When Billy had first seen Harrington, Wheeler, and Byers sitting in a corner of the lunchroom, heads together, whispering so that no one could year, he’d thought it was some fucked up threesome situation. He knew that Wheeler had left Harrington for Byers but thought maybe they’d taken pity on him.
Now that Billy had been let in on everything going on with the Upside Down a few days prior, he was jealous. He had to spend his lunches listening to Tommy and Carol yammer on about nothing while the other three were probably discussing plans to take down interdimensional monsters. That didn’t really seem fair, but he didn’t know how to infiltrate their little group.
He hadn’t really done the friend thing in years. It was more like people just clinging to him because of what being associated with him could offer them. Sure, it was kind of nice to have people who would do whatever he wanted, no questions asked, but there was no substance.
He looked over at Harrington, who was waving a French fry in the air as Wheeler and Byers laughed and laughed. Billy wanted to know what pretty boy could be saying that was so funny. Instead, he turned back to Carol and Tommy, pretending to listen for the last five minutes of lunch. He turned just too quickly to see Steve looking back at him, a small smile on his face. Billy may not feel seen, but he was noticed.
Over the next week, Billy built it up in his head. There was no way Harrington, Wheeler, and Byers wanted him to sit with them. Sure, they talked to him when they had their little meetings at the Byers about everything going on, and he got a few high fives when he’d kill a demodog in a particularly spectacular fashion, but they were just being nice.
Another week before Billy said fuck it and plopped his lunch tray down next to Harrington. To his surprise, none of them batted an eyelash as he sat listening to them talk as he ate his fries. Before long, Tommy wandered over.
“Hey Billy,” Tommy said, an odd, nervous quality to his voice, “Did you not see us over there?”
Billy shrugged his shoulders. “I already have lunch plans.”
“Oh,” Tommy said, looking over at Carol, “that’s ok, we can just come eat with you guys.” He started to wave Carol over.
“Sorry, table’s full,” Billy said, and Harrington and Byers slid their backpacks into the two empty seats.
Tommy walked away, a look of confusion on his face, but clearly not wanting to raise a fuss with Billy.
“So, you coming hunting tonight?”, Wheeler asked, eyebrow raised in question.
Billy nodded, laughing as Harrington tried to stealthy steal a couple of his fries.
“Want one of my Twinkies?”, he asked, mouth full of potato.
That wasn’t all Billy wanted from Harrington, but that could wait. For now, it just felt good to maybe have some real friends.
how about a cute little drabble of viktor finally getting a day off, and spending it at home cuddled on the couch w/ reader? I love your work so much, I hope you have a good day <3333
I LOVE YOU AND I HOPE YOU HAVE AN EXCELLENT WEEK MY DEAR!
For your viewing pleasure, 451 words of uwuddles :3c
Viktor was a simple man.
No, truly, he was.
It was a baffling thing to learn about the man after years of doing pigeon dances around the concept of him with excitement; the eccentric scientist, inventor of Hextech alongside Jayce Talis. Most of your peers had eyes for the hammer-smith, noting his natural charisma and perfect Piltover pedigree, but you’d taken a shine to Viktor- the one who never spoke, who never attended parties, the mystery.
The stories of his work ethic- from the mouth of his partner nonetheless, only added to your intrigue and admiration, and later your further amusement at some of his… lesser known quirks.
Viktor was… a cuddler.
An extreme cuddler.
It was rare that you two were given the spare time to be together on downtime, you, working on your research in the hopes of graduating soon, he, working on the next great advancement in Hextech. It meant that when you did get spare time, it was something cherished.
You remember the first time you both got time off, you’d started prattling off all the things you could do together, make dinner or go out to eat, watch a play, stroll the gardens— then Viktor had, without word or warning, marched straight to you and promptly fallen into your arms.
And that’s how you learned the way Viktor likes to spend his free time with you.
It’s where you were now.
You can’t see much of his face from where you are, just the slope of a pale nose and the gentle sunlit expanse of a sharp cheekbone, the majority of your vision is taken up by the beautiful copper and bronze of his perpetually insane hair, tickling gently against your neck.
He’s just the right amount of heavy, you find- he doesn’t crush you, just a warm weight enveloping you, stretching out your aching spine and leaving you feeling safe, comforted. It’s paired with the gentle whistle of his nose, and the occasional giggle fit as Viktor randomly blurts out the latest dumb thing Jayce had said without thinking. It shakes you pleasantly, and his rhythmic hums as he speaks burrow their way into your chest, soothing you down into a deeper rest.
He smells like coffee and dark chocolate, and you wonder idly if he stole your conditioner this morning. You want him to do it more, it suits him.
“You know I love you..?” Comes his soft voice, he’s so gentle when he talks to you, his acerbic nature cast far off along with the rest of his armor.
“I do.” You hum, nuzzling your face against his head. “I love you too.”
Close and Closer Still
Pairing: Marc Spector x avatar!reader x Steven Grant
Warnings: violence, mentions of death/dying, angst
As usual, @magpie-to-the-morning makes it pretty for you.
Masterlist | ao3
Chapter 2 | Chapter 3 | Chapter 4
Marc turned and looked at you, confusion and fear and something close to need warring in his heavy gaze. "Baby?"
For a moment you were frozen, shock like ice in your veins. You felt sick - with worry, with anger.
"Where's…Steven," you croaked, finally able to speak around the lump in your throat. Marc just kept staring at you, his eyes darting over your suit and the blood that painted your face. He dropped the mangled head of the jackal and approached. Oh gods, you were going to puke right here on his white boots. You took a step back, couldn't help it, and wondered if you had finally gone batshit. If Sekhmet had driven you to the edge and let you fall over into the abyss.
"He's fine, he's safe." He spoke as if he had cornered a wild animal, his hands palm up in placation. A familiar gesture now. "I thought you…you were -" He broke off, shaking his head. You couldn't help but relive it, the molten pain as a bullet tore through your lung, the way you began to drown in your own blood as Marc leaned over you, screaming for help. Another bullet sliced through your chest and someone had lifted him, dragging him backwards out of the temple, leaving you to die. You could still hear the way your name bounced between the pillars, shrill in the desert air as you waited for death.
"I was," you murmured, looking away. You swallowed thickly, blinking away the ghosts, before you glanced back at him. But it was his suit that captured your attention. He was wrapped head to toe in white, now caked with the jackal's drying blood, a deadly golden crescent over his heart. "Khonshu?" You asked, raising a brow. Surprise slapped across his face. It paid to have an in with gods. Marc nodded.
"Yeah." His voice was cold. There was no affection between them, then. He gestured to your suit, a question in his eyes.
"Sekhmet." Her purr sounded from the depths of your mind, possessive and at attention.
"Holy shit," he murmured, eyes widening in something like appreciation. Respect, maybe. You were either fucking crazy or strong as hell to shelter that sort of bloodlust. Most days you leaned towards crazy, but he didn't need to know that. The two of you stared, unsure of where to go from here. How do you play catch up with the lover you left to die? Wanna have coffee and chat about being ripped back to life? Oh maybe fill me in on why you just let me fucking die, alone and scared? You snorted at nothing and Marc's eyes snapped to yours.
"I don't know what to say."
You nodded. Fuck, you were exhausted. Exhausted and sad and barely holding back the anger that you knew would turn your vision red. "I need to get out of this suit." It was all you could think of in that moment. You sent it back, felt the answering nuzzle against the back of your mind. The sleek red armor was replaced by an old pair of jeans and a well loved Cure t-shirt, your combat boots worn and comfortable, your leather jacket armor better suited to the cold London night.
"God, you look exactly -." You cut him off with a hard glare, your lip pulling back at the sentiment that you hadn't changed. Whoever had died in the desert, that wasn't you, not anymore. "Yeah, well, I guess neither of us are the same now, huh?" His chuckle was sad, a poor imitation of the laugh you'd used to love. He reached for you and you let him take your hand, the white wraps pulling away from his tanned skin, leaving him standing there in the same outfit that Steven had worn earlier.
"Marc…," you started, the bone deep weariness creeping into your voice.
"Lemme buy you dinner." He was looking at you the way he used to, like you were the moon and he was the tides, helpless to your pull. That had a much more layered meaning now, you supposed, knowing what a crusty old bastard Khonshu was. Marc's skin was warm and his thumb brushed back and forth in a soothing gesture.
The diner was small but cozy. The cacophony of silverware against dishes and patrons' chatter was grinding, and the waitress was obviously frazzled as she set down a diet coke for you and a chocolate milkshake for Marc. Some things didn't change, you supposed. A burger and fries came next, and then your pancakes, topped with strawberries and whipped cream. You swiped a fry from his plate, dunking it in his shake without asking.
"You still steal food, I see." His eyes were bright, shining with an intimacy he wasn't entitled to anymore. You shoved the fry in your mouth, chewing for an eternity. Slowly, he looked back down at his plate. "So Sekhmet, huh? I hear she's…intense."
You snorted. "That's a word for it."
She growled in response. "Intensity is a fantastic quality." You grinned.
"How did that happen?"
Your smile fell and you stabbed a piece of pancake, smashing it through the puddle of melting cream. "You know how it happened. I died in that temple. She found me. She made an offer and I accepted." Marc just stared at you, hurt flashing through his eyes. You hated it. "I fucked died, Marc. And you just left me there."
"I didn't…," he started, stumbling over his thoughts. You slammed a palm down on the table, cutting him with a glare. The couple behind him turned to stare at you. You just rolled your eyes.
"You did. I bled out in the sand and you got back on the helicopter and let it happen. However Khonshu ended up with you, I'm sure you fucking deserved it." He looked like you had slapped him and for a split second you considered it, leaping over the table and wailing on that perfect, handsome face - the face that had haunted your dreams for two years now. "I loved you. And you let me die."
Marc sighed, weary. "Don't worry," he muttered, swiping a fry through some ketchup. "I got mine."
"Looks like it." You just looked at him, too many emotions fighting for your attention. "Who the fuck is Steven?" 'And why does he seem like the better man?' went unasked.
"He's…me. Look, I know how that sounds, but it's the only answer I've got, okay?" He shoved the plate away in irritation, glancing down at his hands. "It's been like that for as long as I can remember, since I was a kid. Me and Steven, sharing this body. He only recently found out about Khonshu."
You sucked your lips between your teeth, nibbling at the already raw flesh. If they'd really shared a mind, a body, since childhood, how had you never known? As explanations went, it sucked. But it wasn't outside the realm of possibility. And it wasn't as if you were a paragon of mental health yourself. You had a rough idea of Dissociative Identity Disorder. But it seemed like Steven had no idea he was sharing his body. Just another secret Marc was keeping. How like him. You took another sip of your soda, setting it down primly.
"So how did Khonshu get his talons into you?" Marc looked up at you and you gave him a small smile, hoping he took it as encouragement and not seeing it for the grimace it was.
"Same as you, I guess. A few months after…," he sighed. "Bushman fucking shot me, left me not too far from where we left you. Call it karma. Khonshu was ready and waiting with his offer."
It seemed the gods had a shockingly similar sense of humor; human jukeboxes, insert a bullet and win an Avatar.
"You never looked for me." You hated how small your voice sounded, trembling under the weight of your heartbreak.
"I did. I went back, but your…body…was gone. I thought grave robbers took you and honestly, I couldn't fucking handle the idea. But baby, I thought you were dead. I didn't know there was anything else to look for."
You blinked away tears. "I looked for you, Marc. For the last two years, I looked." He reached across the table, his hand warm and familiar against your skin. Gods, you had missed him. After all this time you still ached for him, your heart fluttering behind your ribs like a small bird at the innocent touch.
"What are you doing in London?" Your eyes cut to his, narrowing at the abrupt change of subject. You snatched your hand back, flexing your fingers.
"I'm looking for Harrow. I followed him here from the Alps."
"The Alps?" There was something like chagrin on his face.
"Seriously, Marc? That mess was your fault?" He rolled his eyes. "I need the scarab, Marc." His eyes took on that shifty quality and you swallowed the urge to throttle him.
"I don't have it."
"Are you fucking kidding me?"
"Blame Steven." His voice was derisive, dismissive. You hated it, but chafed at the desire to defend Steven's honor. He was a stranger, no one to you. But for a few moments you had wanted him to be someone.
"He doesn't know?" There was pity in your voice. Marc just glared at you.
"He's helpless. There's no point in dragging him into this mess. He'd just get us killed."
You shook your head. You couldn't explain it, but you knew Steven was more capable than Marc gave him credit for; he had to be for Khonshu to choose them. "You have a bad habit of underestimating people, Spector."
And just like that, the walls were back up, the distance stretching between you like miles of desert. You couldn't stand another second of it, of his searching gaze and the way his jaw ticked when he forced himself to hold back from saying what was on his mind. It left you gutted, hollow. You dug in your pocket, pulling out your wallet and rifling through the bills, refusing to look up. Slamming a £20 note on the table, you slid out of the booth.
"Maybe I'll see you in another two years. Thanks for dinner."
Marc called your name, standing to follow you, but you weaved between the crowded tables and slunk out the door to the alley.
Fuck, you couldn't breathe. Your chest burned and your lungs felt like they would explode. It felt like fire raged beneath your skin and your vision blurred.
"You let Harrow escape. And that idiot lost the scarab" She was obviously displeased. You clutched at your chest, bending at the waist and sucking in air. "Breathe, child," Sekhmet commanded, the soft roll of her voice grounding you as you pulled in a trembling breath. "You must breathe. Or go back in there and tear his throat out if it will help." Her tone let you know which she preferred and for a moment you considered it, imagined what it would feel like to bite and rip and rend Marc Spector apart. You shook with it, with the savage need that she saw in you back then.
Your phone buzzed in your pocket.
You ignored it, turning back towards the diner, stepping out of the alleyway and letting the now familiar rage settle over you.
It buzzed again. You snarled, digging it out.
Steven Grant: I hope it's not too forward but I was hoping to see you again. Maybe explain the weirdness. I know a great brunch place.
Steven Grant: it's Steven by the way. From the museum.
You looked up into the window of the diner. Your booth was empty, Marc was gone.
Me: 11 work for you?
Steven Grant: absolutely
Stone Heart - Part One
Moodboard by @acrossthesestars
Pairing: Steven Grant x Demisexual!Reader
Word count: 1.5k
Tags: Just pure cotton candy fluff
Summary: Maybe Steven’s one-sided friendship isn’t so one-sided after all... AKA a Moon Knight Pygmalion AU
Author’s Note: You can thank @letterfromvienna for encouraging me to turn this silly little idea from a throwaway idea to a two part bit of self-indulgent, romantic fluff, and for contributing some wonderful ideas and bits of dialogue. Thank you also to @acrossthesestars for endless support in the form of proofreading, hand holding, and mood board making. I love you so much, my crow. 🖤
Steven can’t remember the first time he decided to take his break in the classical statuary gallery rather than the usual staff canteen. He’d tried eating there first, hoping to befriend some of his new coworkers. Months into working at the British Museum though, most of them remain politely disinterested in getting to know him.
He’d tried, really he had. Memorizing the names of their kids, remembering birthdays, letting them vent about their days. He’d even tried to organize after hours meet ups but after one too nights sitting at a bar surrounded by empty stools, silent phone in hand, he’d given up. He’s too talkative, too excitable, too… much.
It’s easier this way, retreating to the overlooked room tucked behind the Parthenon sculptures. That area is always swarmed with guests eager to see the Elgin Marbles. Steven avoids it. The idea of all those stolen artifacts in one place makes his neck itch. Granted, the museum is filled with those sorts of objects but somehow the sculptures and friezes in that room (at least, the ones not missing their heads) seem to glare down at him accusingly.
He much prefers your gallery. Sunlight streams in from banks of antique windows, painting the marble-clad room in shifting shades as the light changes. Blush pink and champagne gold in the morning, cool green in the afternoon when it filters in through vining ivy. His favorite time to visit is in the velvety blue nighttime when the lights are dimmed and moonlight glints off milk-white stone. It’s magical then, easier to imagine that the statues are just on the verge of leaping out of the shadows, bending closer to hear his late-night chatter.
Each one is familiar. The hunter, endlessly pursuing a stag he’ll never reach. The musician strumming her lyre. The bull-headed minotaur pondering his strange existence (“You and me both, mate.”) Steven’s walked the floor enough times to know them all from every angle. Knows every raised stone eyebrow and deceptively animated hand gesture. Time and again though, he finds himself drawn to the far left corner.
“Hullo!” He greets you with a half-wave and a shy smile, a brown paper bag clutched in his hand as always. “What’ve I missed?”
He eats slowly, contentedly, imagining you telling him about the day’s visitors or any new additions to the gallery. He’s not mad. He knows you’ll never truly speak to him. Your lips may be quirked in amusement, your eyes kind and somehow knowing, but you’re still a statue.
But hey, everyone has their flaws and Steven, spending his breaks on the bench beside your plinth, isn’t one to judge. You’re a good listener and while he wishes he could be the same for you, he appreciates the patient way you let him natter on. He tells you about his days, the postcards his mum sends, dogs he stopped to pet on his way in to work. Most of all, he tells you about his work in the museum.
“Did you see that new Ennead poster they have downstairs? It’s missing two of the gods. Two! I mean, I know marketing is busy but that’s a bit of an oversight, innit?”
“I told you about Donna, yeah? My boss in the gift shop? She’s making me stay late for inventory. Again. And the inventory she’s got me doing - you should see it. Boxes and boxes of Anubis plushies, just piles of the things. I’m all for getting the kids interested but it just seems weird to have little stuffed death gods all over the place.”
“You’ll never believe it. Remember the new hire I told you about? AJ? They quit. They didn’t even make it two weeks and oh, you should have seen Donna’s face when they told her off. It’s almost worth the extra shifts I’ve had to pick up.”
“Oh, I meant to tell you. The museum cafe has a gelato section now. You probably didn’t have gelato. Erm, like, a softer ice cream sort of thing? But I guess you didn’t have ice cream either… I don’t either, really. But they do have some nice fruit sorbets. Oo, like this mango raspberry one…”
It’s not all museum talk, though. Steven talks to you about archaeology journals he’s read, discoveries made and theories shared. He makes an effort to share details relevant to what he imagines to be your origin, but that’s proven difficult.
The plaque beneath your feet is scant on details (“Stone Maiden. Date unknown. Artist unknown. Marble.”) and even his own research hasn’t turned up much additional information. According to a researcher in the Antiquities department, experts disagree on when your sculpture was made, and even how. It’s so detailed, almost uncannily so, leading experts to argue whether a classical sculptor would even have been capable of sculpting such life-like precision.
He does his best. From the wreath of roses carefully woven through your braided hair, he guesses that you might have been a gardener. Your garb is fairly modest for a classical statue, though it’s gauzy and evokes sheer, clinging material so well he’d blushed the first time he saw you. He can’t tell much from that, but the scroll clutched in one hand suggests an interest in learning. He likes to imagine you slipping out of a sun-drenched villa to read in the shade of an olive tree. No, a willow, somewhere with cool water you can dangle your bare feet in. On especially rough days, Steven likes to imagine sitting down beside you and asking every question he’s ever had about you and your life, and what your voice might sound like if you had one to answer him with.
As the months slip past, Steven finds himself sharing more intimate glimpses into his life.
“His name is Gus! He’s just got the one fin, bless him, but you’d never know it with how he zips around. I’m not sure the bowl is big enough though. Should I get him a tank, do you think?”
“She never showed. Said something about me having the wrong day but that doesn’t seem possible, I think I would have remembered having a date, hello!”
“Yeah, so, the ankle restraints are helping with the sleepwalking. Maybe it’s for the best that dating hasn’t been working out - who wants to come back to a flat with ankle restraints and heaps of books everywhere? Besides, I think the place might be haunted? I’m the only one there but I can’t tell you how many times I put something down in one place and it turns up in another. So, unless Gus is some sort of rapidly evolving ‘super goldfish’…”
He comes to rely on these times with you, feeling more at ease than he does around Donna, whose expectations he’ll never meet or his co-workers, too absorbed in their own duties to pay much attention to an aspiring Egyptologist who can barely hold down a position in the gift shop. At least you’re always there to listen.
“I brought the new issue of Current Archaeology. The cover story’s about Dr. Salima Ikram’s latest discovery in Saqqara and oh, she’s just fantastic. Here, listen to this…”
“Are Oreos really vegan? I thought they were when I packed some for lunch but now I’m not sure… Maybe I’d better not. D’you want one? I’ll leave one here, yeah?”
“Ok this is silly but… I saw this flower on my way to work. It’s a peony, I think? Someone left it on the bus and it made me think of you. I imagine you don’t get to see many flowers and you might miss your garden, so, here.”
He wonders sometimes if he’s being a coward, or a fool, spending so much time and energy speaking to someone who will never talk back. Is it fear of rejection that keeps him coming back to you again and again?
It’s possible. But maybe it’s something else. The recognition of a kindred spirit, albeit one locked in marble. The dream that maybe, just maybe, his friendship could mean something to you, too.
It may be fantasy but it’s also the one moment in his day where he feels less alone.
Which is why when he walks into your gallery the next day to find your plinth empty and his usual bench occupied by a woman who looks oddly, impossibly familiar, the cardboard box in his arms crashes to the ground.
post-Lotus Pier JC in the Nightless City pt 2 - ao3
sequel to this
“Do you want to marry my cousin?” Wen Xu blurted out, then wanted to kick himself as soon as he’d said it. Just because he’d been dwelling on the subject for the past few days, returning to it over and over again like a scab he couldn’t stop picking at, didn’t mean he had to actually say it out loud.
Sure enough, Jiang Cheng’s reaction was to twist his head towards him, his expression incredulous, lips twisted into a disbelieving scowl that seemed, to Wen Xu’s eyes, simultaneously taunting and condescending.
Also incredibly attractive, but that was no one’s business but his. That he wasn’t going to be saying aloud anytime soon, that was for sure.
“I think that might be a little inappropriate,” Jiang Cheng said, and his voice was as dry as dust, so heavy with sarcasm that Wen Xu could feel it dropping on his head like an anvil. “Given that I’m supposed to be your broken-willed concubine and all that.”
They both knew that that was nonsense.
Both parts of it, though personally Wen Xu thought that the idea that Jiang Cheng would have his will broken by anyone, least of all Wen Xu, was infinitely more absurd than him being a concubine.
To him, Jiang Cheng was and had always been – indominable.
It was perhaps a measure of how pathetic Wen Xu himself was, that he had looked upon a boy younger than himself and felt something akin to envy, even wonder. Wen Xu was the son of a genius, a heaven-sent talent that no mere mortal could compare, and it had crushed him utterly. Even before his father had gone mad, Wen Xu had never been able to live up to his expectations – he had always need to work hard, try harder, had needed to all but kill himself trying with no reward other than his father’s disappointment, because simply having needed to try was a sign of how inferior he was. Even worse than that, all the while his mother had been ceaselessly looking over his shoulder and warning him that he needed to be better or else he would be replaced, or worse; she’d swung wildly between extremes, on one hand demanding always that he do better and better, on the other so conscious of her position that she wouldn’t allow any teacher to so much as mildly critique him (and therefore the better teachers would not teach him, and therefore he did not learn as he should). At least Wen Chao was even more useless than Wen Xu, and even if Wen Qing was better than him, at least her focus on medicine made it so that she would never be considered a true rival...Wen Xu had been lucky.
Jiang Cheng had not.
His father had brought home a bastard – everyone knew, and Jiang Fengmian’s mealy-mouthed denials that hadn’t really said anything concrete had only really confirmed it further – and that bastard had been a genius among geniuses; all things came to him easily, and he not only succeeded but exceeded expectations, time and time again. He was even older!
Such a thing would have destroyed Wen Xu.
It hadn’t destroyed Jiang Cheng.
Jiang Cheng had kept his head held up high and continued doggedly onwards, persevering – no, not only persevering, but thriving. He was wildly competitive, charging into every field and putting forward all his efforts, and perhaps it was only that Wen Xu, too, was the sort that needed to fight hard for every small bit of progress, but he could see at once that Jiang Cheng’s efforts were paying off. Left solely to nature, Jiang Cheng might have ranked somewhere in the mid-teens among his peers if one accounted only for skill and power; instead, he was ranked fifth.
And more than that – and this was what really drove that envy – he actually liked Wei Wuxian.
Even as Wei Wuxian left him behind, even as his own accomplishments were overlooked and ignored, even as all his efforts spluttered in the dust left behind by talent, Jiang Cheng looked at his competition and he loved him. He was loyal to him and Wei Wuxian was obviously loyal back, the two of them willingly joining together, a united force to be reckoned with…
The mere idea of relying on Wen Chao to pass him a dish over dinner made Wen Xu laugh. He couldn’t even imagine his own younger brother being loyal to him like that, and he certainly couldn’t imagine his useless younger brother successfully winning his own loyalty in return, yet Jiang Cheng had won, won and kept, a genius who could have gone anywhere, done anything, been anything.
Wen Xu had always admired him.
He admired him still more, now – Jiang Cheng had literally had his family murdered, his backing extinguished, his body beaten with a discipline whip, his very golden core melted, and yet look at how he had regained his vitality! Within a few days of having been hidden away in Wen Xu’s rooms, more or less as soon as Wen Qing had managed to stem the bleeding from the whip, he had roused himself and spoken eloquently of the things they could achieve together, if only they were willing to work with him and against Wen Xu’s father. He’d made it sound so reasonable, as if they were not betraying their sect but merely creating a contingency for themselves in the event that something went wrong; Wen Qing, always a conservative in everything except medicine, hadn’t been interested, more interested on staying safe by doing nothing than taking a risk, but Wen Xu was.
He already knew that his death in his father’s war was preordained – sending him up against Chifeng-zun, who despite being younger was both better general and warrior than Wen Xu would ever be, was a guarantee of that, and his father, having lost any more tender emotions to his madness, wouldn’t barely even notice, excepting only that he would admire it as being another accomplishment of Chifeng-zun’s. Wen Xu knew that, and he didn’t want to die.
Perhaps in his way he was his mother’s son, his mother who had always been loyal firstly to herself and only second or maybe fifth to the Wen sect as a concept, seeing it as a way to empower herself rather than herself as a servant devoted to its glory.
Like her, Wen Xu was willing to be selfish.
He was willing to take a risk.
He’d been doubtful, of course, about what Jiang Cheng could accomplish while still pretending to Wen Xu’s father that he was broken, but Jiang Cheng had persisted in this as much as anything. Hiding in plain sight as a concubine, he passed along messages and rallied the scattered remnants of the Jiang sect, sending instructions where he could, rescued his sister and installed her as his representative, and even more – his daring was simply unbelievable. At one point he simply set up an entire training camp in a long forgotten summer home Wen Xu’s mother’s lover had once resided in, since Wen Xu’s father had never cared about what she got up to as long as it was out of his sight, and with his sister’s help he’d trained up dozens of cultivators in the Jiang sect tradition to send back out to the front lines in his spare time, barking out orders from behind a curtain any time no one was looking.
He was rebuilding a Great Sect from within a harem.
He was unbelievable.
Attempt the impossible indeed – Wei Wuxian, for all his genius, was too independent to work well with others; he had teamed up with Lan Wangji, and the two of them cut an impressive swathe through the Wen sect armies, but that was all. Jiang Cheng had brought his sect back to life, using his own name. He’d even used his position to hide the loss of his golden core, pretending when necessary that it was only that his spiritual energy had been sealed and that he had no choice but to continue with the façade until he had the opportunity to escape.
He was necessary.
“I meant after,” Wen Xu said, clearing his throat and shaking his head as if to dispel the embarrassment. “I’ve managed to get as many of the forces loyal to me on board as I can, and your Sunshot Campaign is doing a fine job of making your way through the rest, especially now that Chifeng-zun and I are in communication –”
And wasn’t that the strangest thing. Jiang Cheng had opened up the path between them, putting his name on the line for it, and he’d warned Wen Xu fiercely that even thinking of using it to lure Chifeng-zun into a trap please his father would be treated as the end of everything; it was a testament to his persuasive powers that Wen Xu hadn’t even thought about it.
“And assuming someone can eventually defeat my father, which surely someone must, then eventually there’ll be an after. You’ll be Sect Leader Jiang, then.”
Jiang Cheng snorted.
“You will,” Wen Xu insisted. “Hasn’t A-Qing made tremendous progress? You’ve already in the process of…whatever it is that you’re doing. I don’t know.”
“I know you don’t follow along with the medical experiments,” Jiang Cheng said, calm as if those weren’t experiments being done on him, as if the reason Wen Xu wasn’t following along because the mere concept gave him nightmares, “but you have seen Mistress Wen and I interact before.”
Wen Xu had. It was mostly shouting.
“Yeah, exactly,” Jiang Cheng said, seeing the answer on Wen Xu’s face. “We fight all the time. What exactly gives you the idea that I might want to marry her?”
Wen Xu shifted from side to side, uncomfortable. It hadn’t been that he wasn’t aware of that.
It was just…well, Wen Xu was an ally in times of war, but he was still the son of the man who’d ordered Jiang Cheng’s family and sect massacred, and the older brother of the man who’d done it. It seemed fairly obvious to him that once their alliance was done, Jiang Chen would want revenge on him, but Wen Qing, at least, was currently in the process of saving Jiang Cheng’s cultivation. Surely that had to count for something, if the goal were to keep him around.
Wen Xu didn’t know exactly what he’d do if Jiang Cheng wasn’t around. He’d only gotten this far with his help.
And that, he supposed, was the most embarrassing part of the whole thing. Wen Xu was the older man, more powerful – certainly now that he had a golden core and Jiang Cheng didn’t – and yet he was the one being helped, the one who needed help, and worst of all he liked it, too. Just as Jiang Cheng liked to be victorious, liked to be admired, then Wen Xu liked the thought of being protected, the thought of being cared for and taken care of, no matter how shameful.
It's just…he couldn’t ever say that.
“There are other ways of making alliances, you know,” Jiang Cheng said, once he realized that Wen Xu hadn’t thought the idea through that much. His scowl had twisted into a smirk, vicious and superior, and Wen Xu wanted to die – people shouldn’t be allowed to look that pretty, and Wen Xu wouldn’t be a Wen if he didn’t find cruelty a turn on, even if he sometimes regretted it. “If we got married, she’d have me killed within a month, and then where would you be? You wouldn’t last a month without me.”
Reckless confidence looked good on Jiang Cheng.
Just about everything looked good on him.
“Yeah, well,” Wen Xu said, rolling his eyes to hide his embarrassment. “You have a better idea?”
From the way Jiang Cheng smirked, he did.
This is gonna sound weird but can I still ask for a spring prompt?? If yes can we please get a #6 stevetony, pining Steve or Tony with happy ending?
ahhh no it's not weird! i never actually got to the prompts i got from that list, yikes. i hope you enjoy this! <3
5 times tony caught steve staring at him
6 // what are you staring at?
"What are you staring at?" Tony asks through a mouthful of ice cream. Steve's been eyeing him across the wooden picnic table every few minutes and it's ... distracting. "Something on my face? Just tell me, snow cone."
Steve's face flushes an unfairly cute shade of pink and he shakes his head, pitching his empty ice cream cup into the trashcan beside them.
Ice cream had been Tony's idea, and he'd thought the whole team would be up for it, what with how hot it's been, not to mention the fact that this is the longest they've all been in the same place for god knows how long.
Instead, only Steve had jumped up to join him, the others begging off and offering — if Tony was being honest — flimsy excuses for not joining them.
Not that he minded going out just him and Steve. If anything, it's the opposite. Tony loves being alone with Steve, but it always makes his brain short circuit in a way he doesn't like. It makes him think crazy things, like that this could so easily be a date. That if it was a date, Steve could reach over and kiss away the ice cream at the corner of his mouth, or wipe it away with his thumb, smiling at him all lopsided and fond the way he sometimes does, or —
"Nothing," Steve says, interrupting Tony's train of thought. "You got it," he adds.
"What are you staring at?" Tony's eyebrows furrow as he looks at Steve over his mug of coffee.
Steve looks immediately away, staring into his own cup, then at the wall, followed by the ceiling, a chaotic half-circle.
Tony always knows when Steve's looking at him, even when they aren't sitting alone in the kitchen of the Tower. Normally, Tony would be too tired to take much notice, but, well...
It's Steve, and those big blue eyes are hard to miss when they're staring into Tony's, no matter how early in the morning it is.
Sometimes Tony will be across the room at an event, or in the kitchen finishing something for dinner and he'll get this feeling in his gut, and sure enough he'll turn around and find Steve looking at him with this look on his face.
Tony can't determine what, exactly, that look is, and it never fails to send him into a tailspin, burning whatever he's making, tripping over his own feet, stumbling out of the room.
Steve couldn't possibly know about Tony's big, dumb crush, but sometimes it felt like the guy was reading his every thought, and it set Tony's teeth on edge.
"Um," Steve stammers now. "Nothing. Feel up for a run when you're finished with that?" He points at the mug in Tony's hand, eyebrows lifting hopefully.
"Sure, Cap," Tony quips, "just as long as you don't mind it taking twice as long as it would if you were with Wilson. We're not all perfect human specimens with lungs of steel."
"I don't have lungs of steel," Steve says immediately. "And you know I'll always keep pace with you."
He looks so earnest that Tony can't help but smile, setting his cup down. "I'm kidding. I know you do, Steve."'
At the sound of his name, Steve flushes, all the way up to his ears this time, and Tony can't quite bring himself to look away from Steve's smiling face.
Maybe he has a staring problem, too.
"You're gonna give me a complex here, Cap" Tony says, setting aside the repulsor he'd been working on in the workshop. "What are you staring at?"
Steve doesn't panic and look away this time, though. "You're very talented, Tony," he smiles. He's not flustered at all this time, doesn't look like he's been caught red handed at something. Instead, he sounds as honest as Tony's ever heard him.
"I don't think people really realize the extent of it," Steve tells him, "how smart you are."
Tony tries to think of something witty and self deprecating to say in response, but instead just ends up fumbling his wrench, watching as it slips through his fingers and falls to the floor with a clang in the otherwise quiet workshop.
Steve gets to it before him, and if their fingers brushing sends a pleasant jolt of electricity through Tony as he takes it back from him, well, Steve doesn't need to know about that.
"What are you staring at?" Bruce asks, nudging Tony in the ribs and breaking the trance he was falling into.
"Steve keeps looking at me," Tony says, eyes still locked on Steve across the room.
"Maybe because you're looking at him," Bruce offers reasonably.
Tony shakes his head. "I don't just mean right this minute, Brucie Bear. It's constantly. Do you think I did something?"
"Maybe he found out you're in love with him," Bruce says.
Tony's stomach bottoms out. He always thought that was something people said, their stomachs bottomed out, but it really and truly feels like Bruce's words just hollowed him out completely.
"I... I'm not. Steve is just— He's..." Tony is at a loss for words, and when he turns, face burning, to look at Bruce, he's chuckling quietly.
"That's what I thought. You know, the way he's looking over here, half-smitten, half-jealous, he probably feels the same way. You should just tell him."
"He does not," Tony argues immediately.
"What, doesn't know? Or doesn't feel the same? Because I think you're wrong on both counts."
With a final reassuring squeeze of Tony's arm, Bruce excuses himself to talk to the other partygoers, leaving Tony alone, quietly panicking.
They're quiet for a long moment after Tony kisses Steve the first time.
"I've... wanted to do that for a long time," Steve confesses. "I'm not sure I ever would've worked up to it, though, so... Thank you." He looks at Tony, blue eyes shining and happier than Tony's ever seen them. "What?" Steve asks, and Tony can hear the flicker of worry in his voice. "What are you staring at?"
Because, right, Tony's just gazing moon-eyed up at Steve, unable to look away. Unable to believe that just moments ago Steve's lips had been on his in what was arguably the best kiss of his life, bumping noses and imperfect angles and all.
"That's my line," Tony says, smiling and meeting Steve's eye again.
Steve ducks his head. "I did a lot of staring," he admits.
"Ah, but you played it off so well," Tony teases.
Steve rolls his eyes, then brings their mouths together for another kiss, just as perfect as the first.
"You're... very nice to look at," Steve murmurs against his lips.
Tony grins, feels full to bursting with the kind of warmth only Steve can bring him. "Mmm, back at you." He kisses him again, just to be sure Steve knows he means it.
prompt: post break up au - we bumped into each other in the street and you were grinning like a cocky asshole the whole time so i stalked off only to realise i’m wearing your shirt for stevetony? I love your stevetony fics so much!!
thank you very much!! hope you like this one ☺️
dreamt of you all summer long - 2k words - stevetony
Steve spends the first month after the breakup seeing Tony everywhere he goes. A flash of brown hair ducking around the corner of a grocery store aisle makes his heart stop for just a moment, before he realizes that it's not quite the same shade. A melodic laugh never fails to make him look up and seek out the source, but the lips it comes from are always just as wrong as the sound itself. No eyes ever hold the same sparkle, like a hundred little secrets glitter behind them.
The next three months are spent desperately trying to forget. A blur of blind dates and awkward flirting at bars he never cared much for before, as if someone else's voice in his ear can make Steve forget Tony's whisky drunk smile and wandering hands in the elevator that carried them back home. Impatient, Steve used to tease, and Tony's head would fall back with a giggle that Steve can't forget, no matter how many friends of a friend of a friend Steve sits across from in restaurants.
In the most recent month, Steve starts to come to terms with it all. He learns to live with the memories that infiltrate his mind, until the space between them grows enough that it's been weeks since he thought about the taste of syrup on Tony's lips after Sunday morning pancakes. His empty bed doesn't feel as cold anymore, and the evening silence isn't as stifling. He turns up the radio as he does the dishes, washing each one by hand and hardly remembering that someone else used to sing along to every song while drying them.
It all comes back to him, though, right in the middle of a Manhattan sidewalk on the hottest day in September, five months to the day it all ended.
Steve shouldn't even be there. His morning was a series of things gone wrong, from dead batteries in his alarm clock to his ancient toaster burning his toast black. The gym was closed due to the same burst water pipe that shut down the subway station closest to his apartment, and he's already halfway to the cafe before he sees the text from Sam cancelling their usual Saturday lunch. He turns back around, intent on walking aimlessly for a while before going home, and a decision to turn left instead of right at the next intersection puts him there, about fifty feet away from the best and worst thing to ever happen to him.
Tony's hair is a little shorter than before, fewer waves falling over his forehead as he bends to grab a bouquet of flowers from a bucket in front of the small corner stand. He must have gotten that haircut Steve had been teasing him about needing all those months ago. Probably more than one haircut, Steve realizes, with an unexpected pang in his chest. What an odd thing to get hung up on – how he can't keep track of time passing in how much of Tony's hair brushes against his face as he leans down for a kiss in bed anymore.
Steve watches him for longer than he should. Tony's t-shirt sticks to him like a second skin, showcasing the tone of his back and flat planes of his stomach. He lifts daisies to his face, nose wrinkling to hold off a sneeze when pollen tickles it, and exchanges the bouquet for another of baby's breath and pink carnations. He runs his thumb over delicate petals, but changes his mind once more for lilies instead. Steve aches at the thought of who they could be for and decides it's time to go.
He tries to keep to the outer edge of the sidewalk to pass by without notice, but it doesn't work. Shoulders bump into his to nudge him to the left, and a cyclist has him quickly sidestepping handlebars before they can hit his stomach. He narrowly avoids getting tangled in the leash of a dog that attempts to walk around him on one side while its owner walks on the other, then dodges another near collision with a woman and her steaming coffee cup. It all puts him right in Tony's path as if it was fate. As if Steve even believes in that kind of magic anymore.
There's no pretending Steve doesn't see him after their eyes meet from only inches away. Tony stills with one hand over his back pocket and flowers newly wrapped in pastel paper in his other. His wallet falls to the ground behind him, and Steve reaches to pick it up before Tony can recover enough to do it himself.
Tony's gaze is like a spotlight as it trails down Steve's body, from his face to the hand that holds his wallet out to him. His eyes widen briefly before his mouth twists into a barely restrained smile that Steve can't quite understand. He doesn't dwell on it, though, as Tony's fingers brush his own, taking all his attention away.
"Do I still have to say thank you if it's your fault I dropped it in the first place?" Tony asks with a tilt of his head, and Steve smiles faintly as he shoves his hands into his pockets. It's just like him, skipping the hello.
"I'll let it go without it," Steve says. "No apology from me, though, just to keep it even."
The corner of Tony's mouth quirks. "It's been a while. How are you?"
Steve considers the question for a moment. Sad, he thinks. Lonely without you. Annoyed sometimes at how hard it is to move on. Frustrated that you're still the most beautiful thing I've ever seen. Hating how many steps seeing you will set me back.
He settles easily on a half-truth and doesn't elaborate. "Not too bad. Work is the same as always. So is everything else. You?"
Tony shrugs, "Same here, mostly. A little busier than normal, but nothing I've never handled before."
"Seeing someone new, I take it," Steve says, trying to sound neutral about it. He gestures with a jut of his chin to the flowers when Tony only responds with a frown.
"Oh," Tony laughs, holding them up again to inhale the fragrance. "For my assistant, actually. An apology for making her work two weekends in a row."
"I thought Claire was allergic to flowers."
"And anything that brings happiness, yeah," Tony says, finishing the inside joke that Steve remembers being funnier once upon a time, back when they used to eat takeout in bed together and complain about their days and co-workers and an assistant who never smiled. "But she left a while back. Promoted, technically, but out in California. You'd like my new one, I think. She finds me incredibly annoying and doesn't bother hiding it, but in a nice kind of way. Like she secretly likes me instead of secretly hating me. But, no, long story short, I'm as single as you are."
Steve bristles at the knowing smirk on Tony's lips. "I'm not single," he lies, but Tony's expression only grows cockier. It's a familiar look. That surefire confidence that used to make Steve fall harder in love just as often as it pissed him off.
"Really," Steve echos, squaring his shoulders. "Haven't been for a while."
Tony laughs again, and the smirk turns to an outright grin. It's beautiful even when Steve doesn't want it to be.
"You've never been a good liar, Steve. I always loved that about you."
Steve swallows, looking down at the patchwork of gum stuck to the sidewalk. He isn't sure if it's the smile on Tony's face or the past tense on loved that does it, which one breaks him down more. All he knows is that he can't stay any longer.
He can't engage in friendly banter where Tony sees through him, knowing him without even trying. He can't tell the truth any more than he can tell a convincing lie.
He offers Tony a smile that's tight around the edges and says, "I should probably go. Take care of yourself, Tony."
He doesn't look as he walks away. He keeps his eyes on the ground and does his best to disappear into the crowds, but he doesn't make it far.
Tony's voice follows him from a few steps behind. "Hey, wait, don't leave."
He touches Steve's elbow to stop him, but his hand falls away before Steve can decide if he wants to brush it away or have it stay forever on his skin.
"I don't think we should really be talking," Steve says quietly.
Tony nods like he understands, but Steve knows he doesn't.
"Because you're not over me, right?"
Or maybe he does.
"I am," Steve says, though it's weak even to his own ears.
Tony smiles again, but it's softer than before. "Is that why you kept my shirt? Why you're still wearing it even now?"
A pit materializes in Steve's stomach, deepening as he looks down at himself for confirmation that he doesn't really need. He knows it's true before he sees the band logo stretched across his chest.
"I've been wondering how I lost that one," Tony murmurs. "Did you mean to keep it?"
Steve shakes his head, and Tony's face dims a little as Steve admits, "I found it at the bottom of a drawer a couple months ago. Must have just mixed in with mine somewhere along the way. I really thought I gave everything back when you asked. Well, when Nat asked for you."
Tony exhales shakily, gaze dropping. All the certainty and cocksure conviction fades away to leave disappointment in its wake. "Right, yeah, that – that makes sense."
Tony nods as though to himself, and the paper around the flowers crinkles as he folds his arms around his body.
"But you're wearing it," Tony says, eyes lifting to Steve's again. "You knew it was mine, and you didn't throw it away. That's something."
There's something desperate in Tony's voice, like everything hangs on whatever Steve says next.
"It smelled like you," Steve confesses. "And I missed you."
"Do you still miss me?"
Steve almost laughs, but settles for a smile. "I think you know the answer to that, don't you?"
"Can I hear it anyway?"
Steve looks at him, at the wind mussing his hair and the hope on his face, and all he can think is how strange it is. How quickly things can change for the better.
"Only if you say it first. It's not fair for you to see all my cards before I know any of yours, is it?"
Tony grins, and his laugh sounds just right falling from perfect lips. "That's really not how card games work."
"I wouldn't know. Never was any good at poker."
"No, you weren't," Tony agrees easily. The few inches between them diminishes in two small steps, one from each of them. "I love that about you."
"I'm not over you," Steve says, like it's a simple fact. The sky is blue, Tony's eyes are golden when he smiles, and Steve's just as in love now as he was a year ago. It never faded, even after all this time.
It's another fact when Tony says, "You broke up with me."
"You said it first. You told me to leave."
Tony nods, "I wanted you to say no. Refuse to go. It seems romantic in all the movies."
"I wanted you to stop me before I left. Chase me down the hallway. Call my name from the window so I'd turn around at the corner."
Tony twines his fingers into Steve's – his – shirt to pull him in closer. "I'll remember that for next time."
Steve wraps his hands around Tony's hips, each finger naturally finding its rightful place in the dips and curves. "Or we could just not have a next time. We could talk it out instead. Be a little less stubborn."
"I suppose that's a better plan, even if it's lacking in the dramatics department."
"It's you, sweetheart," Steve says. "You'll find another way to be dramatic."
"Isn't that what you love about me?" Tony asks, faux innocence in his honey eyes. He knows what he's doing with that look, and god Steve's missed it.
He leans in a little closer, and Tony's hair brushes his skin like it should.
"One of a million things."
Should Have Listened
Pairing: Frank Castle x F!Reader
Word Count: 2,968
Warnings: Swearing, canon typical violence, death mention, guns, knives, reader in danger, reader gets hurt, no y/n
Summary: He told you not to go out tonight. You really should have listened. Now, you have to hope he’ll find you before it’s too late
A/N: I’m back. Sorta. Its been a rough go, I hope you like this!
Masterlist Directory | Marvel Masterlist | Ko-Fi | Read on Ao3
Dividers by @firefly-graphics
He told you not to go out; told you that tonight was going to be a dangerous one, and that you needed to stay home with blinds drawn and doors locked. Don’t open the door for anyone. Don’t make a noise and keep the glock on your nightstand within arms reach with a round in the chamber. He didn’t tell you why. He never had to, and it was better if he didn’t. To know too much is dangerous. To be known too much is dangerous. And normally, you listened. He never had to repeat himself with you, you took him at face value. He never had to worry about you for that exact reason. You listened.
But today of all days, you chose not to.
The cheap plastic of the burner phone whines and cracks under Frank’s grip as the line goes dead, cutting off your muffled cries. They had gotten you. You had broken his one rule for tonight, and they had taken full advantage and nabbed you before you could make it to the end of your street. And now, you’re somewhere he doesn’t know, tied and gagged and tortured with a ransom on your head. You’re nothing more than a bargaining chip to them, something they know has ultimate leverage over The Punisher.
Frank sees red, turning around with a yell to shove all of the papers and documents off the steel table, everything crashing to the ground. His shoulders heave with the force of his breaths as the plan for the night gets tossed out the window. Well, perhaps not entirely, but the primary objective has sure as hell changed, and the stakes have never been higher.
After a few moments to pull himself together, Frank Castle gets to work.
“I’m comin’ for ya, baby girl. Just hold on for me.”
Everything hurts. Your throat is raw from crying and screaming. Your limbs are stiff and aching from the zip ties that dig into your skin. Your head pounds, the welt on the back of your head from the butt of your captor’s gun throbbing with every single beat of your heart. The salt from your tears stings the abrasions on your face and all you want is to go home.
They had taken you very nearly from your own doorstep. You hadn’t even seen them coming, the butt of the gun connecting with the back of your head plunging you into darkness. When you came to, you were tied up, bouncing around on the cold metal floor of the panel van as they took you to God only knew where. A bag had been put over your head, your mouth taped shut, and the second you started to move, a swift kick to your ribs forced the air from your lungs and had you still as you curled up around yourself, tears welling in your eyes.
Frank would be so disappointed.
From there, they had dragged you into what you could only assume was their safe house, freeing your wrists for only a moment before they cinched you down to a metal chair. The bag was yanked from your head, leaving you blinking and blinded by the fluorescent light shining in your eyes before the tape was unceremoniously ripped from your lips. A hand grabbed a fistful of your hair, yanking your head back and you could feel the cold bite of a blade’s edge pressing against your neck. All you could taste was fear.
“Aren’t you just a pretty little thing?” murmured a voice like ice right next to your ear. The whimper that left your lips bordered on pitiful as a tear traced down your cheek. “No wonder you’re Frank Castle’s kryptonite.”
“Please. Please just let me go.”
“Oh, c’mon now. You know exactly why I can’t do that.” The blade pressed harder into against your throat, the sting of skin breaking sending panic racketing through your body. “I need you to get to Frank. Because you see,” The blade pulled away as your head was let go and your captor came into view. A sniveling snake of a man with beady black eyes and a crooked smile that maked your skin crawl. “Frankie and I have a little bit a… rivalry… going on. And I need to guarantee my safety. And what better way to do that, than to jeopardize the safety of the one thing in this world that The Punisher cares about?” Your bottom lip trembled as you realized you were on borrowed time at this point.
“He’ll find me,” you whispered, more to yourself than to anyone else.
“Oh, I’m counting on it. Now, why don’t we make a call? Give your Frankie some motivation?”
It’s been hours now. Or maybe only a few minutes. It’s hard to tell when your entire existence is pain. Gregor, as you’ve come to learn is your captor’s name, has let his men take turns smacking you around, keeping you crying and aching. It’s nothing personal, dear, he’d say. Just enough to make sure Frank is good and riled when he shows up. So distressed he wouldn’t be able to think straight.
At this point, consciousness slowly slips in and out of your grasp. The second they see you start to fade, though, it’s another kick in the shin or nick to your arm or cheek. They want you awake. They want you making noise. They want you to be a distraction.
But these men don’t know Frank Castle.
It takes him so much longer to find you than he had hoped. He’d grabbed every weapon he could, strapping up before getting into his van and heading for the warehouses on the edge of the city he’d learned the gang was using as a hide out. That’s where you would be, he knows it. Because you’re bait. And there’s no use setting bait if the prey can’t find the trap. The steering wheel protests under his grip.
The lights are off outside when he arrives, but he can see the vans parked by the garage door. The same vans he’s been tailing for weeks. You’re in there, no doubt about it, and the very thought of that has his blood running hot in his veins. Frank Castle has lost so much in this life, and he isn’t about to lose you too. There’s a bullet in the chamber, inscribed with the name of the bastard who decided to put your life at risk.
Your hand is throbbing, the last bastard to rough you up electing to break a finger and now it’s swelling around the ring Frank had given you on your first year anniversary. Tears are streaming down your face and you’ve never wished so strongly for an end to come for you before. Where is Frank? Why hasn’t he found you yet? Had he… forgotten about you? Left you to suffer for breaking his one and only rule? Is this your punishment?
The lights cut out, plunging the warehouse into darkness, and it’s a welcome reprieve from the blinding light shining in your face. There’s a heartbeat of silence before all hell breaks loose. The pain down to your very soul blurs the cacophony of screams and gunfire into an unholy nightmare of disorientation. Until the blade presses back against your neck. You cry out, clenching your eyes closed as you wait for it to bite hard enough to end your suffering. You welcome it at this point. Anything to stop the pain.
After a few minutes, the gunfire stops, the warehouse left silent as the death that now fills it, save for your echoing sobs.
“That’s it, girl. Keep it up just like that.” There’s a smile in his voice that makes you want to retch. The blade nips at the skin of your neck, the salt of your sweat stinging the wound.
“If ya know what’s good for you, you’ll take your filthy hands off a her!” It’s Frank’s voice, gruff and furious echoing through the warehouse. It’s welcome, oh so welcome, but it’s so hard to feel the rush of relief with cold steel pressing against your pulse point. A breath away from death.
“Now where’s the fun in that, Frankie?” your captor calls. You can feel his hand trembling on your shoulder. “You’re little flame here has been keeping us quite company.”
You can’t see him. He’s there, you know it. You know he’s waiting just behind a corner in the shadows, waiting for the shot to open. Waiting to get you out of here.
“I swear to every god out there, you lay one more fuckin’ hand on her, I’ll make you wish you’d died back in the docks explosion, you slimy son of a bitch.”
Cold breath tickles your ear as he laughs behind you, the blade pulling away from your neck. “She’s got a pretty voice you know! Sounds so nice when she’s begging for mercy. Isn’t that right pretty?” The blade comes down along the top of your hand, dragging a gash through the skin and you scream and sob through the gag, pulling at your binds. “See? Just like a little bird. Now come out and play, Frankie!”
“You son of a bitch,” Frank whispers, hands tensing around the rifle in his hands as the sounds of your screams turn his blood to ice. He doesn’t have a clear shot, the rat of a man hiding behind you like the coward he is. His mind is running a mile a minute, your cries echoing off of the walls turning the edges of his vision red.
“Come out, come out Frankie, or I might just keep one of these pretty fingers for myself.”
Think, Castle, think.
Dark, calculating eyes flick around the room when he sees his chance. The switch box on the wall behind you. He levels the barrel on the box, breathes in, and on the exhale squeezes the trigger. The box explodes in a shower of sparks, two screams echoing through the cavernous space. The barrel shifts down and to the left. Another inhale, another exhale, another squeeze of the trigger and the body hits the floor, lifeless, a backdrop of sparks around him like some morbid fanfare.
There’s a heartbeat, and Frank drops the gun, sprinting around the corner to your side. Christ, you look a mess, battered and broken, tears staining your face. But the worst are your eyes. Terrified and in pain, like a caged animal. Frank doesn’t even think as he snaps out his knife, cutting your binds before reaching up to take off your gag.
“I gotcha. It’s alright, I gotcha. I gotcha.” Frank pulls you into his arms oh so gently, cradling you to his strong and sturdy chest, and for the first time tonight, everything feels like it’s going to be alright. “I gotcha, you’re gonna be alright.”
The last thing you recall before the darkness that had flirted with you all night finally consumes you, is being hoisted into Frank’s arms as he coos soft words of comfort to you in that deep voice you would happily sleep in forever.
The warm light of the sun falls across your face, soft and gentle. But that’s all that soft and gentle. Your whole body aches, and it hurts to even so much as breathe. The first sounds out of your mouth as you come to are whimpers, small and pathetic.
“Easy there sweetheart, easy.” One big, gun calloused hand takes your tenderly while the other comes to wipe a tear from the corner of your eye. “You’re ’ight. You’re safe and at home. You’re safe.” Your eyes flutter open as his thumb traces lightly across your cheek.
“Frank?” Your voice is raspy and dry from the abuse, and even something as simple as his name causes it to burn.
“I’m right here, I’m right here. I gotcha outta there. None of them are gonna lay a finger on ya ever again.” Your hand tightens around his as you try to move to sit up, but every fiber of your being screams in agony.
“’m sorry,” you manage out in a whimper.
“Hey. Hey hey hey, don’t do that. Don’t. This isn’t your fault, ya hear?” His hand moves to your shoulder, pushing you gently back down to the bed.
“I left.” The tears keep brimming, slowly spilling over your cheeks though Frank does his best to wipe them away. They soak through the bandages on your cheeks, stinging at the cleaned cuts. “You said not to and I still did.”
“What happened to you ain’t your fault, sweetheart, a’ight? It was them. Those bastards at the warehouse. An’ I took care of ‘em.” He leans forward, pressing a gentle kiss to your forehead. “I took care of ‘em all. None of ‘em are gonna hurt ya ever again. I promise.”
The gentle resolve in his voice finally has the damn bursting, and a sob tightens your chest as you roll to face him. He shushes you gently, shifting you over just enough to crawl into bed beside you before gathering you into his arms oh so carefully, delicately avoiding every injury he can. The slight jostling draws another soft whimper from your lips, but he quickly assuages the pain with gentle kiss over the crown of your head.
The way you cling to him like he’s the only thing keeping you afloat in this world has his heart breaking. You’ve seen him like this, battered and broken. You’ve seen it so many times. But to see you like this…. He wonders for a moment if this anguish, this fear is what you feel every time he walks out that door. And if it is…, well, then you’re the strongest person he knows to deal with that day in and day out and not so much as utter a word beyond ‘come back to me.’
Frank closes his eyes, his hold on you tightening just a touch, careful to not cause you any more pain. He fights back the tears that start to sting the corners of his eyes while one hand caresses your back lightly in soothing circles. The fact of the matter is that last night, he almost lost you. If he had been just a few minutes later, he might have been too late. If he made one wrong move in that warehouse, he might be listening to your last words over an over in his dreams. He might have been cradling a corpse instead of your unconscious body on his way back out to the van. He might be living the worst day of his life all over again.
Your whimper of pain draws him from he dark reverie, and his arms loosen from where the dark thoughts had tightened them around you. “’m sorry. I’m sorry, sweetheart. I didn’t mean to, I’m sorry.” You pull away from him just enough to look up at him with glassy eyes brimming with concern, and he melts. To be concerned for him when you’re laying here in pain. You really do have a heart of gold.
“Where did you go, just now?” you whisper, managing to mostly hide the wince that accompanies your reach up to brush your fingertips along his jaw.
“Doesn’t matter,” he says softly back, voice low and gravely.
“Yeah it does. Cause you were upset. What was it?”
He’s quiet for a long moment, watching you with glassy eyes. Before he finally responds, he takes a deep, steadying breath. “I was thinkin’ about how I coulda lost ya. I almost didn’t make it in time. I-”
You’re quick to cut him off. “But you did.”
“Nah, nah, don’t do that.”
“But you did make it in time.” He goes to open his mouth to protest again until you shift your fingers from caressing his jaw to covering his lips. “I’m here, with you, because of you. You saved me, Frank Castle.”
“I’m also the reason you’re in this mess,” he mutters as he reaches up with one big hand to move yours from his lips.
“If me getting kidnapped doesn’t get to be my fault, then my kidnappers taking me doesn’t get to be your fault.”
“No, don’t sweetheart your way outta this one, okay? Bad people took me, and you saved me. And you bandaged me and took care of me…. Frank, you saved me, okay?”
He’s quiet again for a few minutes, just watching you. When he does speak up, it’s barely a whisper. “I can’t lose you. I can’t do that. I just can’t.”
“You didn’t lose me, you won’t lose me. I’m here, and I have no plans on going anywhere anytime soon. I promise you that. You’re stuck with me, Frankie.” That earns a chuckle and that lopsided smile that you love so much, and your heart flutters behind your bruised ribs. “Now what’s an injured girl gotta do to get a kiss from her savior around here?”
“Baby girl, I’ll give you all the kisses you want. C’mere.” He reaches up to cradle your jaw before leaning down to press a gentle kiss to your lips, mindful of the split.
When he pulls away, you whine again, but this time in upset from the kiss ending, and Frank just chuckles. “If I didn’t feel like I’ve been run over by a semi, twice, I’d be tearing those clothes off of your body right now.”
“Promises, promises,” he hums, leaning back in to kiss you again.
You’re right. He knows you’re right. You’re here, with him, safe and recovering, and every motherfucker who touched you is dead and gone. And in Frank Castle’s world, that’s a win. And he will take every win he can get.
Taglist: @dopeqff @phoenixhalliwell @booksandlatenights @heressss-jordan @mstgsmy @haley-the-comet @toomanystoriessolittletime @wardenparker
It was silent as Kinn carefully put Porsche back together. Porsche relaxed into his touch as he wiped a wet towel over his stomach and pulled his pants back up. There was a moment where he left Porsche’s side but he was back in a heartbeat with Porsche’s shirt. He held it out and waited for Porsche to reach for it before helping him into it. Only once Porsche was fully dressed did he turn to himself. Porsche waited while he wiped futilely at the stain on his shirt and tucked himself away.
“Pete or Arm?” Kinn looked at him through the mirror.
“Was it Pete or Arm?” Porsche repeated. “One of them had to be keeping you updated. There’s no other way you just happened to be here at the right time.”
Kinn turned to look him in the eyes. “Was there something to keep me updated about?”
“Don’t,” Porsche warned. “You don’t get to call me a whore. Not again.” Kinn’s eyes softened and he came back to Porsche, his hands on his hips, and pushed him back against the mirror.
“I’m sorry,” he murmured. “I shouldn’t have said that.” He nipped gently at Porsche’s jaw. “I just don’t like seeing another man’s hands on you, never mind his lips.”
Porsche turned his head to meet Kinn’s lips. He opened his mouth and let Kinn lick his way inside. “I didn’t kiss him,” he admitted. “I was pushing him away when you came in.”
“I know. I just saw red.” He nuzzled into Porsche’s neck. “You’re all done here. Let’s go home.”
Home. “Yeah,” Porsche exhaled. “Okay.” Kinn pressed a kiss to the side of his neck and pulled back. He grabbed Porsche’s hand and led him out of the bathroom. Porsche pulled him to a stop while they were still alone. “You didn’t answer my question,” he reminded him.
Kinn rolled his eyes. “Pete.”
“Hmm,” Porsche mused. Kinn raised an eyebrow in question but Porsche just gestured for him to keep moving. Kinn did, letting the matter drop for now. He led him back through the party where Pete and Arm joined them and together they left the minor family’s house. Porsche felt Vegas’s eyes on him as they went but he ignored it. Ignored him. He knew Kinn had felt it too when his grip tightened almost uncomfortably. Porsche rubbed small circles on Kinn’s hand with his thumb and by the time they’d walked out the door, Kinn’s grip had relaxed.
The ride back was quiet; the only thing to disrupt it were quiet murmurs between Pete and Arm in the front seats but they weren’t loud enough for Porsche to pick up. Kinn had let go of his hand when they got in the car and halfway back Porsche reached out for him. Kinn let him, their hands resting easily between them.
“Are you alright?” Porsche asked when they reached Kinn’s room. He reached out for Kinn’s shirt and made quick work of the buttons.
“I’m fine,” Kinn assured him.
Porsche gave him a look that hopefully portrayed just how much Porsche didn’t believe that. “You wouldn’t have been able to shoot Vegas, you know? Not with your left hand. The recoil on your shoulder...”
Kinn rolled his eyes. “I wouldn’t have had to. Vegas isn’t stupid enough to challenge me directly. Not yet, anyway.”
“And indirectly?” Porsche got Kinn’s shirt off and Kinn let it drop to the floor. The bandage over his wound was still clean, no signs of bleeding, and Porsche let out a breath of relief.
“What do you think you were?” Kinn asked. “Not to discredit,” Kinn raked his eyes over Porsche, “that. But Vegas wouldn’t have gone to those lengths just for a fuck. He’s pushing the boundaries, searching for my weak spots.”
Porsche raised an eyebrow. “Which am I? A boundary? Or a weak spot?” Kinn pulled him in for a kiss instead of answering but Porsche didn’t feel like letting him get away with it. “Which am I?” He asked again. “Am I your protection or a chink in your armor?”
Kinn dropped his head to Porsche’s collarbone. Porsche felt the soft brush of his lips on his skin. “Don’t make me say it,” he pleaded quietly. “Not now.” Porsche nodded and Kinn lifted his head to kiss him. “You’re back with me,” he said between kisses. “And you’re going to stay.”
“Yes,” Porsche gasped when Kinn let him up for air. “Always.” He let Kinn kiss him again before pulling his face away. “How’s the shoulder?”
Kinn huffed. “I’m fine,” he repeated.
“Good.” Porsche pushed him gently down on the couch behind him and climbed onto his lap. “You said something about three or four times? And I only remember one.”
Phyto!Reader is having a tough(?) time in the Castle.
Featuring the return of the Werewolf-Assistant!Reader from my Alcina x Reader one-shot
"you are the good in my life." for the prompts 💚
Sorry this took so long, I kept trying to not go the angsty angle for some reason but I was destined to so idk why I fought it lol, hope you like
The steady beep of hospital machinery shouldn’t be familiar enough to be comforting, but when Buck’s opening his eyes for the first time after being sure he was closing them for the last, it’s a hell of a sound.
He hasn’t managed to get his eyes all the way open before he coughs, a weak thing, but one that burns his chest and throat. He groans, his newfound consciousness awakening a bevy of aches and pains.
“You’re awake,” someone says next to him, voice full of awe and relief. It takes a second for his brain to catch up and realize it’s Eddie, but when he does he relaxes, pains forgotten.
“You’re ok,” he rasps, his voice rough. He remembers his mask getting cracked, letting in enough smoke to choke him, but apparently still keeping enough out to land him in a room instead of a drawer downstairs.
But more importantly he remembers Eddie, separated from him by a wall of fire. Eddie’s side had an exit, unlike Buck’s, but the last thing Buck remembers before passing out was Eddie on the other side of the flames, trying to get to him.
“Did you save me?” he murmurs, and Eddie cups his face with a hand, and Buck tilts into his palm immediately.
“Lucy and Ravi did, actually. Chim dragged me out and they brought a hose in, then carried you out,” Eddie explains. Buck forces his fuzzy vision to focus on Eddie’s face. He wants to reach up and rub away the furrow between his brows, but that feels like it would require energy he doesn’t have, so instead he creeps his hand across his own chest to grip Eddie’s wrist.
“Just glad you got out. Glad we both did,” he says, trying to reassure, and Eddie nods, but his gaze is a million miles away.
“Two weeks, Buck,” Eddie says, his voice cracking, and Buck’s heart sinks because of course he knows the significance of two weeks, and why invoking it seems to be breaking Eddie apart.
“I’m ok, Eddie,” he says, but he’s not sure Eddie even hears him.
“When you—when you collapsed. All I could do was wonder if that was it. If two weeks were all we’d been allowed. And I couldn’t decide if it would be better or worse if we’d never had those two weeks at all,” he shakes his head. “As if either answer would leave me any less destroyed.”
“Eddie, I made it, though. We’re going to have a lot more than two weeks,” Buck says, squeezing Eddie’s wrist with weak fingers. This time he gets through to him, because Eddie finally looks him in the eyes, those gorgeous browns wide and shining.
“You are the good in my life, Buck. So I need you to stay in it,” Eddie says, voice shaky with emotion.
Buck can already feel the pull of unconsciousness again, but he musters what strength he can and uses it to tug Eddie down for a sweet kiss. When their lips part Eddie stays in his orbit, pressing their foreheads together.
“I plan on it,” Buck says, as close to a promise as he can give.
Eddie grips Buck’s hand like a lifeline. “I’m going to ask you to marry me,” Eddie whispers.
Buck’s lips curl up into a smile. “Right now?”
“No. But soon. You deserve a ring, and a good speech, and a location that’s not a hospital room.”
“I don’t need any of those things.”
“But I want to give them to you.”
“Ok,” Buck agrees, his eyes growing heavier. “I’ll say yes. Whether you asked me right now, or in a week, or a month, or a year. You could’ve asked me after our first kiss and I would’ve said yes. I’ll always say yes.”
Eddie kisses him again, smirking at the little whine Buck lets out when he backs away to sit in the chair next to the bed. He doesn’t release his hand though, and Buck doesn’t feel any shame for the way he clings to it.
“Get some rest, sweetheart. I’ll be here when you wake up,” Eddie promises, and Buck easily lets sleep claim him, knowing Eddie will stay with him, holding his hand.
Send me prompts from this list and I’ll write a ficlet ❤️
Heyy I'd love to see 2 and 9 from the prompt list with Az or Cassian :) looking forward to reading your stuff ❤️
Hi! Sorry it took me so long. Also you didn't specify if you want from the fluff or angst list so I made from the fluff. If you want from the other feel free to send. Anyway, I hope you like it!
You and Azriel had decided to spend one of the few free nights you had together under the moonlight. He had taken you to a place you hadn't seen before, but you immediately loved.
It was near a lake. You lay down, sitting against a tree, watching the stars in each others arms.
A few minutes had passed when you felt your hair moving.
"What are you doing?" you laughed.
"Nothing" he said and you swear you saw him smiling.
"Shh! Stop fushing, I'm braiding your hair!"
After a couple of minutes he finished and you gave him a kiss to thank him.
"You know" he looked at you into your eyes "you are very beautiful in the moonlight"
You gave him a smile and lay against his torso.
God, you loved this man
don't let me fall behind (chapter 1)
Something churned in his stomach and realization sent a chill down his spine before Annabeth spoke. She looked terrified, far more scared than she had when they had been dangling off a cliff with only Percy’s precarious grip keeping them from falling. Never in their time together, through all the monsters and hardships, had Percy ever seen Annabeth look so petrified. He knew which river they had fallen in.
“Who are you?” Her eyes darted around, terror stretching across her face, “Where am I? Who am I?”
They had fallen into the River Lethe. Annabeth’s memories had been washed away with the churning waters. The instant she left his arms in the water, Annabeth, his girlfriend, the person he loved more than anybody, had lost everything that defined her. They were alone, in the lowest pit of hell, and the Annabeth he knew was gone forever.
Read on Ao3
“So, what does the face touching thing even do?” Foggy asks, a few hours after watching Matt’s touch an extremely hot girl’s face at a party and experiencing a confusing mix of jealousy and lust, climbing up onto Matt’s bed to sit next to him.
“Oh, nothing much,” Matt says, shrugging. “If people are gonna ask about it, though, I might as well use it to my advantage.”
“Wait, for seduction purposes?” Foggy asks, laughing.
“I mean, mostly just flirting,” Matt says, grinning. “But yeah.”
“You dog,” Foggy says, warmly, then freezes suddenly when he remembers one of the weirder nights of his life. “Wait, why did you ask to touch my face then?”
“. . .what?” Matt asks, after a long moment, mouth falling open.
Could we get some more of beautifully spent chapter one? What does little xichen think of being sent away with his weird uncle?
Beautifully Spent Chapter 1
Lan Xichen’s uncle was a quiet man, like his brother, Lan Xichen’s father, but he wasn’t anything like his brother at all.
Lan Xichen had figured out long ago that there was something wrong with his father. Their family as a whole, he had observed, tended towards cold demeanors, each one of them naturally standoffish unless they were making an effort, but his father was colder than cold – he was hollow.
There was nothing inside of him at all.
Perhaps he’d given his heart to their mother, who hadn’t appreciated it, but Lan Xichen thought it was more likely that he’d never really had a heart at all. He saw everything in terms of gains and losses, and all about himself, as if he were surrounded by mirrors and all alone in the universe. He acted only for himself, for a purpose known only to himself, and watching him gave a careful observer the subtle sense that his behavior was only constrained because mimicking the actions of others was a more efficient way of getting what he wanted from them; without that, he would be completely unrestrained and uncaring of anyone else. Even his children, who he wanted to succeed, he seemed to regard as little more than extensions of himself.
He was terrifying.
It was his survival instinct causing all the trouble, Lan Xichen thought, and regretted that he even had one at all. Even once his father noticed that his “encouragement” was doing more harm than good, frowning at Lan Xichen and belatedly trying to modify his actions, it didn’t help – Lan Xichen already knew deep in his bones that his father did not see him as a person, but as a puppet, as a toy, as an amusement that could be broken and set aside and replaced with another. Lan Xichen would do anything to avoid that terror, trying to always be good, to be perfect, even though he already knew that he was destined to fail – his father didn’t just want him to be successful, after all. His father wanted him to be him, and that was just never going to work. Lan Xichen could never be his father.
Lan Xichen’s uncle wasn’t like his father, either.
He was cold and standoffish too, but with him it seemed more like myopic contemplation – like he was only not speaking because he couldn’t quite figure out the best way to express himself, and Lan Xichen could certainly understand that. His uncle visibly had to remember that other people liked to meet eyes, and then hastened to mimic the behavior, yet in his case it was clearly obvious that he disliked it, that he was doing it in order to please others, rather than to manipulate them in order to benefit himself. His voice was toneless and dull, his matter strict and fastidious, everything about him less superficially charming than Lan Xichen’s father, but at the same time there was a vividness to him, a sense that his internal life was simply so rich and vivid that he barely bear to turn away from it…he wasn’t hollow at all.
He was different in other ways, too.
He listened when Lan Xichen talked, listened as seriously as he did to any adult, and he responded to him the way he would with anyone else, without disdaining him. His behavior was completely rational, his actions matching to his emotions or to external stimuli; there was no mystery, no malevolence, no feeling that Lan Xichen was walking through a field full of knives, balancing on the thinnest of threads.
Lan Xichen scarcely knew what to do with that.
When Lan Xichen had first heard that he and his brother would be leaving the Cloud Recesses to travel with his uncle, he was delighted. He had been unable to sleep properly for weeks, ever since Lan Wangji was born, because he was so afraid that his father would do something to one of them – whichever one was less fitting to his vision of the perfect sons, perhaps. Lan Xichen hadn’t seen his mother for a long time by the time Lan Wangji had been born, having been taken away and not permitted to visit once he was old enough to be on his own on account of her criminality, or maybe just because Lan Xichen’s father didn’t understand why anyone would need to see her other than himself, but when he’d come in to visit his brother she had hugged him and whispered that it was his duty to protect his younger brother, and that was a duty Lan Xichen intended to fulfill.
It was a duty he would be unable to fulfil if his father ever changed his mind about either of them.
When the older people in the sect started clucking about ‘quiet children’ and so on, talking about Lan Wangji, predicting that he was going to be strange when he was older, Lan Xichen’s anxiety had gotten even worse than before. He’d desperately wracked his brain for plans, unable to think of anything, and ultimately he had settled on throwing away his own life and leaving Lan Wangji the only heir – a precious position, but a necessary one, and that meant that whichever one of them held it couldn’t be so easily discarded. Yet Lan Xichen was still young, and the thought of dying scary, and the decision he’d secretly made (although not yet enacted) terrified him, made it hard for him to eat as well as sleep; he had even started losing clumps of hair out of sheer worry.
But now…now they were leaving. Leaving! And with Lan Xichen’s uncle, too, who everyone said had been a quiet child once, too, and who despite Lan Xichen’s initial fears seemed kind underneath his sternness.
Lan Xichen was happy.
Lan Wangi was too young to understand why he should be happy, but Lan Xichen’s joy was infectious, and he seemed pleased as well in his own little ways. Lan Xichen told his uncle everything he knew about what Lan Wangji liked and didn’t like, and his uncle immediately adjusted his conduct to account for it, and in the few instances he didn’t, he explained to Lan Xichen at considerable length why it was necessary to correct Lan Wangji rather than himself. The reasoning made sense in each instance, and each time it made sense Lan Xichen was further relieved – he could predict his uncle’s actions, the way he couldn’t his father’s, and that meant he was safe.
Safety was enough reason for joy, but the joy grew larger when his uncle took him to another family’s camp, a lady he called Cangse Sanren and her husband Wei Changze, and their little boy a few months younger than Lan Wangji. They were nothing like Lan Xichen had ever known, loud and boisterous and fun, and within a month they were joined by yet another family, an upright but wickedly smiling man with no wife at all but still two sons, a babe of his own and a very nice young boy a few years older than Lan Xichen who quickly became Lan Xichen’s first friend.
Throughout it all, Lan Xichen’s uncle remained as he was. He was stern and serious, toneless and a little dull, always explaining everything, always wanting to understand and be understood; he was predictable and even a little boring, and he was nice. Nice, and kind. He set up routines for them and he stuck to them relentlessly, disregarding what everyone around him did. He was a steady harbor in a wild sea, unshakable and reliable.
When, after half a year, his uncle mentioned going back to the Cloud Recesses, Lan Xichen had enough security to boldly ask “Will you be there?” instead of simply passively accepting his terrible fate.
His uncle seemed surprised by the question.
“Of course,” he said, sounding puzzled at the fact that Lan Xichen had even asked. “I am your guardian now. Where you go, I go; where I go, you go. Going forward, we will spend half a year in the Cloud Recesses to ensure that you learn the ways of your ancestors properly, and half a year on the road to expand your understanding of the importance of that way, but in any case, I will always be there.”
Lan Xichen smiled.
With his uncle at his side, the man who had defied his father and lived to tell the tale, he was not afraid.
It's been a while since I wrote something, right?
anyway, I wanted to write something without any pretension, just Harry being a father of teenagers. sorry for the mistakes, it's been a long time since i did this, and i'm still getting used to it all again
''Dad,'' James' voice rang through the room, bursting the bubble that Harry was in. It was hard to have a quiet moment at home so he could just read a book, when all the kids were at home, arguing and yelling at each other.
Teenagers weren't easy.
''Hello,'' Harry put the book on his lap, looking at his son who was accompanied by Lily Lu, who didn't look at all happy to be dragged along beside him. Great, another discussion that Harry would pretend to pay attention to. ''What happened?''
''Tell her to stop being annoying please, I want to go out with my friends and she wants to go along!'' James complained, while Lily imitated him without making a sound and rolled her eyes.
''I don't want to go out with him! I just want to go to the mall too. I don't even need to be around him, Dad!'' She stomped her foot, crossing her arms in annoyance.
''Why don't you go out with your friends?''
''You know why!'' Lily yelled back. Harry patiently placed a hand on his temples and massaged them, not knowing what to say or what to do; they had been arguing all day over things so small that Harry was considering locking the two of them in a room and only letting go after they got along.
''James, just take her with you, that's all, it won’t hurt you and besides, it's safer that way,'' It wasn't nearly the answer the boy wanted, but it was what Harry could offer right now.
When Ginny got home from her trip, he hoped to be able to take her out so they could have a adult time together and away from the kids.
‘’Ugh! Why doesn't Albus take her!?''
''Please, both of you,'' Harry stopped them before Lily could even open her mouth to retort. ''Either the two go together, or no one goes!'' They stopped, eyes wide and cheeks slightly flushed, watching their father with redoubled caution now. ''You have five minutes to decide what you're going to do. Otherwise, I would love to lie here on the couch in peace and read my book.”
Harry opened the book he was reading again, stretching his legs and pretending not to notice the silent argument that James and Lily were having as they walked to their rooms to get ready; He didn't quite understand why they were fighting so much the last few days, even Albus, who used to start all the fights, was finding their behavior strange.
Maybe when Ginny got home, she could get one of them to talk about what was going on.
Spoiler; Lily Lu is dating one of James' friends and he doesn't like it at all.
episode 7 coda - ao3
Kinn watched him sleep.
Porsche was naked in his bed, face smushed into the pillows and the sheet twisted around his legs from his restless movement. It was good to have him back here. He hadn't stayed with the minor family long, but it was long enough and he was glad to have him where he could see him. Glad to have him clean and safe and smelling like Kinn’s body wash rather than alcohol and smoke.
The longer he stared at him, though, the more the guilt weighed in his chest. He was impulsive and reckless and he had foolishly let that affect the way he treated Porsche. Kinn could blame Vegas all he wanted, but insulting Porsche would always be his own doing. And Porsche had forgiven him, always forgave him despite his best interests, and he had gone home with him willingly. Even as the adrenaline faded and the intoxication reared its head once more, he stayed near Kinn.
He really liked that Porsche was like that. Almost as much as he hated it.
Porsche could only be so forgiving.
Kinn scooted closer to him, reaching out and touching his arm. His skin was so soft despite everything. All the fights he’d been in, all the scars that littered his skin, he was soft. Kinn wanted to be wrapped in him and didn’t want to leave. Being confined to his room would’ve been so much better if Porsche had been there with him the whole time.
“I’m sorry,” Kinn whispered again even though Porsche was out cold, “I keep fucking up.”
The worst part was that he couldn’t even say he wouldn’t do it again. That would be a lie and they would both know it and Kinn had no interest in introducing that kind of lying between them. It was easier to ask for forgiveness even if one day he wasn’t forgivable..
Kinn didn’t sleep well. He couldn’t get rid of the anger at whatever Vegas was trying to pull and he couldn’t toss and turn as much as he liked due to his shoulder. Any time he did start to drift off, Porsche would move or murmur something in his sleep and that always grasped Kinn’s full attention. It was just frustrating. He usually slept better with Porsche in his bed, but tonight it didn’t seem to help.
The morning came too quickly, but Kinn closed his eyes when it was dark and opened them when it was light so that proved he’d gotten at least some sleep even if it didn’t feel like it. He shifted a bit as he let his eyes open fully and immediately let his gaze move to Porsche. It was a little shocking to see him already awake, his head pillowed on his arm and his eyes on Kinn.
“Good morning,” Kinn said. Porsche hummed in response.
It was strange, actually, to see him so quiet for so long. Kinn was almost too nervous to speak as he waited for Porsche to say something. They never stopped staring, never broke eye contact except to blink. Kinn followed the way his eyelashes brushed his cheeks in some form of comfort that this morning wouldn’t end badly. He was so tired of bad conversations.
“Your ex,” Porsche said suddenly, eventually, “Did Vegas go after him?”
Kinn sighed and did his best not to look away despite the fact that this wasn’t the conversation he wanted to have.
“Yes, but not like this,” Kinn said, trying to choose his words carefully, “He… He seems to know what you like. And seems to approach you in times when emotions are high which I don’t like.”
“What do you mean, knows what I like?” Porsche asked. Kinn grimaced and let his eyes drift over the wall for a moment. It was hard to think of the right words when Porsche looked at him like that. Or at all.
“I know that he can be charming, is all,” Kinn said, “He gives you things and he’s suspiciously kind and seems to give you special attention.”
“You give me special attention.”
“Yes, well,” Kinn said. Porsche smiled just a little, just for a moment.
“You know I’m not interested in him at all, don’t you? Not like that,” Porsche told him. Kinn nodded. And he tried his best to mean it. “He tries way too hard and I don’t really like being a pawn.”
“And I’m sorry that he was using you like one,” Kinn said, “Our whole lives, he’s wanted everything I have and everything I want. It’s always been infuriating, but when it’s you… I wanted to kill him. I still do.”
Porsche grinned, wide and earnest for the first time this morning. It was a sight to see so early. He moved to rest his head in his hand, looking down at Kinn with that smile. It was addictive.
“When you say it like that, it sounds like you like me,” Porsche said. Kinn huffed a laugh.
“Have I not made that clear enough?”
“You could make it more clear,” Porsche said, “I’m not gonna stop you.”
“Okay,” Kinn said, reaching out to grab the sheet that was still wrapped around him. He tugged on it and successfully pulled him closer. “If anyone lays their hands on you again, they won’t survive it.”
“You think that’s smart?” Porsche asked, but his smile never faded as he voluntarily moved all the way closer. He draped his leg over Kinn’s and put his hand on his chest.
“I don’t give a shit. Anyone who touches what’s mine was stupid in the first place and deserves it,” Kinn said. Porsche rolled his eyes, dragging his fingers up and down his bare chest. Kinn felt like his skin was being lit on fire each time.
He wasn’t sure exactly what sort of power Porsche had over him, it was something he’d never really felt before and it was terrifying, but he had no mind to stop it. He craved it. There was no logical thoughts when it came to him, he just wanted. And for some reason, Porsche seemed to want it too.
“You keep acting like I’m your property,” Porsche said. He moved that little bit closer, his body pressed up against Kinn’s. “If that’s the case, then you are mine.”
“I am,” Kinn admitted with no hesitation, staring at him as openly as he could. The paranoia and fear and distrust for everyone in his brain rallied against it, but he ignored it all. He wanted Porsche to know. He wanted to trust and be trusted.
He wanted to start somewhere on common ground for once.
Porsche’s fingers stuttered against his chest and his face showed his surprise for just a moment before his smile was even wider than before. His hand slid back up and he touched Kinn’s chin right as he leaned in for a kiss, no hesitation as he kissed him deep and claiming. He liked when Porsche did this, liked feeling rewarded for his efforts.
“You are mine,” Porsche whispered against his mouth, somehow still teasing as he moved to lay on top of him, “I like the sound of that.”
“Then I’ll say it to you everyday.”
“Mm, that easy?” Porsche asked, sliding kissing from his lips across his jaw and down his neck.
“I want… to make you feel good more than I hurt you,” Kinn admitted. It was a little easier when he wasn’t looking at his face. “You aren’t a pawn.”
Porsche didn’t say anything in response, just kissed him and touched him even more. Kinn understood that well enough. He breathed through it as Porsche moved lower, letting Porsche have full control. It was hard sometimes, but it was thrilling too. Kinn wanted Porsche to do it more often. He just had to be good enough to get it.
“I’m yours,” Kinn said, smiling at the ceiling as Porsche took him into his mouth and squeezed his thighs, “I’m all yours.”
And it felt true, it felt honest, it felt like the only hymn he could sing with full conviction and he never wanted to stop singing it. Kinn had been in love before, but this‒this was something new entirely. There was something about him that made Kinn feel revitalized and human and free. Every look he gave, every word he spoke, every touch he graced Kinn’s body with.
“You are mine,” Porsche breathed, heavy and wet against his skin.
Kinn couldn’t promise he wouldn’t make mistakes in the future, but he could promise he would do what he could to make up for them. That’s all he could do. And he would do it again and again and again and again to keep him, to keep him happy.
“Porsche,” Kinn said, catching his breath as he combed his fingers through his hair, “Thank you. And I’m sorry.”
“Shut up,” Porsche said, but he pressed a kiss to his hip, “Just don’t kill Vegas. I think that would be bad for business.”
“Yes, you’re probably right.”
Kinn didn’t make a formal announcement, mostly because he didn’t need to. He’d never officially disclosed his romantic endeavors before; doing so now would only highlight that Porsche was different, special. But neither did he hide it. He held Porsche’s hand when they walked down the street, kept him close whenever Porsche was on duty. Only a fool would see them and think nothing was going on.
Then again, perhaps Kinn had too much faith in his men. Not in their skills, if he’d had any doubts there they would no longer be employed, but in their intellect.
Porsche was running late. It wouldn’t normally be an issue since Porsche wasn’t technically at Khun Tankhun’s beck and call but Tankhun wanted to go out and he wanted Porsche to go with them and he was getting impatient. Pol hated it when Khun Tankhun was impatient. He usually ended up devising cruel and unusual punishments that Pol bore the brunt of it. It was why he’d quickly volunteered to fetch Porsche when his boss started getting visibly huffy.
“Big,” he jogged over to the man on duty outside Khun Kinn’s room. “Do you know where Porsche is? He wasn’t in his room.”
Big frowned. “He’s in with Khun Kinn.”
“Still?” Pol looked at the door, confused. “I thought he finished his shift over an hour ago.”
“He did,” Big agreed. He did not look happy about it but then again, Big rarely looked happy about anything.
Pol fidgeted. “If he’s off duty…”
Big rolled his eyes. “What is it?”
“Khun Tankhun wants him to accompany us tonight.”
“Fine.” Big reached back and knocked firmly on the door. He waited a moment but no one came to answer it so he turned the knob and ushered Pol in. Pol did so warily, sidling through the small space Big allowed him before shutting the door behind him.
“Shit,” Pol cursed under his breath. He’d rarely dealt with Khun Kinn personally and never on his own. For good reason, really, since the man terrified him. He had no idea how the others dealt with him every day. Still, he was on a mission from his boss so he squared his shoulders and entered the room. “Khun Kinn- oh.”
The second he stepped fully into the room he was greeted with the sight of Porsche shoved against the table with Khun Kinn pressed fully up against him. He had one hand on Porsche’s throat and it might have given Pol cause for concern if he didn’t have his other hand shoved down the back of Porsche’s pants with what looked like a very firm grip on Porsche’s ass. There was also the small matter of Porsche holding their boss in place against him with his arms around his neck.
Kinn looked up from his place in Porsche’s neck at Pol’s voice but he didn’t move away. Pol resolved to ignore and forget the whine that came from his friend at the movement. “What?” Khun Kinn snapped.
Pol nearly jumped. He ducked his head so he was staring at the floor. “Khun Kinn! Sorry for interrupting but Khun Tankhun is looking for Porsche. He sent me to find him so that we could leave, sir.”
“Tell him to wait,” Khun Kinn ordered. Pol nodded and turned around immediately.
“No,” Porsche countered, his voice hoarse. “I said I’d go with him.”
“Porsche.” Pol had never heard Khun Kinn sound like that before. It was followed by the sound of a wet and very enthusiastic kiss.
“I’ll be back,” Porsche promised. Kinn huffed but it was followed by the sound of movement and then Porsche was next to Pol, buckling his pants. “Let’s go,” he urged. Pol followed silently as they trudged out of the room.
When they were in the elevator, he cleared his throat as softly as he could. “I won’t say anything,” he promised.
Porsche looked at him oddly then smiled. “Don’t worry about it,” he allowed. “We’re not hiding anything.”
Pol stared after him when he exited the elevator, his steps confident as he approached Khun Tankhun and threw his arm around him in a half hug.
Chan hated the days when he had to deal with his boss’s children. Oh, they weren’t actually children anymore, he was fully aware of that, but it seemed that whenever he had to attend to them personally it was because they had regressed to toddlers. Tankhun was the worst but he was rarely called in to deal with him. He was occasionally asked to force Kim back to the mansion when Khun Korn wanted to speak with him as Kim had a bad habit of ignoring his own security team. Those encounters involved everything from Kim obediently following him without a word to Chan having to drag him kicking and screaming, and usually drunk or high or both, out of a club.
But it was Kinn that was the worst. Possibly because Kinn usually wasn’t a problem and so when he was, it was more of a headache than his brothers combined.
“Khun Kinn,” Chan greeted. Again. Because Kinn had completely ignored him the first two times. The man was laying on his back on a wide lounge chair, his bodyguard Porsche plastered against his front. Porsche was somehow asleep, even in Chan’s presence which didn’t instill him with a great degree of confidence over the man’s ability to do his job, and Kinn was too busy running his hands over the man’s body and, was he smelling him? “Khun Kinn,” he repeated, firmly.
Finally Kinn looked up at him. “What?”
“Khun Korn,” he started before Kinn snorted derisively.
“My father ordered me to take a vacation,” he informed Chan. As if Chan hadn’t been present for that conversation. As if Chan wasn’t fully aware that the ‘vacation’ Khun Korn ordered wasn’t meant for Kinn to get some distance from Porsche. Porsche who was now supposed to be at the mansion attending to Khun Tankhun. Porsche whom Kinn had been ordered to stay away from. “He doesn’t get to interrupt me now.”
Chan would dearly like to hear Kinn say that to his father’s face. “Khun Korn has inquired as to Porsche’s location. He has work for him.” Important enough work, Chan hoped, that justified him sending Chan himself to retrieve the man.
“Porsche is on vacation,” Kinn replied calmly. “My father allowed it.” Khun Korn had allowed it, when Porsche argued politely for time off with his brother. His brother who was decidedly not the man he was currently lying on top of.
“Khun Kinn,” Chan kept his voice calm. Porsche, evidently awake after all, smoothly rose from his position and bowed respectfully to Chan.
“If the matter is of the utmost importance, I will of course return,” Porsche replied. Chan didn’t trust the look on his face, though. “But I was promised time off with my brother, barring any unforeseen circumstances.”
Chan narrowed his eyes. “I don’t see your brother anywhere,” he accused lightly.
Kinn snorted but both Porsche and Chan ignored him. “Chay is enjoying the waterfall,” Porsche informed him. He pointed behind Chan and he turned to follow his direction. A few feet away, the resort had set up a fake waterfall and sure enough, Porsche’s younger brother was standing under it, letting the water massage his back. “If that will be all…” Porsche paused but Chan didn’t say anything so he left the two of them and waded into the pool.
“Khun Kinn,” Chan said again. Kinn’s eyes were fixed on his bodyguard; he seemed happily oblivious to everything else. “Your father will not be pleased.”
“I know,” Kinn confessed. “I’ll speak with him when I return.” He then cut off any chance Chan might have had of replying when he rose from his lounge and followed Porsche into the pool. Chan watched only long enough to see him press the other man against the side of the pool before deciding that it wasn’t worth the trouble. Sure, he could drag Porsche back to the city, to the mansion, but that would only make an enemy out of Kinn. And as much as Chan may disapprove of Kinn at times, he was no fool: Kinn was the future of this business. One day, Khun Korn would no longer be in power and if Chan wanted to keep his life, let alone his job, he needed to remain in Kinn’s good graces.
The times when he was reduced to being a glorified errand boy were definitely Ken’s least favorite part of his job. Yet somehow when Khun Korn needed Khun Kinn’s presence right away, Ken was the one sent to retrieve his boss. Big or Arm could easily have gone, but no, it was Ken’s lucky day.
He huffed under his breath as he searched the man’s rooms. Finding them empty, he retraced his boss’s schedule for the day. He wasn’t in the spa or the shooting range, and in fact the employees there hadn’t seen him at all, so Ken made his way to the gym. Kinn had gone earlier this morning to train but it had been hours. He should have been long gone by now.
Still, Ken diligently searched the entire training center. He disturbed a training session of the minor teams who largely handled the mansion’s security and a few potential recruits being put through their paces but there was no sign of Kinn.
In a last ditch effort before he needed to sound the alarm that the man was missing, Ken ventured back towards the private rooms which were typically reserved for one-on-one sparring matches. They were smaller so as to both give privacy and prevent fighters from interfering with other matches. The first two rooms were empty.
The third was not.
He opened the door in time to see Kinn spin Porsche to the ground and pin him there with his whole body. Both men were shirtless with enough sweat pouring off of them that Ken was fairly confident in saying they’d been at it since this morning. He took a step into the room to get their attention when Porsche started struggling. Not wanting to interrupt the fight and potentially cause his boss to lose, Ken hesitated.
Unfortunately this meant that Ken had a full unobstructed view of Kinn forcing Porsche’s legs apart and pinning his arms above his head. Porsche didn’t seem to mind very much if the way he immediately wrapped his legs around Kinn’s waist was any indication. Kinn murmured something that Ken blissfully didn’t hear and then attacked Porsche’s mouth.
Ken had no other word for it.
Porsche responded eagerly and lifted his hips only for Kinn to bear down on him and Ken grabbed the door handle and slammed the door closed behind him. The bang it made echoed in the small room. Both men turned to him, caution and then anger on their faces.
Ken lowered his head. “Khun Korn has called a meeting, sir.”
“Now?” Kinn snapped.
“It convened nearly 15 minutes ago,” Ken informed him. “I had difficulty locating you,” he explained when Kinn’s face grew stormy. Porsche relaxed against the mat with a disappointed huff, his legs falling away from Kinn’s body.
“Fine. Get out.” Ken had never followed an order so fast in his life. Mercifully, he only had to wait a long minute before Kinn was opening the door and storming out. Ken saw Porsche still laying on the mat but when he made no indication of moving, he hurried after Kinn.
“Sir,” he said hesitantly as they marched their way to Khun Korn’s office. “You might consider changing?”
“No,” Kinn snapped.
Big wasn’t sure what he’d done in a past life to be saddled with Porsche Kittisawat in this one but it must have been awful. The man was everything Big hated and had somehow wormed his way into being Big’s superior. On top of that, he made his way into his boss’s good graces to such an extent that Big had no avenue for complaint.
He didn’t understand it. Sure, he understood that Porsche was warming the boss’s bed more often than not these days but Kinn had never shown such favor to any of his other lovers, not even Tawan. Of course, none of those other lovers had also been his employees so perhaps it wasn’t that different, but Big still couldn’t figure out what made Porsche different.
It wasn’t that he was jealous. It wasn’t. Sure, he’d been half in love with Kinn for years but part of the attraction had been that Kinn was his boss and was therefore untouchable. It was safer for Big to be in love with him than with someone else. Someone Big could actually have and lose anyway. But even though Big had no expectations of being in a relationship with Kinn himself, he did still care about the man and he had extensive doubts about Porsche. He’d seen Kinn get hurt before, with Tawan, and he had no desire to see it happen again. So he kept a close eye on Porsche, never let his guard down around him. It was his job to keep Kinn safe after all, from all threats. Especially the ones he didn’t expect.
His opinion started to change the day Khun Kim got shot. It was unexpected on all accounts; Khun Kim kept himself far away from the family business, his location was kept secret, and his bodyguards were well trained. But someone had gotten to him anyway. His bodyguards were both killed and Kim, himself was shot twice. It almost took them too long to get him to the hospital and it was a fraught number of hours waiting to hear if he would survive.
While he was in surgery, Khuns Korn, Kinn, and Tankhun waited outside his room. With all members of the Theerapanyakun family in one place, security was at its highest. If that wasn’t enough, Chan was coordinating a search for the men responsible. Guards were on constant rotation in and out of the hospital with nary a moment’s rest. The only one exempt was Porsche.
Rather than doing his job, Porsche stayed with the family. Not guarding the room like Chan or Big, usually, but inside. He sat at Kinn’s side and didn’t move the entire time. Big caught sight of him holding Kinn’s hand and rubbing his back. Once, he was even fairly confident that Kinn was laying down in Porsche’s lap.
Neither Khun Korn nor Khun Tankhun said a word about it. Big did see Khun Korn giving Kinn unhappy looks at times but the man stayed silent. Still, Big cataloged the looks and mentally filed Khun Korn away as a possible threat to Kinn’s happiness. He would never move against the man, that would be suicide, but it was something new to look out for.
When the doctors announced that Khun Kim would pull through, the only thing that kept Kinn on his feet was Porsche. He hugged the other man tight and hid his face in his neck as he pulled himself together. When he emerged, Big took one look at his face and knew that his boss was back. He left the room with Porsche at his side and immediately took over the search for the men responsible. Big followed closely behind and mentally reshuffled Porsche into his list of people to protect.
Arm wasn’t an idiot. He, like all of the Theerapanyakun staff, was fully aware of Khun Kinn’s relationship with Porsche. He was even aware that some of his colleagues had been unlucky enough to witness firsthand some fairly private moments between the two.
He, mercifully, had not. Arm made sure that he was never in a position to walk in on them unannounced. Staying close to Khun Tankhun’s side made that much easier and Arm was rarely happier to do his job than when he knew Porsche was doing his. Alone with Kinn. Behind closed doors.
So it was of course just his luck that it was by sticking close to Khun Tankhun that he finally erred. Or maybe it was Tankhun that had erred but given that his boss didn’t seem all that bothered by it, maybe not.
“Kinn!” Tankhun threw open the doors to his brother’s rooms like they were merely an inconvenience to him. Big and Ken were on guard outside and they shot Arm pitying looks when he followed his boss inside. From that alone, Arm knew what he was walking into. Still, it did nothing to prepare him for the sight of Kinn laid out next to the remains of a broken coffee table and Porsche astride his lap covered in…were those bite marks?
Arm wanted to turn away but Tankhun had no such qualms. He marched over to his brother’s side and stared down at him all while Kinn and Porsche didn’t stop. Arm looked in the other direction. “Kinn!” Tankhun snapped again. “I need-”
“Fuck off!” Kinn brushed his brother out of the way and sat up to hug Porsche close. Not even a moment later Porsche threw his head back and let out a loud moan. Kinn followed quickly behind.
Arm cautiously looked back over and found Porsche burying his face in Kinn’s neck. “How is this my life?” He thought he heard him say.
Kinn pressed a kiss to the side of Porsche’s face and looked up at Tankhun. “What?”
“I need your help,” Tankhun huffed.
“Now?” Kinn stared at him. “Right now?”
“Yes!” Tankhun stomped his foot.
Arm went. Tankhun stayed but he made no move to stop him so Arm escaped to the blissful freedom of the hallway where Big and Ken both gave him sympathetic shoulder pats.
Pete had heard the horror stories from the others and kept his mouth shut. There was no point getting into a competition with them over who had had it worse. Because Pete won. Pete won hands down. Not that they’d ever believe him, though. At least, not until they saw it for themselves.
They somehow all had the night off, something about letting newer some of the more junior bodyguards get more experience, and Arm had talked Big and Ken into coming along so they were heading out to a bar. Not Yok’s, that had been tainted by always going with Tankhun, but Pol assured them he knew a place so they were going out.
Pete was the last one off duty so they agreed to meet at his room while he changed out of his uniform. Porsche was still working and, as everyone was well aware at this point, spent more time in Kinn’s room than the one he shared with Pete so the others could hang out and wait. Which means that, of course, today was one of the day’s that Kinn decided to hide out from his father in their room. It happened more than it didn’t, and Pete was honestly concerned that no one seemed to have caught on yet, so opening the door to find Porsche and Kinn naked on the couch was a familiar one.
To Pete, at least.
The other four all stopped just inside the doorway and stared. “Hey,” Pete greeted casually as he walked past the couch to his room.
“Hey Pete,” Porsche called back. At least they weren’t in the middle of anything. From the looks of it they had just finished and were enjoying the afterglow before Kinn started round two. Or whichever round they were on. Pete was unfortunately very familiar with all stages of their sex lives at this point.
“You guys going out?” He heard Porsche ask as he changed.
“Uh, yeah,” Pol answered. “We have the night off so…” Porsche also had the night off but none of them had bothered to invite him, assuming he’d be with Kinn.
“Where are you going? Yok’s?”
��No,” Pol answered. “A club downtown.”
Pete walked back into the living room in new clothes in time to see Porsche wrap a blanket around himself and get off the couch. Everyone ignored the pout on Kinn’s lips. “I’ll join you. I haven’t been to a club in forever. Just give me a second to get dressed.”
“Sure thing,” Arm agreed easily. All four of the men still standing by the door pointedly ignored their very naked and suddenly grumpy boss laying on the couch. Pete didn’t bother.
“Would you like to come too, Khun Kinn?” He asked politely.
Kinn brightened immediately. “I would.” He left them to get dressed in Porsche’s room and the others gave Pete a chorus of betrayed expressions.
He shrugged. “He was going to show up anyway if Porsche came.”
If I Were A Blackbird, part 6 [co-written with @darkmagyk] [read on ao3]
She did end up texting him–she texted him a lot.
His phone buzzed against his thigh. Given that he shouldn’t have had it with him at all while he was practicing, waterproof case or not, he didn’t answer. Even though he was dying to.
Annabeth texted him at all hours of the day and night; random questions, silly memes, even the occasional bored selfie. Or flirty selfie.
He was maybe only a little ashamed of the couple of thirst traps he had sent her a few days ago, under the guise of having her pick them out for his Instagram. Then again, she was the one who had asked him for more. I need more options before I can pick the best one, she had said, and who was he to deny her? Really, though, he was only actually embarrassed because Jason had walked in on him during his mid-bathroom photoshoot. But, then Jason, like the true bro he was, had helped him with his setup, clearing his shit off the bathroom counter and crouching down behind him so he could pinch Percy’s thin shirt at the small of his back, tightening the fabric around his torso.
Annabeth had really liked that one. Percy had promised Jason that their next round was on him.
She had kept him up late last night, too, drawing him into a fascinating conversation about the history of Spartan black broth and viking blood bread, before hitting him with a surprise question about dogs. What about them? He had texted back.
How do you feel about them?
love a good dog! I had a sorta stray when i was growing up, this huge monster named mrs. o leary
That’s so cute! What kind of dog was she?
Honestly? no ideaprobably some kind of cross between a bear and a werewolfwe just called her the hellhound lol
We had a great dane when I was little
After the conversational whiplash had dissipated, he realized distantly that that was a distinctly date-y question, mixed in with all the flirting. And he found he did not have a problem with it.
“Jackson!” his coach shouted at him through the megaphone, yanking him back to reality–a hot, wet, Annabeth-less reality. “Keep it up!”
Shaking his head, he ducked under the jibe, readjusting to tack into the wind.
Afterwards, pulling into the docks, his coach waved at him from his little speedboat. “Nice work out there on the turns,” he said. “That was far and above your best time yet! Your head must have really been in the game.”
Percy chuckled, embarrassed. His head had most certainly not been in the game. “I guess it’s true what they say about most of the Olympics being mental.”
His coach laughed. “Well, if you race like that next week, that gold is as good as yours.”
He should have been pleased, but his mind was already elsewhere. With his coach’s back turned, he slipped out his phone, his heart picking up as he saw the little flashing light which indicated a new text.
There was indeed a new cluster of texts from Annabeth, shot off rapidfire.
So hypotheticallyIf you had a day off soonWould you be interested in going to a movieWith meKing of Sparta 3 is coming out, I thought it might be funUnless you think those movies are lameWe totally don’t have to lolIdk lolWhatever you wantWhat do you think?
Grinning broadly, he didn’t even check his schedule before texting back.
What’s your tolerance for pointing out historical inaccuracies?
Mere seconds passed before her reply.
My dad is a WW2 historianIt’s very high
A historian? He had thought her dad was some kind of politician.
In any case, Percy found himself waiting in front of a Cinepolis theater two days later, on another scorchingly hot day, about to willingly subject himself to the latest and greatest of Hollywood’s awful attempts at reinterpreting Greek mythology. It was kind of unnerving, what he was willing to do for this girl.
The girl in question appeared in the corner of his eye like some ethereal goddess, strolling down the street in a little black dress and sandals, her gorgeous hair pulled back into a bun, with little escaped curls wound tightly due to the humidity. Percy, who had decided to go out in a Yale shirt and shorts, cringed internally. Hopefully he wasn’t too underdressed.
Annabeth wrinkled her nose at his shirt, but gave him a kiss all the same when she reached him. Percy was just proud that he had managed to keep his blush under control. “What’s with the outfit?” she said, running her finger over his shoulder.
Percy, unrepentant, dragged his eyes up and down her dress, and was rewarded with that beautiful smirk of hers he was starting to become dangerously attached to. “I was told we were going to a movie, not a cocktail hour.”
“It’s not the level of dress, it’s the shirt. You couldn’t have picked anything else?”
“Well, excuse me, princess,” he quipped. “I would have gone with Team USA, but I thought that might be too obviously American for you.”
She blinked, face frozen in what Percy could only describe as blind panic, before her features smoothed out into a polite stare.
“Not a Zelda person, I take it?”
“Never mind.” Brazen, and with a mental reminder to show her the stupid Zelda cartoon later, Percy took her hand, leading her inside the blessedly air-conditioned theater.
He had offered to pay for VIP seats, where they could be served full meals and alcohol in a semi-private balcony for some privacy, but she declined. Not that it ended up mattering: the theater was already fairly empty, given that it was 1 PM on a Tuesday, and everyone else was probably watching the track and field events. Luckily for Percy, today was a shotput and javelin kind of day, not a sprinting kind of day, so he didn’t accidentally schedule their date during sprinting. It would be bad bro form to miss Jason’s race.
Percy and Annabeth were able to settle themselves in the very back row of the theater, sharing a couple of cokes and a jumbo bag of Cheetos popcorn. “You know,” he said, speaking over the preview for some dumb superhero flick, “the first time I ever got drunk was watching the original King of Sparta.”
Annabeth made an inquisitive noise, sipping on her coke.
“It was Luke’s idea,” he went on. “I went to visit him at Yale, and he thought it would be funny to play a drinking game. We would drink for inaccuracies, well-oiled chests, gratuitous Islamophobia–that kind of stuff. By the end of it, I was a complete goner.”
“That movie came out when I was fifteen,” she said. “How old were you?”
He smiled, sheepishly. “Fifteen?”
Annabeth gasped, playfully kicking his ankle. “Percy Jackson!”
“Careful,” he warned, “you’re sounding dangerously close to my mother.”
“So irresponsible,” she tsked. “What kind of Olympic role model are you, promoting underage drinking with your… cousin?”
“Yeah,” he nodded. “And what about you?” he went on, rolling over what would certainly be her next question. Luke was a can of worms for a different day. “When was the first time you got drunk?”
She hummed, chewing a piece of popcorn. “Probably when I was twelve,” she said. “With my cousin, Magnus.”
“Hey, it wasn’t my fault my aunt Natalie decided to ply us with mead. Besides, it was Yule!”
“Kind of like Swedish Christmas,” she said. “We were celebrating!”
Percy was an ancient historian by training. He knew what Yule was, how it was decidedly not like Swedish Christmas, and how it was not exactly a common celebration in the modern period. But he decided not to go digging into why her family was celebrating it.
He never got the chance, anyway–the final preview finished, the lights dimmed, and the movie rolled.
Not two minutes in, they were treated to the sight of Tristan McClean’s glorious, well-oiled chest. Percy nudged her shoulder, waggling his eyebrows, and took a sip of his coke. She followed suit, nudging him right back.
Distantly, Percy wondered if they should have gotten the VIP tickets, even if just for the alcohol. But there was something really nice about the two of them knocking elbows and drinking their cokes, like two teenagers skipping class to go check out a movie. About twenty minutes in, Annabeth entwined her hand with his, squeezing his fingers and rubbing her thumb against his palm. She leaned her head against his shoulder, her hair soft against his neck and chin–and nearly jumped out of his skin at the feel of her lips at the collar of his shirt.
Well, it wasn’t like the movie was very interesting anyway.
Percy couldn’t tell you how much time had passed. King of Sparta: Blood of Mars dragged on, interminable, and Percy was happy to direct his engagement elsewhere, otherwise he would have had to be seriously offended on behalf of himself, his dad, and the entirety of the Greek pantheon. Instead, he got to focus on the way that Annabeth had her fingers twisted in his shirt, her thumbs at the base of his neck, like she was one heavy moment away from wrapping herself around him completely. Her mouth tasted like coke and movie theater popcorn, and while it was hot, there also wasn’t the need for it to get hotter. Percy could have stayed here, watching some shitty Hollywood movie for hours, as long as he got to do it while making out with Annabeth Chase, her fingers in his shirt and her ankle hooked around his.
At some point, she pulled away. In the blue light of the moonlit scene, her gray eyes sparkled. “Hey,” she whispered.
“This is nice.”
“Yeah,” he murmured. “It is.” And it was. “I’ve… really enjoyed spending time with you.”
She scrunched her nose. “Don’t talk like our time’s up,” she said. “We still have a few weeks of Olympics left to go.” His heart fluttered, both at her protest, and at the looming end of the timeline that she was implying.
Percy drew in a deep breath, the request bubbling out of him. It wasn’t actually a big ask, yet he found himself on pins and needles, almost scared of her response. “Would you… come to my event next week?”
She paused. She unhooked her ankle from his. “You want me to come cheer you on?”
“Yeah.” It was probably a bad idea to have her there. She could potentially throw off his focus, and sailing was almost too much when he wasn’t focused. But he wanted her there. He wanted her with his family, screaming his name, and he wanted to see her when he won gold.
“Oh.” Her fingers relaxed in his shirt. “Um… no.”
Percy… didn’t do much of anything in response. “Oh.”
“Yeah…” She trailed off, looking away. “Sorry.”
“No, no, it’s fine,” he said. “So, um… you’re going to be at table tennis, I take it?” Table tennis could be cool. It was scheduled at the same time as sailing, but he figured that the two groups of fans didn’t necessarily overlap. But if she liked table tennis, he could think it was cool.
“No, I’ll be at the race anyway,” she said.
Oh. “So… who are you cheering for?”
She still avoided his gaze, suddenly very intently paying attention to Tristan McLean making out with Scarlet Johanssen’s Cleopatra. “Ohlsson. Or Holmgren.”
He blinked. “Robert Ohlsson and Loke Holmgren?”
Annabeth tensed up again, almost imperceptible. Percy wouldn’t have felt it if he didn’t still have his hand on her arm. “Yep.”
Sailing at his level was a smallish community. He knew almost every sailor here to some extent. Ohlsson and Holmgren were both great guys, and good sailors. Easy in the water. Easy on the eyes. He didn’t know them super well, as they were on the Swedish team, but he knew them enough–they had been doing the circuit around the world together for years. There were another couple of Swedish sailors who hadn’t made the Olympics he knew better. But he texted with his friend Krister Drakenberg a little, and he had vouched for Loke especially. And he would actually call Adele Cederström and Marie-Sofie Söderlund, who competed in team events, his friends, and they’d talked about Robert when he’d had lunch with them the other day.
So, it made sense that they had fans. Maybe it even made sense that they had this fan. “But I thought you were American?” he said, going for a joke and maybe landing a little flat.
She shrugged. “I said I was from Boston. But it's… it’s more complicated than that.”
“You live in New York.”
“And sometimes I live in Stockholm.”
Her jaw rounded out. “It’s very important to–to them, that I support Sweden.”
“Okay…” Them? He didn’t realize she and the sailors were so close. That was fine, of course. Like he said, Robert and Loke were good guys. “But you can still root for all three of us. You don’t have to support Team USA if you don’t want to. There’s more than two teams competing, anyway.”
Shoulders up to her ears, she flushed. “No, I can’t!”
“Because–because it’d be weird!”
“Would it?” They didn’t really have much of a rivalry, not like the USA did with Great Britain or something like that.
She crossed her arms, staring at the screen.
Percy pulled his hands away. “I didn’t realize you were so into Swedish sports.”
“I’m not,” she said.
“Oh.” Then what was the issue? “So why is it so important for you to support Sweden if you’re not really into the teams?”
“Because I have to.”
“It's a race. Literally a single race for a sport most of the world doesn’t give a shit about. Including, apparently, you. Why can’t you cheer me on along with your friends?”
Annabeth glowered. “They aren’t my friends.”
Feeling like he had missed a couple of steps on the ladder, Percy gaped, flabbergasted. “Then why are you making such a big deal out of something so unimportant?”
“If it's so unimportant, why can’t you just let this go?” she almost snapped.
“Because you aren’t making any sense!”
She ground her teeth. “You–I–ugh!” Then she stood up, and stormed out, her hands clenched tightly around her coke.
Percy, left in the wake of a hurricane, could only blink, completely blindsided, until his common sense got the better of him, and he ran out to the lobby, hoping to catch up to her, to apologize. It didn’t matter which team she supported. It didn’t even matter if she showed up or not. Really, it didn’t.
But she was gone by the time he got outside.
“I watched your dad’s stupid movie,” was the first thing she said to Piper when her friend finally picked up the phone later that night.
She snorted over the speakerphone. “Why would you ever do that to yourself?”
Red-faced, lying on her hotel bed, she buried her head in her arms. “Because I took a guy on a date there.”
“...I don’t know if I should be offended that you used my father’s oiled and waxed chest to get in the mood,” Annabeth winced at the words because, ew. “Or if I should freak out that you went on a date?”
“Don’t read into it too much,” Annabeth said. “It was the latest showing, and I wanted to beat the crowds, for obvious reasons.” She rolled over, pressing her face into the pillow. “And a date isn’t that big a deal.”
“Not a big deal?” Piper shrieked. “Of course it's a big deal! You haven’t been on a date since Maxwell in college.”
“Well, you might remember how badly that one turned out.”
Piper hummed. “You know, I never got why. So he was an anti-monarchist–so am I, and we’re still friends.”
“You aren’t using me for points on weird political forums.”
“That you know of.” Piper said. “But really, it's been like five years. Normally you just hit it and quit it. Tell me tell me tell me!”
She sighed internally. “Don’t get too excited,” She advised. “Looks like it's going to be quit after all.”
She launched into the story, starting with the club in New York and the fortuitous meeting at the Olympics, glossing over his soft, dark hair and his rough-but-gentle hands and the way his sea-green eyes glittered when they were out on the water, and ending with her entirely unbecoming escape from the movie theater. Hans had said nothing as he pulled up alongside her, taking off before she had even fully closed the door, ignoring the frustrated tears which had already begun leaving tracks on her face.
“I know!” She groaned. “I just–when he said he knew Ohlsson I freaked out! Like, what if they’re gossiping in the locker rooms or whatever they have and Percy is talking about this total loser girl he went on two dates with, and Ohlsson will be like, ‘What was her name?’ and Percy will be like, ‘Anna something,’ and then Ohlsson will be like, ‘You mean the princess? The fucking princess?’”
As the resident royal representative, she had had dinner with the entire Swedish athletic delegation just last week. She didn’t remember Holmgren, but she and Ohlsson had had a long conversation about a mutual favorite art gallery. Luckily for Annabeth, it was one of the few she had actually been to. Unluckily for Annabeth, she had spent a good forty percent of it subtly checking her phone for new texts from Percy, and she was pretty damn sure she hadn’t gotten away with it.
“Why would he ask for your name?” Piper mused.
“That’s what you’re focusing on?”
“It just seems kind of like a weird assumption.”
“Piper, please. I need your help with this.”
“I don’t know why you think I can fix your relationship issues, just because my mom is–”
“It’s not a relationship!” She blurted out.
She could almost feel Piper’s skepticism oozing through her speaker. “Well, did you want it to be?”
Dragging herself upright, Annabeth leaned against her headboard, wrapping her arms around her knees. “I don’t know,” she mumbled. “Maybe?” She had been tossing the idea around. Maybe she had even found herself occasionally daydreaming about what Percy Jackson might look like in royal finery (and boy, did he look good, even in her imagination). But the truth was, she hadn’t even been thinking about that with him. With Percy, she could tease, banter, laugh–forget. Was she selfish enough to drag him kicking and screaming into her world of nightmares?
“I mean you’ve only been on two dates with the guy.”
She sighed. “I know, I know, I just… there’s just something about him.” Because Piper was right–she had only been on two dates with him. She hadn’t spent much time with him at all, certainly not long enough for her to be considering him for something so serious. And yet, there was something about him, about his sharp, noble features, his effortless confidence, his soft, quiet smile which was very, very appealing to her. “I feel–I feel drawn to him, somehow. Like he gets it. Like he understands me.”
“Maybe he’s a secret prince,” Piper suggested, only half-jokingly.
Annabeth fucking hoped not. “I don’t really know how to explain it,” she mumbled, playing with the hem of her shirt. “I just wanted to spend some time with him.”
“Spend time with him, as in a fling? Or a potential husband?”
She couldn’t answer that right now. She didn’t think she could answer that ever. “I should text him and apologize, right?”
“It’d be a good start,” Piper said, “particularly if you are considering him for a potential husband. And if you are, you should probably tell him that.”
“In lieu of an animal sacrifice, I will accept an offering of Tom Ford nail polish,” she chirped. “Now go forth and text your man.”
“He’s not–” Annabeth protested, but Piper had already hung up. And Annabeth couldn’t deny the flutter in her stomach at the idea. Percy Jackson. Her man.
It was an intoxicating idea.
Flipping her phone around in her hand, she began composing her text. “I’m sorry” seemed like a poor introduction, but “hey” was even worse. And “How was the rest of the movie” might have been her dumbest idea yet.
So she went with something simple, straightforward. Percy, she sent him, I’m sorry I walked out on you
A minute or so passed. His read receipt came up. There was no reply. I’d like to see you again, if that’s okay, she sent. To explain myself
That would be nice, came the reply. What would be nice, she wondered: to see her again, or whatever half-assed explanation she could come up with? When/where?
You pick, she said. Any time
You free tomorrow night?
Yes, she said without checking. Where?
He didn’t respond after that. Maybe he had done the responsible thing, and gone to sleep.
Annabeth had to turn off her phone, pulling her covers over her head, and tried to think about nothing.
In the morning, she turned on her phone to see a final message from Percy, from just after she had fallen asleep.
Hans didn’t question her when she asked to be taken to the Parque de Santa Ana later that night. He didn’t even try to give her his normal safety talk when he deposited her on the side of a busy street in the hot, sticky, Mérida evening.
Percy had beaten her there. She saw him leaning back against a metal park bench, his gaze focused on the fountain in the center of the park, watching the water shoot up in little spurts. Annabeth stood there for longer than she meant to, trying to figure out the pattern, but there was no pattern, it seemed. Every time she thought she could predict which water jet would go next, another one popped out from nowhere.
Metaphor for her life, she supposed.
“Percy,” she said, finally stepping up to him.
He turned his head, his back straightening. There was movement on his face which suggested that a smile had been quickly smothered into something more serious. “Hey,” he said, softly.
Entirely too respectfully, he looked her up and down. “Nice dress.”
Glancing down, she flushed. She had totally not meant to wear a blue dress tonight. That was… concerning.
“Um,” she began, intelligently, her hand tightening around the strap of her purse. “I think I owe you an explanation.”
But he shook his head. “I totally overreacted,” he said, hands out in a placating gesture. “You don’t have to tell me anything if you don’t want to. And you definitely don’t need my permission to support whatever team you want.” He paused. “Even the Red Sox.”
“How magnanimous of you,” she quipped. And then she wanted to hit herself. Because they weren’t supposed to be flirting. This was supposed to be her big, off-her-chest moment. “I prefer hockey anyway.”
“I can do hockey,” he said.
“No, I mean–” She sighed. “Percy, I want to talk about this with you. If you’ll let me.”
“Only if you’re comfortable,” he insisted, without missing a beat. “I never want you to feel like you’re backed into a corner with me.”
“I don’t,” she said.
His whole being seemed to soften, a little smile poking out from the serious exterior. She hadn’t even meant to say something so embarrassing, if true, out loud, but to be rewarded with this? It was a perfectly acceptable trade-off. “Let’s go for a walk,” Percy said, standing up. “And maybe a cold drink?”
They ended up grabbing a couple of horchatas at a shop along the road. Annabeth paid for both, and Percy didn’t protest. Nor did he start the conversation, merely sipping at his drink, patiently waiting for her to speak her piece.
“I have a weird relationship with my family,” she said eventually, as they wandered down the main drag. It was a gorgeous street, with wonderfully intricate colonial architecture, their white and beige columns even brighter against the dark sky. The street was thronged with people weaving in and out of the green space which ringed it, chatter and laughter and drunken cheers mixed in with the occasional roar of a car or motorcycle. Even with their company, she couldn’t help but feel safely alone with Percy.
“I thought things with your dad were okay?” Percy asked.
Annabeth laughed, softly. She couldn’t believe he even remembered that. “They are,” she admitted. “But my weird relationship is so much more than just him. My mom… died.” She nearly choked on the strangeness of the word. “And my dad never really got over her. My uncle lost his wife and kids a few years before I was born, and it kind of destroyed him emotionally. So, my dad felt a lot of pressure to carry on the family line. And my stepmother was very eager to step into that place. And pretty upset that her eagerness didn’t really allow my dad to get over my mom. And my uncle… he doesn’t mean to be an asshole, but, you know. The whole emotionally destroyed thing.”
Percy nodded, listening to her with the same focus and intent he had shown her out on the water.
“And that’s to say nothing of the fact that he was kind of wary about my mom,” she went on. “And probably jealous that my dad was able to move on.” For a given value of moving on, anyway. She thought of his quiet tears when they watched Roman Holiday a couple of weeks ago, and sighed. “I do actually try not to rock the boat, so to speak. I don’t want to give them more reasons to be wary. To add my fuel to my stepmother’s resentment fire. Or to make my dad decide he likes my half siblings better than me. They’re very big on home team pride.”
“So you feel like you have to support Sweden?”
“Yes,” she said, because she did feel like she had to. But it wasn’t like the concept was abhorrent to her. “Have you ever been to Sweden?” she asked. It was so hot here. Sticky and humid and scorching. Not at all like the summers she had spent in the fjords.
He shook his head.
She tried to think about how to describe it. “I was born in Boston. And I’ve lived in upstate New York, Virginia, California. All over. But Sweden…” Annabeth turned her gaze upwards, watching the dark tree branches as they wove in and out of the inky black sky. Right now, in Stockholm, it was early morning, but the sun would have already been up for hours. She could see it clearly, in her mind’s eye, the golden light as it gently flowed over the water at Rosersberg Palace, rolling over the lush gardens, picture perfect, like something out of a fairy tale, or one of the sagas. “Like I said, my family dynamic was weird. And where my dad lived was always up in the air. But Sweden is home. Even if I was living in West Point and stuff was weird at home and at school.” Nothing like being the smartest kid in the room, and having it constantly questioned because you couldn’t sit still, or could barely read English. “I always knew I would be able to go back over the summer. My uncle had horses and boats, and sometimes one of his staff would take me out on the ocean, and tell me stories about viking warriors. My cousin Magnus was there. And my Aunt Natalie, and she had just… figured out life. Done things her own way. And gotten away with it.”
He smiled, his face softening. “That sounds nice.”
“It was everything.” She said, because it had been. The royalty thing had been a semi-secret her whole childhood, when they were in the states. In Sweden, there was no pretense. “I love it. I live in New York because I need the space sometime. But it isn’t a permanent solution. I don’t want it to be.” If she had to, she could live without a Dunkin Donut ever again, hard as it would be. But the idea of never again getting to eat one of Lisette’s semla from the palace kitchen was so unbelievably sad. “So, I want to cheer on Sweden. I want them to win.” She looked at him, his eyes were trained on her, his smile soft, understanding. And so she offered a joke. “There are only two Swedish sailors in your race, though. You can have the bronze.”
He cracked a grin. “Well, I thank you for your consideration.”
She grinned in response, sort of slumping against his side, feeling like she just completed a marathon.
“I do get it,” he said. “Family is weird, and home is special.”
“Oh yeah,” Percy nodded, and she could feel it at her side more than see it. “I’m a New Yorker.”
“Ha ha.” He swatted at her. “But, for me, home is always going to be this house in Connecticut, where we moved in with Luke and his mom.”
“He’s your cousin, right?”
Percy nodded, and then shook his head. “Yeah, but that’s on our dad’s side. His mom’s sick, and his dad hired my mom to take care of her.”
“Are you close to your dad?”
She could see it in his eyes, that sudden moment of frozen hesitation. The look of a nerve that had been hit. A secret on the cusp of being uncovered. Piper’s words suddenly came back to her: Maybe he’s a secret prince. But she shook them away. It was a silly fantasy.
“You don’t have to talk about it,” she said. He had given her grace; it was only fair she gave it to him in return.
He shrugged, swallowing. “I… don’t really know my dad,” Percy admitted. By now, they had reached the Monumento a la Patria, a semi-circular art structure decorated with Mayan-inspired reliefs. Tonight, it was all lit up in bright colors, a rainbow neon pinks and greens and blues and yellows, forming the shape of the Olympic rings. Percy took a seat on the steps, away from the couple taking a selfie in front of the central statue, and Annabeth sat down next to him. “I’ve met him a few times over the years.” He played with the straw of his drink, squeezing it between his fingers. “But he’s never really been there, and he didn’t give my mom shit. You know, other than a baby she couldn’t afford when she was eighteen.”
He looked up at the sky, like he was asking the gods why his father was such a deadbeat.
“But I don’t care,” he said. His voice had a touch of darkness she had never heard from him before. “I don’t need him. I never did. I had my mom and Luke and May growing up, and that was more than enough.”
Seized with a spirit of boldness she didn’t know she had, she took his hand. It was warm, even in the hot, sticky night, but she found she didn’t mind one bit. “I’m so sorry,” she said. “That’s terrible, what he did to her.”
He looked at her, then huffed a laugh. “Yeah, well. It all worked out in the end. I’m glad I exist. Even if he isn’t.”
“I’m glad, too.” Somehow, without her noticing, they had been moving closer together. His face was now inches from hers, his high cheekbones thrown into sharp relief by the dark night and the glow of the streetlights. In the darkness, his eyes were almost glowing. “I’m so glad you’re here.” For so, so many reasons.
His lips turned up, like he knew that there was more than one. “Annabeth,” he breathed, reverent. And then he kissed her, his free hand resting against her neck.
His lips were soft, his mouth tasted of vanilla and sea salt, and for maybe twenty seconds, all was right with the world.
Which was, of course, when it all went to shit.
Not that she didn’t believe Percy’s kisses could cause her to see stars, but the flashes of light in her face were something else entirely. As were the deafening shouts and questions of the photographers. “Princess!” Someone yelled at her. “Your highness, over here!”
She pulled away, opening her eyes to the blinding flash of photography. Out of the sea of cold lights, Hans appeared in his black suit, already hauling Annabeth up and shielding her from view as he led her to the car, parked just a little ways away. It took her a moment to realize she still had a death-grip on Percy’s hand, dragging him with them.
“Annabeth,” he said, bewildered, “what–”
“Keep your head down,” she said, not knowing if she could be heard over the aggressive roar of a hungry mob. “Don’t look at them.”
Hans didn’t question Percy’s presence, giving him equal cover as Annabeth pulled him into the car, and shutting the door behind them both. In a flash, they were off, speeding out of the square.
Percy pulled his hand away. Annabeth buried her head in hers.
Oh gods above she was screwed.
Hans, bless him, knew to drop Percy off first at the Olympic Village without even being asked. When Annabeth risked a glance, Percy was staring into his hands, his brow furrowed. He looked at her as the car slowed to a stop, confusion written clearly across his face, an unspoken question hanging in the air between them. A question she just couldn’t bring herself to answer.
Without a word, he opened the door and slid out, lightly jogging up the stairs to the Village. Annabeth watched him as he ducked inside, disappearing without so much as a backwards glance.
( @allvalley100 — Johnny/Daniel, Bobby, Dutch, PG )
“I just feel like, cursed, you know? Like the whole thing is, like…doomed. By the universe.” Johnny took another long, deep toke, then passed the joint to Bobby, who began plotting excuses to not pass it back.
Johnny flopped down in the grass, pillowing his head on his arms. “Like, the fucking stars, man—the stars themselves don’t want me to work things out with LaRusso!”
“Or maybe the stars don’t give a shit,” said Dutch, around a burp of beer, “and the issue is you spent months bullying the little drip before suddenly realizing you wanted to kiss him?”