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#prompt postage
dailyadventureprompts · a day ago
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The Empyreal Tombs sound like the perfect place for a blue shadow dragon to make a lair, because every dungeon needs more dragons. It is the name of the game.
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Monster Hunt: Thesh, the Enmity Exhumed
w̴̖̻͒̀h̵͚̙̽e̵̝̒r̷̬̉̓e̴̫̔ ̶̟͖͋̀â̶̢̭͋r̴͇͝e̵̿͜ ̷̫͊ý̷͈̩o̶̩̽̾ṻ̵̡,̶͓́͘ ̵̺̀͝t̵̀̈́͜ì̴̞̙͘n̴͙̜͒y̷̟͋ ̶̌ͅh̸̬̘́e̶͙̋̂ͅr̸̰͑͜o̴̞͘̚ ̵̧͌͌?̷̝͚̂ ̴̫̆ͅ
Setup: Hovering along ruined corridors in a tangle of yellowed bones and frayed wrappings, the ghost of a once mighty dragon stalks through the dark, looking to avenge itself on the ancient champion who ended his life and embalmed him as an eternal offering to their patron deity.
Once little more than a mere rampaging beast, centuries of resentment and theological captivity have transformed Thesh's soul into a powerful and desperate thing, hellbent on revenge and capable of invoking supernatural powers that eluded him in life, flinging curses like other dragons spit fire.
Released by the party's inadvertent blundering about an ancient tomb, Thesh will resume his rampage across the countryside, convinced that his centuries of imprisonment were nothing more than a bad dream and that he is still a flesh and blood dragon. As with more traditional spirits, the comforts of a mortal life will do little to soothe Thesh’s frenzied existence, which won’t stop him from attempting to gorge himself or horde riches, which will only exacerbate his vengeful rage when these familiar comforts fail to sate the echoes of his appetite. 
Adventure Hooks:
A powerful merchant prince has suffered greatly under Thesh’s raid of her caravans, and invites the party to her polis with an offer to slay the beast. surprise surprise, The prince is well aware that the party are responsible for unleashing the dragon and throws them into a dungeon to await trial. Do the party think they can prove their innocence, or is escape the better option? The latter may prove easier, but it will see them as outlaws and enemies of the Merchant prince’s people, who’s agents operate in nearly every trading post across the sands. 
While opponents may first consider Thesh to merely be a reanimated skeleton, the odd weightlessness with which the dragon moves and the way its bones drift like chimes in an unseen wind will betray the fact that they actually face a spectral apparition puppeting its own remains like an oversized poltergeist. The heroes would be well advised to confront Thesh like they would a disembodied spirit, rather than a flesh and blood beast, as fighting the dragon head on may see him get so angry as to remember that he ISN'T alive anymore, and begin hurling around his own remains like an arsenal of damage resistant spears.
A necromancer of some talent and even greater ambition sees Thesh's return to the world of the living as some great boon, and is working on a spell that may bind the spirit to his will. Do the party trust this malefactor enough to aid in his attempt to acquire the ritual components? Is staying the dragon’s rampage enough of a prize to risk placing its reins in the hands of such a sinister individual ?
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scenesfromagem · 3 months ago
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Least likely Gem to end up on a postage stamp
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novel-scribe · a year ago
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October Writing Challenge
Day 1- Cackling
Day 2- Bones
Day 3- Hocus pocus
Day 4- Witches brew
Day 5- Psychic
Day 6- Ball of light
Day 7- Cheshire grin
Day 8- Carving
Day 9- Whispered voice
Day 10- Flickering flame
Day 11- Pumpkins
Day 12- Devils crossroad
Day 13- Halloween myth
Day 14- Demons visit
Day 15- Electric chair
Day 16- Living dead
Day 17- Goblin
Day 18- Prank gone wrong
Day 19- Sin
Day 20- Massacre
Day 21- Mischief maker
Day 22- Cult
Day 23- Haunting
Day 24- Decorations
Day 25- Necromancer
Day 26- Witch hunt
Day 27- Séance
Day 28- Werewolf
Day 29- Monster hunter
Day 30- Crypid
Day 31-Gargoyle
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bulkhummus · 5 months ago
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hello for the drawing prompts may I suggest #15 on the kisses list for Carlos and Cecil?
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hello! when i experience sensory overload, i don’t really want to be touched, but i do like to be close to someone. i like to think carlos is the same, and with gentle soothing forehead kisses!
send me a request from this post !! with what characters or whatever
if yall like my art, consider buying me two postage stamps for a thick letter i must send to my arch nemesis before dawn by leaving me a tip on kofi
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soap-bubble-nebula · 9 months ago
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adore you. || Bodyguard!Bucky Barnes x Reader (5)
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Prompt: Tony Stark’s genius daughter’s life is in danger. She’s quiet and anxious around people she doesn’t know, and must be handled with care. In an effort to prove to Tony that he can trust Bucky, Steve prompts Bucky to take the job. Though Bucky hates it at first, his feelings begin to shift as he gets to know her.
Word Count: 3.5K
Warnings: references to stalking, a few made up facts (though I tried to make it as real as possible), mentions of trauma
Notes: I would love to hear your theories about what you guys think is going on! If you reblog or reply with your ideas, I’ll reply to every single one of you :3
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You were shaken up, reading the letter over and over again. Bucky snatched it out of your hands and you turned your face away. He became angrier by the second as he read it and he looked over at you, your face had become sullen and your eyes were looking in all directions. You had been in control for the last seven years, being able to pick out everything about your surroundings, notice things that others would miss, but the fact that there was a stalker hiding in the shadows and watching you without it ever coming across your mind, was daunting. The space was closing in on you and you realized it could be anyone in this room, or anyone on the street. 
You had become too trusting of your surroundings and that irritated you. Sometimes you wished you were still a jumpy 14 year old with a smart mouth, where you kept track of everyone who breathed in your direction and made sure that shifty eyes were never directed at you. You knew it was too good to be true; that your life could be normal. That you were allowed to be normal. It was so unfair, and your heart contorted painfully in your chest. 
“We’re going to Tony. Right now,” Bucky whispered in your ear and placed a hand at the small of your back. You looked at literally everyone you passed, trying to get an idea of who they were and whether or not they wrote the letter. You scanned everything about everything; the way they walked, their mannerisms, the way they typed, searched for ink on the tips of their fingers, tried to capture the scent of the outdoors that you had picked up from the paper. You frantically searched their shoelaces, cufflinks, and jean pockets for anything to connect them back to the letter. 
You were struggling. They were all clean. Every single one. Nothing you could come up with could connect them back to the letter, but the letter itself could give you a few leads. Your mind had started spinning theories and ideas, the gears turning in your head, connecting everything together like strings and as you glanced at the sheet of paper in Bucky’s hands, a theory had formed. You squeezed your eyes shut, going through the gallery of your mind to see if you could find anyone who fits firmly in your description, but you knew you didn’t before you even started thinking back.
“Let’s go,” Bucky’s voice was gentle as he looked at you squeezing your eyes tight. You hesitantly opened them, seeing the elevator stop at the correct floor with a ding. He walked out of the elevator and you followed behind. You entered the lab, freezing up when you saw the whole team there. You quickly stood behind Bucky, trying to hide your face from their prying eyes. They might not have meant for them to be prying, but they certainly were. You had never met them before and you didn’t want to deal with coming face to face with them for the first time under these circumstances.
“Tony,” Bucky called, his face hard. “What is it? What happened?” Tony clocked the air between the two of you almost immediately and his heart started to beat faster. Bucky extended his hand, thrusting the letter in Tony’s direction. Tony gave him a look, taking the paper from him and reading it.
“What the hell is this?” Tony asked, his face turning to one of horror. “It was delivered to her desk in an envelope with the mailman,” Bucky explained. “Who sent it?” Tony followed up, his eyebrows furrowing with worry. “Hell if I know. There wasn’t a return address,” Bucky replied, breathlessly, his face hard. “Do you still have the envelope?” Tony asked and Bucky shook his head. “It’s still on her desk,”
“We need to get it, see if we can find out where it came from,” Tony said and you slowly moved from behind Bucky, stealthily grabbing a notepad and a pen from your dad’s desk. You went back to hide behind Bucky, feeling the team’s eyes on you every time you moved. These were certainly not the circumstances they had hoped to meet you under, with you shrinking and hiding behind your protection detail, a fearful look in your eyes as you clutched your notepad and pen. You took a deep breath, passively listening to what Tony was telling the team about, while you tried to separate the emotional aspect of this investigation. You reset, thinking back to the few seconds you were holding the letter. 
Your eyes recalled the thickness of the paper. Normal everyday stationary you can get from any store. The paper was very slightly damp, but the envelope wasn’t. It can only mean one thing; it came from somewhere humid. A different country? You thought and then shook your head, getting rid of that possibility since it didn’t make sense due to the New York state postage stamp you recall seeing on the envelope. You wracked your brain for places that would have excess humidity, scrolling through the endless possibilities, before landing on the perfect answers; Mid-Hudson Valley and the Catskills; the only places that are humid this time of year. 
You remembered the perfect creases. They were made with an automatic paper folder. And then your mind went to the typewriter; it was old, the ink faintly smelling of stale cigarettes. The curvature of the letters was also unique. They were made with a Sphinx typewriter. Those were discontinued in World War I, and there are none known in any collections today. You scribbled a note down on the notepad, writing out your conclusions, and once a lull hit their discussion, you moved from behind Bucky and tugged gently on Tony’s sleeve to get his attention. “What is it?” He asked, turning to you with worry. You ripped the page out of the notepad and handed it to him. He looked over it, reading the few sentences that you had written down. 
The person you’re looking for has money to spend and lives in mid-Hudson Valley or the Catskills. They own a Swiss ‘Sphinx’ typewriter. Probably purchased on the black market.
“Are you sure?” Tony asked, looking down at you and you nodded. Tony always knew you were a genius, the things he knew you were able to pick up, and how quickly you processed information; there was definitely something special about it, something almost superhuman. He really wanted to just keep you safe and not make you have to deal with all this. He didn’t believe it was good for your psyche, even though you had proven to him time and again in the past that it was probably not the case. Your mother didn’t break you, people didn’t break you, maybe being a target was what finally did it. Maybe realizing how much danger you were in was your tipping point; the point of no return. How was he supposed to know for sure that you weren’t dangling on an edge? A hair’s breadth away from losing your sanity all at once? But Tony also knew that they probably needed your expertise. At this point, they needed someone who could create a lead out of nothing, a working theory with a blade of grass to get them out of the slump they were in, and you were the only person who could do that.
“Thanks, kiddo,” He smiled and put a hand on your head, ruffling your hair. “If you guys don’t mind, I’ll introduce you all under better circumstances. I think she just needs some time now, though,” Tony turned to the team, hand moving to rest on your shoulder. The team had solemn looks on their faces as they eyed you and nodded. “Of course. Whatever you need,” Steve offered and you gave him a gentle smile. 
“Barnes, take her home,” Tony advised and Bucky walked towards you, putting a gentle guiding hand on your back as he led you out of the lab and to the elevator. The ride down was awkwardly silent, with thoughts swimming in your head. You were feeling even more hyper aware of your surroundings than usual, taking specific note of every sound, every scent and every footstep you’ve come across. Bucky noticed as you stared at the ground, brows furrowed and listening to your memories in the silence of the elevator. He watched as you pulled up an old memory in your head and looked through it, squeezing your eyes shut and shaking your head once to dismiss it and move onto the next to repeat the process.
“Hey.” Bucky called and you looked up at him. “Stop it,” He commanded in a low voice. It took you a few seconds to reply as you gazed into his blank expression. “I can’t,” You shakily replied as the elevator dinged, signalling that you had reached the floor of the department. Bucky walked with you into the office and shielded you from everyone else with his broad back while he waited for you to collect your things from your desk.
“Well, well, well. Heading out so soon? What, did daddy give you the day off?” Allen, a man in your department came up to the two of you. “I’d rather not deal with you right now,” You spat without looking up at him as you shut your laptop and tucked it away.
“Why? Too busy dealing with the weight of being a trust fund baby?” He snarked. Bucky was ready to step up, but you put a hand on his arm, giving Allen a quick once over before speaking. “Hm,” You hummed and Allen rolled his eyes. “What? Have you figured out what I had for breakfast this morning?” Allen snorted. “Eggs,” You replied, looking him in the eyes with a serious expression. His smile disappeared at your answer, and you knew you were right. “But that’s not what I learned,” You gave him a look and he swallowed hard. He seemed to be nervous about something.
“Tell me. How’s your boat doing?” You asked and he gave you a look. “Boat?” He tried to look confused but his eyes momentarily shifted away from yours. “Yes, your boat. The one you’re hiding from your fiance, paid for by your gambling winnings.” You confirmed matter-of-factly. You saw his chest stop moving, as his breath hitched in his throat. “Don’t want to talk about that? Fine. We can talk about something else. How’s your pursuit of a mistress going?” As soon as the words left your mouth Bucky started ushering you out.
“That’s enough.” Bucky warned. Everyone in the office was watching this happen, hanging on every word as Bucky guided you out of the department as quickly as he could before you turned around and decided to spout some more facts about your coworker.
He kept ushering you out until you got to the car. Bucky peeled out of the spot and started driving back to Brooklyn. You looked out your window, elbow sitting on the arm rest while your fingers moved to touch your lips. “You went too far back there,” Bucky pointed out without looking away from the road. You sighed, shutting your eyes briefly. “He deserved it,” You replied.
“What’s going on with you?” He asked and you gave him a look, turning your head to look at his features. They were mostly blank but his eyes gave away his concern. “Nothing,” You murmured. 
“Bullshit,” Bucky called you out with a scoff and continued to drive. You let the silence hang in the air as you wondered whether or not he would call you pathetic with your answer. It made sense to you, but perhaps saying it aloud will alert the two of you to how absurd your thoughts really were. You swallowed hard and looked away from Bucky again, not willing to meet his face. You rarely opened up to people. Happy, Pepper and Tony were exceptions; you trusted them. And you trusted Bucky, too. But insights into your thoughts were reserved for people who have known you for far longer than you had known Bucky and yet, there was something in you screaming at you to let it out. Perhaps it was different since you had no choice but to trust him as your protection detail, or maybe it was something more. The exact reason didn’t matter, your mind was shouting at you to tell him, and for the first time in a while, you made a realization about yourself.
I trust him.
“I spent 14 years without control over my own life, submitting to the will of the only person I knew. I survived my childhood by the skin of my teeth because of a split second decision; an impulse; a realization. I knew what I had to do. That decision was the best I’d ever made, and for the last 7 years I trained myself to never feel trapped. I wanted to be the one in control and I did so the only way I knew how,” You paused and looked out the window again. “I used what I knew I had to my advantage. I was already always hyper aware of my surroundings and my observations, but I used to be hurt because of them. It was a curse,” You were revealing the absolute inner workings of your mind, the details of your past that weren’t written in a case file for Bucky to read and the thought was scary. Opening up like this was hard; it made you vulnerable and reminded you of your own vulnerabilities.
“Since my escape, I’ve learned that the way I work isn’t exactly normal, and that’s given me enough to feel like I have a grasp on the world. This world that’s so loud and yet I can hear every sound.” You gave Bucky a quick look, seeing him never turn his gaze away from the road. “Nothing gets by me. Nothing. The fact that someone has slipped into my life unnoticed, watching me, threatening me, targeting me. It’s terrifying.” You paused, your mouth beginning to dry up and stomach beginning to churn. “If they’ve gotten by me... Me. Then they truly must be a petrifying individual,” Your voice was low, and the prospect of the danger you must have been facing was daunting.
“That little show you put on... You were trying to prove to yourself that you were still in control, weren’t you?” Bucky asked, referring to when you ripped into Allen. You smiled a little; he really had you all figured out, down to the smallest details.
“I think I’m rubbing off on you,” You tried to tease, a sad smile coming upon your lips. You shakily exhaled, trying to calm your racing thoughts as another silence fell upon the car. “So... Are you going to tell me how you figured him out or are you going to leave me guessing?” Bucky mumbled and you felt a flutter pass through your chest. Your head snapped towards him in surprise, the way his features were gentle, despite his usual blank expression. His eyes were slightly narrowed, and his gaze wasn’t as icy; his breathing was paced comfortably and there wasn’t a hint of a smile on his face. It was like a switch flipped in your head, the realization nearly cancelling out all the annoyance you had felt by him previously. Your heartbeat quickened and you realized something different. 
He understands.
You had always thought you’d experienced moments like this before, where your dad understood your side of things, or when Happy realized what you were trying to do. But this was something more, something far deeper than a surface level acknowledgement. This was a relation. He related to you. He knows what you feel because he has felt it, too. Bucky felt your eyes on him and noticed how the silence was stretching a bit too long and he turned towards you as soon as he stopped at a red light, his face still gentle but his eyes... They were knowing.
Bucky saw it in your eyes, too. He knew that you realized what he felt, and for once during the whole time he’s known you, he was okay with it. It didn’t feel invasive that you shared this moment with him. It was far warmer, and the realization passed through him, too. 
She understands.
The moment of silence stretched between the two of you for longer than you both anticipated, but it was a much needed confirmation. It was like when your eyes connected, your thoughts solidified. You were both in the same boat. His life had also been altered by a single moment, a tiny grain of sand in a tipped hourglass that showed him the truth of what the world should be like, and in its wake, the need to take back what has always been rightfully yours; your life.
“His shoes,” You said, voice a little more than a murmur, and one corner of Bucky’s lips curved upwards slightly. “What is it with you and people’s shoes?” He muttered back and you smiled, releasing a little exhale through your nose, your eyes betraying you by becoming glassy.
Bucky turned back to the street just as the light had turned green and continued driving. “What about his shoes, Y/n?” Bucky asked and your breath caught in your throat. He had never used your name before this moment, and it was though it was proof that the two of you were coming to understand each other in ways you couldn’t have imagined.
“The laces were tied in heaving line knots. They’re coiled around each other. The knot is used to make rope easier to throw far distances because of the weight. It’s often used to help people back onto boats when they fall overboard. Also, the tan lines on his wrists,” You noted. “How’d you know he didn’t tell his fiance?” Bucky asked.
“There were long hairs on his clothes, ring on his finger. They live together. They’re not well off. They’re comfortable, but surely not enough money to splurge on a boat. His clothes; they were cheap,” You explained. “And why would you hide the fact that you had enough to buy a boat unless you couldn’t explain where the money came from.” Bucky stated, finally understanding your reasoning and you nodded. 
“When we passed by his desk a few days ago, he was looking up horse race statistics, so that was enough of a confirmation,” You added. “What about him looking to cheat on his fiance?” Bucky asked and you felt a sense of pride bubble up inside of you; the simple excitement of being able to explain what goes through your mind to someone similarly experienced. 
“His ring. It was dirty and unkept. He didn’t care about it, and yet the ring is relatively new. You could argue it’s because he never takes it off, but I noticed the ring move slightly. No tan line,” You recalled and Bucky came to a conclusion, “he removes it often,” 
“He’s also kind of an ass, so that certainly helped,” You joked and Bucky gave out a scoff-like laugh. A comfortable silence hung in the car after that, the two of you basking in the presence of one another. Things were different now between the two of you and you both knew it. 
He parked in the basement of the apartment building, and got out of the car. You stood in front of Bucky, stopping him from moving. “What?” He looked down at you and you got closer to him, wrapping your arms around his torso and tucking your head in his chest. He froze, not expecting this sudden development, you could hear his heartbeat quicken with your ear to his chest.
1, 2, 3, 4, 5. You counted in your head. You pulled away and looked up at him. “Sorry, that was really unprofessional of me. But thank you for not pushing me away, I kind of needed that,” You looked up at him innocently and he nodded once. 
There was a short pause before you spoke again. “What do you want for dinner?” 
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Back in Manhattan, Tony is trying to find out more about this typewriter that you said could possibly belong to your stalker. He sits with the team in the lab, trying to find any trace of this machine on the dark web.
“Tony, I got it!” Nat exclaimed and brought the laptop she was using up to Tony. “Check this out,” She pointed to a black market auction site she pulled up on one of Tony’s secure computers. Tony read the title of the auction.
Authentic Pre-World War I Typewriter - Discontinued
It was marked sold to an anonymous buyer for 4 million dollars. “And look at this.” Nat pointed to one of the images listed on the site; a photo of the typewriter on a table showed that it was black and clearly quite old. Emblazoned in the center just above the keys was the brand name, lettered with bright yellow paint in between two identical bright yellow drawings of a figure with a lion’s body and a human head.
SPHINX
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Next Chapter
Masterlist
Taglist:
@lovelyrdjr @gerim-1995 @jaa1682-27 @buckyjms @fitzfiles @rexorangecouny @vickysees @daddysfavoritesexkitten @elebeleb @marvel-ous-miss-maisie @stylessugarhigh @ynscrazylife @lilylittlelamb @fandom-life-12 @angelsandsorcery @kiwagr @inmate-marmalade @tanyaherondale @lorosette @weirdowithnobeardo @tequilavet @purplekitten30 @nikkixostan @buckys1thiccbih @sev3nruby @w-wolfhxrd @celestialfru @americaswritings @julmonteiro @ximaginx @queenofsaltinesss @austynparksandpizza @jasminweasley @avisexe @stealapizzamyheart @clestieloakenshield @momsteeeve @leona-lionhearted @aveatquevale- @blessedwedgie @chrollosforehead @lflores2008 @criminalyetminimal @thomaslefteyebrow @just-a-littlebit-of-everything @sugar-nico @mell-bell @starryparkrr @otherglowcloud @justab-eautifulmess @all-american-barnes @s-tarksintern @xvb6669 @gudenuph @imaginesfordifferentfandoms @darlingyoureperfection @war-in-time​
TAGLIST IS CLOSED
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veelentine · 5 months ago
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hey i make symbrock postcards!!!
people give me a prompt & i draw a postcard & mail it to them!!!! above are some examples - i never draw the same thing twice, so ur postcard will be unique to u!!!
3 slots currently available
£15 + postage
dm for further info
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writefightandflightclub · 9 months ago
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Somebody to love (PART 1/2): Richard Alonso Munoz x fem!reader
Summary: Whilst your neighbour, Richard, is in love with love, you are a little more commitment averse. When he performs a small act of kindness though, your feelings start to unravel, and you wonder if you may have found somebody to love - right next-door all along.
Richard is a sweet, gentle man, and so I hoped to create a sweet, gentle story. I hope you enjoy spending some time in it!
I HAVE POSTED THIS IN TWO PARTS, ONLY BECAUSE OF LENGTH. WHILST YOU COULD PROBABLY(?) READ EITHER PART AS A STANDLONE THEY ARE MEANT TO WORK TOGETHER.
Genre / tropes: pining, friends to lovers (sort of - neighbours to lovers), getting together, domesticity, fluff, smut, nothing bad happens, ends happily, quite a slow burn for a one-shot, I guess?
Author’s note: This is part of my friends to lovers event, prompt requested by @foxilayde who I adore and you should too. Prompt was: he does something utterly mundane which shows how well he knows you, and your feelings hit you. I took some liberties with the prompt, and there is zero pressure to read this - IT WAS SUPPOSED TO BE A BLURB! :P More of these requests in pinned post!
Warnings/ Ratings:
PART ONE (Mature, 18+ ONLY): swearing; sexual themes (erotic poetry, thirsty internal monologue, sexual tension); food themes inc. mentions/consumption; family mentions - reader has nieces but they need not be biological; brief mentions of the prison system - Richard is a Corrections Officer; exceedingly brief mention of the Holocaust in context of a non-fiction book Richard is reading (I believe this is a canon read but may be wrong); loneliness (theme, not too angsty); self-esteem issues if you squint.
PART TWO: (Explicit, 18+ ONLY): swearing; explicit sex, including - oral m + f receiving; unprotected vaginal sex; creampie; f squirting (first time doing so); well-endowed man, ahem.
Word count: 10k for part 1, 9k for part 2.
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You had been thinking about the small gesture all day. You had been distracted all the way through your shift, and then all through dinner with a friend.
Richard -your neighbour to the right- had turned-up at your door that morning, before setting off on his way to work. His visit had been unexpected, and you had opened the door in a fluster, seeing him greet you with a characteristically soft smile - just visible from beneath the thick brush of his bold, impressive moustache.
He had held them out to you - in between his index and middle finger. A small book of postage stamps.
You had simply looked at him in confusion for a moment.
“For your letters,” he had stated, in his soft-spoken voice. “You said last night you didn’t have any stamps, and I found these in my drawer, so...”
It was true. You had said that. Had forgotten you’d said it. Had barely registered running into him, since it wasn’t anything out of the ordinary.
Your routine overlapped minimally with Richard’s -though more so since his new role in the letter room had him working days exclusively- but sometimes, you would meet serendipitously, as neighbours tend to do. Last night, in the liminal space between your work day ending and your home life beginning, you had stopped to chat with him, and -you remembered now- had made some offhand comment about needing some stamps.
The topic of letters had come up; naturally, given his new position. It caused you to mention having written some letters to your nieces -packaged up with little illustrated portraits you’d gotten commissioned for their new bedrooms. Letters which you hadn’t gotten around to posting.
And so, here Richard was. On your doorstep. With stamps.
It was a little thing. So little, it didn’t even register at the time. In fact, you had bundled him off your porch with a quick, cursory “Thanks, Richard!”, prioritising finishing your morning scramble and making it out of the door on time.
It didn’t register in the moment, no; but you were noticing it now, alright.
“-so, this morning,” you explain to your friend opposite you in the pizza parlour, as she absent-mindedly dips her crusts in some hot sauce, “there he is on my doorstep, and he’d brought me some stamps.”
Your friend, Jaz, dips her chin and slowly raises her perfectly shaped eyebrows, her glossed lips curling in an amused, incredulous smile. “So, let me get this straight. He brought you some... stamps, which he already had, from his house next door,” she recaps, her smile inching wider by the second, “and now you want to fuck him?!”. Her eyebrows knit together in faux concern and she clamps a hand over yours where it rests on the table. “Sweetie, we need to talk. How low is your bar these days? Exactly how dick-starved are you?”
Ordinarily you’d be more than game for the light fun she pokes at you. Would even have a smart riposte ready. This time, though, you simply huff, your jaw twitching in minor irritation at how flippant she is being. So, shaking your head gently, you pull your hand away from hers, folding your jacket around yourself, suddenly feeling exceedingly self-conscious.
“Never mind. I’m obviously not telling it right. And, wait - hold up- who in the hell said I wanted to...” you look around the parlour, voice dropping to an indignant whisper as if anyone around you would hear or care about your hypothetical sexploits “...fuck him?” Your tone is defensive, and you shift to take a masking nibble on your straw, slurping the dregs of your soda and bouncing your leg nervously under the table.
Your friend merely raises an eyebrow, with a healthy -and not entirely unfounded- scepticism, and so, you try to rein your protestations in, lest you get slammed with a “methinks you doth protest too much”.
“Okay, okay,” Jaz concedes, holding up her hands and leaning back in her chair. “All I’m saying is, it seems like you have a hard-on for him all of a sudden. You’ve lived by him for years and you’ve never noticed the guy! It’s just stamps, baby cakes. It’s just your paunchy, kindly neighbour, who gets milkshake stuck in his moustache.”
At least he’s not afraid to make a mess of himself when he’s slurping, you think idly, your eyebrow ticking up - the thought leading you in a very particular direction and sending a sudden scorching heat to your cheeks. Also - paunchy? I like a beautiful soft tummy to rest my head on, thank you very much.
Yeesh. You are not okay. Still, before you go full feral, you shrug your shoulders in partial concession, widening your eyes in innocence. “Uh huh. Sure. Yeah.” 
“Seriously?” Jaz continues, shaking her head in good-natured disbelief - blatantly seeing right through you. “Are stamps your love language now, or what the fuck?”
She’s not wrong. It is very… sudden. You’ve never felt that way about Richard before. But is it so preposterous to think you might begin to?
“Jeez! Who said anything about love?!” You swirl your straw in your cup, concentrating on puncturing the remaining bubbles and ignoring your friend’s peals of bemused laughter. “Look, okay? I guess you’re right, Jaz. Maybe I’m just dick-starved,” you suggest, a smile finally claiming your lips. “It has been… a little while. And the last encounter was not very... inspiring.” You wiggle your eyebrows at her and your shared laughter mingles in the space between you. Still, you’re more than a little keen to deflect, and you bounce your foot more furiously under the table in your haste to change the subject. “I just thought it was sweet of him, that’s all, but… forget it, okay? Tell me everything about your hot date with Jackson.”
As soon as the invitation is given, Jaz jumps on it. And, as you listen to her spill the tea on her latest hook-ups with her fancy man, you try really hard to focus - but you can’t help that your thoughts keep wandering time and again to a certain man. A man with the kindest, most soulful cola-coloured eyes. Your neighbour to the right.  
You’re unsure why, but you feel a little bent out of shape - a little annoyed, even- that Jaz was so quick to dismiss Richard. Particularly that she had seemed to miss the whole meaning behind his small gesture. He was listening to you. He was thinking about you. And, as you dwell further on it, you realise that maybe -just maybe- you want the kind of guy who brings you stamps, goddammit.
Shit - maybe Jaz wasn’t too far off when she said stamps were your love language after all.
And, true, maybe you hadn’t paid the faintest bit of romantic attention to Richard -for the most part- in the years you’d lived side-by-side with him... but maybe it was time to start. Maybe, in fact, it was well overdue.
***
Granted, it hadn’t struck you right away how sweet Richard’s gesture was, but as soon as it had, you started to notice everything. To remember everything.
You remembered how he pushed a flyer through your door one evening, just in case you might be interested in the latest art exhibit going on at the local rec centre. You recalled how he had duct-taped the handle of your garbage can back together after it spectacularly broke one morning, causing your trash to spill over the sidewalk. It hadn’t seemed like a huge thing at the time, but now, as you imagine him painstakingly unfurling the roll and passing it around and around the broken piece, entirely on his own steam, it takes on a new meaning.
You have begun to notice - really notice- how he always smiles and stops to chat to you, his face lighting up as if he is genuinely pleased to see you. You have begun to notice everything he has done for you, over the years, a deluge of kindness flooding your heart. Details -little things- which seemed insignificant at the time, but which weigh heavier than gold now that you reflect on them.
And, most of all, you have noticed him.
Richard.
You have noticed his positivity. That bounce he gets in his step when he’s enthusiastic about something (which is always). The way his expressive, long-lashed eyes reveal everything he’s feeling whenever he talks or listens - his emotions and his compassionate heart pinned firmly on his sleeve, as prominent as his Corrections Officer badge. You notice how handsome he is; a fact which has inexplicably passed you by for the longest time. Perhaps, because of how understated he is? Not cocky and assured and alpha like the guys you’re usually drawn to.
Tonight, though, most of all, you are noticing that he’s not home, as you sit on your front porch steps, entirely locked out of your own house. You know for a fact that a couple of neighbours have spotted you there - you’ve observed pairs of curtains twitching- and yet no-one has come to your aid so far, mean bastards. You know, in contrast, that Richard would help anyone who needed it, without hesitation. And, it’s fair to say that sitting here, waiting for him to return and help you out, is certainly providing you plenty of opportunity to dwell on thoughts of him. In fact, you can’t wait for him to get home; not only because you wish for relief from the elements, no. But because the thought of seeing him actually excites you. You are looking forward to it.
Finally, thankfully, after the evening chill has long begun to bite at your extremities, you see Richard approaching. He whistles a jaunty tune as he comes up his drive, happy as usual. From his silhouette, you note that he’s dressed in a short-sleeved shirt and his usual ill-fitting jeans, his keys already jangling in his hand, and he stops abruptly when he sees you sat out front as though his feet are glued to the floor.
You can just about make out the smile which tugs at his lips, moments before his words do. He always seems happy to see you, and, on this occasion, you echo that feeling too, more so than ever. “Locked out?” he calls, and at the sound of his voice you stand, hopefully, clasping your purse on your shoulder, your own feet glued to the floor too.
“Yeah,” you call, throwing your voice over to him. “Waiting for the locksmith.”
You grip the strap of your purse a little tighter, as Richard takes a few steps closer, a polite but cautious smile lighting his face. “Want to wait inside?”
“Hell yes,” you gush with a relieved exhale of breath, gratefully trotting around to meet him on his porch where the security light bathes him in a halo of orange. “You’re a babe. Thank you, Richard.” You allow your eyes to gently rove over him as you approach. He’s wearing a turquoise bowling shirt, you realise. A bowling shirt with “Alonso Muñoz” stitched in an adorable flourish of red embroidery above the left shirt pocket. What’s more, he looks cute as all hell in it too. You seem to recall he’s in a casual league with some buddies.
“It’s no trouble,” he says with a warm, disarming smile, deep, pleasing creases radiating from around his eyes – and, even though you aren’t usually one to be lost for words, it is all you can do to smile back at him vacantly, clutching your purse strap tight enough that your knuckles strain.
Richard pauses too, seemingly taking a moment to remember the keys bunched and readied in his hand - as though your presence has pushed all other thoughts out of his head. “You must be cold. Let’s get you warmed up,” he says finally, snapping himself out of his stupor.
Yes please.
And so, with a bashful flutter of his long lashes as you shuffle even closer to him, Richard opens the door and guides you inside, hover-handing his palm at the small of your back.
He smiles widely as he is welcomed by his little fur ball, Lady, the white dog yipping and wagging and jumping up at his shins. Richard stoops to bundle her into his arms, the animal rasping its tongue over his shapely jaw, which he raises as he squirms away from the wet, eager kisses.
“Aw, you’re so precious, Lady,” you baby-talk, reaching out to apply fond scritches to the mop of her head. “I forget how cute you are, little bean!”
Richard chuckles with mirth, seemingly warmed by your sweet interaction with his pupper, and only when Lady gets restless in his arms does he set about plopping her down and refilling her food bowl.
“Please, make yourself at home,” Richard offers, before he briefly excuses himself, dipping away into another room and signalling he’ll be right back.
With Richard gone and Lady chowing down on her dried food, you take the opportunity to glance around the place, surprised by how at home you do feel, already, even though you’ve never set foot in here before. You’ve been in his yard before; for example, when he’s hosted block barbeques, or, when the summer sun has withered from your yard, you’ve sometimes shimmied your deck chair to be side by side with his as you languished together in the remaining patch of sun. But you’ve never been inside his home. Now that you are, you drink in the details of him, eager for any new information you can glean, and scanning over the books and paintings and photographs with particular interest. You smile as your eyes fall upon Lady’s bed, filled with a procession of carefully arranged stuffed animals and chew toys.  You are warmed by the painting of a beachy, mountain-edged, palm-fronded sunset, propped against the ‘sill.
You note that his place is homely and well-tended, and you also can’t help but notice that the place signals a rather solitary existence. One plate and one fork drying on the dish rack. A perfectly placed easy chair -for one- in front of the TV, the small couch to its side covered with stacks of books and papers, as if it has been a while since he entertained a guest. In fact, you would take a seat -make yourself at home- but you don’t want to intrude on His Seat, and nor do you wish to disturb his personal papers to clear the couch.
As you ponder this, Richard re-enters, extending a soft, flannel shirt towards you. “Here. In case you’re cold.”
You smile your thanks to him (grinning like a dumbass, actually) and you gratefully slip the garment over your shoulders, feeling instantly warmed. As you wrap it around yourself, you get a waft of fresh-scented detergent. You would never have guessed that you’d be able to recognise any particular Richard-y scent, but as the shirt’s pleasant odour engulfs you, you realise it is infinitely familiar. That it is wildly comforting.
You watch, a brief moment of awkwardness as Richard self-consciously combs his fingers through his thick moustache; sweeps a hand over his already immaculate, plastered-down curls. He looks so... neat. Controlled. Restrained. It crosses your mind that you’d like to mess him up a bit, see him come undone - of course, if he wanted.
Then, noticing your seating predicament, Richard surges over to gather up the strewn piles of mess, shifting them on to the coffee table instead. “Here, take a seat,” he indicates. “Sorry for the mess- I emptied the bureau looking for the stamps. Please. Every time I think to put it back I get distracted.”
His comment is nonchalant, but for the second time since he arrived home, you are at a loss for words, and you can only stare at him as you sink your ass down, gratefully, on to the now emptied couch. He’d gone to that effort for you? And now he’s apologising right to your face for the mess of it?
“That was kind of you, Richard,” you state, finding words again, and he shuffles nervously from shoe to shoe in response. You note that his brown skin grows increasingly flushed, with a deepening undertone of crimson as his eyes skim cautiously over you. “And thank you for letting me hang here. Promise I’ll be out of your hair soon. The locksmith should only be...” You suck in air through your teeth as you un-pocket your cell and glance at the time. “Yikes. Another hour. I’m so sorry to get in the way.”
His moustache twitches with a shy smile, his hand rubbing the back of his neck as he looks at you from beneath his lashes, his eyes all big and pretty. He certainly doesn’t look put-out, at least. “Not at all - it’s… really nice to have you here,” Richard insists, polite and sincere as ever. You are the one to feel bashful now, and you tug his shirt more firmly around your shoulders for comfort, the act serving to further fluster you and entrance him, it seems. He seems frozen to the spot again, and meanwhile, you’re now feeling overly warmed.
He looks a little lost, for a moment, as though it’s been so long since he had a visitor that he doesn’t quite know what to do with you. In the next second though, his practiced hospitality kicks in, his warm and affable nature shining through as he determines a course of action. “Have you eaten? I could fix you some dinner.”
You are hungry, you think, your tongue darting out along your bottom lip at the thought of food. Well, if he’s going to feed you, you’re not letting him do all the work -you decide- so you tentatively rise from your seat, clapping your palms together, signifying action. “Only if I can help you?”
“O- okay. Yeah. Thank you,” he nods; then, he comes to stand with his hands on his hips, thumbs to the front, causing his soft, rounded belly to protrude exaggeratedly from under his shirt. You’re not sure why that sends a very subtle flare of heat down between your legs, but it does all the same.
Meanwhile, oblivious to your thirsty inner monologue, Richard looks at you reservedly, until you smile and cross together to the humble kitchen, where, with another bashful flutter of his lashes he begins grabbing out utensils and ingredients. All the while, he moves seamlessly around you, so careful never to touch or to invade your personal space. The pronounced and careful lack of contact makes you realise, however -as he skims his body so close yet so far from yours in the compact space- that maybe you desperately want him to touch you. That you wouldn’t mind if his hand brushed your back, or lower. That maybe having him envelop his arms around you would feel as warm and comforting as his shirt – or even more so. That even, perhaps, if he pressed you from behind into the counter, his soft stomach leading, followed by his wide hips pinning you in place, his moustache grazing up the column of your neck, that you wouldn’t mind at all. In fact, the thought of his touch, and even the mere potential of it, fills you with an excited buzz deep in your belly. A thrill that you haven’t felt for a long time – at least, not quite like this.
Right now, though, you set these thoughts aside to focus on the task at hand. You move around each other a little awkwardly, but thankfully, the conversation flows far more easily than your bodies. Richard’s shy and gentle, but he’s friendly. Inquisitive and interesting, and he keeps you chatting. And, so, you converse and cook together, until the resulting, homely odours waft into your nose, keeping your mind firmly on your much more literal hunger; at least, for the most part.
When the steaming food is plated up, Richard invites you to take a seat on the couch and you oblige, watching him fondly and with interest as he produces various condiments, a bottle of Mr. Chimi’s Churri sauce taking pride of place on the surface in front of you. You add a healthy dollop.
“Mmm, this is so good, thank you,” you say approvingly when he invites you to dig in, eagerly wolfing down forkfuls.
As soon as Richard has plonked himself down in his chair and balanced his own plate on his lap, he flicks on the TV – likely, more out of habit than anything. A vibrant telenovela sparks to life in the background, a particularly melodramatic scene in full swing. You smile to yourself. You recognise the show - you’ve heard him talk about it too. Even get the impression he watches religiously.
Richard’s eyes fix on the screen for a moment, and he is visibly suckered-in by the unfolding plot, his food disappearing at an impressive rate as he scoops it up to his mouth while he watches. Still, he doesn’t forget you’re there. Quite the contrary.
“It’s so sad,” he explains for your benefit, between his mouthfuls of dinner, his eyes overflowing with warmth as he turns to you. “Carlos and Adela are so in love, but they can’t be together. She’s engaged to Luis. She has to stay with him to save the family home because she already signed some papers.”
You smile, Richard’s heartfelt summary filling you with warmth. He cares about people. It’s what he does. Apparently, he’s even invested in the fictional ones. You try hard to supress your good-natured amusement at quite how invested he is; however, when his gaze meets yours once again, flicking back and forth between you and the screen, he must catch a hint of it in your expression. “Sorry,” he flusters. “I can turn this off, if you like?” he offers gently, eyes apologetic.
“Are you kidding?” you respond, with a warm smile. You’re no stranger to becoming over-invested in fiction, you suppose, and besides - you like the prospect of sharing this with him. “Catch me up some more,” you encourage. “So, we’re rooting for Carlos?”
Richard smiles gratefully, nodding vigorously in response. You like seeing him like this. In his own element, his own environment, doing things he typically enjoys. It’s nice to see him living his best life, thriving on the drama of the trope-laden plot. “I hope Carlos crashes the wedding. Luis doesn’t deserve her.”
“Yikes. You’re brutal, Alonso Muñoz,” you tease, a musical laugh lilting out of you.
You chat back and forth, an amused smile twitching at the corner of your mouth for the duration, and although Richard seems somewhat entranced by the developing storyline, he seems even more invested in you. He makes sure to listen to you, even when you’re sure you must be talking over an important detail. He ensures he fills you in on any prior plot point you may need for context.
And, while his eyes do intermittently flick back toward the screen, your eyes, however, remain firmly fixed on him. On the singular swoop of his meticulously parted, grizzled curls. On his long lashes blinking, his deep eyes shining beneath them, glinting in tandem with the light from the screen. His warm, brown skin and the lines etched in it when he smiles cast with a bluish hue, flickering light and shadow ghosting over the contours of his strong nose and chin and his heavy brow. The soft, inviting rolls of his stomach as he relaxes into his chair, and the way his belly shakes when he laughs. Of course, his glorious moustache, positively flourishing on his upper lip. Last but not least, what most gets you though, are his eyes. Eyes as kind and expressive and open as this sweet man’s heart is.
You laugh alongside him, hoping he is enjoying the company as much as you are. You could get used to this, you think; used to him. Indeed, you have no idea how you have managed to overlook this man, beautiful inside and out, until now. You resolve though, that you won’t make that same mistake again.
Eventually, the credits roll, and you thank Richard once more for the food. He carries your plate over to the sink, insisting -when you offer- that the dishes can languish there for one night. And so, instead of rising, you pat the couch cushion beside you invitingly. His throat bobs around a hard swallow as he stands before you, his feet momentarily glued to the floor; yet again. When Richard finally musters movement and takes a seat next to you, he places himself as far away from you as he possibly can on the small two-seater; out of respect rather than repulsion, you are more than sure. However, the compact space affords him little chance to keep his distance, and his clothed thigh presses warm against your own. He doesn’t make any attempt to move away though, and, equally, nor do you.
“Thank you, Richard,” you say, your voice softer and far more breathy than you intended, now that he is so close to you.
He clears his throat self-consciously, before his eyes crease with a sincere smile. “It’s no trouble. Anytime.” He sounds like he means it too.
You lean back, settling yourself deeper into the worn and slightly lumpy couch cushions. His posture, meanwhile, is still alarmingly stiff beside you, his torso upright and his hands folded formally in his lap. If you had to hazard a guess, you’d say that, perhaps, you made him nervous.
“Richard, I don’t bite,” you soothe. “Sit back. Relax. It’s your home.”
He nods in concession, exhaling his tensely held breath. “Yes, Ma’am,” he sounds obediently. You don’t think you’ve ever had anyone call you Ma’am before; but you note that you don’t entirely mind it, out of Richard’s mouth. You maybe even… like it?
Anyway, outside of your increasingly feral internal monologue, Richard reaches over to flick on the soft, ambient lamp to his side -the room having grown thick with shadows- and then he is sinking back, resting his head against the couch cushions alongside you.
You turn your head and tilt your torso a little towards him. When Richard does the same, it evokes a sense of intimacy that you weren’t all the way prepared for; the rest of the room seems to disappear as you are both held in a close circle of oranged light, the TV nothing but a lulling, background hum now. “I mean it... I... I wanted to thank you properly. For the stamps.”
“It’s no trouble,” he repeats, his voice deep and resonant and close now, catching you off-guard. No trouble? Sure. Despite the fact he’d clearly emptied-out everything in his living room to find them. “Did you send your letters?” he enquires softly, his eyebrows jumping up a little.
You can’t supress the bittersweet smile which inches over your face as you respond. “I did, and I got the cutest video call from my nieces when their mail arrived.” That wouldn’t have happened. Not without him being so thoughtful. You’d have put it off and put it off. The letters would still be sat on your dresser.  
Richard’s eyes light, and he looks genuinely pleased for you, his face glowing. “I’m glad.” He smiles, revealing a flash of his cute, ever so slightly imperfect (and therefore entirely perfect) teeth. Finally beginning to relax again, his hands rest flat astride his sturdy thighs and his head lolls towards you. With his next words, his voice becomes even softer. “I can tell you miss them since they moved away. Portland, right? I, uh. I really hoped you would send those letters. I know how much they can mean to people.”
“Portland. Yeah. Wow, you remember that?” You have to admit that you are a little shocked. Richard listened to you. Really listened to you. And, not only that, but he clearly read between the lines, connecting the dots between each one of your ad hoc interactions in a way which you -apparently- had failed to do thus far.
Jaz would scoff at you right now, you know it, if she could see you becoming all shy and flustered for him.
And now you want to fuck him?
But it wasn’t only that he brought you the stamps, okay? It was why he did it. He did it, because he knew what it might mean for you. Because, evidently, not only did he notice that you were sad -about something you barely let yourself acknowledge, by the way- but he also cared enough to try to make you happy instead.
The realisation that he cares is an emotional thing, causing a slight lump to rise in your throat. It should probably make you happy, but in fact, it saddens you. It saddens you because -you realise now- you have taken for granted all this time how easy Richard is to talk to. Have taken for granted the way he has been privy to so many candid details about your life.
Richard has often been the first person you’ve spoken to when you arrived home -sometimes the only person- and you have never hesitated to share your good news and triumphs with him. Nor have you hesitated to vent, sharing the more difficult details of your bad days. You’ve taken for granted just how much of yourself you’ve cumulatively shared with him; in a way you don’t often share with anyone else. Richard has been an important part of your life all these years, without you truly realising it. Perhaps because your interactions with him have tended to exist in such a liminal, peculiar space in your day. Perhaps because you were too close to see the big picture, instead of this collection of valuable, little things.
You hug your arms around yourself. You can merely repeat it again. “Thank you. For real.”
“It’s just a little thing,” he dismisses, modestly, and you are very suddenly tired of him dismissing himself. You want him to know how appreciated he is. Embodying this, your hand darts out to grip his where it rests on his thigh, and Richard looks down at this small spectacle in mild shock; and yet, he doesn’t pull away from your touch.
“It’s not. It’s a lot of things, Richard. I want you to know I appreciate everything you do. It has... It has been a long time since anyone was so sweet to me.”
Feeling self-conscious suddenly, following your outburst of affection, you inch your hand away from his; retreating, and reining yourself back in. For a moment, Richard’s fingers twitch up from his pant leg as though they might chase yours; but then, his hand stills, settled on his thigh just as before.
Then, a crease appears at his brow. “None of your Adonises are sweet to you?”
Your nose crinkles in confusion. “My... Adonises?”
“The... your... gentlemen visitors.”
Your brow creases, as you try to detect whether there is any judgement or malice in his observation, but, knowing him, you are not inclined to think there is. Still, you feel there is more to uncover. He’s noticed your dates coming and going then? He thinks they’re… Adonises? He’s surprised they aren’t sweet to you?
Still, as soon as the words are out of his mouth, perhaps realising how they might be misinterpreted, that crimson undertone to his skin flares again, this time reaching all the way to the tips of his ears. He looks like he wants the couch to swallow him up, and you can’t help but feel for him. “I just meant...”
“-It’s okay,” you say, swooping in to rescue him before he can start helplessly blabbering. He keenly takes the invitation to stop, his mouth suddenly clamping shut, ready to listen. And you? You are ready to talk. The words seem to come so easily around him. “I guess... you’re right. I’ve been on some dates but they...” you sigh, furrowing your brow as you try to find the words. “That’s all fine. Most of the time it’s really fun. Or it was. But... lately...”
“Lately?” Richard encourages, when you don’t go on, his voice barely above a whisper as he hangs on your every word.
“Lately, I think… That maybe it would be nice to have somebody who doesn’t just come and go. To have… somebody to love, I guess?”
“Somebody to love,” Richard ponders, his expression becoming wistful. His head begins moving up and down ever so slowly, gradually building to a more adamant nod. He smiles, but his eyes don’t crease at the corners this time. “That really does sound nice.”
It shocks you, but seeing him even a little sad, like that, has your hands fisting in the material of your skirt, as you resist the urge to reach out for him and offer comfort. You want to cup his face in your hand and kiss him senseless, until his eyes glow once more, imbued with his characteristic positivity. You want to care for him and protect him and make him laugh and spend time with him and…
Fuck.
You want to love him, you realise, and the thought scares you down to your bones. It scares you enough that you sit forwards, breaking this most peculiar tension. Changing the topic. And, abrupt as it may be, at least it works.
“What are you reading?” you ask, shrugging his shirt from your shoulders as a hot, cloying flush creeps along your skin and up your neck, prickly enough that it feels like fingertips. As you imagine Richard’s fingers dancing the same path over your bare shoulder blade, slipping beneath the spaghetti strap of your top, peeling it down, you hurriedly pick up the first book you can put your hands on, turning it in your palms without taking in a word written on it.
Poor Richard. You must be giving the sweet man whiplash.
Still, he leans forward in his seat too, sombrely taking the book from your hands and gazing down at the cover.
“Ah. It’s a bleak topic,” he warns. A deep crease appears in his brow. “It’s Night, by Elie Wiesel – a survivor’s account of his experiences during the Holocaust.”
Your expression turns grave and pinched and you nod, listening carefully as Richard recounts some of the key details. Then, together, you continue to pore through the pile, tackling each book in turn. You listen intently to Richard recount the various synopses, passionate and precise and sensitive in his summaries. It seems he reads a lot of non-fiction. Heavy reading, with many titles about the prison system, and atrocities - often both. But, you understand why it’s important to him. You are grateful to understand how his empathetic nature begets yet more empathy, as he seeks to expand his knowledge of experiences and histories different to his own. 
At first sight, you think it’s seemingly at odds that such a positive man seeks out such dark accounts, but it makes sense to you, in a strange way. After all, he wants to understand how things can be better. He believes they can be. You don’t know anything more Richard-y than that.
Reaching for the next title, you find it is a little different to the rest. You are reluctant to segue too abruptly from such heavy topics, keen to give them the merit they deserve, but at the same time you are grateful for a little lightness as you pick-up what appears to be a slightly trashy romance novel. You smile fondly, connecting the dots between this and the telenovela plotlines that seem to grab his attention; the way he seems so in love with love. Again, you consider how the two sides of him -the more serious and seemingly more trivial - may seem at odds, but that actually, they each reveal what is at the core of him. He is interested in people. He’s invested.
“And this book?” you ask tentatively, not even trying to stifle your smile as your eyes wander over the cover, two half-dressed people locked in an erotic, sordid embrace. You are especially keen to hear what he has to say about this one too.
“Well… Like you said. Somebody to love - right? Don’t we all need those kinds of stories?”
Your eyes glow with admiration. Whilst he’s not cocky or overly assured, no, you are coming to admire Richard’s quiet confidence in who he is and what he cares about. His integrity and his lack of embarrassment in the things he chooses to value. His delight and lack of shame in the things that he enjoys. He’s not afraid to be who he is. You think that’s wonderful.
Next, your eyes flick back to the final book on the pile, partly for completeness but also out of curiosity. You feel with each title you pick-up, you are learning something about him; and, frankly, you want to know everything there is to find out. You look at it with a start however, when you realise what the final book in the pile is.
It’s your book. It’s the anthology of poetry you’d self-published around a year ago, and sold at your local readings. You reach for it instantly, almost cradling it in your hands like a precious object. Not because it’s yours - not exactly- but because it’s his. His copy looks eminently different to the spares you still have boxed-up in your house, all fresh and crisp, spines unbroken. This one looks a little worn around the edges - well-thumbed, spine broken-in. Some of the pages are dog-eared, and various makeshift bookmarks are sticking out of it. You’ve never seen one of your publications looking so… beautiful. So treasured.
“You actually read this?” you ask, a little overwhelmed, your heart hammering, and tears spiking in your eyes.
“I read it often. I told you, I really like it!”
You stroke the cover with your palm. “Honestly? I thought you were just being polite.”
When you’d mentioned to him for the first time that you wrote poetry -specifically erotic poetry- and had invited him to the reading, Richard had looked, at first, as though he was ready to die of embarrassment. Regardless, he’d still come along - your only neighbour to have done so. You vaguely remember having spoken to him the day afterward about it, but when you think of the show itself, you can’t picture him there. Now, you desperately wrack your memory of the event, searching for him. Wishing you could recall him showing-up for you in such an important way. 
It had been such a blur, though. You’d had a lot of friends there. You’d had a date there, who, at the time, you’d thought was the be all and end all. Now, however, you curse yourself for overlooking Richard. You wish you could go back and root through the crowd for him. You wish you could bring him into the spotlight. Bring him into your arms. And yet, while you ponder all of this, Richard reaches for the book and gently lifts it from your hands, with a gentle hum. It practically falls open on one particular page.
“This one is my favourite,” he admits bashfully. “Salted Peach. I must have it almost memorised by now.” You turn to him, studying his face. His expressive eyes are full of a heat gentler and more nuanced than your words could ever hope to be, you think, as he pores over the page. Over your words.
“No way. Prove it, Alonso Muñoz,” you challenge, exhaling a laugh that is surprised and disbelieving and utterly delighted all at once.
You don’t expect him to take you up on it, but the man sets his face, both more determined and more playful than you think you have seen him so far, as he hands the book back to you. “Okay,” he smiles, softly. “I’ll give it a go.”
You hold your breath as his eyes flutter closed -so that you know he has zero chance of cheating- his long lashes fanning-out beautifully over his cheek. You take the chance to look over his handsome features, while he can’t interrupt your surreptitious study.
Then, he begins. His voice is hushed and unsure, yet the richness of it washes over you, right from the first line.
“Like salt kept on the lips,
To resist is to rust,” he begins, and your breath catches in your chest.
“Let me be an oiled thing under you, all fluid and opening smoothly
With keen, slick hinges.”
First, you are struck that he really does know it. That he really does remember it, almost word perfect. You exhale a breath in disbelief, your chest filling with butterflies.
“A ruined peach
Spilling nectar over your thumb,” he continues, and desire knots deep in your belly.
It’s not that the words are explicit – they aren’t. But something about the way he recites them -recounts your desire- makes them feel positively sinful, his voice quietly confident and subtly erotic as he recites your words. You don’t only hear the words, but you feel them, almost as if his thumb really has punctured you.
You are becoming slick already, feeling like a ruined, grateful fruit. You want to be his fruit, you think. His salted peach.
“You can be my stiffness
My joints
My... (my stone heart? Is that right?)” he interjects.
“It’s perfect,” you encourage, your voice trembling slightly, even as his grows ever more robust, and, as you bolster him, he sits a little taller in his seat, his posture proud and the new confidence reflected in his voice as he proceeds. As he grows, stiffer, taller, you become liquid, and you writhe your heat subtly against your seat. You press your thighs closer together.
Enraptured, you watch his lips and tongue move seamlessly around the words. The micro-expressions on his face, revealing how tenderly he wishes to portray them, every word imbued with care. With expression, and feeling.  
“(Got it...) My stone heart
And I, boneless;
Bodiless flesh.”
As he continues, you close your eyes too. You stop checking the words against the book and you let yourself feel them. You let them wash over you. You let his voice wash over you; to sink and curl into the pit of you. You squirm in place, and yet this shifting makes you all too aware of your stillness – this fixed position and distance from him, when surely you should be moving and surging and undulating on him? Surely you should be leaning in and hearing the deep yet gentle timbre of his words waft into the shell of your ear, or fanning over your skin?
Surely, he should be touching you?
Your heart is racing.
“Salt me, then.
Lick your lips and taste me; sweetly.”
You want to taste him. Be tasted.
“Only on your tongue, do I exist.
Only in your hand, do I perish.”
You want to exist and perish on his hand.  
“Do not keep me on your lips.
Oil me with your writhing”
You want to be swallowed by him. Oiled by him. Made slick.
“Or else I rust.”
You are rapt. His words -no, your words, spoken by him- melting you.
His voice. So rich, and so sensual, and you could swear, as you listen to him, that your words have never sounded so erotic. That you have never felt them as deeply as you do now, hearing them fall from his tongue and his lips. Hearing them flow from his heart, as he recites them in a way you’ve never heard them; an interpretation entirely unique to him.
In fact, listening to him, like this, lights a flame in the pit of you, a heat suffusing through you, warming everywhere. He warms you, even from this distance, and you can feel how much heat he has to give. And, on boy. You want to lap it up. Every. Last. Drop.
“I... I forgot the next part,” he adds, shyly, his confidence wavering, and you open your eyes, beginning to recite the rest for him.
“Oh, love,
I long to be a fluid thing;
Under you.”
It sounds… true. It feels right. It feels so right to say those words to him. So right that it knocks the air from out of you.
At the sound of your voice, you watch a soft, unfiltered smile appear on Richard’s face, his still-closed eyes creasing deliciously at the corners, his moustache animating with it.
“And yet you resist me; rust me,” you continue, voice full of fissures, and Richard’s eyes slowly peel open, pooling with heat. This time, unlike the other times his eyes have met yours, he holds your gaze - doesn’t drop his eyes from yours in a flurry of bashfulness and fluttered lashes. He holds your gaze and he holds you, in this moment. In this little circle of intimacy, his eyes glowing, all for you. Pooling with that heat, so nuanced and gentle, but every bit as hot as anything you’ve ever touched.
Your voice and your smile and your heart crack wide open as you continue.
“You are salt kept on my lips;”
You complete the last lines at the same time, eyes locked. 
“Always tempting.
I seize up.”
Of all the swimming emotions rising at that moment, gratitude balls in your heart most intensely, and yet again, it is all you can do to thrust it towards him, your humble offering.
“Thank you,” you say, for the nth time that evening, a smile of the purest joy still splitting your face. “That was really beautiful.”  
It’s hard to comprehend how moved you are by what just happened. You are shocked. Flattered. That someone appreciates your words, that they resonate at all, makes you feel so seen. That the person is Richard is more of a treasure than you can fathom, and it causes a flood of raw, reckless emotion, joyful tears brimming in your eyes.
In return, Richard’s eyes shine as he regards you, with an admiration so deep and yet prominent that you almost shrink back from it. “They’re your words,” he impresses, aiming, as ever, to shrink himself instead.
You shake your head. You won’t have that. “No, Richard - it’s the way you recited them. I swear you should do my next reading for me. You’re so…” You search desperately for the right words, and you can’t find ones any more fitting. “…So fucking beautiful.”
And you call yourself a poet?
Your eyes well up.
You feel entirely caught off guard and just a little silly that you are getting yourself upset in front of him, and yet Richard’s eyes narrow kindly as you try to scrub a stray tear away from your cheek. “Are you alright?” he asks, his voice soothing, and in the next breath he reaches out to touch you, his hand settling over the top of yours. The gesture is a little awkward, unsure, but only until his hand is in place. After that it simply feels... right. Perfect, in fact.
He strokes you, his thumb ghosting slowly, minutely over your pulse point, sending a delicious shiver along your spine. His eyes search yours, and you become thoroughly lost in the intensity of them. Lost in a way that you don’t ever wish to find yourself again. Lost in a way that turns everything on its head - has you finally feeling found.
“I loved hearing you read. It was so wonderful. You should definitely do another event,” Richard gushes. “I’m sure I could listen to you read from this all night.” With that, and the scenario it conjures, perhaps, he looks down at his hand on yours. Maybe growing self-conscious, or worried that he is overstepping; that he has lingered there too long. Suddenly, though, you don’t think any length of time could be too long for him to be touching you.
When your gaze drops to his lips, however, his moustache bristles, and he quickly snatches his hand back to his lap. “Have you written anything lately?” he asks hurriedly, scooping up the book again, his topic change giving off the same energy as yours did previously.
You wonder if he is imagining your fingers trailing over his bare flesh now too. You hope so. Oh how you hope.
At his question, though, you exhale a small laugh, pumping your eyebrows once as your face splits in a smile. You shake your head gently. “I haven’t been... it’s a while since I was, let’s say, properly inspired by an encounter,” you explain, looking down at your hands in your lap, missing his contact already. “I’m just... Hmmph. I don’t know. It’s just... missing something. Guess they don’t make Adonises like they used to,” you add flippantly, poking light fun, partly at yourself.
Contrary to your flippancy, Richard becomes more serious. A gulp trails down his throat, and he seems suddenly frozen in place; seized up. As if he needs you to oil him so that he doesn’t rust. “W-What are you missing?” he asks, his voice lower than you’ve heard it, slightly more grit to it. His chest visibly rising, breaths slightly quickened; just like yours.
You look into his deep, cola-coloured eyes.
You?
What are you missing? You’re not sure, but somehow you feel that whatever it is, Richard could give it to you in moments.
Still, you don’t answer. You can’t. Instead, you ask him a question in return. You ask him a question feeling that, somehow, in a roundabout way, both of your questions may arrive at precisely the same answer.
“Why that poem?” you question, softly, lifting your eyes to him. “Why is that one your favourite?”
“I... I think...” he swallows again, then he whets his plush lips with a flick of his pink tongue. “It’s about longing, isn’t it? About being... lonely? About... wanting... someone in particular.” He fixes his expressive eyes on a point on the table, unable to look at you, it seems, in that moment. Still, his words are telling enough alone, you think, even without you seeing that same sentiment mirrored in his eyes too.
Now, you have another question. “Do you ever... get lonely? Are you? Lonely?”
It’s not even an assumption about him, you vaguely realise. It’s a projection. A projection of how you feel, and how you never realised you felt. It’s a desperate plea for affinity. For that longing to be understood, finally.
You are the one who is rusted. Seized up.
However, as soon as the question is out of your mouth you wish you could retract it. Loneliness is a solitary thing, after all, and you have no business, you suppose, wading into anyone else’s.
“I’m so sorry, please don’t answer that,” you mutter quickly, your fingers darting out to ghost along his forearm in apology, your naturally tactile nature coming through.
He drops his gaze towards your fingers there, watching them skimming his warm skin and the soft, dark hairs on his arms. He doesn’t inch away. Instead, he lifts his eyes to you, and you know the answer before he says it aloud. You know the answer as his emotions are written clearly in his eyes. Worn on his sleeve, like his badge.
The weight of his loneliness crushes you as if it was your own.
“Me too,” you admit, nodding softly, and his mouth curls briefly into a small, sad smile as your fingers continue their slow inch across his skin.
He sits in that sadness for a moment, and then, tentatively, as a thought flashes across his eyes, he brightens, just a little – looking mildly more hopeful. “Well,” he suggests, bravely. “Maybe we can… keep each other company?”
That really does sound nice.
Slowly, ever so slowly, Richard reaches out to fumble away the single tear ever so suddenly coursing down your face, swiping a line on your cheek with the pad of his thumb, and you don’t think you’ve ever felt anything so tender as his touch in that moment. It is yet another little thing; like the graze of a match head along its box. A little act, charged, with all this dangerous potential for a much larger, blazing thing to ignite.
You nod, the corners of your mouth trembling. “I would like that.” You would like that a lot.
Richard searches your eyes, and, ever so slowly - always slowly- as if you don’t wish to scare him away, you dare to hook your arm into his at the elbow, and you lower your head until it is resting on top of his shoulder.
“Is – Is this okay, Richard?” you ask in a small voice, pleading inwardly with the universe that he will say yes. That it is.
“This is... perfect,” he responds, even as he remains stiff against you, and, given his affirmation, you curl and scooch your body, shuffling a little closer to him. Bolstered too, with seeming new-found confidence, Richard raises him arm over you, and he nestles you safely against him where you can better feel his warmth. Where, with your knees drawing up on to his lap and your ear coming to rest on his chest, you can feel and hear the quickened thud of his racing heart as he holds you. His beautiful, kind, open heart.
Your mouth extends in a watery smile as you are held by him. He’s right. It’s a little thing, but it is perfect, isn’t it?
Still, again, although you should feel light, you feel heavy. With emotion. With longing. And so, you reach for another topic change. You reach for lightness. “Has anyone ever told you that you have an incredibly impressive moustache?” you enquire into his shirt, another solitary tear slipping over the bridge of your nose and wetting the flourish of red stitching.
Giving yourself whiplash now, you smile, as Richard’s chest shakes beneath you with gentle, easy laughter.
“Well, not everybody is a fan.”
“Who would actually dare?” you exclaim, as if thoroughly scandalised. “Fuck them, Richard. I like it. I like it a lot.”
His fingers trace shapes on your back. “Thank you.”
You are pleased to feel him gradually relax against you, his form melding with yours, his body becoming less stiff. Less rusted; more of a fluid thing.
“Do you… do you have a little moustache comb?”
Another chuckle. “I do,” he confirms, and you don’t know why on earth that detail settles it, but you think that he must certainly be the most perfect man on earth.
You go silent for a moment, but Richard prompts you gently - “No more questions for me?”- as if he was enjoying your mood-lightening segue. You are more than happy to oblige the sweet man by continuing, and you chew on your lip as you come up with something.
“Are you on Tinder?” A cheeky smile claims your mouth again - you’d kill to see his profile.
You’d think about the fact he’d probably never send unsolicited dick pics, but… then you’d be thinking about dick pics, and that’s one dangerous road towards Feral Town.
While you ponder this, Richard laughs again, but it’s a little self-deprecating this time. “No... I... I was for a while, but I...”
“What?”
He inhales and sighs his whole breath out again - a sad sound. His tone when he speaks is equally morose. “I’m… not sure people are looking for someone like me.”
At that, you abruptly sit up, narrowing your eyes and fixing a determined, earnest stare on him. You reach up, gingerly, moved to cup his cheek with your palm, his groomed sideburn and the plume of his moustache pleasantly rough under your fingers. You make sure he is looking you in the eyes. “Richard,” you contest, with every scrap of sincerity you can muster; and then some. “I think everybody must be looking for somebody like you.” 
His eyes are pierced by a peculiar emotion you haven’t seen there yet. At first it looks like pain, but then it levels off until his eyes are shining, with something resembling pride or gratitude. When a smile finally twitches his moustache, your gaze drops to his lips again, and you are no longer surprised by how easy it is to think about kissing him, desire unfurling in your belly at an alarming rate. A palpable, mutual longing eddies in the space between you.
You surprise yourself though, by dipping to press a sweet, chaste kiss into his cheek, rather than sinking towards his lips as you so wish to do. When you perform this gesture, his eyes flutter closed, and he lets out a soft, involuntary hum, the sound gathering in your very bones and setting up camp there. As you dip back from him, the edge of his moustache grazes your cheek, and you have to admit it’s sort of electrifying. You imagine how it would tickle if you were kissed by him. How it would tickle wherever you were kissed.
The lines of poetry, so to speak, are writing themselves in your mind, already. You haven’t felt this inspired in a long time, and yet, on this occasion, you want to wait. You don’t want to rush it - even though you’ve never felt the need to quell your desires on many occasions before. Life is short, after all – too short to waste. However, something tells you that Richard is the type of man you should savour. Something tells you, that you may have found somebody to love, and, you may not love often; but when you do, you love slow.
So, you pull away from Richard, and you note that his eyes have fluttered closed. When he opens them again, you know that this kiss on the cheek was the right thing to do. You see subtle tears shining in his eyes. Again, he looks pained -with first appearances- but these tears, on second examination you think, are joyful. His heart joyful yet heavy, exactly like yours. After all, when you are overwhelmed with joy all at once, with a flood of little, happy things, it can weigh you down, at first, if the measure of joy is not one which you are quite accustomed to. If you are not practised at carrying it.
At that point, contemplating joy, you are ripped cruelly from the moment, as, with the worst and best possible timing, your phone buzzes to life, vibrating against your hip until you reach to fish out the insistent device.
“The locksmith is here, Richard. I have to go.”
“Y- yeah. Okay,” he nods, despite the fact everything about him is conveying the opposite sentiment.
I don’t want to go.
“Thank you so much.” 
He nods again, and, wanting to leave him with a parting thought (or, not wanting to leave him at all, but needs must), you have the bright idea to pick up your book from the table, thumbing through it quickly to find the page you want. A poem called The Flood.
“Recommended bedtime reading,” you wink, thrusting the book towards his chest and standing, grabbing your purse and making your way towards the door. “I can give you back your shirt tomorrow, right?” you say cheekily. “Maybe after dinner?” 
Richard stands too, following you towards the door like he’s magnetised to you, Lady trotting along too, inquisitively, her little black nose snuffling at the air.
“A-after dinner?” he enquires, confused, as you sweep out in a little bit of a whirlwind.
“Yeah, Richard,” you smile coyly from beneath your lashes, injecting some flirtation into your tone. “I owe you dinner. To make it up to you.”
“You don’t need to make it up to...”
You arch an eyebrow at him, looking at him pointedly and smoothing your hand over his upper arm until he gets the gist. When your meaning dawns on him, he gets that adorable, excited little spring in his step. You revel in his bright toothy smile, striking and pearly from beneath the thick brush of his moustache. “I know a nice little pasta place. And there’s a great documentary playing at the Coolidge if you want to catch it?”
“Sure,” you agree, dipping forward to plant another lingering kiss on his cheek in the doorway, relishing the feel of that moustache all over again. “It’s a date.” 
Evidently flustered, and in no bad way, Richard fumbles for words and finds none, omitting a mere collection of stunted syllables and unfinished sounds in response.
You wink at him, and before swooping off, you add one final thing. “Feel free to consider the bedtime reading a preview, okay? If you’d like.”
The corner of his mouth ticks up in disbelief. You get the feeling he already knows exactly what that particular poem is about. “Yes, ma’am.” he nods, looking sweetly and longingly and adoringly after you as you sashay away.
“Goodnight, neighbour to the right.”
“Goodnight, neighbour to the left.”
You allow yourself one last long look at him before you retreat, an unstoppable smile splitting your face, and, seeing him stood in the doorway, smiling after you, only cements everything you have come to learn this evening.
From now on, neither of you will be lonely anymore. There will be no more longing. Instead, there will be a flood, you think.
THE END
PART TWO IS HERE
222 notes · View notes
zaffrenotes · 6 months ago
Text
[TRR: WD103] Love is Patient
Fic Rating/Warnings: G; alcohol consumption, mild swearing Author’s Note: * Characters belong to Pixelberry, I’m just borrowing them * This is my submission for @wackydrabbles Prompt 103: Why did you say that? * I saw a prompt on another site that made the wheels in my head start spinning for reasons you'll understand once you see it ^ (included at the end) and came up with this; Kairos will resume with the next WD prompt * Word Count: 1980 (+/- 7 minutes reading time)
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The day had been outright miserable - the rain hadn’t let up overnight, so there was no sunshine to rouse Katrina, and she'd overslept for work. To save time, she utilized dry shampoo and a ballerina bun to disguise dirty hair, and rushed out of the apartment to catch the subway. She arrived at the office partially drenched from power walking down the sidewalk and getting splashed by pothole puddles, thanks to inconsiderate drivers.
After hours of sending emails and trying to complete impossible client demands, she finished another round of paper pushing and headed home, only to get stuck on the subway. During her short walk between the station and home, a gust of wind flipped her drugstore umbrella inside out and yanked it out of her hand, sending it rolling into the street, where it was shredded by oncoming traffic. She sprinted the rest of the way home, feeling utterly defeated as she leaned against the front door and fished for the house keys in her bag.
She dropped her things onto the ground after stepping inside, hanging up her dripping trench coat with care before slipping out of her shoes. “Oof, you look like you need a drink,” her roommate lamented.
“A strong one. And food,” Katrina sighed.
“I can do drinks, but food…” Daniel clicked his tongue. “How bad was today?”
“Level seven.”
“Sketchy tacos bad? You haven’t had a seven since—“
“I know,” Katrina said, waving a dismissive hand in the air, remembering an ex-boyfriend. “Plus those fried mac and cheese things from the diner that delivers. I need to change into dry clothes. Or shower. I’m not sure which.”
Daniel busied himself in the kitchen, filling the blender with fruit, ice, and liquor. “Go shower, I’ll order and food’ll be here by the time you’re done.”
Katrina trudged to the bathroom and began running a shower, peeling off her rain-soaked clothes. As the warm water trickled down her hair and skin, she slowly began to relax, imagining the stress from the day releasing itself from her muscles and disappearing down the drain. It was a momentary reprieve, but a welcome one.
Once she’d changed into her comfiest joggers, a worn-in college shirt, and thick socks, she rejoined Daniel in the living room. “Mmm, tacos,” she said, sniffing the air full of warm spices. She tossed her damp clothes into the dryer for a short cycle, picking up the margaritas Daniel had prepared in the kitchen, and sat next to him on the couch.
“So, what made today a seven?” Daniel asked, unwrapping his own bounty of Mexican food.
“Just…everything,” Katrina replied, taking a large sip of her drink. “Overslept, annoying clients, arguing over deadlines,” she added, pausing to take a bite from one of her tacos. She closed her eyes and sighed happily as the spicy beef mingled with tangy sour cream and crunchy lettuce. “Nearly got fired from butting heads with one of my bosses when I called him an asshat.”
“Why did you say that?” Daniel chuckled, and Katrina shrugged in response. “You could always come back and wait tables with me!”
Katrina shot him a warning look. “You shut your mouth!” She noticed a large, official looking envelope on the side table, next to a vase of fragrant pink peonies. “Those weren’t there when I got home.”
“Arrived for you while you were in the shower, postage looks European.”
“But I don’t know anyone in Europe,” Katrina mused, wiping her fingers clean. She looked over the envelope, flipping it over a few times; there was no return address. The front only included her address and a number of apple-themed stamps. She opened it carefully, pulling free a smaller ivory envelope made of thick paper. There was a burgundy and gold seal on the back with a lion’s head pressed into the wax. She pried the envelope open, taking care not to break the seal in half, and pulled out a long letter, scanning quickly over the ornate handwriting. “Oh. my. god,” she whispered.
“You win the lottery or something? Dead relative leave you their fortune?” Daniel picked up the envelope and jiggled it lightly; hearing something inside, he tilted it over the palm of his other hand until a plastic bracelet fell out. His brows scrunched together, confused. “Why does this spell out ‘husband’ in the beads?”
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Katrina was seven years old and having the best time of her life, running around a playground with her father and sister. They were waiting for her mother to finish giving a speech, so Killian brought Katrina and Josephine to Central Park for the afternoon. She saw her mother several yards away, talking with another woman accompanied by two young boys and a man that seemed to be watching all of them. She pointed them out to Killian before running over to greet her mother. “Mommy! We've all been waiting for you, now we can have fun at the park!”
Annika smiled down at her. “Mommy could use a bench to rest for a minute,” she teased. “Sweetie, say hello Miss Eleanor and her sons, Leo and Liam.”
The woman with Katrina’s mother crouched down a few inches and held out her hand. Katrina extended her hand with a shy smile. “It’s a pleasure to meet you, Katrina. My name is Eleanor. I wonder, how old are you?”
“I turned seven this year!”
“That’s close to Liam’s age,” she smiled back. The younger boy peeked out from behind his mother to wave. “Perhaps the two of you could play together while your mother rests her feet for a moment?” She glanced over her shoulder to the older, blonde boy who was kicking pebbles off the pathway. “Stay within sight please, Leo. You needn’t play with Liam but look out for him.”
“Yes, Mother,” Leo answered, before looking at Liam and Katrina with an impish grin. “Who wants to go as high as they can on those swings over there?”
The three of them ran over to the swings while their mothers walked to a nearby bench to rest. Katrina and Liam exchanged greetings as they ran to the swingset, where they had a competition to see who could swing highest. Leo gave them encouraging pushes, and soon they were laughing and squealing with delight.
The afternoon changed to early evening as Katrina’s parents continued talking with Eleanor. Leo alternated between attempting to skip rocks across the surface of a nearby pond and searching for a suitable sword stick, while Katrina and Liam made up games centered on some version of tag. In between rounds, she learned that Liam’s family was in New York for a conference; the same conference where Katrina’s mother gave a presentation on health initiatives. She thought Liam was very sweet. They talked about their favorite books and desserts, and Liam asked if she had a favorite flower.
“Peonies,” Katrina answered. “Big, ruffly, fluffy pink ones. We have some in the front garden and they’re the prettiest ones on the block. My daddy planted them for my mommy when they got married.”
“My mother loves flowers too,” Liam said. “We like to visit gardens all the time at home. I’d plant peonies for you, if we got married.”
“We can’t get married now, that’s for when we’re grownups!”
“That’s alright, I don’t have a ring for you anyway,” Liam replied.
“I have something!” Katrina hopped up and dusted off the front of her dress, rushing off towards their parents. She was met with bewildered smiles from the adults, minus the quiet man with Eleanor, while she beelined for the backpack her father had packed. Tiny fingers rummaged past coloring books and half a peanut butter sandwich until she brandished her treasure in the air and began sorting through the jewel-colored beads. The tip of her tongue peeked out of the corner of her mouth as she concentrated on stringing beads onto a short length of elastic, pausing to look up at her parents. “How do you spell ‘husband’?”
All the adults eyed each other curiously. Annika dared to break the silence. “Why do you need to know, sweetheart?”
“Liam and I are getting married and we don’t have rings.”
After a short burst of giggles, Annika helped Katrina find the beads to spell out “husband” on one bracelet, and “wife” on another. Once they were ready, the parents played along, heading over to the swingset. Eleanor stood under the swingset as a makeshift altar, Liam standing in front of her, with Leo nearby, rolling his eyes and shaking his head. Killian walked with Katrina, muttering to his wife that it was far too soon to be giving away his baby girl.
“We’re gathered here today to join Liam and Katrina in matrimony, proving that the innocence of love can bloom within moments upon meeting,” Eleanor began. “May their union be blessed with nothing but happiness.” She looked down at the pair of them. “Do you have any vows you’d like to make today?”
“What are vows?” Katrina asked.
“They’re like promises,” Eleanor explained. “Special promises you make to the person you marry.”
“I promise to plant peonies every year we’re married, and give you roses on your birthday,” Liam replied, smiling proudly.
“I promise to let you eat baklava for dessert every day,” Katrina giggled.
“I promise…to tell you I love you.” Liam looked up at his mother. “You and Father do that every night, right?”
“We do,” Eleanor affirmed. “Any other promises? Perhaps to be kind to each other, or patient?”
Liam nodded. “I promise to be kind to you, even when you swing higher than I can.”
“I promise to be kind to you too.”
Katrina and Liam exchanged the bracelets she’d made, and Eleanor said something in a language she didn’t recognize. She had Liam and Katrina hold hands and walk around the swingset together before declaring them husband and wife. “You may kiss your bride!” She chuckled, wiping away a stray tear.
Liam kissed Katrina on the cheek, and then she gently swatted his arm to start a game of tag. Their families eventually parted ways as the sun began to set, and she waved goodbye to the sweet boy with a kind smile.
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Katrina stared at the bracelet, thumb running over the small black and white beads that spelled out ‘husband’. She couldn’t believe her eyes; none of it made sense. She couldn’t recall Liam saying anything about his heritage that day in the park. “Kay,” Daniel said, lightly shaking her shoulder. “What does that letter say?”
She handed the letter over to Daniel to let him read it for himself. He let out a gasp as she spoke, reaching for the envelope to find airline tickets. “It’s a summons to go to Cordonia,” she answered flatly. “I met a boy in the park when I was seven and married him, we exchanged bracelets I made because we didn’t have rings. Apparently he’s the new heir to the throne, but there’s some rule that he has to be married before he can become king.”
“It says there were witnesses that prove your wedding was valid?”
“My parents were there. His mom and brother were there too.”
“And he knew to send you peonies?”
“They’re my favorite,” she replied. “He asked me the day we met,” she paused, letting out a stifled laugh, “and included them in his vows.”
“Kaaaay, you should definitely give this a shot,” Daniel murmured, leaning towards her to show her the image of a striking young man on his phone screen. “Look at him!”
Katrina looked at the slightly pixelated photo of the man on the screen; he certainly looked like an adult version of the sweet boy she met in the park. “Well,” she began, tapping her index finger over her lips. “There are two tickets here. What could it hurt?”
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^ Secondary Prompt: when you were 7, you held a fake wedding by the swings with a kid you met in the park. you never saw your childhood “spouse” again after that day. today you received a letter summoning you to a foreign country…where your wedding to the heir to the throne 20 years ago is seen as valid.
Using my permatags here, but if I expand on this story and you'd like to be tagged for updates, please let me know - thank you for reading 💙💙💙@ao719 @blackcatkita @debramcg1106 @neotericthemis @ofpixelsandscribbles @smalltalk88 @aestheticartsx @bbrandy2002 @burnsoslow @choiceskatie @darley1101 @dcbbw @gardeningourmet @iplaydrake @liamxs-world @rainbowsinthestorm @riseandshinelittleblossom @superharriet @texaskitten30 @theroyalheirshadowhunter @the-soot-sprite
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skeptiquewrites · 6 months ago
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From the enemies to lovers prompts, would you like to write this one?
you're laying next to your enemy in bed, pulling a weapon from their pants, throwing it to the ground before rolling on top of them
Sure, here you go, anon. Hope you like it. Thank you to @onbeinganangel for looking this over. Back-Up Plan (484 words), cw: weapons, violence “I thought they’d get somewhere nicer with you here,” Draco said. Harry had been thinking the same.
The Ministry put Harry and Draco in the same safe house, a rotting pile the size of a postage stamp with one double bed at three o’clock in the fucking morning with nothing more than a note that said to wait. Wait until when? Wait for what? Why?
“Shut up,” Harry growled. The emergency alarm had roused Harry from his sleep and he was still in his pyjamas when the Portkey activated.
Draco wore black jeans, a black tee and an overrobe. He had clearly been out, no doubt trawling the streets for cock or casual arson or whatever he did when the Ministry wasn’t employing him to solve thorny ethical issues at the end of his wand. It was an old argument; Harry hated the idea and Draco told him he was charmingly naïve for thinking better of the institution.
“Make me,” Draco said, stepping closer. Before Draco could raise his wand, Harry caught Draco’s hand firmly and threw it on the nightstand. Unsettlingly, he knew Draco must have let him.
“No weapons. Don’t make things worse than they have to be,” Harry said. Draco cocked his head to one side as if weighing his options.
“Of course,” Draco said evenly. “Whatever you say.”
By some unspoken agreement, they both got into bed. Draco stripped off his outer layer of clothes. They lay next to each other, Draco’s breaths a familiar pattern. Close. Not closer than they’d ever been, but Harry tried not to think about that. They slept then, a fitful few hours and awoke before dawn.
“I know what you’re thinking,” Draco said into the darkness. His voice was edged with something slumbersome, dangerous, alluring.
“You really don’t if you’re still speaking,” Harry shot back. He could feel Draco’s weight shifting on the mattress.
“Respect is reciprocal, Harry,” Draco said.
“Funny. I would bet money you have weapons in this bed, despite me asking you not to,” Harry said.
Harry was quick then, plunging a hand into Draco’s sleep-warm pockets and tossing out a knife from each one, letting them clatter onto the floor. Harry rolled on top of him, like they were about to tussle. They could have. Harry could hit him. But Draco was perfectly still beneath him, mouth slightly open. At least Harry knew by now that the anger was secondary here.
“I must have forgotten,” Draco said, with all the wide-eyed innocence he’d never had. Why did Harry’s blood stir for him and not someone less complicated? Someone who didn’t think everything was a joke or a game or a power struggle?
“I know what you’re always thinking about,” Harry said. He bent and kissed him then, a thorough claim even though they both should know better by now. A shuddery gasp into Harry's mouth and Draco deepened the kiss.
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wildflower-daydreamer · 2 months ago
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Mysterious - november drabbles - day 7
Day 7 of @creativepromptsforwriting November prompt list
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Her eyes haunted him for days. Crystal blue pools that sharply stood out behind the mask she wore. They pulled him in like the moon controls the tides. Yet, she remained consistently elusive all night, always disappearing amongst the crowds.
Jon was a recent transplant to the very cosmopolitan King’s Landing, a bit of a fish out of water with his more rural background up North. But one of his new coworkers was cool and also from the North, so when she invited him to a Halloween party thrown by her friend, he figured he should go and immerse himself in this unfamiliar world. He was told it was a costume party but that he only needed to show up in a nice suit. He thought it was all intriguingly secretive. When he pulled up to the address given to him, he knew he was definitely out of his element. A huge mansion sat on an expansive lot. The valet took his car and a man in coat and tails stood in the massive foyer, accepting coats and showing the incoming guests a large assortment of masquerade masks for them to choose from, no two alike. These weren’t the tacky ones from a cheap party store. These looked like they were handcrafted for a Renaissance ball. Some were intricate lace, some delicate filigree, some bedazzled with costume gems, but all were reminiscent of animal faces. Jon chose a matte black one with black feather embellishments to resemble a crow, much simpler in comparison to the other grandiose masks. Directed through a doorway after slipping it on, Jon entered an ostentatious ballroom. Crowded with guests in fancy attire, he scanned the area for his coworker.
“Snow.” Arya found him first, appearing beside him. Her dragon mask was fierce, which matched her personality in the office.
“Okay, be honest. Am I at an Eyes Wide Shut type of party? Or a cult event? Maybe a secret Illuminati ritual?” Jon asked as he scoped out the scene.
“No,” Arya laughed. “Margaery just tends to go all out when she throws a party.”
“Your friend?”
“More like my sister’s friend. But Margaery’s Halloween parties are always amazing, I can never turn them down.”
They grabbed drinks and Arya went around introducing him to people she knew. No one took off their masks all night, taking the theme rather seriously. Every now and then, he would see a flash of red hair out of the corner of his eye. But when he turned to look, the person wasn’t there. At some point, he lost Arya to the crowd. Jon saw the flash of red again. This time, he was quick enough to get a glimpse of the culprit. She wore a metallic gray dress that moved like liquid metal and clung to her body. Her elegant mask was wolf-like and pristine white, covering half her face. But her eyes – her eyes shone through. It was but a mere second and Jon already knew he would never forget her. She disappeared into the masses. The rest of the night, Jon tried finding her, silently cursing at the number of people there, as well as the number of rooms that seemed to be open to the fete. When he spotted her a second time, from a distance, her eyes locked onto his. She offered a smile that clutched at his heart before her attention was pulled elsewhere. When he reached the spot where she was, she was nowhere to be seen. It was a chase that she didn’t seem to know she was involved in. The last time he saw her, she smiled his way again and seemed to begin to move toward him, only to be stopped by a woman in a peacock mask, her gaze whipping to her instead before they dipped into another room. He could only hope to find her again before the night was through.
He never did. Back at work that week, he asked Arya about the mystery girl, only able to describe her hair, gown, mask, and eyes. “Yes, yes, you’ve already mentioned the eyes. ‘Pools of crystal blue’. I got it, Snow,” Arya laughed. “But I still don’t know who you’re talking about.”
A few days later, Jon found an envelope in his mailbox. No stamp or postage mark, it had been just slipped into the slot. ‘You can find me at Kingsroad Café tomorrow morning at 10,’ the note read. It was signed ‘your mystery wolf.’
Now, after seven days of being haunted by those eyes, he sat in the café and waited for that flash of red to catch his eye. A gust of autumn wind blew through when the door opened and there she was. Her eyes found his and they smiled in recognition.
“I got your note,” she said, her fingers fumbling with a piece of paper.
“What? I didn’t write a note. I got a note from you,” Jon replied, completely puzzled as he pulled the envelope from his pocket. With furrowed brows, they exchanged them. The one she received had the exact same message but was signed as ‘your mystery crow.’
They exchanged baffled looks. “Well, that is certainly mysterious,” the beautiful woman laughed. “I’m Sansa, by the way.”
As they introduced themselves with shy smiles and a handshake over the table, Arya turned away from the café’s window, a grin on her face and a laugh on her lips. “Idiots,” she sighed affectionately as she walked down the street. Her sister and coworker would make the connection soon enough, but she let herself revel in her little prank. They deserved it, bombarding her with questions about each other all week long.
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natashasbanner · 2 months ago
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Can you write an Fic with Bruce visiting Nate’s grave and maybe meeting Ylena?
wish you were here
Summary: Bruce visits Natasha's grave in Ohio and meets someone he never expected.
A/N: I watched Black Widow again on a recent flight and was inspired to fill a couple prompts based around the movie. Please enjoy :D
Also on AO3
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Leaves crunched under Bruce’s boots as he made the trek to Natasha’s grave sight. It was quiet save for the rustle the leaves in the fall breeze. Bruce pulled his coat closer around his still healing arm, careful not to crush the flowers he was carrying.
He’d gotten the letter about her gravesite a few months ago. It had been delivered to his doorstep with no return address or postage, just his name neatly printed on the envelope and an address written on the note inside with a copy of Natasha’s obituary. Bruce had been hesitant about the letter, but a quick search had revealed the tiny cemetery outside of Dayton.
The path started to open up and Bruce immediately spotted her headstone. It was already surrounded by stuffed animals and flowers. A smile tugged at the corner of Bruce’s mouth as he stopped in front of it. In all the time that he’d known Natasha, she’d wanted to right the wrongs of her past by doing good in the world. She’d worried that there’d never be enough, but she had no idea how much she was loved, the inspiration she’d become to so many. It made him want to cry.
“Wish you were here,” he whispered and tears pricked the corners of his eyes.
He kneeled down and placed the flowers he brought among the other gifts. He sat back on his heels despite his body protesting. He still wasn’t back to 100 percent almost a year after he wore the gauntlet.
He sat there for a long time, not really sure what to do. He felt like he should say something, but everytime he opened his mouth the words died on his tongue.
“Took you long enough to find this place,” a voice said, startling Bruce and nearly making him fall over.
He looked around to find the source of the voice, but came up short.
“Who’s there?” He called out, searching the surrounding trees.
He started to push himself to his feet when a figure stepped out of the shadows. She was young, a few years younger than Natasha had been, with eyes just as intense.
“You sent me that letter,” Bruce said as the woman approached him.
“I did,” she said with a short nod. Her jaw was set and her posture rigid.
“Thank you,” he said and she softened ever so slightly.
“My sister spoke very highly of you,” she said, standing on the other side of the headstone. “She would’ve wanted you to know this was here.”
“You’re Yelena?” Bruce asked, finally putting the pieces together.
Natasha never talked about her life before SHIELD much, but she’d mentioned Yelena more than once. Though not sisters by blood, Natasha had cared a great deal about the girl.
Yelena nodded and placed a hand on the headstone. “I am.”
“It’s nice to finally meet you,” Bruce said, not sure what else he could say. “Though I wish the circumstances were different.”
Yelena took a deep breath and tucked a piece of her hair behind her ear. “After Natasha came back into my life, she didn’t talk about the Avengers very much. But when she did, she always mentioned a doctor with kind eyes that she missed terribly.”
Bruce ducked his head and a tear slipped down his cheek.
Yelena cleared her throat before she spoke again. “I’m sorry.”
“It’s okay,” Bruce assured her. “You have nothing to be sorry about.”
Yelena offered him a half smile and silence fell over them. She walked around the headstone and kneeled down beside Bruce. She brushed some leaves away from the headstone and rearranged some of the flowers and stuffed animals that had been knocked over by the wind.
“Why here?” Bruce asked when the silence had stretched on too long.
“What?” Yelena asked with a raised eyebrow.
“Her grave,” he clarified with a pang in his chest. “Why here?”
“It’s a long story,” Yelena said softly. “Complicated. But we were happy here, once upon a time. This place meant alot to us.”
Bruce nodded and looked back at the headstone. “I grew up not too far from here.”
“Really?” Yelena asked, genuinely curious.
“Yeah.”
Silence fell over them again and Bruce’s legs were screaming from the hard ground. But he wasn’t ready to go just yet.
He felt like there was a boulder sitting on his chest, preventing his lungs from expanding. God, he missed her so much and everyday was harder than the last. He wished he could bring her back, would give anything for just one more smile, one more small laugh, one more soft glance across the quinjet. Any one of them could have ended up on that planet, why did it have to be her.
His breath hitched and tears dripped down his face without him realizing. He used his good hand to wipe them away and began to push himself to his feet. He struggled a bit and Yelena took his arm and helped him up.
“Thank you,” he said, avoiding her eye while he tried to gather himself. Yelena remained quiet.
Bruce took a few steadying breaths before he finally looked at Yelena again. “You know where to find me, if you ever need anything.”
Yelena blew out a soft breath. “I’ll keep that in mind.”
“Goodbye, Yelena.”
“Goodbye Doctor Banner,” she said with a nod.
Bruce watched her sink back to the ground and reach out to touch the headstone. There were tears shining in her eyes now and he suddenly felt like he was intruding. He quickly headed back to the path and out of the cemetery.
He knew it wouldn’t be the last time he set foot in Ohio or spoke to Yelena again.
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dailyadventureprompts · a month ago
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Something this anon has wanted to explore many a time- an adventure wherein traditionally 'evil' creatures go through a reverse dungeon crawl- escaping the fortress in order to desert the Dark Lord's armies!
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Campaign Starter: From Under the Shadow
No where to go but up
Setup:  More than a mere underdark fortress, Ykandri’s Shackle is a marvel of engineering and hubris that only the Duergar could have managed. Filled with visions of industry and conquest, the architects tasked with building a simple lift through a miles long fissure through the world below let their ambitions sprawl, becoming a make-work project for their subterranean empire and a monument to the pride of their succession of dour and powermad rulers. 
Like any expansionist Military power, the Duergar of the “Great-Chain” conscript their defeated foes and societal rejects to do the worst of the labor, toiling away to expand the warrens supporting the Shackle or fending off the beasts of he dark vastness that infest the surrounding caverns. This is where we find our party, the lowest of the low, captives bound together by their mutual desire for escape. 
 Adventure Hooks: 
While freedom is their primary goal, the party must keep up appearances and thier first mission will be a crawl through an mine and adjoining excavation site that has recently become infested with underdark pests. This will give them a chance to show off their characters and you an opportunity to hammer home just how miserable life on the Shackle really is. What’s more, having them return victorious and then being forced to hand over their gear and trophies under threat of lashes will set up great minor taskmaster/guards villains that they can avenge themselves against on the way out. 
Have them plan their escape like a heist, rolling out a hastily drawn sketch of the Shackle standing between them and nearby underdark portals. Lay out what sidetasks they may need to perform or challenges they’ll need to overcome to get the resources they’ll need for their escape.  
While preparing for their great escape, the party hear whisperings of  some tumult among the upper ranks of the Clan’s hierarchy, something to do with a prisoner and the overreach of the notoriously wicked spymaster. Leadership may shuffle from time to time but the lot of those captive in the Shackle never does. “ Different Boot, Same Neck” goes the saying... at least it does until a blinding burst of divine light suffuses the fissure and a band of high-level heroes from the surface world come to rescue that prisoner and bring the Tyrants of the Great Chain down in the process. Pull this trigger before your party is fully ready to escape, or just as things go righteously wrong after they’ve decided to attempt a more risky escape.  It’ll be clear they need to get out while the getting’s good, now having to sprint through a warzone rather than sneak through a prison. 
Portals in the underdark are tricky things, leading an escaping party to all manner of potential locales ( that they may might not know ahead of time unless they stole the right information). Maybe they’ll end up in a disused mine on the outskirts of a city of new beginnings, a far cavern trading post with fortunes waiting to be made,    a friendly settlement of exiles and make their reputation while defending its swampy borders. Perhaps somewhere even more strange? 
Operation of the Shackle:   The Shackle was built to ferry supplies, thralls, and soldiers en-mass across the great altitudes of the fissure, a task that could otherwise take days of marching or carting and be equivalent to descending a tall mountain. Instead, cargo is loaded from one level into an adjoining  fortified platform attached to the great chain, which is raised as the other side decends, until it comes level with another  platform. Cargo from one is loaded into the other, and then the mechanism reverses, sending the first platform down while the second platform ascends the way it came. By this way are the Shackle’s contents moved where they need to go by way of an overly elaborate, two way bucket chain, a process important to know should the party seek to escape their current level, or later should they wish to return to the site of their imprisonment and raid its ruins. 
Future Adventures: 
During the hatching of their escape plan, the party are slipped a few vital supplies by a drider merchant who did a little black market business on the shackle and took a shine to them in the process. Delighted to find the party no worse for ware ( despite possibly hopping dimensions) and that they’re now in a position to afford his more exclusive stock, the drider will be happy to send them on missions to fill their pockets then sell them things to empty them again. 
The Party and their favorite spider boy aren't the only survivors of the Shackle, as one of the mercenary captains hired to keep order in the prison fortress has made it out with a newly formed legion of followers, and is interested in carving out a new territory for himself that just so happens to include the party’s new home.  
It’s inevitable that the party left unfinished business on the Shackle, and some time into their adventures they may feel the call to return to their one time prison/home. Thoroughly in shambles after the heroes hit it with everything they had, the seat of empire has now become a patchwork of warlords fighting over the remnants of power, with vast stretches inhabited by the beasts of underdark attracted by the slaughter. Bonus points if the party runs into the pests they first fended off in the mines, grown in size, threat and swarming number without their population being culled. 
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thatonewherelexasachef · 4 months ago
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Do 14 from the prompts, please!
14. "Let me take care of things for once, alright?"
“What are they doing out there?” Clarke asked Anya. They were both in Anya’s kitchen looking out the window at Lexa and Roan who were in the middle of several projects at Anya’s that afternoon, but were now just standing with their tool belts on and their hands on their hips looking at Roan’s tomato plants and talking quietly.
“I don’t know,” Anya shrugged. “But they appear to be bonding, so I’m not going to interrupt.”
“It’s so nice that she helps you with things herself when she can instead of just paying someone to do it for you,” Clarke smiled warmly as Lexa patted Roan on the shoulder and pointed back to the busted lawn mower turned on its side nearby they were taking a break from.
“She’s always been handy, even when we were young. She’s good with how things work,” Anya sighed through a similar warm smile. “She likes doing it when she has time. It’s sort of an unspoken thing we have. We both like being needed by the other in our own ways, but we’re both too stubborn to admit we need help. We get to skip that part with each other.”
“That’s kind of sweet in its own way,” Clarke turned to smile at her.
“We Woods women try not to let anyone know that we’re actually very vulnerable,” Anya sighed sarcastically. Anya’s laptop behind them on the kitchen table let out a series of notifications. “That’s my cue to get back to work.”
“I thought you were off today?” Clarke raised a brow.
“I’m never off,” Anya muttered. “But this is the kind of work where I can drink wine and chat with you while I do it.”
“Alright, we’ve gotta go to the hardware store,” Roan announced as he and Lexa came in through the back door. “We need parts.”
“I’ve gotta pick up Aden from his friend’s in a few,” Anya said over her shoulder.
“I can get him while we’re out,” Roan replied calmly and gestured for Lexa to hand him her tools. He set both of their belts on the deck and closed the door.
“But I have to pick up dinner,” Anya said indignantly and sat up straighter.
“The three of us will get it on the way back after we go to the hardware store,” Roan shrugged. He poured himself a glass of water and wordlessly another for Lexa.
“But I need to drop all of these off at the post office before five,” Anya rested her hand on a stack of envelopes from work.
“Great,” Roan exhaled after a big chug from his glass. “It’s on the way. I’ll take them. Do they need postage or do they have it already?”
“They have it,” Anya replied, surprised that he was being so thoughtful.
“Awesome. That’ll take five seconds. I’ll pull up and Lexa can jump out,” he pointed at her over his shoulder and she nodded.
“But I was going to put gas in my car so that I don’t have to do it in the morning before work,” Anya tried again.
“Then we’ll take your car and I’ll do it,” Roan finished his glass and put it in the sink. “Anything else you need?”
“But,” Anya tried and he cut her off with a kiss.
“You’ve got a ton on your plate and you were just admitting that you’re exhausted this morning. Let me take care of things for once, alright?” he said quietly and sincerely. Clarke caught Anya’s eye and gave her a little smirk. “Is there anything else you were going to do while you were out, Super Woman?”
“I was going to get wine and beer for dinner,” Anya gave in.
“I already got beer this morning,” Roan opened the fridge and pointed to it. “Lexa brought wine from the restaurant. It’s by the door.”
“Thank you,” Anya grinned at him and it was honest and full. Lexa and Clarke caught each other’s glance and shared a little smile of appreciation.
“Call my if you think of anything else,” Roan grinned back at her. “Let’s go, Chef. We’ve got a list,” he said to Lexa and nodded his head towards the door.
“See you in a bit,” Lexa kissed Clarke’s cheek and followed him.
“Looking like both of you Woods Women are letting a few more of us take care of you these days, eh?” Clarke chuckled. “You two seem to be doing really well.”
“I don’t have a lot of friends. I never really have cause I was too busy raising my kid and working too much. I don’t really know how to have girl talk,” Anya muttered.
“I’m a pro if you want me to start,” Clarke said with a reassuring smile. “Can we talk about how hot they both are in those tool belts, though?”
“Oh, thank god one of us finally said it!” Anya cried.
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sirbeepsalot · 7 months ago
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Besties: When Liam and Drake Sponsored Triplets
This gem is the product of an escalation of ideas between @burnsoslow and me. Also, I wanted to write this as a little “thank you” to her for all her help on a recent project. You know the one.😉
If you are new to Besties, this is basically an AU where Drake and Liam are super best buds and kinda almost too involved in each others’ lives in the most adorable, naive way you can imagine.
Summary: Liam and Drake have been sending sending their money to a scammer for over a year believing they have sponsoring a set of triplets that need to be reunited.
Liam and Drake belong to Pixelberry, and I wonder what they would think if they saw what I did to them. 🤔 This is my submission for Wacky Drabbles this week. Prompt is bold. Almost forgot to add that. Durp.
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The apartment was too quiet as Cassie came home from work with a bag of groceries. For the last three days, the sound of the boys giggling from their blanket fort in the living room as they watched TicTok videos had filled the air. She set down her bags before taking a quick peek inside; sprawled across the floor were open envelopes, papers, and euros. Additionally, there were three pictures of a child she didn’t know. She shrugged; she would learn about it when they got home.
Robin was called to Lythikos to put out a work fire, which meant that Liam stayed at their apartment. Sometimes he would travel with her, but he was scheduled for work and didn’t want to cancel. He didn’t like to stay home alone, so he was staying with Cassie and Drake. After explaining to them that Liam couldn’t sleep in their bed, she suggested they build a fort in the living room. The result was happiness for everyone.
As she changed into home clothes, she wondered where the guys were. It wasn’t usual for them to venture off without leaving a note or elaborate text explaining the details of their adventures. Then, as if they knew, she received a text from Drake.
Drake: hi cassiebear 
Drake: 🧡 
Drake: what time is dinner
Cassie: We’re having sandwiches and chips. They take five minutes to make, so whenever you two are hungry.
Drake: What kind
Cassie: Ham and cheese, extra ketchup
Drake: we’ll be home soon
Drake: we are getting ready to leave
Cassie: What are you two adventurers up to?
Drake: we went to the eurotree to buy picture frames 
Drake: we got you a present
Cassie scrunched her face. Picture frames? She shrugged as she started pulling sandwich supplies from the fridge. At least they couldn’t get into too much trouble at EuroTree.
--
“Aren’t they cute?” Liam asked before biting his ham and ketchup sandwich. 
Cassie tried not to gag as bits of cheese doodle and ketchup fell from his mouth. She had watched the guys for the last ten minutes as they framed the three identical pictures of a small boy and gushed about how adorable “each” was. After realizing there was no way she would understand what was going on, she knew she had to open the clown car and ask.
“So, who is this kid?” she asked before popping a chip into her mouth. 
“Oh, Cassie. It’s the triplets,” Liam said, pointing to each image. “Gervesin, Aldus, and Gervis.”
“The first one is Aldus,” Drake corrected.
“Oh, I always mix them up,” Liam said with a frown. “Identical triplets. If I knew we had adopted identical triplets, I would have asked that they wear name tags!”
Cassie shook her head. “Hold on, you two adopted triplets?”
The boys nodded. “Liam got this email from Global Kids Help Best Fund. They help orphans around the world by finding the kids’ sponsors. They help buy food and medicine --”
“And help them go to school,” Liam added.
“So, how does it work?” Cassie asked.
“It’s easy. We emailed them back and said that we wanted to sponsor three kids, one for each of us plus one to share. Then they asked for bank information and all these other numbers, and we sent them the numbers the GPS showed us when we put in where the bank is, but they were like, no wrong numbers. And we were like, that’s how you get there. So, after a while, they gave us an address in Auvernal that we could send the money to.”
“Yeah, the charity makes it really easy. All we have to do is put our money in an envelope and send it to them each week. They make sure the money goes to help the triplets.”
Liam nodded. “Once they’re healthy and educated, they’ll be reunited. We used to send our tips from work, but we started sending a little extra each week, hoping that they can be together sooner.”
Cassie’s eyes roamed over the images. She was pretty sure it was a scam, given that it was three identical images of one kid. “They are cute. I’m glad they sent pictures.”
Drake nodded. “They are cute! They look healthy, so our money is doing good.”
Cassie took another bite of her sandwich as she watched the guys pool their tips onto the table before folding a sheet of paper with the boys’ names written on it. After drawing a few stars and adding a note of encouragement, Drake stood and stretched his hamstrings.
“Oh, Cassiebear, we need an envelope and stamp so we can mail this.”
Cassie realized why they had been asking her for an envelope and a stamp every week for over a year; now, she needed to plan an intervention. “Oh, sorry, babe, but I’m out of stamps. I can get you an envelope and then mail it when I go to the post office later this week. Can you wait a couple of days?”
“I can’t – I have a deadline,” Drake said before picking up the picture of ‘Gervis.’ “If we don’t send it tomorrow, the triplets might not have enough money for food and medicine … I guess they can go without school for a few days.”
“Yeah, like summer vacation,” Liam said with a smile. “But do you think it’s summer in Archenland, Calormen, and Narnia?”
“I dunno, but winter vacation is good too. They can use the money to buy snow boots!” 
Liam nodded. Maybe being late with their donation wouldn’t be too bad after all.
Cassie sighed. The scammers had taken a bold risk by assuming the boys had not heard of the Chronicles of Narnia.
--
After dinner, Cassie sent the boys to Liam’s apartment to watch Air Bud while she ‘did some work.’ The guys knew that sometimes she would bring grading home, and the apartment had to be silent so she could focus. As soon as she heard their footsteps stomp to the next floor, she pulled out her phone and arranged a call with her best girls.
Only Becky was available. 
Cassie waved hello before pretending to bang her head on the table. “I have a Code Red, and everyone is … where?”
Becky laughed. “Well, Mandy said Artie was coming over after work, so she won’t be picking up. Not sure about Nina, but I’m sure Tim got his head stuck in something.”
“Ha!” Cassie snorted. “Has he done that before?”
“Ask her about the canon incident at the Cordonian History Museum. I’m surprised you don’t know that -- I’d share, but she tells the story so well!” Becky sat back in her seat. “So Code Red?”
Cassie nodded. “Yup. Apparently, for the last 18 months, they have been sending cash to some scammer under the guise they adopted children in need.”
“Oye.”
“Yeah … and the ‘agency’ finally sent photos of the three boys -- Becs, it’s three copies of the same picture! They think they adopted triplets.”
“Oh, snap. That’s a problem. So we need a plan to shut this down.”
“And we can’t let the boys know they were scammed. I mean, they hung the framed pictures on the wall.”
“Maybe we can have the scammers send a change of address and have the money sent to someone we trust,” Becky said. 
“I think we need to end it,” Cassie said before sitting up as an idea came to her. “You know, they kept talking about how they sent extra money so the boys could be reunited. If we could fake the kids being reunited, we might be able to stop the scam.”
Becky considered the idea. “I like this. Maybe edit a photo so it looks like they are together and fake a letter from the agency saying the boys have reunited thanks to their help --”
“And that they don’t need the money anymore!” 
--
The next day, Cassie sat in the teacher’s lounge while she finalized the plan. She was able to get copies of the images and letter to Becky, who would make dupes. Mandy provided the address of her jerk ex-boyfriend for Cassie to use as a change of address for the scammers. Finally, Nina was going to send copies of the thank you letter and photo to her brother; he would then Express Mail the documents to the guys when he was in Auvernal the following week. The “agency” would also provide Nina’s brother’s address on the off chance they decided to start sending anything else to the triplets.
--
After a long, long week of having both Drake and Liam in her home, Cassie was happy it was the weekend. Robin would be home later that evening, which was good because Liam had started getting “Robin sick” and spent a lot of time crying anytime he saw her with Drake.
As she stepped into her building’s lobby, she noticed a large envelope resting against the floor. She immediately recognized the Auvernal postage – it always involved a huge ship -- and brought it up with the rest of the mail. She tossed it all on the table before grabbing a hunk of cheese and heading to her room to change.
A loud thud and giggles brought her out of her cheese dream. She popped the last chunk into her mouth when it happened.
“Cassie!!”
She stood and tried her best to look casual as she walked to the living room, where the boys were waving two photographs in the air. She grinned as she took in their excitement. “What are you two excited about? New coupons for Eat ‘da Meat?”
“They’ve been reunited!” Liam said as he thrust his photo into Cassie’s face. She smiled when she saw Becky’s editing work; while it was clearly fake, the boys didn’t seem to notice things like how one boy’s head was on a girl’s body or that they were all different heights.
What mattered is that they reached their goal -- they reunited the triplets.
“This is great. We should get a cake!” Liam said as he pulled out his phone. 
“Hold on, Liam. So they are reunited. Now what?” Cassie asked.
Drake picked up the letter and skimmed it again. “They say the boys are doing well and have all been cured of all the diseases they had. … reading at grade level … love math and science … aww, Li, they want to name their first-born sons after us!”
“Really?”
Drake nodded as he pointed the passage out to Liam. “The best part is that they saved all the kids their agency helped, and they are closing down forever! Isn’t that great, Cassie? We helped put them out of business!” The boys exchanged a smile as their chests swelled with pride.
“That’s great! I’m so proud of you both,” she said before giving them each a hug. “So what is next for Liam and Drake, Charitable Helpers?”
“I think Liam mentioned a cake.”
Cassie giggled. “No, I mean now that you helped the triplets, who will you help next?”
The boys exchanged a look and shrugged. Liam scratched his head. “Cake first, then thinking.”
“Okay. Cake first, and then we can find a new charity to help.”
Cassie watched the guys as they ordered a “congratulations” cake from Capital Bakery. She loved their desire to help others. Even more, she liked knowing that, as they ate cake, she would be able to help them find an real charity to support.
One with actual triplets.
--
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justkeeptrekkin · 12 months ago
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@ariaste​ thank you for the Object Permanence prompt!
Meng Yao is only seconds away from snapping the pencil in his hand when the delivery arrives. He’s been sat on the phone trying to negotiate with the totally useless manager of a catering company; it’s really quite important that they get a good deal out of them, considering that this is for their biggest event yet. A charity event, no less, and so they have less money  to work with (and yet, somehow, more morons to deal with).  
And so, as he leans back in his desk chair and holds the phone to his ear with a pursed smile, the only thing that stops him from calmly breaking both the pencil in his hand and his phone is the distraction of the delivery man in the elevator doorway.
“Delivery for…” the postman winces as he looks at the name on the cardboard box in his hands. “Meng Yao?”
Meng Yao raises a finger to show he’s present, but remains on the phone as the catering company manager waffles on the other end.
“Ooh,” says MianMian. She stands up from her desk and rolls up her jacket sleeves before signing. “Thank you. Your timing could not be better.”
Su She is pretending not to be interested. He’s hidden behind his desktop, and is slowly to angling around the screen to view the cardboard box. Their office space is small and sparse, white walls and desks and very little else; Meng Yao watches MianMian’s short commute from the elevator doors to his desk, carrying the box with raised brows and a curious smile. She deposits it quietly on his desk and backs away.
“I understand that we hadn’t previously discussed the potential for extra guests, but as I’m sure you’re aware from your many years of experience, these things often change.” Meng Yao speaks down the phone and stands up, peering down at the top of the cardboard box. He can feel MianMian and Su She sending furtive glances in his direction. They don’t get deliveries often, and when they do, it’s either one of them who’s ordered it in for the office. “Customers change their minds regularly.”
Meng Yao takes a pair of scissors from his desk drawer. He presses his phone between his shoulder and cheek as he cuts through the brown tape. Had he ordered something for the office and forgotten about it? That feels very unlikely.
“Yes. Yes. I understand.” Meng Yao restrains a sigh and purses his lips. He suddenly feels a lot more dangerous with a pair of scissors in his hands. (There is a picture of Jin Guangshan’s face on a dartboard on the other end of their postage-stamp office. He could very easily hit bullseye from here.) “You’ll recall that this is for a charity event -- any reduction in price will not only be appreciated by the customer but also will reflect very well on you. I anticipate that we’ll be working with them often in the future. You would gain a lot of recognition from this if you were to agree.”
The whining voice on the end of the phone continues. Meng Yao opens the box and frowns at its contents. Plunging his hands inside, he pulls out from a cloud of packing peanuts a bouquet. A bouquet? No-- these aren’t flowers.
“That’s excellent news. It’s more appreciated than we can say,” Meng Yao consoles. “I know how much of a stress this is. Yes. I understand--”
It’s stationary. It’s a basket of stationary, arranged like a bouquet of flowers. And it isn’t ordinary stationary, either -- it’s artfully designed fountain pens; tastefully coloured highlighters that don’t immediately take him back to his university days of bright yellow ink leaking all over his hands; post-it notes with daily quotes on them; rose gold paperclips; fine ballpoint pens and file labels.
It’s so organised.
It’s Meng Yao’s idea of heaven.
For the first time that day, he finds himself smiling, despite the reluctant whinging going on in his ear. It’s a smile that makes his cheeks warm and his chest warm and the tips of his ears warm. “I’m so pleased we could agree on this. I’ll let the customers know. They’ll be very pleased. Yes. You too. Yes. Yes. Of course. Thank you. Goodbye.”
Meng Yao puts his work phone on the table and looks down at the basket of stationary.
“That’s so sweet,” Su She says. It sounds more jealous than anything. He’s eyeing the gift with his chin in his hands and a wrinkled brow.  
“I personally find it offensive that we didn’t each get one,” MianMian announces, leaning back in her swivel chair. “Here we are, all working like dogs, and Meng Yao’s boyfriend leaves us out on the stationary deliveries.”
Meng Yao doesn’t deign to give either of them a response. Instead, he dips his hand into the packing peanuts and searches for a note. He pulls out a little card.
This seemed more useful than flowers. :) Love, Lan Huan.
Fucking hell, he knows him too well.
***
The day didn’t get much better after that. In fact, he received several more phone calls which seriously challenged his patience whilst dealing with morons quota-- which is saying something, since he’d thought that quota was endless. It was made somewhat more bearable, knowing what waits for him at home.
Meng Yao lets himself into their house. It’s still in the middle of being unpacked. By the looks of it, Lan Xichen has done a fair bit today whilst working from home; the living room is almost entirely finished, except for Meng Yao’s books, which he had wanted to arrange himself. There’s the smell of something familiar and warm the moment he steps through the door.
There’s Lan Xichen, too, on the sofa with a laptop. He turns and looks over his shoulder when Meng Yao comes in. “Welcome home,” he says with that slow smile. “How was today?”
There are so many answers Meng Yao could come up with. He sorts through them, finds the one that fits best, as if he’s trying on a pair of gloves. “Oh,” he sighs, hanging up his coat, “it was fine, thank you. Busy and somewhat grating, but fine.”
“Oh dear.” Lan Xichen sits up straighter and puts his laptop on the coffee table. He views Meng Yao with a wrinkle in his brow. “Grating?”
Meng Yao comes round to his side of the sofa slowly. He looks down at Lan Xichen with a tilted head. “Nothing too challenging.” He steps towards him, leans a knee on the sofa beside Lan Xichen. “Is A-Xing asleep?”
Lan Xichen’s hand reaches to take Meng Yao’s. He’s looking up at him in gentle surprise. “Yes.”
Right, then. Meng Yao smiles, swings his leg over Lan Xichen and settles in his lap, a hand on either side of his face. Lan Xichen manages to smile back before Meng Yao leans in and kisses him. It’s the kind of kissing that they don’t often have the chance to indulge in and that he doesn’t think he’ll ever tire of: thoughtless and tangled up in each other. It makes him warm and heavy. It makes him want to go on forever -- kissing like teenagers, wrapped up on the sofa.
“I’ve always preferred practicality over sentiment.”
Parting for a moment to speak. “Your present made my day a lot better.”
Lan Xichen smiles against his lips. “I’m glad you liked it.”
Lan Xichen rests his hands on his hips, leaves a small kiss. “Mm. I’m not sure if that’s true.”
He kisses back. “Oh?”
“Mm.” Another small kiss. “You’re more of a romantic than you realise.”
Meng Yao goes to nuzzle his neck. He kisses him there. He lets himself smile and take fistfuls of Lan Xichen’s shirt. “I’ll take your word for it.”
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politishaun · a year ago
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DeJoy’s testimony at Monday’s hearing was smug, unapologetic and combative. He refused to commit to handing over documents in a timely fashion or to plug back in mail sorting equipment that has been decommissioned, insisting without evidence that it’s not needed.
In just five minutes, Porter took control of the hearing. She revealed DeJoy as dangerously indifferent about the vital public service he oversees — and appears to be running into the ground, delaying the shipment of vital medicine, benefit checks, and even killing livestock like chicks entrusted to USPS.
Under questioning from the first-term California representative, DeJoy admitted he was ignorant about the nuts and bolts of USPS. He was unable to say how much postage is required to mail a post card (it’s 35 cents) or to guess, even within 10 million, how many Americans voted by mail in the last presidential election (roughly 33 million).
Porter also got DeJoy to admit that he did not perform his own analysis or oversight of sweeping changes at the Postal Service that, since his arrival in June, have seen on-time deliveries plummet, collection boxes carted away, and high-speed equipment yanked out of mail sorting facilities in key swing states and junked.
In fact, DeJoy claimed, the marching instructions to slow down the mail hadn’t come from him. “I did not order major overhaul plans,” DeJoy told Porter. “The items you identify were not directed by me.”
“Mr. Dejoy,” Porter asked, “if you did not order these actions to be taken, please tell the committee the name of who did.”
DeJoy response was gobsmacking: “I do not know.”
While DeJoy declaimed responsibility for the changes, he plainly approves of them, as he would not make a commitment to rolling them back.
If I took over the USPS and shortly thereafter someone made sweeping changes that prompted a huge backlash from postal employees, the public, and Congress, I would immediately begin investigating who ordered these changes and I’d demand to know not only why they were made but why I wasn’t consulted about them. Either DeJoy is lying when he says he didn’t order these changes or he’s incompetent and not actually running the postal service.
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clairey-y · a year ago
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Whatever You Need
(Chip x Fem!Reader)
A/N - am I little in love with Chip? Yes, but who isn’t? So please enjoy my hot take on our lovely Mr. Chip Taylor
Summary - a university professor meets a very adorable maintenance guy ...
Warnings - a pinch of swearing and two teaspoons of mentioning gross things
Word Count - 3k 
-------
There’s a thin line, she realises as she rushes into the lecture hall, between anthropological research and grave robbing. When you’re on loan to the federal government and a water pipe bursts at a cemetery, there isn’t much to do other than say, ‘yes sir Mr. FBI agent, I will gladly slop through three feet of mud and water, digging through graves!’
She’s ten minutes late to her lecture. Ten minutes long enough that the TA’s are snickering. Ten minutes long enough that the entire class looks horrified that their Anthropology 101 professor is covered head to toe in dried mud, grass, and whatever else could be found in destroyed 19th century coffins.
She sets her bag down heavily on the desk and startles everyone in the room. Sans the maintenance guy. He’s tinkering with vent at the foot of door. He’s mostly a faded ball cap and a distressed jean jacket, one arm shoved up the vent. She can’t imagine why someone would have their arm up a vent, but god only knows why the university would ask someone to.
A moment passes where she unabashedly stares. How did she miss him? Was she in that much of a hurry that she nearly tripped on the guy and didn’t look back? And what the hell is in that vent?
The TA’s snicker behind her back, sobering up when she shoots them a half deadly look. She’s covered in mud, not lenience. She half hopes Maintenance Guy will turn around—she has a desperate, yet beguiling feeling he’s hot. But what she’s really curious for is what’s stuck up that vent.
And he doesn’t turn around—his complete disregard of her is a 180 from the rapt attention she’s receiving from her students—until she’s frustratedly brushing dirt off her face. Pulling grass from her hair.
“Let me just start with,” she begins, pulling an earth worm out of her sleeve, “if the federal government asks you to sort through bodies in a flooded cemetery, tell them no. And despite how much fun grave digging can be, there’s a thin line and that line is punctuated by whether they’re arresting me or not.”
Maintenance Guy snorts, head turned to beam up at her. She’s almost taken aback by how bright he seems. How his grin puts the sun in its place. He looks honest, grease stains and all.
There’s something to be said about the fact she’s studying his bone structure instead of his fleshy bits. She can’t tell you what colour his eyes are, but his zygomatic bones are killer.
“Professor?” a TA prompts, ineffectively holding back their own knowing smiles.
“Thanks for reminding me,” she replies, digging through her bag to hand out a stack of student essays. “Pass these back, please?”
Tick one for the professor.
“And as per usual,” she announces, leaning back against the white board, “let’s do our daily recap. And as you know, these questions can be used to aid in exams.”
She sneaks a glance at Maintenance Guy, pulling his arm out from the vent. He grumbles, digs through his toolbox, and grabs a screwdriver. Whatever is in that vent is stuck.
Once the rustling stops, she says, “Okay, question one: if your professor—that would be me for those of us who are new—were to be one of, say, five wives with one husband, it’s called—?”
“Polygamy!” a student shouts from the front row.
“You’re right, but you aren’t correct,” she says, standing up straight. “Polygamy is the practice of having more than one spouse. Polygyny—with an ’n’—is multiple wives to one husband. Examples of the culture are Kenya’s Logoli and other Abalulya sub ethnic groups.”
She writes it on the board for spelling, and glances over to see Maintenance Guy paused in his excavation of the vent. He’s paying better attention than her students. It’s sort of sweet and she stifles her soft giggle at the thought.
He’s ridiculously tall and she takes a moment to appreciate just how long his femurs have to be.
“Question two!” she announces and finds even the most hungover kids forcing their attention on her. “If your professor were to marry five men all at once, that’s called—?”
“Polyandry,” a student pipes up from the back. “A lot of times it’s fraternal marriage.”
“Examples of a culture that practices—”
Pop!
Maintenance Guy rolls back with the force. His knees are still bent from where they’d been used as leverage against the vent, a wall of debris bursting into his face. In one gloved hand was a dead raccoon, while the other desperately brushed bits of the vent’s clog—a raccoon’s nest—from his eyes.
“Oh Jesus,” she mutters, jumping into action. She picks up a garbage bag from his toolbox and nets the dead animal from his hand. It’s a pretty tame find, though she’s used to human remains which tended to be—gooier.
With the animal tucked up, she hauls Maintenance Guy to a sitting position, frantically cleaning the odds and ends of the nest out of his eyes. She steals his ball cap as she whispers kind words to him, further trying to shake the bits of insulation out of his shaggy hair.
The class is in a terrible chatter behind them. Not that it matters. Not with Maintenance Guy’s eyes opened and his hands gently clutching onto her wrists as she brushes the last bits of insulation off his cheeks. His eyes are definitely hazel up this close.
“Thanks,” he croaks, still gently latched onto her hands.
“It’s no problem,” she smiles back, absently studying the rest of his face. He’s got the kind of skull she’d love to see on her table—well, maybe once he’s died of his own accord because he seems rather sweet. Confused and concerned, but…sweet. “Don’t worry. I’ve had much worse flung all over me. You don’t much get used to it.”
He smiles, barely chuckling. Coughs up a bit of insulation.
“You might want to see a doctor. Insulation in the lungs is…what gets you a one way ticket to my lab.” She grins at her own terrible joke. His eyes are too close and she can’t help but wish for a skeleton to be looking back at her. She understands those. People are too…gooey.
“I’m Chip,” he offers, silently asking her for help to his feet. She does, offering her own name in return. He mulls over it, like it’s a fine wine sitting on his tongue. “Professor Y/N. Thanks again.”
She shrugs, mouth suddenly too dry. Heart beating too fast. Jesus, human interaction was going to kill her. There was no job to distract her from Chip’s strong hands. There were no bodies to keep Chip’s genuine gaze off of her. There wasn’t anything to distract from seeing Chip as so pleasantly human.
“Want the raccoon as a consolation prize?” he chuckles, rubbing the back of his neck with a newly de-gloved hand. There’s something satisfying about answering questions that aren’t meant as questions. Especially ones that showed just how weird she really was. The questions that were relationship testers—like can we be friends if I tell you that I keep carrion beetles as pets?
“Actually, sure.” Chip’s jaw drops just slightly open. He has cute teeth. “Dissection is a key part of the anthropological process, forensic or not. Let’s see just what this raccoon was up to. Eh, class?”
Every single one a deer in the headlights, the class goes eerily silent. She winks at Chip and announces again. “Don’t you guys want to see what I do for a living? I mean human remains are much cooler but I think we can settle for a mostly solid raccoon carcass.”
A TA clutches at her stomach. “Professor, never say that again.”
The professor just laughs, absentmindedly taking a soft grip on Chip’s shoulder. “Don’t worry everyone, Chip’s going to keep the raccoon. At least I’m not making the final a practical examination. I do have access to laboratory rats—“
The entire class clambered forward, hoping to dispel the idea and the evil smirk off their professor’s lips. She just beamed back at Chip, dropping her hand. She expected the same horrified expression of her students, but he seemed, dare she say, impressed.
That wide eyed shock creeps onto her face. Because who would risk being impressed by a professor covered in dirt from grave digging who offered to dissect a raccoon at 10 AM on a Tuesday?
Apparently, it’s this guy. Must have a thing for crazy women.
Chip shakes his head, bites his lip, and turns to stoop for his raccoon trophy. “I’ll, uh, have them send someone for the nest. I—I guess I have to do something with the raccoon, if you’re sure you don’t want it?”
She just shakes her head, failing miserably at keeping her cherry red tint to herself. “No, no. Maybe next time.”
“Next time,” he repeats, rather sadly, to himself. Though, as he turns to leave, it feels more like a promise.
#
The worst part about knowing Chip is that she seems to see him everywhere. Rushing between lecture halls? There he is, doing his best to fix a fountain. Getting escorted away by federal agents? There he is, sympathetically waving as he walks across the quad. Leading a group of students outside to lecture on the green? There’s Chip, fixing a sprinkler.
She’s had exactly three times in the last six months to talk to him. All under three minutes.
But today, today she’s running late from court. Grand jury testimony had gone fine, until Agent—God, she’ll never learn his name—WhatsHisFace tried to ask her out again. Because what a turn on talking about the mutilation of a hacked up college girl was.
It also didn’t help that, outside of the court room half an hour before, she was doodling what she thought Chip’s skull would look like.
So she can’t help but storm into her postage stamp of a classroom, dropping her package on the desk with a gentle, yet annoyed huff. Her 12 students, all seniors in the Anthropology department, raised their eyebrows at her. At her court getup.
She’d missed those formative lessons at 13 on how to be a proper lady. And even if she had had them, it probably wouldn’t have stuck. Besides, what she wore into the field had to be more than acceptable for the university’s standards. The heels and pink blouse of today were extremely rare and uncomfortable.
“Whoa, Professor Y/N!” Reese Rosebeck calls out, dramatically twitching in his chair, “Is that really you? You look hot!”
“Ha, ha. That’s a very coherent thought for the kid who wrote the worst paper I’ve ever read,” she deadpans. She relents when she sees his dramatic puppy dog pout. “Though, I do have to say I enjoyed you’re use of colloquial slang. Accentuated your point very cleverly.”
“As long as I impress the hottest professor on campus, I’m alright.”
There was a quiet laugh from the back of the room, and she found her eyes snapping to the hunched over back of none other than, Maintenance Guy Chip Taylor. He’s just quietly listening—as always—tinkering with the radiator pipes in the back of the room. She’s half thankful. It is starting to get cold.
“Hey, Chip!” she chirps and the poor thing bangs his head on the pipes. He waves her off in a flash, hand extended wildly above the other desks in the room. Reese chuckles to himself, dragging Lionel with him.
She kicks her heels off behind her desk, straightening herself once she’s back on stable ground. She’s about three apples short of a pie to wear heels for more than six consecutive minutes. The female students give her rather sympathetic looks as she begins to roll her feet and open her package.
She pauses halfway in. Jeez, she forgot about—“Hey, Chip?”
Like a meerkat, he pops up with a dazzling soft grin.
“Are you going to call the cops on me?”
“Excuse me?”
Her students’ eyes bounce back and forth between the pair, following the invisible tennis match. The professor settles on a rather tired, “Are you going to call the cops? The last person who attended lecture that didn’t know me, called the cops because of a demonstration. So, are you?”
“No.” He shakes his head and she wonders if he’s a little too trusting. He’s honest as he leans back down to continue futzing with the pipes. He’s genuine in every interaction they have. Does she really deserve the kind of trust he’s offering? To a crazy woman who’s asked if he’ll call the cops on her?
She shakes the thought away. These 12 students—tangible students—need her focus. At least for the next few minutes. She pulls six human skulls from her package, all neatly wrapped up in protective glass cases. She places those on the table along with a box of gloves.
“Two people to a skull,” she announces and runs through the rest of the directions. “Don’t forget your gloves. You too, Ms. Figg.”
Jamie Figg’s fierce blush is long forgotten once they are all set to work. Tactile learning is the best way to learn in her opinion, expressly in advanced classes like these. It also gives her a moment to rest her brain—even if it’s a few minutes before the onslaught of necessary questions.
She settles into an unused section of chairs and desks, smiling absently at the way all of the kids have squeezed themselves around the one table. She misses the days when she was young and new, ready to find her own legs to stand on.
Chip’s not quiet and she watches him with too much adoration as he sits down next to her. It’s not all too unexpected nor uninvited. He smells like grease and good cologne up close, mixed up with that dangerous combination of hazel eyes and delicious bone structure.
Chip smirks, drawing her out of her smidge of staring. “See anything good?”
“You have excellent bones,” she mutters, tracing a finger against her own cheek instead of his. “Prominent zygomatic bones and well balanced supraorbital margins. But the, um, the rest of you is—is nice too.”
Oh great one, Y/N. Perfect. You’re such a fucking creep.
Chip just smiles. The kind of soft upturn of the lips and dip of the head that means he took it like the compliment it was meant as. He runs a rather shakey hand through his hair, bringing his gaze back up to do his own staring. She wonders what he sees about her. She’s sure he doesn’t see bone structure like she does, but does her flesh give away something she doesn’t know about?
Chip wrings his hand down behind his neck and she sees it. That little bit of something that brews between his bones and his epidermis. The fuzzy sort of thing that sits behind his eyes. The one she’s seen in war veterans, cops, and now the university’s maintenance man.
And as if he’s just a skull on her table, she states ever so eloquently, “You look like the kind of guy who’s seen some shit, Chip.”
And as if she’s accepted his offer for the raccoon all over again, he beams. He further turns away from her, shaking his head, and she follows his eye line to the students not so subtly glancing over at the pair every three seconds. The dozen are still chattering on, examining the skulls in their hands with rapt fascination.
Chip, despite all the non-threatening, sensitive, idiot boy vibes, looks over the skulls with more recognition than she cares to admit she sees. Most people don’t look at skulls like they’re familiar. Like the idea of them being formerly attached to a living person doesn’t bother them.
Again, looks like he’s seen some shit.
“Are they real?”
She nods, taking a tiny chance and pressing their shoulders together. She’s not upset to say that Chip carries very warm skin on his lovely skeletal structure. She wipes the blush off her cheeks and answers, “From the university’s collection. I’ve done a lot of travelling, lots of excavations, lots of grave robbing—sometimes the university doesn’t miss the skulls of the not-so-recently deceased.”
“You’re very—“
“Creepy? Weird?”
She hopes that Chip is too stupid to hear the insecurity bleed through. That he’s too stupid to look at her the way he is. Instead, he squints as if he can’t risk choosing the wrong adjective, so the words inch through his brain. All carefully refined into his choice of, “…Intelligent.”
His takes her hand in his to accentuate his point. She nearly stops breathing.
“You’ve forgotten more this morning than I’ll ever know,” he whispers. She doesn’t know how to look at him without letting him see the hearts in her eyes. Her fingers tighten against his. “I’d never call you creepy.”
She swallows, fighting against the rock in her throat. It wasn’t often people paid her any compliments, especially after she’d let her mouth run for more than five minutes in a one-on-one conversation.
And as if she isn’t already trying to desperately clutch onto her frayed nerves, he confidently pulls a slightly creased business card from his shirt pocket. Offers it to her irritatedly hesitant fingers.
“I do home visits, you know,” he says, putting more weight into where their skin touches. “So, if you’re dishwasher breaks or something, give me—give me a call.”
Chip squeezes her fingers one more time, double checks she’s holding onto the business card, and walks back for his toolbox. Only when the classroom door is closing behind him does Reese shout out, “Oh-ho-ho! Professor’s getting some!”
“Get back to your skull before I use yours as a soup bowl,” she snaps, though she can’t hide the cherries in her cheeks as she thumbs over the business card. Chip Taylor. Whatever you need.
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sincerelyskye · 8 months ago
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navigationヾ๑ˊᵕˋ๑◞
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; skye is semi-ia due to school!
hello! welcome to skye's postal service! here you will find a plethora of stamps, letters and sticky notes. we hope you enjoy your stay!
masterlist | works in progress | fic rec blog | header
requests: closed! please read the rules before making one :) sometimes my ask box is wonky so if it doesn't allow you to send a msg, pls dm me! i'll be using this prompt list to help me, but feel free to share some of your own ideas!
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rose7420 · 9 months ago
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Captured
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A request from @laurenandloki! Such a great prompt! And to everyone please don't hesitate to send me requests, I am more than happy to write them!
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omg I feel bad that I keep asking you to write scenarios! Ahh are you sure it’s ok that I submit them?😅🥺❤️ What if Loki has been talking to this teen borrower now for a little while every time he spots them borrowing stuff in his room? Loki has grown quite attached to her as well because they always talk whenever she comes out to get supplies.
But one night, Loki waits for her to come to his room for their talk, but she never comes. Loki knows that something is wrong because she’s never late. That’s when he could hear the Avengers out in the kitchen asking questions and faint crying/whimpering since his room is really close to where the kitchen is. He teleports to where the Avengers are at and his heart sinks. His little friend had gotten herself caught and was sitting in a jar now being stared at like an animal. Loki freaks out on everyone, and once he’s holding his friend close to him, he yells at them once more for scaring a child and retreats back to his room with her pressed to his chest all while she’s clinging to his shirt🥺
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Y/N jumped out of her bed with glee. She had just finished the book that Loki, her new buddy, had loaned her. He of course had to shrink it to a manageable size for her to hold. The ending of the book had been amazing and full of suspense and she was aching for what was to come next. She slipped her woolen slippers on, all of her clothes were made out of wool since borrowers like herself were sensitive to the elements. Sneaking out of her home was a doable but exhausting task. Since Loki wasn’t the only person in the building so she had to watch out for others. Humans weren’t cruel people but their curiosity caused them to do unspeakable things, with no care to how it would affect others.
She lived in a small hole by the kitchen counter. It was easier to get food, supplies and simply keep an eye on the news around the bullying since everyone usually gathered in the kitchen and spoke occasionally. Peeking out and double-checking to be sure there were no humans around, she sprinted to Loki’s room. However, she had not checked well enough.
“What is that?” A curious voice said.
“Such a little thing aren’t ya?.” Her heart sped with fear and her little legs pumped furiously with power in each step begging to reach Loki’s room.
She’d be safe, get to see Loki, start reading her new bo-
Then she ran into a soft, firm wall. A pale wall.
A palm.
Before she had recognized the situation she was in, her body was effortlessly scooped up and dropped roughly into a jar. She scrambled to her feet looking out the clear walls to be met with a giant face. A man stared back at her with curious brown eyes and short chestnut hair. Her heart pounded with panic as he shouted loudly to his companion. She covered her ears at the loudness of his tremendous voice, causing her to drop Loki’s shrunken book.
The strange man picks her glass prison up to bring her closer to his eyes. The brown orbs blink with wonder and fascination staring at her like an animal at the zoo. Soon more pounding vibrates the air around her, indicating there are more giants coming nearer.
“Tony, whatcha got there?” Another man with wavy dark hair asks. He looks as if he is nervous to approach her.
Tony, the man who is apparently holding her captive shoves the jar into this new man’s hands. Y/N whimpers as her small body is thrown hard into the glass wall. Her shoulder aches with pain and unwanted tears escape her eyes.
“She’s so...small.” New guy says.
“Yeah I know right? Found her scurrying along the floor. Imagine if there are more of her out there!” Tony remarks, and she already hears the plans of an experiment forming in his head. Her stomach fills with dread.
The new guy passes Tony the jar containing her back to him but Tony’s grip is slack. Her jar falls towards the floor waiting for a terrible breaking of glass and her bones. She floats in the air from the force of the fall and then suddenly she hits the bottom of the jar harshly landing on her already hurt shoulder and lets out a sharp cry of pain. A palm surrounds the glass, looking up she sees Tony staring down at her with wide eyes. Her attention is drawn back to her arm as white-hot pain flashes through the appendage. She starts sobbing from the blinding pain in her arm, the fear of being experimented on, and worst of all, never being able to see Loki again. She buries her face in her unhurt arm and lets her shirt soak her tears and the sound of her sobs.
Loki was worried. It had been a while since he had seen his small friend. She usually came to visit every other day, if not every day. However, he had not caught sight of her at all. Then he heard voices in the kitchen talking about experiments. He knew them to be Tony’s and Bruce’s. But the nearly indistinguishable whimpers he recognized to be Y/N’s. He rushed to the kitchen in a blind panic and mad fury. His eyes fell upon a troubling scene that broke his heart. Y/N was in a small glass jar, weeping. Tony held her loosely and Bruce stared with wide eyes doing absolutely nothing to help the small being. Loki rushed forward and snatched the jar out of Tony’s hands being careful not to cause Y/N to slam into the side. He immediately teleported right back to his room, deciding to deal with the two scientists later and focus on Y/N as of now. He tilted the jar to the side and gave Y/N the chance to come out of her own accord. She paid no attention to his offer, her shoulders shaking with sobs and leftover fear. He gently tilted the jar causing her to slide onto his palm, a small object falling alongside her. A book. She must have been on her way to return it to him.
He didn’t know why but a pang of sorrow and guilt flashed through his heart.
He tenderly caressed her back in a circling motion with a single fingertip. He hushed her cries, not to tell her feelings weren’t valid, but only so she could calm down and they could speak. A few tears later her sobs quieted and he slowly brought her to his eyes, able to see her swollen, red eyes and the trails of leftover tears.
“Oh, my poor dear. I am so terribly sorry. I should’ve been there sooner. Please forgive me.” Loki watched her as she raised her eyes to meet his. He smiled reassuringly trying to ease her spirits even more. She tried a small smile of her own and held her arms out towards Loki. He delicately pressed her form against his cheek and felt her body instantly relax as she spread her arms a laughable distance over the expanse of his cheek. After a few more tender-hearted moments he released her.
“I see you brought the book back, did you enjoy it?” He picked the tiny postage-stamp-sized book off his palm and grew it back to its normal size. She nodded vigorously to his question.
“I loved it! Do you have the next one?” She said eagerly, standing up in his palm. He laughed at her excitement, glad to see her fear gone.
“Woah, my little bookworm. I don’t want you falling off.” He gently nudged her to a sitting position, immediately concerned by the pained look that had crossed her face as he did so.
“Are you hurt dear?” Loki pressed.
“It’s my arm, I got hurt in the j-jar,” Y/N said with a stutter in her voice at the end, her fear of the past entrapment obvious. A shot of anger flared through Loki.
“Let us look at that shall we?” Loki said as a question, but Y/N knew it was a demand.
He carried her over to his clean, paperless desk and set her down carefully to not hurt her arm any further. He walked off momentarily to gather supplies, returning with scissors, an elastic wrap, and some sort of cream. She watched as he sat down, his towering torso taking her entire eyeline up. She knew not to be afraid of Loki anymore as she had been in the past. Though he was a giant and towered over her without effort he proved to be gentle and able to hold his curiosity at bay showing care for others’ feelings, especially hers.
She giggled at how concentrated he was on the task of cutting down a wrap that wouldn’t swallow her arm.
“Do tell do you find so amusing?” Loki asked not looking up from his work. He sometimes came off intimidating but Y/N knew he only taunted and did not mean it at heart.
“You’re so focused Loki.” She admitted.
“Well Y/N, I don’t know if it has occurred to you but your smaller size does require a smaller bandage than mine would, therefore I must cut it to the proper size for you.” He looked up at her shooting her a grin.
Y/N smiled at his sarcastic remark. He finished cutting it down to size and asked her to extend her arm. He rubbed cream onto her sore arm informing her that it would take away the pain. And it did instantly, the cool cream sent the uncomfortable heat away. Then he began to wrap her arm with surprising technique, especially for someone so small. She only reached the second joint of his thumb, and his other fingers surmounted her tiny frame.
“Let’s find that other book shall we?” Loki asked presenting a helpful palm at her feet. She tried to climb on with one arm but apparently one needed two arms to do that. Sensing her struggle, Loki pinched her waist with practiced care, lifting her to his shoulder where she was eventually going to go anyways. He let her off onto the broad platform and steadied her with a finger curled around her waist when she stumbled.
“Thank you Loki,” Y/n said curling up next to his neck, the pounding of his pulse a welcomed sensation.
His voice vibrated her as he spoke: “You’re welcome my little bookworm.”
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aiweirdness · a year ago
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Rhyming is hard
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Although many people have generated AI poetry and lyrics, you’ll notice that they generally don’t rhyme. That’s because generating a decent rhyme is super hard.
You can get an inkling of this if you prompt the neural net GPT-2 with rhymes to complete. It will fail almost every time.
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In part, this is because English spelling is so nonuniform. How would a model trained on just written English know that it can rhyme throw with dough but not with brow? Not to mention stress patterns and syllable counts.
A few people have attempted to get neural nets to rhyme, and one of them is a new online demo by Prof. Mark Riedl of Georgia Tech. Give it example lyrics to a song - for example, the first two verses to the Gilligan’s Island theme - and it’ll try to fit the number of syllables and rhyming scheme, as well as take inspiration from a short phrase you supply.
Prompt: “If I knew you were coming, I’d have baked a cake” Tune: Gilligan’s Island theme
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Ok, but this is terrible. It’s TERRIBLE. One of the problems is a complete disregard for emphasis, making this inhumanly awkward to sing. It also does a rather cheap shortcut of rhyming words with themselves.
Prompt: “The mighty pudding god will devour you.” Tune: Gaston’s Waltz from Beauty and the Beast
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Here we are not only off-topic and awkward but absolutely bonkers. It has made the rather daring move of incorporating a reference to Alusuisse, which wikipedia informs me is a defunct Swiss chemical company. In fact, looking back over the program’s output, it made this decision when looking for a rhyme for “this”, and it skipped past “bliss”, “dismiss”, and “Chris” in favor of the former aluminum manufacturer. When choosing rhymes it scores potential words according to their similarity to the prompt, and there must have been something about Alusuisse that screamed “vengeful pudding god”.
Its syllable counting also breaks in weird ways.
Prompt: “Destroy all humans” Tune: “Baa baa black sheep”
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Looking back over the logs, it did correctly count 11 syllables for “baa baa black sheep have you any wool.” But this AI is built of lots of carefully-coordinated sub-programs, each of which only does a small piece of the puzzle, and apparently the sub-program that was supposed to suggest 11-syllable lines shrugged and went “on…. august? that’s all i got”.
Prompt: I am a turnip Tune: The wonderful thing about tiggers
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This makes the world’s worst karaoke, and yes, Riedl has built a karaoke-making function for this. If you want to weird someone out, just casually sing a song with the AI lyrics instead of the real ones.
Botnik Studios also recently built a karaoke-generating algorithm (“The Weird Algorithm”) that instead of generating lines from scratch, picks them from some other source file, trying to match meter and rhyme. (for example, rewriting The Rainbow Connection with lines from X-files scripts). Here’s Jamie Brew demonstrating the system, including singing the lyrics as they pop up onscreen - if you tried to sing any of the lyrics above, you’ll know how darn impressive his singing is. Each line is independent, though, so if the song makes sense as a whole, it’s by accident.
So today’s AI can only sort of generate rhyming poetry. “Sigh. Natural language is hard,” Riedl tweeted, when he saw the Turnip hoowelp welp results. AI won’t be beating humans at rap battles anytime soon.
You can generate your own inadvisable karaoke using Riedl’s app.
Subscribers get bonus content: I generated more terrible AI lyrics than would fit in this blog post.
My book on AI is out, and, you can now get it any of these several ways! Amazon - Barnes & Noble - Indiebound - Tattered Cover - Powell’s - Boulder Bookstore
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