nearly flew out of her skin.
His eyes darted back and forth between hers, gauging her reactions and very obviously on the verge of seeing himself out and pretending this never happened. Instead, he stuffed away his pride and went on. “My ex… she, uh… well we broke up a few months ago and I saw her the other day and she’s seeing someone and we were talking and I… told her I was seeing someone too and so she invited me to go on this stupid double date with her… but the thing is… I’m not actually seeing anyone and I just told her that so she’d be jealous but she didn’t seem jealous at all and I don’t exactly have many friends to ask for help and I saw you and…” He rambled, but she managed to understand his predicament just fine. 
“A double date? With your ex?”
He shrugged. “I don’t know either. She’s… she does weird shit but… I still want her back.”
Y/N’s heart ached in her chest. As much as she detested relationships, she was a sucker for other people’s relationships and she was definitely a sucker for her beautiful neighbor, even if he was asking to use her to make his ex-girlfriend jealous.
“Not that I’m saying yes but… when? And where?” She finally asked after thinking things over for a moment.
“Tomorrow night… I can pay you. I will pay you, I mean… but, seriously, you don’t have to do it I just thought I would ask.”
“Where is this date at?” She repeated when he didn’t answer that part of her question.
“At this party… and bef—“
She cut him off. “Okay so let me get this right. You want to hire me as your date to a Valentine’s Day party?”
He lifted a brow, “Well, there’s more… she wants to get dinner before going to the party.”
She shook her head, looking away, “I don’t really do Valentine’s Day…”
“You wouldn’t have to do much. I’ll pay for your dinner, too. Whatever you want. I just… really need your help and you’re my only option.”
She narrowed her eyes at him. “You realize I’m not exactly…” she waved at her face and his eyebrows screwed together in confusion. “I’m not easy on the eyes and I don’t think taking me will make anyone jealous.”
He didn’t say anything for a while, just stared at her incredulously. She shifted her weight nervously and he finally opened his mouth. “You don’t actually think that, do you?”
Her features scrunched up and she kept her eyes planted on the middle of his chest. And then he realized that she, in fact, did.
“I’m so sorry… I shouldn’t have asked you to do this.” He also realized that using her to make his ex jealous would possibly hurt her more than it would help him and he could no longer fathom putting her through that. “I’ll figure it out. I’m sorry.” He moved to walk past her, back to his apartment but she stopped him before he got far.
“No… I’ll help you.” And then she realized his identity was still somewhat of a mystery to her. “This sounds even worse than what you just asked me to do, but… I completely forgot your name.”
He breathed out a laugh. “It’s Adam.”
She knew it had started with an A!
He smiled wider and nodded. “I know.” And then his face grew sad again. “I am really sorry I’m asking you to do this on Valentine’s Day, it’s definitely not my proudest moment.”
She waved him off. “I wasn’t going to do anything anyway. Just tell me what you need me to do.” She didn’t bother brining up the whole payment thing. She didn’t really care about being paid. He was nice, the only nice person she’d encountered in her apartment building and if getting him back together with his ex meant she’d never have to come home and see him in the fetal position on the floor again, she’d suffer through a date and a party on her least favorite holiday.
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It was somehow even worse than it’d been yesterday. The decorations seemed to triple in size. Not an inch of the office was untouched by something pink and she prayed whoever had put up even more decorations had spared her little cubicle.
“Oh, hey, Y/N!” One of the receptionists most responsible for the overflowing decor, Kayla, called her over to her desk not even a minute after Y/N had arrived. And she stalked over until she saw the package Kayla pulled out that instantly lifted her spirits.
She stopped in front of Kayla’s desk and took the thin box from from her, already knowing what it was and thanking god for the timing so that her entire day wasn’t completely miserable. It was a new drawing pad she’d ordered, a bigger one that she hoped would be a bit more efficient to use than her current one.
Even with her back turned to the rest of the office, she sensed Harry’s presence long before he stopped beside her with his mug in hand.
He lifted a brow at the package in Y/N’s hands just as she reluctantly turned to look at him. “Getting gifts sent to the office? That’s a first.”
She rolled her eyes and stuffed the box under her arm, holding herself back from running off to her office to set it up. “Jealous?” She cocked her head.
And instead of his condescending smirk and a hateful response to go with it, the sparkle in his eyes seemed to fade as he eyed the box again, genuinely worried now that it was actually a gift from someone. 
Before either could say anything, they all turned to find a delivery man walking up to Kayla with a giant bouquet of flowers in tow. And so it began. Although, when Kayla took the vase from the man eagerly, a bright smile on her face because Kayla loved love a little too much, Y/N couldn’t help but think about Adam. About how the only time she’d managed to get a date on Valentine’s Day was when it wasn’t even real. Instead, she’d stupidly agreed to help her cute neighbor win back his ex-girlfriend in exchange for a free dinner.
It was… pathetic. To say the least.
She felt Harry watching her, too, while she eyed the bouquet of flowers as they departed reception with Kayla and made their way to their recipient. As stupid as she found everything about the holiday, she couldn’t help but want someone to send her flowers. To give her anything for that matter. To have thought about her for at least a second of their day. Harry cleared his throat and she tore her eyes away.
“So… what’s in the box?”
“None of your business.” She rounded him, heading to her office, but he grabbed her free arm to stop her short and didn’t speak until she met his gaze again.
“Can we meet up in my office to finish the proposal? Think it’ll be easier to get it done than over email.”
She had every reason to be suspicious of him. They almost never worked in each other’s offices. When they did work together, which was often, it was in one of the empty conference rooms and it was usually at the beginning of the process when they needed the space to plan things out. The last time they’d really been in each other’s offices was last spring. Figuring he just wanted to get things done so he could be out of the office on time, she let it go.
“Give me fifteen minutes.”
He watched her walk away, watched her even as Kayla returned and noticed his gaze and giggled at him as she took her spot back behind her desk.
“It was something she ordered for herself, by the way.”
“What?” Harry whipped around again, not having even realized the other woman until now.
“I know you two pretend to hate each other but I see the way you look at her, Harry.” Kayla lifted a brow at him as she began typing on her keyboard.
He feigned disgust. “I’m seeing someone, you know.”
“Are you?”
“Yes.” He insisted. “I have a date. Tonight.”
She lifted her hands in surrender. “Okay… I’m just saying.”
“I don’t look at her.”
Kayla suppressed a smile and snorted instead. “If you say so. I guess you didn’t also sneak into her office this morning, either.”
“I think all these flowers and stuffed bears and heart-shaped things have gotten to your head.” He pointed around to the decor littering her desk while holding his mug steady.
Kayla met his eyes and her smile slipped off her face. “Harry, please don’t mess with her.”
His face screwed up. “What’s that supposed to mean?”
“If you don’t like her then don’t lead her on.”
“I don’t think she’s capable of being led on.”
Kayla froze for a moment and then nodded. “You’re right.”
He wasn’t sure what she meant by that either. “Why are you being weird?”
“Because,” Kayla sighed, brushing her curled brunette hair onto one shoulder and then lowered the volume of her voice. “I happen to know she doesn’t think very highly of herself and I’d rather not see her get hurt, especially not by you.”
Now Harry froze. The hand that gripped his mug tightened and he didn’t even flinch as it began to burn his skin. He heard Y/N’s voice in his head then as he drowned out his surroundings.
Some of us don’t have the luxury of choosing whomever we want.
He had instantly regretted what he’d said to her yesterday when she’d told him that. And now hearing Kayla, in a way, confirm what he’d read between the lines of Y/N’s words… his chest tightened in quite possibly the worst way ever. He’d hated himself most of the day after telling her he’d never lower his standards for her and he could say he was just bickering all he wanted, but he knew now for certain she took it the wrong way. And he wished more than ever that he hadn’t said something so horrible to her, especially when it was the farthest thing from the truth. 
And the real truth, that he was trying desperately to shove away with stupid remarks like that, was that he didn’t meet her standards. She wasn’t into relationships and he knew he wasn’t good enough to change her mind.
“How do you know that?” He finally asked.
“That Christmas party last year… she’s a really happy drunk until she’s not.”
He flinched. “Did she say something?”
“I don’t want to get into it, mostly because I don’t think she remembers and would probably kill me if I told you but… just leave her be.”
He hardened back up again. “She does’t have any interest in relationships anyway, ‘specially not with me.”
Kayla scoffed. “She’s a really good liar.”
Harry stood there for a few more moments, feeling as if his life had just gotten flipped upside down. He’d been in such a good mood mere minutes ago before his dumbass waltzed into reception all because he’d seen Y/N. Because, despite everything and despite the fact he was already attempting to date someone else, it was Y/N he wanted to be close to all the damn time. Groaning, he turned on his heel and left for his office, hoping she wasn’t there waiting for him so he could have a moment to himself to gather his thoughts.
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In a hurry to open her package, Y/N slumped down into her chair tossing her purse on the ground at her feet and pulling out her box cutter in a rush of movements. She was so distracted, in fact, that she didn’t even notice the little stuffed frog, the box of chocolates and envelope sitting on the other side of her desk near her mouse. Instead, she unboxed her new tablet and began setting it up, not noticing the gifts until she went to turn on her computer. And then she froze.
With reluctant hands she grabbed the envelope first, her name printed on it in perfect cursive. She knew nobody in the office who had such good penmanship. Opening the card in hopes of finding out who had placed the items on her desk, instead, she just found it signed as ‘secret admirer.’ Rolling her eyes, she set the card down and realized it had to be from her boss. Sometimes he remembered to go around and give everyone little gifts on the holidays. Obviously he’d remembered this year. 
She dug into the chocolates as she set up her tablet and began calibrating it to suit her needs before finally testing it out in the little bit of time she had before she needed to make her way to Harry’s office. 
And once that time came, she left everything in its place, besides the box of chocolates, which she continued to pick at while she made her way through the room. What she didn’t notice while stuffing her face with candy was that… no one else had a stuffed frog or chocolates or a cheesy little card on their desks.
She rounded the corner into Harry’s office, which was a real office and not a cubicle that he usually shared with one other person who was thankfully out with clients for the day. She knocked on the doorframe to get his attention after just watching him focus on his screen for a moment. Harry was cute when he was focused.
But then he turned to her and his eyes fell to the box in her hand.
When he didn’t say anything, she held it out toward him. “Do you want some? I think Andrew was feeling generous this year.”
Harry’s eyes quickly panned up to hers and his brows furrowed as if she’d just punched him in the gut. And she couldn’t make out what that expression meant no matter how hard she tried. 
“He didn’t give me anything.” Harry motioned around his desk.
“Maybe he doesn’t like you.” She shrugged, setting the chocolates down on his desk while she grabbed his office mate’s chair and pulled it up beside him.
Harry sighed, turning to his computer for a moment and then watching her from his peripheral while she picked out another piece of chocolate. “I didn’t see anyone else with chocolates on their desks this morning.”
Y/N just shrugged. “There was a frog too. And a card.”
“And why do you think he’d give you all of that and no one else?” Harry hoped she’d get the hint but he didn’t hope too hard. She was still Y/N after all. And he really didn’t mean to sound so bitter… well, okay, he did. But he knew she’d misplace his bitterness, crushing what little hope there was to bits.
“Maybe he likes me better than all the rest of you.”
Harry scoffed, shaking his head as he put his attention back on his screen. 
“No one else in this office would give me a card signed as a secret admirer so… maybe I did something I don’t remember doing and he’s thanking me?” Now that she really thought about it, and if Harry was right… then it really didn’t make  much sense. It’s not like she was Andrew’s favorite employee.
Harry just lifted a brow and then pretended to lose all interest. 
Sensing the tension, she slipped the box closer to him. “Here. I think you need a knock-off Snickers if you expect me to work with your grumpy ass.” He made no move to indulge her, however. And so she went on, continuing to poke the bear. “Why are you in a lousy mood anyway? Isn’t this your favorite holiday? And you get to leave early.”
His eyes fell from his screen and he stared at the brick of sticky notes below his monitor before mumbling, “I’m sorry about what I said yesterday.”
Taken aback, she searched what she could see of his face for answers to what he was apologizing for. He’d said a few things she could imagine deserved an apology and yet, so did she. Maybe she should have been the one to apologize to him first.
“I didn’t mean to say what I did.” He finally turned to meet her face on. He’d hoped the frog and the chocolates would have been atonement enough, but considering she thought they were from their boss and not him, he just had to suck it up and actually say what he meant.
She shrugged. “It’s fine. I can be a prude sometimes.”
He searched her eyes for a moment and then shook his head, “No that’s not… I meant what I said earlier in your office… about lowering my standards. It was a stupid thing to say and not true in the slightest.”
But then she smiled and he grew confused. “Yes it is. It’s okay to have standards, you know.”
“I know that. But if we… I wouldn’t have to lower my standards. And it was cruel of me to have said that to you.”
She couldn’t stand looking at him any longer and averted her gaze, clearing her throat. “Well it doesn’t matter so… can we just get this proposal done?”
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He’d wanted to spend how ever long it took to convince her that it did, in fact, matter, but Y/N was persistent, more so than him, and so he’d given in and they moved on to being productive with their time. And in less time than he’d anticipated their proposal was finished, being sent off to Andrew for approval before their presentation at the end of the week with their clients.
Harry sat back in his chair and she returned her own to the other desk where it belonged, all while he watched her. 
“What do you do on Valentine’s Day?” He asked, just trying to get her to stay longer, knowing that if those were his true intentions, then he was fucked. That he wanted to be around Y/N, even though he was seeing someone else, albeit for just a week so far, even though she’d never want the same from him. 
Maybe he was just as terrible with relationships as she claimed if he always chased after what he couldn’t have.
“That is also none of your business.” She grabbed her box of chocolates from his desk, his voice pinning her in place again though.
“Let me guess… it involves chocolate, your cat, and the most anti-romantic movies you can find?”
He would not think her very prudish if he knew what else she did on Valentine’s Day while alone in her apartment, but she figured it was best to keep that to herself. Instead, she smiled at him. “Something like that.”
He narrowed his eyes and threw his arms up behind his head as he laid back in his chair, watching her curiously like he was trying to figure her out. Meanwhile, she was trying to not make it obvious she was staring at his biceps as they just about bulged from underneath the sleeve of his pink button-up. He’d done it on purpose though, so as much as she tried to hide it, he still grinned with satisfaction when she became flustered.
“Well, have fun with that, then.” He nodded, and for a moment while she was lost in his eyes and growing embarrassingly hot, she wondered if he could read her mind. If he knew exactly what not-so-innocent things she did on Valentine’s Day. Then he brought his arms back down to rest his elbows on the edge of his desk, pinching his bottom lip between his fingers and watching as she rolled her eyes, held her chocolates close, and left his office. 
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Adam arrived right when he said he would at five-thirty. It had given her plenty of time to change out of her work clothes and into one of the few dresses she owned, to at least seem somewhat convincing that this was a real date. She also fixed her makeup and put on a pinkish-nude lipstick before switching out her bulky purse for a smaller crossbody. 
When she opened the door to him, he most certainly did not disappoint. She almost let herself get lost in the delusion that it was a real date when she saw him dressed to the nines and cleaned up for the first time since she’d known him. And she especially got a little lost in it when he pulled a small bouquet of flowers from behind his back and handed them to her. 
“You didn’t have to—“
“I know.” He gave her a once over when she wasn’t looking. “You didn’t have to do this for me either.”
She quietly accepted the flowers and let him in while she found a vase and filled it with water. He leaned on the counter, watching her as she did so.
“You look… beautiful, by the way.” He blurted out once she had cut and placed the stems into the vase. Her hands froze, though, and when he met her eyes, he knew he’d made a mistake.
“You’re paying me to make your ex-girlfriend jealous. Please don’t flatter me.”
“Sorry.” He muttered, although he was beginning to wonder if the bigger mistake was not taking her out on a proper date that had nothing to do with his ex. 
She sighed and adjusted the strap of her purse. “Let’s go then.”
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He went over all the final details on the Uber ride to the restaurant. Things about his ex he thought Y/N should know about. And he made sure she knew, for about the hundredth time, that she didn’t have to do anything she didn’t want to. And she reminded him for an equal amount of times that she never did anything she didn’t want to do. So, settling that, he helped her out of the back of the Uber when they arrived and opened the door to the restraint for her as well. Everything that she’d expect from a normal date, which only left her disappointed when she reminded herself it wasn’t.
She waited quietly, and tried to catch her nerves, while Adam talked to the hostess and gave her his ex’s name for the reservation. The place was packed and anyone who didn’t call ahead surely would not be getting a table tonight. She’d never been out on Valentine’s Day, though, so it was like stepping into a brand new world for her. And as she followed both the hostess and Adam, she paid more attention to all the couples enjoying their meals than anything else.
Except for when he reached back and grabbed her hand, entwining their fingers just before they came to a stop. She blinked her eyes at their hands for just a moment before he gently pulled her around next to him. And whatever way she’d felt about holding Adam’s hand went right out the window when she locked eyes with Harry.
Shit, shit, shit.
The last thing she expected to find, while Laura, the gorgeous blonde ex-girlfriend, stood to hug Adam, was Harry fucking Styles. And what a fucking coincidence it was, almost as if this was her karma for feeling the need to constantly help people. 
Adam’s hand slipped from hers but she didn’t even notice it anyway. She and Harry still stared each other down and neither of them moved a muscle either. Well, besides the one in his jaw as it tightened. Then he did move, glancing over at Adam with a blank expression before landing his gaze back on her again. And then his eyes fell to the glass of water in front of him and she felt like she’d been released from chains he’d tied around her wrists.
“This is Y/N,” Adam’s hand went to the small of her back, guiding her forward to meet his ex-girlfriend and Harry’s current… whatever they were. 
Laura held out her hand, her smile a little too forced. “Laura. It’s nice to meet you. Please, sit.” She ushered them to the table as she took her spot beside Harry again. Adam, of course, took the chair opposite Laura, which left Y/N in the one opposite Harry. 
This would be a long, hellish night.
She couldn’t help but wonder what Harry was thinking. That maybe she’d come to crash his date. Or, even worse, that he’d already figured the whole thing out. That Adam was paying her to be here. She really hoped he’d never find out because it was just embarrassing enough to make her want to change her name and move across the country, thousands of miles away from him. Harry finding out that she couldn’t get a real date to save her life… beyond humiliating.
“This is Harry.” Laura motioned to him and he just barely lifted his gaze, nodding at Adam and ignoring Y/N entirely. “You know,” the blonde went on, glancing between Adam and Y/N, “I was a little shocked when you told me you were seeing someone again.”
Adam just shrugged.
“How did you guys meet?” 
Y/N left all the talking to him. Mostly because she was still in shock that she was sitting across from Harry. And she hadn’t even taken the time to properly take him in and realized he’d also changed his clothes since work. Swapping his wardrobe out for a fitted black button-up, that wasn’t buttoned all the way to the top as his shirts normally were. The sleeves were already rolled to his elbows. He’d shaved off the scruff along his jaw as well and fixed his hair so that it was combed back out of his face, although a a couple rebellious strands hung down onto his forehead. He looked… like absolute perfection. And he was being forced to be on a date with the ex-boyfriend of the girl he was seeing and his annoying co-worker. She felt terrible for him.
“Oh, uh, well we live on the same floor.”
Laura nodded, clearly anticipating more. “Is that it?”
Y/N felt Adam tense up beside her and so she took over, easily spinning a lie. “I ran out of milk one night a few weeks ago. He’s the only one who answered the door.”
She noticed a flash of movement in her peripheral and turned to find Harry’s gaze on her again, one eyebrow lifted curiously. He was either wondering how she hid it so well, or trying to figure out what to ask in order to reveal their ploy. He never said anything, though.
“Sorry, um,” Laura’s tone changed as she glanced between Harry and Y/N, both of them looking away when the other girl interrupted. “Do you two know each other?”
Harry grinned, sitting back against his seat and folding his hands in his lap. “Something like that.”
Y/N rolled her eyes. “We work together.”
“Really?” Although her tone said otherwise, Laura’s face said everything about how she felt upon hearing that bit of information. 
Adam twisted his worrisome gaze to Y/N, but she ignored it. Harry, however, did not.
“Don’t worry, mate. I was under the impression she was celibate up until now.” With that, Y/N kicked him under the table and he sat forward to swallow the groan that very nearly left his lips after she’d jabbed him in the shin with the toe of her heels. “Guess she’s really good at hiding things, though.”
Adam just chuckled nervously and Y/N shot him an apologetic smile, trying to reassure him that this date would still work out despite Harry. 
“What a small world.” Laura laughed, trying to break the tension but dinner hadn’t even started yet. 
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Sometime during the main course, Laura excused herself to the bathroom and Y/N almost, in a desperate attempt to flee both Adam and Harry, invited herself along. But she figured it’d be worse to be alone with Laura than with them. Laura might ask questions she wasn’t prepared for. So, she stayed put, as much as it pained her to do so.
“So, Adam, what do you do for a living?” Harry asked suddenly and she wanted to kick him again. Mostly because his tone was that of a jealous teenager and he’d waited until Laura was gone to pester her ex-boyfriend who most certainly did not deserve Harry’s pestering.
“Oh, uh, I’m an artist. I work for an animation studio at the moment but I’m trying to get into freelance.”
Harry’s eyes shot to the suspiciously quiet girl sitting across from him. “So is Y/N.”
Adam turned to look at her, but she just glared at Harry. “Oh, I didn’t know that.”
Harry titled his head as he narrowed his attention in on Adam again. “So you’ve known her for a few weeks and you never asked what she did?”
“Harry.” Y/N warned, trying to kick him under the table again but he dodged out of the way.
“Well… she said she was in graphic design… not art.” She had told him that, during their crash course yesterday while they got to know as much as they could about each other in a span of a couple hours.
“I think it’s the same thing.”
Adam just shrugged. “I guess. I don’t think I could be a designer, though. Most artists make what they think looks good, designers create things to appeal to customers.”
“Just ignore him.” Y/N advised and Harry was the one shooting her daggers and attempting to stomp his foot on top of hers under the table this time.
“You and Laura used to date then? She never told me how you split up.” Harry moved on.
Adam swallowed nervously. “She broke up with me.”
“Why?” Harry pushed and Y/N looked at him like she wanted to kill him, which he ignored.
“I, uh… I had a drug problem for a while. I was not the best person to be around sometimes. But after we broke up, she helped me with rehab and everything.”
“Guess that explains why you’re on such good terms.”
Now Y/N really wanted to do more than just kick him. 
Adam grabbed Y/N’s hand under the table and pulled her straight from her violent thoughts about Harry. And he didn’t lace his fingers between hers, instead, it felt as if he had just been looking for something to ground himself with. And her hand resting on her lap was the closest thing he could find. It didn’t, however, go unnoticed by Harry and his jaw clenched as he stared at the point in the table where, just below, there their hands met almost as if he was trying to set everything on fire.
Laura returned shortly after that. 
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As promised, Adam paid the entirety of both his and Y/N’s bill, even though she attempted to snag it from him, seeing as the date had gone to shit and it was all her fault. Well… maybe it was also Harry’s fault a little bit too. But she definitely did nothing to make Laura jealous. Adam, on the other hand, did a great job at making Harry jealous just by existing and being Laura’s ex, whom she was still friends with. 
The four of them stood outside on the curb awaiting their Uber after dinner was over, agreeing upon splitting one car to get to the party instead of taking two. Laura was apparently very cautious about fossil fuel consumption.
Y/N shivered as she stood between Adam and Laura, wishing she’d bright a jacket instead of relying on a long-sleeve dress to keep her warm. Then an arm wrapped around her shoulders and Adam pulled her close, running his hand up and down her arm to form heat. She tensed up, though, forming into an immovable brick. She had no idea the last time she’d been that close to another person, let alone a member of the opposite sex. When he felt her go rigid, he leaned down until his lips were at her ear. “Is this okay?”
She just nodded and tried to relax. Which turned out to be quite easy because Adam was warm and he smelled nice. She, of course, didn’t let her mind wander off too far. He was still in love with his ex. He’d still shove cash into her hand at the end of the night for her troubles and go on with his life.
Adam let go of her when the car pulled up and quickly went to the passenger door to confirm with the driver. Then he opened the back door for the three of them to climb in, Laura going first, then Harry, and, at last, Y/N, while Adam slipped into the front seat beside the driver.
While the car took off, Y/N was shoved into the corner when Harry moved closer to her in order to find both his and Laura’s seat buckles in the dark. Eventually, he settled back into the middle and gave her some space again. When she made no move to do the same as them, Harry turned to look down at her. 
“Put your seatbelt on.” He whispered.
Her eyes whirled up to his. Wordlessly, and of course after rolling her eyes, she grabbed her seatbelt and he made room for her to buckle it in. Then she sat back in her seat, crossing her arms over her chest while she stared out at the traffic through her window.
She would have stayed in that exact position the entire trip, too, if Harry’s knee didn’t insist on bumping into hers constantly. And she couldn’t tell if he was doing it on purpose or not.
When she glanced up at him, and found the corner of his lips curl upward, she figured it was, in fact, purposeful. So, with the hand closest to him as her arms were still crossed, she poked him in the side, right against his ribs, hoping it hurt.
“Ouch.” He whined, covering the spot with his hand dramatically. Everyone in the car glanced at Harry, all except for Y/N who snickered as she returned to staring out the window.
Harry wasn’t giving up, though. This time, with his arms crossed in his lap, and glancing at Laura to be sure she wasn’t watching, he walked his pointer and middle finger up the outside of Y/N’s thigh, close enough to her hip to make her squirm slightly when his touch tickled her. And as soon as he got her attention, he looked down at what he was doing and pressed his middle finger against her, meeting her gaze with a smirk.
In the same moment, the driver turned up the music in the car as they waited tirelessly at a red light. It was better than silence or listening to his passengers breathing. But Harry mentally thanked him and turned his attention back to Y/N, leaning into her slightly until his lips were at her ear and she shivered for an all new reason.
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen you in a dress before.” He whispered for her ears only. The music was especially loud in the back and he wasn’t sure Y/N had even heard him.
Especially since she didn’t respond right away. But how could she? Harry’s fingertips were still grazing her thigh, as if trying to emphasize the dress she had on. And his stupid knee was pressed right up against hers. She couldn’t think straight.
Though when she finally turned to him and whispered back, “Don’t get used to it,” he knew she had, in fact, heard him well enough. 
He leaned again, “Afraid I already am.” 
She hated that there were butterflies in her stomach. That he was saying such odd things to her when his date was sitting just on the other side of him. The date who most definitely met all Harry’s standards.
Huddling away from him, she stuck her eyes out the window and kept them there the rest of the trip.
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It was just past eight when they arrived, a fifteen-minute trip up through the city taking half an hour due to all the Valentine’s Day traffic. Another reason she hated this holiday.
The party was being held by Laura’s best friend, who’s name Y/N did not care to commit to memory. In the elevator ride up to the penthouse, though, Harry stood close to Laura, his arm wrapped around her waist and Adam to Y/N, although he didn’t touch her. She wouldn’t have minded if he did, but she figured it was best to keep those boundaries in place anyway.
Pink and golden balloons littered the ceilings of the penthouse. The drink cups were also pink, as was the communal punch bowl that Y/N steered clear of, having no idea what was in it, or who had already spiked it. She knew nobody at the party besides who she’d come with, though she assumed both Adam and Harry were somewhat acquainted with Laura’s friends. 
It was most definitely not someplace Y/N ever saw herself being at, not only because it was a Valentine’s themed party, but also because she wasn’t exactly comfortable around so many people. Especially when those people were all so unfamiliar to her.
“Here,” Adam handed her a drink and then grabbed one for himself. She downed the thing in one go, needing to take the edge off. It might’ve been a slight mistake when the alcohol burned the back of her throat, but she didn’t care too much when she grabbed another.
Then he was leading her into the dancing pit of bodies where they huddled close enough so that his lips were at her ear. “Is it alright if I touch you?”
She glanced over at where Laura and Harry had been left, finding both her hazel eyes and Harry’s green ones glued to the both of them. She wasn’t sure what Harry’s deal was, but this was her moment to fix things and make Laura jealous, so, turning back to Adam, she nodded.
He eased his hands onto her waist as they began swaying to the music. And then he pulled her closer, his hands slipping to the small of her back as her arms wrapped around his neck, being careful with her own movements even though she desperately wanted to sink her hands in his hair.
And, god, he smelled so good as her head rested in the crook of his neck. And he felt good, too, as he moved against her body. She knew it wasn’t real, and that the alcohol was making skewing her perception of things, but it was still nice. Nice to be held and to just let go for a change.
Over Adam’s shoulder, Y/N caught Harry’s eyes again. His jaw clenched and he looked the same as he did back at the restaurant. Angry. And then she realized that maybe she wasn’t really trying to make Laura jealous anymore at all, but rather Harry.
It was dumb, she knew that. He’d have to like her in order for her to make him jealous. But… the way he was looking at her. The way he had looked at her. His eyes lingering too long on her lips. What he’d done in the car ride here. 
She heard Adam in her ear again. “I think it’s working. She just stormed off into the kitchen.” Then he pulled away and she realized she hadn’t even seen Laura. Just Harry. Harry and his stupid, obnoxious green eyes.
“You owe me more than just dinner.” Y/N teased but Adam grew serious.
“I know. And since you refuse to accept my money, I’ll have to figure out another way to repay you.” He smiled and then twirled her around so that she no longer had any line of sight toward Harry. He pulled her close again, one hand going to her waist while the other stayed locked to one of hers. “Suppose I could start with making your coworker just as jealous… although I think he already is.”
Confusion flooded her features as she peered up at him. 
“Oh, come on! He was ready to rip my head off when he realized I’d grabbed your hand. And when I put my arm around you? I thought I might be better off just giving you my jacket and freezing to death instead.”
“I don’t…” she shook her head in disbelief. It was one thing for her to be pretending to make Harry jealous in some delusional hope that it’d work. But this… this was a whole other thing.
“I’m actually quite interested to see what he does if I kissed you.”
She was shocked at first and then, possibly due to the alcohol, just as interested. “Are you asking my permission?”
“Are you saying yes?”
Y/N hesitated. “Is she back?”
Adam’s eyes scanned the room and Y/N realized he hadn’t asked to kiss her for Laura’s sake at all.
“She is.” He finally announced. 
Without any more second guessing, Y/N’s hand slipped to the back of his neck and pulled him in. As soon as their lips collided and she tasted the alcohol on him, she knew that she’d never agreed to this without it. Or maybe she would. Adam spun them back around again, deepening the kiss as her eyes opened and fell into the direction she’d last seen Harry.
He was still there.
Still watching.
His hands in fists. His jaw tightened into a crisp line. His nostrils flared. His eyes… sad.
She pulled away. Adam steadied her, grabbing her shoulders when she swayed. But, as she caught her breath, the dizziness went away. 
“I’m going to find the bathroom.” She told him and after he nodded, she left, forming a rift for herself through the bodies that danced all around them until she was in the clear. Then she was avoiding Harry as she walked past him, not so sure his gaze was still set on her. Maybe she’d gone too far. She didn’t often just kiss people for no good reason and that’s exactly what she’d just done with Adam. She barely even knew him.
She didn’t exactly need the bathroom, just an open, empty and quiet place. And so, she fell back against a wall in the foyer and ran a hand through her hair.
“That was quite the show.”
She startled at the sound of his familiar voice and looked up just as he stopped a few feet away from her. “What are you talking about?”
He lifted a brow. “You expect me to believe that that you, anti everything to do with this holiday and with relationships and romance, are actually dating that guy?”
“Is it that hard to believe?” She crossed her arms, willing to go as far as she needed to before she let Harry see the truth. That she was that pathetic. 
“Yes.” He didn’t even hesitate to respond and she flinched.
“Well, I’m sorry that you have a hard time believing that someone may actually like me.” She had no reason to nearly be shouting at him and no reason to be saying what she was because Adam didn’t like her.
“That’s not what I said. It’s hard for me to believe you just dropped all your ideas about relationships for some guy with obnoxious blue eyes.”
“I didn’t.”
“So then what is this?”
Y/N hesitated. Hating that the truth was about to boil over out of her mouth for him to see all the embarrassing bits of it, but she had no other way of convincing him. And it didn’t really help that Adam was so far out of her league that it wasn’t even convincing to begin with. Nor did she want to convince Harry of anything either. It was clear now that he hadn’t been jealous, he was just trying to figure out when she stopped hating relationships so much.
And the truth of that was she never really hated them. It was just easier telling herself she didn’t want it than admitting no one ever actually wanted her.
She trembled, not even sure why, but he was making her incredibly nervous, so much that she wished she could rewind and stay squished next to him in the back of the car forever. Being that close to him... his stupid fingers on her thigh, whispering things in her ear that made her head spin. She’d much prefer that than standing in front of him now, seeing every ounce of judgment he was about to throw her way.
“What do you want me to say, Harry?” She shrugged and dropped her eyes to the white marble floors between them, focusing on calming her anxiety while she was no longer looking at him. “He needed a date and I felt bad for him.”
“What does that mean?”
Letting her head fall back against the wall, she stared up at the ceiling this time as her eyes burned with embarrassment. “He paid me to be his date so his ex-girlfriend didn’t find out he wasn’t actually seeing anyone. That’s what it means.”
Harry didn’t say anything.
“So, yeah.” She folded her arms, looking down at the floor again, still unable to meet Harry’s eyes and see the look that would be on his face. A smirk of amusement at her expense. Even probably his dimples, taunting her and turning her into the joke she already was. “You were right. I can’t find anyone to tolerate me, which is why I’m on this stupid date that isn’t even real.”
“Him kissing you seemed quite real to me.”
There was more exasperation than humor to her laugh. “It wasn’t.”
Harry seemed to finally understand. “He’s trying to make Laura jealous.”
Y/N just nodded. “I promise I didn’t know you were going to be there, that he was trying to get her back from you.”
“You still kissed him though.”
She couldn’t argue that, nor could she tell him the real reason she’d agreed to the kiss. That it wasn’t exactly Laura she was trying to make jealous. She’d never live that one down, if she ever managed to live any other aspect of this night down.
When she didn’t say anything, he stepped closer. “Why did you kiss him?”
“I’m sorry, Harry I just... I don’t know.”
He shook his head and took another step, making her eyes widen when he was close enough that she had to crane her head back to meet his gaze. “Seemed like you were trying to make me jealous.”
She swallowed, not exactly in the position to laugh it off and argue with him when he was this close and all she could feel were the traces of his fingertips on her thigh. Her voice was quiet when it finally came out. “Making you jealous would mean I assumed you liked me in the first place... which I’m definitely not stupid enough to assume.”
A crease formed between his brow and his stupidly perfect jaw hardened as if he was biting his tongue from saying something. And fuck him for choosing then to finally stop opening his mouth.
Just then, a pair of drunk guys, one on the other’s back, came racing through the foyer, screaming at the top of their lungs while a few others followed quickly after them. It was enough to force Harry away from Y/N again, enough for the both of them to step out of the little bubble they’d been in together the past ten minutes.
Once they were alone again, their eyes gravitated toward each other and just when she thought Harry might say something after all, he flipped around on his heel and left. And she watched as he turned the corner and mixed back into the party.
After a few moments to gather herself, she followed him, not exactly sure what she was going to do now that Harry wouldn’t talk to her and it felt weird being with Adam while Harry knew everything. But, whatever plans to keep herself occupied no longer matted when she spotted Laura.
Making out with Adam in the middle of the room. 
Without even thinking, she turned to locate Harry and he might as well have been a source of gravity because her eyes fell right to him within a second. And he was watching them too. He knew. 
He met Y/N’s eyes and she wasn’t quite sure if he was upset or not. She couldn’t really read anything on his face, and stopped attempting to when he moved towards her and she had other things on her mind, like where he was going and if he was going to bother taking her with him.
Shortly after he stormed past Y/N she made sure he wasn’t going to leave her behind and chased after him. She didn’t know Adam very well and definitely not Laura to want to stay with them. And everyone else in the room were complete strangers to her. Adam had promised he’d take her home, but he probably hadn’t expected to be making out with his ex by the end of the night, either.
Harry didn’t say anything, not even when they’d reached the foyer and Y/N asked where he was going. He just located his jacket and slipped it on before making his way out the front door.
And right when she thought he really was going to leave her behind, since she was the reason he’d just lost Laura to her ex, he held the door open and glanced over his shoulder at her while she still stood on the other side of the threshold.
“Are you staying?”
Without a word, she sprung into motion and trailed right behind him into the hallway like a lost puppy, letting the door shut behind her that cut them off from the music as it faded into the background behind them.
It was a silent trip down the elevator, mostly because she had no idea what to say that would sound sincere and he didn’t say anything at all. At least not until she followed him through the lobby until he stopped on the curb just outside the main doors.
She took up the spot next to him, eyes glued to the side of his face as he took in a deep breath of fresh air, or at least as fresh as traffic allowed it to be.
Then he spoke, and it seemed like the first time she’d heard his voice all night. “I’m the one who gave you the chocolates and the frog.”
She narrowed her eyes, both not exactly sure why he’d just said that or if he was even being serious. “What?”
He looked down at her. “It wasn’t Andrew, it was me.”
“Why?” She breathed and while she was positive she’d be freezing cold soon, the fresh air after being surrounded by so many people felt good. It felt freeing and she wondered if he felt that way too.
His eyes scanned hers before he looked away. “Well partly to apologize for what I said.”
“What’s the other part?”
Sighing, he turned his entire body to face her now. “Something else entirely…” He trailed off, only confusing her more as he stuffed his hands into his pockets and stared at his feet. “I didn’t tell you because I know you don’t like all this stuff, but seeing you with him tonight... I wish I had.” 
“It’s not that big of a deal. It’s just a frog.”
He shook his head, grinning. “It’s not just a frog, Y/N... because the thing is,” he paused to catch his breath, “I’ve been in love with you for... a really long time… since last spring. But with you being the way that you are, I never thought you’d feel the same way.”
She opened her mouth and then closed it.
“And then you come in with that guy and...” He pulled his fingers through his hair. “I don’t think I’ve ever been more jealous in my life... because all this time I thought you weren’t interested in relationships, but you just weren’t interested in me.”
Inhaling, she summoned every ounce of courage she could fathom. “You were right about why I kissed Adam.” He lifted a brow, waiting for her elaboration which never came. “You were right about other things, too. I wish I had someone to come home to almost every single night I got to bed alone. No one—“ She cut herself off, trembling again as tears stung her eyes. “I pretend not to be interested so I can ignore the fact that no one’s ever wanted me.”
“That’s not true.” He had that same look on his face as before, when she’d told him she wasn’t stupid enough to think he liked her.
She just nodded. “And I’m sorry but... why would you want me when you could have someone like Laura?”
“Y/N...” He huffed and stepped closer to her, the heat from his body making her shiver. “This is not the first time I started seeing someone to get over you... in fact, all my relationships since I met you have been shit.”
“Why didn’t you just tell me?”
“Well you’re very anti-relationships so I think I was justified in wanting to avoid you rejecting me… especially since we work together and it would have been really awkward.”
“I don’t, uh... I...” She stammered, not really sure what to say to him even though her heart was screaming at her in full volume. 
He held his breath and then, in almost a whisper, “Is this the inevitable rejection?”
“No.” She didn’t even hesitate that time and at this point, her mind no longer controlled the words coming out of her mouth as she let another organ finally speak for itself. “No, I liked you the second I saw you, Harry... and at no point tonight was I ever trying to make Laura jealous.”
The corners of his mouth began to curl into a smile. “That was very cruel of you to do to me.”
“I didn’t think you liked me at all twenty minutes ago, Harry.”
“Twenty minutes ago,” he fully invaded all of her space now, leaving the smallest gap between their bodies as he could get away with, lifting his hand to her jaw and rubbing his thumb over her cheek. “I was still on this date with the wrong person.” 
“I think the date is over now.”
“No,” his eyes fell to her lips just like they had before. “It’s not.” 
“You’re looking at me like that again.” She mumbled, out of breath.
He lifted a brow and didn’t once remove his eyes from her lips. “Like what?”
“Like…” she trailed off, not having the courage to say it in case she wasn’t right. 
“Like I’ve wanted to kiss you for a very long time and I’m tired of pretending?” 
“Something like that, yeah.”
He grinned, both of his dimples making an appearance just before he leaned in and brushed his lips against hers. And once her brain realized what was happening, she sunk right into him, letting his arm wrap around her waist as his other hand tangled its way into her hair to bring her closer. She threw her arms over his shoulders and he hunched lower to meet her. She staggered back a step when he did, nearly losing her balance but he caught her instantly and then drew his lips back as he laughed.
“This is not how I expected tonight to end.” She couldn’t help but think the way he struggled to catch his breath was possibly the hottest he’d ever been. Not to mention the tiny bit of her lipstick smeared on his face. She could look at him just the way he was right there and then for days and be perfectly satisfied.
“It doesn’t have to end yet.” She fully blamed her sudden burst of confidence on the cold, but refreshing February night. And maybe she also just wanted to get out of it before it caught up to her and she would, yet again, regret not having a jacket.
“Oh?” She wanted to smack the mischievous smirk off his face and leave him there on the curb. “And here I thought you were a prude.”
“You thought a lot of things about me that weren’t true, Harry.”
He thought about that for a moment and after realizing she was right, he then wondered just how wrong he was when he’d called her celibate. “I suppose… I’d quite like to find out just how wrong I was.” He slipped a loose strand of her hair back behind her ear, which is where his lips ended up as he whispered softly, “And I’d also quite like to show you just how wrong you were about me not liking you.”
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They stumbled into her bedroom in the dark, Pretzel racing out between their twisted feet in a hurry, screeching at them in the process. Harry giggled against her lips, “Your cat sounds friendly.” 
“Well, since I was supposed to be spending tonight with her, and chocolate, and anti-romantic movies…” She pulled away from him, watching as his smile spread further. Maybe she could actually believe he’d been in love all this time. 
“Right… I’d be upset too.” 
She shook her head and kissed him again, then pulled back a second later. “You know that’s not actually what I do on Valentine’s Day.”
He lifted a brow and waited for her to explain but she didn’t.
“And what is it that you do, then?” He finally asked, curiosity getting the best of him, although he had some inkling as to what she was talking about.
Her smile was devoid of innocence as her hands fell to his belt. Harry’s shirt had already been lost to the kitchen floor. Her dress hardly covering what it was supposed to once Harry had gotten his hands on it. 
“Maybe you’ll get to find out.” 
When she brought her lips back to his, after undoing the buckle just under his navel, he spun them around and led her backwards to the bed. He wasn’t sure how far it was, but hoped he was headed in the right direction. And because of that, when her knees did finally bend over the mattress, he practically came flying down on top of her. 
She squirmed out from under him, crawling back towards the pillows as she watched him at the end of the bed while he stood and removed his belt completely, trying not to drool at the sight of him. At the sight of Harry, her fucking annoying ass, perfect, beautiful, coworker standing shirtless at the end of her bed where he was also about to be…
He pushed his trousers down off his hips and they fell to the floor with ease, almost with the same amount of ease that her eyes fell to the tight boxer-briefs he wore underneath. She swallowed as he adjusted the waistband back into place, quite certain that, even in the low light, her eyes were not deceiving her.
The bed shifted at her feet as he joined her, and then it took all her willpower to not fling herself at him as he crawled up the length of her. As he settled himself between her thighs and she felt every last, very hard, inch of him pressed against her. She couldn’t be blamed for the whining moan that she let out in his ear as his lips became familiar with the shape and taste of her neck. She also couldn’t be blamed when her hips instinctively collided with his.
He just giggled again and shook his head, the loose strands of his curls tickling her forehead. “Easy now.” He warned in a hushed mumble, his lips vibrating right against the vein in her neck that pulsed so much faster the more his free hand began to wander up underneath her dress.
He left her speechless for multiple reasons, but the main one was when she felt his fingers tracing down her thigh and then, moments later, after he shifted his weight and used his knees to keep her legs open, she sucked in a breath of air as she felt him pressed against her clit, forcing her nails to dig into his back but he didn’t seem to mind.
Coming back down to kiss her, he began moving his hand in expert little circles, grinning against her mouth every time her body begged him for more. It wasn’t long that he complied, either, when he sat back on his knees between her legs and tugged her underwear off for good, throwing it to the depths of her bedroom floor. He wouldn’t have known where they landed even if he tried because his gaze belong to her only as he lowered himself to his elbows before her, kissing his way up her thighs until he reached her center.
When she squirmed away from him, he wrapped his arms around her thighs and pressed his hands into her hips after gently moving her dress out of the way. 
“You know when we used to stay late at the office working?” He asked suddenly and the heat of his voice against her made her squirm again, but he held on tight. “And you would get sick of sitting in an office chair and made me promise not to tell Jim when you sat on his desk instead?” She had no clue where he was going with it, but still, she nodded. “Every single time I turned to look at you, I thought about doing this.” Before she could get words out or even a coherent thought, she felt his tongue on her. And this time when she jerked against him, she nearly slipped out of his hold until he grabbed her again and pulled her back down, digging himself further into her as she struggled to breathe properly.
She dug her fingers into his hair when he brought her close to the edge and showed no mercy. And somehow, she’d managed to get the sole of her foot up onto his shoulder in order to kick him away, but it didn’t matter much because he never budged. Not that she wanted him to, but he just felt so good… 
“Harry!” She shouted, pulling at his hair and making matters worse for herself when he moaned against her sensitive bundle of nerves. He let her come, never once lifting his mouth from her even as her hips jerked off the mattress and she very nearly pulled his hair out. When she stopped screaming, her voice caught in her throat because she was lost to her own orgasm, is when he lifted his mouth, replaced it with his fingers and watched her as she came down. As her eyes fluttered shut and her chest heaved, her lungs struggling to get oxygen back into her system. Her hold on him loosened as she came undone around him, melting into his hands it seemed like.
And when he began rubbing his index and middle finger into her, once she was far and beyond overstimulated, and he knew that, she reached down with a whine and grabbed his wrist with what little strength she had in her and pulled him away. His hand fell to the other side of her hip, which he used to his advantage to pull himself up over her again, his other hand taking her dress with it until he was able to tug it over her head and toss it. Then he came back down to kiss her, letting her taste herself on her lips. He rubbed his thumb across her cheek and when he pulled away, found her looking at him finally. Although it was with heavy lids as she still struggled to regain her bearings.
Before they could get much further, a loud crashing sound from the other room made both of them nearly jump out of their skin. She shot up instantly, grabbing hold of Harry’s bicep before moving him out of the way and sliding off the edge of the bed. 
“It’s just the cat.” Harry would have probably said the same thing even if it was not just the cat, he’d say anything just to get her to stay with him.
“I know but it sounded like…” her voice trailed off as her feet hit the floor and the moment she went to stand on her own two legs, her knees buckled. He reached to grab her waist but she righted herself before he could. She didn’t see the way he hid his cheeky smirk at the fact that he’d been so good, she was still dizzy.
“You good?” He asked as she stumbled her way into a shirt. With only a groan in response, and what he was sure was her middle finger, she left him alone in her bed to investigate the noise. Sighing, he laid on his back and got comfortable amongst her pillows. And after about three minutes, decided to locate the remote to her TV to entertain himself. 
He flipped onto his side and felt around her bedside table, but his fingers never landed on anything remote-like. So, frustrated, he reached up and switched the lamp on. Again, he found nothing. Looking further, he realized the table had a drawer and so he pulled it open in hopes of finding the damned remote before she got back. 
But what he found instead was so much better than turning on late night news.
“Fucking cat knocked over my vase.” Y/N was back within ten minutes. Harry had left the light on, but made sure it wasn’t obvious he’d gone snooping into her drawer, at least not yet anyway. She crawled back into bed beside him and it was then he noticed the bandage on her thumb.
“Are you alright?” He forgot all about what he planned to tease her with when he gently grabbed her hand to inspect the damage.
“Yeah. I was in a bit of hurry trying to clean up the glass…” 
Harry rolled his eyes and dropped her hand. “I would have come help you.”
She just smiled up at him as he fit his arm around her shoulders, his bicep under her neck. “That’s alright.”
He shrugged. “It was for the best anyways that I didn’t.” When he smirked, she narrowed her eyes suspiciously at him.
“And why’s that?”
She followed his other hand as he reached for something and then, moments later, it reappeared with a very familiar pink object clutched in his grasp. “Because then I wouldn’t have found this.”
Her first reaction was to pry it from his snooping fingers, but when she reached across him to grab it, he way too easily held her back and, at the same time, held it far out of her reach. 
“So this is what you do on Valentine’s Day, then?” He flicked his wrist back and forth, waving her vibrator in the air as he taunted her.
“If you don’t give that back to me,” she reached for it again to no prevail, “you won’t be doing anything, least of all, me.”
He clicked his tongue. “Why would I give it back when I plan on using it?”
She froze and he chuckled at her reaction.
“Would be rude of me to break your traditions, wouldn’t it?” 
She swallowed, her eyes slowly meeting his again. The appearance of his right dimple told her he wasn’t playing any games. She had no idea how many times he planned to make her come tonight or whether or not she’d even be able to walk tomorrow at work. But, given the stupid look on his face, she almost began making plans to call out sick instead.
“Do you actually know how to use that thing?” She finally asked, glancing at the wand still held very firmly in his hand.
He looked at her like she was crazy moments before he pivoted and pinned her onto her back, settling himself into the position they’d been in before the interruption of the cat. 
Just, this time… he was clicking on her vibrator and watching her face as she began to regret her words. 
“‘Course I know how to use it. The real question is,” he brought his lips to her ear, the soft vibrations and the sound of his voice mixing together like sin itself. Even more so when he nipped at her earlobe. “Do you know how to handle it?”
879 notes · View notes
outofsstyles · 5 months ago
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a/n: This is by far THE MOST requested fic I’ve ever had and (a year later) it’s finally here!! First of all, sorry that it took me so long but when I first wrote Wildest Dreams I never intended on it having a follow up, but the amount of love I got from it was so overwhelming that I decided to put this together for you all :) I’m not gonna lie, I’m a bit nervous about it, considering the amount of requests I’ve had the past year, I know there’s gonna be a lot of expectations and I wanted to do something a bit different so it’s not too predictable lol. So yeah, as always, feedback is very much welcomed!! If you enjoy please reblog it to support my writing, it would mean the world to me <3
word count: 13.7k
warnings: none!
concept: It’s Evan’s birthday and he decides to do something a bit different.
Wildest Dreams: read part 1 here :)
                                               ~*~ ~*~  ~*~
In the last two steps, you have to use your leg to support the box as it starts to slowly slip down your fingers. This serves as a reminder to start exercising again now that the midterm is over — meaning that you should finally give in to Nia’s pleas to join her in the free week of Pilates classes she got when signing in at the gym, “Exercising is one of the best ways to relieve stress!” She would argue, to which you’d simply reply with something along the lines of: “So does binging another trashy reality tv show!”
Thankfully, no one seems to notice your struggle, sparing you the embarrassment of listening to their teases due to your difficulty in carrying one of the smallest boxes of the bunch. Nate barely glances at you once you finally reach the car to hand him the box, only shooting the longest smile you’ve ever seen coming from him—which somehow still manages to be probably the quickest when compared to any other regular person. His girlfriend, who stands with hands on her hips, entirely held his attention. Nia’s purple strands of hair poke out of her half-bun in every direction and her bottom lip has found its permanent spot between her teeth as her eyes fixate on the vehicle in front of her, barely blinking.
“Everything alright, Ni?” You prompt, trying to even your breathing. “Forgot something? There’s still time to check.”
“It’s not that.” She mumbles, shaking her head to break out of her thoughts. “My keyboard doesn’t fit.” Nia nods at the instrument lying on top of the car’s ceiling.
“Oh,” You say, frowning your lips as you take in her stressed figure. Clearing your throat, you attempt to blurt out a joke, “Maybe it’s a sign you shouldn’t move it and stay right here in our little flat with creaky doors.”
She breathes out a sharp laugh, finally looking at you as she drops her arms. “Don’t start.” She warns, “You promised; no crying today.”
“Don’t worry, I’m good at holding back the tears.” You give her a soft smile, pulling her smaller frame into a hug. The sudden reality of your best friend and roommate leaving you hitting you at once. “Gonna miss you, Ni.”
You feel her sigh into your shoulder, arms circling around your middle. “I’ll be ten minutes away.”
“Not the same.”
“I know.”
The two of you sway in silence for a moment, and you watch from over her shoulder as Nate attempts to awkwardly pick up the keyboard, almost dropping it on the sidewalk in the process. He grunts, the instrument tilting in his arms, and you giggle as you hear Nia sigh once more. Tightening your arms around her, you release each other as she turns to check on her boyfriend who holds the instrument as you would a newborn — except this one is half his size and hard as a wood plank.
He glances between the both of you, helpless. “Uh, where does this go?”
“You can put it with the other big boxes upstairs, babe. We’ll take them Sunday.” Nia says, moving to close the trunk. She looks back at him, calling back in a sing-like voice before he disappears inside, “Thank you!”
You lean back against the car, a playful pout plumping your bottom lip. “Am I only seeing you again on Sunday, then?”
“Nope, I’ll pick you up for Evan’s birthday — did you forget about it already?”
You have. “Of course not. It’s on — tomorrow.”
“Is it tomorrow?” Nia gasps, eyes widening. “Holy shit, tomorrow’s Friday.”
You nod slowly, just as shocked as she is about how quickly the past couple of weeks have flown by. Between piles of book reports and stress-tear-stained essays during midterms week, you also had to find some time to help Nia with packing boxes while searching for a new roommate for yourself. If you managed a five-hour sleep on these past days, that would have been a well-rested night. So you can’t really blame yourself for forgetting about Evan’s birthday when Nia herself had it slipping through her mind.
“This is an emergency,” Nia says, eyes focusing on a point beyond you and, you feel like, if you listen close enough, you can hear the engines inside her head working. “I’ll have come here earlier so you can help me with my outfit.”
You chuckle. “What even is the theme this year?”
“He didn’t tell me,” Nia says in a huff. “But, on the bright side, I don’t think this year he’ll do anything too crazy — he was too busy these last couple months with that short film I told you about, remember?”
“Evan doing something low key? That’s a first.” You raise your eyebrows, skeptical.
“I mean, I don’t know. I’m just guessing.” Nia shrugs, picking at her nails. “I’m only saying because he mentioned once he was only inviting, like, twenty people.”
Now, this is a surprise. “I’m glad I made the cut, then.”
It’s not a secret to anyone who’s ever had any kind of interaction with Evan that he’s fond of the dramatics of life — his bright-colored outfits with mismatching patterns being the first example that comes to mind — and that reflects as well in his events. Especially when it comes to his birthday.
To be fair, you’ve only actually been to two birthday parties of his so far — considering the invitation usually finds you because he’s close to Nia and sees you as some sort of extension of her. Nevertheless, they were both impactful enough that left a clear impression of how much he enjoys celebrating himself. Last year in particular you remember quite well. It was what he called “Evaney” themed; being a mix of himself and his favorite artist: Britney Spears. And, while you and Nia showed up as one of at least fifteen different variations of the Baby One More Time schoolgirl outfit, Evan pulled a perfect match of the Oops! I Did It Again red bodysuit that he got one of his fashion student friends to tailor for him, as well as freshly dyed beach blonde hair to suit it. He even went as far as photoshopping pictures of himself on Britney’s body and had them printed on posters hung on every single room of the house. There were even custom-made cups and napkins with them — two of them that Nia stole at the end of the party still sit somewhere in your kitchen to this day.
Another particular thing you remember quite clearly was that there were enough people crowded in his living room to fill up your entire apartment, as you recall. And that’s about how a typical event at his home is like — even on his friendsmas dinner there were much more than just twenty people eating turkey out of disposable hot pink plates. So, Nia’s information leaves you wondering what he could have in mind for tomorrow with such a limited list of people.
Before you can voice your wonders to her, though, Nate pushes through the entrance door again. You can tell he, much like you minutes ago, is trying to cover his heavy breathing. “I left it on top of those big boxes with a bunch of books in ‘em.”
“Brilliant! Thank you, baby.” Nia grins, wrapping an arm around his middle. “By the way, we just remembered Evan’s birthday’s tomorrow.”
“Is it tomorrow already?” Nate asks, and you hold back a giggle at the way his face scrunches in discontent. He hates going to Evan’s to a point that’s nearly comical. “Fuck’s sake.”
“And I think I’ll come here early so we can get ready together.” Nia nods towards you.
Nate grunts. “Do I have to go this time?” 
“Of course, darling.” She rises to her tiptoes to pinch his cheek, to which he brushes it off.
Nate looks at you, and you only send him a tight smile in solidarity. The two of you share similar experiences with Evan, considering the only reason either of you even gets invited is that because you’re close to Nia, and she’s close to Evan. Although you like Evan, even if you’re not that close with him, you can still put on your social mask for a couple of hours and have fun at his parties. Nate, on the other hand, is likely the least sociable person you’ve ever met, and it’s obvious how uncomfortable he gets every time. 
Nia seems to sense how tense he gets as well, because she steps in front of her boyfriend, finding his eyes with her doe-like ones. “I mean, if you don’t want to, then you don’t have to.”
He sighs, “Of course I’ll go with you.” He looks up at you. “Maybe this time we can actually count how many faces of his we can see from the couch.”
This time you don’t hold back a giggle. “I have a feeling we’ll have an easier time this year.”
“Hope so.” Nate taps on Nia’s back. "Let's go, then? Is everything you need in the trunk?”
“Yup.” She answers, circling the car and opening the door to the passenger’s side. Before entering, she gives you one last look. “Do you want me to bring anything for you tomorrow?”
“I’m good.”
“‘kay!” She enters, closing the door behind her in a click and leaning over Nate to wave at you from his window. “See you tomorrow! Don’t cry too hard tonight!”
“I won’t!” You wave back.
Watching as the car pulls back, before driving away and disappearing around the corner, there’s a light breeze that raises goosebumps on the exposed skin of your arms. You cross them under your chest, leaning back into the wall of your building, not quite ready to go back to your empty home yet. The seconds blend into minutes and you stand there The promise you made to Nia not even a minute ago already pooling in your eye, knowing you wouldn’t be able to keep it anyway, you let it tickle its way down your cheek.
A rougher gust of wind hits you and, this time, you turn to go inside.
                                              ~*~ ~*~  ~*~
The days are still not long enough so that the sun can shine proudly at seven in the afternoon, but as spring just about rounds the corner there’s still a golden glow as the rays provide one last warmth before disappearing on the horizon. And that’s how the sky greets you once you step out of your building to make your way towards Evan’s house for his birthday.
As planned, Nia arrived at yours with plenty of time so the two of you could help each other get ready, a bag filled with clothes she’s just taken to Nate’s yesterday under her arm for you to help her choose. “I’m thinking something monochromatic tonight.” She said as she walked in, making you jump in your spot on the couch as you didn’t hear her using the spare key. “I’m just not sure what color.” 
She ended up choosing red. There was an old box of red hair dye you found lost inside the bathroom cabinet after Nia left — along with two different brands of shaving cream, although those belonging to Nate — and, after presenting it to her, she decided to go all for it, taking it as a sign. Nate showed up just about an hour after his girlfriend, still in his work attire and barely batting an eye at Nia’s new hair color as she blew dried it. The only comment leaving his mouth being, “You look like a tomato,” before kissing her forehead and excusing himself for a nap while the two of you finished getting ready.
What neither of you realized was that Nia’s last-minute decision took more time than you predicted, giving you barely enough time to get dressed. To her, that wasn’t exactly an inconvenience considering she had an outfit ready to match any color she wanted — in this case, was a red-dyed denim two-piece. and a matching jacket that ended up discarded after she noticed it covered her newest shoulder tattoo (though you tried to argue she could just have Nate carry it so she could wear it considering she eventually would get cold at some point). To you, however, was more of a stressful task, seeing you hadn’t taken in mind to think of an outfit beforehand. So you ended up just going with the safest option that didn’t give you a lot of room to overthink, choosing to finish your makeup on the way so Evan wouldn’t have any of your heads on a plate for being late.
You’ve found that applying mascara on a moving vehicle is not the easiest task, as Nia holds your elbow to help you keep steady while talking nonstop with the driver about a topic you stopped paying any mind to about ten minutes ago.
“I’m loving our black and red moment, by the way.” She turns to you, loosening her hold as you finish the last coat. “You look like one of those hot businesswomen with your teenage daughter who likes to dress like an animated character.”
You laugh at her comparison, only now noticing the discrepancy between both your outfits. Without even realizing it, you also ended up going for the monochromatic look. Except unlike Nia’s, yours completely lacks any color. “That’s actually the best comparison you could make.”
“I know — You can take a left right here — Here, I have lip gloss.” Nia fetches a small tube from her jacket (that she ended up taking, after all), presenting it to you.
“Do you not have lipstick?”
“Are you not planning on smudging it later?” Nia wiggles her eyebrows, teasing. The hint behind her words makes you roll your eyes, snatching the lip gloss from her hand without bothering to give her an answer. There was about a month or so, just before winter rolled around, that Nia felt as if she had a mission to get you with someone. You suspect, knowing too well how her mind works, that she must’ve felt some sort of guilt for what happened during her film project last year. It was clear that her attempts came from a place of good heart, but this doesn’t mean that it made them any less annoying. However, after her plans to move in with Nate became more concrete, her cupid persona seemed to have disappeared, or so you’d thought. But now that there’s nothing else filling her mind anymore, it looks like she’s back at it, and you can’t help but snort. “What? I’m just saying-”
“You say a lot of things, most of them are incorrect.” You say, “I’m not smudging anything tonight. Not on a party with twenty people, for fuck’s sake.”
“Don’t say that before — right there! The big house on the corner!” Nia leans over the console, signaling to the driver where to park. It’s so sudden that you notice how he jumps just slightly from his seat, chuckling to yourself at how Nate snaps his eyes at her. 
The front of Evan’s Victorian home is unusually quiet once you step out onto the sidewalk. So much so that, if it weren’t for the lined cars parked along the street and filling his driveway, you would’ve thought you’d typed in the wrong address. 
The discrepancy is clear to you when compared to other gatherings Evan hosts in his house, but especially for his birthday. Last year, you could hear Toxic blasting from his place from the moment you turned on his street, and a small crowd gathered on his front yard — most of which you recall being comprised of people plastered out of their minds, particularly one semi-naked man who was using one lamppost as a strip pole while swinging a stuffed snake
That’s more or less the standard one could expect when invited to a party at Evan’s. So, to find the street as silent as any regular day is, to an understanding, odd. 
“Are you sure it’s the right date?” You ask as the metal creak of the front gate mends with gushes of wind whistling through the air.
“Yup,” Nia says simply, walking in front of you. “You can hear the music inside, shush.”
You come quiet, listening in, and, surely, you can hear the faint keys of a piano coming from the other side of the stone walls, but it only brings up more questions to your head than answers. Evan seems like the last person on Earth who would listen to classical music. Deciding not to voice your question this time, you follow short behind Nia, kicking some loose stones on the gravel path leading to the front door.
There’s no need for more than a single knock for it to open almost immediately, revealing a lace-clad Evan downing the last bits of his wine. Without the barrier you can hear the music more clearly, the keys of the piano meshing in a peculiar way, not like anything you’ve ever heard in a classical song— at least not ten years ago when you tried to learn piano for a year before giving up.
“Look at my favorite people!” Evan says with his purple-stained lips, pulling Nia for a hug with the arm that’s not holding the door open while pointing at a spot behind her. “Did you greet Jonathan when you passed him? It’s his birthday as well.”
He points to a spot where a gnome statue sits in the dry grass, face painted in clown makeup. Nate’s voice comes from behind you, “Christ.” 
“Nate!” Evan chirps, going straight for the man standing with a sharp smile and throwing his arms around him. “You know you’re my favorite grumpy, right?”
Nate only taps on the shorter man’s back, quickly moving to Nia’s side as soon as he’s free from the embrace. With that, Evan turns to you, hands finding your elbows as he takes you in, “And what have you been up to, bug? It's been ages.”
“You know… Books and… Stuff.” You chuckle, brushing it off. “Happy birthday, E.”
“Thank you!” He claps his hands together. “Now, c’mon, let’s get all of you started.”
Following him inside, you’re met with a glittery box standing right next to the entrance; rolls of tape seal it shut, and a hand-sized hole has been cut on top of the lid. You try to peek at what could be inside, but strings of colorful crepe paper are stuck to the hole, making it harder to know its contents.
Evan picks up the box, holding it to his side. “So, I need each of you to grab a piece of paper inside the box. There will be a number in it but for now just hold on, drink, and chat while waiting for further instructions.” His voice lowers at the end to give his words more of a mystery behind them.
Nate tenses in front of you and you have to keep yourself from chuckling at his desperate gaze moving from the box to his girlfriend as he moves uncomfortably on his feet. Nia, however, only gives him a pat on his back, barely looking at her boyfriend as she does a little dance in excitement. “Oh, this feels fun.” She says, quickly reaching her hand inside the box and retrieving a piece of paper. “Mysterious, but fun. What do you have in mind, sir?”
“Nothing too crazy this year, darling, you can relax — We’re all too tired.” He moves the box towards Nate, who reluctantly reaches inside. “Just something to mesh people together that won’t give me too much of a headache to clean tomorrow.”
“Smart.” You say, peeking at the box as it’s presented to you before reaching for a paper inside, quickly reading the number eight written on it before folding the piece between your fingers.
“Nice! As always, drinks in the kitchen. We’re starting in ten minutes!” Evan claps, hushing the three of you further inside.
Surprisingly, this time around there are no posters of his face in sight as you follow Nia and Nate to the kitchen. There’s a mild mash of voices coming from the living room — where the sound of the piano is the loudest, and you wonder if he got an actual piano or if it’s just a Bluetooth speaker —, but it’s not nearly as loud as you’re used to from past times. The lighting has been lowered to a buttery yellow; you realize once you enter the kitchen that feels too bright to your eyes in contrast to the hallway.
“Is there any alcohol?” You wonder out loud, and Nia glances at you with her eyebrows shot towards her hairline. “What? I’m just asking ‘cause everyone is unusually quiet.”
“There’s wine and — what are these guys right here?” She picks up one out of four plastic jars sitting on the kitchen island, reading the label stuck to it out loud, “Strawberry Mary — ooh, this looks fun.”
You reach for the other three to check their contents, but all have names similar to the one Nia now fills her cup with — fruity, yet mysterious: Lana Banana, Jenny Berry Mix, and Pineapple Suzan. “Did he come up with these?” You chuckle, reaching for the berry mix.
“It was probably Adam,” Nia says, and you frown. “That bartender guy? The one with the pet snakes.”
“Oh, yeah. I know him.”
The room comes quiet as you serve yourself, and only after you glance up you realize a tension lingering in the air. Nate stands awkwardly in a corner, eyes fixed on Nia as he moves his head around subtly. Glancing between the two of them, you notice how their expressions change as they keep their eyes locked, not a single word being uttered out loud. To you, it almost feels as if they are reading each other’s minds, and the heat of their silent argument becoming clear once Nate huffs, shaking his head. 
Nia clears her throat, seemingly uncomfortable, shooting you a knowing look. It’s only when she gives you a toothless smile that you realize the silent question behind it. “Uhm, I’m going to check if there are any sweets outside.”
Beelining towards the doorway, you quickly make your way out of the room. The hallway is empty and, from where you stand awkwardly in the middle of it, you can tell Evan’s left his spot by the front door, meaning he’s likely gone to the living room where the rest of the guests are. You can hear them chatting, although like you previously pointed, the voices are much more controlled than what you’re used to, and that makes you oddly flustered by the thought of walking in alone. 
Considering the limited amount of invitations this year, the chances of you knowing anyone are slim and, to add to your sudden nervousness, most of the people from Evan’s closest circle of friends are — like himself — inexplicably intimidating. This is mostly because it feels like this unspoken competition that everyone has settled with each other, to subtly brag about your success whilst simultaneously pretending to be impressed about the other’s accomplishments. And for you specifically, considering you’re not part of this artist clique that they lock themselves into, it feels particularly tiresome to be part of those interactions. 
So, you opt to wait for Nia, pretending to admire one peculiar painting hanging on a wall opposite to where the doorway leading to the living room stands. Every so often, you catch yourself glancing over your shoulder one way or the other, either towards the kitchen to check if your friends are joining you, or to the doorway where the rest of the guests are in. At one point, the voices get louder, joining in a laugh before tangling together in a mess of noise you can’t make sense of. It’s after a minute that you hear footsteps coming from the living room, making you freeze on your spot, carefully turning your back to whoever’s about to catch you avoiding the party, and focusing on the piece you’ve been staring at for the past five minutes.
The painting you first thought was just random strokes of earth tones abstractly put together you now realize it’s a man and it doesn’t take you more than a second or two to recognize Evan’s side profile in a peach shade. Your hand claps on top of your mouth as you fight the urge to laugh. The sound comes out muffled, but it stops as you hear the footsteps falter as they turn into the hallway. Keeping you back to them, you listen as the wooden floor creaks as whoever was approaching makes their way back. You peek to catch sight of who it might be, but all you make out is the shadow of mustard corduroys turning the corner.
As if on cue, Nia and Nate finally appear from the kitchen, thankfully neither appearing to be sour after the talk in the kitchen. 
“Finally.” You say, still feeling giggly from your finding. “Nate, you have to check this-”
“Okay! Let’s start, then. Do we have everyone in the living room?” Evan’s voice interrupts you as he calls out. Nia guides you along with her to the living room. And, as soon as the three of you enter, Evan nods at you, before continuing, “Now that all the bunnies are trapped, we shall begin!” He laughs, clapping his hands together before motioning vaguely to everyone. “Before I explain what I have planned, I want to pair you all. So, I’ll call out the numbers that each of you picked when you arrived, so everyone can find their pair.”
You frown, confuse yet curious about what Evan’s up to as he calls out the numbers. Now that you stop to glance around the room, you note how there are more people than you’d expected. It’s still not nearly as many as previous parties of his, but it still feels like the room is nicely filled, maybe just a dozen people above twenty. And amongst them, there’s quite a few you recognize as they pair up together — like Georgia, the first one to be called, whom you spent a good half of the New Year’s party with, or Taylor, who gets paired with Nia (you remember him particularly from a film festival that Nia had been part of — he produced and directed a short film comparing the second wave of feminism to the wildlife in the Amazon Rainforest, and Nia couldn’t stop complaining about how bad it was for the entire week after). 
It’s when Evan jokes with someone on the other side of the room, however, that you see him.
He’s tucked in a corner, right next to the bookshelves, arms crossed under his chest in a way that makes his tattoos pop out of his biceps, something you notice even standing on the opposite end of the room. His smile is subtle as he watches the scene in front of him, but it’s still enough for a dimple to poke at one side of his face -- it’s barely there, but you’ve seen it up close enough times that you notice those details. His hand holds a drink, but you pay no mind to it because what calls your attention is the mustard corduroy hugging his hips, the same one you watched run from you not only five minutes ago.
He laughs, and you avert your eyes, mouth still hung open. You wonder if anyone will notice if you leave.
But, as though he could read your mind, Evan calls the number written on that sits crumbled inside the pocket of your jacket. “Where are my number eights?”
You step forward and, like a magnet, your eyes glue on Harry as he raises his hand. 
Shaking your head in disbelief, you have to fight against an urge to shut your eyes tightly as the regret of having left your room at all tonight becomes almost overwhelming. All you expected for the night was to forget about book reports and endless essays piled up on your computer, to relax, maybe drink a bit more than you should while watching Evan’s friends dancing with a taxidermy beaver or something of sorts (that was on his friendsmas party two years ago). Instead, here you are on what feels like the first day of class dynamic your teacher has imposed to make everyone interact with each other. And, suddenly, the long pages of (insert boring book) don’t seem that bad right now.
And to make matters worse (because the universe just likes to add a little more spice to your tragedies) of all people standing in this living room you just had to be paired with the one with whom you had a fling-like relationship six months ago.
It’s awkward before he even approaches you, the tension making you fidget in your spot anxiously, barely being able to shoot a tight smile his way. 
The last time you saw Harry was through the rearview mirror of a car, standing on the sidewalk like an abandoned puppy with his tail between his legs. Though you admit you let your dramatics take away when you turned away from him to leave, the feeling behind it was genuine. You were upset. He had led you on, after all, made you think he wanted to have something more just to ignore you for months and, later, appear with a redhead under his arms and call her his girlfriend. So, yes, it wasn’t the best note to leave on.
But despite how you left the last encounter, the spark of nervousness that shoots through your stomachs right now doesn’t come exactly because of his presence, but more so for the awkward nature of this encounter. At the time it happened, you avoided any activity that had the slight possibility of seeing him again like the plague. You were hurt, and you were mad — though the second part was more directed at yourself than at him. But that was six months ago. After all, as much as you felt enchanted by him and as much as those two weeks you spent together were nice, that’s all that it was: two weeks. Yes, you were sad and, yes, maybe you shed a tear or two while watching Love, Rosie with Nia afterward, but that passed as quickly as it came.
That is, until now.
“Your hair is shorter” This Is all you blurt out when he stands in front of you again.
“It is, yeah.” Harry runs his hand through his hair. The strands that last time you saw him, curled around his jawline, now peek just under his earlobe. “Did it myself, actually.”
“Really?” You take a big gulp from your drink, gaze going anywhere but meeting his own. “Found yourself another talent.”
“Another?” You can hear the smirk in his voice.
“I mean, besides acting.” You grin, holding the cup to your lips and sparing him a glance. “Suppose after your debut you’ve gotten yourself busy with casting calls”
“Of course” Harry laughs. Now that you’re closer you have a better look at his dimples as they pop out, as well as the constellation of freckles hugging his nose, and the mole right under his lips. You avert your eyes again. “I’m set to be the next Bond, in fact”
“Oh, wow.” You raise your brows, grinning at the brim of your cup. “I can see it.”
He turns to you, “Can you?” You peek at him. "Why is that?”
This is exactly what you were afraid of all those months ago after last seeing him. The entire reason you ran from any possibility of seeing him again afterward. You can still remember clearly how much of a flirt he is, even when he doesn’t mean to be. It’s not a secret that Harry’s a charming man. His words are like honey, and when he uses them just right, you know is enough to have you melting. And it doesn’t help how well you seem to click together. Even now, you still feel it by your impulse to flirt back, to look him in the eye, and get just close enough to feel the scent of his cologne. Do all that just to turn away in the last second. Tease him the same way he did you. But you don’t do any of that, of course, because you’re as petty as you are bitter. So, instead, you click your tongue. “Don’t get too comfortable, Harry, bet your girlfriend wouldn’t be happy about that.”
He chuckles. “What girlfriend?”
This time you turn fully at him, brows shooting up not in defiance, but surprise. “Yikes.” You say before you’re able to hold back.
“Yikes.” Harry still holds a smile when he repeats it, head falling as he lets out a — nervous? — laugh.
A question pops into your head. One that lingered in your mind for a good while now, but comes back a bit louder now that you have the information that his relationship was short-lasted after all. It’s a short one, but one that requires a long answer, you suppose. What happened? You think. But you don’t dare to voice it, you don’t want to have this conversation with him. Whatever the explanation is, it’s not going to change anything. So you just avert your gaze back to Evan, who now calls for everyone’s attention again.
“I know you’re all dying to know what this is all about. So, I’m going to explain it all.” And with that introduction, Evan dives into a monologue you only pay half mind to. It’s hard for you to focus on the words rapidly leaving his mouth as you can feel Harry glancing at you every so often from the corner of your eye. You listen in to Evan describing himself as a feisty kid and mention his love for drama, and then you feel the ghost of Harry’s arm bumping against yours as he sways on his feet. You try to pay attention to the story being told of the events leading up to this birthday party, and then you have to hold yourself back from meeting Harry’s eyes once you feel them at the side of your face once again. He makes a comment under his breath that you don’t quite catch, and you’re about to question him before Evan’s voice comes in an even higher pitch. “I wanted tonight to be exactly that: chaotic. I didn’t want anything to quite make sense, and I didn’t want to think much, if I’m honest, last year of film school is taking a big chunk of my functioning neurons and m’dad’s whiskey collection is taking the rest of them.”
There’s a collective laugh that takes place and, once again, Harry’s eyes peeking at you. “Everyone can relax, it’s not one of those murder mystery parties, as I’ve heard some people guess — for fuck’s sake as if I have the time and patience to plan something like that.” He says with a sip directly from a wine bottle you just now realize he’s been holding. “It’s a scavenger hunt, you have a partner and an envelope with clues. Each pair will find something related to moi and after it’s all done, we’ll eat burgers and talk about me for the rest of the night.” 
“Sounds easy enough.” Harry mumbles.
Evan claps his free hand on his wrist, hushing everyone. “So off you go, c’mon! I’ll be hungry in an hour.”
“This is gonna be…” You start. “Interesting.”
“Interesting is a great word to describe it.”
“Well, let’s try to do this as quickly as possible, then.” 
 The side of his lips quirks up. “On a rush?”
“This is not exactly a comfortable position to be. I think you get it.” You say, fidgeting on your feet. You wait for a second for him to say something so you can start the activity, but he doesn’t and you realize there’s a piece missing. “Do you have an envelope?”
Harry nods, reaching for his pocket where the envelope sits folded in half. He swiftly opens it, taking out a card.
 “Well?” You prompt, “Read us the first clue, Bond.”
There’s a smile that Harry fights against at the nickname and you’re not sure due to the dim light, but you think there’s a hint of a rosy tone on the apple of his cheeks. “An activity that grows lives and ruins manicures.” He reads out loud, pausing for a moment before laughing to himself. “I know this one.”
“Grows lives?” You frown. “As in, a pregnancy?”
Harry shakes his head, leading the way towards the corridor. “As in, gardening.”
“That’s a very weird way to put it.” You say, following him. “Does he garden?”
He walks into the kitchen, greeting two people you don’t recognize who are searching for something — their clue, you assume — inside the cabinets. “No, but his sister does. There’s a greenhouse in the back.”
You simply hum in response, muttering a quick thank you as he opens the door for you that leads to the back garden. The greenhouse is not unfamiliar to you from the outside, there have been a good amount of summer gatherings in his back garden for you to know of its existence. But you’ve thought nothing more about it. If you’re honest, you never really paid much attention to it. If anything, you assumed he used it as storage at most, never taking Evan as someone who enjoyed gardening. Though now you know you were right, you've also learned that his sister lives with him and you wonder why he’s never mentioned it before.
The curiosity inside of you wants to question Harry about it, to ask him what else he knows you don’t. When you think about it, there’s a lot you want to ask him about. Not just regarding Evan, but also regarding him. You wonder what he’s been up in the past six months if he ended up adopting the kitten he’d told you about back when you were still filming or if he read any of the book recommendations you wrote on his notes app one particular night the two of you chatted for longer than the moon could hold itself up in the sky. The part of you that begs for you to say something on the short walk is so strong you have to physically bite your tongue to be able to hold back.
You don’t have to hold for long, however, as Harry takes it upon himself to say, “So,” He starts, clearing his throat, “How- uh- how are you doing?”
Somehow, his words click something inside of your mind. They remind you of why you shouldn’t let that curious part of you win. The sole purpose of it not falling for his charm. You shake your head, “We’re not doing this.”
“Doing what?” He frowns, his steps faltering for a second.
“Small talk.” You answer, focused on your goal. “We’ll just solve this thing as quickly as possible so I can go back home and finish my Euphoria marathon.”
“Right.” Harry nods once, and you can’t help but notice the way his lips quirk down, the frown not leaving his face. You can’t lie and say it doesn’t make your stomach drop the slightest bit to see you’ve upset him, but you have to remind yourself how much he’s upset you, too. 
It’s protecting yourself, you think. After tonight, you don’t have to see him ever again.
Inside the greenhouse, you’re greeted with a mix of scents you’re not prepared for before stepping in. The space is compact, with a single corridor narrowed with garden beds on each side. Dozens of branches and leaves tickle you as you walk in, most of them belonging to different flowers that, despite the chilly weather that still lingers outside, are already blooming. It’s a blend of colors, bright reds, and ocean blues, soft purple petals kissing pink and yellow ones. 
“We should look for gloves.” Harry’s voice startles you, chuckling as you jump a bit.
“Gloves.” He says. “I think whatever we’re looking for has to do with the gloves, ‘cause he mentioned manicure.”
“That makes sense.” You look around. Many gardening tools are piling under the tables that hold the garden beds; watering cans and empty pots. You look between bags of fertilizer and drawers filled with shovels. There’s so much stuff to look through that, at one point, you sit back on your calves, glancing around, lost.
You hear Harry leafing through as you’re doing, feeling his legs brushing against your back as he passes by and you stop, watching him from your spot on the floor. He’s got a concentrated look on his face, bottom lip worried between his teeth as he scans through the walls before he opens another drawer. That’s when his gaze falls, catching yours. You quickly turn away, pretending to go through another pile of empty pots and blocking the sound of a chuckle coming from his spot.
For a moment, the only sound in the room is the clicking of ceramics and the opening and closing of wooden drawers. That is until you hear from Harry, “A-ha!”
You look up again, seeing him move to the back where few pairs of gloves hang on the wall — so obvious yet still hidden between raincoats and summer hats. “Right under our noses.” You say, getting up.
Harry searches inside the gloves, tongue trapped between his teeth. “Bingo!” He says, pulling out two tiny bottles from inside one pair.
“What is it?”
“Liquor.” He grins, peeking at you from under his lashes before ripping a piece of paper attached to it. “It says ‘one for each, now get to clue number two.’” He holds up one bottle, offering it to you, to which you take it. “It’s chocolate flavored.”
“Of course it would be a drinking game.” You open it, feeling the artificial chocolate scent braid with the alcohol. “Christ.”
“Don’t smell it, or it’ll be worse,” Harry says, downing his with one quick tilt of his head. “‘S not that bad, actually.”
You mimic his action, letting the drink swiftly burn its way down your throat. Unlike Harry, you can’t help but scrunch your nose at the taste. “You’re a fucking liar.”
Harry only giggles in response, taking the empty bottle from you and placing it back inside the gloves, along with his own. 
And then again, silence. You turn to the flowers to find some comfort.
A family of tulips glances back at you, their petals in a full red, it’s the kind of beauty you’re scared to ruin if you touch, so you just rest your hand on the wood. “They’re beautiful.” You only notice you say it out loud when Harry hums back in agreement.
“They are.” He says quietly but somehow feels loud by how close he is. “Tulips are my favorites.”
You stop, brows raising incredulously at him. “No, they’re not.”
Cursing the universe for playing with you like this, you can’t help but laugh at the situation. “It’s just- they’re my favorites, too.” You look at him. “My nan used to plant them when I was little.”
“That’s sweet.” He says, smiling and you nod. “The red ones represent true love.” He points. “And the purple ones represent royalty.”
You blink at him. “Do you just look up tulip facts in your free time?”
Harry laughs. “Yeah, basically.” He looks down at you, and you can’t help but notice how the greenery around brings out the shade of his eyes. “I worked at a flower shop for a tick.”
He nods. “For eight months. My favorite part was writing on the store board every morning.” His face lights up as he recalls his experience. “I used to write silly stuff like, ‘one day I’d like to meet tulips.’ The old ladies loved it.”
You shake your head, breathing out a laugh. “You’re dangerous.”
“Dangerous? Why’s that?”
Because you’re sweet, you want to answer, because when I think I won’t get charmed by you again, you hit me with tulip puns. Your lip finds its spot between your teeth, you’d be damned to give him the satisfaction of hearing you tell him that, so, instead, you shrug. “Because.” You can tell he wants to dig more by the way his lip twitch up, teasing a smile, but you just nod towards the door before turning away from him and heading out. 
There’s a distinct change of temperature when you step outside, and it’s only when you do that you notice the greenhouse was heated. Thankfully, the night is not too windy as it would get a week or two ago when winter was still insisting on making itself present, but it’s still chilly so that it makes you hug your jacket closer to your body. Harry also notices the difference, as you hear him wince as he steps out from behind you — unlike you, he’s not wearing anything to protect his arms from the cold, which only makes it harder for you to not ogle the tattoos hugging his skin.
“So, what’s next?” You prompt.
Harry reaches for the card again, taking it from its spot on his pocket before reading the second clue. “‘Not feeling too creative to write this one, it’s on the third tree on oak.’”
“I mean, at least we don’t have to think too much on this one.” You say, “Oak Street is the one to the left, right?”
“Yeah.” Harry sighs. “Can’t believe he’s making us go out on the streets.”
You start to make your way back towards the house. “Too tired for a stroll?”
“‘S cold,” Harry says, scrunching his nose. “Here, there’s a side gate.”
He guides you through a gravel path to where the black gate stands, hidden between bushes and branches. Strings of fern hug the bricked fence and the surrounding grass is high enough that it tickles your calves through your tights, making you believe this path has probably been left unused for at least a couple of months now. This information brings out an extra worry for you, as you take a better look at it, noticing how the gate is closed shut to the fence.“Is it open?” You wonder out loud.
“Shit, I don’t think it is.” Harry huffs under his breath. “But, I mean, we could easily jump it.”
You stop, turning to glance at him as the suggestion leaves his lips. He stands there, hands on his hips, examining the gate, tongue poking out as he frowns. After a second, he meets your eyes. “What? It’s not that tall.”
“I suppose.” You say, looking back at the fence that ends just below your shoulder length. It would be easy enough for you to climb it with a boost, however, “I’m wearing a dress.”
“Oh,” Harry scratches the back of his neck. “Let’s just go inside-” He turns back.
“Wait,” You stop him, not sure if it’s the slight amount of alcohol in your system already making you more adventurous, you train your gaze at the gate, analyzing it again, before looking back at him. Squinting your eyes, “You have to close your eyes.”
He laughs, “Are you sure?”
“It’s not that high.” You shrug. “But I need your help.”
“Of course.” He moves next to the brick wall, kneeling before it and nodding towards you. “C’mon, step up.”
Hesitantly, you glance at his thigh stretching his trousers, a sudden wave of insecurity hitting you. “Are you sure you can lift me?”
Harry simply puts his hand out in a silent request for you to hold. “Of course.”
“No peeking.”
He shuts his eyes tightly, chin meeting his chest as he looks down. And then you take his hand, feeling his fingers lock in a firm hold as he helps you use him for support. You hesitate again before using his thigh as a step, “Wait, I’m gonna ruin your trousers.” You worry, but Harry only shakes his head, still keeping it facing the ground, the strands of his hair falling above his eyes in a makeshift blindfold. When he doesn't feel you stepping in still, he encourages you with a squeeze in your hand. 
You attempt to do as quickly as possible with your dress clinging to your legs, tightening your hold to Harry’s hand to step on his thigh. Once you let it go, you can still feel it lingering behind your back as you use your arms to boost yourself up the wall, sitting on it for a moment before jumping to the other side with a huff.
“Can I open them?” You hear Harry’s voice calls from the other side, and you smile, nodding even though he can’t see it.
And then his face appears as he stands up in a jump, grinning at you. “See? Easy Peasy.”
“I feel like a teen sneaking out.” You say, and you instantly give another meaning to your words as Harry boosts himself up. This time, you certainly don’t hold yourself back from staring at the way his muscles flex at the movement, the tattoos on his arms stretching, and his shirt rolling up. He makes it look so easy, so effortless, barely taking five seconds until he’s jumping in front of you.
“That was fun.” He puffs, patting his trousers lightly.
“So, how are we finding the tree?” You ask, taking a quick glance to where his hands brush on the fabric of his trousers. “Should we read the clue again?”
“I know which one he’s talking about,” Harry says, nodding to the left before beginning his stride in that direction. You follow him, trusting his words as the two of you turn the corner where Evan’s house is located. 
The street in question is much calmer than the one you were just in, with no cars coming or going from the residences — that stand much closer to one another, you notice, giving the whole street more of a narrow feeling to it --, which is not exactly odd, but certainly is a contrast with the main street that Evan’s home faces, that one being more lively with people either coming home or leaving it to enjoy their Friday night. The sudden lack of background noise makes the walk to your destination a tad awkward, as none of you make an effort to strike a conversation. Instead, you resort to silently observing the surrounding area as you walk alongside Harry, noticing how the trees here bend over the sidewalk, their naked branches slowly but surely growing back the leaves they lost months ago — it makes you wonder how beautiful this must look during the peak of springtime, their full branches blending together, making a ceiling of flowers.
“Here.” Harry stops abruptly, making you almost bump into his shoulder, as you were too busy with the scenery you’ve made in your own head. “‘S this one.”
“I thought it said the third one.” You frown, looking back and noticing the way you’ve passed way more than just three.
“This one is the third.” He says, motioning to a small birdhouse stuck to its trunk with a number ‘3’ painted to the front in blue. “It’s a bit of an inside joke,” Harry chuckles to himself. “Now I get why the bastard wanted me to have this card.”
You look closer at the tree, trying to see if there’s something attached to it besides the birdhouse, but there’s nothing. Before you can question it, Harry opens the front of the tiny house, retrieving two tiny bottles from inside of it, similar to the ones you found in the greenhouse.  “Oh, no.” You say, laughing. “Did he just put liquor inside a stranger’s birdhouse?”
Harry shakes his head, “This is not a stranger’s birdhouse.”
“Huh?” You frown, glancing back to the house where you stand in front of, its front completely dark, showing that no one must be at home. You point to it over your shoulder. “Do you know who lives here?”
“Yeah,” He starts, offering you one bottle. “I do.”
Your brows shoot up in surprise, glancing back and forth from the house to the man standing in front of you, an amusing grin growing on his face. “You live here?” You ask, “This is your birdhouse?”
“It is, yeah. In fact, I was the one who built it.” He gives the birdhouse a small pat.
You can’t help but let your mouth hang open for a second. “That’s-” You pause, not sure which word to use. Impressive? Amazing? Hot? “That’s nice.”
Harry smiles, and the two of you stand there for a moment, admiring his work in silence. You suck your bottom lip in, keeping yourself from inquiring further. 
Being presented with how little you know about Harry only peaks at your curiosity at what had happened last year in your brief experience with him. When you were with him it felt as if you’d known him for months rather than weeks, but looking back at it now, you wonder if your infatuation fooled you into thinking the two of you were close. Maybe that’s why you were so upset at the premiere after all because all that did was prove to you how much you didn’t know him at all. No matter how many sleepless nights you spent together sharing bits of your lives, it wasn’t enough for you to get to know him.
It’s only when a car turns into the street that you break away from your thoughts, looking up at him and clearing your throat. “We should take this back to Evan’s.” You say. “I’m not sure how it would look from an outsider’s point of view to see us downing these tiny bottles in the middle of the street.”
“You’re right,” Harry says. “Should we read the last clue while we’re at it?”
“Sure, yeah.”
He reaches for the card inside his pocket, presenting it to you. “You do the honors this time.”
You take the card, brushing your thumb over the words before stopping for a second to read them out loud, “You’ll find your prize behind the words of buried legends.” You snort. “That’s so corny.”
“Words of buried legends,” Harry repeats, letting out a hum. “Bet he was feeling quite poetic when he wrote this one.”
“Maybe because it has to do with poems.” You peek at him, a slight raise to your eyebrow. “‘Words of buried legends’? like dead poets and stuff?” Upon reading it again to make sure, you mumble, “He really made this card especially for you, huh?”
“Makes sense.” Harry agrees before nudging you playfully with his arm. “Look at you with your literary mind!”
“Could’ve used some better wording but I’ll let it pass.” You giggle, shrugging as you hand him back the card. As you do so, you notice there’s something written on the other side. “What’s in the back?”
Harry’s brows meet. “Huh?”
“In the back of the card, something’s written on it.” You nod towards his hand as he’s about to pocket the card again. 
Harry turns it around, reading it with a chuckle. “Ice breakers.”
“You gotta be fucking kidding me.” Your mouth drops open in amusement. “Well? Go on, then. Break the ice.”
Harry makes a show of clearing his throat before reading the question as an announcement, “What celebrity do you think you could pull on your best day?”
“Is this the actual question?” You squint your eyes at him and he turns the card to allow you to read it as well. Surely, the same question reads right on top of it and, as you take a glance at the ones below it, they’re not that much better. You shake your head, “God, I have no idea.”
“I know mine.”
“You didn’t give a single thought on that one.” You say. “This should be good.”
“Jennifer Aniston.”
“Jennifer Aniston?” You stop on your tracks, raising your brows at him. “You know she was married to Brad Pitt, right?”
“Ouch.” Harry makes the theatrics of putting a hand on his heart, head falling dramatically to the side. “Right where it hurts.”
“I’m not saying you’re bad-looking, but he’s Brad Pitt.” You emphasize with a laugh, pushing him playfully as you keep walking. “Like he is the male beauty standard. Personified.”
The front of Evan’s feels more vivid than it was when you first walked in hours ago, the lights inside seeming lighter and the curtains having been pulled back, showing people wandering around on the inside. You walk past another pair crouched in front of the bushes that line next to the front gate that creaks as you open it.
Harry rolls his eyes. “Sure, let’s hear yours, then, sweetheart.”
“Ew, don’t ever call me that again.” Your nose scrunches and your face grows hot, but you attempt to shake it off, stopping to think of the question. “Huh, on my best day? I think… I don’t know, maybe Drake?”
“Oh, no!” Harry’s hands cover his face as he shakes his head into them. “I feel like that’s the most basic answer anyone could ever give to this question.”
You gasp. “Did you just call me basic?”
Harry holds the front door open for you and, before he’s able to give you an answer, you bump right into Nia. She instantly blurts out your name, as if she’s been expecting you to appear. “I’ve been looking for you!” She says, sparing Harry a glance over your shoulder before pulling you slightly to the side. “Do you think we could talk for a second?”
“Sure.” You hold out the word, looking at Harry before focusing on your friend again. “Did something happen?”
“No, no, nothing happened. Just—” Nia starts, locking your arms as she guides you back outside, pulling you to a corner a few steps away from the front door. “How are you? How's it going?”
“I’m fine. Why?” Your brows knit together at her interference and you wonder if it has anything to do with her conversation with Nate.
“I’m talking about-” She looks over her shoulder, clearly checking if anyone is listening in. Even after making sure that there’s no one there, she still lowers her voice. “When I saw he was your pair, I wanted to rescue you right away, but fucking Taylor pulled me with him and I didn’t get the chance.”
Oh. “Oh.”
“Is it too awkward?” She keeps her inquiry, holding your hand close to her chest. “We could ask them to switch so we can do the rest together, I’m sure Evan’s too plastered to notice.”
“Nia, I-” You smile as you come to realize that she pulled you aside just to check if you’re uncomfortable, having witnessed first-hand your whines and cries over Harry last year. “It’s okay, really. It’s not that bad, surprisingly.”
“Really?” Nia blinks, taken aback. “I- What happened?”
“Nothing.” You reassure her with a squeeze on her hand. “We’re just chatting, it’s not that awkward.”
“Okay.” She nods and nods, before falling serious again. “But if anything happens you just have to scream for me and I’ll be right there, okay?”
“Okay.” You say, pulling her for a brief hug. “Thanks, Ni.”
The two of you return inside just as Taylor brings up his brother’s hair sculpture collection that’s being exhibited at a local gallery — a subject you already have been the victim of hearing for about an hour during New Year’s and, by Harry’s face, he seems as helpless as you did back then. Nia doesn’t waste a second before pulling her pair away, “Let’s go, pal, those clues won’t solve themselves,” she shoots you a look over her shoulder, pushing Taylor towards the living room and you chuckle.
“He really is one of a kind, that man,” Harry says with a sigh before meeting your gaze. “Is everything alright?”
“Yeah, just lady talk.” You brush aside. “Let’s find those poets, shall we?”
“We shall.” Harry smiles, looking around for a second before guiding you down the hallway, turning just before entering the kitchen where a staircase. This is a way that — like the greenhouse — you’ve never been to. Still, Harry navigates so casually as if it were his own home and, to some degree, you suppose it is. You follow him up the first flight of steps, stopping just before turning into the next one where a door you never really noticed before stands. Harry rests his hand on the handle, turning to you before saying, “There’s an office hidden right here.”
You watch as he opens it, motioning for you to walk in first. And, indeed, the inside of it is an office, just a bit smaller than the living room on the opposite side of the house. Two bookcases that go from the floor to the ceiling mostly covered the wall, only leaving a single space in the middle for a dark wooden cabinet. In front of it, an L-shaped desk takes up the middle of the room, most of it is filled with files and paper stacks, as well as two computers lying asleep. For a moment, you just stand by the doorway, admiring this room you’ve never known of its existence, your eyes quickly sweeping through the bookshelves completely packed with dark cover books of all sorts. “Do you think this is where it could be?”
“Probably, yeah.” Harry nods, turning on the lights. “I don’t know where else he could have any poetry hidden.”
You move towards one bookshelf, the one closest to the door, reaching to brush your finger through the spines perfectly lined. “But look at the size of these, we’ll take forever to find anything in here.”
“Those big ones are mostly law books, I think,” Harry says, opening cabinets at the other side of the room, right next to where a white couch stands. He turns to look at you, “His sister’s a lawyer, this is her office.” Harry says, “But Evan’s got a corner right here where he keeps some of his stuff— like books of sorts. It’s the only place I could think of.”
You hum, not knowing exactly what to respond to this information.
“You can go through the ones on that side, it could be there as well.” Harry nods towards a cabinet right next to the door where you came from, and you nod.
The first two cabinets are of no luck, both being mostly filled with boxes full of children’s books and old toys — some of them mixed with more stacks of paper, but those, instead of having long texts, have drawings of all kinds from what you could gather in a glance, from child-like scribbles to actual sketches. You can hear Harry going through drawers on the other side of the room and, upon closing another empty cabinet, you peek at him, watching his broad back flexing under his shirt as he moves around. Averting your eyes as swiftly as you looked, it’s still enough to bring warmth to your cheeks.
Finally, you open the cabinet at the very bottom of the shelf. On the top, there are piles of DVDs, most being different variations of Barbie movies, but, right at the bottom, you find books. You don’t stop to check their genre at first, simply moving them away until you stumble upon a small box, the top of it marked with the word ‘prize’. “Found it!” You call back, taking the box away from the pile before setting the books back in place again. “Under Rupi Kaur? Correct me if I’m wrong, but I’m pretty sure she’s very alive.”
“Don’t tell Evan that,” Harry says as he crouches next to you, taking the box from your hands. Inside, there are, as expected, two tiny bottles like the ones you found before but, what calls both your attention, is a small bag of sweets lying in the middle. Harry takes it, “Oh, those are nice.”
He hands it to you and you open it, quickly shoving a jelly candy into your mouth before nodding. “Yeah.”
“So…” Harry starts, peeking over his shoulder, “Do you want to go back there?”
You glance at him, his eyes hovering above yours, lips twitching up just barely. “Uh… Maybe not right now.” You answer, “Unless you feel like sharing our Jellies with other people.”
Harry only laughs, shaking his head as he sits back and you do so too, right next to him. He reaches for his pocket, presenting another tiny bottle, the one you found inside his birdhouse, “We still got these.” 
“Right!” You fetch your own out of the pocket of your jacket.
Harry opens his, holding it up towards you. “Cheers.”
“Cheers.” You say, mimicking him.
Both of you down your drinks, the liquid tasting bitter, like medicine on your tongue, the only reminder of alcohol being the burn as it slides down your throat. You rest your head back on the cabinet behind you as the two of you fall into silence once more. A part of your mind is already beginning to swim around the space inside your head, and you decide to not take the last drink just yet, laying it next to your leg. Though you’ve only had the equivalent of two shots, you realize the long break you’ve had from drinking for the past couple of months -- which wasn’t exactly an intentional choice, but more like the result of your lack of free time -- is showing itself to have been enough to make you more of a lightweight. 
And even though the night so far has been strikingly surprising in terms of how comfortable you felt being around Harry again, it doesn’t mean the questions you’ve been carrying since last year have gotten any quieter. They’ve only gotten louder. More persistent, even. The curiosity you feel to know what happened is almost suffocating now. And you’d be damned if you let a drunken mind stop you from having this conversation.
You glance at him from the corner of your eyes, only watching the back of his head bobbing along with the music -- still the piano -- that comes faintly from behind the closed door. Your lips part, feeling the question form right at the tip of your tongue, but not knowing how to voice the words. Will it be awkward? You think so, but what if it ruins the night? Tonight, that’s been so oddly refreshing. A night that only served to remind you how you became so infatuated with him in the first place.
But you know you won’t be able to let go of this ich inside your head unless you bring it up. And you want to, you do, but as you take too long to think of the right way to do so, Harry decides to break the silence, murmuring next to you, “That’s a good one.”
Your brows knit together, trying to make out any trace of familiarity within the song that’s playing, but you don't find any, which only leaves you even more confused.  “Do you like classical?”
“Love,” Harry says simply, his eyes closed as he moves his head with the piano keys. “Especially this one. One of the greatest works from one of the greatest contemporary composers: Billie Eilish.”
Your lips fall open, “Shut up. Is she playing this?”
Harry laughs, a full one, that brings a grin to poke at your lips. “I mean, as far as I’m aware, no. It’s a version of her song — listen in.” He points to his ear, nodding with the melody as he sings along, “So you’re a tough guy, like it really rough guy.”
You shake your head incredulously, “Of course he’s playing classical versions of pop songs!” 
“Did you really think Evan had a taste for Chopin or Debussy?” Harry asks both dimples poking on his cheeks.
“I think at this point I’d believe anything you tell me about him.”
Both of you laugh, the air surrounding you light and warm, before falling quiet again. This time, however, you simply stare at each other for a beat. You watch his eyes, with their almost hypnotizing jade shade, glancing between your own. He rolls his lip between his teeth, nibbling at it. This is the closest you’ve been to him all night, and the details on his face only feel like a reminder of your doubts. Like the nostalgia you feel with a bittersweet memory.
“Should we-“ You stop, the words falling from your lips before you can think about them. “Should we talk about the elephant in the room?”
You half expect Harry to frown, to play dumb, and question you the meaning behind your words. For a second, you even expect him to shake his head, to get up and leave the room. And, for some reason, you kinda want him to do so. To finally break the mask of the nice, sweet guy he’s been putting on all night and allow himself to play the role of cold prick you put him on for the past months. 
But he doesn’t do it. He only gives you a short smile. “I was thinking about how to bring it up.” Harry’s gaze falls to his lap for a beat as he scratches his nose. “We should, yeah.”
You nod, more to yourself than to him. This is it. The moment to ask what you’ve been waiting for for six months now. You decide not to think much anymore, allowing the question to roll freely, “I don’t really know how to word this better but- pardon my French- what the fuck happened?”
Harry chuckles, but not an amused one. It’s more of a dry, nervous laugh. “How cliche is it if I tell you I was really fucking stupid?”
“Pretty cliche.” You say, “But also pretty true, I suppose.”
“I’m sorry for that.” He looks up, eyes meeting yours again, his own softening upon seeing you. “I really am.”
“Thank you for apologizing.” You smile a little, “But I think I deserve an explanation.”
“You do.” He speaks quietly before clearing his throat. For a second, he doesn’t say anything else, just takes a sharp breath, focusing on his fingers that play with the hem of his trousers. “I- Uhm- I know this might come as a surprise, but I’m not very good at letting people down.”
“A bit, I guess.” You try to humor, but your tone doesn’t show it. You sound quiet, hurt.
He peeks up at you, and continues, “Jess- the girl you met at the premiere- she’s lovely and all, but- how do I say this- we were never really supposed to be together.” Harry sighs, “I didn’t like her like that.”
You frown, “Then, why did you?”
“A couple of months before we met- before Evan even mentioned the film project to me, one of my mates kept insisting that I should meet his sister.” He pauses, “That was Jess.”
“I figured.”
Harry nods, “As I said, she’s a lovely girl, really nice, but we just- didn’t click like that, you know?” You hum in agreement, ignoring a small twist in your stomach when he repeats the endearment term. “But I guess she really wanted to try it, and, for months, I just kept pushing and pushing, cause I thought maybe with time I could bring myself to feel the same way.” And then again, another humorless laugh, “But- spoiler alert- I couldn’t and I should’ve just told her that.”
Your mouth hangs open for a beat before you decide against saying anything. It’s clear as you watch him explain that the entire situation for him felt more complicated than you’d ever considered. Not once did you think about the possibility of him being caught in a twist of his own decisions, and not once did you regard his feelings with the whole situation. In your bubble of gloominess, all you could think of was how he played you and used you for a bit before moving on to the next girl that fell for his sweet talk. 
Looking at him now, however, his head low and brows set on a permanent crease, lips frowning down, you can feel the internal conflict pooling out of his pores. You’re not sure if it’s exactly a look of remorse that he gives you, but it sure seems close to it.
Harry huffs in what feels like frustration as he keeps recalling the events, “But all my mates kept taking the piss, pushing me to ask her out and then, in the middle of it, I met you.” He finally smiles a bit, and you have to look down to hide the warmth that spreads on your cheeks, “And we-uh-” He shrugs, “I mean, we clicked, didn’t we?”
“I think so.” You say, just above a whisper.
“I think so, too,” Harry says, holding your gaze with his own. “And when I was with you I let myself forget about that, forget about the pressure to be with someone else, I guess.” His lips fall again, eyes meeting his lap, “But when we came back, there wasn’t much running away from it anymore. The night we got back I met that friend of mine and, I’m not sure if he said anything to Jess, but she asked me out.”
“And you said yes.”
“I said yes.” He repeats, shaking his head, “I shouldn’t have, but I said yes.”
“So you just dated her? Even if you didn’t like her like that?” You say, trying to understand his thought process. Even if his words tug at your heartstrings -- which you try to not think about right now -- you still can’t help but feel a bit for the other girl.
“I thought I could- I don’t know, I thought with time maybe I could-” He stumbles around with his speech, before finally letting out a sigh, “I don’t know what was going through my head, to be honest. I was a prick.”
“At least you can admit to it.”
“I was a prick to both of you.” 
You fall quiet, hoping he takes your silence as an agreement. When he doesn’t offer anything else, you speak up again, “Did it work, though?” He frowns, and you clarify, “Letting time force feelings into you?”
“I found very quickly how hard it is to develop feelings for someone when there’s someone else on your mind.” He says, and you bite back a smile that wants to spread on your lips.
“It’s very easy to say that now.”
“I know.” He agrees, “And I wish I could’ve realized that earlier, before even bringing you into this mess.” Harry reaches for your wrist, which lies on top of your lap, giving it a gentle squeeze. “For that I really am sorry.”
“I know you are.” You reassure, turning your hand to find his, squeezing it back. “And what happened to Jess?”
“She was rightfully upset when I told her.” His thumb brushes against your knuckles, moving the rings on your fingers around just slightly, and it’s almost enough to distract you from his voice. “We broke up a day after the premiere.”
“But it’s fine now, she’s got a boyfriend now who actually cares for her the way she deserves,” Harry says.
“That’s nice to hear, at least.”
“It is, yeah.”
You look down at your hands locked in your lap, squeezing his one more time before letting it go with a sigh.  “You really made a big mess, huh?”
He chuckles, a guilty smile poking on his face, “I did.”
You nod, finally reaching for the tiny bottle left forgotten next to you, opening it. This time you only take a sip, but it’s still enough to end half of the liquid inside. You click your tongue, “I’m glad we talked, though.” You look up at Harry again, who’s already watching you, giving a small tap on his thigh. “It’s nice to have closure, you know? To give it a conclusion and wrap with a nice little bow.”
Harry rolls his lip inside his mouth, “Is this a conclusion, then?”
You raise your brows, “Is it not?”
“I guess it could be.” He shrugs one shoulder, leaning closer to you just barely, eyes trained in yours. “But I’m hoping that, after today, maybe we could start over?”
You laugh, scrunching your nose at him as you shake your head. “Not a start over, no.” You poke his side, “You’re not getting away that easy.”
“You’re right.” He says, still not budging as he frowns his lips. “But I wish it didn’t have to be an ending as well.”
“Is that so?”
Harry nods, you can tell his eyes hold a shyness that wasn’t here a minute ago, but at the same time -- as paradoxically as it seems -- there’s a boldness as well, one you’re more familiar with. “Maybe we could chat again. This time with fewer ice breaker cards and more bags of sweets.”
You smile, rubbing your chin as you pretend to ponder about his suggestion. “That does sound very promising.”
“I really do think we clicked.” He drops his playful tone as if wanting to make sure you feel the sincerity behind his words. “Wasn’t just saying it.”
“I know.” You say, “And I think so, too.”
His smirk grows, and he doesn’t offer anything else to say, but you can tell he’s holding something back. With the silence, you suddenly become too aware of the way your arms brush together, and how his knee bumps against yours. You notice how his eyes fall a bit from yours, so quickly you could’ve imagined it, but you choose to not think so. If you lean forward, you know he will too, but you don’t want to give him the satisfaction. You’re not letting yourself make the first move.
Surely, you’re aware these thoughts are a direct result of the alcohol sweeping through your mind, testing how much of your pride you’re willing to ignore. There’s no questioning of the wall that you built all those months ago after walking out of this very house with this very man on your tail blurring out apologies. It still stands, tall and strong, and you're not letting sweet words mixed with a drink or two pull it down. Not that easily. But at this moment, looking at his stupidly beautiful face with his stupidly beautiful eyes so close to you, you feel like maybe you could peek through a window, or open up a door — just a creek, just to have a sample of what it would feel like if you were to pull it down.
“Do you want to go back?” Harry asks again, this time more quietly, this time his question has a different implication than it did before.
You're quick to shake your head, voice quiet, “Not yet.”
The corner of his lips quirk up and you raise your brows, silently daring him to ask what he’s been holding. You see his hand moving from the corner of your eyes, but you don’t break your gaze from his, not even when you feel his fingertips moving so gently against your cheekbone, brushing your hair away from your face. Harry leans closer, again just barely, and again, you stay still, only smiling softly in encouragement. Now, you’re stuck in your own silent conversation; both seeking the same thing but not making the move to achieve it -- either for pride or apprehension. 
“I’d really like to kiss you right now,” Harry whispers finally, eyes moving down again, this time slowly, making sure that his intentions are clear.
“Do it, then.” You tease.
Harry breathes out a laugh, his hand caressing its way down to your jaw. He rubs his thumb against your cheek, a feathery touch, taking another second to look at you before pulling you in. Your eyes fall closed, as you focus on your senses, and allow yourself to peek from that window, or creek that door open just a bit, to have just this moment to remember when you first got lost in his touch. 
First, it’s the warmth of his breath tickling your cupid bow, making your hold your own breath in anticipation. Then, the tip of his nose, gentle against your own, and you can’t help but lean in a bit more when you feel the ghost of his lips on yours. But he pulls back, just so slightly, hoping to have you reach for him again. Except you don’t, knowing what he’s trying to do.
“Uh-uh,” you shake your head, pulling back just a bit to look him in the eye. “You don’t get to tease me.”
Harry huffs out a laugh, “That’s fair.”
This time, there’s no teasing. Still, he goes in just as slowly as he did the first time around, curving his lips around your bottom one so softly it almost makes you lean in again. His kiss is cloud-like in a way that makes you a bit dizzy and when he presses his lips harder, you have to refrain from letting out a dreamy sigh -- still too stubborn to give him the satisfaction. It’s when you feel the tip of his tongue poking out to lick at your bottom lip in a silent request, that you pull away completely.
It’s your turn to smirk now, licking your lips before announcing, “I think we should go back now.”
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oxalisim · 12 months ago
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so you wanna know how to gif the sims (with reshade)
i’ve gotten a couple questions about how i make my gifs so i figured i’d make a really simple and short(ish) tutorial on just that! please keep in mind that this is not the only way to make gifs and it most certainly may not be the best way. nevertheless it is my preferred way so let’s get started with the tutorial (lol i feel like a youtuber or something)
what you will need:
a screen recording software (i have one linked below)
the sims (duh)
photoshop (any version will do)
now let’s really get started
okay so if you have no idea what a gif is, it’s pretty much just a snippet of a video that replays over and over. so therefore, you must record a part of your game so you have something to gif. personally i use geforce experience, which came with my computer. if you don’t have it on your computer, just download it. i’m totally not sure if it works on every computer, so if it doesn’t seem to be working for you, let me know and i will definitely find an alternative.
open up your game and find something you want to take a video of. (MAKE SURE RESHADE IS ON) it can be literally anything. once you’re ready to record, press the shortcut alt+z, that will bring up the geforce experience overlay.
in the middle there should be a record option. simply press record, click alt+z again to minimize the overlay and it’s go time! your game is now being recorded, which means anything you do will be recorded, of course. when you’ve got the money making shot, click alt+z again to bring up the geforce overlay once again and press stop recording. it will tell you your video has been saved.
now it’s time to make your gif! so minimize or shut down your game, and open up photoshop. make your way to file>import>video frames to layers
now you want to find where your video has been saved. geforce automatically saves your video to your videos folder. open your video and you should see something like this:
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you’re more than halfway there now! tick the little bubble that says ‘selected range only’ and now use the little sliders to determine the beginning and end of your gif. you can play your selection as much as you want so you know what your gif will look like.
press OK when you’re happy with your selection and now we will for reals make the gif. go up to your window tab and make sure timeline is selected so you’re able to see your frames. now that your frames are visible, you’ll see a little play button. just for fun, click it and your almost-gif should play. see, i told you you’re close.
you’ll notice that your frames and layers are linked. anything you do to a layer will happen to that frame. so honestly leave the layers alone. they’re not really the main focus here. you just want to pay attention to the frames. now take the time to REALLY trim down your gif, delete some layers at the beginning or end to make it look nice. i suggest keeping your gif under 100 frames for it to work well on tumblr. 
let’s now talk about gif speed. you’ll see that each frame has a little 0.02 underneath it. personally i like to keep my gifs at that speed because that’s how they appear in-game. but you’re welcome to change the speed. i recommend something between 0.02-0.06.
when you’re happy with the length and speed of your gif, now it’s time to crop and resize! i’m making this gif a square just for the sake of the tutorial, but of course, crop your gif to whatever size you want. i’m also resizing it to 540x540px (that’s tumblr’s single photo size). this is what i have so far:
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i want to get rid of the UI now so i’m going to add a LAYER at the tippy top of all the other ones, get my brush tool and paint over it. skip this step if it doesn’t concern your gif.
you can get creative now and edit your gif to your liking. add brightness or vibrancy. anything of the matter. when you’re happy with how it looks, IT’S TIME TO SAVE!
we should be all ready to save now. so you want to go to file>export>save to web. this can be a little overwhelming if you’re not used to saving to web and it’s settings, so i’ll walk to you through it completely. 
first let’s make sure we’re saving our gif as a .gif file. in this little box make sure you have gif selected
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(i know i have png highlighted, i’m just stupid and lazy) and to save yourself the hassle, copy my gif settings here:
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finally press save and upload it to tumblr!
here’s my final result:
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i really hope this tutorial was detailed enough and helped you through this as easy as possible. please know that my inbox is always open when it comes to questions or concerns (or anything for that matter). oh also! if this tutorial helped you, please tag me in your gifs. i would LOVE to see them!
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wolfstarlibrarian · 5 months ago
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Welcome to the fifth installment of Beyond The Shelves!
This month’s creator spotlight is on the truly unique and amazing @mlim8. Mel has brought new life into fandom with her stunning art and comics that can make you laugh and cry. She's also the artist behind the Padfoot you can pet on the Librarian's home page (desktop) and the Moony gif on the Help Desk page. Now let's get to know this incredible artist!
Name: Mel is fine :D (she/her)
Where can people find your art?/Support you?
I'm only on Tumblr! @mlim8 (I tried getting a Twitter but I got confused so it's an account in limbo~). My Wolfstar/HP Masterlist is here (links only work on mobile)
What's your favorite thing about Remus & Sirius?
I'm a biggggg sucker for the 'childhood friends' trope. As well as pairings that scream mutual pining, but on the other hand, can be pure fluff. I like pairings where the couple can play off each other, can support each other, who might not always see eye-to-eye but have also been with the other for so long now, they know what they’re doing to make sure they still work, because in the end, they LOVE EACH OTHER. Somehow, Remus and Sirius can tick off all these different boxes and I love them for it uwu And then, there’s also just so much mystery about them in the books and therefore, so much freedom to interpret them, given how little we actually have to go on - it’s so cool to see them in an assortment of AUs, tropes, canon, non-canon fics and see them fall in love over and over and over again… So ultimately? I guess my favourite thing is that it’s so damn obvious how in love they are with one another that the Wolfstar fandom is as big as it is :)
What do you think your signature style is?
I think I’m known for fanfic comics, cute fluff, and my chibi style. You will also see a blush on my characters’ cheeks like 98.9% of the time. I can’t help it… it belongs there lol
What inspires you?
Fanfics, usually. I actually came back to drawing on tumblr because of some beautiful fanfics that I couldn’t get out of my head and needed to draw them. Afterward, it would be songs, videos, memes, conversations with friends, posts from friends, etc - it’s not difficult to take something and go “Do it again, but as Wolfstar.”
What advice would you give new artists?
I guess some obvious ones would be to practice, practice, practice. Use references and 3D models, they help so damn much. Video tutorials and other art tutorials are there to help you make things easier, there really is an endless pit of things to learn and techniques to master. Some other things that people might forget: drink water, do stretches for your wrists and neck, get up once in a while to get blood flow in your legs. But most importantly, even if you want to practice a lot, don’t forget to TAKE. BREAKS. Your body and mind will thank you.
You also don’t need anything super fancy to draw: traditional art is just as valid as any digital art (more so because you don’t have a CTRL+Z function and it drives me insane, so power to you!!). Cheaper $50 art tablets can do what you need them to, as long as you know how to use it. With art programs, there are tons of free ones that you can get your feet wet before committing to any expensive programs (I’ve used Paint Tool SAI for years in the past and I know artists that use FireAlpaca and GIMP with amazing results as well :D)
Lastly, and this is gonna be a hard one: Don’t compare yourself (or your progress) to other artists. People take years (decades??) to make art that they love and develop a style/technique that they’re proud of and it’s not worth the stress. You’re only in a competition with yourself and that’s challenging enough already!
What do you use to create your art?
I use a Wacom Bamboo Fun Pen & Touch - it was a birthday gift from waaaay back that I’ve had for a decade now :’)
For art programs, I’ve been using Clip Studio Paint for about 8 months now and I use Photoshop for stitching larger GIFs together uwu
What's a favorite piece you made and why?
Oh my God, how to decide… there’s been a ton that I’ve been proud of but my favourite (spelling with a u because I’m Canadian, eh) would be the recent Candy Heart Post I did a couple weeks back now. Just a lot of love and effort went into it, not just the art itself but trimming the song, all the editing and timing of each frame. I wanted so hard to tell a story and I think it came out the way I wanted it to :)
Pick one of your own pieces/AUs and give readers a little note about it. What inspired it? Why is it a favorite?
Okay, so this is probably an obvious one for those that have been on my blog for the last few months - but I have an AU called ‘Rembus and Hunter AU’ that is about an incubus demon, Remus, and a Demon Hunter, Sirius. The demon, affectionately called Rembus, is surprisingly sweet and adorable. In short: HE IS BABY. And when Hunter comes to the Village of Gryffindor to get rid of him, he learns that there’s more to demons than he’s known through the church and his family.
It’s just a really stupidly cute AU, despite the premise, and I’m so excited to share their story with everyone (one day, haha I’m a slow artist -)! Here’s Part 0 (the info card), if anyone is interested :)
It was created when I came upon an outfit ( similar to what Rembus wears) and thought “Okay, but Incubus!Remus.” - and that’s it. That’s usually how my AUs come about. The smallest inspiration and I spiral out of control with a backstory. This AU was fleshed out a lot with the help of Whippy, who was great to bounce all these ridiculous ideas off of lol
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Make sure to check back later today for a list of works and recs from Mel herself!
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thankskenpenders · 3 months ago
(Maybe spoilers for IDW Sonic 40?) I'd like to say two things: first, that cover where Eggman is a streamer is just so good. The little chat at the bottom is amazing and I love that people are already photoshopping him onto other games. Second, on a more serious note, do you think we've seen enough of both of them to tell what tangible difference, if any, there is between Ian and Evan?
That cover is, indeed, very good. I also love that the health bars are based off of the UI for Sonic Chronicles
As for the differences between the two: Evan's style on IDW Sonic is obviously influenced by Ian's since she's a fan of his work and it's still the same series, but I definitely got a different vibe from her stuff right away
Broadly I would say it's obvious that Evan is relishing in her new position and is trying to explore fun new corners of the IDW world right away. I love Ian's solo run to pieces, obviously (he gave us Tangle and Whisper for crying out loud), but it has a different vibe since he had already been writing Sonic for over a decade. He was comfortable jumping into a long story arc like the Metal Virus saga really early on after so many years spent refining the way he writes Sonic stories, whereas Evan's first two arcs have both felt somewhat experimental. You can tell how excited she was to send the Sega girls off on a mission together, or to do stuff with Chao, or to base the premise of the latest arc very loosely off of a weird old Sonic chapter book
There's also a lot of subtle changes in the dialogue and characterization that I picked up on quickly. Evan seems less afraid to make Sonic playfully rude with his friends, for example, whereas Ian had made him more of a softie over the years. (Not that Evan's Sonic is a jerk or anything - I think it's a good balance.)
But Amy's probably one of the best examples. Evan clearly set out to make Amy a frontline fighter again right away. Not that Ian was sidelining her or anything, but she's literally been going on adventures in all of Evan's first eight issues back to back. She's also definitely writing Amy more as the platonic ideal of Sega Amy, whereas in Ian's solo run... Okay, I think people exaggerate the claims that Amy got turned into Sally, but consciously or not... there's definitely some Sally in the way Ian was writing her for a while. The two are certainly distinct characters, and it's Sega's fault in the first place for making her one of the heads of the Resistance, and they drifted even further apart as Amy fell out of her leadership role. But it's there in a lot of Ian's run as he slowly weens her off of her role from Forces. There's a lot of good Sega-style Amy scenes, too, but when I go back and reread pretty much any scene where Amy is commanding the Resistance I can just feel the specter of Sally looming over the story
And of course there's Shadow, who Evan is trying very hard to take in a more balanced direction. Ian certainly gave it his best too, but if you listen to the BumbleKast you can literally hear in his voice how tired he is whenever the back and forth with Sega on Shadow's characterization comes up
This might just be my imagination, but as a writer who's also an artist it also feels like Evan is more eager to script things in a way that will lead to interesting layouts and visuals. This is my third post today referencing the kaleidoscope effect when Sonic broke the maze but seriously, that part was SO GOOD. And the chateau in CR&BB felt very much like a location that she thought would be fun to draw
I'm sure there's more I'll be able to pick up on as we get more stories from Evan (and I'd probably be able to pick out more hallmarks of her style if I'd read Ghosts of the Future or Silver Age already lol), but she definitely has her own style. One that's extremely compatible with Ian's, but a different style nonetheless
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smut-lady · 9 months ago
Carpet Burns
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Day 4/12 Sorry it’s late, tbh I was a busy making smut come to life last night LOL. Check out this post for Days 1-3
Original Image not mine - edited image made by me shoutout to my stock photo subscription and photoshop.
Characters: Rio x reader
Summary: Rio and you fuck on the floor. That’s...about it.
Word Count: 2,354
Warnings: As usual, it’s pure smut. There’s sex with Rio and some playful talk about him being your boss. 
Tag List: @yourwonkywriter​ / @ughdontbeboring​
You sat on the floor of your apartment and sorted the cash into stacks. You didn't question how Rio got it. You knew you didn't want to know the answer. Most times, Rio kept you out of the business, but you had begged him to stay home, and this was the small price you paid to have him near you for a little bit longer. You didn't know enough that you'd be of value to the FBI and Rio kept you safe enough that other competitors wouldn't think twice about coming for you. So you counted the money quietly, organizing it into even stacks with a mental tally of how much was there. As you counted, your mind wandered idly to the feeling of carpet against your legs. You made a small mental note that next time you'd wear pants to sit on the floor. The carpet was light brown, thin, and scratchy. You hadn't ever paid too much attention to it until it started irritating the back of your thighs. You wiggled yourself and pulled down Rio's t-shirt as far as you could to cover your thighs. It didn't do much good, but at least you tried. 
Rio's soft footsteps approached, and you looked up from your stacks of money and smiled at him. He had brought you your favorite, his famous chocolate milk. It didn't matter that he taught you how to make it. It always tasted better when he made it. He handed the glass to you, and you thanked him softly. You couldn't help but notice the intense look he gave you. He always looked at you like he could eat you up, and today was no different. His eyes wandered from the stacks of cash towards you in nothing but his t-shirt. He loved the sight of that. He loved that he made you feel so safe. Even a piece of his clothing provided comfort to you. He took a sip from his drink, something much more potent than your chocolate milk, and bit his lip softly after. 
"You look good, mama." He said, placing his drink down on the coffee table. You smiled at him. 
"Would you hire me for my work or my looks?" You ask playfully. Rio chuckles as he sits on the floor with you, looking longingly over the stack of money. You giggle. Rio on the floor isn't a sight you expected to see, and it's odd seeing him at your level when he is the boss even in your relationship. Rio grabbed his glass from the table and took another long drink, contemplating your question. 
"I don't know...probably have to have a lot of meetings with the boss." His voice was low, and he looked you over once more. You were very familiar with that look, and the sudden wetness between your thighs confirmed it. You giggled and continued placing the money in their appropriate stacks. 
"Am I in trouble...sir?" The words are a playful whisper, and Rio enjoys where this is going. He sets his drink back down on the coffee table and folds his hands, resting his chin on them as he looks at you. 
"Not if you do what the boss says." He answers coyly. You slowly place the stack of cash to the side. 
"I tend to be a good listener." You reply, pushing yourself to your knees—Rio smiles and motions for you to come to him. You crawl gingerly around the cash, careful not to knock it over. Rio moans softly. Watching you crawl toward him has him hard already. He reaches out and cups your face, stroking the line from your ear to your chin gently. 
"You wanna suck it, baby?" It's a question, but he says it in a tone that makes you want to comply as if it's a demand. You nod your head eagerly and pull his thumb into your mouth and suck it greedily. Rio moans and whispers "Fuck" under his breath as he undoes his pants. He lays back on the carpet, and you crawl on top of him. You nuzzle your face against his hard cock. You love the sight of him hard and ready to bust out his boxers. His cock forces the fabric to stretch, and you gingerly rub your hands over it, touching him through his clothing. Rio watches you. He lets you take your time. He knows how much you enjoy playing with him, and he's happy to let you explore with him as much as you want. 
You slide Rio's boxers down and moan softly when his hardness springs forward. You grab it tenderly in your hands and place small kisses on the tip, letting your tongue slide around between the kisses, so you tease him just a little more. Rio's moans of approval are soft, and his hands are in your hair, urging you to take more in your mouth. You don't listen quickly, though. You take your time flicking your tongue over the tip and tasting little drops of his precum. When you feel like Rio can't take the teasing anymore, you slide the length of him into your mouth. Rio arches his hips in approval, and another long moan of 'fuuuuck' comes from between his lips. You start sucking on him, bouncing your mouth up and down the length of him and soaking every inch of his cock with your spit. Rio loves it sloppy, and you're a pro at doing what Rio loves. You gag on him, which rewards you with another curse of approval and his hands gripping your hair tightly. Rio bounces himself in your throat for a few seconds, pressing the tip against the back until you tap his thigh and he releases you. You come up gasping for air and then start the process all over again. Each time turns Rio on more and more. 
Rio grips your hair tightly and pulls you up by your hair. You moan softly and look up at him, biting your lip playfully. Rio pants heavy, his gaze full of lust. 
"Get on your back." This time it's a definite command. You eagerly swing your legs around and lay back, propping yourself on your elbows so you can watch him. Rio kicks off his pants and positions himself between your legs. He starts kissing from your ankle to your knees, agonizingly dragging his lips against your sensitive skin. He switches off on each leg until finally, he starts moving up your thigh. He presses his lips against the fabric of your panties and gives you a small kiss. His fingers trail the wet slit over the material softly. 
"Always so wet for me." You nod in agreement, your eyes full of need as you look at him. Rio hooks his thumbs in the waistband of your panties and yanks them down your body quickly. He wastes no time in burying his face between your legs. He starts eating you out in a slow, agonizing fashion. Teasing you the same way you tease him. A small kiss here and a gentle lick there until you were grinding into him, clutching his head in your hand and pressing your thighs tightly against his ears. You let out a soft moan when Rio, satisfied with his teasing, finally slid his tongue against your sensitive clit. The sensation caused you to sink back onto the floor, no longer able to support yourself on your knees as Rio expertly ate you out. You had never been a fan of it until Rio showed you how good it could be. His tongue lapped between your legs in long even strokes, always pressing against your clit a little more until finally, he focused all his attention on it. He swirled his tongue around it, teasing the button unendingly until you were panting and wiggling underneath him. Rio pressed his hand against your stomach and kept you pinned below him. He licked harder, teasing the tiny bud until you were gripping at the thin carpet beneath you. Your fingers dug into the floor of your apartment as your breath came out in short bursts. 
"Rio, fuck. Rio!" You moan softly, clenching your thighs tightly around his head as he licked all the right spots. The orgasm came before you had time to say it, but Rio already knew and lapped your wetness up hungrily. He didn't stop until the little shakes had gone away and you laid, starry-eyed and panting on the living room floor.   Rio smiled at the far off look you had, satisfied he had done an excellent job. He rubbed your inner thigh, dragging his nails against the soft skin. 
"Turn over, baby." He instructed. You rolled to your side onto your stomach and lifted your butt, presenting yourself to Rio. Rio gripped the curve of your ass in his hand and pressed his cock against your pussy. You sighed with excitement, and Rio pushed it into your hole gently, teasing you with just the tip. 
"Fuck me, please," You begged and wiggled your ass for him, teasing him with the sway of your hips. Rio sighed with pleasure and spanked your ass in approval. You heard the sound of his shirt being tossed to the side, and you looked back over your shoulder and caught the sight of Rio completely naked behind you. He was a God in your eyes. Every curve of a muscle and every inch of his skin was perfect. Rio looked at you, knowingly. He knew the effect he had on you, and in his mind, it was nothing compared to what you did to him. What you gave him every day by being around him. You both locked eyes with each other, and Rio slid his cock into you, slowly never taking his eyes off your face. In Rio's mind, your face when you finally felt the familiar stretch of his cock was his favorite thing to see, and it never disappointed. 
Rio slid himself slowly back out and then in again. Each motion stretched you over and over again, and you whimpered each time. The noises got needier as Rio took his time teasing you again and again in slow strokes. You tried to arch your back and sway back toward him, but Rio gripped your hips and kept you in place. 
"So impatient." He commented, spanking your ass in disapproval. 
"I want it!" You whined, flashing him your best pretty, please face. 
"You want it, mama? Want me to make you sore?" Rio asks, thrusting a little harder. You nod your head eagerly, a small moan of approval slips out as Rio moves inside you.
 "Okay, baby, I'm gonna make you sore," Rio says the words casually as he grips your hips tightly in his hands. You gasp a little at the pain, but the pleasure of having him hold you so tightly erases it quickly. Rio slides himself out slowly and then slams back into you with force. You gasp a soft, "so deep!"  And it's all Rio needs to hear to do it again. Over and over, Rio repeats the process, pulling out to slam into you harder, and each time you gasp a little louder. Rio finds the right depth to make you gasp the loudest, and he keeps himself there, thrusting in and out of you enough that it teases the same deep spot that makes you cry out the loudest. His pace is unwavering. Each thrust forces you forward, rubbing your body against the rough carpet. Each movement against the carpet stings and reddens your skin, but Rio's cock so deep inside of you brings you a pleasure you didn't know you could feel. 
Rio's thrusts got deeper and faster as he fucked you from behind. Each movement brought stars behind your eyes and raked the carpet for anything to hold on to. 
"Fuck, Rio! Oh my god!" You moaned in approval.
"You like that cock, baby?" Rio grunted between thrusts, keeping up the same relentless pace. 
"Uh-huh!" You moaned as your eyes rolled back slightly. You bit your lip and tightened your pussy on his cock. The warm feeling of an orgasm started to crash around you. It started as a knot in your stomach, and soon you felt all the muscles in your body begin to tense. Each time Rio teased that deep spot inside of you, the sensation was more intense. 
Rio felt you tighten around his cock, and he groaned. 
"Yea baby, cum on my cock. Cum for me." He muttered under his breath. You cried out with pleasure as he fucked you rougher. Your pussy clenched on his cock, and you felt him arch himself more so he could fuck through the increased tightness of your pussy. Each stroke brought you closer and closer until finally, you felt the wave of pleasure wash over you. Rio moaned with satisfaction as your pussy juices ran down his cock. He gripped your hips tighter, and his motions became sloppy with need as he brought himself closer to orgasm. You murmured soft words of encouragement, urging him to cum in you, to make himself feel good. Rio bit his lip in an attempt to keep his moans quieter, but he couldn't stop it; he let out a loud "fuck!" as his cum spilled inside of your wet pussy. Rio slowly slid himself out and laid beside you on the carpet. You rolled gently into his arms, and he wrapped you in a hug. 
His fingers brush against your arm gently, and you both lay quietly content. Your mind wanders off for a brief moment towards the stacks of money, and you frown, trying to remember how much was there. 
Rio clears his throat, and you look up at him. 
"We gotta get you some new carpet, knees are on fire." 
You both glance down and see the familiar red of a carpet burn on Rio's knees. Another look, and the red is on your knees too. Rio kisses your forehead and mumbles 'worth it.' 
The carpet burn was definitely worth it. 
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aiems · 2 months ago
Mini Vapoursynth Tutorial ♥︎
Hello!! I was asked to make a little tutorial on how do I work with the Vapoursynth settings when I gif so below the read more you’ll find how I work with it and a lil before & after of the gif! 
Hope you understand! ☺️
First things first, you need a video to work with (lol). I always like to cut the video parts I want to gif first and then put them through VS one by one to make it easier to work with (and to spare my laptop from dying processing everything) but I know people that prefer to run the entire original video through VS first, then cut the part they want to gif. Whichever you prefer is totally fine!
To add a video to VS all you need to do is drag it to the VS icon and drop it. You’ll get this window where you’ll have to specify the length of the video section you want VS to work on (yes you’ll have to write all the zeros):
Start of the section:
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End of the section:
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This will open that exact section on the program and you’ll be able to start to work with it from here.
You’ll get this window next (it’ll open on Chrome):
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(Gonna add that, apart from this window, the Vapoursynth Editor will open too, but I’ll get to that later, just don’t close it)
You’ll have the settings on your left, your video in the centre and then another bunch of settings on the right.
The first bunch of settings allow you to modify the size of the gif (in this case I’ve chosen 268 (width) x 400 (length), to make a 2 gif gifset, but you can do up to 540 (width) and basically any length you want...idrk if there’s a length limit on tumblr tbh...). I don’t touch anything else apart from the Denoise Filters and the FineSharp setting. 
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You need to tick those and then you’ve got two options: either change the settings using that sliding circle OR change them on the second settings bunch on the right. I do it there because I find it faster and more precise but you do you.
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NOW to change the settings on the right side, what you ONLY want to change is the part where it says “1.6″ and “0.22″ because the values correspond to the Denoise Filters and FineSharp settings I told you before (if you use the sliding circle on the left side you’ll see these values changing automatically as you move the circle from left to right).  
The Denoise Filters (the “1.6″ you want to change) are gonna smoothen the surface of the video, they’re gonna get rid of those little grains you see on videos that are not hd. 
The FineSharp setting (the “0.22″ you want to change) is gonna harsh the lines and make them more defined.
Here, it depends on the original video you’re working with and the quality it has: if you have a very high quality video you’re not gonna want to use a very high value for any of those settings bc you’ll end up with a super blurred gif that’s gonna look weird. If the video is lower in image quality, you’ll have to play with the values. 
The sh*tty thing about this is that, as you start changing the values, the result doesn’t show up on the gif in the middle immediately, meaning that you’ll have to run the code and open the gif on Photoshop to see the result. So it’s a matter of trial and error. If your resulting gif doesn’t show up on PS the way you want it to show up, you’ll have to go back to VS, change the combination of both settings, run it again through the software and check it again on PS.
The values I normally use for both settings usually range from 1.5-1.8 for the Denoise filter and 1.6-1.9 for the FineSharp. It really depends on the original video you’re working with, so always try to find the highest quality videos you can to make gifs from them.
Now once you’ve got your settings ready, all you need to do is copy the code,
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open the Vapoursynth Editor window I told you about at the beginning and paste it where it says “#Resizer content goes here”:
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Then, at the top bar, click on “Script” and in the drop down menu chose “Encode video”:
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This will open yet ANOTHER window:
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All you have to change here is where it says “Header: No Header”. you’ll want to click on those blue arrows and chose the option that says “Y4M”.
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If you don’t chose this option, the encoder will give you an error message and won’t work, so if you ever get any errors check out you don’t have this unselected. 
Once you have this all you need to do is press start (at the bottom right of the window) and let the program do its magic. It’ll start encoding the video and giving you lots of words and stuff and you’ll feel like a hacker breaking into some Country’s Government security system. 
The moment it finishes encoding it’ll give you a “Finished encoding” message in green and you’ll have to press “Save” (in the middle right of the window) for it to save the video to your VS Output folder.
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From here all you have to do is open PS, import the video and start working with it there!
This is the comparative with and without VS:
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I haven’t used any PSD on top of them just so you can see the real difference.
Hope this was useful!
Bye!! ☺️💕
38 notes · View notes
komfortkiri · a month ago
NOTES: I’ll make a banner for this series whenever I get my shit together on Photoshop, lol. I’ve been on a Sero/Kiri thing lately plus this was brewing in my head so I wanted to hurry and type it all down before I forgot it.
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You had been staring at this ad for a couple of days now. Surely they must have found someone by now, right? You were new around the area and being on your own, wasn’t quite what you had imagined. Your parents? Well, your mom up and decided to leave you behind after bringing you home from the hospital and your dad.. He’s always been there but you wanted to prove you could finally be on your own. You were 24 for God’s sake, of course you could do it, but sometimes— you found yourself wondering if you bit off more than you could chew. Living in this big city full of crazy quirks of all kind, including yours, it was pretty overwhelming.
Oh, your quirk? Well, you were part wolf and people could tell that from looking at you, due to your pointed black ears that rested on either side of the top of your head plus a tail that was pretty fluffy and was also black in color.. Can’t forget the fangs that you have, too. Your howl could deafen someone for a brief amount of time, distracting them. You also had the agility which mean you could run— fast. 
Growing up wasn’t easy at all. You were often teased about your appearance. Kids would pull your tail, thinking it didn’t hurt you when in reality, it did. You spent majority of your childhood wondering why you had to have such an awful quirk, blaming your father since he was also part wolf. However, as you got older, you became more mature and focused more on yourself. Of course, you apologized to your father, which brought the two of your closer, allowing you to confess the reasoning behind why your child days were so… dark and why you lashed out in such ways. 
Your father was a strong man, taking on a few jobs at a time to support you and his self while also keeping the bills paid on time. You admired him for that but you didn’t want to depend on him anymore which led you to where you are right this second— staring at this damned ad, wondering when you’re going to build up some type of courage to text the number. “Oh, for all that is holy, just do it.” You grew tired of being scared so you brought out your phone and texted the number.
TO KIRI: Hey… I was texting about your ad about needing a third roommate and wanted to inquire about it, if you haven’t found anyone yet.
You thought about it again.. What if it was a scam? Oh, you literally brought your palm to your forehead, tapping it a times then halted when your phone buzzed. You looked at the screen, eyes widening in surprise because it was the number from the ad. You had your phone set to where you wouldn’t be able to see previews of your messages unless you unlocked it fully. You braced yourself for a ‘Sorry, we’ve found someone’ or something along those lines. You wouldn’t be surprised since it did take you forever to even act on this whole thing. You swiped left on the message, unlocked your phone, squeezing your eyes shut then took a deep breath. Your right eye slowly opened, eyesight adjusting to the brightness of your screen then falling amongst the words of this Kiri’s response. Your other eye shot open in shock, both your ears perking up.
FROM KIRI: Awesome! We haven’t really had any luck with anyone reliable.. so since that’s the case.. would you mind if me and the other roommate meet you for, say.. coffee? How’s tomorrow morning sound around 8:30-ish?
Thinking to yourself, were you reliable? Of course, you were. Responsible? Absolutely. You worked at a local animal shelter, coincidentally. You worked more with dogs than cats, though, which came with the territory. Dogs obviously gravitated more to you given your natural wolf scent that only they detected with their sense of smell. Recently, you were moved into a management position so you were paid pretty well, which struck up this whole idea to be on your own, per se. Before you could think any further, did you work tomorrow? No, perfect. You rolled over onto your stomach on your bed, tail moving from side-to-side.
TO KIRI: Of course! That sounds great. There’s a coffee shop a few blocks from where I currently stay.. called Camille’s Cafe, not sure if you have heard of it or would prefer something else?
Were you coming off pushy? Demanding? At this point, you didn’t know and you were so nervous that it was driving you crazy but before you could go into panic mode— you got a text back, agreeing on the meeting place and everything. That was… easy.. almost too easy.. Either way, you were thankful they wanted to meet in a public setting in case they really were scammers. That’s when the thought had hit you.. What if they were guys? Kiri didn’t necessarily sound like a guy’s name.. did it? You laughed at your overthinking. No way these were guys.
With that, you looked at the clock on your bedroom wall, it reading 9:30 PM. You decided to go ahead and settle into bed to get enough rest so you didn’t look like a walking zombie when you met your potential roommates for coffee. You plugged in your phone to the charger and laid down, laying awake for an extra hour or so before drifting to sleep.
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After a long day of getting phone call after phone call, text after text from different people saying they were interested in their ad, Eijiro and Hanta were close to giving up. Everyone who showed interest had some type of flaw about them, whether it be a bad history of paying rent on time or being an awful roommate in the past. It was becoming annoying, to say the very least. After denying everyone who reached out, Eijiro thought it was best to just block all the numbers to prevent further contact.
“Bro, I’m beginning to lose hope. We probably won’t ever find someone else to move in with us.” Hanta sat down on the couch in the living room with a sigh, kicking his feet up on the table in front of him. “Might as well talk to Kats about ditching that condo he’s in to move in over here with us.” They had thought about that a few times but even the slight mention of a roommate the first time, their friend, Katsuki, was the first to say not to even consider him because he valued his privacy. They didn’t press further because they understood and knew how he was. 
Eijiro sat on the other end of the couch, directly across from Hanta, leaning forward to prop his elbows on his knees and his head on his hands. “You know exactly how that’ll go, Sero. I say the next person that texts us, we invite to coffee and really figure shit out. It’s been days since we posted that ad, and you know that we need the help we can get.” Hanta nodded in agreement then both their eyes shot down to Eijiro’s phone that lit up with a unsaved number, inquiring about the roommate situation. Hanta moved over to the same side as where Eijiro was to sit down once the red head picked up his phone to look at the message. 
“Huh, look at that! It’s almost like this person heard you.” Hanta chuckled, looking over the message. “What do you think? Coffee?” Eijiro nodded then sent his first text out in response to the inquirer.
TO (YOU): Awesome! We haven’t really had any luck with anyone reliable.. so since that’s the case.. would you mind if me and the other roommate meet you for, say.. coffee? How’s tomorrow morning sound around 8:30-ish?
Sero scowled, “8:30 in the morning, dude? You really must be desperate because we sleep till like noon on our days off. That or you’re hoping it’s a girl.” He laughed then got up to circle around the furniture to head to the kitchen. “I mean, it might be a girl… and it might be good for us. Could teach us a few things.” Kirishima didn’t think about what all that last statement could entail but Sero, thankfully, didn’t catch onto it. “I guess so. Did they respond?” Just as soon as he finished asking his question, another text came through. 
“How do you feel about Camille’s down the road?” Kirishima looked over to Sero who thought for a minute then shrugged with a nod, “Alright, yeah. I could go for one of her bagels. We haven’t seen the lady in a while so we should pay her a visit.” Camille was an older woman who had a heart of gold and loved both Kirishima and Sero. They always were such gentleman when they came in but they stopped going once the crime rate escalated the past few weeks. 
“That’s true. I told the person it sounded great so. Let’s head to bed so we can actually wake up early and look decent instead of a mess.” Kirishima rose from the sofa to head toward his room. Sero called out, “Wouldn’t have to get beauty sleep at all if you didn’t schedule this meeting at the crack ass of dawn.” With that, Kirishima held out his arm behind him, giving Sero the middle finger. “Stop your bitching and go to bed, princess.”
Sero laughed and both settled into bed for the night. While one went to sleep pretty quick, the other laid awake, wondering who this mystery person could be. The thought of whether it was a female or not, really stuck to Eijiro’s mind. He had hoped that if it was, they wouldn’t be scared away by the fact that they’d be living with two guys should they accept the offer at all. Kirishima wanted them to be as comfortable as possible and that’s what he intended on doing and without noticing, he drifted into a deep sleep.
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ggroupsdaily · 7 months ago
hola! cómo le haces para que tus icons te salgan en buena calidad?
Hi! I apologize but I cannot speak Spanish, so I am going to have to translate your ask through Google Translate. Which I know isn’t the best method, I’m sorry!
According to Google Translate, you’re saying “wave! How do you make your icons come out in good quality?”
Hopefully, that is close enough to what you’re saying and if so, first off, thank you for saying they are good quality! Secondly, I’ll walk you through my icon making process. It’s actually very simple and fast (at least IMO lol I can make an icon in like 5 minutes but I also use PS for a living so I’m pretty used to the program) 
I’ll show you how to go from this random image from Lisa’s Instagram:
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to this icon
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First off, open Photoshop and drop in your image (I have Adobe Cloud PS 2020)  Then I want to clean up the colors of the image, because the image is too yellow, and was clearly taken in bad lighting. 
1. Click Auto Tone 2. Click Auto Contrast  3. Click Auto Color
That should help give the image a much nicer, natural color, as shown below:
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4. Select the Selection Tool 5. Click Select Subject
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6. Click Add Mask 7. Double-click your mask to edit
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8. Click View, then select Overlay V (this will help you see where you need to clean up your image) 9. Adjust settings to the image (This part really just depends on your image. Generally, I always set the Shift Edge to -50%, as it helps take away any white fuzziness around the image. Smooth obviously smooths the edges, Contrast helps sharpen them, and Feather...feathers them....just don’t use Feather okay?)
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10. Select Refine Edge Tool and make sure it is set to Expands Detection Area (aka the + symbol lol) 11. Paint over any areas that Photoshop didn’t accurately mask
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12. Select your mask again 13. Select your Paint Brush tool (make sure it is set to Hardness 100 and an appropriate size for your image) 14. Set your Foreground and Background colors to White and Black (Just click the little black and white boxes above them)
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15. Using your paintbrush tool paint in (or out) details you need (In this case I just need to paint her face back in, so I use the brush tool set to white and paint where the pixels are distorted)
Now she is ready to be cropped and edited. 
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16. Flip/crop/adjust the image as desired (My best tip is to use the crop tool and put the focus of the image in the center of the grid)
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Here’s the final cropped image:
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17. Click Image>Image Size
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18. Set the Image Width to 300 Pixels, check Resample, and set to Bicubic Sharper (Reduction) and click OK
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19. In your Layer Panel, select your Image, NOT your mask (nothing will happen if you edit your mask lol)
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20. Click Filter>Noise>Reduce Noise...
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21. Adjust to the following settings (or whatever you prefer to get the image looking smooth) Click OK
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Now my image is smooth and free from noise and grain, but I want her to be more in focus. 
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22. Click Filter>Sharpen>Smart Sharpen 
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23. Use the following settings
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This is a basic sharpen that many editors use for gifs, edits, icons, etc, and you can just stop there for the sharpening step if you want, but I prefer my icons sharper, so I click Filter>Sharpen>Smart Sharpen again and this time, I use these settings:
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You can see the differences below. The left side has just the basic sharpen, and the one on the right has both sharpens (you can clearly see the difference)
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Once you’ve sharpened as desired, we’re ready to finally get to the fun and colorful part!
24. Add a gradient bg below your image (There are tons of free ones you can download from Tumblr or Google, or you can just make your own with the a gradient layer)
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This next step is optional as not all images need it, but for this image, I need to do some badly needed image adjustments
First I click the adjustment layer on my layer panel and click Selective Layer
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Then I set the colors to Blacks and drag the Black to +35 to darken up the blacks on the image and give it a nicer contrast (selective colors are great, mess around with them as much as you want until you find a look you like!)
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Then I make a Brightness/Contrast layer and adjust to what I feel works best for the image
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26. Create a folder (if you did the above step, select the layers and then click the folder icon, it’ll just put them in the folder)
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27. Holding down the alt key on Windows (or the Option key on Mac) click and drag your mask to the group layer. Now you have a folder that you can put PSDs and adjustment layers in without affecting your gradient background
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28. Drag your PSD of choice. I am using this amazing PSD that is perfect for pale photos. I set the PSD to 50% opacity and it looks like this
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Now, I could stop here, but I’m extra so I want to doctor up her face a little. 
29. Above your PSD folder, create a new layer and set it soft light
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30. Select your brush tool again, and pick a color that will work for enhancing an area of the photo. Then paint over that area.
Lisa is already pretty pale here, so I won't paint over her skin with a nice peach color like I do sometimes in darker photos. But I will add a nice pink flush to her cheeks and her lips. 
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Then I will use a lilac purple to paint over her eyeshadow. This brings an element of the background onto her face.
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There’s not a lot that needs to be added to this particular photo, but here’s an example of another icon without and with soft light painted layers:
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The left has no soft light painted layers, the right does. You may be thinking it looks too gaudy, but icons are tiny! Adding strong colors will help painted areas stand out. However, this is a completely optional step of course :)
31. Back to our current icon. Select all your layers, and click the folder icon again to place them all in a folder
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32. Select your Elliptical Marquee tool and make a circle over your image
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33. Click your mask button in the layers panel, and tada! You can now save out your icon and put it to use
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Here is the completed icon:
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If you got this far, thank you for reading, and let me know if you have any questions! 
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cherryandleo · a month ago
UPDATE: Due to not having enough participants or people admitting time is not on their side, I have decided that I will forward the Contest end date to October the 1st! I hope that will give you enough time. Once again please do not give away what your numbers reveal. Thank you for those who have joined and I hope to gain more contestants soon. Hi there, for fun I decided to make an Art challenge for any SRMTHFG fan who'd be willing to give it a try.
How to Participate:
To begin, click onto the link ( This will take you to a random number wheel (1-30). You will need to click on the wheel twice in order to get 2 random numbers.
Each number will contain the name of each character from the show, some good guys, some villains. All completely random, no certain number order.
Once you've got your two random numbers, please NOTE me or send you're results through a private chat. I will then reveal to you who the random numbers are. Keep in mind, depending on the numbers it might results in allies vs allies, but that's totally fine, regardless you HAVE to draw them fighting one another. Kinda like mortal kombat...just not with all the blood and gore. Let's keep it PG.
So once you've completed you're art piece, send me the link and I will post it up on my journal. The time of the contest will last till Sunday 22nd August, so hopefully this will give you guys enough time to prepare.
You only need two numbers from the spinning wheel, therefore only two characters VS each other.
You can only submit ONE art piece. If you enjoy drawing more character vs. Character art work, great, but I can only allow one art piece from one person, as I feel it wouldn't be fair towards others.
No OC's are allowed. It must only be the characters from the 1-30 number lottery. I will also not be adding anymore characters from the show that I've either missed or you want added.
Please try to keep the violence to a minimum, like similar to the show kind of violence. I really don't think it's appropriate to show characters with their guts hanging out or being torn to shreds. Like I said before, let's keep it PG at most. You can give them some wounds, but nothing over-the-top.
Please do NOT give away any of the lottery numbers/names to anyone else as it will cause people to cheat and make up the vs. battle they want. The whole point of this contest is to give people a challenge, try to push themselves to take on something potentially different then they usually do when it comes to art. But also have fun with it.
Please respect everyone's submission and art style, as well as each other. No rudeness or bullying will be tolerated as it will get you eliminated from the contest.
You only get a second wheel turn if you feel you'd struggle with the results of your first one. Like I said, I don't want people giving away the numbers and names to others as it will ruin the whole challenge of the contest. So you will only get a second try, but then that's it.
The Art piece can be in any style you want, traditional drawing, digital painting, photoshop, clay art, anything....just be creative.
Most importantly...HAVE FUN WITH THIS. I don't want people to feel discouraged or under-pressure doing this. Just have fun and draw what you can. I won't judge anyone by the quality of their work. I just want to see creativity and a community enjoy themselves over a friendly contest.
3rd Place: 1 Art Request
2nd Place: 2 Art Requests
1st Place: 3 Art Requests
(Mind you I may have some days where I'm busy, but I will try to get the requests done as soon as I can, also as long as it isn't anything too overly complicated for me to draw, lol.
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If you have anymore messages, please comment or note me. I'm looking forward to seeing the results and good luck.
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flowersintheattic254 · 7 months ago
So many happy birthday wishes , but no public declaration of love or special togetherness from M to D. I mean shouldn’t she post about her undying togetherness. Is she allowed?
Whilst there might be something posted on her private ‘open to - on brand - fans IG’, I did wonder what sort of declaration it could be, so here’s my shot at it...
Dear D, the best #ad partner, king to my kween, best landlord and all round fake hubby ever.
Happy birthday. I’ll never forget the day we met, buying a sandwich or was it in a bar? Anyway it was special to me. So many years have passed in special togetherness that it seems like forever. Who cares about numbers and whether you were already on G/Lee.
I want to thank you for so many things. Your endless tolerance for animal print, your willingness to learn 3 songs to sing with me, never complaining over my endless moving of furniture round my house and my constant unemployment. Also your endless patience with my self promotion and photoshopping. For that I thank you.
I thank you for all the romantic work vacations we have visited with your team. Our honeymoon was unforgettable, you grew so tall. I adore your willingness to pose for pics, the 5 engagement rings you got me and never complaining when I posted with our roomie. Hey remember when I came to LA for Tre/vor after you played Bl/aine for 3 years and Michael introduced us because you couldn’t remember me. That was a ‘riot’ (pardon my band pun) lol.
Your talent blows me away, so thank you for letting me hog your public limelight. You are truly giving.
That we’ve been able to build a home with others, to show your fans and store our shit makes me feel safe and now I own a business that’s temporarily shut. Thank for supporting my dream business model of a cocktail/drag/strip/Broadway bar and playing for free.
I’m so lucky to have met the straightest gayest straight guy in the world.
I cannot wait until I get on the red carpet with you again. Please try and stay on them, with me, longer. 😘
Have an amazing day wherever you are.
Love your ‘big girl’/ball and chain/light ( your pet names are the best)!!!!
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pontiacsbandit · 4 months ago
From planning to posting, share your process for making creative content!
To continue supporting content makers, this tag game is meant to show the entire process of making creative content: this can be for any creation.
RULES - When your work is tagged, show the process of its creation from planning to posting, then tag up to 5 people with a specific link to one of their creative works you’d like to see the process of. Use the tag #showyourprocess so we can find yours.
sabrina @lanwangiji tagged me to show how i made my zayn’s birthday edit! check out her explanation on this mesmerizing zayn’s edit
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It’s Zayn’s birthday, I ought to make something because so far I have made birthday posts for Louis, Niall and Liam. I didn’t participate in his birthday challenge so I had more time to create something for his birthday. I saw this post by @spaceniall​ and instantly fell in love with it. It's so clean, so neat,  an amazing edit. I had that post tagged for inspo and because my Louis’s birthday edit was a bit “grand”, I thought I should make something simple. 
I went to look for some photos of Zayn everywhere. Literally e v e r y w h e r e. I saved every photo I found beautiful and there were a LOT. I asked my friends for adjectives that describe Louis best and added them on my Louis’s birthday post, and I followed that approach for this edit. I asked several friends what they think of Zayn and collected the adjectives. 
This was a time where I haven’t used trello board, so I put all the adjectives in a google doc. Seriously I swear by trello board, they make my life easier.
After I had all the photos and the adjectives, I went to pinterest to look for the color palette. I forgot how and why I came up with this color scheme, but I believed I wanted something pastel and muted color. 
I had this idea to make an evergreen birthday post. I didn’t want to state any “happy birthday zayn” or his age on the graphic. I didn’t want to make all the edits to have his face because I wanted to showcase my graphics and typography style lmao. So I came up with 2 pictures with Zayn’s face and one central picture with his name. And I’m obsessed with space stuffs so this birthday edit is space themed.
This is one of my earliest edits that I made in Illustrator, though I used Photoshop as well.
Remember I saved a LOT of Zayn’s photos? Yeah? Well I had a hard time choosing the right one. I asked Sabrina to help lmao. After I agreed with myself which photos I would use, I opened Photoshop and prayed it won’t crash after 5 min.
I uploaded the 2 photos and then I used selection on Zayn and then clicked inverse and deleted the background. Recently I found this website who can delete your background in 1 min, tbh that’s a life saver. I recommend using them, if you hate removing backgrounds with Photoshop. 
I saved the backgroundless Zayn’s photos as png. And we’re moving on to the next step
I only used Photoshop to remove the backgrounds. Now onto Illustrator. Always pray it won’t close by itself every 5 min.
I don’t really remember which dimension I used, but I suspect it’s 600x700 px. I made 3 artboards and loaded the color palette I found from Pinterest. I made 3 rectangles as the backgrounds for each picture and filled them with my desired colors, 2 pink and 1 green. Green being the standalone was put in the middle.
A bit of excursion based on my experience
When you open an artboard in Illustrator, you’ll see a white background. When you save the file you’ve worked on, it’ll actually be transparent. That’s why I always draw a rectangle as a background so it has a solid color. 
I focused on ZAYN (middle pic) first because I wanted that to be the main focus. I don’t remember the font I used and I already deleted all files. I followed this tutorial to make the text. Basically you write your text first and choose effect > 3d > extrude and bevel > isometric top. Changed the colors according to my color palette. 
I moved on to the first picture, Zayn and the adjectives. I uploaded his photo to the artboard and put it in the middle. I wanted the adjectives to encircle him. I just followed this tutorial on how to make the effect. I made that text effect because that reminded me of the saturn ring lmao. 
Once I got the typography done, I made stars and moon to make the edits merrier and more space themed. 
For the stars you can follow this tutorials. For the moon I made 2 circles, one of them was bigger. I put the smaller one in front and click minus front (I think). For the saturn planet, I made a circle with filling and an oval with stroke only, putting the oval infront of the circle and delete the back part of the ring (I hope this makes sense). 
I have these lines around Zayn, my intention was to make Zayn pop and kind of crown him or give him a glowy effect sort-of. 
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All I did was follow this tutorial and delete the lines at the top, because I didn’t want it to be too crowded. Then I put some stars and planets at the top to balance it.
I rearranged some things, zoomed out the artboard so I could see everything as one post and picked and deleted some unwanted things. After I was satisfied, I added my watermark and it was my old url, I just typed louistomlinboo. (Now I made a logo-ish and use that as my watermark and the logo is not dependent on my url)
Ok I lied I used Photoshop again… so I had these adjectives in 2.1 that encircled him right but some parts of the texts are above him. I exported my Illustrator file as a psd, uploaded it on Photoshop and used layer mask magic to delete the texts that were above him to create an illusion that the texts went around and under him you know. See the picture below, some texts are beneath him.
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For this picture I exported the png file from Photoshop, the rest directly from Illustrator.
This was when I learned I needed to scale up, because on Illustrator they all look good in terms of quality. But when I posted it, the quality was reduced. That time I just exported as big as the dimensions and I was disappointed with the quality when it’s on tumblr.
I uploaded the 3 pictures I have on tumblr and chose “happy birthday zayn” with star symbols/emojis to keep up with the space theme.
So I always write out what my caption will be with the “rich text” option.
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 Then I go to this color html website to add the gradient color in the caption and remove the “;” with “ “ in here. Once I have everything, I change rich text to html so I can put the text with color in html mode. 
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Put some tags related to Zayn. (self promotion time lol. i have compiled tags for 1d creators check them out here)
I finished I think a week earlier before Zayn's birthday so I saved it on draft. I posted around midnight (my timezone is CET), because oh boy it is a competition with birthday post lmao. That’s what I feel like at least. You know, everyone wants to make a birthday post, I feel I have a better chance If I post something first. Whenever I have something done earlier before a certain due date, I either save it on draft or schedule it so it’ll be posted automatically.
Yeah that’s it! It’s not as detailed as before I think because the files are deleted sorry! 
i’m tagging:
@spaceniall​ for this wonderful niall’s birthday edit
@she-fearlesss​ for this magnificent louis’s birthday gifset
@finewalls​ for this mesmerizing animation
@louitomlinson​ (i know you’re not that active but if you want and can!) for this amazing edit
and @tomlinsun​ for this cool edit
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batsinurbelfrey · 3 months ago
M I'm curious about your Finnish learning because you're the only person I've ever seen actively learning Finnish and that's super rad to me. Mostly the how? but also the why?
Awww Kiitos anon! thanks for Finding my linguistic endeavors rad, I think most would alternatively call it "questionable time management" xD Both the how and the why are kind of convoluted and A Long Story so buckle in haha (sorry it took me so long to reply, you are about to see why) So for some reason for me, Finnish has always been Around™ one way or another in my life trying to get me to learn it even though none of my direct family are native speakers lol. It started when I was very little, my dad raised us on any Moomin content he could get because he was enamored by them, at some point along the line in late 90s ebay adventuring, he THOUGHT he had found an english dub of the tv show, and ordered a box set, turned out it was a Finnish dub and my dad is illiterate. But as a poor single father he was determined to get his money's worth so he would still put it on for us semi regularly and just gave us this adult trickery speech about how the show was "magic" because we could "make our own story" for it and re-invent episodes infinitely. Anyway, it meant there was a lot of ambient Finnish around the house when i was a kid xD (and i think this may also be why i find the sound of it so pleasant? maybe? like some kinda subconscious nostalgia? lol) Then for a while I was just vibin' i grew out of Moomin age and spent Grade school and HS studying French, Spanish, and to lesser success japanese and icelandic (it should be mentioned I have a bit of a hunger for linguistics if thats not already clear PFFT) when i got to college however, I developed a bit of a crush on an intl student in a few of my classes, and wouldn't you know it we ended up becoming friends and she asked me for tutoring in regards to photoshop, and just so happened to offer to barter Finnish tutoring as payment. And i jumped at it kuz it seemed like it could lead to us dating (it didnt LOL but its all good) She's the person that got me into music and taught me about memes tho hahah after college I stopped again for a bit, and it wasn't until quarantine hit that I decided like many ppl it was time to get back into language learning. Ironically enough I had initially set out to pick ICELANDIC back up and NOT Finnish but around that same time I dug back into an old Finnish textbook because I wanted to write ONE sentence for a joke about the Dallas Stars Finnmaf, and--- Suomalainen kieli just sank its claws into me and didnt let go. So I pivoted LOL as for the HOW, there was obvs the 1:1 tutoring before, but as far as the last few years I did a combination of things: - Drops language app this is a great way to start and i much prefer it to duolingo - this site is AMAZING for grammar and actual learning info outside vocab - Reddit threads//youtube videos and then honestly, while this is harder to like recommend as an easy "you can too!" after about 3 months of brushing back up on my own, I decided it was time to dedicate to actual classes, and tracked down a teacher to work with me weekly. This is really what made the big difference for me and has been the key to the progress ive made!
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thanks for all those wonderful gifs, I appreciate all the work you put in!! Do you mind me asking how you get them to be of such high quality and still be able to upload on here? I always have to compromise mine to be able to post them - and it wrecks the quality 😅
Hello! Sorry I took a while to reply and also sorry in advance because I'm not sure how helpful this answer is going to be I shall try :)
The process completely depends on whether you were more referring to film gifs or football match gifs. Because for the former it's all in the film file I download, unless it's already high quality to begin with (at least 720p but it's strongly strongly recommended to get a 1800p one) then you're already in a losing battle. So even if on tumblr the quality decreases there's no as much of a difference in the end. And then I use the trusty VLC to record the sections that I want to gif
For football gifs, I again always try and find a high quality file of the match. This may involve downloading a match off youtube using a converter that let's you download them at 1800p such as this one. Sometimes I'm able to download the match directly from the provider myself (like I did yesterday from kijk) which is just one less step to let the quality go down. More often than not though I just screen record parts of the match which makes the process faster but usually means there isn't as high a quality.
Once on photoshop, I think the main thing i do to try and at least fake some quality is play around with the colouring and sharpening tools. For football gifs I mainly focus on levels (mainly moving the middle one down to around 75/80 depending and the right one up which varies more depending on whether I used curves) and vibrance (I am usually way too liberal with moving the vibrance one up and only slightly if at all use saturation). Depending, I may also use curves to brighten it up properly and hue/saturation by decreasing the yellows and/or reds to make their faces less orangy. I'd like to believe these settings make the gif look more vibrant and therefore of better quality but idk.
As for sharpening, photoshop crashed the other day and reset the sharpening settings I had basically perfected so im still in the process of trying to refind those, plus they're also different depending on whether you've got people close up or its a wide playing shot. I use smart sharpen and then unsharp mask.
There's also preferred dimensions/sizes photoshop likes so for the best quality crop your images down to those:
Tumblr media
(creds to the original poster) and they also always look of better quality when there's more than one in a row.
My exporting settings are adaptive and diffusion which I am not sure whether they are the best but ah well. And also tumblr allows up to 10mb for gifs now thankfully so im usually always able to save it fully as i wanted even if it's quite long.
Then actually on tumblr I know some people like to upload the gifs onto giphy first and then link them over to a tumblr post as they find it messes with the quality less. So perhaps try that to see whether you can notice any more improvements? Personally I gave it a few goes and decided it wasn't worth the extra effort so I now just upload them directly to tumblr, sometimes using a colour gradient on the caption to try and draw attention away from the pixelation of the actual gifs lol and tadaa that's usually the end of my process!
I hope this helps a bit, and feel free to specify more concretely where I can help you with if this hasn't totally answered your question. And also thank youuuu, I appreciate your appreciation 💞
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bumofthewild · 6 months ago
How did you came up with your style?
hmmmm my style journey was something like this: 
i used to try painting bc there was this artist whose painting style i really liked but i wasnt too good at it and didnt enjoy doing it that much, and i was never really happy with the results because i’d look at that persons art and compare it to mine very often. comparing is a very bad habit that i still have and that most people probably have. i am on the slow path to trying to get rid of it by using tumblr/twitter less. around that time i decided to switch from photoshop to clip studio paint because i decided that using photoshop was more like a chore than it was fun. i used the opportunity of starting afresh and switching to a new program to just draw without thinking too hard about it/experiment with different brushes and i found that i leaned more towards drawing in a flat, cartoony kind of way. you can draw influenced by other people, but there’s also a “style” that just comes naturally to you. everyone has one i think. i didn’t accept it though bc i was so bent on painting like someone else. so around that time i flip flopped between painting and messing around with a cartoony style, and realized that because the cartoony one was more something i would do (as opposed to copying someone else), those drawings always had a lot more soul to them and were more fun. then i found another artist whose style i really liked. i wish i didnt feel better when i see someone else doing something, rather than just accepting when i do something. its normal and human but yknow, kinda sucks. so seeing an artist have a more toony style when a lot of artists online have a more anime one made me feel better about really trying a toonier, flat style. my art just turned out better that way and i really did like it more. around this time i still experimented a lot because i didnt learn technique or anything, i just fiddled around with whatever brushes or style seemed interesting at the time and did whatever. i think that advice where you learn proper drawing techniques first before developing style is important, but ive always been a lot more concerned with style and i think i can afford to because im just a hobbyist and not someone looking to get a professional art career. and because art can be whatever you want :)
by late 2018 i got into octopath and my octopath stuff started getting some traction so i started to draw a lot more consistently with the cartoony style. fanart i made in this style got me more notes, it was easier and quicker for me to draw this way (therefore i could produce ~content~ faster), and i found it fun. so i’d say that aspect of my style stuck around after all the experimenting i used to do before. dont get hung up on notes though usually during any times where i feel stressed, i start to flip flop with my art style again. ill start to use really simple tools like drawpile or a binary tool, which are easier on me mentally, and it forces me to really think about what my art looks like without any fancier brushes or effects behind it. i cant say im too satisfied with my art when i do that because of what i said about not learning proper technique, but its fine lol 💀 rn im always frustrated at my lack of understanding of really good anatomy. you really cant avoid the practice if you want something and ive always wanted really good lines and anatomy but am unwilling to do the work for them, so my style also involves a lot of skirting around doing practice/studies haha, bc i just want to enjoy drawing in the moment..... another issue is that i basically also want every art style in the world. i mean these feelings are normal ofc but they are annoying. a lot of how i come up with something involves looking at something someone else has done and then doing my own thing with it. this is also normal. but i definitely dont mean that you should look at someones art style and try to directly copy and accept that as your own art. because you cannot and shouldnt be someone else! so its not good for you and because thats someone elses work! people are always arguing about what constitutes being influenced by someone vs. just stealing someones art, but i think theres a clear line you can draw. i think if you like something you can have it, but you have to make it yours and accept what makes it yours. for example, if you like the way someone uses bright colours in their work, use bright colours. but dont use the colour picker tool on their work or use the bright colours schemes they do or in a way you think that they would. dont try to embody someone else when you make something. take the time to experiment with “bright colours” as a concept and figure out something that you like for yourself.  2019-2020 i still draw basically in any way i feel like, but i got more confident about my skills (thats prob why technique is important) so i can now push drawing a bit further. for example i am now able to execute a brush id wanted to use since 2018 a lot better and now i use it all the time, when i’d given up on using it back then. currently im back in my phase where im experimenting with my style again and just do whatever. usually i do that when im stressed LOL so rn im more focused on incorporating many different things that i like independently of art, that i believe can all still constitute part of my style: for example with this drawing recently ive been into more textured brushes, bright reds, messy and unplanned lines, pink, and hearts. all of those things together can make up a “style” i think because style is just what you do and like to do imo. you can see it here too, textured brushes, pink, messy lines, hearts, bright red etc.  sorry i always give long answers to these things. i dont know much about actual art techniques or something youd get at an art school, so my way of going at it has always been kind of haphazard and involves more feeling and experimenting rather than being particularly intentional, and thats the only way i really know how to explain it. this is more like a long context for what i think are the important points: do what you like with what you draw, its no good if what youre doing isnt fun. i like messy art and flat and shapely images with thicker lines. so my art style is literally just what i like at random. social media is good for exposing you to a lot of art that you can use as a reference for inspiration and influence. for example i keep a blog where i reblog art that inspires me or has something i want to try. but too much social media is bad because you’ll be bogged down by art you think other people want to see as well as art you literally cannot achieve because as i said before you cant be someone else, and you shouldnt want to be someone else. you have to be real about it. really detailed art for example im just bad at and it isnt good for me to look at other peoples art and want to do something like that if im not going to put in the work, but cartoony art i like and am able to achieve happily. i look around first and gather all the things i like and then i fiddle around with it, something like that. it takes time
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alethiometry · 4 months ago
rules: answer the first half of the questions with gifsets edits of your own, then answer the second half by tagging gif makers you love!
i was tagged by the one and only ari @seance​ 😍 thank u bb!!!
Link an edit you’re really proud of:
the three assassin tenets set // so i think this set is actually pretty representative of my “old” style. that is, cutouts on a blank background, arranged nicely, with some simple text (can you tell i used to work in print-based graphic design lmao). it’s my comfort zone style that i default to when i can’t think of anything else, but i think it worked really well for the aesthetic of ac1/the assassin brotherhood, and it’s my favorite graphic that i have made using that style.
Link an edit where you tried something new:
deimos + autumn colors (requested by anonymous) // this is the first gifset where i tried that blending/animated double exposire style that all you cool kids are doing, and i think it shows: my edges are a little bit messy in the first image, and i think i could have put a little more thought into selecting scenes with more contrasted lighting which would have worked better with the blending modes. still, i’m happy with the way it turned out!
Link an edit that features your favorite character:
sad kassidas edit #1 + sad kassidas edit #2 // i should admit here that i’ve never actually read anything by ocean vuong; i just see these quotes circulated on my dash and i immediately black out, and when i come to there’s new kassidas content on my blog. not really sure what happens in the interim. maybe worth investigating. i’ll ask my therapist about it and get back to you.
Link an edit that you want more people to see:
the connor kenway inspirational pep talk set // this is another edit that stays nicely within my comfort zone of static images + high quality stock photo backgrounds from unsplash dot com, but i love love love the connor quotes and i love connor and everyone needs to know that and also feel the same way about him
Link an edit that you had fun making:
the deimos + kassandra double exposure set // the kassandra portion of this one was really simple, i just clipped a screenshot of the adrestia onto her cutout and played with blending modes and layer masks until i found something i liked. the deimos half was a little more difficult because i had the idea of having the snake extend outside of his body and draping itself around his neck. seemed simple enough, except i couldn’t find a good shot of the snake sculpture that would have worked for what i was trying to achieve. so in the end i think i actually found a shot of the cultist cave from someone’s reddit post, flipped it, cut out the snake body, and used burn tool + a soft black brush on a clipping mask to hide the part of the body that’s coiling around his neck. as such, i think it’s a pretty hamfisted way of creating the look i wanted. also, the snake’s body is positioned weirdly where its belly is forward when you’d except in that position for it to be facing the other way. finally, you can see where i had to extend the neck of the snake past the original edge of the screenshot i was using: i copied the existing neck part pasted it to a new layer and fucked around with making it look blended in to the rest of the neck, but there’s a spot where the scales get a little darker because i missed a spot when blending.
so it’s very much not a perfect photomanipulation; if i’m being honest, it’s actually pretty messy. but i had a lot of fun making it anyway, because i love making this difficult for myself and making weird surreal edits that are very heavy-handed with imagery and kind of mess with space/composition/depth
Link an edit that you created as part of a meme, challenge, or series:
kassandra set for @videogamewomen​‘s event // honestly, looking back, i think it’s too visually cluttered, but i’m not sure what i would do to fix that. basically, i don’t love it but i also can’t hate it. because, like, it’s kassandra.
Link an edit of yours that makes you smile:
spaghezio auditore the unromanceables 😔💔 // obviously it is tragic that i could not romance any of these characters, and that does not make me smile. HOWEVER, it is physically impossible to see a gif of hytham winking and NOT immediately smile, so. here we are.
Link an edit that you made for someone else:
kassandra + spring colors (requested by @arnos​) // i can’t decide if i like it as is or if it looks unfinished, i think my opinion changes on it every time i see it. BUT goddammit i fucking love that asoiaf quote, and i WILL milk it for ALL it is worth. i will squeeze every last drop of kassandra angst out of each and every word if it’s the last goddamn thing i do.
Tag someone who inspired you to start making edits:
i don’t think there was a specific person who inspired me to start making edits, but for sure miss autumn @mariathorpe was the person who helped me to pull myself out of a years-long creative rut and finally start making edits for ac fandom! were you aware when you first sent me test footage of kassandra and myrrine’s reunion that it would kickstart my descent back into photoshop hell?
also while we’re already here i’ll specify (and i think i already mentioned this relatively recently lol) your odyssey scenery gifs are my favorite thing in the world! we’re both clowning on other ac games currently, but those odyssey gifsets will always have a special place in my heart because they captured the atmosphere/setting so well! and they’re a huge part of why i constantly miss odyssey when i’m not actively playing it!
Tag someone who makes great vibrant gifs:
queen bryn @arnos​, patron saint of vibrant colors! i don’t know how you do it but everything you make has the most gorgeous palette and they always work so well with the quotes/lyrics you include. i straight up want to live inside your scenery gifsets -- i have no idea how you draw such bright colors out of the game footage you capture, and i sure as hell have tried!
Tag someone who makes great pale/pastel gifs:
the lovely celine @ljufvina​, who tirelessly gifs the most underappreciated and lovely little acv scenes! i wouldn’t exactly categorize the coloring as “pale/pastel” but it is definitely muted in a way that i find so wonderful and pleasant. it’s less about hyperstylization (which i also love, don’t get me wrong) and more about making subtle adjustments to lighting and contrast in a way that brings out the best in each scene, and then letting those scenes shine.
along those same lines (not always pale/pastel per se, but really lovely and restrained coloring): fellow garbage american alli @eivor-basim whose thirst for antagonist/antagonist-adjacent characters shines through via careful and methodical coloring.
ok i just don’t see a lot of pale/pastel gifs so idk how to answer this. but celine and alli consistently make gorgeous subtle gifs and i need a section to acknowledge that, and this is the closest thing i guess??
Tag someone who gifs for a fandom you love:
miss dina @secrettoupeecollector was one of the first ac creators i followed, and for good reason: you were one of those people whose gifs i always reblog from the acedit tag -- but then i go to your edits tag and see ALL your stuff in one place? that’s when i realized GIRL YOU GOT THE RANGE!! back when odyssey was the only ac game i knew, your gifs intrigued me and i think are in large part responsible for making me check out the older games and fall in love with this series.
i also want to give a shoutout here to olivia @assassiyun​‘s animal crossing gifs! they are simply so sweet and lovely. even though i have played acnh myself, i have no idea how you manage to continually capture such nice footage on your island! it’s just nice vibes all around. see i like things that aren’t assassins creed sometimes!! i’m normal
Tag someone who uses text/typography really well in their gifsets:
lmfao OBVIOUSLY it’s ari @seance​ aka @deimcs​ aka the INVENTOR of typography. when i say that each new gifset of yours makes my jaw drop i am not exaggerating in the slightest; i have no idea how you continually come up with new ways to present text and images in such a cohesive way. you don’t repeat typographic styles very often (at least not that i’m aware of, but then again typography is my weak point) and yet each set you post still has your own personal brand all over it. like if you put a bunch of gifsets in a lineup and asked me to pick out which of them is yours, all of the sets would be beautiful in their own way, BUT i would know IMMEDIATELY which one you made.
Tag someone who motivates you to step up your game:
darby mcdevitt nat @ezioauditore-s who is quite honestly the funniest goddamn person on tumgles dot edu. i love that scrolling through your edits tag i am met with equal amounts posts that are sad, posts that are horny, posts that are thought-provoking and insightful, and posts that are downright ridiculous. i want my blog and my edits to have the same insane vibes that yours have.
Tag someone who you have taken inspiration from:
this is such a cheesy answer but i literally cannot think of one specific person for this prompt, becaue the answer is ALL of you. literally all of you. i don’t know how you all continually create such lovely edits in your free time and post with such consistency/regularity. i don’t know how you put up with tumblr constantly gaslighting us about gif size limits, or photoshop timeline being an absolute nightmare to work it, or even how you turn off the HUD to record game footage. and yet you all brave through it like the girlbosses you are. and as if that wasn’t already enough, you’re all so fucking kind and patient and willing to help a fellow clown out by sending me footage that you took the time to record and export! you all challenge me to be better, to think about my faves in different ways or to reconsider things i had initially not given much thought, to explore outside of my stylistic comfort zone, to continually improve on this silly little hobby that we share. i never would have been able to make any of the edits i linked above without all of you, and i think that’s fucking radical.
Tag gif makers who you admire and appreciate!
everyone tagged above ofc! and also whoever else wants to do this :)
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