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#this is obviously very simple compared to my usual style too
soulmate-game · 7 months ago
New fic *test*
New Bio!dad Bruce story? I’m testing out this first chapter, and if I like where it’s going I might add it to my growing pile of WIPs. If I have inspiration, I might as well use it. Because of life events stressing me the hell out, I’m throwing any writing plans out the window and I’m purely gonna write to destress right now. Whether that means updating THG or not, or continuing Maribat March, we’ll just have to see how this all pans out. Things are subject to day-to-day change.
I got inspiration from this from rereading my day 1 story for Bio!dad Bruce Wayne month from last year. I’m just gonna change a few things.
For once, an unfamiliar face attracted the attention of everyone who caught even a glimpse of them. It wasn’t even because of the person themselves at first, but their dress. The skirt like the most fantastical of storybook ball gowns, fluffy layers of satin over a luxurious petticoat, with a stunning pink floral pattern whose busy appearance was tastefully offset by a shorter, sheer layer of leaf green tulle artistically weaved and somehow sculpted over the floral in order to tame it. The effect turned what should be a grandmotherly pattern into something softer, sophisticated and youthful and yet also reminiscent of fairytale princesses. Over top the short layer of green tulle was an even shorter later of white tulle, almost invisible except for the elegant embroidery of crystal-white vines that twined all over it, connecting the green below it to the bottom-most floral pattern and oddly adding a layer of childishness instead of maturity. At the waist of the dress was a dark plum pink satin ribbon, to separate the elaborate ballgown skirt from the bodice. Attached to the simple ribbon was a large brooch of fabric flowers, with a single plastic ladybug in the center.
The bodice of the dress came up into a cheongsam neckline, but was sleeveless. It was a simple design, of half green and half dark pink, with a white border separating the two. The white border had expertly done embroideries in a soft silver thread that would only be visible close up, the images the thread made being that of fairies and ladybugs dancing around one another.
It was, all in all, a stunning display that made the small eurasian woman wearing them look like absolute royalty. Perhaps a long lost fairy princess. Her black-blue hair was even done up in elaborate looping braids and a braided bun, with silver and green pins that further completed the regal ensemble. And yes, while the expertly done dress was what initially captivated her current audience, it was not what kept them from leaving her alone. That was all her personality, bubbly and bright as her blinding smile. It was a sunny disposition that very few people present had any exposure to at all, and it drew them like a sunflower to the daylight. They could not help but flock closer, or even just stand back and keep themselves turned to her presence. Already she had been at the gala for two hours, but there was no issue. She just kept proving her generosity, admitting she had donated both a dress and a suit of her own making to the charity auction that would begin soon, one of the main attractions of the gala. She skillfully charmed the more snooty of the attendants, and artfully twisted her words so that they felt compelled to donate more money that they truly had no use for. Later, they would remember their donation and wonder what compelled it, but come up with no satisfying answer.
And yet she was entirely unaware of her more silent audience, who stood back and observed. Truth be told, every one of them was glad to not be the center of that attention for a change, to have room to breathe for so long at an event where usually that commodity was so scarce that it demanded a fierce competition for. Compared to her garden of color, they were all shadows in shades of blacks and blues and whites, with a touch of red here and there that was entirely too thematic for their home city. The one who sported a royal blue suit tilted his head at the scene they were all calmly witnessing, his bright azure eyes glittering.
“She’s like magic,” he mused, clearly enchanted despite having not said a single word to the woman. “Perfect socialite. She’s kind, generous, she made that dress and the ones she donated to the auction herself so she’s obviously got an intimidating amount of skill for her age. She even tricks those old fuddy-duddies into spending money. It’s like a dream come true!”
“I don't trust it,” the one to his right said, a man just a few inches shorter in a classic black suit with a red dress shirt underneath. He absently swept his bangs away from his face as he narrowed his eyes at the woman. “It seems too perfect. She doesn’t have any identifiable character flaw, except maybe being a little clumsy and too energetic. She does babble a little… but nothing that actually suggests any depth besides her just being— good. That’s impossible, and I don’t trust it.”
“Tt. I agree with Drake for once. She seems entirely too comfortable with this setting, despite her blushes and rambles,” the one who spoke this like was taller, clearly a teen in the middle of his growth spurt. He, too, wore a plain black suit but his had subtle charcoal embroidery and he wore an emerald-green dress shirt under it that made his matching eyes gleam dangerously. “It seems almost playacted. Expertly so, but nonetheless not entirely genuine.”
“Wow, not many pick up on that. I’m gonna give your observations a solid eight out of ten. They’re all perfectly sound, but not quite complete,” a new voice made all of the silent group stiffen— somehow they had been snuck up on. The newcomer smirked at them as if having fully expected their reaction but still being pleased at being able to evoke it. This was yet another stunner; far too much color in her outfit to be a Gotham native, and far too much skill in the construction for it to signify anything less than extreme influence. She had bright golden-blond hair that was coiled into a low bun, with her bangs artfully curled and arranged to display her crystal blue eyes.
In contrast to the garden-themed dress of the Eurasian woman who had garnered their attention at first, this newcomer was wearing a pantsuit. It was all in a dark honey-gold, in a stiff fabric with construction that made it lay entirely in perfect, straight lines and hug her form in the right places. Black embroidery decorated the long, flared sleeves and pant legs and dripped around the square neckline like a faux necklace. A cape made out of the same material as the rest of the pantsuit was draped on one shoulder. It started out as the same honey-gold color, but it became a gradient as it faded to a solid black at the ends. Gold thread embroidery decorated the solid black bottom of the cape in delicate, deceptively simplistic swirls. The top half of the pantsuit was clearly inspired by military garb, simultaneously rigidly constructed yet fitted, with circular onyx buttons going down the center of the chest and a thick metal belt, all in swirling silver and black, sat perfectly clasped around her waist. It was far more solid-colored and simplistic compared to the fairytale dress in the center, but no less show stopping and luxurious. It simply showcased an entirely different attitude, almost as if the two women could never get along if their personalities matched their outfits.
“And who are you?” The man who had been the center of the group of shadow-like adults spoke up, back straightening to milk every speck of his generous six-feet-and-three-inches of height. This was none other than Bruce Wayne, the host of this annual charity gala. And normally, his current stance would either intimidate or utterly charm whoever it was directed at— but not this pantsuit-clad blond warrior. Her smirk merely widened, and her blue eyes took on a slight shade of teal as if trying to mimic the dangerous ocean depths.
“I am Chloe Bourgeois, the daughter of Andre Bourgeois, the mayor of Paris, and Audrey Bourgeois, the Style Queen. It’s nice to meet you again, Monsieur Wayne,” she introduced herself imperiously. “I also happen to be the best friend of the girl you were just staring at.”
Bruce nodded, but had trouble reconciling this clear powerhouse of a woman with the bratty and entitled preteen he had met years ago, at the last gala she had attended with her mother. “Of course, I didn’t recognize you at first Chloe. You’ve grown a lot since the last Gala I saw you at.”
Chloe wrinkled her nose, clearly not appreciating the reminder. “I was a bitch,” she admitted easily, seemingly not at all bothered by the confession. It caused not only Bruce but also the oldest three of his sons, who had all also met her in the past, to blink in silent shock. “Things have changed. Paris is apparently the perfect chaotic environment right now to promote emotional growth and smack spoiled kids over the head with reality,” she shrugged. Part of the reason her and her whole class had even been able to come to the Gala in the first place was the fact that Bruce wanted to offer the most attacked group of Parisians a respite and some support from their crazy lives. The fact that even Gotham seemed sane in comparison to Paris was a bit of a hard hit for both involved parties, but in the end everyone understood that “more sane” didn’t always equate with “less dangerous.” Considering all that, Chloe had no reason to sugarcoat the situation in her home city. “But it wasn’t easy at all, and Marinette was largely responsible for my improvement too.”
“Marinette?” The heathen who somehow got away with attending a gala in a black leather jacket over a dress shirt and suit pants asked, raising a brow. Chloe nodded.
“The girl you were just goggling at. Marinette Dupain-Cheng, the class president and resident workaholic. Does she ever sleep? Nobody knows,” Chloe shrugged.
The blue-suited man, Dick Grayson, shot a suspicious glance at Tim, who was standing to his right, as if he was worried his brother had made a female clone of himself just so he could continue to work hard and never rest. Tim ignored him and sipped from the thermos of coffee he had somehow snuck in.
Bruce cleared his throat to bring the focus back onto himself, and shot his most charming smile at Chloe. “They would have known who she was, if they had read the brief information I gave them about your class. But they never do listen to me,” he complained with good humor. “But back to the original topic, Miss Bourgeois, do you care to correct us on how our observations are lacking?”
Chloe laughed easily, smiling and nodding to indicate Marinette, still stuck in a circle of socialites and not seeming the least bit worn out.
“Of course. First; She is not completely acting. She really is like magic sometimes— disgustingly kind, generous, far too willing to help just about anyone for just about any reason. She’s one of the best people I’ve ever met, as much as it pains me to admit it. But she is exaggerating her personality a bit and hiding the parts she doesn’t want anyone to see, so there is a little acting involved. Just not as much as you seem to think,” Chloe then waved her arm in a flourish as if she were presenting Marinette to them. “In short; behold Mari Dupain-Cheng, the ridiculously likeable, disgustingly cute, extremely philanthropic mask that she shows everyone at public events like this. You don’t see any of the insomnia, or the anxiety, or the self doubt. Just the parts she wants you to see, accompanied with a smile to blind you to everything else,” her all-too-deep blue eyes settled back on Bruce then, a knowing glint shining in them. “Don’t you think that’s ridiculously similar to Brucie Wayne for you, Monsieur? Utterly, ridiculously, similar?”
Bruce grit his teeth. He hadn’t expected anyone else to know about his exceptionally well hidden secret, not even his kids had caught on or found his buried evidence yet. Yet his heiress comes up, nearly flaunting her knowledge in his face with all too many unspoken questions and criticisms.
And her cryptic words had succeeded in making all of his kids look at him with extreme suspicion. Shit.
“What are you saying, Miss Bourgeois?” he cautiously prodded. She hummed noncommittally before dropping the bomb all too casually;
“I’m saying I’ve seen her adoption papers, and you won’t be able to run from her for long Monsieur Wayne. As soon as she gets an opening, she’s going to pounce,” Chloe’s eyes glittered dangerously again. “And nowadays, Marinette doesn’t ever let people escape her. Your problem with adoption has created a rather unique problem, you know. You’re at fault for a large majority of her self confidence issues, and I want you to know that I am not going to forget or forgive that anytime soon.”
“Bruce,” Jason’s voice was dark and threatening. “What is she talking about?”
“Something we don’t want getting in the tabloids,” Yet another new voice popped up, allowing Chloe to smugly sink back into the background.
Somewhere during their discussion, Marinette had ambushed them.
“Chloe and I are very good at locating all the reporters in a room and distracting them, but we’re not infallible and this event has far too much coverage,” Her smile reeked confidence and charm, but this close all the Waynes could see the doubt hiding in her bluebell eyes. “Since I’m about to turn eighteen, I figured this would be as good a time as any to finally confront you. I want to make it clear that I seek nothing from you, except the occasional contact. I would like to keep in touch, if nothing else. But if you are adverse to that… then at least answer my questions after the gala,” her eyes developed a hint of carefully controlled desperation. “Please.”
Bruce met her eyes evenly, trying to read her. But she was difficult, simultaneously too many emotions to sort through in her demeanor and much too little. After an extremely tense moment of silence, his voice came out barely above a whisper:
“You do not want anybody to know?”
And hell, if she didn’t recognize the hidden vulnerability in his voice as the very same she heard in her own far too often. In a much tamer version of her own rambling, he went on:
“I can keep it silent if that is what you want. But I want you to know that I will not be adverse to you admitting it anywhere. I don’t expect you to change your name, but I would not be ashamed of the truth getting out. I am not ashamed of it, of you.”
Marinette’s smile grew a little watery. She had to clear her throat to keep herself from tearing up. “Maybe eventually, but not yet. I… I want to stay a little more anonymous for now. It’s one thing to be a well known designer with good connections. It’s an entirely different thing to be…”
“A Wayne?” Bruce finished, ignoring the daggers that were being stared into his back. “I understand completely.
“Father,” Damian’s voice was all sharp edges and rapidly suppressed panic. “What. Is going. On?”
Marinette shot him an apologetic smile. “Apparently, eighteen years ago, his prerogative was to put the child he actually knew about up for adoption when the mother died in childbirth,” her voice was once again only barely loud enough for them to hear, since she didn’t want any eavesdroppers. “Imagine my surprise when I find out he completely flipped sides only months later.”
Hey, so please share your feedback on this. This is just to test out a possible new bio dad, multichapter fic and this is the opening scene I'm trying out. If you like it, please tell me what you like about it and please suggest titles for the story! I love you guys' feedback so much!
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kurowrites · 9 months ago
That Boy.
So, as the start into the new year, have Lan Zhan getting hounded by his brother’s groupies and despairing over Wei Ying’s compulsive flirting. :)
“Hello, handsome,” the woman said, smiling at Lan Zhan.
Lan Zhan looked at her, and tried to remember if they had met somewhere before. She was carefully styled, wearing a tight black dress and high heels, with long hair and equally long red nails. She looked somewhat out of place in this cosy coffee shop, more like she was on her way to a fancy event than looking for a cup of coffee. It was certainly someone he would remember, if they had indeed met before. She was, however, entirely unfamiliar to him.
And if that had not been enough of a hint yet, there was a certain gleam in her eye that immediately put him on edge. Her smile was friendly, but there was something about her that made her feel not unlike a predator, smiling at her prey before she opened her mouth and swallowed it.
Lan Zhan sighed internally. Another one of his brother’s fans, he assumed.
He was happy about his brother’s success, and he would always support Lan Huan, there was no doubt about that. But ever since Lan Huan had his big break as a pop musician two years ago, right after he left university, Lan Zhan had found himself constantly hounded by fans of Lan Huan. Some of them genuinely confused Lan Zhan with his brother and were thrilled to meet a pop star on the streets. Others confused him with Lan Huan, but also hit on him in the process, trying to shoot their shot with a celebrity. (Which would never happen, Lan Zhan thought uncharitably. His brother was better than that.)
The ones that were possibly the worst, however, were those that had done their homework, realised that Lan Zhan was not his famous brother, and still decided to go after him. Those were usually the ones that were the most difficult to get rid of, and they came in all shapes, sizes and genders.
Frankly, Lan Zhan was getting tired. He was getting tired of people hitting on him in general, but he was particularly tired of people hitting on him because he was the brother of a celebrity who also happened to look very similar to said celebrity.
He glanced at the woman who had accosted him while he was drinking his tea, and tried to figure out which category she belonged to. And, of course, how he could get rid of her quickly and efficiently.
He wanted to drink his tea in peace.  
She did not seem to be cowed by his critical glance, and gestured to the empty armchair across from him.
“Are you here on your own?” she asked. “Do you mi-”
Before she could finish her words, there was a mad scramble, and with rather more noise than necessary, a large cup of coffee was unceremoniously dumped onto the small table between the two armchairs, and one Wei Ying dove onto the empty armchair across from Lan Zhan, throwing his bag under the table as he did so.
“Sorry, m’lady,” Wei Ying said as he pushed his hair, messy from his athletic stunt, out of his face. He smiled at her broadly and in a way that showed that he very much was not sorry. “This place was reserved for me. I fear you have to look for another seat.”
The woman stared at him in disbelief. She opened her mouth, presumably to lodge a complaint, but Wei Ying could not be bothered. Ignoring her, he directed his gaze towards Lan Zhan.
“So Lan Zhan,” he said loudly. “I heard that you got engaged. Congratulations, I have to say. Took you long enough. Where you failing to find the perfect engagement ring or what?”
Without another word, the woman turned around and walked away in a huff.
Lan Zhan was not sorry to see her go. Still, he felt his face twist into a frown. Wei Ying’s words made no sense to him. What engagement was Wei Ying talking about?
“Wei Ying, I have not gotten engaged.”
Wei Ying laughed loudly, his face shining with mirth.
“Lan Zhan! Of course you didn’t get engaged! I just said that to make her leave! You should have seen your face when she descended on you, like a small, helpless rabbit! Of course I had to help!”
He sighed dramatically and reached out to take hold of his overly large coffee cup.
“I know Lan Zhan is handsome and irresistible, but the nerve of that woman. You were obviously not up for conversation! It’s your strictly scheduled tea break! Which is why I will drink my coffee in silence now, so you can meditate over your tea or whatever it is you do.”
He took a big gulp of his coffee.
Lan Zhan considered Wei Ying for a moment. He was obviously grateful for Wei Ying’s unexpected help, but it came with two problems: First, Wei Ying never did anything silently. Second, Wei Ying himself flirted with Lan Zhan incessantly, calling him handsome and whatnot, so in all fairness, he was hardly better than any of the overenthusiastic Lan Huan fans that approached him.
There might also have been a third problem, though Lan Zhan did not admit to that. He definitely did not notice Wei Ying’s handsome face, brightened by his irreverent, sparkling smile. Neither did he notice his long, deft fingers, carelessly tapping out rhythms on the coffee cup, nor the way he was slouched on the armchair in a way that should have looked sloppy, but instead ended up looking artfully draped.
After all, it was only Wei Ying, irredeemable and obnoxious flirt, and there was nothing for Lan Zhan to notice.
“Thank you,” Lan Zhan said, because he was grateful. “I think she mistook me for my brother.”
Wei Ying raised his eyebrows, an incredulous expression on his face.
Lan Zhan could divine the meaning of that look. After all, Lan Huan was the friendly, approachable one out of the two of them, and he was also a pop star. Certain physical similarities aside, no one with eyes in their head should ever mistake Lan Zhan for his smiling, gentle older brother.
Wei Ying was evidently of the same opinion.
“Haha, Lan Zhan, don’t worry about it,” he eventually replied between two sips of coffee. “I could hardly have looked on while the impeccable, incomparable Lan er-gege was in distress.”
There we go again, Lan Zhan thought to himself, trying to suppress an eyeroll. Incorrigible.
It was not often that Lan Zhan went out with his brother, considering that his brother was a very busy person, so of course they had to run into Wei Ying when they did the next time.
Oh no, Lan Zhan thought to himself when he saw Wei Ying’s eyes flit back and forth between Lan Huan and himself.
This, he would have wanted to avoid. Permanently.
It had been his biggest fear, ever since he had met Wei Ying. Wei Ying was bad enough with Lan Zhan, when he could hope for nothing and had no encouragement. How Wei Ying would act once he had the encouragement of a friendly disposition in addition to Lan Zhan’s oh-so-handsome face, he had never wanted to know.
And now they stood in front of Wei Ying, giving him a truly perfect opportunity to compare and judge.
What the judgement would be, Lan Zhan already knew.
(It would never be him.)
“Lan Zhan!” Wei Ying chirped once he was apparently finished with his thorough analysis. “Is that your brother?”
“Lan Huan.” His brother stepped forward and introduced himself, always a little bit better at being polite than Lan Zhan. “It’s very nice to meet you.”
Wei Ying smiled at him, and Lan Zhan quietly begged Wei Ying not to say–
“Nice to meet you, Lan Huan,” Wei Ying said. “I’m Wei Ying, one of Lan Zhan’s university friends. Did you know, Lan Zhan staunchly refuses to talk about you? But actually, I think he’s really proud of you, and he’s just careful to not spread private information.”
Lan Zhan was so surprised about these words, he could only stand there and stare.
That… was not what he had expected from Wei Ying. After all, when it came to Lan Zhan, Wei Ying couldn’t open his mouth without saying something flirty or suggestive.
And know he looked Lan Huan in the face and managed with a simple ‘nice to meet you’?
“Thank you,” Lan Huan replied with a small, but genuine smile, completely unaware of Lan Zhan’s current internal crisis. “I’m proud of him too.”
Suddenly, Wei Ying perked up.
“I know, right?” he asked excitedly. “He’s such a good, serious student. And so smart! And also ha-” he interrupted himself and coughed once. “Well. You are handsome, too. And he’s your brother. So I guess you know.”
He twirled his hair around his finger and pulled once.
“Well, I guess you have things you need to get done,” he chirped. “And I do too. Have a good time! And see you at university, Lan Zhan! Don’t be a stranger!”
With that, he hopped off, quick as a fox.
Lan Zhan just stared after him, not understanding what had just happened.
You are handsome, too.
When had Wei Ying, of all people, learned moderation?
When he turned back to Lan Huan, he found his brother smiling at him widely, and it put Lan Zhan on the defence immediately.
“What?” he asked, rather more harshly than he had intended to.
“Oh, A-Zhan,” Lan Huan said, his smile becoming smaller, but also more intimate. “I’m very happy for you.”
Lan Zhan frowned. Why would Lan Huan be happy for him? Because one of his university colleagues had finally managed not to embarrass themselves in front of Lan Huan? Because Wei Ying had managed not to completely expose himself? Because he had somehow survived this encounter without getting his heart smashed to tiny pieces?
Of course, there was no good way to ask these questions.
“I think you should move fast, dear brother,” Lan Huan observed, continuing the conversation without needing any input from Lan Zhan. “He’s very handsome, this Wei Ying, is he not? And smart. You might have some stiff competition if you’re not careful, so you need to be quick.”
Lan Zhan stared at Lan Huan, uncomprehending.
What, exactly, was his brother talking about?
“A-Zhan,” Lan Huan sighed when he saw that he had lost Lan Zhan. He reached out and squeezed Lan Zhan’s shoulder once, a quick, familiar comfort. “That boy only has eyes for you, and absolutely nothing else. I don’t think I have ever seen someone more in love.”
His brother let him go and walked away, leaving Lan Zhan standing there, as if he had not just dropped a bombshell of truly earth-shattering properties on him.
That boy only has eyes for you.
That boy.
Only has eyes for you.
 Wei Ying??
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elliotoille · a year ago
Do you have any advice for understanding hands better? I’ve been practicing them for years but feel like compared to other aspects of anatomy it’s the one thing I haven’t seen much improvement in. I draw both from life and images and draw nearly everyday but nothing I’m doing seems to help
I personally get by mostly from remembering poses that I’ve already practiced a ton, like I figure out how to draw it once and am able to file that away in my brain and use it again later, and tweak bits of the pose or the level of simplification to suit what I’m drawing. 
I’ve paid special attention to drawing hands for like.... most of my life so I have a LOT of poses I’m easy comfy with now, but when I need to figure out something complicated or new, I can usually work it out by breaking a hand down into shapes, remembering a few key points/”rules” from what I’ve learned about hands in order to help me break it down in a way that makes sense. And if that’s not enough either, then I take photo refs. 
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^^^ here is a pose I use a ton. I have a quick way of drawing it from various angles. the first time I had to draw a pose like this, I had to think and figure it out, but in drawing it a bunch of times and having to use various angles like this, I’ve eventually come up with a quick, reliable way to draw it from a few of the most common angles that fits the style I like to draw in. I’m blessed with a good memory for observations, so when I see a beautifully posed hand, I can usually really quickly analyze what I like about that pose and why, and that helps me absorb it so I can recreate my saved impression later. But I know not everyone thinks the same way. it might benefit you to quickly scribble down a study in a sketchbook when you see a pose you find beautiful and want to learn from for later.
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^^^ here are some poses I had to stop and spend time figuring out, calling up the “rules” for how hands are built to kind of logic-out how they should look from angles I’m less familiar with. results can be mixed, but... if I end up with something expressive that fits the style of the rest of the drawing, I’m usually really forgiving of fudged anatomy or slightly wonky proportions. as long as the thumb is on the right side and there aren’t too many fingers, that’s a great start lol.
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^^^ and here are ones I had to take reference-selfies for. I try to use this as a last resort because 1) it’s a lot of trouble 2) interrupts my drawing and 3) if I’m not careful I stick too close to the reference, and the drawing ends up with the hand looking referenced and the rest of the pose not, which is jarring to me. not to mention I have tiny manlet wrists that without fail, look horrific and emaciated in photos, and the lens distortion makes my fingers look scary too... ugh, photo reference has definite flaws. I actually don’t like the look of drawings for which I can Really Tell the artist drew from photo reference, because most often that means they’re taking the ref too much at face value and incorporating ugly lens distortions into their drawing. so I have to think extra hard not only about interpreting the ref, but also might have to make multiple passes just to get the hand to look normal, AND match the style of the rest of the drawing.
Anyway, here are some of the ““rules””” I mentioned earlier that I fall back on to help me figure out more complicated poses:
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1. probably seen this before, but basic proportions. the palm is usually half the total height of the hand. obviously you can mess with this purposefully. 
2. I think of joints as like, ball joints or hinges. I find that easier than trying to remember bones & muscles. here’s a drawing of the wrist as a hinge. note that when you’re thinking of it this way, it’s a shortcut, but a shortcut is only good if you use it with precision. notice the pin for the wrist hinge is not just halfway, it’s closer to the top of the hand. being precise about that is what allows this shortcut to work. the heel of the palm juts out, while the top of the hand transitions into the wrist quite smoothly.
3. simplified planes. planes are important yo. in super simple terms: top is flat, bottom is round. this works on the fingers too, actually. the tops are bony and tendony, and the bottom is where the fat is, so it’s rounder and soft
thinking of the hand as abstract shapes REALLY helps simplify the task of drawing hands, and is just as helpful even if you are drawing from reference. I can say “the palm is a box” and obviously the palm is not really as simple as a box, but if I think of the palm, wrist, and each finger joint as various shapes of box, then all of a sudden, psychologically, my task is SO much easier. I’m not drawing a Hand, which is hard, I’m drawing boxes, which is easy.
4. that prominent knob some people have on their wrist? that’s on the pinky side.
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1. the knuckles aren’t really a flat row on top. the hand is like a cup right, so your palm can hold water and things. so we can think of the hand as a box to make figuring out the pose easier, but when it comes down to it, you’ll want to make it more of a curve. this curve is why you can see multiple fingers in a side view
2. when curled up, the fingers nestle together. the fingernails also turn slightly toward the center. even if I’m simplifying the hands significantly, I usually still draw the fingernails because they are SO useful for communicating the pose of the hand effectively.
3. lots of people suggest to think of the hand as a mitten, grouping the pinky/ring/middle fingers and singling out the index finger. this works great, the index finger is more independent from the other three. on the flip side, those three are really stuck together; if you’re drawing the pinky curled up all the way, then you better not draw the ring finger sticking straight up, cause that would HURT. anyway, singling out the index finger leads to more interesting poses in my experience.
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1. this is another illustration of top = flat and bottom = curved. this is a really easy way to organize your line quality. straight lines and sharper angles where there is bone, and soft gentle lines where there is muscle and fat. your drawing as a whole will read very clearly if you find some guidelines like that to stick to, as it means all your lines are intentional and thoughtful.
2. this one’s about overlaps. when forms overlap, it makes a crease, and when you draw that crease you’re communicating which form is in front of the other. in the second drawing I reversed all the creases, and it looks.... messed up. think about how pieces connect.
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so when you’re trying to make up a pose without using specific reference, I think it’s good to think about the.... flow of energy through the pose. honestly, I know it’s really abstract, but if I have an ability to make interesting poses that communicate weight and movement, the things that make people say your character feels ALIVE, like they really EXIST in a space... it’s because I started to think of poses this way. imagining streams of energy bouncing through the body, flowing down the limbs and out through the fingers. this is why hands are so important to me, cause they’re where the kinetic energy of the pose ultimately ends up. I talk about it when drawing the torso and arms and legs, but an interesting drawing has a bounce back and forth between opposites: for every curve, an opposing straight line, alternating back and forth down the entire body. if you’re sensitive to the energy of the pose, then even very simple poses will be interesting to look at.
anyway, with regards to hands, I imagine the energy getting sort of cinched in as it passes through the wrist, and then emanating out through the fingertips. I hope my drawing at least SORT of communicates this imagery. it makes sense because that’s BASically how the bones in the hand are anyway. and then the right side of the image above is just demonstrating some highly simplified gestures. see how the fingers fan out and curl in, rarely parallel to eachother. when you’re figuring out the pose, using a line to stand in for the row of knuckles is super valuable.
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aaand finally, here’s two hands where I intentionally neglected correct anatomy and proportion because I felt it worked better for the style of the whole drawing. Left side: since this is a really simple and cartoonish style, I was thinking back to kids’ and shoujo manga I have read where the style was very solid and distinctive, but definitely NOT overly concerned with correct anatomy, or even really drawing hands, uh, “well” at all. to me, that sort of approach has a Look that I like to invoke sometimes, since for years I felt like I learned a bunch of anatomy and proportion and drawing from life actually in detriment to the liveliness and appealness of my drawings. this hand is mushy and makes very little sense, but it turned out as intended. Right side: sometimes I like to pretend fingers only have 2 bones in them, cause i am a Queen and i do what i want
and there you go. I hope that helped, like, at all? Look at real hands and photos of hands and hands in motion, but also look at drawn hands as well. find what you like, and work towards expressing that yourself. and remember the hand is part of the whole drawing. not only in the art style like I’d been talking about, but because the angle and placement of the hand is reflected in the angles of the arm, which in turn reflects on the angles of the shoulder, which affects the whole torso, etc etc etc. and the techniques you can use to understand and draw the rest of the body, works on hands too. as you improve everything else, your hands will improve as well.
DISCLAIMER: I whipped up these diagrams quickly, they’re not meant to be good drawings or accurate refs, just diagrams to illustrate my thought process lol
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shreddedparchment · a year ago
A Wife for Thor Pt.02
No Lies in a Marriage
Pairing: King!Thor x Reader          Word Count: 5,150
Warnings: angst, anxiety, panic attack, language
A/N: As I said in the post earlier today, you’ll probably see updates for this story often right now because it’s at the beginning and I know where I’m going pretty clearly and how to get there and it’s kinda just writing itself for right now. Anywho, I hope you enjoy this chapter! I love writing this reader with Thor...but I think it’s just because I love writing Thor. haha If you happen to reblog, thanks so much for helping me spread my work! xoxo
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You sit up most of the night after talking to David, staring out your bedroom window at the small plot of land you call your own.
Your belonging. The only true one you’ve ever had.
It’s a small inheritance, sure but it’s yours. Yours alone. A sanctuary from the feeling of emptiness that you’d once felt wishing for something that felt like home. It’s more than even some will ever have.
You’re lucky.
And now you have to leave it behind?
There’s no denying your own part in this mess. You’d been given a choice and you’d made it, believe this outcome would never come. Yet here you are, betrothed and fated to be Queen of Asgard.
David comes to help you pack because he knows that you’ll be wallowing.
In shock you pack just as asked, essentials only which means for you, only your clothing, your laptop, and a very small collection of books are chosen.
You have no pictures to take with you. No family heirlooms or sentimental possessions. You fit it all into one large suitcase.
Funny. As you pack, you can’t help but imagine the lives your nomadic ancestors had lived. Much like you in these moments as you pack what little you have of your life away; they must have left everything behind over and over in their search for their own belonging.
It only takes you two hours to pack once David arrives and together you lug the suitcase down your little hallway to the front door.
There, a beautiful Asgardian stands waiting, her eyes on your own foggy expression with slight concern as David joins her and they lapse into quiet conversation as you continue to space out, thinking about the life you’re leaving behind.
Really, if you’re honest, it isn’t much of a life.
Yes, you have your routine. This is your house. Your things. But aside from that, there’s nothing here. Nothing but independence and solitude.
That’s enough, some would say. Others would wonder what you do with all your time.
Why hadn’t you found someone to share this life with? Someone who could appreciate the coziness of this place with you.
“Are you ready?” The Asgardian asks, Brunnhilde, her voice smooth but stern, yet not unkind.
You turn to look at her, hair gathered up on her head in a large bun. She’s dressed for the Norwegian weather she’s come from despite it being significantly hotter here.
She’s not bothered by it. Or if she is, she hides it well.
“Would it matter if I said no?”
“No.” She smiles at you, cheek bones so rounded and pretty you almost want to stroke them because you’ve rarely seen anyone so beautiful.
All of the Asgardians are beyond compare when it comes to looks. Even those that are plain radiate a golden aura. Godlike. Thor’s is the strongest and he’s most certainly the most beautiful to look at.
You’d been too afraid to admit it to yourself before because you’d been so decided against marrying him, but Thor is by far the loveliest man you’ve ever seen. Ideal. He’s exquisite.
And you get to marry him. Which doesn’t exactly feel like a bad thing.
Being chosen to marry Thor would be amazing, given the fantasies you’ve allowed yourself to indulge in since the day you met with him, if not for the fact that you know he’s in love with someone else. Someone who won’t marry him. Someone stupid, obviously.
And those fantasies you’d indulged in would never happen with someone else in his heart. So without that, all you have left is duty. Duty to Earth and its people, ensuring their safety and though you honestly don’t think Earth needs it, the assurance from the Asgardians that they will respect humans as the dominant lifeform on the planet.
Yes, the whole Queen of Asgard thing is a little daunting and will probably take over your life, so you can’t blame this mystery woman for not wanting to give up her own pursuits to take care of an entire people. To give up one identity for another? Yours is close enough to blank—your life nearly empty—that for you, this might not be such a great loss and yet, this leaves you wondering what this will do for you career.
Small as it is, you’ve had two books published. Limited releases with not much traction. Still, the accomplishment is your own. One you’re proud of.
Will you have to stop writing?
“There will be a dinner, to introduce you to Thor’s inner circle. Myself, Loki, a few others that serve directly under him.” Brunnhilde is saying, pulling you back to reality.
You look around, having zoned out so thoroughly that you hadn’t even realized you’d boarded a plane and taken off.
“The only one you’ll have to watch out for is Sif. She’s usually pretty nice, but she’s a little miffed about the whole marriage situation. From what I’ve heard, she’s had a thing for Thor since they were children. She’s a fierce warrior. Might want to avoid her altogether if possible. Asgardian women can be a little territorial.”
Lovely, another rival.
“So can human women.” You grumble, already hating the looks of what you suppose will be an onslaught of distractions for your future husband in the forms of beautiful women.
Brunnhilde quirks a brow, raising it high as she considers your words but doesn’t comment further.
“He’s never seen her as more than a comrade in arms. Or so he says.” She sounds unconvinced, but you recognize her attempt to calm you.
You stare, saying nothing more as your world is overturned.
“After dinner, you’ll spend some time with Thor. He wants to talk to you a bit. The wedding will be on Thursday. Thor’s idea. Full of himself, the idiot.” She’s smiling as she insults him, flipping the page of a magazine she’d grabbed from the pocket of the seat in front of her and you realize they must be close friends.
“Did he really pick me?” You wonder, knowing that her personality will only let her answer one way.
Brutally honest.
“Against all our recommendations.” She tells you. “Most of us were pulling for the Hungarian one. She had the schooling and the training. A little too eager for Thor, or so he said. And Loki. Loki was also in favor of you.”
“Loki?!” You gasp, remembering with great detail your chance meeting with the Asgardian prince.
“Oh yeah.”
Why would Loki want Thor to choose you? You weren’t exactly nice to him. Then again, you weren’t really mean either. Just…blunt.
More importantly, after the awkward conversation with Thor and his admission to marrying despite his feelings for someone else, his choice is the most confusing.
“Why did he pick me?” You plead. “Thor.”
“You’ll have to ask him tonight after dinner. I couldn’t tell you other than that he said he wanted someone real. Someone who knew what it’s like to be a normal person. Whatever that means.” Brunnhilde shrugs. “Normal is all relative. Odin, I need a drink.”
The plane ride is over too quickly and the ride to New Asgard even shorter. The village is large but not much larger than the town you’d grown up in. Plenty of houses and public spaces but nothing like a cityscape.
You’re surprised by the more modest choices they’ve made for their homes. Simple houses with wood siding and strong rooftops.
That is, most of the village is modest. Almost at the center of the largest grouping of buildings is a large multi-storied palace.
Just as it did the first time you saw it when you’d been brought for the meeting, you gasp when you see it, admiring the beauty of the structure bathed in afternoon sunlight.
It reminds you of an old Nordic home you’d seen online only on steroids. Four, maybe five stories? All roofs are tall and sharp, parts covered with moss.
Brunnhilde shows you into the main foyer, large and tall room that allows space large enough for people to stand and chat. Here she leaves you and David with a young Asgardian woman. She looks as if she can’t be more than seventeen but from what you know about Asgardian aging, she’s probably hundreds of years old.
She escorts you both to your new room, and you and David gasp at the sight.
Even though it’s smaller than the sitting room you’d been in when you met with Thor before, there’s a large bed immediately to the right, covered in luxurious plum and silver silk sheets. A large dark brown bear skin rug covers the center of the floor. To the left is an extravagant dark oak armoire, beside it a matching vanity with a low cushioned and backless seat.
On the far wall, between two sets of heavy wooden double doors that lead out to a balcony sits a desk and another seat with a black cushion, the same style as the vanity’s chair.
There’s a low hanging chandelier made of intricately twisted wood, reinforced with dark steel. The design of it makes you think there should be candles, but instead you find it furnished with small flame-shaped lightbulbs.
Along each of the walls are beautiful artworks, one of a singular mountain you’ve never seen on Earth. Another a golden palace with a sky of literal space above and behind it. There’s a smaller painting almost right above the bed and the likeness of it is so precise, you gasp again.
David follows your gaze with his mouth hanging open a little but then he chuckles. It’s a throaty sound as he turns away from you and moves further into the room with your bag while you deposit your purse on the bed, eyes glued to the painting.
“These Asgardians seem to be experts at everything.” David says, conversationally. “Their architecture, their music, their wits in battle. It seems even their art is exceptional.”
You’re still too busy staring to reply.
When David speaks again, he’s right beside you, voice dropped in volume.
“It must really look like him, to have you rendered speechless.” He observes.
“Yes.” You agree. “Just like him. Only now he has the eyepatch. He looks the same with two eyes. Less rugged but the same.”
“And he will remain the same, long after you’ve died, I think.” David admits.
“Yeah…” You swallow, looking down at the bottom of the frame.
The thought had only begun to occur to you when you’d been making your way through the city after Brunnhilde had confessed to being over a thousand years older than Thor and Loki.
“For Thor, this marriage will pass in the blink of an eye.” You sigh, feeling a little saddened by truth of that.
You turn around and sit down on the bed, resting your hands on your knees limply as you stare at the floor.
David squats before you, forearms on his knees.
“You’re serving a great purpose.” He tells you. “Ensuring the safety of the human race. You’re the white flag the Asgardians are waving. History will remember you, Y/N. It will not be in vain.”
Your eyes begin to water, and you nod, knowing he’s right.
“I know I just…” Your head gives an involuntary turn towards Thor’s portrait, but you manage to keep yourself from looking. “He’s in love with someone already. And, yeah, I’d never thought about being with someone before. But now that I’m faced with it, now that I know I’ll be his wife—I don’t know that I don’t want him to like me.”
“He may come around.” David consoles. “You’re a pretty girl and nice, even though you bite.”
His teasing draw a small curve of your lips. The levity however is quickly lost at the prospect of your life stretched out before you, never knowing love as your husband covets another woman.
This isn’t what you’d expected. To be fair you hadn’t expected anything, but now the idea of being married to Thor knowing that he’d much prefer if you were someone else hurts you in a way you didn’t know had been possible.
This ache in your chest feels strange and vivid and unbearable.
Your tears flow. David sighs and reaches up to wipe your cheeks, pulling you in for a hug.
Taking his offered comfort, you hide your face against his shoulder, allowing yourself these few moments to really feel the anxiety and sadness this whole thing has brought.
“I’m sorry.” David tells you, his voice steady but sad. “I wish I could give you a better life. I know that this is not what you parents would have wanted.”
You pull back, shaking your head as you gather yourself. “No, David. You’ve been the most supportive person in my life. This is how it’s supposed to be. Otherwise, why would I have the ancestors I have, right?”
David sighs, reaching up to wipe at your cheek.
“Besides, it’s not like I’ll be truly suffering. Not like other people do. I’ll have a good roof over my head, food, money won’t be a worry. How many other people my age can say that?”
David’s gaze becomes skeptical and he purses his thin lips a little. “Is that really how you feel?”
“Fuck no. This whole thing is complete shit.” You argue, then laugh as David chuckles too.
“There’s that fighting spirit. Keep that fire, Princess, and you’ll find a way through this.” He says, and the way the word Princess rolls of his lips makes you feel the way you’d always thought you’d feel had your dad lived to be a part of your life.
“You say that like it’s easy.” You sigh.
Before he can answer, there’s a knock on the door and it opens.
Both you and David shoot up to your feet as Loki walks in.
He’s smiling politely until he sees your face.
“I’m sorry. Am I intruding?” Loki wonders, as you quickly wipe away the tears left on your cheeks.
“No.” You shake your head quickly, voice thicker than when you arrived because of your break down. “No. Of course not. Come in.”
He doesn’t look convinced and his brow is furrowed as he looks you both over then stands with his hands behind his back. He looks neat and exotic wearing a pair of dark pants, a black top with embellishments in stunning emerald, a thin golden chain connecting each side of his high collar to the other.
“I’ve come to make sure that you find the clothing we’ve left for you.” Loki gestures at the armoire.
“I’m-I can’t wear what I brought?” You ask, pressing your hand to your chest, unintentionally sniffing.
“Tonight, you will meet with my brother’s court. It is a formal event that you must attend wearing slightly more traditional Asgardian garb.” Loki replaces his hands behind his back. “Brunnhilde has chosen something she thought would be your color. You have an hour then we’ll send your maid in to fetch you.”
You nod.
“Are you sure you’re alright?” Loki asks again.
“You’re surprisingly worried.” You tell him, David moving to open the armoire and get a look at what you’re going to have to wear.
Loki’s face quickly shifts into a smile, his eyes averted as he nods.
“I hear you were the only person other than Thor who chose me.” You sit back down slowly, your hands softly skating over the cool silky sheets. “Why?”
“You were a breath of fresh air.” He admits. “Compared to the other candidates, you seemed the only one with her feet on the ground.”
Looking away from him you pinch the plum sheets.
“Is that why Thor chose me too?” You ask, knowing it isn’t the reason he chose you.
“Whatever the reason,” Loki begins, and his voice is stern enough to draw your gaze. “I’m certain my brother has nothing but honorable intentions. He’s always been the good one.”
“I think that’s true.” You nod, “He has always been the good one, if the stories are to be believed.”
“I make no excuses for who I was.” Loki assures you.
“But I think you and I both know that Thor’s intentions when it comes to me are anything but honorable.” You smile sadly. “I really hate lying. Let’s not lie to each other. We’re family, right? Or will be.”
Loki’s look remains somber, his eyes far away for a moment.
“You’re the right woman for the job. That is the truth.” Loki admits.
“I guess we’ll see.”
Loki nods. “One hour, your highness.”
His words give you a shock, and your left gaping at him as he leaves and shuts the door behind him.
“Well, that sounded strange.” David admits, “But not as strange as this dress. Well, perhaps strange is not the right word.”
You’re still reeling from the your highness as you get and walk to David that it takes your eyes a moment to process the sight before you.
“I am not wearing that.”
“I can’t breathe in this thing!” You whine, hooking your fingers into the ultra-high neckline of your dress.
It’s more like a cage, this piece that goes around your throat and shoulders. It connects to a slightly see-through bodice with soft split threads lining the length of the dress, underneath the top, silver layer is a soft pink one that stands pretty against your skin. It gives the dress depth and offers a pleasant backdrop for the waterfall skirt as it fans out around your feet.
The lattice neckpiece connects to the dress’s neckline with four stiff wire connectors wrapped in the same silver fabric as the rest of the dress.
Your hair, your maid expertly gathered atop your head, shaping it to look as much like you as it can but also keeping it contained with several silver Celtic knot-looking clips. She’d added very little color to your face, telling you that Thor had requested you look as much like yourself as possible so that his court could see the real you.
Even so, you’re overwhelmed by what you see in the mirror as you pass a particularly large one as you and David make your way to the dining hall.
“Don’t fret.” David tells you, reaching over to stop your wringing hands. “Just be yourself. That’s why he chose you.”
“So, what you’re saying is to not be myself.” You nod. “Got it.”
David pulls you to a stop, turning you to face him. Your maid, Estrid, keeps walking a bit then stops leaving you both some space.
“I want you to remember something, Y/N.” David says, low and quiet so that only you can hear him. Well, he doesn’t know that Asgardians have better than human hearing, but whatever. “These people, they need you. They need you. More than you will ever need them.
“Without you, they might have to leave Earth because Thor will never turn against the human race. I don’t know why. We’re not that great.” David shrugs, and your mouth pops open as you breathe a pained gasp.
In this moment, with David’s helpful words, you’re provided with astounding clarity.
“She’s human.” You realize, eyes watering.
It happens so quickly, your breath catches, brain in a frenzy, hands shaking, sweating, your tears flow freely.
You’ve never cried so much in your life and you understand now that this will be your new state of being because what else can you do when you’ve knowingly given your life to a man who loves another human woman which only means that she will also only live for a short time and that means that Thor doesn’t have a lot of time with her so, of course he’ll want to be with her until the day she dies, because she’s the one he really wants to be with, and you’re just the tool to use so that he can stay here with her.
What kind of life have you fated yourself to?
“Your Highness?” Estrid asks, concern painting her voice as you shake your head, too panicked to speak.
David moves you towards the wall, pressing you against it to lean as Estrid moves closer to peek at you.
“Might I be of assistance?” She offers and David turns a smile on her.
“A glass of water, perhaps?”
Estrid hurries away giving you and David the hallway.
“Y/N?” He says, voice hard. “Breathe.”
You look at him, focus on the streak of white in his hair as it falls forward to hang across his brow.
It helps and you shut your mouth and breathe in deep through your nose.
He reaches into the pocket of his suit jacket and pulls from it a white handkerchief. With gentle fingers, he coaxes your face up so that he can carefully wipe the tear stains from your cheeks. He takes a bit of the blush they’d put on you, but you don’t care, and he doesn’t either.
“What is it that troubles you? Tell me.” He urges you.
“Um…” You begin, chin quivering and making your voice shake a little. “…I-I-I don’t know how I’m going to be married to him when I kn-know that he really wants to be with s-someone else. I don’t know how…how…how…”
David sighs, shaking his head as he caresses yours. “Then you look elsewhere too. If he sees fit to be with someone else while you’re married, then you deserve to experience love too. Take a lover. Be discreet. No one will know and you will both get what you want.”
“Isn’t that wrong?” You half cry. “I mean, aren’t wives and husbands s-supposed to be faithful?”
David smiles, pulling your head down to kiss your forehead. “Then give him a chance to change his mind. If he doesn’t love you by the end of the year, then he’s a bigger fool than I already think he is. A downright dumbass.”
“I don’t like the idea of someone being with me when they don’t want to be.” You admit.
And David doesn’t need you to explain that this stems from living in the school, waiting for adoption only to never be chosen.
You’ve finally been picked, and this is what it’s for?
“Do you want me to come to dinner? I can insist on it.” He promises. “I’ll even make a scene.”
You shut your eyes and sob once, David pulls you against his chest and once more you hide your face against his shoulder.
Both of you hear her steps before you see her and yet, when you turn to accept your water, you’re frozen as you find yourself face to face with Thor.
He’s dressed beautifully, in black leather trousers, stitched with thick visible charcoal colored strips of more leather. His torso is covered in what you’d consider light armor. More leather pieces in deep gold tones except for the arms which are covered in metallic scales that shine under the hallway lights. His shoulders are draped in a floor length cape, black, thinner than the one you’ve seen him wear before.
A more casual cape, you suppose.
Both you and David are absolutely still, confused by Thor’s sudden appearance.
“I uh…” Thor looks uncomfortable, shifting his weight from foot to foot as he gestures behind him with his right hand, in his left a glass of water. “Estrid looked upset. She said you weren’t feeling well?”
There’s genuine concern in his voice and it surprises you enough to wipe away most of your worries for now.
“I’m fine.” You assure him.
David clears his throat. “I should go. I have my own dinner to eat.”
“No, please. Join us.” Thor rushes to invite him, gesturing back towards the dining hall again.
“No, no. Really.” David uses his hand to refuse, then reaches down to give your hand a squeeze. “Can I trust you to escort Y/N to dinner?”
Your heart swells for David, once again, the father you never had.
“Of course.” Thor nods, smiling at David before moving to you, seeing this as permission to move closer maybe? “I take full responsibility.”
There’s a twinge of bitterness in your chest, a rolling in your stomach as you see David narrow his eyes at Thor.
“I’m going to hold you to that, God of Thunder.” He threatens, and Thor seems to realize it’s a threat because he looks startled. However, he smiles and plays it off quickly, nodding. “Have a good dinner, princess.”
David gives your hand one more squeeze before leaving you and Thor to whatever awkward conversation you’re about to have.
Thor waits until you’re both alone in the hallway before he holds out the glass of water he’d brought for you.
“Have you been crying?” He wonders, voice soft and gentle. Deep too, it settles in your chest and makes you feel stupid for liking it.
“Just a little.” You admit.
“I’m nervous.” And that isn’t a lie. “And apprehensive.”
Also, not a lie.
“And I don’t trust you.” You confess, feeling no qualms about the shock that flits across his rugged face.
“What did I do?” He cries.
“You told me you’re in love with someone else who won’t marry you.” You sigh, taking a long drink of your water. “I’m not exactly excited to be marrying someone who already wants to be with someone else.”
Understanding shifts his expression and he nods, reaching up to scratch at the side of his chin.
“I’ll be honest,” He begins, offering you his arm as you lower your glass. “It was never something I expected either. After watching my parents love each other for many years, their marriage was something I hoped I could experience.”
“Then why didn’t you fight harder for this woman you love? Convince your court! She’s human, right? I’m sure the Earth Ambassadors would be happy to have you marry any human.” You reason, still hoping to get out of this even if the only thing you hate about this now is the fact that he’s in love with someone else.
That fantasy marriage you’d painted for yourself has taken over your inexperienced brain and planted a seed within your heart and you feel like a fool for it.
“They were fine with it. Jane is not ready for marriage and I cannot force her to marry me if she doesn’t want to.” Thor laments, truly sounding sad about her refusal.
“Doesn’t she care that you’re marrying someone else?” You wonder, watching his expression as he begins to lead you towards the dining hall.
“In a way.” Thor nods. “She and I want to be together, but Jane is devoted to her work. She could not make the time for the obligations marrying me would entail.”
“Sounds selfish.” You observe, hating Jane a bit because she has what you didn’t know you wanted. Maybe not exactly Thor himself yet, but the love he has for her.
Thor says nothing for a moment, thinking probably. He stops walking and you stop beside him.
“I would not want her to give up her passions. In marrying me, Jane would lose her identity. Which is too important to her to give up. I could never ask her to do it.”
“Because you love her.” You agree.
“Which is why you find it so easy to do it to me.” You explain, realizing it as you speak it. “Because you don’t care about me. Therefore, my identity has little value. To you.”
Thor’s speechless, staring at you as your own heart pounds. You don’t know where you conjured the audacity to say the words out loud as they came to you, but they’re true. Truer than even you know.
“I do care.” Thor argues softly, looking at your hand wrapped around his bicep.
“You don’t, Thor.” You shake your head, politely disagreeing.
“Yes, I do!” He argues, this time a little more heated.
“What do I do for a living?” You challenge and he stutters, thinking hard.
He furrows his brow, crinkly creases at the corners of his eyes as he ponders.
You observe it’s loveliness. Truly a creature of perfection even with the gold and black metal patch over his eye. If he cared about you, you might actually fall for him. If he gave two shits, you might be a goner.
“Your family left you an inheritance!” He points out, as if this is what you do.
“You don’t remember?” You ask, knowing the answer. “I told you when we met, though I only mentioned it in passing.”
“How am I expected to remember then? If you were not specific?” He retorts.
“If I’d been Jane, you would have remembered.” You tell him.
“No.” He disagrees. “I’m always this inattentive.”
You laugh once, shocked by his candor. “You’re such a liar.”
“I’m not! Ask anyone once we’re seated. They’ll all tell you that I never pay attention or listen. To anyone!” He insists, and you laugh again because he’s being sincere.
His gaze is slight shock as he looks at you, then it softens, and he chuckles with you.
“Why are you laughing?” You ask him.
“I don’t know.” He chuckles again. “I’m glad you’re feeling better, I suppose.”
This sobers you and your laugh dies off.
“Can I ask a favor?” You look at him, trying to read him like you’ve never tried to do so to anyone before.
“Of course.” He nods.
“I know you don’t love me. And I know that the likelihood of you loving me at any point in our marriage is nonexistent, but I really want to try and make this marriage work. I want it to be as real as possible.
“Which means I want you to be honest with me about everything. I don’t want any secrets. I don’t want to think you’re talking to or meeting Jane because you’re acting suspicious. If you have to see her,” And he seems to understand that you mean, if he feels like he needs to for his own sake, because he loves her. “I want to know that’s what you’re doing. Please, don’t make a fool of me, Thor.”
Thor considers you for a moment, absorbing your words as you wait for his response.
Instead of giving you what you want, he gives you a long head-to-toe. “I was right to choose this gown.”
He chose it?
“You look exquisite. Just as a princess should.” He admires. “Come, let’s go introduce you to my friends.”
As he pulls you towards the dining hall, your heart begins to pound again as nervous energy courses through your veins setting your limbs to white noise again. Tingly.
“They’re all very eager to meet the woman who will be Queen of Asgard.”
“I think I’m gonna throw up.” You worry.
Thor chuckles.
“I’m right there with you.”
595 notes · View notes
noona96n · 8 months ago
the fashion of WBL
every character in WBL has a very consistent color scheme and wardrobe style!  it’s obviously due to the limited budget but like... it’s neat that they re-wear their clothes and they have distinct and easily recognizable styles that speak of their character traits and personalities.
Shu Yi & Shi De has this ‘light & dark’, ‘yin & yang’, ‘opposite attract’ thing going on from their camera’s POV to their clothes
in terms of clothes, Shu Yi wears a lot of dark colors, especially black. his clothes ALWAYS have black in it and he wears a lot of accessories. like a fckn ton of accessories, from earrings to necklaces to bracelets. 
his fashion is also similar to my male Japanese friends: mostly loose-fitting tops with fitted bottoms. when he wears pants, the cuffs stop just above his ankles and his ankles are usually exposed, tho he wears long neck socks so we don't see his actual ankles. 
 the only shirt that Shu Yi wears without black in it is the one in the library scene (also worn at the gym when he gave Shi De the water bottle). even then, his pants/jeans are obviously black or dark blue 
he’s very chic, trendy, playful and free-spirit but he’s also moody. he can be deep and soulful as well; he plays the piano, he listens well to his dad (remembering what his dad told him about love in the beginning of ep1), and it’s confirmed by Zheng Wen that he likes to keep things to himself despite his aloofness (beginning of ep2)
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Shi De's color scheme is the opposite of Shu Yi's. he's always in something that's of light color, mostly sky blue & white. he also usually wears his shirts half-tucked or in a similar style. his clothes are more... structured? idk the correct term, im not a fashion person, but that's the impression Shi De's outfits give me.
Shi De also doesn’t wear any accessory except his watch. which he doesn’t always wear either. his looks are usually just... super minimal, super simple, super soft & super easy going. 
Shi De is quiet and reserved, calm and collected. he has everything under control (i mean... he’s a conniving & manipulative lil shit who planned the ‘sleepover’ at the infirmary) and even his wardrobe is ‘easy-going’ & soothing and there’s a simple pattern and discernible order to it.
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also... that top right outfit is devastating!!!!! i am weAK
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here’s a bigger image of that pic. im so mad Shi De only wore this shirt once. like. WTF HE LOOKS SO GOOD IN IT THIS IS A CRIME
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even baby Shu Yi & Shi De have these color scheme & outfit choice lol
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Yuxin & Zheng Wen color schemes ALWAYS match. and they give me this very 'been together for so long we unintentionally match bcs that's just how well we know each other' vibe. 
Zheng Wen always seems to be wearing a plaid shirt over his white tee. at the very least, his outfit includes a shirt somehow. and Yuxin's outfits consist of a fluffy, homey-looking shirt with well-fitted jeans. the both of them just... fit together.
compared to Shu Yi, they are more ‘adult-y’, which is true! Zheng Wen is the ‘voice of reason’ whenever Shu Yi wants to prank Shi De. Yu Xin also thanked Shi De for helping Shu Yi out of the pool when Shu Yi just up and left. 
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and, among the ‘childhood trio’, Shu Yi sticks out like a sore thumb. everyone is so ‘fluffy’ and Shu Yi is a ‘goth’ with all that black outfits he owns. 
also interesting to note that Zheng Wen color scheme is somewhere in the middle of the light-dark scale. he mostly wears light color but it’s mixed with darker shades too. just like how he’s closer to, and more mindful/considerate of, Shu Yi than Yu Xin. ofc this isn’t on the premise of their genders alone but also due to the fact that Zheng Wen knew that Shu Yi like Yu Xin and that he was reluctant to go out with Yu Xin because he didn’t want to hurt Shu Yi
Yu Xin on the other hand was like ‘this is between me & you, why are you talking about Shu Yi’ lol 
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Bing Wei is very... boyish? he usually wears bright colors, especially red, blue & green, and his shirts are usually also the 'sporty' type. he also wears a lot of cargo shorts. 
they fit him, he's very innocent and well-intentioned but he's also a bit of a himbo haha. i mean... my boy’s in law school but he knows thug that are good enough to beat up Shi De without leaving any connection to them HAHA. 
also also, his personality is boyish and open in general. we all know he likes Shu Yi but he didn’t confess. he knows what’s up between Shu Yi & Shi De and quietly gives up. and it’s interesting to note that he likes the childish side of Shu Yi. in ep1, he told Zheng Wen that Shu Yi still being wayward at 21 is cute. 
Zhe Yu's clothes also kinda match with Bing Wei's. i mean in color... i think they're the only two who wear a lot of eye catching colors. he also wear shirts with 'bold' cuts & lines (again, idk if that's the right term) but Zhe Yu's outfit contrast with Bing Wei in the sense that Zhe Yu's always in long pants/jeans.
Zhe Yu’s bold and forceful, just like the pops of colors in his clothes. he confessed his feeling and expected it to be returned. not a great trait... but like, some people are like that. so. 
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and Shou Yi... Shou Yi is just... he hot. 
Shou Yi in the doc's coat??
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mm hmmm, good shit right there. righttttt thereeeeeee~ mm hmmm, mm hmmm.
but in all seriousness, his clothes are simple and easy to mix and match: fitted shirts on the spectrum of white to black and dark-colored jeans/pants. his outfits are very practical and ‘no nonsense’ in a way. it’s also bold and commanding, which he is. 
this man just... casually threatening his patients left and right. 
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yes, u got me, this is just an excuse for me to simp over Ray Chang ;) 
i also love the fact that every character re-wears their outfit! it's such a mood tbh AHAHA my broke ass can relate to having limited clothes & resorting to mixing & matching tops & bottoms to create new looks 
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“Dick has an overdose at a gala, hurt/comfort” ~ anon
He forgot to take his meds this morning.
Dick blows out a frustrated breath because that means he’s going to have to rearrange his entire cycle in order to not double dose. He always takes Zoloft in the morning with his breakfast and protein shake, and then the rest of the day goes smoothly and he can go to bed without the lingering worry of whether or not he remembered to do something. It’s an ingrained part of his routine and Dick is kicking himself for having forgotten to do it today.
The little yellow-tinted pill in his hand mocks him of his absent mindedness. The entire day had thrown him off of his usual planning, the not so gentle reminder of tonight’s charity gala for leukemia causing him to flit about in an attempt at getting his very much not used suit dry cleaned for the evening. Alfred would probably feel the need to strangle his first grandchild if Dick showed up with a wrinkled suit smelling of dust and disuse. 
That wrench thrown into his day leads him to where he is now, staring down the pill in his hand and holding a glass of water in the other. He could always take his meds tomorrow so his routine wouldn’t be thrown off so drastically, but even the thought of doing so makes his hands feel clammy for skipping an entire day. He promised his psychiatrist he was going to take these things more seriously and he wanted to at least start that off by regularly taking his prescription. It had been working, so far, and Dick really didn’t want to fall into the bad habit of “skip-days”, so with one fluid motion, he was swallowing the pill and gulping down water.
Tonight was going to be fun at least. Even with his flighty day and the hassle it was doing things he should’ve done the previous week, Dick was excited to go to a gala for once. It was one of the rare occasions where Bruce had managed to convince all of his wayward children to go, and it had been far too long since Dick had spent some time with all of his siblings. He saw Damian at least once a week, Tim as well, but Jason had been a struggle to get a hold of and Cass and Duke were always busy with their own responsibilities. Not that Dick wasn’t busy as well, but in his book, there was always time for family. 
Dick walks out of the bathroom, feeling slightly more pleased with himself for following through with his promise, and quickly walks to the garage where most of the family had already gathered. Had it not been for the fact that Cass and Duke happened to be staying at the Manor that week, Dick would have driven by himself to the banquet hall, but as it were, he was going to make every effort possible to squeeze in as much time as he could to be with his brothers and sister.
A slight problem arose though, as fitting eight total people into one car, driver included, was a tight fit. However, living with a billionaire had numerous perks, one of which being that they could choose from a variety of overly expensive cars and limousines and tonight, Alfred had chosen a classy black limo with leather seats and a cooler filled with bite-size cucumber sandwiches and bottled waters because, “In all of the many years of hosting galas, the Bestout family has yet to figure out how to properly serve a banquet.” 
Slipping into the passenger seats, Dick was slightly giddy at the sight of both Damian and Duke already munching on a few of the snacks Alfred had prepared, Tim typing away on his phone and Cass curiously peering over his shoulder. They all looked dashing in their respective suits, and Dick reached out to lightly pat the head of the youngest, careful as to not disturb the neatly gelled locks of hair. 
“Richard,” Damian acknowledges, a stray piece of bread clinging firmly to the side of his mouth. Adorable. “Where is Todd and Father?”
Before Dick has a chance to reply, Bruce and Jason step into the garage, Bruce’s hand latched firmly onto the third oldest’s shoulder. Dick can hardly hide his grin as Jason huffily plops down into the seat next to him, obviously still miffed at being forced to go to the gala. Bruce follows shortly after, taking his place besides Cass and in front of Dick, reaching into the cooler as well to retrieve a sandwich.
“Shall we proceed, sir?” Alfred calls from the front, the small window dividing the driver from the passengers a perfect view of the butler’s unimpressed eyebrows. “Or should we wait until the gala has ended to arrive?”
“Yes please. Sorry, Alfred.”
With that, they roll out of the Wayne Manor grounds and begin the short drive to the Bestout Charity Auction. Dick, personally, had no money to bid with and no intention to do so at all, but Bruce’s pockets went deep and they had already planned on what pieces to bid on and who to out-bid. Tim had made the bet that their “rivals” would attempt to out-bid the Waynes this year, and Tim was nothing but prideful on keeping the Wayne name free of that sort of blasphemy. He had done the math, was probably reviewing it on his phone at the moment, and had estimated that they could easily bid away about seven million dollars on a singular piece tonight if things went according to plan. 
Money. Old money at that. 
He feels a small tap on his shin then, and looks over to where Cass is gazing at him. She quirks her eyebrow, holding out her right palm and twisting her left middle finger against it. He nods, giving her two thumbs up and saying, “I remembered, don’t worry.”
She smiles, satisfied, before going back over to whatever Tim was doing on his phone. The rest of the ride is mostly silent, Dick basking in the presence of his family, until they finally pull up to the entrance. They are precisely thirty minutes late, fashionably so, and Jason is the first one to exit, followed then by Bruce, Cass, Tim, Duke, Damian, and lastly Dick. 
Immediately, they are met with the flashing of numerous cameras, a couple shouting out questions or beckoning them to look their way for a good shot. Bruce indulges in a few of the requests, stopping for a few seconds, before hurrying up the steps, his many children following just as quickly behind. Entering, they are greeted with a high vaulted ceiling with a singular ornate chandelier hanging down as the centerpiece and a few other light fixtures to highlight the entrance. 
Despite the initial grandeur, the charity gala is relaxed. Formal casual wear was allowed and encouraged upon, which basically meant one didn’t need to come dressed like they were meeting the Queen of England and could come in simple slacks and dress shirt, and for this reason and this reason alone is how Bruce managed to convince six of his children to attend. No one liked galas. Well, no one except Duke who was highly fascinated with how the rich and prim lived compared to the grittiness of Wayne Manor. 
As Alfred had lamented about, the Wayne family was late, perhaps an hour or so from the initial invitation arrival time, and all eyes were on them as they entered the banquet hall. Cocktail hour had just begun, and it was a matter of moments before a chorus of simpering, “Brucie! Over here!” began and Jason and Duke disappeared to look for the bar. Tim meandered off to find a few familiar faces, and Dick, Damian, and Cass were left standing near the entrance.
For a second, Dick regrets his decision not to force himself to eat one of the cucumber sandwiches Alfred had prepared as his stomach rolled around unpleasantly. His medication didn’t require a meal to be eaten with it, but again, he had been thrown off his normal routine and that usually included some food. 
He feels a nudge into his side and glances over to where Cass is smirking at him.
“I know, I know,” Dick groans, slumping slightly. “Alfred warned us, but you know I don’t like cucumbers. I’m just- yeah, I’m just going to go find something that doesn’t look like old cheese. Either of you coming with me?”
He extends a hand pleasantly, bowing over and winking at both of his youngest brother and sister.
“Unlike you,” Damian drawls, absently checking his fingernails, “I took sound advice when it was given.” He glances upwards, eyes narrowing as he finds his target. “Now, if you’ll excuse me, it would appear that Father is in need of assistance.”
Dick watches the youngest Wayne march astutely towards a struggling Bruce Wayne, broadcasting a small amount of distress as yet another slightly drunk (already?) woman leers at him through false lashes. 
“Cass?” Dick asks hopefully, turning back towards her. “My most wonderful and elegant sister, will you come with me?” In truth, Dick was the tiniest bit hesitant to go over to the buffet style table by himself, no doubt going to be swarmed by the Gotham elite youth once he was alone and miserable once he took in the shallow presentation of foods.
But his dear sister is nothing but sweet and ruthless, smiling prettily at him before walking off in the other direction, most likely to find Jason and Duke at the bar. Cass didn’t like alcohol, but she knew how to order a Shirley Temple all the same.
With a sigh, Dick begins the trudge over to the long horderves table, snagging a flute of strong smelling champagne on the way. He didn’t really like champagne truthfully, more of a white wine kind of guy himself, but it gave off the impression that he was relaxed and confident even if he was mentally preparing himself for food disappointment. He’s right, well, Alfred is right, as his gaze travels mournfully over the plain and overly dressed finger foods. Was it really just that impossible to serve a nice plate of cheese and crackers with some fruit? What in the world was foie gras entier anyway?
A hand slides smoothly over his shoulder as Dick contemplates if the horderve is an organ or not, and he steadily turns his head to meet artfully decorated brown eyes.
“Well if it isn’t the elusive Richard Grayson,” the woman says, letting her hand fall from his shoulder to his elbow. “It’s been a while since I saw you at one of these.”
Another hand brushes against his shoulder, and he turns his head the other way to meet the eyes of the exact same woman on his other arm.
“Tristy is right,” the other, same?, woman coos. “It’s been too long, Richard. Tell me, where have you been? You haven’t been avoiding us, right?”
It finally clicks into place as Dick looks back and forth between the identical women. The Thoreau sisters. Identical twins. Heiresses to the Thoreau Parts manufacturing company. Their entire net worth was close to five hundred million and the sisters were notorious, perhaps even more so than “Brucie Wanye”, for bringing home exploits and one night stands.
“Good evening ladies,” Dick says simply, dialing back the charm he usually reserved for the elderly elite of Gotham. “It’s been awhile since I last came to one of these auctions, but tonight is for a good cause. Of course I would come.”
The two sisters titter lightly, hands flying up to cover their arched grins. “Oh yes,” maybe Tristy says. “The auction is surely going to be a smashing success. At least with a man like your father bidding tonight, and that man is nothing but generous.”
The sudden innuendos leave Dick feeling slightly off footed. It truly has been too long since he attended one of these galas, and he’s out of practice at maneuvering around seduction attempts such as these.
“Oh hush,” the other sister snaps, tapping Dick’s bicep twice to get his attention back to her. “Do you plan on bidding at all?” she asks charmingly. “My sister and I have our eyes on a sculpture by Vasconcelos and it would break our hearts if your father also had plans to bid for it.”
Dick shakes his head, bringing his flute of champagne upwards to take a sip. He decides he does not like the taste of carbonation. “No, I can’t say I have plans to bid on any one particular item tonight. However, I can promise you that Bruce has no plans to bid on any sculptures, so you will find no grievances with him I hope.”
“How gracious,” possibly Tristy practically moans, leaning into Dick’s side. “You know,” she whispers, eyes flicking back and forth in mirth, “If you’re not planning on bidding at all, there’s a private study somewhere. Once the bidding begins, we can just,” she leans in closer, practically licking Dick’s ear, “get out of here.”
A cold feeling begins to settle in Dick’s gut, his composure quickly melting away as he struggles to keep on a pleasant smile. Has it always been like this? When was the last time he actually attended a gala? He can’t remember being harassed like this, much less so soon. They just arrived and already someone’s trying to take him to bed. Is that all he looks good for? Why is it so hard to just have a normal conversation? This is supposed to be a family day, and yet here he is, separating himself from them all because he can’t control his cravings and really this harassment should’ve been expected because Gotham didn’t call Richard Grayson Bruce’s imprint because he had to get the “playboy” tendencies from somewhere if not genetics, so really he’s fine and just making a big deal out of nothing.
This was normal. Right.
Lost in his head, Dick realizes too late that it’s been far too long since he’s said something aloud. Tristy, or whoever it is that’s to his right, is frowning at him, a mean looking sneer adorning red lips. The other sister, he just doesn’t know her, is looking at him with something akin to disgust as well though slightly better hidden.
He clears his throat. Clears it again. His throat feels funny. “Look, ladies,” Dick says, “I’m flattered, I really am, but I’m not looking for anything right now. I’m sure you’re both lovely, but I think I’m going to… yeah, I’m just going to go find Bruce. You know how he gets when he’s had more than a couple glasses,” he tries to chuckle, tapering off when neither of the women join in. “Have a good evening.”
Extracting himself from their manicured hands is more difficult than he thought it would be, their insistence at keeping him cornered to the table making him more nervous. The ice in his stomach pinches unpleasantly, and Dick finishes off the champagne to place the little flute on a passing waiter’s stand. 
The lingering stench of overpriced perfume has him feeling nauseous, and Dick looks around for one of his family members. He spots Jason and Duke still at the bar, seemingly content at just sipping and observing, and Dick makes the move to walk towards them when the room tilts slightly. He stumbles, hardly even that, and rights himself in less than a second. He looks down, frowning when he sees nothing that might’ve tripped him up. 
“Richard,” a voice calls out, and Dick turns to see Damian making his way towards him, Bruce trailing slightly behind. 
“Hey, Dami!” Dick gushes, his unease melting away at the familiar faces. “Meet anyone interesting yet?”
The boy huffs, crossing his arms. “If by interesting you mean intelligent, then no. Not a single person here is capable of holding a conversation before spouting some nonsense. It should be considered cruel.”
“I hear you there,” Dick sighs, rubbing the back of his neck. Is it just him, or is the banquet hall extremely bright? The Bestout’s should consider investing less in chandeliers and more in good food. “Did any of the art pieces catch your interest?”
Another huff. “No,” Damian replies. “Modern art holds no value. I find nothing special about three dots in the center of a large canvas. If anything, it is a waste of material.”
“Bruce?” Dick asks. “What about you? I just ran into the Thoreau sisters; they said they were going to bid on that, uh, what was their name again… the Vasconcelos sculpture.”
Bruce grimaces at the company name, looking more closely at Dick. “No, nothing was to my taste. Alfred has asked me to bid on a tea set supposedly owned by Queen Anne. It is… vintage?”
Dick nods, willing himself not to laugh at Bruce’s idea of something vintage. “Nice. I’m sure Alfred will be excited to add it to his collection. Have, uh, any of you guys seen Tim or Cass at all?”
“Cain left,” Damian says simply. “Brown invaded the gala about ten minutes ago and coerced her into ditching. Drake is most likely stuffing himself into a corner.”
A waiter walks by just then and Dick snags another champagne glass. He takes two sips, feeling some of his anxiety from earlier rise up again. Tonight was supposed to be a family night, or at least one as close to it as it could get, and already Cass had left? He doesn’t blame her for wanting to be with Steph, he remembers how infatuated he was in his first relationship, but he already felt the tell-tale tug in his heart that told him he was lonely. 
“I’m going to go find Tim,” he announces, patting the top of Damian’s head and giving a squeeze to Bruce’s left shoulder. “Have fun you two.”
They wave him off with little else, and Dick looks around the hall for the middle child. As his gaze travels from table to table, he can’t help but feel as if all eyes are on him, catching his gaze with each flicker. Taking deep breaths, Dick takes another sip, meandering slowly around the perimeters of the already established social groups. He catches bits and pieces of conversations, most if not all having nothing to do with tonight’s auction, and Dick begins to tap his fingers restlessly against his outer thigh. Why does he feel so anxious?
Someone bumps into him rather rudely, causing Dick to stumble again, but when he turns around to semi-glare, there is no one around him. The lights in the hall are blinding and Dick can feel a headache begin to form at the front of his skull. His breaths are suddenly very loud and Dick becomes all too aware of just how many people there are. At least two hundred and all of them seemed to be staring at Dick.
Someone else brushes up behind him, and Dick quickly turns around to confront them, because come on, that’s not a nice thing to do. There is no one there though. No one was even near enough to touch him and Dick feels sweat begin to trickle down the back of his suit.
What was he doing again? Right, right, searching for Tim. Tim was always calm, he’s sure he’s got to be around here somewhere.
“Richard,” a voice sing-songs to him. “Oh, Kathy, he’s right over here. My, my, thought you could give us the slip, hm?”
His grip on the glass of champagne tightens slightly as one of the Thoreau sisters slithers her way in front of him. He didn’t want to talk to them. He wasn’t feeling well. They didn’t make him feel comfortable and Dick really needed to find Tim. 
“You don’t look so good, Richy,” Tristy, Kathy, whoever, whispered. “Are you feeling alright? Had one too many to drink it looks like.”
The other sister laughs. “We only left you for twenty minutes. Missed us that terribly? How sweet.”
One of them grips his bicep again. Turns his chin so he’s facing her head on. The other one falls out of his line of sight. He thinks he’s seeing triple though because the twin in front of him is slowly separating into two, faces flickering back and forth and failing to align with the center.
“Maybe he’s tired,” she says, voice distorted and far away. “Finish that off and we’ll all go find somewhere to lay down, hm? Somewhere… private.”
The flute of alcohol is pressed gently into his lips and Dick automatically begins to drink from it, the liquid sliding down easily. It leaves a sour taste on his tongue, and huh, that’s weird. It didn’t taste like that before. He really does hate the taste of carbonation. 
Hands on either side of him push him forward, his feet dragging and shoes all of a sudden much too big for his feet. The glass is taken from his trembling grip, a whisper of “Wouldn’t want you to drop that,” letting his decisions elude him. The smell of sharp chemicals assault his nose and Dick feels his stomach roll. He thinks he might vomit.
Even though he keeps his face to the floor, the bodies beside him guiding the way, Dick can feel the stares, the eyes, that bore into him. The pressure leaves his chest heavy, feeling as though he’s slowly sinking into the red carpet below. The red shifts and melts like wax beneath his polished shoes, pooling and coiling around his shoelaces and reaching towards his ankles.
It smells like blood.
The red turns into a dark gray suddenly, fuzz turning into slick tile and the hands that gripped onto his biceps earlier now trail towards the hemline of his pants. He jerks, neck craning upwards and hands fumbling to push the invasion away. He’s simply shushed though, hands restraining his own and Dick feels like he’s been shot when he realizes he can’t get his legs to move properly.
He’s shoved towards an open door way, tripping and falling over himself as any semblance of coordination leaves him. It’s brighter in this room but everything keeps swirling together. Vertigo slowly weaves its way around his head and soon, there is no difference from up and down, left and right, sister and sister.
Nails dig into the sides of his cheeks in a harsh and fervent grip, and Dick feels like throwing up when he sees nothing but the swirling vortex of a flesh colored void. It spins faster and faster and Dick has to look away, but the sight of himself in a mirror is no better because that has to be him that’s standing there pressed into a stone counter but at the same time it can’t because he left that all behind.
He left Spyral behind. He escaped. He was home. They couldn’t control him anymore and yet- and yet.
Another blank flesh void stares back at his turned head. No visible features to recognize himself by. A smooth canvas that twists and churns and leaves him faceless. He is nothing once more. 
Something breaks inside of him and Dick feels a sob erupt from out of his chest. He’s just so confused and scared and lost and he doesn’t know what to do with himself. He doesn’t want to be here anymore. He doesn’t want to go back to Spyral. His mission was completed, he had done everything Bruce asked of him and even after enduring throughout all of that, Dick feels that desperate yearning for his father.
He wants Bruce. He’s so scared. His head hurts. He can’t feel his legs anymore. Everything keeps colliding into everything and he can’t even recognize his own cries because even that sounds like it’s a lifetime away, all the way back in Gotham, but instead he’s stuck here and he doesn’t even know where here is anymore because Agent 37 isn’t allowed to ask questions, that’s not his place, that’s not his place, he’s not allowed-
“Wow,” a voice breathes into his ear, “you’re even pretty when you cry.”
And Dick doesn’t really know when it started raining, but his face is wet and the person is right, he is crying and it’s raining so hard and he doesn’t completely understand why or how but he does know he doesn’t like the hands that keep fumbling with his belt. He doesn’t want this. He doesn’t want her. He should say something. He should say something, but his mouth won’t move and he just lays there and takes it because that’s all he’s good for right? That’s why Barbara didn’t want to see him anymore because he’s just an awful person that just takes it and please, please, please stop. 
“Are you afraid of spiders, Richard?”
Of course he’s afraid. He’s terrified. He’s even more afraid of the dark and the dark contains many, many scary things. Things like a calloused hand reaching out to smother him, to choke him, to kill him. Things like a bright red pill shoved into his mouth, things like a bomb attached to his heart, things like the heat of the metal on his back as the chaos consumed him, destined to watch, destined to die, destined to be smothered over and over again. Bright red pill. Rough hands. Bright red lips. He can’t breathe. He can’t breathe.
Dick vomits.
“Mister Wayne?”
Bruce looks up from his phone, a smartly dressed waitress staring at him. “Yes?”
She holds out a folded napkin to him and Bruce takes it from her hesitantly. He stares at it before glancing back up. “I don’t understand.”
The woman gives him a half-hearted shrug. “I was only told to give it to you, sir. I don’t know what it is. Excuse me.”
With that, the waitress turns back around into the throng of people that wave her over for drinks. Bruce looks down at the napkin, putting away his phone quickly as he unfolds it. It’s a note, hastily written in smudged black, similar to a crayon. Perhaps some sort of makeup applicator. Bruce doesn’t give it much thought though as he reads,
Find your son.
And isn’t that a great way to get his heart to stop? His first instinct is to look wildly about and start dashing around in search of his, holy shit, five sons he brought along to the gala. Bruce stops though, forces himself to take three deep breaths and count to five, before calmly beginning to make his way to the entrance of the banquet hall. It was easier to see everyone from that position and it was crowded enough so that he wouldn’t immediately be singled out once again.
As he walks, he stares at the napkin note, trying to decipher who exactly sent it. It was a woman’s hand writing, he’s sure of it, but the intentions behind it could be anything. Ransom? A threat? A simple warning that one of his sons was much too drunk to care about public decency? Either way, being passed an anonymous note wasn’t good and Bruce felt his gut clench in apprehension. He tries to think of everything that’s happened throughout the night so far.
Damian had remained mostly by his side, a good defense to have on hand whenever one of the socialites got a bit too grabby. Jason and Duke had remained a pair by the bar from what he'd heard, challenging other young adults into dart games and shot pyramids. Tim had steadily been making his way through old friends, chatting with a few and periodically texting Bruce to ask what the bidding was at. 
(Alfred will be happy to know that he now had one more tea set to add to his collection)
And Dick… well, Bruce honestly hadn’t been keeping secure tabs on him. He’s trying to be a better father to adult Dick Grayson. Privacy and space had been something Dick had last emphasized on, the “mother-henning” as Dick liked to call it, overbearing and un-welcomed. When his eldest had mentioned his run in with the Thoreau sisters, Bruce had been concerned and looked for signs that his son was uncomfortable or something worse. As usual though, Dick had merely grinned and carried on like it was nothing and perhaps that was all it had been at the time but now with this note, this damn napkin note in his hands, Bruce could feel the suspicion slide into him like water.
A hand tugs on his right sleeve and Bruce finds himself sighing in relief as his youngest appears in front of him. Scrutinizing his son, Bruce finds nothing obviously wrong with him, hair still perfectly in place and a permanent frown etched upon his brow. His suit is still stain, spill, and wrinkle free and Bruce clasps a heavy hand onto Damian’s shoulder.
“Are you alright?” he asks, keeping eye contact.
“Of course,” is Damian’s curt reply. “What happened?”
Wordlessly, Bruce hands over the napkin to him, watching as his son’s frown deepens. “I shall gather Todd and Thomas. I will return shortly.”
Damian’s small figure disappears into the crowd easily, leaving Bruce standing by himself at the front of the hall. Pulling out his phone again, he quickly types out, Come to the front of the hall. Urgent, and sends it to Tim. He types out the same message and sends it to Dick as well and contends himself for the wait by tapping his foot against the red carpet.
A minute barely passes before he spots Jason’s broad figure moving through the crowd, and the tension in his gut only increases as he counts the heads moving towards him. One, two, three, four…
“What’s going on?” Duke asks as the four boys gather closely. “Are we, uh, needed?”
Bruce shakes his head. “No, I don’t think so. Damian showed you the note?”
“What note?” Tim demands. “Bruce, what’s going on? Is something- oh,” he trails off, hand coming up to rub at his mouth as he reads the scribbled napkin. Tim turns his gaze to begin counting, and the same realization dawns upon him as he finally looks at Bruce’s grim face. “Where’s Dick?”
“I’ll call him,” Jason is quick to offer, pulling out his cellphone. He dials and holds it to his ear as the rest of the family watches. “Voicemail,” he grimaces, staring down at the device as if it had personally offended him. 
“We’ll split up. Jason, you’re with me. Duke, Tim, Damian, you three will go towards the east end, Jason and I will take west. Keep your phones on,” Bruce orders, checking his own ringer as he does so. “Ask around to see if anyone has seen Dick. We don’t know what we’re dealing with yet, so remain cautious. Understood?”
A chorus of “yes” is the motivator for the split and like liquid, they flow back into the crowd seamlessly.
He’s alone. 
Or, Dick thinks he is. Well, now that he’s thought about it, Agent 37 is never alone. There’s always someone there, watching him, waiting for him to fail. But Nightwing works alone in Bludhaven. He’s discovered that he doesn’t like team ups much. Partnerships always end in the rain and he doesn’t like the rain. He doesn’t mind it so much when Batman’s cape is shielding his face but the rain is still pelting his cheeks and it smells like acid.
It smells like acid and metal. It sounds like endless whirring too, constant noise when all he wants right now is quiet. He wants to reach out and smother whatever it is that’s making the noise but his limbs are gone, he can’t move, he’s been restrained once again and that damn red pill, or maybe it’s tinted yellow this time, he can’t be sure, there are just so many pills, so many pills, it’s all keeping him down and dead.
He feels his stomach convulsing again and he gags, unsure if anything actually comes out. There’s red on the floor, it always comes back to red, why red, and it gathers around in his vision, slick along the white void below him. A part of Dick is glad he can’t move because he fears that if he were to even breathe, the void below would capture him and turn him white and twist his nothingness into something even less than all of it. 
His lungs stutter and his eyes roll back into his head for a moment. For a brief second, he is gone in the bliss of blackness. It’s not for long though because the need to cough erupts out of him and he has to open his eyes and see what plague is clawing its way from his mouth. His jerking disturbs the void and Dick can feel the blood in his veins freeze because he’s not supposed to move. He’s not supposed to make a single sound or else it would get him but he’s just so dumb, he’s just so incompetent, and now the void knows he’s here, now the void is going to get him and he’s so scared.
He blinks four times. He counts in his head. Two, five, one, two. Dick doesn’t think that’s right. He isn’t sure.
The void is angry though. He can tell in the way the ground shakes and the colors scream at him. He wants to move away and cover his ears but his arms don’t exist anymore, how could he forget, how could he forget, and he feels his eyes burning like he’s on fire and his brain is also screaming at him now and there are hands on his shoulders and no, no, stop, please stop, he doesn’t want this, he never wanted any of this. He’s sorry. He’s sorry. 
The void grasps him and pulls at him and Dick’s eyes are wide open and he wants to scream at the void’s face because he doesn’t know who they are, he doesn’t know where he is, and there’s no comfort in the cold, there’s no love or warmth in it’s embrace and he’s so tired and his chest hurts and he’s having trouble actually seeing anything now because he’s just scared of the dark and everything is getting quieter and doesn’t anyone have a nightlight he can use so he can fall asleep a little less scared?
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
Bruce doesn’t know what exactly he was expecting when that waitress handed him a napkin. He doesn’t really know what he wanted to happen when he asked his children to split up and search for the lost one. Of course, the goal was to find the eldest, find Dick Grayson safe and sound and just doing something silly like back flips off a stairwell so Bruce could come and save him from embarrassing himself further. Okay, yes, Bruce knows exactly what he wanted to happen.
But this wasn’t it. 
It wasn’t Mister Dower slyly implying that Bruce’s eldest son was a clone of “Brucie Wayne’s” habits. It wasn’t the news that the Thoreau sisters had left in a hurry. It wasn’t a bellboy directing him to a private room that had been left ajar. And it wasn’t walking into a pitch black study only to hear wet retching and rattling from the adjoining bathroom.
He’s bursting through the door before he’s had the time to process it all and he feels as if all the wind in his lungs have been knocked out because there he is. Here is Dick Grayson, his son, his eldest, convulsing, bleeding, vomiting, shaking, dying, alone.
It’s second nature, done without a thought, and Bruce is kneeling down, stripping himself of his jacket and folding it, taking Dick by the shoulders and turning him on his side and placing the folded jacket beneath his head. Dick’s eyes are rolling, unseeing, and his face twitches and jerks and it’s terrifying, and Bruce looks away to stare at his watch and counts and counts and counts.
It’s scarcely thirty seconds before the jerking stops and Dick goes stiff, like every single muscle in his body is clenched in anticipation. 
“Bruce,” Jason begins, and he sounds unsure and out of place and Bruce curses at himself for having momentarily forgotten about him, “Holy shit.”
Bruce says nothing and continues to stare at his watch because he knows the seizure isn’t over, he prays it is but he knows it’s not, and Dick begins to convulse again and Bruce’s heart is beating so fast he isn’t sure if he can feel it anymore.
“The others are on their way,” Jason speaks up again. “I’m calling 911. What should I tell them?”
And usually Bruce is faster than this, better at processing, but it’s all so sudden and this is his son that’s laying in front of him, shaking and heaving in front of him, that it takes him a few seconds to come up with an answer. “Tell them,” he tries, mouth dry and god how much longer is this going to last? “Tell them that we need police and an ambulance for,” Bruce clears his throat; two minutes now, five becomes dangerous, “A possible assault and drug overdose.”
There’s lipstick smeared on Dick’s collar, his tie is undone, his belt buckle unclasped, pink indents on the sides of his jaw, lips tinted blue, and a mess of vomit splattered down his shirt. It smells sour and pungent and it’s the color of old brandy. Blood weeps from Dick’s hairline and Bruce startles himself with the thought that, had it not been for the note, Dick could’ve died and no one would have known. 
No one would have known.
Finally the seizure stops and Bruce can feel his fingers trembling as he cradles his son’s head to fully rest against the tile flooring. Three minutes and fifteen seconds. Too close. Too close.
“Move! I demand to see Richard!”
“You can’t, not right now. Bruce is helping him but you have to stay out here.”
“Jason, what the hell happened to Dick?”
“Bruce thinks he got roofied. Whatever was given to him was too much.”
“Did… did anything happen?”
“I don’t know.”
“Todd, I swear to you, if you do not move this instant-”
Bruce can’t focus on their conversation anymore, too entranced by the way his son breathes. They’re short, shallow gasps, like he’s panting through a straw, and Bruce reaches out a hand to rub his eldest’s upper back. He doesn’t move from his position, kneeled firmly as if in prayer, and maybe it is like a prayer because he needs a miracle right now. Bruce needs some guidance, some reassurance, and he hasn’t prayed since his parents died, but a little part of him is sighing and repeating those long forgotten words over and over again.
Abraham, Issac, and Jacob; Sarah, Rebekkah, Leah, and Rachel.
Dick does not stir from where he lays, eyes flickering behind closed lids. Bruce thinks he’s conscious, the flighty rhythm of his heart giving his blankness away, but the stillness in which his son lays allows a vine of terror to eclipse around his heart.
Grant him a r’fu-ah sh’lei-mah, a complete recovery.
His mother used to whisper prayers into his ear when he was younger and sick, fever-ridden constantly and just so tired. She would sit by his bedside, hold his hand, and pray for him in the silence of his room. Bruce was too young to understand what it meant. Too young to really grasp the concept of salvation, of hope found in religion. Now that he’s gone so long without it, Bruce thinks he still doesn’t grasp its weight, but the familiar words roll around in his head and leave the tightness in his chest with company. 
But the comfort is like a blanket draped over your head when you were a child, on some level convinced it could protect you from the monsters in your closet and the kidnappers that surely tap on your window. The monsters are real though, the kidnappers are grabbing at your feet, and Bruce can feel his heart pounding away with the realization that he truly could have lost Dick. That Bruce had been in the exact same room, in the same vicinity as his eldest when he was drugged. When he was… assaulted. Possibly. Maybe. Bruce clings to those uncertainties. 
And he’s got ideas. Theories. Conclusions. A list of suspects. 
With those, Bruce also has punishments in mind. Vengeance. Retribution. But the situation at hand is more pressing than the thoughts that bang against his skull.
Dick’s eyes fly open, a cough that sounds more like a gag jerking his body. His arms stagger against his sides, feet kicking out with the force of his hacking, and Bruce merely lets his hands hover. He wants to touch him, to ground Dick, but the hesitation in his actions leave him barren of any sort of presence. Dick keeps coughing, getting louder and more forceful with each measly breath he manages to suck in, and his lips are beginning to turn blue and his face a bright red and Bruce doesn’t know what to do right now, doesn’t know how to help because he’s so afraid to touch him, to help him, when all he’s done tonight is ignore him and let this whole thing happen because he’s a horrible father-
“Richard, stop it!”
And then Damian is falling to his knees beside Dick’s heaving body, also fumbling for an answer and scared and all the things Bruce feels right now.
“Stop it, Richard! Stop it right now!” Damian demands, but his orders fall on deaf ears because Dick won’t stop coughing and gasping and shaking and he’s not having another seizure but that’s what it looks like and then finally, Bruce reaches out a hand and holds his eldest still, willing for something, anything, to happen to get Dick to stop.
“Son,” he implores, practically begging, “Dick, you need to calm down, okay? I know you’re scared and confused right now, but everything is going to be fine. You’re going to be fine. Take a deep breath, Dick. Breathe.”
Finally, something seems to register for Dick because he’s craning his neck around, eyes wide and searching even as he continues to retch out his lungs. Bright blue eyes, beautiful and robin egg blue, catch Damian’s and Bruce can see recognition light up onto his face. The relief that Bruce had felt blossoming in his chest at the sight is quickly smothered when tears gather in Dick’s eyes, a weak sob wrenching its way in between coughs.
“Sorry, sorry,” Dick moans, delirious and broken. “Sorry, sorry, sorry.”
“Richard, breathe,” is all Damian says, reaching out to grab at one of Dick’s flailing hands. “Please.”
Bruce doesn’t know if Dick actually understood what Damian was saying, or if he even recognized any one of his brothers that stood around him, but one moment, Dick is retching up a lung, and the next, he’s silent and holding his breath. The coughing stops but Dick is going slightly purple in the face and before Bruce, Damian, anyone can do anything to get him to open his mouth again, Dick’s eyes roll up into the back of his head and he drifts.
His head thuds softly onto the white tile just as the paramedics arrive and Bruce thinks he might need an ambulance too with how quickly his heart beats and how hot the blood in his veins feel.
The rest is a blur.
Many things happen in the few hours that follow. 
Dick is promptly swept away on a stretcher, paramedics checking pulse count, setting up an IV, and other things that anyone hardly has the mind to pay attention to. By then, the entire banquet knew something was wrong, along with a few reporters that whipped out their cameras and began snapping pictures in earnest. 
In a move that is sure to get him on the front pages, Bruce snarls at a few of the reporters, threatening them in mannerisms that suggested he might just break their obnoxious cameras. Jason follows a similar pattern, actually reaching over and knocking away one of the invasive reporters when they got too close to the ambulance, and the youngest is not far off in doing the same before he is ushered away and into a waiting private car that would escort them to the hospital Dick was being taken to.
Only Bruce had been allowed to ride in the ambulance on the way over, and the four brothers had sat in tense silence during the ten minute drive. Tim had been almost absurdly quiet during the entire ordeal, typing away at his phone and absently chewing on one of his fingernails. No one comments on the bad habit, all of them guilty of doing something in a similar fashion, and when they arrive at the entrance, Bruce meets them there where he tells them that, for now, Dick appears to be mostly fine.
His vomit and blood were being tested at the moment for a tox-screening, a toxicologist named Dr.Ruth informing them that Dick wasn’t in life-threatening danger anymore. The “anymore” bit startles them all and it is explained to them that, because Dick appeared to have eaten nothing that night and drank nothing but champagne, there was little else in his system to digest whatever drug was given to him. It all went straight into his nervous system, which is what caused the seizure.
Bruce manages to secure a larger medical room for all five of them to squeeze into and forty minutes later, Dr.Ruth returns with a clipboard in tow. Results are in.
“Mister Wayne,” she begins, making sure to keep an even gaze with the older man, “You said you believed that Richard may have been purposely drugged tonight?”
Bruce nods. 
“Is Richard taking any drugs right now? Recreational or otherwise?”
The implication sends a strange stab of anger through Bruce, rising up from his seat to challenge the doctor about her accusations. “Richard has never-”
“Actually,” Tim interrupts, finally speaking, “he does.”
Bruce looks over, shock peppering his face through the way his mouth twitches and his jaw clenches. 
Tim rushes to defend himself. “No, wait, what I mean is that Richard takes a prescription. He’s not doing, like, hard crack or something like that.” He holds up his phone as if it contains every single answer to life. “Cass- our sister- told me that Richard didn’t take his anxiety medication this morning. He took it before going to the banquet tonight.”
“Do you know what he was prescribed?” Dr.Ruth asks, scanning through something on one of the papers. 
Tim checks his phone again. “Uh, Zoloft. 40 milligrams once a day.”
“Okay,” she hums to herself, satisfied with the answer. “That explains it then.”
She clicks her pen, setting down her clipboard and turning to face all five of them in the room. “Richard’s screening came back just a few minutes ago, but there were a few discrepancies that didn’t match up exactly. From what the labs tested, Richard was given a dosage of about 250 milligrams of ketamine, on which he overdosed, but an additional drug was also found in his blood and from what you said, young man, it would appear to be Zoloft. That medication, in addition to not eating anything and consuming some alcohol, was what caused such a bad reaction.”
She glances behind her again, checking her clipboard. “Now, Mister Wayne,” she addresses Bruce, “In your witness statement, you said that Richard appeared to be having hallucinations?”
“I don’t believe he knew we were there with him.”
Dr.Ruth nods. “Victims of large overdoses on ketamine typically experience hallucinations, similar to a bad LSD trip or otherwise. Sight and sound become warped and the person under the influence often doesn’t understand what’s going on around them.”
“What about,” Duke begins, nervous and quiet, “What about the, um, the other test? Did- Is Dick okay?”
The doctor smiles, happy to give fortunate news. “Yes, the test results came back negative. Other than a few scratch marks on his face which have been cleaned, Richard is fine.”
A collective breath releases over the room. Dick was going to be okay.
“Once the nurses have finished checking your son over, you’re free to take him home,” Dr.Ruth finishes, collecting her things. “Someone will be with you shortly to escort you to him.”
“Wait,” Jason calls out, “That’s it? You’re just going to send him away?”
The doctor looks back at him, sympathy lining her sad smile. “Well, there’s not much else we can do. Keep an eye on him, make sure he drinks plenty of fluids and try to give Richard some dry foods. If anything happens or Richard’s condition worsens at all, please bring him back and we’ll do what we can.”
And with that, Dr.Ruth opens the door and leaves.
The nurses tell them that Dick needs to stay for an additional hour or so, just until he’s coherent enough to answer some well-being questions and to finish the IV bags they’ve given him. All five of them have managed to cram themselves into Dick’s small room, the man in question awake but quiet. He’s coherent enough that he seems to recognize them all individually, and no longer seems to be hallucinating, but he wears a grimace that tells of discomfort. Dick has yet to say anything since waking up.
His eyes are distant, staring listlessly towards the ceiling and trailing from light to light. Bruce is sure the action is somewhat painful, but he doesn’t make a move to distract his son from whatever he’s thinking. 
It’s been a long night, for all of them really, but none as long as the night Dick Grayson has had. Bruce is told that Dick spoke in private with one of the nurses and an assisting officer about some of the things that happened during the banquet. Bruce doesn’t pry though. He knows better than to go sticking his nose into something so fresh, something so invasive. He trusts that Dick will speak when he’s ready. 
Whenever that is.
There’s a knock at the door before Dr.Ruth walks in again, hands folded neatly in front of her as she enters. There’s no clipboard with her and a lightness in her posture is telling of good news.
“You’re all clear,” she says warmly, stepping up closely to Dick’s cot. “I just need you to sign some release forms and you’ll be on your way. Do you have any questions for me?”
She directs the question towards Dick, whose gaze travels slowly over to the doctor. He licks his lips twice before asking, “What do I need to do after I leave?”
“Hydrate,” she answers, mentally going through a checklist. “Lots of fluids. The charcoal is going to absorb a fair amount of liquid in your system, so keep an eye out for water consumption and bowel movements.”
“What… what about medication?”
She frowns at that, lips pulling down slightly. “Well,” she starts, “I would suggest keeping away from them for the next twenty-four hours. Are you in pain? Do you feel like you need something for it?”
Dick is quick to shake his head. It jostles him and he closes his eyes briefly, be it from pain or disorientation is something indiscernible. “No, no. Not hurt or anything. I take some, uh, prescriptions though. From my psychiatrist. Everyday.”
“I see.” Dr.Ruth is quiet for a moment before, “Try to wait as long as possible. If you absolutely need to, go ahead and take them but be careful. You won’t be in any serious danger but it’s always better to be cautious after an overdose.” She turns to Bruce then. “He’ll need to be somewhat monitored over the next few days. It’s not very common, but symptoms can linger.”
After another pause in which no one speaks up, Dr.Ruth smiles and bows her head slightly. “I’ll have someone bring those papers by soon. Tell one of the nurses if you’re having trouble walking, Richard, and we can get a wheelchair brought to you. Have a good evening, gentlemen.”
No one continues to make a sound as Bruce fills out the paperwork, insisting that a wheelchair be brought when Dick only manages to take a few steps before his legs begin to shake. Dick makes no comment on it, only half-heartedly glaring at Bruce as he sat down heavily into the plastic seat. The walk out of the hospital is quiet too, Duke along the way muttering that he was going back to his cousin’s place for the night. Alfred meets the remaining boys at the front, leaning forwards to bring Dick into a small hug before releasing him and helping Dick get into the car he brought.
When Damian hands Dick a water bottle, Dick accepts it silently, lightly patting his little brother’s hand before taking a singular sip from the bottle. He doesn’t drink from it again.
When they arrive at the Manor, Jason is the first one moving and is quick to pull out the ramp they have for when Barbara visits. Dick is tense as they roll him into the Manor, finally putting his foot down when Bruce suggests that one of them carry him up to his bedroom. It’s a slow process and it twists Bruce’s heart in a way he can’t quite describe as he watches his eldest struggle up the flight of stairs, using both the railing and Damian as meager supports. 
Dick pushes open the door to his dark room and makes no comment when everyone follows him in. He all but collapses onto his bed, exhausted. They all just simply breathe for a minute, taking the time to truly process everything that’s happened that night. Somewhere in the Manor, a bell tolls and the electric clock on Dick’s nightstand reads two in the morning. They’re all still in their suits, still in their tight dress shoes, and nothing seems quite real yet. The black out curtains are clasped together tightly, as if their belief in maintaining the illusion and reality of darkness is all that’s keeping the peace.
Damian is the first one to move this time, peeling off his jacket and kicking off his shoes to sit beside Dick’s sprawled form. They don’t exchange words, but Dick shifts and allows Damian to get closer, a hand reaching up to finally destroy the carefully combed locks of hair, stiff with gel and pomade. Dick sighs and this release is what prompts the others to move as well, Jason plopping himself at the foot of the bed to lean against one of the banisters, Tim choosing to sit on the floor and rest his head against the side of the bed frame, and Bruce pulling a chair closer to be within reaching distance of Dick.
It’s quiet, calm, and the proximity is just enough to be reassuring. Comforting in a way that doesn’t demand physical touch but soothing enough to provide warmth. It’s nice. 
Dick speaks first. It’s an apology. 
“I wanted this to be a family night, you know?” he confesses into the stillness. “I didn’t mean for… any of this to happen.”
“We know, Dick,” Tim says, equally as quiet. “It wasn’t your fault.”
There is no response to that.
“Do you want to talk about it?” Jason asks, voice gruff but kind. Gentle in a way that betrays his outward appearance. 
“I don’t know,” Dick says. “I don’t know.”
“That’s okay,” is all Jason responds, easy and light. The dark hides many secrets. He will not be the one to unearth them.
It goes back to silence after that and soon enough, Dick’s breaths are even and his eyes are closed. Slowly, the boys disappear one by one back to their rooms, allowing themselves to recover as well from the experience. Damian falls asleep by Dick’s side and Bruce tenderly picks him up, cradling the boy’s head onto his shoulder, and carrying him to his own room.
When Bruce returns, Dick is sitting up and staring at him. He’s nervous. Bruce takes a deep breath in for his own nerves and sits back down into the seat. They stare at each other for a long time, the eye contact neither uncomfortable nor helpful. It’s a waiting game, one that doesn’t need to happen, and Bruce breathes in again. 
“How are you, son?” he asks, gaze heavy as he takes in Dick’s haggard appearance. The hospital had given him a scrub shirt to replace the one he had thrown up on and the texture crinkles as Dick shifts in place. His eyes go back to wandering around, drifting from Bruce’s face to the comforter around his legs.
“I’m tired,” Dick whispers, hands flexing and clenching. “And a little freaked out,” he adds, eyes flickering to Bruce’s and then darting away again. “I’m sorry. I should’ve been more careful. I… I messed up.”
Bruce sighs, slowly and deliberately telegraphing his movements as he reaches out to place a hand over Dick’s fidgeting one. Dick is still tense, hand clenching into a fist as Bruce just lets the warmth of his palm linger. 
“You did nothing wrong,” Bruce begins. Pauses. Backtracks. “Everything that happened tonight wasn’t your fault. Whoever did this… that’s their fault. That’s their doing. Not yours. Never yours.”
“How did you find me?” Dick asks, deflecting. He’s always been good at that.
“I was given a note.” The napkin had been taken away as evidence earlier. The phantom hot weight of it still burns a hole in Bruce’s coat pocket. “It told me to find you.”
“I don’t know.” Pause. “I’m glad they did though. I was… worried. Worried of what had happened to you. Dick, look at me please.”
Instantly, Dick’s eyes snap to his and again, Bruce’s heart twists in a way he can’t describe. Sadness? Resentment? Melancholy? Regret? He doesn’t know.
“I’m sorry I let that happen to you,” he says firmly, reaching out with both hands to grasp at Dick’s. He grips them tightly, holding them together like they’re praying. This is now twice in over a decade. “I am so sorry, Dick. I wasn’t there when you needed me, but I’m trying to be better. I want to be a better father to you, son. You mean more to me than you will ever know and the thought of losing you scares me.”
Dick nods sharply, once, twice, and his face falls into apathy as he processes what Bruce has said. He doesn’t reach out to hold Bruce’s hands as well, but the fact that he hasn’t removed them is enough to reassure Bruce that he’s doing at least one thing right.
“It,” Dick says, voice barely a whisper, “It scares me too. Losing you. Losing anyone. Dying.”
He swallows audibly and sweat trickles down his brow. Bruce wants to insist that Dick go back to sleep or at least drink some more water, but he refrains from doing so, too afraid to remove his hands lest he lose Dick all over again.
“When I was...” Dick trails off, swallowing again. “While I was hallucinating,” he restarts, “I saw, no, uh, I thought I saw a lot of things.”
“You don’t have to talk about it if you don’t want to, buddy,” Bruce reminds him, tapping his index across Dick’s knuckles. “It can wait.”
Dick shakes his head. “No, it’s fine. I’m okay.” His voice cracks slightly as he says that. Bruce ignores it and Dick seems grateful. 
“I thought I was dying again,” he rushes out, as if to force the words before he can take it back. “All these bad things, things from the past that I didn’t want to remember, were suddenly all happening again and I-I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know where I was, what was happening, who I was with half the time, and I couldn’t move, Bruce. I couldn’t move and it all just happened. 
They wouldn’t stop touching me and it scared me. I was terrified and then suddenly I was alone and I really thought I had died. I thought that I had died and then Damian was there and-and I thought he had died again and I couldn’t, couldn’t handle that, Bruce.”
“Dick, breathe. Breathe. Damian is safe. You’re safe. Breathe in for me, buddy, that’s it. You’re okay. I promise.”
Dick nods again as if trying to convince himself that he’s safe now. That he’s home and everything is okay and there are no ghostly hands that cover and touch him. He tries, but he’s tired. The fear rests idle and Dick can feel it scratching at his throat. It’s been six hours hours since everything happened. Only six.
“I think the worst part,” Dick admits, strained and hushed, “was that I was alone.”
Bruce squeezes his son’s hands together, the pressure meant to be grounding. “I’m sorry,” he says, meaning it with everything he has. 
Dick only shrugs his shoulders, a shuddering breath escaping him. He looks at his father’s hands, the gnarled knuckles and thin white scars that grasp his own destroyed fingers. The contrast of the touch compared to the appearance is comforting in a way that reminds Dick of their early days as Batman and Robin. Before Nightwing. Before Agent 37. Before everything else. It is a testament to their struggles, their crooked fingers and half formed nails from broken bones and relentless pursuit. Their hands hold the weight of a thousand punishments, twice more punches, and countless conflicts and battles. 
Their hands are the evidence of their survival though. Their victories against death.
Two thin stitches that hold together the cut just below his hairline are another piece of the evidence. Another testimony to Dick’s endeavor for endurance against the odds. There will be a pink scar to commemorate tonight, and in a year or so, there will be nothing left but a faint white line. 
Tomorrow, Dick will wake up, eat breakfast, and carry on about his day. It will be normal because it has to be. There is no other way to move forward, and Dick will swallow his pills with the same grimace and remembrance of hot metal and red lips. Maybe in a week, he’ll tell his therapist about tonight and they’ll suggest another coping strategy that Dick’s already tried but he’ll try again because he has to.
For now though, in the silence of his childhood room, decorated with pictures of the circus and framed photos of his found family, with black out curtains that never move to let the light of day peer through and a noisy vent that sometimes drips from condensation; for now, Dick can indulge in his fears and his worries as Bruce holds his hands.
There will be police reports, prosecutions, scandals, interviews, testimonies, and so much more later. Right now though. Right now, Dick lets himself breathe and accept the fact that things aren’t fine and that he needs help. Dick lets himself squeeze his father’s hands and blink away tears, finding relief in their hold.
He’s not okay, but tomorrow he will be. He has to be. 
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Above and Below
Summary: Royal AU. Knight!Sam and the Queen!Reader mark an important day for the both of them.
Pairing: Knight!Sam x Queen!Reader
Warnings: Fluff, Angst
Word Count: 5838 words
Square Filled: For @girl-next-door-writes​ ‘Make Me Feel Bingo’ ‘Fluff’ and for @spnfluffbingo​ ‘Stargazing’
A/N: Apologies to anyone who is not enjoying the way I have nose dived into this Royal AU. There are many other fics more inkeeping with my usual style on the way. This is again not a chronological follow on from the first Knight!Sam story, ‘Closer’ but it does build on some of the story built up in ‘Firsts’ 
Dividers by @firefly-graphics​
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“What is the point of me being Queen if I cannot enjoy my own party but must just sit there looking regal while everyone else has fun?” You had complained loudly to Catelyn at yet another ‘fitting’ for the event. “It is to celebrate me...yet, I am the least part of it.”
“I think it is ‘for you’ only in name.” She said, smiling at you apologetically.
“Much like everything else.” You said, aware of how ungrateful and spoilt you sounded.
The seamstress continued to tuck pins into the layers and layers of fabric that encased you, stiff and heavy, as you stood. You were to be Queen and your present job stand and let yourself be draped in what seemed like endless acres of damask and chiffon. It was hardly the most significant of royal duties. It was also boring as hell.
You moaned about it all afternoon, even after the seamstress  and dressmaker had gone from your quarters, when thankfully it was just you and Catelyn.
“My Coronation falls on the day of Samuel’s birthday.” You had said, sitting on the long ‘chaise’ with her. “I asked him what he wanted to do to celebrate…”
“To celebrate?”
She smiled. But it was a ‘Catelyn’ smile; kind and indulgent but amused at how little you knew of commonplace notions and everyday life.
“What is it?” You asked, unsure of why you were amusing her.
“’s just...when people like Samuel or I have birthdays it is not the same as when it is the ‘Birthday’ of the Princess...maybe a small gift from a mother or a sweet treat after a meal...maybe...but usually the day is like every other. There is work to be done and people seldom make much of a fuss.”
You raised your head, loftily at her. “We always celebrate your birthday.”
“Yes. You and I. And that is only because I, somehow, ended up friends with the Princess and then became her Principal Lady in Waiting. Otherwise the day would pass and it would be no different from any other. Except I would be older, of course. If it wasn’t for the fact that you have been showering me with affection on the day since we were girls, I wouldn’t even remember when it was.”
“Well...I’m glad that I have. And anyway, it’s different with Samuel. It is his first without his must remember how tenderhearted and sentimental she was. She always did something for him. I cannot bear the thought that he will miss her so on the day. And also….”
You looked at her slightly embarrassed before remembering that you could say anything to her, that even when she didn’t understand, even when she laughed, there was never meanness or mockery in it.
“ is Samuel. Here, at the Castle we celebrate so many pointless, stupid things. A fat, old man from another country comes and there must be a ball. It is the anniversary of a stupid battle that happened hundreds of years ago there must be a feast. It seems ridiculous to me that 19 years ago...he was born. The best person who ever lived...and surely he must be...the kindest, sweetest, bravest of all who made the whole world better by being born into can that not be...marked? There is no other thing in the world that should be celebrated more, surely? And more than that....he deserves it...I wish I could give him...everything...but I can’t. I can’t give him anything, not of real value anyway. It seems so...unjust.”
“What does he say?”
“He said the day was for my Coronation, that that was enough celebration for the entire realm and that if his mother was anywhere where she could think of him, he knew she would do so…”
“I cannot imagine you did not push him for more of an answer. It would be very unlike you not to.”
You gave her a look to let her know that you did not enjoy her assumptions of you, even if they were wholly accurate.
“I asked him if he could do anything...anything...what would he want to do.”
“All he would ever want would be to be with you.” Catelyn said, as if this was an obvious fact.
You nodded. “He said he had no need for trinkets and that he didn’t want to do anything, time and again...and I pushed and I pushed and eventually he said ‘what is the point of wanting things you cannot have’ and I said it was his birthday and the first one where I will officially be Queen and I would get him whatever he whatever he wanted...and he said...finally...after much begging for an answer...that if he could have anything his heart desired...he would spend it with me...and we would talk and laugh and maybe even dance, that he would be able to kiss me when he wanted...I am to be Queen, and I cannot even grant the man I love a simple birthday request...I may not even see him, just the two of us, might not even talk to him because the whole day will be taken up with all the...festivities.”
“He will be at the Coronation, surely? And at the Masquerade Ball?”
“Yes. I suppose.” You laughed out a bitter laugh, “I even said that as the evening would be full of masks and disguises perhaps we could find a way for him to hide or be with me...but he is so tall...and broad...he is unmistakable, even with a mask or cloak...and he is the Leader of the King’s...Queen’s Guard...everyone knows him. He cannot be hidden or pass anywhere undetected.”
Catelyn nodded in recognition of the truth, giving you a weak smile of sympathy to show how sorry she was for the sadness of your predicament.
There was a knock on the door and Catelyn got up to see who was there as you sat there trying not to pout.
Being Queen was what you had been raised to do. All you had been raised to do. It was the whole purpose for your existence, and you had always known that, but it had been easy to leave it as an unexplored, unthought about, distant reality in an intangible, hazy future before. Before your father had fallen in battle. Now...the harsh realities of what it actually entailed were being defined in a series of cold, stark slaps about the face as rules, realities and obligations were stacked one on top of the other, endlessly, on top of your shoulders. If you had felt suffocated as a Princess, it was nothing compared to the airless vacuum in which you were expected to reside as Queen. 
“Your Highness,” Catelyn said, using the voice she used whenever there were people about to hear the two of you. “The milliner is here, sent by the Keeper of the Queen’s Wardrobe.”
You looked at her confused.
“To fashion your headdress...for the Masquerade Ball.”
“’s masks…’Masquerade’ Ball….”
“But you shall be Queen…” She dropped her voice to a whisper, “I think the Queen has to be...more...elaborate.”
“’s another fitting?”
She nodded.
“I can’t, Catelyn...I’ll go mad. I shall entirely lose my mind... please...can you it for me?”
“What, no! I mean...I would not dream that I could ever stand in for or replace Your Royal Highness in any capacity…”
“Wait! Catelyn...I think...I think I’ve just had an idea….”
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You knew where he was. You always knew where he was. 
He was in the quiet corridor of the mezzanine floor that looked down over the Great Hall.
“Good Evening, Good Sir.” You said, not quite stepping out of the shadows. You tried to keep your voice from sounding too like your own, wanting to surprise him and curious how he was when talking to other women who weren’t you. You had often found it confounding how you could only ever know how someone was when they were around you. And found him so endlessly fascinating anyway, how could you resist seeing what he was like without ‘You’ being around.
“Good Evening.” He said, turning his head slightly to follow the voice, his eyes narrowing slightly to try and see you clearer in the darkness where you stood. 
“It is quite the occasion.” You said, watching as he stared down over the edge of the bannister, looking at the festivities below. If you had been where you were supposed to be, he would have been watching over you. Like an Angel, you thought, or God himself.
“That it most certainly is.” He said, his eyes scanning over the merry makers.
“Would you not be amongst the others?” You asked.
“I love my Queen and Country no less from up here.” He said, tight lipped.
“Were you at the Coronation Ceremony today?”
“I am the Leader of the Queen’s Guard.” He said, his position enough to explain that he had to be there, his rank demanded it.
“Would you not have wanted to go were it not necessary?”
“It was my duty to be there today. Were it not required I would not have been at liberty to attend. There is little choice in Court. There is what you must do and what you may not do. Very little belongs outside of those two camps. As I am sure you are aware, my Lady.”
You regarded him, his hair falling softly into his face as he watched vigilantly over those below. He was in his armour and a mask that covered his eyes, resting over the bridge of his nose, tied behind his head. It was hardly the greatest of costumes. He was still so obviously him, even those who didn’t have his face seared onto their every thought as you did would know him.
“Is the purpose of a Masquerade Ball not to disguise and obfuscate one’s identity? I fear there is no one in the realm who would not know who you were from at least fifty paces away.”
“I am wearing a mask.”
“And your armour. It hardly seems like appropriate attire for a celebration.”
“It is my armour for Court. Not for battle. My mask is to show that I am united with my fellow patriots in celebration. I have no need, nor any desire, to attempt to pass as any rate, I have been told it would be a Fool’s errand. I am told my height and build gives me away.”
“That it does, Sir Samuel.”
“Not for me, the ability to trade my identity for the night and skulk in the shadows pretending to be someone I am not.” He said, pointedly, pausing for a moment to raise his eyes to you before continuing on. “Particularly at a Ball to celebrate my own Coronation...which some would argue, would be a dangerous and reckless course of action.”
“You knew?” You asked, stepping nearer to him, out of the shadows and into the light. “How did you know?” 
“Do you think there is ever a time where my eyes are not searching to rest upon you? Everywhere I am, where you may be, I search for you and I do not rest until I have found you.”
“But Catelyn and I are identical tonight. We used coloured petals to ensure our hair was the same colour. We painted her face to look like mine. We drew in her corset so it fit my very measurements. Padded her shoes so she would rest at my height. She is my very facsimile tonight.”
“Perhaps. To people who do not know better.”
“And know better.”
“When people talk to her, her brow doesn’t lift in the same way as yours-”
“Her brow is obscured by the Headdress.”
“Partly. But you can see enough...if you look...there is no frustration or annoyance in the creases. No long suffering patience being tested behind the artful pretence of amusement. She is doing a commendable performance but she doesn’t move like you move.”
“She has been sat still all night!”
“She has. And she didn’t once sigh deeply with boredom or fidget when she thought no one was looking.”
“You are saying she is more graceful than me?” You laughed.
“I said she doesn’t move like you move.”
“And how do I move?”
“Like you are holding yourself where you know you must be, how you must be, but every part of you wants to run. Like you want to run to me but you cannot let yourself.”
“So you knew she wasn’t me. Did you not wonder where I was?”
“I knew where you were. I watched you...down there...and then making your way up here. I knew before you spoke that you would try and fool me. I did not want to ruin your game.”
“When I was in the crowd even? In my mask among the revellers?”
“I have been watching you all my life. Do you really think that the way you sit and walk...the way you take a breath are not a part of me now? That the rhythm of your every step, every infinitesimal alteration in the quirk of your lips when you smile are not the compass by which all else orients itself? I can see you across all of Court and know it’s you by the fractional shake of your head in the breeze. I know your heart better than my own, know the metronome by which it regulates every minute half move you make. I know the shape of is the shape I know better than anything else in this world. I could tell where you were. I could tell it was you. In a shade of dress you would never normally wear, your hair in a style you have never worn it before, with a mask that covers more of your face than I would ever wish obscured. The way you move announced you louder than a Herald’s trumpet. And Catelyn...she may have been manufactured, convincingly to a point, to have a waist that measures the same as yours...padded her shoes...her undergarments even...but there is only one you. She is a replica, a forgery...she doesn’t move like you. Her shape is similar but not exact. I am sure should I have spoken to her, she would have done a convincing attempt to mimic your voice, talking almost exactly as you do but she wouldn’t have chosen the very same words you would, wouldn’t sigh in the exact same tone, would not have paused for breath at the precise moment you would have done...She is not you. I am in disbelief that it is not obvious to everyone.”
“I am not. She looks exactly like me! Near enough anyway. And they just want me to sit a dead, stuffed, animal...staring on, lifeless and dead eyed as they claim to celebrate me without ever even knowing me, not even wanting me to be me...just wanting me to fulfil my role. Sit quietly on the throne and let everyone enjoy the party...coming to congratulate me and pay their ‘respects’ but only so they can say they have spoken with the new Queen...the only people who know me are the ones who would ever be able to tell. You and Catelyn. No one else could tell. No one else would care.”
“Would you not know me? If I had pulled a similar ruse?”
“Yes...but you would not be able to. No one looks like you...No one walks in a room and towers quite so above all the other occupants.”
“Sir Lester is as tall as me.”
“Yes, as is Sir Percival. But he is not as broad shouldered. And Sir Lester is practically round as an apple. We cannot put this to test. There is no one like you.”
“There is no one like you either. I told you, I knew from the start.”
“Yes. I must say, the way you describe sounds like you know me so well that I am most predictable to you. The way I move, the way I talk...the way I breathe. It must be very boring. Am I able to surprise you in any way, anymore, I wonder?”
“Yes. You surprised me tonight. I knew Catelyn wasn’t you. And I saw instantly where you were by the way you walked across the room. But I was surprised all the same. Surprised at the foolish risk you had taken, on the first night of your reign, when everyone from Court is present and here for celebrate you. That surprised me.”
“Well...that is something at least.”
“Why Y/N? If you are found out there will be consequences.”
“Because all you wanted, the only thing you wanted, for your birthday was to be with me. Now I am here and I am free, for now at least, to celebrate with you.”
“This is for me? I am to blame for you putting yourself in jeopardy so recklessly?” He said, aghast.
“It is not exactly jeopardy. I will not face the executioner for missing a party. And no one knows any way.”
“If they found you out there would be questions. And anger. It would imply that you did not hold the responsibility of your new station in grave enough regard. It would give those that seek to harm you ammunition for grievance and to raise concern over your ability to fulfil your duties-”
“It was a calculated risk.”
“It was calculated poorly.”
“It was calculated with consideration for the weight I afford the significance of this day and the place you occupy in my heart and in my thoughts.”
He sighed, the indignation on his face softening slightly at your words. “Today is your day. Your Coronation. Your Ball. It is a celebration for all the land. That is what is to be celebrated today. And you cannot put yourself at a disadvantage because of me. I would not have you take any risk to yourself, your reputation or your throne for me.”
“I know...but the risk has been taken...and now I am here. Let ‘all the land’ celebrate as they wish. I was at the Coronation. I took my vows and I took them seriously. But today? Today marks the passing of 19 years since the most important person in my life and the greatest man who ever lived was born. I cannot sit there, bored witless as revellers make merry all around me knowing that this day would pass without being marked. In any case, the die has been cast and the game is afoot. It is still your birthday. And I do not want to waste one more moment of it arguing…”
He finally relented in the wake of your reason. His face settling into his familiar smile, the smile that felt like sunshine to your heart.
“Who could argue with the Queen?” He said, the smile pushing the furrow of his beautiful dimple onto his face, your hand almost instinctively rising to stroke it, only just caught in time as you forced it to stay by your side.
“It is your gift. We are celebrating you. So you decide. Will we stay here?”
“No. If you are mine tonight, I do not want to have to share you or watch for prying eyes.”
“So...where then? This whole place is full of prying eyes.”
“Come with me.” He said, reaching out his open hand. You took it, realising it was the first time you had ever done that in plain view in the Castle. Your smile spread out, under your mask as you placed your hand in his and followed him.
He led you through corridors and up stairways and eventually guided you with care out of a window onto a patch of flat, tiled roof.
“This is where you wish to spend your Birthday?” You asked sitting next to him removing your mask as he removed his.
“It is the highest part of the castle. No one may see us. We can just sit here together, up amongst the stars.”
“I love the stars.” You said, dreamily looking upwards at the sea of sparkling lights that were legion, as they dotted the inky velvet of the night sky.
“I know.” He said, softly.
“They are so beautiful and they do not care about Kings and Queens. Do not save their light for only those of certain lineage. They simply come out at night and spread their glow for all. They never have to be anything but what they are. They simply shine.”
He was silent as he stared at you, taking in the sight of you as you looked up, awestruck at the stars, a smile of heartfelt wonderment on his face.
“There are galaxies before you and you stare at me?” You laughed.
“Heaven itself could be before me and I would stare at you.”
You smiled at him before returning your gaze upwards.
“Heaven.” You said, reaching out to take his hand. “I am sure your mother is there. Thinking of you. Perhaps looking down on us...”
He smiled at you, a smile that bore within it a still tender sadness. “If there is such a place, it is where she would belong...and if she is looking down on us, I hope it brings her peace...she always liked you.”
“I did not know her well, not nearly well enough, but the few times we met she was kind to me...and warm...though she was afraid of me too.”
“Only because-” He started but you did not want him to have to reassure you.
“She was right to be. If anyone had known...of the place you held in my heart or the connection I had to you or your family it would have rained down terror upon you...and her. She was right to be afraid. Still, I wish I could have known her more...she seemed like a woman I should very much liked to have known better...still, I love her anyway, she made you...I will be forever in her debt for all my happiness. I am glad...I am glad she knew of us...glad you told her.”
“I could not hide it. She knew me too well. She knew you owned my heart before I even said the words.”
You tilted your head as you looked at him with curiosity.
“She said when I would visit and she would ask me about the Castle...I would talk about you. She would ask me about my studies and how my fighting had improved and I would talk about you. She would ask me to read to her and I would tell her how great a teacher you were and the books you gave me. She said whatever the question, the answer always seemed to be you. I never spoke of you to anyone else but...I could not keep from speaking of you to her.”
“She loved you very much….Did she...approve? Of me? I understand if not...she would be right to be wary.”
“She said she thought you kind hearted and quick witted. Exactly the sort of woman she would choose for me herself.”
He smiled at you but you could see there was more still left unsaid.
“But she was afraid for you? Because I was to be Queen?”
He nodded reluctantly. “She was. She feared it would lead to danger for me. And she was saddened by the thought I would not marry or have children.” He said, instantly regretting his words when he saw the crestfallen look on your face. “But she was a mother, it is what mother’s do.”
“So I have heard.” You said, thinking of your own mother who had died whilst giving birth to you.
He pulled you close to him, into his arms and kissed you softly on your forehead.
“I am sorry you never knew a mother’s love as I did. She would have loved you with all her heart if she could.”
You wondered if he was talking about your mother or his but then realised that in either case it mattered not.
“It is alright. I have you. You love me in all the ways. Like a mother, a father, a brother, a friend. As a boy, and now a man.”
He squeezed you tightly in his arms. “You shall never want for love while I am in this world.” He said. “Or even after. If there is some semblance of my soul that exists anywhere, in Heaven, in Hell, scattered amongst the stars out there in the distant will you love you still. Even then.”
“Do you feel sad….when you think of marriage and children?”
He was quiet as he thought, the silence answering for him. Finally he spoke.
“I have told you before. It does no good to wish for things you cannot have. And I would not want them with anyone other than you. In any case...who would need a vow in a church when I have you here in my arms?”
You heard his words but you felt the ache under them that he could not bring himself to speak of. You knew because you felt it too. The pointless, wasted wish to stand in front of all the world and declare that you were each other’s and always would be. To not have to hide away in shadows or secret stolen hours, as if your love was something to be cloaked in shame. To have hope of a future, or a family. You never let yourself think of it, knowing the yearning would drive you mad if you did, but that didn’t mean it wasn’t there, a bruise on your heart that acknowledged or not, never healed.
“Besides….” He continued, “...have you not had enough of vows today?”
He spoke of your Coronation Oath, the solemn vow that you had taken earlier that day.
“You swore in front of God and all of Court to rule and govern this Country, putting it above all else.”
“And I meant it. But not all parts of my Kingdom are to receive equal weighting...and you are part of it too…the best part.”
He laughed. “I did wonder what mental acrobatics you would employ to reconcile your heart with it.” He said.
“I meant what I said today. For the longest time I saw the role which I was to fulfil as just another burden...a stupid list of obligations and arbitrary rules that made no sense and existed simply to keep me from you, but of late...when you have told me of what happens at war and Catelyn tells me more of what life is like outside the Castle walls...I see that there is more to it than that. Though it is hard to separate out what is pointless convention or petty tradition from ways to actually help the people and do good in this world...if I was chosen by God, as everyone always says I was, to rule and govern by his Divine will then I must do what is right, the advisers my father kept will not help me, all they care about is money and power, status and keeping me in check because I am a woman...but I have a duty...I see that now, to the people of this land...and somehow...I shall sift through the parcel of royal responsibilities that my father bequeathed to me and learn what I must bear and what I must change, what is true and that which is simply what they tell me so I shall stay quiet and do as they bid will be hard...and I will most likely have no allies...but I intend to be a good Queen, a just Queen...a Queen I can be proud to be.”
He looked at you with something more than just affection. He looked at you now with respect, pride and admiration. “You have one ally.” He said. “An ally who has never heard you speak like this before. I always saw you as a Princess, my Princess...the girl I loved. But now I grew up and without me even noticing became a woman, a great woman. And I see now too, a great Queen.”
You looked at him and leaned in to kiss him, a slow, sweet kiss. A kiss that recognised that although you had been kissing each other since you were just a boy and a girl, the lips that met now were those of a Knight and a Queen. A kiss that held within it your deepest love for the man born 19 years ago this day and his for the woman who spent the night of her Coronation Ball, sat with him amongst the stars to give him his birthday wish.
You kissed for a while and spoke some more as you sat in his arms.
“Happy Birthday Samuel.” You said, your eyes skyward once more. “I wish you as much happiness as there are stars in the sky.”
“The fact that you wish it is gift enough for me.” 
You lowered your eyes to look at him and saw the look of sadness that drifted across his features.
“You see no happiness in our future? None at all?”
“‘Our’ future?”
“Are our lives not intertwined beyond possibility of separation at this point?”
“If there was the possibility of ‘our’ future there would be are the Queen now.”
“As I was always going to be.”
He let out a deep sigh. “The future seemed more bearable before it was the present.”
“All our lives you spoke of when you were Leader of the Queen’s Guard and I was Queen. You have pointed every arrow that ever notched in your bow at this very future and now it is wish they were back in your quiver?”
“You were always going to be Queen. There was no deviation to be made from the path you had to walk and I just wanted to be near you…”
“Do you regret it?”
“No. Not for one moment. I made it my aim to get as close to you as I could and I have done just that. I thought I would be content to as near you as possible’s not enough. One day they will take you from me. I am not afraid of much. Not of battle, not of death...but that…” He trailed off, taking in a deep breath. “And soon there will be talk of your marriage again...I love you and I am so proud of my Queen, more so today than is hard to see happiness ahead for us.”
You hated hearing him talk like this. To see him sad made your heart ache in your chest. You lifted your hand to stroke along his jaw, turning his face to yours with the gentle pressure in your fingers as you looked deep into his eyes as you spoke.
“I have made one vow today that I meant with all my heart. For your birthday, let me make another. I do not know how and I do not know when...but I shall find a way...I promise you, Samuel Winchester, I shall find a way to make you happy, find a way to protect what is ours and find a way to bring about a future full of joy for both of us...or I shall die in the attempt.”
He looked at you, clearly sceptical but appreciative of your efforts. No matter, you thought. You’d prove him wrong. You would make him happy, blissfully happy, one day, he’d see.
“But for now…” You continued. “...what can I do to make the rest of my Love’s birthday more joyful? Tell me. Anything.”
He smiled, a little sadly. “You can forgive me for being so dark hearted on your Coronation Day. Particularly as you went through such efforts to make my birthday so special.”
“But it isn’t are full of sorrow.”
“No. I was sorrowful. And now I am reminded that I am here...with you...among the stars...and I am better.”
You looked at him as he smiled. It was forced but as he pushed the smile wider, it caused his dimple to show and you laughed despite yourself, lifting your fingers to stroke it as he tilted his head towards you.
“I love you so much.” He said, his eyes soft as he smiled genuinely at the sound of your laugh.
“And I love you.” You said back, kissing him softly against his lips. 
“I know. You have given me everything I could ever have wanted for my birthday.” He said. “I am with you. We talked and now we have laughed and kissed….what more could I have wished the day would hold?”
“You said something about dancing…”
“Perhaps in your Chamber later?”
“I am to rest in the King’s Chamber now.”
“The Queen’s Chamber.” He corrected. “And I know how to find my way to you.”
“You know the way there? Through the passageways?”
“I have always known it was where you end up has been committed to my memory since I was 14….I never wanted there to come a day where I would not be able to be where you were.”
You smiled. “Very well. Find your way to me later and let me dance with the birthday boy. My very first dance as Queen. And then….”
He smiled at you, the side of his mouth kinking up into a smirk. “Then?”
“You did not ask for a present...but surely no birthday is complete without a gift to be unwrapped? A bow to be untied?”
He followed your gaze to the sash around your waist, leaning back slightly as you inched forward to make clearer to him the bow it was tied into at the back of your gown.
“I think, perhaps, this is to be the best birthday of all of my life.” He said, his hand trailing gently across the bare skin of your forearm.
“Just as you deserve...and just as I wished.” Then you kissed him again, at the highest point of the Castle, up amongst the stars, with all the pomp and regalia you had so little time for, far, far beneath you, on this day you would never forget.
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Just tagging people who have expressed an interest in this particular AU, I know it’s not for everyone. If you would like to be added/removed just let me know!
@wonder-cole​ @cajunquandary​ @mylovelydame21​ @stoneyggirl​ @deanwanddamons​ @sams-sass​ @zeppette​ @idreamofplaid​ @jackandthesoulmates​ @awesomesusiebstuff​ @coffeeandcrown​ @calaofnoldor​ @natastic​ @usernamesarebitches​ @beskaradberoya​ @downanddirtydean​ @vickyfarley​ @justcallmelosechester​ @that-one-gay-girl​ @ourdarkspotsareprettydark​ @petitgateau911​ @winchest09​ @tenaciousnerdbucket​ @onethirstyunicorn​ @libraries-and-coffee​ @my-fic-obsession​ @440mxs-wife​ @madmaggs99​ @gryffindorable713​ @vulgar-library​
Unable to tag: @onceupona-happilyeverafter-love @cosicas-cuquis   @agenthellcat  @addictedtocoffeeandsupernatural 
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i-like-too-much-shlt · 9 months ago
Hiii, I was wondering if you could please do another part to breathless? I would like to see where she confronts the friend please?
Hii, I‘m sorry that this came so late. The past year has been shit and I just couldn’t motivate myself to write anything because i knew it’d be something depressing and I didn’t want to do that because that would result in me being even more depressed sooo anyway... I‘m finally back and ready to deliver. Enjoy, my lovelies! ✨
Please read Breathless first to understand this if you haven’t already.
Sequel to Breathless
Right in front of the door a white Tesla is waiting for Y/N. The guy sitting behind the steering wheel is looking out of the rolled down window with a cigarette between his index and middle finger, facing the street opposite Y/N’s and her boyfriend’s living place. He jumps in shock when he turns his head to face the person who cleared their throat only to find Harry standing there bent down and looking down at the smoker.
“This spot isn’t for you to park your car in, sorry.” Harry speaks after the boy’s face doesn’t look like he just saw a ghost anymore.
“I was waiting for her actually,” he tells him a little nervous and points to Y/N behind Harry. “We’ll get lost in a sec, c’mon babe, get in.”
Harry turns around and looks at her just so the guy doesn’t see the smirk he can’t keep at bay. Y/N hides hers by licking her lips. Harry faces forward again, but points over his shoulder with his thumb. “Oh, you mean Y/N? Why would she get in your car? How do you know her?” he asks questions he knows the answers well enough to.
“We’ve been friends since forever. We were gonna hang out today, but I don’t understand how that would be any of your business.”
“Ah, sorry, yes. You don’t know me. Let me introduce myself.”
Harry walks around the front of the car to the passenger side, Y/N right on his heels. He opens the car door and slides himself into the seat, not shutting the door yet, but holding his hand out for the boy to shake. “I’m Harry Styles,” he puts on a smile that shows his dimples while Y/N climbs onto his lap, now straddling him.
She cups Harry’s face and turns it so he faces her and leans down to lock their lips. It was just a simple kiss, lips meeting lips.
“I’m Y/N’s boyfriend,” Harry tells him, the smile turning into a mischievous smirk when he feels his girlfriend’s lips on his neck. “Who are you?” he keeps talking as if Y/N isn’t sucking a hickey right below his ear.
“I-I didn’t... uhh. Woah, s-sorry I–” the boy stammers with wide eyes, his cigarette long fallen from between his fingers to the ground out of the window. Y/N doesn’t seem to care about anything he has to say, because after kissing the dark red spot on Harry’s jaw better, she grabs his face and turns his head to her again so she can connect their lips again. This time she uses her tongue, too. It’s not a simple kiss anymore, they are full on making out in the car of someone who only came because he expected to have his dick sucked in the next 20 minutes.
“I didn’t know you had a boyfriend, I was told you give head for free,” the poor boy seems very confused.
Y/N separates herself from Harry and faces the third wheeler, “I do, but that deal only applies to that one here, I’m sorry.”
“No, you’re not.” Harry laughs.
“He’s right, I’m really not sorry at all.”
“Wait, so–” The guy starts but cuts himself off to think before deciding to speak again. “So, does that mean I’d have to pay? How much–”
This time it’s Harry who interrupts his talking, “No, you prick. It means the only dick she swallows is mine.”
He has been friendly throughout this whole exchange, but this is the moment he was waiting for so patiently. The moment this scumbag proves he is a scumbag. How dare he assume that precious Y/N would seriously do anything with him, that she would want to do it with him? How does he translate her sitting on Harry Styles’ lap, making out with him, giving him hickeys and even saying she doesn’t do whatever he heard she does into it meaning she’d suck his little thing for a ridiculous amount of money?
His stupid question got Y/N just as mad, he can see it in her face and hear it through the way her breathing changed. And as much as Harry wants to just punch that wanker in the face and cut the top of his head off to check if there’s a brain inside, he promised Y/N he’d let her handle it herself. She didn’t tell him what she was thinking of doing though, so he’s curious to see what her crazy mind came up with this time. He is also kind of apprehensive because he knows when Y/N gets mad, she gets mad mad. And to see the put on guilty look on her face already meant trouble for the tosser in the driver’s seat.
“The only person whose dick I take into my mouth is Harry’s and honestly it’s more than enough for me. He’s quite big, you know? He fills me out completely and not only my mouth, you should see us fuck. Oof. Look, I don’t usually have to gag from anything but sometimes when he’s fucking my mouth it just happens. I gag around him and I can’t help it, it’s just too much sometimes. Do you think your little friend would make me gag?” She speaks lowly, but somehow still sounds innocent in a way. Harry squeezes her hips in question after that last sentence but Y/N rubs his cheek with her thumb as a way of telling him she knows what she’s doing. He trusts her enough to relax again. She continues.
“Hm, we can’t check that obviously. But do you think I’d be overwhelmed if we tried? Imagine my lips wrapped around your cock, my hands gripping your thighs-” she places one hand on his thigh, “-because I can’t keep my balance from how hard you’d fuck my mouth. And tears starting to make my vision swimmy because you keep hitting the back of my throat with the head of your dick. Would I gag? Oh gosh, the imagination is starting to make me wet.” She starts rubbing his thigh, very close to his crotch but not quite where he needs her hand to be.
“I wish I was in a bed right now, getting fucked. Sex with Harry is incredible, he’s very good in bed. Are you? Do you think you’d hit all my right spots? Well, Harry knows everything about me already so I guess it’d be unfair to compare, right? In fact, he knows me so well he can make me cum with his fingers in only fife minutes. Oh and one time – actually, it was more than once – it took him only seven minutes with his tongue on my pussy to get me there. It was phenomenal. God, I remember how hard I came. I doubt you could do that to me but I bet I could bring you to cloud nine really fast.” She hears his breath picking up and getting heavier.
“I won’t do anything with you obviously, but still. I know I could. Oh my God, maybe you could watch? Wouldn’t that be nice too? Me and The Harry Styles getting each other to cum multiple times? Do you like it soft or rough? You look like someone who likes rough sex. Maybe you could watch Harry tie me up and fuck me until I’m screaming. Or would you rather enjoy it if we’d tie you to a chair and make you watch us doing all the things you wish you could do. Yeah, you’d like that, huh?”
Finally, when Y/N looks down on his lap she sees the bulge in his jeans and retrieves her hand from his thigh. She leans more into him and notices his eyes fluttering shut. When her mouth hovers in front of his ear she whispers, “Go get yourself someone else to take care of your little problem here because I surely won’t.”
She pulls back, pecks Harry’s lips once and gets off his lap and out of the car. Harry throws in a quick “It was nice meeting you” and hurries after Y/N who is already walking in the direction of her own car.
Once he catches up to her and they both get in the car, he waits until she drives off before he speaks.
“What the fuck was that?”
Y/N knows he isn’t mad, but she can hear how thrown off he is. He certainly did not expect this.
“Got him hard and left him to go home with blue balls. Good, huh?” she smiles, but doesn’t take her eyes off of the road.
Harry is silent for a few long seconds, which worries her a little, but then he laughs out loud, even throwing his head back and clapping his hands twice. “Amazing!”
Y/N relaxes and chuckles along with him.
“You said you were getting wet, though. Were you?” he asks when the laughter dies down.
“Ew, no. Are you crazy? I probably would have if it wasn’t for him being there and me bringing up his dick throughout the whole... story.”
“Yeah, same.” Harry agrees.
“You would’ve been hard from what I said?” Y/N smirks and glances at him for only a second before watching the road again.
“Shut up,” he laughs. “Where’re we going?”
“Kickin’ ass.”
Once in Y/N’s ex-best-friend’s dorm room, their mood changes completely. The first thing they see is a poster on the wall next to the small single bed with a shirtless Harry Styles on it.
“Oh God,” Harry murmurs behind his girlfriend.
“What are you doing here?” Jade, the owner of the room asks.
“You hang up a poster of my boyfriend right after I move out?” Y/N ignores her question and throws in one of her own instead.
“Not a poster of your boyfriend. A poster of Harry Styles, the singer I have liked ever since I discovered music.” Jade tries to explain.
“The singer who happens to be my boyfriend. And it’s a shirtless picture, for fuck’s sake. If it was anyone else’s room I wouldn’t care to look twice and laugh about it. But the facts it’s you just makes it weird.”
“It’s not weird, it–” Y/N cuts off whatever bullshit Jade was about to say.
“It is weird and you know it. Or else you wouldn’t have waited until I was gone to hang it up.”
“Why are you here anyway?” She asks when she fails to think of something to say to Y/N’s fact.
“Get the rumours out of the world,” Y/N crosses her arms over her chest while demanding it, Harry doing the same behind her.
“Or what?” Jade has the audacity to ask.
“You don’t want to risk finding it out. Do what I said.”
“I’m not scared of you, princess. And how would I even do that anyway?”
“The same way you started it, princess. I don’t care how you do it. Go on, I’ll wait here until it’s done.” she leans back against Harry who is quick to wrap his arms around her from behind.
“If so then you can move back in, ‘cause I won’t be doing shit. It’s your problem, not mine.”
“Oh, is that so?” Y/N smiles devilishly. That’s exactly how she expected this conversation to go. Honestly, she hoped it would.
She walks further into the room and sits down on the chair by the desk, Harry behind her with his hands on her shoulders and Jade’s open laptop in front of her. She closes all the open tabs – and if there was an unsaved 28k word document then oops – before opening Twitter. Luckily Jade was logged in, just like she expected.
“I wanted to give you the chance to choose what you want to say to clear things up, but it looks like I’m gonna have to do it myself. And it’s gonna end up bad. For you, obviously.” she chuckles quietly before she starts typing away on the keyboard of the laptop in front of her and reads word for word out loud for Jade to hear.
“Get your hands off my stuff!” Jade steps forward to try and stop Y/N but Harry quickly gets in the way. He doesn’t even have to touch her, all he does is block her way to Y/N.
Y/N types and reads, “Hello dear twitties.”
Harry couldn’t help but laugh.
“Ridiculous, right? That’s how she starts off every single one of her Tweets,” Y/N laughs with him. “Anyway, how should I start this?”
Jade tries to get a word in but Harry speaks over her. “Make her admit she’s a liar and make her sound like a crazy bitch.”
“Mmh, I like that,” Y/N turns her head and smiles up at him, “Gimme a kiss.”
Harry leans down with a smile and does so.
Y/N faces the laptop again and starts typing, “I’m sure you all remember my post about Y/N giving BJs on campus for free. This is embarrassing to admit, but it was a lie. So I would like to apologise to her and to all of the guys who got turned down by her because of that lie. I have some good news for you, though. I did it because I wanted to see if there would actually be people contacting her and now that I’ve seen it work, I’d like to announce that I’m taking her place. I’ll be the one to suck you off. Please leave her alone and call me instead.”
“Wait, I’ll give you her phone number,” Harry suggests and fishes Y/N’s phone out of her jeans. Once the number is typed beneath the text she clicks the Tweet button so it’s for everyone to see. Then she closes everything again, but before she can shut the laptop, the picture Jade has saved as her screen wallpaper catches her eye. Not only is it a picture of Harry, but one where she herself is edited into it so it looks like he is kissing her cheek.
“Alright, this is getting too weird. C’mon babe, let’s get outta here.” Harry pulls Y/N up off the chair and leads her out of the room.
“This is a joke, right? She can’t be that sick,” Y/N murmurs more to herself than to anyone else.
“Let’s just go get you a new phone number, please.”
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the-modernmary · 7 months ago
my best habit || aaron hotchner x reader (ch. 5)
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Chapter summary: Aaron and the rest of the BAU finally make an arrest on their case, and you spend the weekend at Aaron’s.
Warnings: SMUT, oral (f receiving), multiple orgasms
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I had a few, got drunk on you, and now I’m wasted
And when I sleep I’m gonna dream of how you tasted
- Harry Styles, “Medicine”
The investigation was slow going, and every day when you got off the metro to get to your internship, you would see the undercover van that you knew had BAU members cramped inside, sitting and waiting for somebody, anybody , to slip up and say something incriminating. 
  It was weird being at work knowing that it was bugged, but it did wonders for your productivity. Whenever Chris or another one of your friends at the office started to ask you about your personal life, you were able to deflect it with a quick “Sorry, I’m in the zone right now, and I’ve really got to focus!” Usually, you had no problem sharing, but you really didn’t want the FBI to have audio evidence of your retelling of you double fisting vodka Sprites the night before until you passed out in your bathtub. 
  You also hadn’t seen Aaron since that first night together, which was almost a week ago now. The two of you had been texting back and forth pretty consistently, but you quickly found that there was a variable that wasn’t there two years ago - Jack.
You should have realized that, of course , Jack would be living with Aaron now, but it never crossed your mind. Jack used to live with Haley, and Aaron rarely brought him up to you. Now that Jack lived with Aaron, it made things a little more complicated. It also meant that you couldn’t just show up at Aaron’s doorstep whenever you were feeling lonely, or vice versa. After a long and awkward phone call, Aaron and you had both agreed that it was best that Jack just didn’t meet you, just in case he got attached.
  “For now, at least,” Aaron had added at the end, and holy shit, you did not have the time to unpack whatever the fuck that meant.
  Especially not with Chris throwing a crumpled piece of paper at you like the two of you were in middle school and passing notes.
  You held up the ball of paper with a raised eyebrow. “Seriously? You have the desk across from me, you could have just said my name.”
  “What are you doing tonight?” he asked you, pointedly ignoring your question. “Nina just got the Catan expansion pack and she wants us all to come over.”
  You pursed your lips as you thought about the offer. You did love game nights with your friends, but it was Friday night and you were still holding out on the possibility of Aaron maybe being free and inviting you over. It was almost pitiful how touch starved you were after just a few days of not being with Aaron.
  “I’m not sure whether or not I’m busy tonight,” you admitted, maybe speaking a little too loudly in the direction of the listening devices, just in case Aaron was listening in. 
  Chris gave you a knowing smirk. “Oh, are you waiting to hear from your secret lover?”
  “Okay, don’t use the word ‘lover’ again,” you groaned. “And what makes you think that it was anything more than a one night stand?”
  “Because when you’re not actively texting, you’ve been checking your phone every 20 minutes.”
  Your face turned red as you sunk into your seat, trying and failing to hide yourself. Maybe if you willed it hard enough, the ground would open up and swallow you whole, just to save you from the embarrassment. You hadn’t realized you were checking your phone so often, but you also didn’t doubt it. 
  “Fine,” you grumbled, deciding that coming clean to your friends was going to be much easier than having to deal with them bringing it up at every moment possible. Besides, you didn’t have to give them all the details. “I will tell everybody all about him, but later . Not now.”
  Chris smirked as he leaned back in his chair, obviously proud of himself. You turned back to your work, mindlessly doing edits as you came up with a cover story in your head.
  Ran into an old friend, you could say. We got drinks, and then one thing led to another. That could work, except you came to the realization that you didn’t have any photos of Aaron, which would be suspicious if he was an old friend. You would have to look him up, which you were sure would just lead to a slew of FBI ID photos and news articles, which would mean that they’d just do some major googling of their own. You had avoided looking up Aaron, maybe in fear of what fucked up cases he had been involved in, but your friends would not hesitate.
  You could come up with something so ridiculous that they would just laugh about it. Yeah, I got a sugar daddy and he made me sign a nondisclosure agreement, sorry! You giggled to yourself just thinking about it. Aaron would probably be mortified at the thought. Although, he did wear a Rolex, so you guessed that anything was possible.
  “Holy shit, Y/N,” Chris mumbled, and you just gave a lazy hum as a reply, not really paying attention. “The FBI is here.”
  Your head snapped up at that . You whipped your head around so that you could face the entrance, and sure enough, the entire BAU team was walking in like they owned the place, with Aaron in the lead. They all had their FBI vests on, a sight which was way more attractive than it should have been. JJ and Reid stayed at the entrance to make sure nobody got out.
  “Everybody, please stay calm,” JJ called out, putting her hands up non threateningly. “Everything is okay, but we need you all to stay sitting exactly where you are.”
  A commotion came from the conference room and against your better judgment, you turned your head to watch what was going on. It wasn’t just one person getting arrested, it was every partner. You watched as Aaron spun Julian DuPont around by the wrist and pushed his face down on the conference table and oh, the FBI vest was nothing compared to watching Aaron arrest somebody.
  If anybody asked you if you got turned on during an FBI raid, you would vehemently deny it, but watching Aaron take out his handcuffs made your mind flash back to all those times you were in that same position, cuffed and bent over, completely at Aaron’s mercy. 
  Just as quickly as they came in, the BAU made their arrests and made their way back out. As Aaron passed your desk, his eyes met yours for a brief second and the corner of his mouth quirked up smugly. It was so subtle and quick that even you barely caught it, but you knew that look.
  At least you weren’t the only one in this situation with your mind in the gutter.
  Once the rest of the BAU was out of the building, JJ and Reid started the process of getting everybody else out of the office so that CSI could come in and finish looking around. When you passed by them, both agents greeted you with a warm smile, like the three of you were old friends.
  “Y/N, we’re going to need to get your statement before you go home,” Reid told you as you walked by, and you just nodded in confirmation.
  Once you got outside, you were immediately greeted by some agent named Anderson. He needed to get your statement on the work you did with the team, and you quickly gave him the PG version of the story. Your mind, however, was more focused on finding Aaron, who you knew had to be somewhere in the crowd. God, how long did it take to write down a simple statement?
  “I’ll take it from here, Anderson. Thank you.” 
  Aaron’s voice sent shivers down your spine and you spun around to look at him. You brought your bottom lip in between your teeth. “Nice arrest, although I’m surprised. Mr. DuPont doesn’t even drive himself to work, I can’t imagine him waiting out to kill somebody.”
  “That’s because he hired hitmen,” Aaron explained. “The victims were all bribing judges to get their cases dismissed, and all of those dismissed cases looked really bad for his prosecuting record.”
  You shrugged, placing your hands on his hips. “Probably not as bad as prison, though.”
  That actually got a laugh out of Aaron, but he quickly composed himself as another agent walked past the two of you. “Yeah, he’s not going to be practicing law ever again.” 
  You opened your mouth to say something - maybe to invite him over? You weren’t totally sure - when one of the CSI’s came over to ask Aaron something.
  Aaron waved him off, telling him that he would be there in a moment, before turning back to you. “My house will be empty all weekend,” he whispered, looking around to make sure nobody was watching. “Pack a bag, come over.”
  Before you could even answer him, Aaron had already taken off. You made your way towards the metro so that you could run home before heading to Aaron’s. You had to fight the smile that was growing on your face when Aaron mentioned packing a bag. Not only was it an unspoken promise of a weekend full of sex, it also meant that he was planning on making room for you to keep some of your stuff at his house. The two of you were quickly falling back into your old routines, and it was weirdly comforting.
  When you got to your house, you made a split second decision to change out of your work clothes into a more casual outfit, although it didn’t matter much what you were wearing. It’s not like it was going to stay on for very long. As you packed your bag, you ordered an Uber, knowing it would get you to Aaron’s place faster than the metro. 
  Sure, you were a little impatient, but it had been so long since you had spent the night at Aaron’s place. It always intrigued you how different it was at his house than it was at yours. You were just staying in a shoebox apartment while you were in college - something liveable and temporary until after you graduated and got a job where you could put actual roots down. Your decor was fairly minimum, an assortment of knick-knacks and photos of your friends.
  Aaron’s place was different. It was a certifiable, adult house with framed art and random decorative bowls scattered around. All of his kitchenware was a part of a matching set and his living room looked like all the pieces were picked out by an interior designer. In a weird way, being at Aaron’s house gave you a glimpse of the life you could have in just a few years. Sometimes, it was easy to imagine that you were a part of his world.
  You couldn’t think like that, though. Especially not when he greeted you at his door with an eager kiss, pulling you in so that you were pressed against him.
  “I’m going to use this entire weekend,” Aaron mumbled against your lips in between kisses. His hands slid up your sides, pulling your shirt off almost immediately. “To thoroughly and completely ruin you, until you can only say my name.” 
  Your fingers tangled in his hair as you smiled into the kiss, your fingers already working on the buttons of his shirt. A soft moan escaped your lips, which only encouraged him to deepen the kiss.
  The two of you stumbled towards Aaron’s bedroom, only detaching your lips when absolutely necessary and leaving a trail of clothes behind you. You needed to be naked, to feel your bare skin pressed against his. His hands were impossibly everywhere all at once - running up your thighs, cupping your breasts, and gripping your hips so hard that it was bound to leave bruises. Your body burned everywhere he touched and soon all you could think about was him and how badly you wanted him to touch you where it mattered.
  Once you got to his bedroom, Aaron pressed you against the wall. You tried to grind against him, but he moved one of his hands onto your hips so that he could hold you in place. His lips moved from your mouth to your neck, sucking just enough to make your back arch. “You have no idea how often I thought of you this week. How hard it was to listen to you and not think about how you sound when you’re begging for me. How badly I needed you.”
  Your nail scratched down his back lightly, just enough to elicit a soft hiss from him. “Desperation is unbecoming on you, Aaron,” you teased, knowing that would get a reaction out of him.
  It worked. One of his hands stayed on your hip, pressing you firmly against the wall, while his other hand tangled itself in your hair, pulling your head back so that your face was lifted up towards him. He kept you at an arm's distance as his eyes raked your body up and down hungrily.
  “I’m desperate?” he said scornfully. “Coming from the girl who is so needy that she couldn’t stay away from her phone for more than a few minutes, just waiting for me to want you. I could have called you at any time, and you would have dropped everything just to let me use you, isn’t that right? You’d let me do anything to you, just like the filthy slut you are.”
  You visibility gulped at his statement but you nodded obediently, which earned you a sharp tug of your hair.
  “Yes, Aaron, fuck ,” you gasped out. “I would have let you do anything at any time, just please…”
  Aaron gave you a predatory grin as the hand on your hip slowly made its way up your stomach until it cupped your right breast, thumbing lightly over your nipple. It wasn’t enough to get any real pleasure, but it made you moan all the same.
   “You did such a good job this week,” he murmured, looking at you almost worshipfully like he wanted to commit you to memory.  “I was going to give you whatever you wanted tonight. But maybe that would make me too desperate .”
  You tried to wiggle out of his grasp, but it was no use. “I- I-” you stuttered out. You couldn’t think straight.
  “I- I-,” Aaron mocked. “I thought you were a lot more intelligent than that. Come on, Y/N, whatever you want. Use your words. Unless pleasure’s turned you into a stupid whore.” He punctuated the last word with a light spank to your clit, which made you cry out and your legs instinctively try to close.
  “I want you to use your mouth,” you begged, arching your back in a pitiful attempt to create some form of contact. Your shoulders pressed against the wall was the only thing keeping you upright.
  “Where?” he asked all too casually.
  Your breathing was still shaky at best, but you forced yourself to make eye contact with Aaron. He looked back at you expectantly, waiting patiently for your answer.
  You slowly raised your hand to point to your left breast, which so far had been woefully ignored. “Here,” you said hesitantly, not sure whether or not he was going to tease you. While Aaron always gave you what you asked for eventually, that didn’t mean he wouldn’t make you beg for it first.
  To his credit, however, Aaron immediately bent down and attached his mouth to your nipple, his teeth gently scraping over the sensitive flesh. His eyes never left yours, he wanted to watch your reaction. 
  Feeling more confident, you cupped the sides of his face and pulled him off you, and the sound it made was obscene. “I want you to eat me out,” you whispered, blushing as you said it. “I want to feel myself cum on your face, please .”
  Aaron smirked as he slid down to his knees, kissing all the way down your stomach. “Good girl, you asked so nicely,” he mumbled against your skin and it sent shivers up your spine. He hooked one of your legs over his shoulder, giving him a perfect few of your pussy, slick with your arousal. “Look at you, dripping down your thighs before I’ve even started. Desperation is unbecoming on you, Y/N,” he mocked. He was using your words against you, and you didn’t even care. You just wanted him to do something, anything.
  Aaron ran a finger through your folds, ghosting over your clit. You hips bucked, desperate for more contact, but his finger was already gone. “Look at me,” he ordered, and as soon as you did, you were greeted with the image of Aaron admiring the wetness that was covering his finger. Then he stuck the finger in his mouth, smirking as he did, and you moaned out at the sight. “You taste so good, Y/N.”
  “Please, Aaron, I need you to- oh! ” you begged, but you were cut off by Aaron licking a strip up your center, still avoiding your clit.
  His hands came around and grabbed onto your ass as he got to work, lapping through your folds. You tangled your hands in his hair, rocking your hips against his mouth, craving more . His tongue teased at your clit, humming every once in a while in a way that sent vibrations throughout you. Without warning, he pushed two fingers into you curling them in just the right spot.
  As Aaron’s fingers pumped in and out of you, his lips focused solely on your clit. He flicked it once with his tongue before sucking, relishing in the way you moaned out his name. You tightened your grip in Aaron’s hair as your first orgasm hit you, your whole body shaking and a string of expletives leaving your mouth. But that didn’t stop Aaron.
  He added a third finger and replaced his mouth with his thumb on your clit. “You’re going to give me another one,” he practically growled. “And then I’m going to fuck you until you’re a whining mess. This is what you asked for isn’t it?”
  When you didn’t answer right away, he turned his head to the side and bit down on the sensitive flesh of your inner thigh, causing you to cry out. He sucked on that same spot for a little before dragging his tongue over the newly formed bruise.
  “Yes, I want that, Aaron,” you cried out. “I want you .”
  He reattached his lips to your folds with newfound vigor, making tight circles around your clit. His free hand snaked up your sides to your breast, pinching and twisting at your nipple. You continued to beg, although you weren’t sure what you were begging for exactly. All you knew was that you were so full of want , want for your second orgasm, and want for Aaron.
  Aaron fucked you with his fingers with ease, as if he had all the time in the world. You ground down on him again, chasing your orgasm the best you could. Your eyes were squeezed shut in pleasure, but you needed more. You opened your eyes, only to be met with Aaron’s blown pupils, eyes full of desire. You could almost feel his smirk as he wrapped his lips around your clit and pulled .
  The heel of your foot dug into his back as you cried out, your second orgasm twice as intense as your first one. Aaron’s fingers kept pumping into you lazily, and even your panting couldn’t cover the filthy sounds it was making. You could feel yourself dripping down your thighs.
  Aaron slowly removed his fingers from you and lightly swiped them over your clit once more as he stood up, which almost made you completely lose your balance, a sob tearing from your mouth.
  He held his glistening fingers in front of your mouth and you opened obediently, moaning as you tasted yourself on him. Your tongue swirled around his fingers, making sure to clean every trace of you off him.
  Aaron removed his fingers from your mouth. “Do you have one more in you?” he asked, and it was softer than you were used to. “It’s okay if you don’t. We have all weekend.”
  “I need your dick in me,” you said in lieu of an answer. “Please, please fuck me.”
  Aaron pulled you to his bed and you all but collapsed onto your back, your legs still shaking from your back to back orgasms. Aaron crawled on top of you, leaving a trail of kisses in his wake, all the way from your stomach to your mouth.
  “You’re so beautiful when you come for me,” he whispered, teasing your entrance with the head of his cock. All of his movements were gentle, bordering on caring. “Yelling out my name so that everybody can hear that you’re mine .”
  He pressed into you slowly, his first few thrusts shallow, and you could see that it was taking all of his willpower to keep teasing you like this. You dragged your nails down his back, not caring if it left marks on him.
  “Aaron,” you whimpered, bucking your hips to try and get more movement. “Please fuck me. I need more.”
  Aaron was always good at giving you what you wanted.
  His hips snapped into you harshly, and you had to attach your lips to his shoulder to keep from screaming out. Aaron thrusted into you hard and fast, wanting to feel every inch of you. He stretched you in all the best ways and your back arched off the bed. You were holding on to Aaron like a lifeline, and all he could do was grunt out your name over and over, repeating it like a prayer. 
  Your third orgasm came fast, spreading through your body like a wildfire, and you could feel the tears prick at the corners of your eyes at the overstimulation. Aaron’s thrusts became more desperate and harsher as he felt you squeeze around him. He dropped his head to your shoulder, his breathing ragged and you could tell that he was so close-
  “Cum for me… Fill me up,” you purred into Aaron’s ear, and that’s all it took for him to finish, holding himself deep inside you as his warmth filled you. The two of you stayed like that for a moment, both trying to catch your breath. You brought your head up to kiss Aaron, slowly and deliberately and filled with… something . You couldn’t figure out what it was yet.
  Aaron pulled out of you slowly and flopped onto the bed next to you, but he reached over and held your hand. The two of you laid like that for several moments, giving yourselves time to come back down to reality. Finally, Aaron rolled on his side to check on you. You admired the flush on his body, especially as it rose to his cheeks and made him look like he was practically glowing.
  “Are you okay?” he asked, his thumb rubbing lazy circles on your hand. “Can I do anything?” 
  You turned your head to smile at him, giving his hand a squeeze, before sitting up. Aaron was always so careful about aftercare, which you were immensely appreciative of. “Oh, I’m fine, I’m just going to go to the bathroom. A UTI might ruin the mood,” you joked.
  When you returned, Aaron was already in a pair of pajama pants and sitting in bed. He had also laid out one of his shirts for you, which caused your stomach to do flips. Despite the fact that you actually did pack pajamas, you chose to wear his shirt. You could feel his eyes watching your every movement as you made your way back into bed, leaning back against the headboard.
  Aaron placed an arm around your shoulders and you leaned into him, catching his lips in another kiss, this one soft and sensual. You placed your hand on his bare chest as the kiss deepened, and Aaron’s fingers ghosting over your skin sent shivers down your spine.
  “So,” you murmured against his lips. “What are your plans for me this weekend?” It was partially a joke, but you wanted to be as prepared as possible for just how sore you were going to be on Monday after an entire three days of being thoroughly wrecked by Aaron.
  Aaron’s lips curved up into a smile as he dropped a kiss on the top of your head, letting his lips linger for just a second too long. “Hm, we can play it by ear. Although, I was thinking Indian for dinner tomorrow night?”
  You were too old to get butterflies, but there was something so soft and so sincere in his reply that it made your stomach do flips. Aaron yawned, probably not even giving a second thought to his reply, and pulled you in closer to him. 
  “Yeah,” you conceded, closing your eyes. “Indian sounds good.” You could deal with the butterflies later.
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emsartwork · a year ago
i forgot to add: how do design ????!?!??????
So I’m not expert but this is how I think of character design! (also sry if you were asking about clothing/outfit design thats a little different)
under the cut because this is long im so sorry
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So in my opinion there are three really important aspects for character design!
AESTHETIC: obviously everybody’s aesthetic is different, but this is more about what vibe the character has, what makes them THEM design wise. 
INTENTION: who is the character supposed to be? this can range from their personality, their back story, their occupation, or their role in the story, but the design need to fit that intention.
COHESION: does the design go well together? or do certain aspects clash too much? obviously you can have disjointed parts of a character design, and if those serve a purpose then thats fine, but if its so disjointed its distracting from the character as a whole you might need to tweak things. 
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AESTHETIC: the contrasting part of the design (white flowers in dark hair, dark trim on dress, and dark shoes) provide interest to the eye. The mixing of round and sharp shapes also keeps the design from feeling “boring” even though its relatively simple. 
INTENTION: so what role would this little doodle character have? according to her design elements, shes cute and friendly with her round shapes (bouncy balls, babies, etc), but could have a sharp/fast/active or even dangerous edge to her with the triangles (arrows, knives etc). of course the design doesn’t limit her possible roles. She could be a bubbly younger sister who teases the older protagonist, or maybe she’s the villain hiding in plain sight. the shape this character design doesn’t really have is squares(think bricks and rocks), which communicates that she might not be really strong, steady, or reliable. 
COHESION: repeating the curves across her whole design builds cohesion, it communicates that “yes, these are all part of the same character”, it also allows the eye to “rest” on a familiar shape or line. 
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(Boku no Hero Academia) so both of these characters are super heroes, but have vastly different design elements. so lets analyze them.
OCHAKO(the pink one) is all rounds, with a few pointed shapes in hair mostly, but a little on her costume as well. Her personality is cute, bubbly, and friendly which perfectly suits her soft and bouncy design. Howevre she also has a very slight edge to her, which is seen her determination and drive to improve herself over the course of the anime. 
KIRISHIMA(the red one) at first glance, seems to be super pointy!! shapes that are usually seen on villains or really dangerous characters, but while he IS sharp(literally sometimes) and sometimes aggressive, he is also made of squares, which perfectly suits his loyal “i gotchu bro” attitude towards most of the other characters in the anime.  
ISSUE AREAS: so the only problems i have with Ochako and Kirishima’s designs is that their costumes each have one area that clashes a little too much for my taste. With Ochako, the belt over the color blocking stripes down her crotch are......questionable taste wise. I think the design would be better if the pink chest ended above the belt in a shallow v. not only would this mirror the triangle aspects of her hair, it would fit the belt outline, and continue the trend her costume has of being “grounded” or “heavy”. Kirishima has those.... gears??? around his shoulders??? and while the gear teeth are technically squares, the gear shape itself is a circle, which is a shape that isn’t present anywhere else in his design. I think changing the gears to something similar to his boots or his mask/headgear would create a more cohesive design(also the gears just look hard to move in)
These two characters are presented as individuals so their costumes don’t have to match at all even though they are still seen as “connected” because of the art style for the face, hair, and body. 
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In a group giving the outfits cohesive motifs is an easy way to present a strong team image! In Yuki Yuna is a Hero, the girls all have colored lines(usually princess seam placement), armor or fabric hip accents, covered arms, and similar flower shapes in their hair. The Aesthetic of each girl is strong in a monochrome signature color, but not over whelming as the black+white connects them even in color so they aren’t out of place. 
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Speaking of color! if your characters are all similar looking (like same body for all of them) you can communicate their personality and aesthetic just with color! (only gonna talk about a few of the ponies) Pinkie Pie (the really pink one) is energetic and playful, so her color scheme is a variation of the primary colors(happy, child like), and have one of the more saturated colors(high energy, intense) of these characters in a large quantity. Apple Jack (the orange one) is a down to earth farm girl, and her color palette is accordingly, mostly earth tones, its also warm analogous colors, which makes her appear un-complicated and warm personality wise. the pop of red is a nice touch to add interest, but notice that its uses sparingly in her cutie mark and tail accessory. Rarity on the other hand is elegant and fussy, her high contrast scheme of white and dark blue/purples gives her more visual interest and is something that makes her appear more “complex” in addition to the gradient thats included in her hair. the colors are also all cool colors, bringing to mind cool glass or water which both have connotations of grace and beauty.
however all the characters here are unified by their colors being on the pastel side, which is also important for a cohesive cast.
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another, short, note on color; making the color/line/shading of your figure different from the background can help them stand out, this is used ESPECIALLY in children’s media, but can be applied to any illustration or animation as needed.
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Color can also help your characters “read” quickly on screen, the powerpuff girls are a prime example, of having a distinct color blocking and silhouette. even the color blobs at the top and my crappy hand silhouettes STILL read as the characters despite being broken down into abstract elements. I also really enjoy the thick outline in the powerpuff girls, it really makes the characters pop to the foreground even though they have pretty simple designs and are often in a colorful setting.
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Also, for a lot of animation, silhouette is INCREDIBLY important for your characters, some designers sketch silhouettes and then design the particulars its so important to nail the shape. These examples from Coraline are some of my favorites (though Laika wins in my heart every time no matter what lmao) because the simple shapes are SO CLEAR and indicative of the character, you literally don’t need to have watched the movie to know these are each different characters with different personalities and roles. 
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silhouette can also help tell the story. In Kubo and the two strings (another Laika film) the above three characters are sisters. One has chosen to leave her home in the heavens to live on earth, and the other two stay in their roles as “heavenly” warriors. This is even shown through their designs, the two sisters are weighted on top and their cloaks don’t even touch the ground, while the first woman has trailing, heavy sleeves, hair, and robes all grounding her and emphasizing her connection with the earth.
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another example of shape/silhouette reflecting the story, In The Croods, the family of cavemen are for the most part very top heavy, with large torsos and arms, usually in a more hunched over position, while the newcomer, Guy, is bottom heavy with thin arms and stands more upright. In the plot, the family represents the old ways, the strength and rules that have helped them survive, they look like very stereotypical “cavemen”, while Guy resembles the modern man, and appropriately is associated with new ideas and forward thinking.
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MORE SHAPES, in DC super hero girls each girl has a distinct personality emulated by her shape language. Zatana is dramatic curves and edges, Super girl is hard, straight edges against curves, giving her a solid muscular shape. Wonder Woman, though also strong, is taller and leaner, lending to a confident leader type. Green Lantern is slim, her lines all flow into each other giving her a go with the flow look. Bumble Bee is, of course, tiny, but her boots and gauntlets add weight and strength to her otherwise small frame. Batgirl is lanky and has a lot of pointed style lines, reminding the viewer of a skinny cat (ironic what with cat woman i know) or weasel which mirrors her preferred “sneaky” crime fighting style.  (also yes this was just an excuse for me to gush abt how much i love the dcshg designs shut up)
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so in my opinion, Cartoon Saloon’s The Secret of Kells is PERFECT in aesthetic, intention, and cohesion. Kells focuses very strongly on creating silhouette WITHIN the larger figure shape via color and line, most of the characters pictured here have no neck, the one who does, Brendan, is the main character and the use of negative space that cuts into his shape is used to draw attention to him. Kells is also very strongly inspired by Medieval Illuminated manuscripts (namely, the book of kells lmao). The characters still manage to stand out against outrageously detailed backgrounds via their simple shapes and strong color blocking. 
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Aisling, a secondary but very important character, is not human, and has a totally different shape language from the rest of the characters. She is thin and pointy, while most of the others are round or square. Aisling also has the most negative space making up her silhouette, compare the triangles made by her arms and legs in the above picture to the figures in the first image where everybody’s body is self contained with no negative space. She is also very different color wise, very pale and cool colored, as opposed to the warm saturated colors of the human characters. (yes this was another excuse to gush abt one of my fave pieces of media deal with it)
hopefully that wasn’t too rambley and actually helps? if yall have more specific design questions lemma know lol
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taelme · a year ago
all at once, the happiness i knew (1)
request: Hi! before i request, i just wanted to say that you’ve literally become one of my fave authors and ive been binging the dnyl series during quarantine. i’d like to request a donghyuck au (or honestly whatever you want to do) thats angsty. 
genre: kind of single parent!au??, established relationship!au?( fluff, angst with happy ending, haechan is kind of best boy) 
pairing/s: Haechan / Female Reader (ft Jaehyun and Chenle) 
word count: 23k+ 
tw: unplanned pregnancy, might get kind of heavy! but dont worry! bc it ends well! 
a/n: hello! this is something a bit different from what i usually do since i dont rly do much angst stuff but i decided to kind of like challenge myself and like do this in my own style? so it might not be like Super angsty for u angst buffs out there but it hurt me HAHA so yes thank you to the anon that requested this and thank you for being patient! i took very long with this i know but yes! enjoy!! ill put a link to the part 2 which is the second half of this au at the end!! 
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donghyuck 7:51pm - where are you now? -
You frowned from where you lay on the bed, casting an apathetic glance at your phone, though the simple text had sent waves of mixed feelings into your heart.
You didn’t want to answer him, in fear that you would grow to miss him even more if you saw him, though when you heard the knock on your bedroom door the next minute, it was safe to say there was no going back.
Shoving your phone into your back pocket, you took a deep breath, exhaling and relaxing your shoulders as you made your way over to open your bedroom door, revealing your boyfriend Donghyuck, an urgency to his gaze as he’d shut the door behind him, wasting no time to pull you into a hug. You heard the telltale sound of the door locking behind him.
Almost instantly, your face had pulled into a frown as you let your head rest against his shoulder, your forehead creasing as you bit your lip, something about the way he sighed into your shoulder making you awfully melancholic.
You’d felt him tilt his head, pressing a long kiss to your cheek, beginning to trail kisses down your neck, a huff of cool air against your neck making shivers run down your spine.
“Why are you here?” You sighed deeply, though you didn’t make any move to push him away when his arms had wrapped around you snugly, his hand going to your back pocket, pulling your phone out smoothly and pulling his lips abruptly from your neck.
“Excuse me, what’s the point of having a phone if you’re not going to reply me?” He sulked, pulling away and quirking an eyebrow at you, holding your phone up in front of you for emphasis.
You sighed, scrunching your nose as you tried to get rid of the heavy feeling within you, your hands finding purchase on his back, wanting to hold him close to you even more now that he was here.
“And, you didn’t really think you could skip my farewell, did you?” Donghyuck scoffed, tossing your phone onto your bed as he returned his hands to your waist, slowly trailing them downwards and tucking them snugly into your back pockets.
“Well, it’s not like it was fun for me,” you huffed, shaking your head at him.
“Everyone was making it seem like you were dying. ‘Oh, Donghyuck we’ll miss you’, ‘oh, Donghyuck you’re gonna be gone for so long!’,” you mimicked, your voice raising in agitation, “you know, one lady even gave me a pity stare. Do you know how pathetic that made me feel?”  
It was safe to say Donghyuck didn’t have to ask to know you were feeling (more than a little) down about him leaving, your outburst laying everything out clearly for him.  
“I don’t want to go either, you know,” he let out a small sigh, leaning back against the door, pursing his lips, his hand going under your shirt to rub at the skin of your back soothingly.
You nodded, your hands coming up to his shoulders, squeezing gently.
“I know, I'm sorry. I know how important it is, for you to just, you know, see this through… for your future—”
“You mean for my parents,” he corrected, his tone laced with spite.
Shooting him a pointed look, you continued, “hey, you can’t say this isn’t a hell of a good opportunity for you, especially because of the job at their company waiting for you when you come back. The three years will just… zoom past and then you’ll come back as a newly-qualified Donghyuck.”
Donghyuck hoped he was doing a good job to hide the pang of reluctance within him, his gaze momentarily faltering as his insecurity got the better of him, recalling your late night conversations in the past about how difficult a long-distance relationship would be for you.
“You say it like you’re not going to join me over there next year,” he sulked.
And if you wanted to ask him what was wrong, he didn't give you a chance, his expression quickly changing to a smiling one, directing a pointed roll of his eyes towards you, “and mind you, that’ll be Doctor Donghyuck in a few years.”
You ignored the latter statement, focused on the reminder that you had an impending exam in a few months, “yeah, that’s if I even pass my LSAT’s.”
Donghyuck scoffed, taking your hand and leading you towards your bed, laying down and pulling you to lie next to him, “please, we both know you could do it in your sleep with how much you’ve been studying.”
“You’re my smarty-pants girlfriend, remember?”
He turned his head to face you, a soft smile lingering on his face as he brought his hand up to your jaw, using his thumb to caress your cheek gently, something Donghyuck loved to do whenever he saw that you were in need of a little pick-me-up.
You couldn’t help the slight relief his gesture had brought you, the feeling of his hopefulness starting to rub off on you.
This side of Donghyuck, you held close to your heart. The side that was mature, that never failed to reassure you, that was always looking out for you to make sure you were okay. It spoiled you, really.
Keeping your gaze fixated on him, you were desperately trying to memorise the way he was looking at you (though a part of you was still trying to figure out if that was a hint of desire you were detecting in his stare).
“Can you come here and kiss me now? I’ve been waiting all night to finally get some time alone with you,” he pouted, his hand reaching over to tug you closer to him, pressing your lips against his without wasting any more time.
“The guests are still downstairs,” you pulled away just slightly to murmur against his lips, Donghyuck letting out a negative grunt, his hand behind your neck keeping you in place.
“They left,” he pulled away to speak in-between kisses, his hands grasping your arms to pull you on top of him, holding them next to his head with his chest pressing against yours as he continued to kiss you as if his life depended on it.
“I convinced my mom and dad to leave us alone,” he spoke between kisses, his hands going behind your back, “so I could say goodbye," he breathed, "properly.”
You frowned, your hand coming up to gently touch his cheek, his hand that was holding yours moving to slip it under your shirt, tugging it up slowly.
“I don’t like saying goodbye,” you mumbled, momentarily distracted by the way his hand felt against the skin of your back, his hands tracing over the expanse of your torso as if he were trying to commit every dip and curve to your body to his memory.
Donghyuck pulled away from you, looking you dead in the eye, a shit-eating grin on his face.
“What about a ‘see you later’? Is that better?”
You scowled at him, trying hard to maintain your annoyed expression even though it wasn't as if you weren't smiling either, your hand going to the hem of his shirt before you felt him grip your wrist.
You’d leaned away enough for him to tug his shirt over his head, his hair sticking up messily afterwards, Donghyuck not wasting any time as his hands went over to tug your shirt up over your head as well, though you appreciated that he was a lot more gentle as compared to how he’d taken his own shirt off.
Pulling you towards him again, his leg went between yours, parting them so you were straddling him more obviously now, his hand going behind your neck to guide the kiss.
“I love you a lot, you know that, right?” He smiled, pressing a loud obnoxious kiss to your cheek, making you squirm, shyness getting the better of you. The question was simple, yet it managed to set off a giddy feeling within you, having a feeling you knew where he was going with this.
“Will you say it for me?” He teased, making you scrunch your nose up. He knew you felt shy to profess your love for him the way he did, the only time you would get your courage to do so being when he would say it first. Donghyuck knew this.
You covered your face, feeling his lips press light kisses on your shoulder, his other hand rubbing your other shoulder soothingly, as you summoned the courage to murmur an ‘i love you’ that was as firm as you could muster.
Donghyuck grinned, pulling your hands away from your face, “I love you too,” he murmured softly.
“I’m sorry, I know I don’t say it a lot, but I really do mean it,” you told him, your hand coming up to run your fingers through his hair, hearing him let out a soft hum of satisfaction.
“I know, I just can’t help myself,” he smiled, leaning closer to press a small kiss to your nose, “I just find myself always wanting to remind you.”
He turned the both of you over, so you were lying on your back.
“I know it’s not the first time,” Donghyuck murmured, trailing kisses down your neck to press them against your collarbone, a small hum leaving him, “but are you okay with it?” His gaze searched yours with an underlying concern, something in your heart stirring at his consideration.
You nodded, “more than okay,” you laughed, “we’ll be careful.”
Donghyuck smirked, rolling the both of you over as he worked on pressing kisses to your jaw, “I’m always careful.”
donghyuck 2:45pm - shit did I hang up- 2:45pm - it was an accident I swear wait hold on ill call u again-
“Hey,” you were greeted with the sight of Donghyuck lying on his bed, his hair messy and looking as though he’d just woken up, one of his hands coming up to rub at his eyes.
“Sorry,” Donghyuck whined, “I think my hand slipped when I was trying to turn down the brightness,” he pouted, making you scoff.
You propped your phone against the stack of books on your table so you could rest your hands (all that studying was really taking a toll on your wrists), glancing back to your screen to observe Donghyuck in his sleepy state
“Did you just wake up?”
Donghyuck nodded, a small sheepish smile on his face, “stayed up last night doing research, didn’t even realise I fell asleep halfway.”
You huffed, about to tease him about it when you’d heard your mom knock on the door, peeking it open slightly.
"Hey, honey, are you really still not hungry?”
You shook your head, turning your head to see her walking towards you, her gaze landing on your phone.
“Is that Donghyuck? Hi, sweetie, how are things over there?” She cooed, a wide smile on her face as she spoke, her other hand rubbing your back soothingly.
“Everything’s fine, thank you for asking,” Donghyuck had almost immediately perked up, trying to maintain (whatever was left of) his presentable image to your mom.
Turning to you, your mom had given you a small frown, Donghyuck long forgotten as she looked at you in concern, “we kept some leftovers from lunch in case you got hungry, do you want me to bring them up for you?”
You couldn’t even think about food at the moment, shaking your head, “sorry, I just… kind of like, my stomach kind of feels weird,” you told her, earning a reluctant nod from your mom.
“Do you want me to make a cup of tea for you?”
You shook your head, “It’s okay, I’ll just drink water,” you assured her, seeing her shoot you one last look of sympathy before bidding you goodbye.
Once the door had clicked shut behind her, you’d turned back to face Donghyuck (who was looking at you with such a deep frown it almost successfully made you feel guilty).
“You’re not eating again?”
You scoffed, “what do you mean 'again'?” You couldn’t help but laugh at his accusation, watching him bring a hand up to flick his hair from covering his eyes with an annoyed click of his tongue.
“You know, you always forget to eat when you get really into studying, right?”
You shook your head, “that’s different. Forgetting to eat and not having the appetite are two different things.”
Donghyuck pursed his lips, “you still have to eat, though.”
You nodded, your hand coming to rub over your stomach, sighing as you tried to find a reason for your nausea.
A thought seemed to have struck Donghyuck, a yelp of realisation escaping him.
“Oh, I know. What if it’s because of your period?”
Your eyebrows raised, not having considered that option, picking your phone up with a hum, “that’s true, this does happen sometimes,” you swiped over to see how long more you had till your period, frowning when you saw that it was already late. It was supposed to have happened a week ago.
“Weird,” you murmured, earning a hum from him.
“What’s weird?"
You shook your head in dismissal, swiping back to the video call and letting out a small sigh, “nah, nothing. It’s like a week late. Think it’s the stress from studying,” you shrugged.
Donghyuck didn’t sense anything weird about it, since it wasn’t the first time this happened. The only thing that was bothering him about it now was that he was further away from you. And call it separation anxiety or whatever you wish, but there was a big part of him (maybe all of him if he looked deeper) that longed to be there with you, to take care of you and make sure you were eating your meals or not stressing yourself out too much. But he couldn’t.
So he did what any other boyfriend in his position would’ve done.
“I’ll be checking up on you, okay? I gotta get going soon. Try to eat something, okay?”
You shot him a look, nodding just to patronize him, “yes, mom.” You rolled your eyes with a laugh, making Donghyuck scoff.
“Doctor mom—”
“You’re not even a month into your masters, Hyuck—”
“Love you, bye!”
Now, you were about a little more than a month in of being away from Donghyuck, and though you figured you were managing well, it had seemed that a certain friend of yours had made it their personal responsibility to make sure you were okay during this time.
“What are you doing here?”
You couldn’t help but smile at the sight of Jaehyun at your door on a Saturday morning, something about the sunshine and his soft dimpled smile making you feel as though he really was an angel sent from above.
Holding up a grocery bag next to his head, he shook it at you with a satisfied smile, letting himself in and shutting the door behind him.
"You really didn't have to," you frowned, feeling guilty that you were burdening him into bringing you things to eat (well, not that you weren't thankful of course, you just figured Jaehyun had better things to do than to be your personal food delivery man).
"It was nothing,” he sighed deeply, sarcasm laced in his tone, “just thirty bucks out of the kindness of my heart," he shrugged, swinging the bag over his shoulder with his two fingers.
"I'm sure Hyuck would love hearing that," you scoffed with a laugh, dragging your feet over to the kitchen to pour yourself a glass of water.
"Have you eaten?" you asked, hoping he would say no so your mom would stop nagging you about the leftovers sitting in the microwave.
You should've known better, Jaehyun's reply earning a groan from you.
"Nope, I got enough for the both of us."
"How's studying?" he asked, following behind you as you led him to your room, missing the way Jaehyun was tense, his fingers gripping tighter around the bag as you let him into your room.
"Oh, you know, bad,” you let out a deep sigh, “I'm really nervous. I mean, I know it's like next month but a month is really short when you think about it," you shrugged, busy with sweeping your files off of your bed to notice Jaehyun’s clear inattention.
"Uh-huh," Jaehyun set the plastic bag on his lap, helping you to bookmark your pages with whatever he could find on your bed before setting your books on the floor with a loud thud.
“Gentle, please, those textbooks cost a bomb,” you glared at him, seeing him shrug.
You sighed, heaving your books over to set them on your table with a light thud, "anyway, I don't know what you brought but I'm not entirely sure I can eat all of it."
"Uh-huh," Jaehyun glared at your wall, beckoning you over to your bed and tapping the space next to him, "your mom home?"
You shook your head, still oblivious to his behaviour, your hands coming up to wipe your stray hairs from your face, "nope, she and my dad are at work."
"Good," Jaehyun huffed, earning a (rather suspicious) eyebrow raise from you.
"Good? do I need to remind you that i'm studying the law—"
"It's not anything... illegal," Jaehyun lowered his voice to a murmur, not without rolling his eyes for good measure.
“Then why are you whispering?" you teased, lowering your voice as well, your attention diverted when he'd ignored you to pull his takeout box from the plastic bag.
"What did you get for me?" you asked, earning a shrug from him, Jaehyun lifting his chopsticks as a prompt for you to go ahead and see for yourself.
Only upon opening the bag, you frowned only spotting a few packets of gummies and boxes that were definitely not big enough to be a take-out box.
“The heck is this? It’s all gummies,” You frowned, emptying out the bag harshly. Your gaze immediately landed on the label on the boxes staring back at you mockingly.
Jaehyun glanced from the box to you, nodding his head at you as if in a prompt, looking back at his food to scoop another chopstick-full of noodles into his mouth. Sure he was concerned for you, but that didn’t mean he needed to starve to prove it.
“I hope you’re not expecting me to eat a pregnancy kit for lunch.”
Rolling his eyes, he’d snorted, “eat your leftovers in the fridge, idiot, your mom told me—”
“Why’d you even buy these, Jae? You’re wasting your money, I'm not pregnant,” you scoffed, a slight giggle leaving you, especially since it was Jaehyun in front of you, of all people.
Jaehyun shook his head firmly, not seeming to have found the situation as funny as you did, “you can’t be certain.”
“Then what makes you so sure?”
Letting out a deep sigh, Jaehyun was completely undeterred by the way you were smiling at him with your eyebrows raised, noticing the way your hand was gripping one of the pregnancy kits firmly.
“Look, I did a lot of googling when me and my ex were trying for a baby, okay?” He let out a huff of laughter (you could almost detect the bitterness in his tone if you listened hard enough), “the moment you told me about what was going on recently I just felt weird, you know, like something in my gut was just telling me to check.”
You scoffed, confident that Jaehyun had just wasted thirty bucks on the dumb kits for you, “fine, I’ll take them. But don’t come crying to me when your thirty bucks turn out to be totally wasted,” you rolled your eyes, picking up the kits harshly and downing the rest of your water.
Standing up to make your way to your bathroom, you hoped it wasn’t too obvious that you felt weak in the knees, a sick feeling that Jaehyun could be right had lingering uncomfortably in the pit of your stomach. You said your last prayer in desperation as you’d mustered your courage to take the test.
The next 3 minutes had proven to be the most nerve-wracking 3 minutes of your life. You figured even your university finals weren’t as bad as the time you’d spent seated on your bed with Jaehyun glaring at the test.
“Has it been 3 minutes yet?” You sighed, your leg bouncing nervously as you held the test in your hands, too afraid to even look at it. All your confidence from before was long gone, your brain seeming to have formulated all sorts of scenarios that made you feel even more sick, the sight of your textbooks sitting on your desk feeling like an added punch to the gut.
You did the mental calculations in your head, the last time you and Donghyuck had done it would have been at his farewell party, which meant that it wasn’t that unlikely.
But you were safe, weren’t you? Unless there was a malfunction that both you and Donghyuck had missed, of course.
Donghyuck said he was always careful, though, wouldn’t he have checked?
“What are you gonna do if it’s positive?” Jaehyun murmured, his empty food packet long abandoned next to him, his gaze flickering between your face and the test.
“Has it been three minutes yet?” You ignored his question, not because you wanted to, of course, you were just too preoccupied to think about anything other than the impending result.
Jaehyun rolled his eyes, “almost. Answer my question, what are you gonna do if it’s positive?” He rolled his sleeves up to his elbows, fiddling with his silver bracelet anxiously.
Before you could reply, you heard the sound of Jaehyun’s phone alarm ringing, thrusting the test towards him with your eyes screwed shut.
Jaehyun’s eyes widened, taking the test from you as he double checked the box instructions just to be sure (though he knew he’d seen this test too many times for him to read it wrongly). Finally turning to you with an unreadable expression, and maybe even a hint of a smile on his face.
“You’re pregnant.”
You forced your eyes open, your hands immediately flying to cover your stomach, as if not being able to process how there was a growing baby inside of you.
There were various mixed feelings within you, the first being how you were going to tell your parents, or how you were going to tell Donghyuck. There was no way you could go through law school while you were pregnant, not with how you took care of yourself.
Sure you’d graduated from university, but your future plans hadn’t factored in getting pregnant, at least not for the next 5 years until you and Donghyuck would get married (if you were even going to get married now). There were so many things to consider, from finances to living space to how you were going to take care of the baby, all of your worries beginning to swirl around in your head to form a baby-shaped whirlpool of fear in your head.
You just didn’t feel like you were going to be able to do this now.
Almost instantly, you’d felt your eyes well up with tears, a burning sensation in your throat as you fought to blink back your tears, a whimper leaving you at the sight of Jaehyun’s smile, the way he looked at the test feeling strangely comforting.
Sensing your distress, Jaehyun had pulled you into a hug, his hand going to your back to rub it soothingly, “hey, it’s okay. You’re gonna be okay, I’m here. I’ll help you, alright?”
“I can’t tell him, Jae—”
Jaehyun pulled away almost instantly, his hands grasping your shoulders firmly as he scowled at you.
“What do you mean you ‘can’t tell him’? You have to tell him, babe, it’s not your secret to keep—”
“—I can’t,” your tone was insistent, “you and I both know what he’s like. The moment he finds out he’s gonna want to drop everything and come back,” you let out a shaky breath, your tears rolling down your cheeks quickly as you felt Jaehyun’s hand come up to wipe them away despite the furrow in his brows.
You continued, “his parents would never let him do that… I can’t let him do that for me.”
Jaehyun huffed through his nose, shoulders slouching, this was not how he’d imagined you to react.
“It’s his baby too, you know,” he finally mustered after a while, making you sigh deeply.
“I know. I just… I need to think of how I’m going to tell him. But before that I have to tell my parents, I need your help for that.”
Nodding, Jaehyun reached over to grasp your hands in his, giving you a resolute nod, biting the inside of his cheek.
“We’ll figure it out,” he sighed, mustering a small smile of reassurance for you, “I know you’re scared shitless now, but I’m gonna figure this out with you, okay?”
Your lower lip quivered, feeling your eyes well up with tears once again, the heat in your eyes returning.
“Thank you so much,” you whispered.
Jaehyun’s smile widened, his thumb rubbing over your cheek soothingly, “like I said, out of the kindness of my heart,” he scoffed.
“You haven’t told him yet, have you?”
Your mother’s question had been what sent you reeling for the past 15 minutes.
Your mind had tuned out whatever she and Jaehyun were currently in a heated discussion about, tuned out the way your dad was looking at you with so much unadulterated sympathy you had to avert your gaze to stop your guilt from growing any further, tuned out everything from the way the television was playing an ad about baby formula to the way Jaehyun’s hand resting on your knee had never felt as heavy as it did now.
The only thing on your mind were the 15 unanswered texts from Donghyuck that morning telling you about the cool toy he’d found in his cereal box and some songs he said he thought you would like.
You wished your parents were mad at you, that they were screaming at you and telling you how irresponsible you were instead of giving you the sympathetic looks they were now, these felt a lot worse.
“Hey,” Jaehyun tapped on your knee, your mind registering the feeling yet your body not seeming to be able to move, turning your head to him with a blank expression on your face, you pretended you didn’t hear the sigh leaving your dad’s lips as Jaehyun continued.
“When are you going to tell him?” Jaehyun murmured, the same way you would coax a child into telling you what was making them feel bad, he was treating you like a child. If this wasn’t more reasons for why you were scared you wouldn’t be able to take care of this child adequately, you don’t know what was.
You felt like you couldn’t breathe. Inhaling deeply and wincing at the pain in your chest, your sigh left you in a shaky breath, “I don’t know. I want to tell him tonight when he calls but… I don’t know if I can,” you shook your head, biting down on your lower lip harshly as you felt your eyes brim with tears again, Jaehyun blurring in your vision.
“You have to tell him, honey. He needs to know,” your mom pleaded, reaching a hand over to take yours gently, making your tears brim over quickly, your other hand coming up to wipe at your eyes.
“I know,” you nodded, “I will.”
“Make sure you tell him, alright? This isn’t something you should be doing alone,” your mom’s gaze searched your expression for any kind of acknowledgement, taking the small nod from you to be the best you could muster at the moment.
“I can talk to his parents for you, and I’ll make sure they don’t tell him on your behalf, you just have to focus on telling him personally,” she continued, the insistence in her tone making you nod, pursing your lips unconsciously at the thought of how his parents would deal with the news.
Turning to glance at Jaehyun, she gestured to you with her head, “can I trouble you to stay with her?”
Jaehyun nodded almost immediately, “of course. No, yeah, don’t worry. I’ll stay with her.” he assured her with a nod, patting your knee gently.
“Thank you, darling,” she smiled at him, picking up her thin briefcase from next to her seat after she stood, moving to give you a hug and press a firm kiss to your temple.
“I’ll see you tomorrow morning, alright?”
Nodding dumbly, you watched as your dad had picked up his satchel, following behind your mother after giving you a small kiss on the top of your head, the sound of their bedroom door shutting not long after making you wince, scrunching up your nose with a sniff.
“Why are you crying again?” Jaehyun frowned, bringing one of his hands up to wipe at your tears again, pinching at your nose in his attempt to draw a smile from you.
You let out a small huff, shaking your head in spite of the small smile at your lips from Jaehyun’s action.
“I just don’t want him to be mad at me,” you murmured, earning a grunt of dismay from Jaehyun.
“Mad at you? Donghyuck loves you, and you know that better than anyone,” he huffed in amusement, leaning back in his seat to rest his elbow on the back of the sofa, “the only reason why he’d be mad is if you didn’t tell him.”
You nodded, knowing Jaehyun wasn’t wrong. Donghyuck had never lost his temper at you before, but despite this, you still couldn’t help yourself from feeling anxious at the thought of how he would react to the news.
“He’s gonna call you soon, right?” Jaehyun asked, earning a nod from you.
“Do you want me to be there?” he continued, eyebrows raising expectantly.
You shook your head, “no, it’s fine. I’ll be okay.”
As if you already weren’t nervous enough, it seemed Donghyuck had sensed that something was wrong at your lack of replies, texting you to ask if you were alright, the text glowing brightly on your screen as if it was yelling at you to open it.
Jaehyun glanced at your phone on the table, reading the text and looking back up to gauge your expression, his lips pursing as he stood up with a grunt, “I’ll be in your room. Call him,” he gestured to your phone with a nod, leaving without another word, the fabric of his too-big sweatpants shuffling against the floor as he grew further away.
You knew you shouldn’t waste more time staring at your phone. It wasn’t as if glaring at the texts would answer them for you. Nodding to yourself with all the conviction you could gather within yourself, you swiped to open his chat, typing out a quick reply to his messages.
7:24pm - i’m fine don’t worry. U ready to call? Need to talk to you-
Donghyuck’s reply came almost immediately in the form of an incoming call, the ringing giving you a last attempt at gathering your confidence.
You could just go straight into it, just say ‘i have something to tell you, i’m pregnant’. See? Problem solved, and you didn’t even have to use more than ten words.
You could do this.
“Hey,” you answered the call, coming face to face with the picture of Donghyuck looking fresh out of the shower, a white shirt draped loosely over his form and exposing his collarbones, his damp brown hair hanging messily over his eyes, the cherry on top being the smile of sheer happiness that he was giving you.
You couldn’t do this.
“I was surprised you answered, I thought you would’ve been studying or something,” he giggled, resting his elbow on his desk so he could cover his mouth with the back of his hand, tilting his head at you.
“Oh, no, yeah I just finished studying,” you lied, “thought I’d call you now before I showered so I could continue studying later.”
Donghyuck grit his teeth in feigned menace towards you, scoffing at you, “should’ve known you didn’t just call because you missed me,” he huffed, tilting his jaw at you for emphasis.
You rushed to refute him, “no, no! I really did call you because I needed to talk to you, don’t get me wrong.”
Donghyuck frowned, his eyebrows raising slightly as a slight pout found its way on his lips as his gaze.
“Woah, it’s okay, I was joking…” Donghyuck narrowed his eyes just slightly, the way you were biting on your lower lip making him feel anxious, “are you okay?”
You shook your head in dismissal, mustering a small smile for him, “no, yeah, i’m fine, I swear.”
You were certain you’d messed up, especially with the way Donghyuck’s eyebrows knit in confusion.
“... you said you needed to talk to me, right? Did something happen?”
You froze, your eyebrows raising as your other hand had unconsciously travelled to rest below your stomach. You should say it now, right? When else would you get another chance.
“I saw a really cute baby today,” the lie slipping out in your panic, adding a small giggle in the hopes that he would buy it, and he did, smiling at you expectantly.
“It was really cute, with like, you know, it’s tiny hands and all,” you continued, “I don’t know, when I saw it I just thought I wanted to tell you about it, since it was really cute.”
“Was it a girl or a boy?” It was as if he’d forgotten about his initial worry, too distracted by the story you were trying to tell him.
Your eyebrows raised in surprise, “uh… it was a girl! Yeah, really pretty, with these big round eyes and heart-shaped lips like yours. She reminded me of you,” you smiled, feeling as though your lie was falling into place, especially with the way he cooed at the mental image.
“That’s so cute.”
“It is, right?” you let out another huff of laughter, “kind of made me wish I had kids of my own, you know?” you laughed. You were being so obvious, there was no way he wasn’t getting the hint.
Donghyuck huffed through his nose, a small smile on those very heart-shaped lips you’d described, “yeah. Not now, though. Remember? We promised we wouldn’t until we were all settled down in our jobs,” he reminded you of the very plan you formulated, making your heart sink.
As if that wasn’t bad enough, Donghyuck continued, “I can already imagine it, me working in my parent’s company with a fancy office and you in an even fancier law firm,” he giggled at the mental fantasy, the mention of your career making your stomach churn.
Pausing briefly, it was as if your voice was failing you, finally managing to nod at him after a while, your voice coming out a little more hoarse than you’d expected.
“Yeah—” you cleared your throat, pressing your lips into a tight smile, “—not now.”
“How’s your studying been? Has your stomach been feeling better?” Donghyuck began, making your thoughts immediately break into a swarm of possible replies.
The prospect of law school seemed further away than ever, you’d been studying, of course, just to take your mind off of things, but you didn’t know what you were planning to do at the moment, still cherishing your time on the fence before you would be inevitably pushed (by your parents or more likely Jaehyun) to decide.
“Oh, you know, the usual. But yeah, uh… my stomach’s been feeling a lot better,” you shrugged, Donghyuck sensing you didn’t want to talk about studying.
With no more than an understanding hum at your update, Donghyuck had dived into another discourse about his dorm roommate who seemed to have very different sleeping habits from him, and you let him rant to you for a bit, a part of you knowing that you’d missed your window of time to tell him. It would’ve messed everything up and you couldn’t bear to do that to him now.
You could endure it for just a little longer, you’ll try again tomorrow or something.
“I don’t wanna keep you from studying any longer, I’ve gotta go meet this girl for my project. Call you tomorrow?” his voice had pulled you harshly from your daze, the smile he was giving you unnerving you almost.
“Girl?” you laughed, your mind gladly accepting whatever chance you could get to go off topic. Who knew, maybe if this whole thing doesn’t go to plan that girl he was meeting could mean more than just a project partner to him in time to come, you really couldn’t be too sure.
But like Jaehyun said, Donghyuck loves you.
Rolling his eyes, Donghyuck scoffed at you.  
“What? You think you can get rid of me that easily?” his loud laughter made you smile, almost forgetting the situation you were in for a moment, “you’re my one and only smarty-pants girlfriend,” he cooed, puckering his lips at you through the screen, something about his words making a lump form in your throat.
Nodding dumbly at him, your thumb already hovered over the ‘end call’ button, “uh-huh, bye.”
Donghyuck grinned, “I love you,” he sing-songed, bringing a hand up to wave at you.
You mustered the best smile you could give him at the moment, not needing to take a look at yourself to know how pathetic it must’ve looked.
“Yeah, love you,” you murmured, pressing the button immediately after and letting yourself slump down against the sofa cushions, your eyes scrunched tightly shut as you recounted how ‘not as planned’ the phone call had gone.
Though you didn’t have much time to recount the experience, a certain hand on your face startling you out of your self-pity, your hands coming up to grasp Jaehyun’s wrist as you opened your eyes, pulling his hand away to look at him with the expression of a kicked puppy.
Jaehyun snorted, “that was pretty much the most avoidant i’ve ever seen you since you had that crush on Mark in high school—”
“Shut up, I didn’t have a cru—” you stopped yourself short, realising that denying it now wasn’t going to do anything to help your argument, casting him a dismayed frown.
“Were you eavesdropping?”
Jaehyun shrugged, nonchalance dripping from his demeanour as he took a seat next to you, “what happened to your plan?”
You sighed at the feeling of his hands playing with your hair absently, Jaehyun feeling triumphant at the way your shoulders had relaxed.
“I don’t know either. I was ready to tell him, I swear,” you whined, “but the moment I saw him I just… couldn’t.”
“That’s okay, just try again,” Jaehyun prompted, shifting in his seat so his knee was poking you in your side now, using his new position to nudge you more obnoxiously, an amused chuckle escaping him.
“I know… I just need some time.” You gave him a sheepish smile, hearing him sigh. You already saw it coming the moment your words left you, the ‘time is short’ speech your mom had already given you just now.
Jaehyun sighed, “you know you don’t necessarily have the luxury of time right now, right? Your first checkup is next week.”
You rolled your eyes, “I know, I know. I swear, I’ll tell him by then, just… give me some time to figure out how.”
Jaehyun shot you a look, “you better. It’s gonna be hard for me to look at his parents at work with this big ol’ secret in my mouth that could slip out at any given mo—”
“You wouldn’t dare,” you narrowed your eyes at him, watching him mirror your expression before erupting into a fit of giggles, making you laugh as well.
Jaehyun grinned, scrunching his nose, “smile more,” he murmured, shaking his head at you when you rolled your eyes, “it’s good for the baby.”
“You’re excited about this, aren’t you?” you narrowed your eyes at him, shaking your head with a smile when you saw him shrug, mirroring your smile.
“Was it that obvious?” he grinned, making you roll your eyes.
“Too obvious. Wanna crash here for the night?”
Jaehyun nodded with a grin, already leaning over to grab the remote control from your coffee table.
“I was hoping you’d ask, I’m way too tired to drive back now.”
You nodded, leaning over to grab the blanket on the recliner to drape it over the both of you.
This was probably the last bit of sanity you were going to get for a while, so you’d might as well treasure it.
“Sing street?” Jaehyun asked, earning a nod from you.
It seemed as though one thing your mom had forgotten to consider was that Donghyuck’s parents were one of a kind, and had ideals that were very different from Donghyuck (and not in a very good way sometimes).
Which was why when you’d opened your front door that Monday morning to see Donghyuck’s dad at the doorstep, your heart sank.
“Uh… my dad’s not home—”
He let out a small huff that you would’ve pinned as amusement if his expression wasn’t so serious, “I didn’t come to see your dad, honey, I was hoping I could have a… chat with you, in fact.”
Your eyes widened, nodding dumbly as you let him into your house, shutting the door behind him as he’d headed over to the living room.
“Uh… can I get you a glass of water?” you asked, already backtracking towards the kitchen, hearing Donghyuck’s dad mumble something about ice.
You took that moment preparing his water as your last opportunity to get breathing space, calming yourself down and trying to mentally prepare yourself for whatever he could possibly throw at you.
Walking back to the living room, you hoped he didn’t see how your hands were trembling as you set the glass of water onto a coaster, taking a seat on the chair next to the sofa, raising your eyebrows expectantly.
“So, Donghyuck doesn’t know i’m here, obviously,” he began, bringing a hand up to loosen his tie, slipping his blazer off of his shoulders and draping it over the back of the couch.
“Yeah,” you let out a huff of nervous laughter, your fingers finding purchase on the blanket next to you, gripping it tightly.
“And I don’t plan on him finding out,” he told you plainly, “look, Y/N, sweetie. I know you’re a smart girl…”
You weren’t sure where he was going with this, the way his gaze seemed so firm almost making you cower in fear. Almost.
“And I know that someone your age has a whole future ahead of them, don’t even get me started on Donghyuck, who has so much potential that just can’t afford to be wasted,” he let out a huff of laughter, “do you understand what i’m saying?”
You tilted your head at him, your eyebrows furrowing just slightly, “yes, I understand, I know this must have come as a shock to you but—”
“I’m glad you understand, because I want you to know that my main priority is to make sure Donghyuck’s future is secured.”
You nodded, “yeah, of course, I totally agree, I want that too,” you told him, nodding vigorously, “really, knowing how far away he is I would do anything I could to make sure he doesn’t have to worry about unnecessary things.”
Donghyuck’s dad seemed to have misread your attempt at reassurance, giving you a firm and decisive nod, “okay, good. Then I guess you wouldn’t mind aborting the baby.”
Your eyes widened, your hand instinctively going to rest below your stomach, something in you feeling as though you’d wanted, no, needed to protect this baby.
You furrowed your eyebrows at him, “but… uh, but my mom told me that you and Aunty would discuss... what you’d wanted to do first.”
His dad nodded, “we have, and that was our decision. Which is why i’m telling you this now, you need to know that this is a very big responsibility that you’re not ready to take on at this age.”
You hated the way he was looking at you, feeling as though he were looming over you like he were chiding a stupid child. Both of which, you were not.
“Yes,” you narrowed your eyes at him, “and I’m sorry to tell you this but that’s not your decision to make. I’m not having an abortion,” you said, your tone firmer than he’d ever heard it, making Donghyuck’s father let out a deep sigh.
“Look, maybe I didn’t make myself clear enough,” he huffed bitterly, “myself and Donghyuck’s mom, we’re willing to cover the expenses. We’re doing this for your own good. You’re not ready for a child,” he told you in a matter-of-fact tone, making your blood boil the more you looked at him.
“With all due… respect,” you’d refrained from scoffing, “money will not be an issue, I’m not taking your money. I don’t want your money. And like I said, I'm not changing my mind, I’m keeping my child.” The words felt foreign on your tongue, as if you were merely reading from a script with how surreal the entire situation felt, but you knew that this was very much real. And this is your child.
Donghyuck’s dad had stood up at that, his fists clenching at his sides as he looked at you with contempt, “you are the one thing that is stopping Donghyuck from having a smooth transition into the company and reaching his full potential, but i’m sure you are already aware of that, right?”
“Alright, then, if you insist on being so stubborn,” his father let out a deep sigh, shaking his head at you, “but I hope you know that Donghyuck is not to be a part of this and that is our final decision. He is not going to risk his future because of your stupid mistake.”  
His words had left a deep ache in your heart. You knew what was at stake. Putting your studies on hold was already a bitter pill you had yet to swallow, but Donghyuck’s future too? His father was right, you couldn’t.
Leaving you at a loss for words, you watched as his father had picked up his jacket harshly, not sparing you another look as you watched him storm out of your house, and you wondered how a father and son could be so different.
Upon hearing the door shut, you’d felt the strength in your body start to dissipate, slumping back in your seat as you felt your eyes well up with tears again, your hands coming up to dig your palms into your eyes, as if it would do anything to keep your tears from falling.
You understood what this meant, you didn’t have his parents' support. And it wasn’t as if you were going to depend on your parents for finances for your baby. This was your responsibility that you were willing to bear for as long as Donghyuck was doing his masters, and maybe even longer than that if he doesn’t respond well when you tell him the news.
Shaking your head, you’d reached over for your phone, calling the first person you could think of that would be more than willing to let you (and join you to) vent.  
“Jaehyun?” you murmured, sniffling, hearing a confused hum leave him.
“Hey, what’s up? I was just on my way over with food.”
“Come quicker. Your boss just showed up and pissed me off,” you coughed, hearing him gasp (a little too dramatically, you felt).
“Say no more, I’ll be there in 10.”
“Mom, it’s alright, I can go on my own, you don’t have to leave work,” you frowned, your grip on your pen tight while you flipped your calendar to check which dates you were available for your appointment, trying to keep your tone controlled as you talked to her.
You didn’t want to burden her. You were already like, what, twenty-two this year? You could take care of yourself (you hoped).
It wasn’t as if your mom had much of a choice, anyway, she had an important meeting that day and Jaehyun had already insisted on going along with you for your first doctor’s appointment.
“I swear, mom, it’s alright. I told you and dad that i’ll be responsible for my,” the word still felt foreign on your tongue, and you didn’t miss the teasing smirk Jaehyun had given you from where he was lounging on your bed.
Hearing your mom ask you if you were sure for what you assumed was about the hundredth time, you nodded aggressively, wishing she could see you, “yes, i’m absolutely sure.”
Jaehyun snorted, “I’ll make sure to update you, aunty,” he chimed in, and you could already imagine the relief it brought to your mom. Sometimes you figured he was a better son to her than you were a daughter, and he wasn’t even her son.
“Thank you, darling. Make sure you update Donghyuck too, alright?” she reminded, and you hummed a quick acknowledgement before ending the call, hoping Jaehyun wouldn’t sense your panic.
“D’you want me to update him or do you wanna do it?” He asked. You ignored him.
“I think a Sunday should be alright, don’t you think? Do you have anything on that day?” you asked, already beginning to type in the email to the gynaecologist Jaehyun’s mom had recommended, pretending you didn’t feel Jaehyun’s questioning stare on you.
Your leg had begun to bounce at the way Jaehyun wasn’t responding, he was simply lying on your bed and staring at you with a blank expression, sitting up slowly in a criss-cross manner and resting his forearms on his knees.
“How does Sunday sound, Jae?” Again, a long pause.
“You haven’t told him.”
You inhaled deeply, turning to him with your eyebrows raised, “so is Sunday alright?”
“What, so you can have three more days to not tell him?” Jaehyun’s eyes were wide with disbelief, his eyebrows furrowing as he gestured aggressively.
You shook your head, a tired sigh leaving you, “I tried to tell him, okay? I really did. But then I remembered what his dad said and then he started joking and saying shit about how his parents would kill him if he had a kid before he got married and I got scared, okay?”
Jaehyun let his head fall back onto your bed with a loud groan, “you’re making this a lot harder than it has to be.”
You were about to retort, but fumbled to find your words, distracted by the wording of your email.
“And your mom thinks you told him already, which makes this a whole lot more complicated.” Jaehyun reminded you, rolling over to drape his hand over one of your pillows, resting his chin on top of it to give you a pointed stare.  
You waved him off, “I’ll tell him before she can, don’t sweat it.”
Jaehyun nodded, giving you a sarcastically sweet smile, “me? I’m definitely not ‘sweating it’ if that’s what you’re thinking. You, on the other hand, should be.”
You ignored his comment, signing off and sending your email to the gynaecologist’s receptionist, turning back to him with a glare.
You could just tell him tonight, no big deal. The doctor would’ve probably replied to your email by then, anyway. By the time you watched a few movies with Jaehyun it would’ve been time for you to call Donghyuck, and you were certain you could (and would) tell him tonight.
Though what you didn’t know, was that a lot of things could happen within the span of a few hours.
One of those things being your dad sending a text to Donghyuck.
y/n’s dad 3:40pm - hey kid, just wanted to check up on u, how have u been? -
Donghyuck had lit up at the text, deflating (only slightly, he swore) when he saw that it wasn’t you but your dad instead, his fingers ceasing their incessant typing on his laptop for him to pick his phone up.
3:41pm - hello!! i’ve been good thank you for asking :) -
Your dad had almost sighed in relief, thankful that Donghyuck had handled the news well, as it seemed from his reply.
y/n’s dad 3:41pm - that’s good to hear - 3:41pm - wanted to make sure u were ok. especially since u and y/n cant be together during this time n with ur parents and all -
Donghyuck couldn’t help but smile at your father’s consideration, his mood lifting after reading the text.
3:42pm -haha we’re doing alright if i may say so myself. you know, just part and parcel of long distance-
y/n’s dad 3:42pm - i hope more of ur positivity rubs off on her! poor girl needs it. - 3:42pm - nonetheless, i send u my congratulations, though i wouldnt have expected to be congratulating u so soon…- 3:42pm - and if u need anything just please feel free to let me or my wife know, alright?-
Donghyuck frowned. Congratulations? He didn’t win anything special the last time he checked. And he sure as hell wasn’t graduating yet, either. What the heck was he congratulating him for? Looking around the café as he tried to think of an answer, his eyes landing on one of his classmates at another table already studying ahead for their next test.
Oh, was that what it was? Y/N must’ve told him about me acing that test from a few days before.
3:43 -haha…. thanks?-
He’d locked his phone, a frown lingering on his features from still finding it weird that your dad would personally congratulate him over something like that, deciding to wave it off and go back to his essay.
Though after many failed attempts of reconstructing the same cursed paragraph, Donghyuck had gotten a text from his roommate Renjun asking if they’d received their online shopping parcels yet.
4:47pm - u know if u wanted them to come earlier you cld’ve ordered them urself -
renjun (roommate) 4:47pm - shut up i already told u i got banned by that seller but their crayons are cheap -
Rolling his eyes, Donghyuck had swiped to his email application, clicking into the first one he saw assuming that it’d been information about the parcel’s progress in delivery.
Except that Donghyuck was pretty sure he didn’t order Renjun’s crayons from a hospital, so he was even more confused as to why the email came from one.
Skimming over the email’s contents, your name in bold standing out to him, the words that Donghyuck couldn’t help from rereading were: ‘your appointment with the doctor has been confirmed for this Sunday.’
Sunday...the last time Donghyuck checked, you don’t go to the doctors for check-ups regularly, something in his gut just finding it weird that you would be suddenly arranging an appointment, and with the gynaecologist, no less. But then, he could’ve just been reading too much into it, right? It could’ve just been a regular checkup.
But maybe he’d just double check. Just to be sure.
Finding that your email was still logged into his computer as one of his inboxes, he’d clicked onto yours, his hands going over to your ‘sent mail’ tab before he could help himself, his curiosity getting the better of him.
“Checkup, checkup,” he mouthed to himself, his gaze urgently skimming over the words of the email.
10 weeks? Donghyuck frowned. 10 weeks since what? Was your period that late? That couldn’t be it. Donghyuck remembered you telling him very clearly that everything had gone back to normal. He continued reading.  
Donghyuck froze, his imagination immediately wandering to the most extreme possibility. Well, it wasn’t extreme, per se, but Donghyuck wasn’t so sure if he could accept that reality yet.
His head was spinning, wondering if that was what your dad was congratulating him about just now. His mouth felt dry all of a sudden, all that was running through his mind was that he needed to get to you, to hear you tell him the truth, even though he knew that he was willing to accept it either way.
Sliding his things into his bag roughly and stumbling out of his seat, Donghyuck was oblivious to the stares he was getting from the other students trying to study, pulling out his phone and dialling your number as he exited the café, the heat of the late afternoon sun making him wince, yet his feet wouldn’t stop their path towards wherever his subconscious was taking him.
You on the other hand, were dozing off while watching movies with Jaehyun. As much as you would’ve wanted to rewatch Titanic, you’d found yourself extremely comfortable in your bed, dozing off in one of the quieter scenes, well, until Jaehyun had dropped your buzzing phone onto your stomach.
“Boyfriend’s calling,” he yawned, pausing the movie and pushing it off of his lap to roll over onto his stomach, his hands stretching above his head with a tired grunt.
Without a second thought, you’d answered the call, only realising what bad judgement that had been on your part when you heard the urgency in his tone.
“Hello? Y/N?” you heard loud rustling on his side of the line, Donghyuck’s footsteps crunching on the dead leaves harshly as he continued on his determined path across the quad.
“Hey, you okay?” you frowned, wondering if something had happened to warrant such a concerned tone from him.
Donghyuck’s features had softened at the sound of your voice, something in him desperately hoping that you wouldn’t react defensively, especially since he couldn’t be physically there with you. His breath left him almost instantly, feeling as though he were rendered defenceless just by that one statement of yours.  
“I… I’m okay? No, I think that’s what I should be asking you, are you free right now to talk?”
You sat up quickly, making Jaehyun stir next to you, casting you a confused frown.
“Yeah, I’m free. What’s up?”
Jaehyun reached a hand over to grasp yours, giving you a reassuring squeeze as you waited through the pause on Donghyuck’s side, the said boy finally finding himself ending up at the rooftop of his dorm building.
“I uh….you know your email is still logged into my computer, right?”
About to shrug, you’d realized the implication of his statement, your heart sinking as your eyes widened.
“And, you know, uh… I was just checking on my roommate's parcel but um, I clicked on the wrong email and like…” you heard him let out a deep sigh, “is everything alright?”
You figured there was no going back now.
“Hyuck, I really was meaning to tell you…”
“Tell me what?” his voice was softer now, more of a daring murmur.
You met Jaehyun’s gaze, drawing whatever confidence you could get from his reassuring nod, “I'm pregnant.”
A long pause ensued, Donghyuck running through his various action plans in his head, surprising himself at how much thought he was putting into his response when he already knew exactly what he’d wanted to do.
“Why’d you wait so long to tell me?” you could practically hear the pout in his voice, your hand gripping onto Jaehyun’s tightly in your anxiousness, ignoring the way he feigned hurt with a pained wince.
“I know... because I know this wasn’t part of our plan and I really didn’t know how your parents were going to react, and the other day when I mentioned kids to you you just seemed like you didn’t want this and—”
“Hey, hey, calm down, it’s alright. Just because I said not now doesn’t mean I don’t want this,” his tone was more hurt now, making your heart stir with guilt, “I’ll book a flight back—”
“No, Hyuck, this is precisely why I didn’t want to tell you. I knew you were going to do this,” you cut in quickly, desperation getting the better of you.
“Do what? I’m not just gonna let you go through this alone. I can just take up another course there or just work somewhere else, it doesn’t matter,” Donghyuck frowned, frustrated at your response, at his circumstance.
“You need to focus on your Masters,” you told him, “you can’t just... drop everything and come back.”
“Yes, I can,” Donghyuck stressed.
“No, you can’t. Your parents paid a lot of money for you to do this,” you bit down on your lower lip harshly, feeling the familiar heat in your eyes as Jaehyun had begun to blur before you, “i’ll handle myself, you just focus on your studies.”
Donghyuck scoffed, “money is not more important to me than you, Y/N, you need to understand—”
“Don’t come back,” you cut him off, Jaehyun’s eyes widening at your tone.  
Donghyuck grit his teeth, shutting his eyes tightly, his hand coming up to pinch the bridge of his nose, the breeze and scenery doing jackshit to calm him down.
“This isn’t something you get to decide on your own, it’s just as much my kid as it is yours, you know.”
“I know, but you have to understand too,” you begged, your thoughts wandering to how angry his parents would be at the both of you, and especially him if they found out. You couldn’t do that to their relationship (it was already bad enough), or to him.
“You need to stay there, and finish your studies.”
“What about your studies, then, huh?” he scoffed, “it’s not fair that you have to sacrifice your studies just so I can fuck around here while you take care of our baby there alone,” he pleaded, resting a forearm against the railing as his other hand came up to cover his mouth, the tears of frustration in his eyes stinging painfully. Donghyuck couldn’t remember the last time he cried, but he knew it was never this painful.  
“I’m not stopping completely, i’ll just put it on hold. I have to focus on taking care of the baby.”
“Say it, Y/N. Stop saying ‘the baby’, it’s our baby,” he told you, fishing out whatever desperate attempts he could think of to appeal to your sympathy, to the part of you that he knew wanted him to come back as much as he did.  
You ignored him.
“And I know for myself that i’m not going to be able to do that if i’m in law school,” you sighed, “I can manage on my own, Hyuck. I’ll be okay here, my parents and Jaehyun will help me—”
“It’s not the same and you know it,” Donghyuck’s fist gripped tightly around his phone, kicking at the wall in his frustration. Jaehyun? Why should he let Jaehyun take on the responsibility?  
“I’m coming back, Y/N,” he spoke through gritted teeth, his tone more insistent than before.
“You,” you pulled your phone away as a whimper escaped you, Jaehyun frowning at the sight of your quivering lips, already attempting to reach over to take the phone from you.
Shaking your head at him, you brought the phone back to your ear, “if you come back, I will not speak to you, I swear. Whatever… this is, between us... it’ll be over,” you felt your tears spill over, your hand coming up to cover your mouth as your shoulders shook. That would’ve done it right?
Donghyuck frowned, feeling hurt by your words even though something in him knew they couldn’t possibly have come from you, “why are you saying this?”
It’s for his own good, you repeated in your head, figuring you were making it easier for his parents to carry out whatever 5-year plan they’d formulated for him. It wasn’t the first time they’d done this, anyway.
You wanted him here more than anything, of course. You just hoped he would understand.
‘Whatever this is?’ Donghyuck repeated your words in his head.
“It’s my parents, isn’t it? They must’ve said something to you,” Donghyuck tried again.
He didn’t buy it, any of it. He was angry at his parents, for making him come out here to study just so he could hold a position in their stupid company. He was angry because he knew how they felt towards you, and he couldn’t imagine what they could’ve said to hurt you while he was away. He was angry because he knew that he had to listen to you if he wanted to ensure that his job would be good enough to support you and your child. He was angry that the situation had rendered him helpless beyond words.
He was angry at himself, he wasn’t careful enough.  
You still didn’t respond to him, proving Donghyuck’s suspicions further, making his frown deepen, not bothering to blink back his tears anymore as he’d just stared at the way everything around him was blurry, a part of him not wanting to see it now.  
“So, it’s not enough that my parents are making decisions for me, but now… you are too?” he’d choked out, struggling to speak through the suffocating lump in his throat, wincing at the feeling.
You frowned, you knew that was a sensitive topic for him, remembering your countless talks even when the both of you had started dating about how his parents had wanted control over every aspect of his life. Even you, as it was being seen in how they handled this situation. But you figured they were right in some aspect, Donghyuck was rash, and impulsive, and you needed to give him time to mull over his thoughts before he made any irresponsible decisions. And that was all that mattered to you.
“Hey,” you heard his voice before you saw him, the video on your screen showing Donghyuck seated at some sort of outdoor area, and before you could ask, he’d switched the camera around to show you how there was a small lake there that was shining with purple and pink hues as the sun was setting.
“I’m sorry,” he began, “for not calling for so long.”
You shook your head, shifting in your bed so you were lying on your side now, looking at him through the screen. You really, really wished he was here with you now, not just temporarily.
You had a bad sleep the previous night, your back aching from work and causing you to toss and turn the whole night in search of a comfortable sleeping position. But the irony of it all was that throughout the night, you’d always wished that when you turned, Donghyuck would be next to you in your bed, doing what he always did and pulling you into his arms, the silent reassurance that you would be alright.
But of course, that didn’t happen, and you knew that as you stared at him through the screen.
“It’s fine… I know you needed some time.”
Donghyuck gulped, letting out a sigh, trying his best to hold back his multitude of questions he really wanted to ask you.
“How are you feeling?” Start simple, Donghyuck.
You pressed your lips together tightly, your gaze wandering elsewhere to land on the paint chips on the floor next to you. You should really get a new bedside table.
“M’okay,” you shrugged after a while, realising you were taking too long to reply when he cleared his throat.
Donghyuck stared at the screen blankly, “you look tired.”
You looked tired, sure, but you sure didn’t look as bad as he did, dark circles under his eyes and an unmistakable sadness to his gaze.
Not being able to find it in himself to stop his question from slipping, Donghyuck sighed, “you really don’t miss me? Like, at all?”
You hadn’t expected the question, frowning slightly. This was Donghyuck trying to convince you.
“Don’t ask me stupid questions.”
Donghyuck rolled his eyes, “you’re not fooling me with that, you know,” his jaw locked as he frowned.
“Whatever, you know that’s not the point. You have to focus on your studies now. Worrying about whether I miss you shouldn’t be your priority.”
Donghyuck felt his frustration slowly turning to resignation, pulling to his mind all his last attempts at convincing you to tell him how you truly felt.
“You don’t want me there? Can you honestly say that you don’t wish that I was there with you, to take care of you and to go through this together with you?”
You tried your best to harden your gaze, “this shouldn’t be your priority right now.” you repeated, not missing the way his lips had parted.
“Listen to me, Donghyuck.”
There it was, you hadn’t called him that in ages.
“You have to stay there, focus on your studies-”
Donghyuck let out something between an angry hum and a grunt, looking more than a little upset.
“-make your parents happy. Don’t let me or your parents down.”
He grunted again, letting out one last sigh, a silence falling between the both of you.
“How long are you gonna keep pretending you can handle all of this alone?”
You frowned at his words.
“I’m not pretending. You being here is just gonna complicate things,” you tried to reason, making his frown deepen.
Donghyuck frowned, “Complicate what? I love you. We’re supposed to go through these things together. I’m no expert, but I would say I as the father deserve to be a part of their life as much as you do.”
This made you think of his parents, how selfish they were for depriving him of this, and how selfish you were to be going along with it.
The line between doing things for the greater good and unreasonable sacrifice had begun to blur considerably in your head.
“You do,” you sighed, not being able to come up with a better response.
You’d heard your bedroom door open, the sound of Jaehyun’s laughter as he told you to get out of bed making Donghyuck frown, his insecurities getting the better of him.
“So you’re fine with accepting help from Jaehyun, but suddenly it’s the end of the world if i’m the one offering it?”
You scoffed, finding his argument turning petty, “that’s different, Hyuck. Jaehyun has nothing to do with this, he’s been helping me through this. He’s been nothing but good to me,” you defended Jaehyun, not knowing that your words had only put a sour taste on Donghyuck’s tongue, the annoyance at his parents bubbling out and being directed towards you.
“Yeah,” he let out a bitter huff of laughter, “and I've been nothing but bad, right?”
You hated the silence that fell between you after that, Jaehyun freezing in place when he realised what he’d accidentally intruded in on.
You let out a sigh finally.
“I don’t wanna fight with you,” you sighed, watching Donghyuck’s hand move up to grip at his hair, letting it go with a sigh.
Donghyuck nodded, a small sigh leaving him, “me neither.”
“I just need you to promise me that you’ll do what you have to do.” You let go of your blanket that you only noticed you were gripping now, bringing your hand up to touch your ear, fidgeting as you averted your gaze from Donghyuck’s.
“Okay,” he murmured, “I love you.”  
You sighed, mustering a small smile for him and nodding.
He’d let you hang up the call first.
Donghyuck hadn’t visited after that. He couldn’t. He knew that visiting would mean confrontation from his parents, from your parents, from his and your friends, from Jaehyun, but it wasn’t as if he was scared of that, no.
The thing he feared most about visiting was seeing you. How he knew that once he saw you there would’ve been no going back for him. But he never would’ve had the guts to do that and risk your relationship.
He was going to listen to you, and push through the next three years away from you so he could go back and see you and your baby. That was the least he could do for you, so he was going to do it.
“You’re kidding me, right?” Jaehyun raised an eyebrow at you from where he sat on the other side of the bar.
“What’s there to kid about?” you shrugged, leaning back where you stood so your co-worker could walk past you, your belly taking up more space in the walkway than you never could’ve imagined it would.
“You can’t possibly work here forever, aren’t you looking for jobs?”
“Easy for you to say,” you huffed, walking around the counter and taking a seat next to Jaehyun, your co-worker bringing over some food for the both of you, “I would need actual qualifications to get a job.”
“Uh-huh, you talk like you don’t already have a degree.” Jaehyun sighed, sounding exasperated with you as he took another sip of his beer, setting it down on the counter a little too strongly, his abrupt gesture almost knocking his briefcase off of the table.
“Just because I somehow managed to graduate during this mess doesn’t mean that that guarantees me a place in law school, you know,” your gaze was pointed, seeing Jaehyun wave you off with his hand holding his fork.
“Even if it’s not law, you should still find another job. Fine, screw law, let’s say, i’m talking about something that’ll support you and baby better,” he persuaded.
You wondered momentarily if his insistence came from something (or someone) else, but you pushed the thought away as quickly as it came. You haven’t had an actual conversation with Donghyuck in months, aside from updating him on doctors appointments. It was like neither of you could bring yourselves to go further than that.
“Give it up, Jae. You think I haven’t tried? The moment I come into the interview and they see… this,” you gestured to your belly, “they change. No one wants to accept me now. They know that the moment I come in, I’ll be out just as quickly for maternity leave, why would there be any reason to hire me?”
“Because of your qualifications…?” he supplied with a sheepish grin, making you shoot him a glare.
Jaehyun stared at you blankly, letting out a final sigh, picking his utensils up to cut half of his burger to put on your plate, scooping some of your pasta onto his.
“Fine, but you have to promise me you won’t stop trying, okay? It’s not as if you can’t still try for the LSATs this year,”
You nodded, waving him off as you tried to straighten up in your seat, wincing at the dull ache in your shoulders. Jaehyun’s next statement made you freeze in place.
“He’s not gonna be happy if he saw you like this.”
Your lack of a response had only made him shake his head as you chewed on your pasta wordlessly.
“You still haven’t spoken to him?”
You shrugged.
“It’s a yes or no question, babe. Your baby’s gonna be due in like what, two weeks? And you still insist on being stubborn?”
“I’m not the stubborn one, his parents are.”
“Then why are you taking it out on him?” Jaehyun laughed, looking at you incredulously, making you huff.
“I just don’t like calling him these days, okay? I don’t know if it’s the hormones or whatever but I literally can’t bring myself to call him, every time we call it just ends up in some petty fight that I just don’t feel like dealing with, okay? I’m stressed enough as it is.”  
You knew it was a pathetic excuse, and Jaehyun made it very obvious that he thought so too, snorting as he picked up a fry with his fingers, tossing it into his mouth, “bullshit, stop being a coward and call him. For all you know he’s too chicken to make the first move either.”
“It’s not that simple.”
“Yes it is,” Jaehyun stuck his tongue out at you, “here, I’ll give you an example. You guys still need to decide on a baby name, right? Why not just use that as a reason to call him?”
You huffed, mulling over his words as you leant back in your seat, your hand rubbing your belly absently. You didn’t notice the way people were staring as they walked past you and Jaehyun, murmuring and whispering among themselves as they pointed at the both of you, only to look away when Jaehyun directed a protective glare towards them.
“Okay, fine, I’ll call him,” you said, more to yourself than to him.
The phone call was awkward, to say the least, as if the both of you had forgotten how to talk to each other. You didn’t miss the preoccupied glaze to Donghyuck’s gaze, the way he would sigh ever so often even if the both of you weren’t talking about anything.  
“Are you feeling alright?” you dared to ask him, and once again, Donghyuck felt himself soften at your words, looking at you blankly before nodding belatedly.
“My parents uh… kind of told me about their whole plan the other day,” he told you, looking at you as if for some sort of acknowledgement.
“Uh-huh,” you prompted, shifting in your seat and holding your phone lower momentarily, Donghyuck almost losing his train of thought at the sight of how big your belly had grown.
“They kind of uh… they have a plan to open a new sub of the company in town,” he began, “and they want me to be the managing director of that branch or some shit,” he explained, making you nod slowly.
You felt the awkwardness starting to dissipate, especially with the way he’d started looking into the camera more.
“That’s great, isn’t it?” you raised your eyebrows in surprise, unsure why he looked so unenthusiastic about the news.
“No, yeah, it is I guess. Just… kind of means I don’t really have a choice.”
You nodded, “you’re gonna do great,” you assured him.
Donghyuck sighed, “let’s not… talk about them, hmm? What did you say just now? Baby names?”
You nodded, seeing him give you a small smile, letting out a sheepish giggle, “believe it or not, I actually… had a few in mind.”
“Me too,” you chimed in, and he’d lifted a hand to prompt you to say your suggestions first, rolling over in your bed and resting your phone on your pillow, your hands moving to fiddle with the plaster on your hand.
Donghyuck couldn’t help but stare at you in awe as you went off on your ramble on the baby name suggestions, a part of you growing embarrassed at your reason for selection being that you thought it sounded nicer with Donghyuck’s surname.
“I love you,” he murmured suddenly, catching you off guard, especially with the lazy smile he gave you as he said it, shifting his head on his pillow.
Your eyes widened, responding with your first thought in your flustered state.
“Were you even listening to me?”
Donghyuck huffed, rolling his eyes at you though his soft smile didn’t leave him, his eyes blinking slowly, “I like Seul, let’s go with that.”
You frowned, “really? But you haven’t even said your suggestions yet.”
Donghyuck shook his head, “don’t need to. I like your suggestions.”
You flushed at his forwardness, thankful for the first good conversation you’d had in a while with him.
“Okay, we’ll go with Seul, then.”
This side of Donghyuck, you were thankful to see again, and you thought just for a moment that this would be when everything started to settle down.
And so it seemed, he tried his best to be there with you during the birth of the baby, bugging Jaehyun for updates even though he knew he had a million other assignments he was busy with.
He would try to call you once a week, to see Seul and to play with her for a while, which you were thankful for, but it seemed that the more time passed, the more reality had started to sink in, no matter how much you tried to avoid it, especially in situations like these.
You’d just finished attending a church service, thankful that Seul was well-behaved during the service. Jaehyun had offered to carry her as the three of you made your way out of the chapel, eager to avoid the disapproving stares and questions from Donghyuck’s parents and their army of supporters.
Though it seemed that you weren’t so lucky this week, bumping into one of your friends from university as you were nearing Jaehyun’s car.
“Y/N?” you heard them ask, feeling a hand on your shoulder as you turned to face them, a smile (that may have teetered on the edge of being forced) on your face as you greeted her.
“Hey,” you let out a nervous laugh, ignoring the way Jaehyun had stood behind her with a questioning stare on his face, bouncing Seul on his hip as she giggled and tried to grab his necklace.
“How’ve you been? Haven’t seen you in a while,” she told you, fishing her sunglasses out of her bag and perching them on her forehead, her long, salon-pressed hair flowing over her shoulders, you couldn’t help but let your gaze travel down to her outfit as you tried to form a response in your head.
She looked beautiful, in her figure-hugging dress and finely manicured nails to the pretty bag hanging from her arm. You were almost envious, and Jaehyun could tell.
“Oh, nothing, just… uh, the usual,” you laughed it off, “what about you?”
You tried not to wallow in your self-pity as you glanced at your own getup, the baby bag hanging from your shoulder and a loose plain dress on you, it was a wonder how that difference alone had made you seem years older than her.  
“Remember I told you I was gonna take some time off to figure out what I really wanted and all, so eventually I decided on law school! Funny, right? I actually received my admission letter this morning! What about you? You’re in law school too, right?”
As if Seul’s timing couldn’t have been any worse, you heard the telltale sound of her repetitive cries, Jaehyun quickly identifying the cry and making his way closer to you, not caring about interrupting your conversation.
“She’s hungry, gimme the bottle,” you’d opened your bag quickly, fishing out Seul’s milk bottle and handing it to Jaehyun, the action drawing your friend’s attention towards Jaehyun.
Her eyes widened, “oh! Who’s this?” her gaze flickered between Jaehyun and the baby.
“Oh, this is just uh, Jaehyun, my friend,” you gestured to him, “Jaehyun this is my classmate from university, Abby.”
“What about this cute little baby, is she yours?” she asked Jaehyun, making Jaehyun glance at you to search your gaze, a silent plea urging you to step in before he could explain on your behalf.
“Oh, uh.. No, actually, this is my daughter,” you refrained from wincing as you told her, trying to ignore the way the rest of the church-goers walking past the three of you were staring.
Her eyes had widened, her lips parting in shock, and you didn’t miss the way her eyes had immediately darted to yours and Jaehyun’s hands, as if checking for wedding rings.
She fumbled for a response, “oh, uh… wow! That’s um—”
Jaehyun rolled his eyes, shooting her a sweet smile, “yeah, we should get going, nice meeting you,” he spoke quickly, already beginning to lead you away with a hand on the small of your back guiding you after you took Seul from him.
“That was rude, we didn’t finish our conversation,” you sighed, making Jaehyun scoff.
“That was more of a train-wreck than a conversation. You mean you wanted to prolong that?” he looked at you with a mix of amusement,  disbelief and annoyance, shutting the car door for you once you were seated, walking around the car to sit himself in the driver’s seat.
You frowned, hearing him turn on the engine before he turned to face you, looking at Seul with a soft smile.
“Still, it’s been a while since i’ve spoken with her, okay?” you supplied, earning a snort from Jaehyun.
“Okay, fine. I’ll finish up the conversation for you, ‘oh, you have a child? But you’re not married! Golly gee that’s against the lord’s teachings!’” he began, raising his voice as he imitated her, and then proceeding to do an awfully accurate rendition of your voice, “‘oh yeah, that’s cause my boyfriend knocked me up and his psycho parents won’t let him come back to be with me’, ‘oh, really? That’s horrible!’—”
“Alright, fine, I get it,” you rolled your eyes at him, not being able to help the laugh that escaped you, “also, ‘golly gee’?” you grinned, making Jaehyun let out an amused huff, shaking his head at you.
“I said what I said,” he shrugged, “anyway, don’t think I didn’t hear what she said just now—”
“Eavesdropping as usual,” you sighed.
“—does Donghyuck know you didn’t take the LSATs?”
Your thumb that was caressing Seul’s arm had ceased its ministrations, making Jaehyun let out a groan.
“You can’t be serious.”
“First of all, I genuinely forgot to tell him. And second of all, he never asked!” you defended, making Seul’s eyes light up at your animation, her hand gripping onto the neckline of your shirt-dress.
“That’s not how these things work, babe. Don’t you think he would’ve assumed you would’ve picked up where you left off? And that you wouldn’t just be working at a diner instead?”
You inhaled deeply, Seul having finished her bottle of milk and deciding she was ready for a nap, and you leaned over carefully to cap the bottle and toss it into the bag, shrugging once you were seated upright, making Seul comfortable as she nuzzled into your chest.
“I doubt he’d assume that,” you yawned, making Jaehyun scoff.
“You clearly have high expectations of your boyfriend. He’s gonna ask you about it at one point, you know, he keeps up to date with the application periods.”
You nodded, falling silent and knowing Jaehyun was right, feeling the car start to move, “I’ll drop you off at home and then i’ll go and get some things to cook lunch.”
“At this rate, you’d might as well be my nanny.”
Jaehyun hummed, “pay me and i’ll consider it.”
Jaehyun was right, Donghyuck was going to ask you about it at some point, you just didn’t know that point was going to arrive so soon.
“Hey, am I calling at a bad time?” Donghyuck asked upon you answering the call, his eyes wide and hesitant, making you shake your head.
“Seul’s asleep right now, unfortunately, but i’m alright to talk if you want.”
Donghyuck smiled, nodding, “I heard from one of my friends that they’d gotten their acceptance letter this morning, did you get yours yet?”
Your eyes widened at how fast he’d gotten to the point, feeling as though you were about to be sick as you shook your head slowly.
“No, uh… I didn’t,” you said, a pang of guilt spreading within you as you saw the way he frowned, his lower lip jutting out in a pout of pure confusion.
“Really? That’s weird, I figured yours would have arrived by now since you applied earlier than them, right?”
You didn’t want to keep lying to him, feeling as though you could already picture Jaehyun’s disapproving gaze as you inhaled deeply, mustering whatever courage you had left in you.
“No, it didn’t arrive because, uh,” you sniffed, scrunching your nose up just to stall, “I didn’t apply.”
Donghyuck frowned, his expression changing as his eyebrows raised, “you… huh?”
You nodded, “I didn’t apply.”
Donghyuck was trying to pull his thoughts together, not quite being able to comprehend your decision, especially when you were so insistent on pursuing law just months before.
“Well, why not?”
“I uh… I don’t know, I guess I just kind of decided that that wasn’t what I wanted to do anymore.”
Donghyuck’s frown deepened, feeling strangely hurt by the news.
“Why didn’t you tell me?”
You shrugged, “It just didn’t really cross my mind, I guess. I was just so busy with everything else that I kind of just… forgot.”
Donghyuck huffed, though there was no trace of amusement behind his demeanour, “you forgot to tell me about something as big as a career change?”
You opened your mouth to respond, a weak excuse leaving your lips, “well, yeah, I mean I guess it just didn’t seem that important—”
“Are you hearing yourself? Y/N, we used to tell each other everything,” he let out a small sigh, “why do you keep hiding things from me?”
You frowned, “it wasn’t intentional.”
“Was it? You knew for a fact that I would want to hear these things, even from the news that you were pregnant, it’s like you just don’t feel the need to inform me about things—”
“Yeah but that’s because this decision was mine to make,” you tried to defend yourself, Donghyuck’s pent up frustration getting the better of him as he scoffed.
“Was it really? I know you, Y/N, and I know it would’ve taken a lot for you to make that decision, but seriously? To keep something like that from me? What was so bad about me finding out?”
You sighed, “I didn’t want to worry you, Hyuck.”
“How can you think that way? How many times do I need to remind you that I love you and that won’t change based on what career you decide to pursue,” his voice sounded strained, but there was something in his expression that looked almost angry.
“Then why are you getting mad at me for not applying? You know it would have happened sooner or later.”
“No, Y/N, that’s the thing, I didn’t know that this was going to happen. And I’m not… mad at you I'm just frustrated, okay?” he sighed, “I just… don’t like how different things have been between us ever since I left.”
You took your lower lip between your teeth as he spoke, “frustrated?” you cursed yourself for that being the only word that had left you, seeing him let out a deep breath you hadn’t known he was holding.
“Yes, I'm frustrated. Do you know how shitty it feels? Knowing that you went through all of that and i’m not even allowed to come back and be with you? Be with Seul?” he licked his lips, continuing on his outburst, ”how stressful it is thinking about what’s waiting for me at the company when I come back? And all of this while you’re just over there refusing anything that I can offer to you?”
Donghyuck wanted to cry out, to tell you just how alone he felt, but his emotions seemed to have manifested in the form of finding more reasons to justify the sour feeling within him. Everything except the actual underlying reason, which was that he missed you more than anything.
“You won’t even let me send you money! What the hell am I supposed to do? Just sit here and be the selfish, piece-of-shit parent that’s desperate for your attention?”
You shook your head, the way the hurt was so obvious in his voice making a feeling of a suffocating sadness grow within you, “no, I didn’t tell you things that I felt would just cause you unnecessary worry, you already had enough on your plate! I didn’t want to make you feel worse.” You knew explaining your excuses now would’ve been useless, but you tried nonetheless.
Donghyuck scoffed, “well, it’s a little late for that, right?”
“Don’t say that, Hyuck.”
“Why not? It’s the truth. If anything, Jaehyun’s doing more for you as a friend than I am as your boyfriend, and as a father, and that sucks the most. You don’t notice it, but I feel it, okay? It’s like you don’t even want me there anymore.”
Donghyuck was hurt, and you could tell, but that didn’t mean you weren’t either. You were tired of fighting with him, especially because you knew the real reason why you were always fighting.
You always did tell him you didn’t believe in long distance relationships.
“I can’t deal with this now,” you told him, “I’m sorry. I really am. I know things are hard for you there but trying to manage Seul and look for jobs is hard enough, I don’t need you coming at me for not living up to what you expect of me too.” You sighed, your annoyance getting the better of you, knowing you were both too caught up in your emotions at this point to know better, Donghyuck’s gaze hardening.
“What do you suppose we do then?” he asked you calmly, making you shrug.
“Maybe it’s best if we just stop… doing things.”
Donghyuck’s eyebrows furrowed, “what do you mean by that?”
“I mean,” you sighed, “we’re both not in the right… place right now, you have your worries, I have mine. I don’t want us to just keep taking it out on each other, you know?” you told him, a certain resignation to your tone.
He paused, as if processing what you’d said, and you watched intently. The way his eyebrows had knit into a frown, the way he chewed on his lower lip as he thought, until he’d finally released his lip, his eyes glazing over in realisation.
“You wanna break up.”
You pursed your lips, nodding, “I think it’s only right for us at this point of time. Haven’t you realised? All we ever do lately is fight, when half the time the person we’re mad at isn’t even each other. I don’t like feeling like I have to walk on eggshells just to have a normal call with you, do you get where i’m coming from?”
Donghyuck had fallen silent, all he could bring himself to do was to nod. If this was what you wanted, who was he to force you to stay?
You nodded, “you can call for Seul whenever, just let me know beforehand…I just need some time, okay?” you dared yourself to look at the screen, his expression hadn’t changed, it was still the same glazed-over one from before.
“Okay,” he repeated, making you sigh.
“Bye, Hyuck.”
His gaze had flickered to look at the screen upon hearing that, his tongue coming out to lick his lips, pressing them into a firm line, nodding, his voice coming out as barely a whisper as he let out a small ‘love you’, hanging up promptly after.
“Baby, would you look at that? It’s your dad!” you tried to keep your tone excited as you showed her your phone, a part of you softening when you saw the way she’d lit up with excitement at the sight of Donghyuck on the phone.
You watched the way she’d giggled and tried to reach out for the screen as Donghyuck played with her, his unintelligible noises seeming to excite her. You brushed her hair back, the act of simply watching the way her gummy smile grew and the fullness of her cheeks when she smiled being enough to put a smile on your face.
The phone call had gone fairly smoothly, though you were hoping they would wrap it up soon so you could head off to work. Yes, you worked on weekends too, because that meant more money.
They found you to be a pretty good employee, in fact, mentioning that they were awarding promotions soon and you seemed to be a pretty good candidate with your consistency and work ethic.
Jaehyun always commented that it was a wonder how you’d managed to get so invested in working at the diner.
Once you heard him tell her he had to go soon, you’d switched the camera back to face you, momentarily distracted when Jaehyun had entered the room, making a beeline for Seul with a loud chime of “seul-ie!” leaving his lips, the said girl giggling wildly at the sight of him.
“So uh… how are you?” you’d almost missed the question, looking at the screen blankly for lack of a response.
“I have to go, I’ve got work,” you told him quickly, making his eyes widen, nodding quickly.
“Right, sorry… shouldn’t keep you, then. Bye,” he pressed his lips in a thin line, earning a nod from you.
“Yeah, bye.”
You ended the call promptly, not hearing if he’d said anything else before you hung up, as if a part of you was afraid to hear him say he loved you.
Standing up to pick up your bag, you made eye contact with Jaehyun who was looking at you with a displeased expression.
“What?” you scoffed.
“That was heartbreaking,” Jaehyun shook his head, a deep sigh leaving him.
He continued, “I still can’t believe you, I said ‘have a good chat with him’, not break up with him while I go get groceries,” he sighed deeply, making you roll your eyes.
“Yeah, save the lecture for later, i’m late for work.”
“I’ll give you a ride,” he told you, moving to get up and pick Seul up in his arms naturally, cooing at her, “Seul-ie, let’s go on a car ride!”
Strapping Seul into her carseat, you’d let Jaehyun give you a ride to the diner, mentally preparing yourself for the full day of work that awaited you.
“Pick you up when you’re done?” Jaehyun asked, earning a nod from you, already beginning to unbuckle your seatbelt.
“Thanks for looking after Seul, by the way, I know you’re busy—”
“Seriously, it’s nothing,” Jaehyun dismissed you quickly, “it’s more for me than for her,” he joked, making you roll your eyes.
“Don’t steal my daughter,” you warned, though there was no menace behind your tone. You leaned over to press a kiss to Seul’s head, bidding her goodbye before you straightened up.
“Yeah, yeah, I won’t,” Jaehyun waved you off, “have a good day.”
While you worked, you tried to ignore the way the majority of the people that dined in were office workers, most (if not all) you recognised thanks to how small this town was. You thought you were doing a pretty good job at hiding your discomfort, though, plastering on a smile as you served them as you swallowed down the thoughts their stares had planted within you.
You’d even had a run-in with the same woman who gave you that stare of pity at Donghyuck’s farewell party, though if anything, the pity in her stare was heightened, and you didn’t miss the way she’d pretended to be shocked that you were working here (you knew she was pretending, it wasn’t the first time she was here since you started working here).
Thankfully, your lunch break had arrived quickly, as you seated yourself in the kitchen to eat your lunch in peace without all the prying eyes on you.
The first year of Seul’s life was good, because in that year, you’d made a new friend.
“Can I join you?” your head snapped up mid-bite of your food, spotting the new hire, a young boy that went by the name of Chenle.
“Go ahead,” you gestured a hand for him to take a seat, startling slightly from the sheer force he’d sat with, whipping out a package of food you recognised to be from the fast food joint down the street.
“Heard this place is hiring,” you teased, gesturing to his food, “i’m sure they’d be glad to hire such a loyal fan like you,” you told him, earning a scoff from him.
“No thanks, I like the diner better. Feels more cozy,” he shrugged, taking a shockingly big bite out of his burger, staring at you intently as he did so.
You couldn’t help but laugh, his expression serving to be quite amusing, especially with the way he seemed too deep in thought to bother noticing how half of his burger’s contents were spilling out.
“Yes?” you prompted, quirking an eyebrow at him in confusion.
“Doesn’t it bother you?” he swallowed his mouthful of food, looking at you curiously, his head tilting.
“Doesn’t what bother me?” you asked, taking another bite of your sandwich.
Chenle’s gaze darted to the door of the kitchen, glancing at the walls before looking back at you, shrugging, “you know, the rumours about you?”
You shook your head, leaning forward so you could hear him better amidst the chaos in the kitchen, “what kind of rumours?”
Chenle scrunched his nose up in distaste, taking another bite out of his taco, “you really haven’t heard any of them?”
You shook your head again, making Chenle’s frown deepen.
“Well, now I don’t feel like telling you, some of them are pretty harsh.”
You rolled your eyes, a huff of laughter leaving you, “I think i’ve heard worse, c’mon, hit me.”
Chenle pressed his lips together tightly, chewing on his mouthful of food slowly, “well, what i’ve heard was that you were with that guy, right? The son of that couple that owns that gadget company?”
You nodded, “that’s true so far,” you laughed, prompting him to continue with a nod.
“Well, yeah, so they say you cheated on him with your friend Jaehyun? And then you got pregnant, and then you’ve been getting money from the son… “ Chenle frowned, “but then I always thought that seemed a little strange, because if you were getting money from him, you wouldn’t have to work here as much as you do…right?”
You snorted, “At least you got the first part right,” you told him.
“I was dating their son,” you explained, “and it’s his baby, by the way. Not Jaehyun’s. God, no.”
“But uh.. I’ve just been spending more time with Jaehyun since Donghyuck’s overseas doing his masters, you know… long distance and all,” you shrugged, setting your plate aside, “and you’re right, I’m not taking money from him. Just… didn’t feel right I guess. And plus, his parents would kill me if they found out the money they wire to him is just going to me instead.”
Chenle nodded, “can I be honest?” though he hadn’t waited for your response to continue, “his parents don’t seem like very nice people.”
You huffed, “I guess you wouldn’t be entirely wrong,” you hummed, “they just… care a lot about their company.”
“Figured,” Chenle pursed his lips, looking up at you as if in realisation, “so you’re taking care of your kid alone?”
You weren’t sure whether to nod or shake your head, letting out a long hum, “I wouldn’t say alone exactly. I mean, I have Jaehyun and my parents, they help me look after her during weekends and like sometimes during evenings.”
Chenle sighed softly, nodding, “I really… respect you for that.” He looked down at his watch, running his thumb over the smartwatch with an emotion that seemed almost akin to guilt
“Thank you,” you murmured, “I'm really not doing that much.”
Shaking his head, Chenle had dismissed your humility, “that’s bullshit, parenting isn’t easy,” he gave you a small smile, “but uh, if you don’t mind me asking, how do you deal with the long distance?”
Your eyes widened at his question, your hand fiddling with the hem of your apron, “we broke up, quite recently actually.”
Chenle’s lips parted in shock at that, his hand freezing around his watch,“oh…  sorry.”
Dismissing him with a wave, “it’s fine, I figured it was what we needed at the time, since we were both stressed out and it just didn’t feel right to just take it out on each other all the time… but he still calls regularly to see Seul, of course.”
Chenle hummed, the sour expression still lingering on his features, you couldn’t help but notice the way he’d been staring at your food, a part of you thinking you knew the reason behind his staring.
“Do you want some?” you offered.
Chenle’s reaction was almost immediate, perking up in his seat as he was already holding his burger closer to you, “can I?”
You nodded, holding a hand out, “we can do a trade.”
Watching curiously as he took your lunchbox eagerly from you, scooping a mouthful of the dishes into his mouth, sighing in contentment.
As if realising what he’d done, Chenle looked sheepish, trying to slow down his pace in eating your food.
“I’m guessing it’s been a while since you had home-cooked food?” you asked, something about the gentleness of your tone making Chenle relax, turning to you to nod, his cheeks still full of food.
Swallowing it down, he’d opened his mouth to speak, “yeah… didn’t realise how much I missed it. You know, the restaurants here don’t serve food like this,” he murmured, gesturing to your lunchbox in his lap.
You hummed in understanding, “I’m actually learning how to make more dishes these days, so these are kind of the leftovers from my tries… if you want I can pack some for you too, you know,” you proposed, trying to sound casual so your proposal wouldn’t burden him.
Chenle looked at you with an unreadable emotion behind his gaze, nodding at you with a small smile on his face, the shyness he exuded a contrast from the explosive demeanour of his that you were more used to seeing.
“I would really like that,” he told you, though his gaze had shifted to the lunchbox in his lap, his lower lip jutting out slightly in a small pout, looking strangely glum all of a sudden.
Nudging him, you’d let out a small giggle, “hey, why do you look so sad? Sorry, I’m probably oversharing, right?”
His eyes had met yours, shaking his head, “nah, just… people are too mean to you… you don’t deserve it.” he murmured.
“It’s really fine, they can say what they want, my daughter’s the best thing that happened to me.”
Chenle perked up at that, the smile returning to his face, “what’s her name?”
You weren’t sure why you were so comfortable around Chenle. Maybe it was because of how he was so helpful to you in work after he started working at the diner, or maybe it was because of the way he was one of the few people that didn’t greet you with shocked stares or murmured about you when they thought you weren’t looking. Whatever it was, you were thankful for it.
“Seul,” you smiled, “she’s turning 1 soon, next week, do you wanna come for the celebration? It won’t be anything super extravagant, of course.”
“Can I get her a gift?” his eyebrows raised, nodding eagerly at you, making you narrow your eyes at him.
“You can… but nothing too expensive, okay?” you warned, seeing his expression change to a sheepish one, his hand coming up next to his face and giving you a firm nod.
“I’ll make sure of it, scout’s honour.”
It was pretty clear after that that Chenle did not honour any scouts code whatsoever when he’d arrived at your house on Seul’s birthday with a non-wrapped (unless you count the plastic covering and the bright red ribbon on top as wrapping) stroller and a bright grin on his face.
“I told you not to get anything expensive! This must’ve cost more than a month’s pay,” you said with a gasp, running your fingers over the handle as you admired how sleek it looked. You never would’ve imagined strollers could look so good, and it wasn’t just any kind of stroller, it was those fancy dutch ones you always saw in the catalogues that would move with the push of a finger and weighed like a feather.
Chenle had strolled over to where you were, carrying Seul on his hip as he gave you an unapologetic shrug.
“If it makes you feel any better, it’s a present from both my mom and I?” he offered, making you shake your head at him, though you couldn’t help but smile.
Jaehyun marvelled at the stroller with you, flashing a dimpled grin at Chenle, “I can’t believe it even has cup holders,” he sighed wistfully, making you scoff.
Your mom was thanking Chenle profusely, the 20 year old dismissing her thanks quickly, assuring her that it was ‘nothing’. If over a thousand dollars on a stroller was just nothing.
Your dad suggested bringing out the cake now, so you’d paused your conversation to prepare the cake, pressing the candle into it gently and lighting it, trying to endure the soreness in your shoulders as you brought it outside to the living room where everyone else was.
Jaehyun had called Donghyuck, letting him join in on the birthday celebration as you all sang a song for her, and you tried not to get distracted at the way Donghyuck’s voice had stuck out from the rest.
Cutting a small piece of the cake (you figured it wasn’t much of a cake, it was banana bread, really, since you felt like it wasn’t probably the best idea to stuff her full of icing at this stage) for Seul, you’d taken a seat on the sofa next to Chenle, your mom smiling and cooing at Seul as she fed her.
“I really owe you for this,” you told Chenle.
Chenle gave you a small smile, “you really don’t, I saw how jacked up the old stroller you had was, figured you could use a new one.”
Jaehyun nodded with wholehearted agreement, “he’s right, you could barely close the old one, and the wheels were falling apart.”
You shot him a pointed look, “it was your stroller!”
“My cousin’s to be exact, I don’t claim it,” Jaehyun shrugged, “but that doesn’t matter anymore because you have a sick stroller now!” he added quickly with a grin.
You glanced over at your mom, seeing that she was currently talking to Donghyuck on the phone as she held Seul in her lap, making you slightly curious as to what they were so intently conversing about, your mom letting out understanding murmurs and hums of surprise ever so often.
As if your staring had been felt by your mom, she’d turned to face you, her eyebrows raised in a silent question of whether you’d wanted to talk to him, earning a shake of the head from you. Your mom had only sighed at that, shaking her head at you as she handed the phone to your dad.
“She’s still mad at me for breaking up with him.”
Jaehyun snorted, “yeah, I completely get where she’s coming from.”
You ignored him, your gaze fixed on your dad who was currently talking to him through the phone, trying to decipher whatever your dad was mumbling about to him, Jaehyun’s voice distracting you.
“You’re so obvious,” Jaehyun snickered, making you huff.
“Shut up, you don’t know what you’re talking about.”
Jaehyun raised his eyebrows at you, a hint of a smirk playing at his lips, “what? I was just saying you were being so obvious that you wanted to hold Seul,” he defended, making your mouth shut quickly.
Only then did he snicker, “See? I knew it. You’re not looking at Seul as much as you’re looking at Seul’s dad.”
Chenle’s eyebrows raised at that, leaning closer to Jaehyun to get a peek at the phone your mom was holding, “is that him?”
You nodded, looking down at your plate with what you hoped was an air of nonchalance.
“Thoughts?” Jaehyun prompted Chenle, holding his plastic fork out in a makeshift microphone.
You couldn’t help yourself from glancing at Chenle, curious to hear his thoughts, somehow feeling as though he would give you an unusual perspective from what people usually thought about Donghyuck, hearing the sound of Donghyuck laughing in the background.
“Well,” he hummed, “he does seem a whole lot nicer than his parents.”
Seul’s second year was even better. It surprised you, really, how quick she’d been to pick up words and repeat after the things she heard even though she’d just turned 2 not long ago. She’d begun to address you and Donghyuck as mummy and daddy, and recently begun to call Jaehyun ‘Uncle Jojo’ instead of just ‘jojo’.
You’d just gone to pick Seul up from her childcare centre, almost running late because you’d missed the bus. Nearing the location, you could already see the many children walking out with their parents, holding different crafts in their hands as they told their parents about their day.
Entering the childcare, you’d almost instantly spotted Seul, her brightly coloured hair band setting her apart from the rest of the kids while waiting for you.
Her shoes were already on, holding a big yellow paper plate with yellow and orange pipe cleaners sticking out from the edges.
Lighting up upon seeing you, she greeted you with a wide grin, as you made your way past the other parents and children over to her to give her a hug.
“Hey, baby,” you nuzzled your nose in her cheek, making her erupt into giggles, waving her artwork around. You recognised the woman approaching the both of you to be her teacher, who gave you a friendly smile.
“Hi, dear, how’ve you been?” You understood the premise of her question, since it had been your parents picking her up the past few days since they were on leave, but you appreciated her concern nonetheless.
“I’m alright, thank you for asking. Just a little busy, is all,” you shrugged, your hand unconsciously coming up to the back of Seul’s head, caressing her skin there gently.
“Special occasion?” you asked, glancing around and noticing almost all the children had different crafts and cards with them, earning a nod from Seul’s teacher.
“Yeah, it’s fathers’ day today, so we had them make crafts, but this little one,” she’d reached over to boop Seul’s nose, the toddler scrunching her nose up in response, “insisted on making an extra sun,” she told you, Seul turning to you to nod vigorously.
“For daddy,” she told you, her smile seeming awfully shy, which had only endeared you more.
About to ask her teacher about what else they did, you heard one of the parents from Seul’s class make a snarky remark.
“What’s all the fuss for if she’s not even going to see her father?”
You’d forgotten what you’d wanted to say to Seul’s teacher, your jaw tightening at that parent’s words, Seul’s teacher casting you a sympathetic glance.
“Don’t mind them, i’m sure Seul’s father will love it.”
You stared at her blankly, nodding, trying to regain your composure. Thanking her quickly, you were eager to leave, buckling Seul into her stroller and leaving the childcare. A sour feeling lingered within you as you wondered if these parents would tell their kids about Seul’s situation, wondering if any of her friends had asked her about her father.
“We can call daddy later, okay?” you told her, peeping over the stroller at her and smiling at the way she’d nodded eagerly.
You could tell she looked forward to seeing him, even if it was through a screen, and you could understand why, Donghyuck was ever-so-doting and loving when he spoke to her. For that, you were thankful.
Taking your time to walk (the muscles in your shoulders throbbed as you pushed the stroller) you’d gotten a text from Jaehyun, pulling your phone out once you were walking through the park to check it
Jaehyun 5:47pm - might get off work a little later, can i join for dessert?-
You almost sighed at the thought of dessert, it’d been a while since you’d had the energy to even think about dessert once you were done for the day, but if Jaehyun was offering, how could you refuse?
5:50pm -only if it’s from that bakery near the diner-
Jaehyun’s reply came quickly.
Jaehyun 5:50pm - of course- 5:50pm - who do you think i am a savage?-
Seul was busy swinging her legs and scrutinising her ‘sun’ intently, smiling and waving the artwork at the strangers who you’d walked past, reminding you of how she’d definitely resembled Donghyuck in that aspect.
Thankful that you’d gotten her home before she grew too restless, you guided her to the bathroom.
“It’s shower time, Seul!” You cheered, her footsteps quickening to the bathroom at your announcement, already grasping at her uniform as a signal that she’d wanted it off.
You’d helped her out of her clothes, showering her and washing her hair as best as you could, hearing her telling you about what she did in school while you did so.
By the time you were done, it’d looked as though you’d taken a shower as well, your shirt and shorts wet from Seul grasping at your shirt and trying to hide her face from the water whenever you pointed the shower-head at her hair.
After which, you’d gotten her changed into her pyjamas, letting her play with the toys Jaehyun had gotten her for her birthday that she’d been really into these days, using that small window of time to prepare dinner for her.
Almost done with preparing dinner, you’d quickened your pace as much as the recipe would allow, using your sleeve to dab at the perspiration on your temples, not finding it in you to care about how you may have looked, your main priority being to see through Seul’s dinner and let her have her phone call with Donghyuck.
Bringing the food over to the dining table, you’d gone to get Seul from the living room, heaving her up and setting her in her high-chair, the said girl already eyeing her food determinedly.
You’d focused on feeding her first, frankly not having the appetite but knowing you had to eat nonetheless, your food sitting untouched next to your elbow resting on the table.
“Mummy eat,” Seul had pulled you away from mixing her food to point at your plate, making you huff with a small smile.  
“Uh-huh, mummy will eat, don’t worry.”
Your response didn’t seem to have cut it for her, her doe eyes narrowing and her eyebrows lowering into a frown, “eat together,” she wagged her finger at you for emphasis.
Nodding at her, you’d turned to scoop a small spoonful of food into your mouth, looking at her with wide eyes, seeing her break into a grin, nodding at you.
“Good job, mummy.”
You laughed, setting your spoon down to brush a hand through her hair, “I should be mothering you, not the other way around,” you sighed softly.
Almost done with her food, you’d heard a knock at the door, the sound of the key being shoved into the lock before you heard the door open.
“Seul-ie! Uncle Jojo is here to see you,” Jaehyun’s voice echoed from the threshold, and soon enough you could put a face to the voice as he strolled into the kitchen, a paper bag dangling from his forefingers as he held his arms wide.
Seul had only mirrored the gesture, welcoming him into a hug as he pressed a loud kiss to her cheek, sighing as he pulled away.
“She smells so clean,” he gave you a pout, making you roll your eyes.
“Yes, because I literally just showered her,” you huffed, scooping the last few bits of her food and feeding it to her, Jaehyun moving past you to set the paper bag on the countertop, opening the fridge to set the cakes inside.
After Seul was done eating, her attention seemed to have been directed towards Jaehyun, her hands reaching out to pat and pinch at his cheeks.
“Aw, are you giving me a blush, Seul-ie?” he murmured, glancing over at you.
“Is that all you’re eating?” he frowned.
“Yeah, i’m not that hungry, I had a full lunch,” you explained. Courtesy of Chenle, of course, who insisted on you trying the new steak restaurant that had opened nearby the diner.
Nodding, he narrowed his eyes at you, his hands coming up to grab Seul’s hands from his face, waving them around as she giggled.
“But you’re still up for dessert?”
You scoffed, “of course.”
Almost done with your meal, you furrowed your eyebrows, thinking about what else you had left to do after this, as if going through a mental checklist in your head to see if you’d forgotten anything.
Well you’d showered her, that’s done. And fed her, done too. Bedtime stories can wait till later, all you needed was to call Donghyuck and then get her to bed then you could have a good shower and call it a day too.
“You look tired,” he hummed, making you sigh.
You shook your head at him in reassurance, “it’s fine, i’m alright.”
You didn’t know it, of course, but Jaehyun didn’t have to ask you twice to know you were lying. He’d almost wanted to laugh; he was sure if he asked you the same questions during your university finals you would’ve complained to no end. But it seemed as though you’d been trying to keep up your strong demeanour for Seul’s sake, (and your own sake too, he figured).
Jaehyun dismissed you with a wave, “it’s fine, I can call Donghyuck for you, you can go and take a shower.”
Narrowing your eyes at him, you saw him already getting up from his seat, and you’d put the dishes in the sink for you to wash later on.
Jaehyun picked Seul up with ease, making whooshing noises as he pretended to fly her to the living room.
While you showered, Jaehyun had removed his suit jacket, draping it over the back of the sofa and removing his tie, releasing the top button of his shirt with a tired sigh, “we’re gonna call daddy now, Seul-ie! Gonna wish daddy a happy fathers day!” he reminded her, something in his words making her perk up, running off to her room only to return with the paper plate sun she’d made in class.
“Ready,” she announced, standing next to where Jaehyun sat on your sofa with his legs crossed, making him lean over to scoop her up and seat her on his lap, his arms going around her so she could see what he was doing on his phone, her hand going to touch his wrist as he swiped through his phone.
Soon enough, she’d let out a squeal as the phone started to ring, tapping at the screen as if it would make Donghyuck appear. And surely enough, he did, appearing on the screen with his hood up over his head and his hair a fluffy mess on his head.
Donghyuck hoped his shock wasn’t as apparent at the sight of Jaehyun behind Seul instead of you, “hey, sweetie,” he drawled, flashing her a bright smile.
Jaehyun leaned over to whisper a reminder into Seul’s ear, “say happy fathers’ day, Seul-ie,” he tapped on her elbow, making her eyes widen, a giggle escaping her as she waved her sun excitedly, covering her face on accident as she wished him a happy fathers’ day.
“What’s that, Seul? Is that for me?”
She nodded vigorously, “It’s a sun! For you,” she grinned, setting it aside once she assumed she was done showing him his gift, making Jaehyun laugh.
“It’s like she’s got an agenda,” Jaehyun remarked, making Donghyuck let out a huff of laughter as well.
“Where’s um…” he trailed off, trying to be nonchalant, though Jaehyun was quick to realise what Donghyuck was asking for.
“She’s in the shower. Why? D’you wanna talk to her?”
Donghyuck hummed, taking his lower lip between his teeth in thought, mustering the courage to continue, “will she want to?”
There was a certain hopefulness in his tone that made Jaehyun hope you would say yes, “well, I can try asking her for you when she gets out.”
Donghyuck nodded, “yeah, thanks.”
It seemed that even though this was supposed to be Seul’s phone call with Donghyuck, it had ended up being Jaehyun’s, since Seul had gotten distracted halfway, deciding that playing with her Uncle jojo’s hair was more important than entertaining her dad’s questions.
“How’ve things been over there?” Jaehyun asked, earning a shrug from Donghyuck, his lips pursing.
“I’m finishing my course soon, but I uh… it’s kind of what I wanted to talk to Y/N about.”
Jaehyun’s eyebrows raised, jerking back slightly when Seul had suddenly thrown her arms around his neck, the force knocking the wind out of Jaehyun momentarily. Regaining his composure, he’d frowned at Donghyuck, a part of him growing nervous at what Donghyuck could have meant by that.
“Did something happen?”
Donghyuck inhaled deeply, tilting his head with a high pitched hum leaving him, “I guess you could say that.”
Jaehyun was about to prod further, hearing you making your way out into the living room, your hair damp and the sound of the velcro strap of your wrist guard being fastened as you walked towards Jaehyun.
Turning his head to look at you, Jaehyun called out, “hey, uh, Hyuck says he needs to talk to you about something.”
Your eyes widened, mouthing to him, “do you know what it is?”
Jaehyun shook his head, making you inhale deeply, letting out your breath in a sigh as you kept your expression neutral, nodding at him and holding your hand out.
“Yeah, alright, hand me the phone.”
Taking the phone from him, you’d kept your gaze firm as you stared at the screen, walking over to the kitchen for more privacy.
“What did you wanna talk to me about?” You asked. Your immediate thought being that he was about to tell you something regarding his return in October, which wasn’t that far from now. However, the question he’d greeted you with had caught you off guard.
“How’ve you been?” he asked, his tone gentle and his eyebrows lifted slightly in question.
You had to stop yourself from thinking there was any subtext behind his question, choosing to answer it for what it asked.
“Good,” you mumbled, your attention momentarily diverted to the incoming work email Jaehyun was getting.
“Oh, good,” he echoed, nodding slowly, making you raise an eyebrow expectantly.
“Is that all you wanted to ask me?”
Donghyuck was quick to shake his head, a string of rushed ‘no’s leaving his lips, “no, uh,” he gulped, “I actually wanted to tell you that my uh… I need to get a little like… work experience over here before I come back.”
You nodded, not finding that to be anything out of the ordinary, “oh, so you’ll stay there a little longer?”
He nodded.
“How long?”
Donghyuck pressed his lips into a firm line, releasing them with a hum, “one more year.”
You were shocked to say the least, even if your face didn’t show it. Seul was already 2, you didn’t want him to miss out on more of her big milestones.  
“Oh,” you managed to utter after a while, not even realising you hadn’t given him an answer, “alright, then.”
Donghyuck’s lips parted in shock, “you’re not upset?”
You shook your head. You really weren’t. You were tired, of course, but you knew that this was all part of his parent’s plan for him to have a smooth transition into the company. And since you’d already made it this far, you were ready to accept whatever other surprises they could possibly throw at you.
“Nope,” you popped the ‘p’, your tongue coming out to wet your lips.
Donghyuck hadn’t expected you to react so calmly. In fact, a part of him kind of wished you didn’t. He’d wanted any sign that you missed him, even the slightest disappointment from you, just so he knew that he wasn’t the only one desperate to get back to you.
“Is that all?” you asked him, seeing his lips part and close back again, shaking his head.
“I have a date,” he blurted out, “with this girl,” he added purposefully.
You wouldn’t have believed yourself if you said it’d already been over 2 years since you’d seen Donghyuck face-to-face, his words bringing you back to those moments he would tease you for getting jealous.
There was no date. Donghyuck spoke as if he didn’t just tell Renjun to pass on the message to the girl in his Art History module that he was very uninterested and a father.
Donghyuck was waiting, waiting for you to come out with the wide eyed expression of surprise, the questioning mutter of ‘girl?’ that would usually leave your lips whenever he mentioned things like these to you. You know, his usual roundabout way of getting information from you.
“Cool,” was your response instead, rendering him the wide-eyed one.
“Yeah… she’s from my class… really nice,” he continued, “pretty too. She’s a year older than me.”
You pressed your lips together in a firm line, nodding at him, “that’s great?” you let out a small huff of laughter, though a part of you was annoyed, unsure why he thought to tell you this.
You thought you’d agreed on taking a break until everything settled down, but you forgot to factor in how dating other people would’ve been seen as an option.
“You don’t mind me meeting up with her?” he prompted again.
“We’re not—” you stopped yourself, not wanting to raise your voice, your exasperation getting the better of you, “we’re not together, Donghyuck. You can meet whoever you want.”
There it was again, the pointed way you would say his name, that decisive statement that confirmed Donghyuck’s suspicions that he was still hanging on to you when you weren’t.
Your words left a sour taste on your tongue, worsening with the way Donghyuck had responded so quickly.
“Alright. That’s perfect, then,” he looked as if he was waiting for you to say something, your silence making him let out a resigned sigh, “I gotta go now,” he told you, as if you’d just finished a casual conversation, like nothing was out of the ordinary.
You nodded, finding yourself reluctant to end the call even though there shouldn’t have been anything keeping you from doing so. Maybe you were waiting, waiting for him to end the call like how he always did, but maybe you were expecting too much.
“Tell Seul I love her,” he added as an afterthought, leaving you with no other response than to nod.
You’d wanted to tell him he could just tell her himself, but you didn’t think you had it in you to prolong your conversation any longer, ending the call abruptly and setting Jaehyun’s phone down in your lap.
Your hand that was resting on the dining table had gone to cover your mouth, the simple action triggering tears to form in your eyes, your chest beginning to feel tight and heavy.
But you couldn’t dwell on that now, Seul still needed to be put to bed.
Wiping harshly at your tears that were threatening to spill from your eyes, you let out a shaky breath, a small whimper leaving you, gripping Jaehyun’s phone tightly in your hand before making your way back to the living room, seeing Seul lying on the sofa with her head on Jaehyun’s lap, listening to him talking about something you didn’t have the energy to eavesdrop on.
“Ready to go to bed, baby?” you asked, seeing her head perk up slowly, the way her movements seemed to be almost in slow-motion giving away that she was more than a little sleepy.
Jaehyun turned to look over his shoulder at you, stretching his hands out over his head with a loud yawn, “I can do it, if you want.”
You were about to shake your head, but you figured you weren’t in the right frame of mind to be making voices along with Curious George for today, waving your hand as a signal for him to go ahead.
Picking Seul up, Jaehyun angled Seul towards you, and you kissed her forehead with a whisper of goodnight before Jaehyun had begun to walk her to her room, hearing him murmur a “Mummy’s tired, so I’ll read your bedtime story today, hmm?” as he walked further away.
Making your way back to the kitchen, you washed your dishes absently, hoping that would take your mind off the indescribable feeling of heaviness in your heart, though it seemed dishwashing wasn’t enough, because when you were done, all you could bring yourself to do was to head over to the sofa.
Still gripping Jaehyun’s phone in your hand, you sat on the sofa, staring (or glaring) at the paint on the wall as if you weren’t feeling sad enough.
You could faintly hear Jaehyun in your room asking Seul about what animals she saw in the picture, your mind torturing you with the reminder that it was Jaehyun reading to her, and not Donghyuck. Not Donghyuck who was going on a date. Not Donghyuck who decided not to say I love you.
You hadn’t noticed Jaehyun entering the room, the said boy being able to sense that the phone call didn’t go as well when he saw you sitting on the sofa, your tight grip around his phone, your teeth biting on your lower lip and your eyes glazed over.
Hearing him sigh deeply, you turned to meet his gaze, hating the way the sympathy in his gaze had triggered the tears to well up in your eyes again.
But you knew Jaehyun, and Jaehyun knew you. So you were thankful when he’d wordlessly made his way over to where you were, pushing his sleeves up to his elbows as he slumped down onto the sofa next to you, moving his arm to rest the back of his hand on his knee, the silent, Jaehyun way of offering you support.
A small choked sob had left you, your grip loosening around his phone as you took his hand instead, the warmth and the reassuring squeeze he had given it being all you needed to burst into silent tears, your shoulders shaking with how hard you were crying.
That was all you needed for now, or all you allowed yourself to need. Just the feeling of Jaehyun’s thumb caressing the back of your hand, his presence here.
Though you knew deep down that that wasn’t Donghyuck, and it wasn’t the same.
If you thought Seul’s first and second year were good already, the first few months of her being three-years-old taught you one very valuable thing the other years hadn’t, and it was that you really had to give yourself some credit for how hard you worked sometimes.
It was by far the worst day you had in a while (which said a lot). You’d had a pretty unpleasant run-in with a diner earlier on in the day when your wrist had given way while you were serving her food, causing your hand to cramp up, sending the plate crashing onto the floor next to her, the abruptness of the accident causing her to knock her drink over, the beverage spilling rather unceremoniously onto her, the booth she was sitting on and leaking onto the floor below her (which you had spent what felt like years cleaning afterwards).
If that wasn’t bad enough, your parents had called you out of nowhere, telling you they weren’t able to watch Seul that night due to a company dinner they had to attend, and it wasn’t as if you could call Jaehyun since he was on his first date in ages and you didn’t want to spoil it for him. And it was certainly no question that it was too last-minute to call for an emergency babysitter that would inevitably burn a hole in your pocket.
Which was what had ended you up with Seul perched on one of the counter seats, busy sorting the m&m's in the bowl in front of her.
You were almost done for the day (you hoped), the store already looking abandoned as ever, everyone seeming to have already returned to their homes. Well, everyone except you and the poor office workers in Donghyuck’s parents’ company who were still slaving away in their cubicles, of course.
It was times like this that you’d felt like your life wasn’t real. As you pushed past the pain in your wrist and the soreness in your back to lift the chairs onto the tables, nudging the bucket and mop out of the supply room with your foot.
“Mummy, your foot will get wet,” you turned to face Seul, not having noticed her eyes on you, observing you and the way your movements seemed lethargic.
You shook your head, giving her the best reassuring smile you could muster, “it’s alright, baby, mummy’s got it.”
Wringing the mop, you were about to start mopping the floor when you figured you’d might as well make this time enjoyable for Seul, feeling as though the sloshing of soapy water in a pail and the mop against the hardwood floor weren’t that enjoyable to listen to.
“You wanna listen to some music, Seul?”
You saw her give you an eager nod, letting go of the mop as you made your way over to her, whipping your phone out and switching to your music app, pressing play on your playlist as she started bouncing lightly to the beat of the song, the sight making you burst into a fit of giggles, leaning over to press a kiss to her forehead, encouraging her to dance more.
Going back to your task at hand, you’d worked at getting the floors clean, having to straighten up ever so often because of your back. Anyone who saw you would’ve thought you were years older than you actually were, including Donghyuck.
You’d heard the familiar beat of the song starting, a strange feeling of nostalgia building within you at the sound of Michael Jackson’s voice, your mind beginning to wander to memories of Donghyuck singing this song in your room when the both of you were losing your minds from studying.
You swore you heard the door open as you spoke, “baby, can you skip to the next song?”
Seul’s gasp had triggered a protective response in you, immediately turning around to see her staring curiously at the person that had just entered, following her gaze only to spot the last person you would’ve expected to see here.
“It’s really you,” he mumbled softly, barely audible.
Clad in an expensive suit, thin-rimmed glasses perched on the bridge of his nose, a sleek leather briefcase in his hand, you thought you were dreaming.
You dropped your mop into the mop trolley, your hands unconsciously going to straighten out your apron, your footsteps leading you towards Seul yet not being able to tear your gaze away from him.
“Is that daddy?” Seul turned to you to ask softly, your distraction too prominent to respond to her.
A million thoughts were spinning around in your head. Yes, that was Donghyuck. His hair looked longer. Yes, he looked healthy. And yes, you needed to stop this song before it brought back too many memories for you.
You’d tried to suppress your emotions towards Donghyuck a long while ago, after you figured he’d moved on, but seeing him now, hearing this song, you’d felt like all the feelings you’d tried so hard to keep locked away were threatening to burst at this very moment.
Donghyuck felt the same way as well, though he’d never tried to keep his emotions for you under control. He knew that he couldn’t just let the love he’d felt so strongly go just like that, he had a plan to win you over again.
Which was why even as he stood before you, his gaze unwavering as he noticed your messy hair, your wrist guard, the tired bags under your eyes, even the thread that was unraveling at the sleeve of your shirt.
Donghyuck took it all in, and he knew he loved you still the same, if not, more than before.
One of your hands had gone to touch Seul’s shoulder gently, the other hand slowly inching towards the phone, the song (or the emotions it evoked) beginning to feel louder than ever.
Donghyuck took another step closer to the both of you, his gaze flickering to your hand that was going closer to your phone.
“Don’t skip the song.”
Your breath hitched, your hand almost instinctively drawing back, before you shook your head, turning the music off.
part 2
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grigori77 · 9 months ago
2020 in Movies - My Top 30 Fave Movies (Part 3)
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10.  WOLFWALKERS – eleven years ago, Irish director Tomm Moore exploded onto the animated cinema scene with The Secret of Kells, a spellbinding feature debut which captivated audiences the world over and even garnered an Oscar nomination.  Admittedly I didn’t actually even know about it until I discovered his work through his astonishing follow-up, Song of the Sea (another Academy Award nominee), in 2015, so when I finally caught it I was already a fan of Moore’s work.  It’s been a similarly long wait for his third feature, but he’s genuinely pulled off a hat-trick, delivering a third flawless film in a row which OF COURSE means that his latest feature is, beyond a shadow of a doubt, my top animated feature of 2020.  I could even be tempted to say it’s his best work to date … this is an ASTONISHING film, a work of such breath-taking, spell-binding beauty that I spent its entire hour and three-quarters glued to the screen, simple mesmerised by the wonder and majesty of this latest iteration of the characteristically stylised “Cartoon Saloon” look.  It’s also liberally steeped in Moore’s trademark Celtic vibe and atmosphere, once again delving deep into his homeland’s rich and evocative cultural history and mythology while also bringing us something far more original and personal – this time the titular supernatural beings are magical near-human beings whose own subconscious can assume the form of very real wolves.  Set in a particularly dark time in Irish history – namely 1650, when Oliver Cromwell was Lord Protector – the story follows Robyn (Honor Kneafsey, probably best known for the Christmas Prince films), the impetuous and spirited young daughter of English hunter Bill Goodfellowe (Sean Bean), brought in by the Protectorate to rid the city of Kilkenny of the wolves plaguing the area.  One day fate intervenes and Robyn meets Mebh Og MacTire (The Girl at the End of the Garden‘s Eve Whittaker), a wild girl living in the woods, whose accidental bite gives her strange dreams in which she becomes a wolf – turns out Mebh is a wolfwalker, and now so is Robyn … every aspect of this film is an utter triumph for Moore and co, who have crafted a work of living, breathing cinematic art that’s easily the equal to (if not even better than) the best that Disney, Dreamworks or any of the other animation studios could create.  Then there’s the excellent voice cast – Bean brings fatherly warmth and compassion to the role that belies his character’s intimidating size, while Kneafsey and Whittaker make for a sweet and sassy pair as they bond in spite of powerful cultural differences, and the masterful Simon McBurney (Harry Potter, Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy) brings cool, understated menace to the role of Cromwell himself.  This is a film with plenty of emotional heft to go with its marvels, and once again displays the welcome dark side which added particular spice to Moore’s previous films, but ultimately this is still a gentle and heartfelt work of wonder that makes for equally suitable viewing for children as for those who are still kids at heart – ultimately, then, this is another triumph for one of the most singularly original filmmakers working in animation today, and if Wolfwalkers doesn’t make it third time lucky come Oscars-time then there’s no justice in the world …
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9.  WONDER WOMAN 1984 – probably the biggest change for 2020 compared to pretty much all of the past decade is how different the fortunes of superhero cinema turned out to be.  A year earlier the Marvel Cinematic Universe had dominated all, but the DC Extended Universe still got a good hit in with big surprise hit Shazam!  Fast-forward to now and things are VERY different – DC suddenly came out in the lead, but only because Marvel’s intended heavy-hitters (two MCU movies, the first Venom sequel and potential hot-shit new franchise starter Morbius: the Living Vampire) found themselves continuously pushed back thanks to (back then) unforeseen circumstances which continue to shit all over our theatre-going slate for the immediate future.  In the end DC’s only SERIOUS competition turned out to be NETFLIX … never mind, at least we got ONE big established superhero blockbuster into the cinemas before the end of the year that the whole family could enjoy, and who better to headline it than DC’s “newest” big screen megastar, Diana Prince? Back in 2017 Monster’s Ball director Patty Jenkins’ monumental DCEU standalone spectacularly realigned the trajectory of a cinematic franchise that was visibly flagging, redesigning the template for the series’ future which has since led to some (mostly) consistently impressive subsequent offerings.  Needless to say it was a damn tough act to follow, but Jenkins and co-writers Geoff Johns (Arrow and The Flash) and David Callaham (The Expendables, Zombieland: Double Tap, future MCU entry Shang-Chi & the Legend of the Ten Rings) have risen to the challenge in fine style, delivering something which pretty much equals that spectacular franchise debut … as has Gal Gadot, who’s now OFFICIALLY made the role her own thanks to yet another showstopping and definitive performance as the unstoppable Amazonian goddess living amongst us.  She’s older and wiser than in the first film, but still hasn’t lost that forthright honesty and wonderfully pure heart we’ve come to love ever since her introduction in Zack Snyder’s troublesome but ultimately underrated Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice (yes, that’s right, I said it!), and Gadot’s clear, overwhelming commitment to the role continues to pay off magnificently as she once again proves that Diana is THE VERY BEST superhero in the DCEU cinematic pantheon.  Although it takes place several decades after its predecessor, WW84 is, obviously, still very much a period piece, Jenkins and co this time perfectly capturing the sheer opulent and over-the-top tastelessness of the 1980s in all its big-haired, bad-suited, oversized shoulder-padded glory while telling a story that encapsulates the greedy excessiveness of the Reagan era, perfectly embodied in the film’s nominal villain, Max Lord (The Mandalorian himself, Pedro Pascal), a wishy-washy wannabe oil tycoon conman who chances upon a supercharged wish-rock and unleashes a devastating supernatural “monkey’s paw” upon the world. To say any more would give away a whole raft of spectacular twists and turns that deserve to be enjoyed good and cold, although they did spoil one major surprise in the trailer when they teased the return of Diana’s first love, Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) … needless to say this is another big blockbuster bursting with big characters, big action and BIG IDEAS, just what we’ve come to expect after Wonder Woman’s first triumphant big screen adventure.  Interestingly, the film starts out feeling like it’s going to be a bubbly, light, frothy affair – after a particularly stunning all-action opening flashback to Diana’s childhood on Themyscira, the film proper kicks off with a bright and breezy atmosphere that feels a bit like the kind of Saturday morning cartoon action the consistently impressive set-pieces take such unfettered joy in parodying, but as the stakes are raised the tone grows darker and more emotionally potent, the storm clouds gathering for a spectacularly epic climax that, for once, doesn’t feel too overblown or weighed down by its visual effects, while the intelligent script has unfathomable hidden depths to it, making us think far more than these kinds of blockbusters usually do.  It’s really great to see Chris Pine return since he was one of the best things about the first movie, and his lovably childlike wide-eyed wonder at this brave new world perfectly echoes Diana’s own last time round; Kristen Wiig, meanwhile, is pretty phenomenal throughout as Dr Barbara Minerva, the initially geeky and timid nerd who discovers an impressive inner strength but ultimately turns into a superpowered apex predator as she becomes one of Wonder Woman’s most infamous foes, the Cheetah; Pascal, of course, is clearly having the time of his life hamming it up to the hilt as Lord, playing gloriously against his effortlessly cool, charismatic action hero image to deliver a compellingly troubling examination of the monstrous corrupting influence of absolute power.  Once again, though, the film truly belongs to Gadot – she looks amazing, acts her socks off magnificently, and totally rules the movie.  After this, a second sequel is a no-brainer, because Wonder Woman remains the one DC superhero who’s truly capable of bearing the weight of this particular cinematic franchise on her powerful shoulders – needless to say, it’s already been greenlit, and with both Jenkins and Gadot onboard, I’m happy to sign up for more too …
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8.  LOVE & MONSTERS – with the cinemas continuing their frustrating habit of opening for a little while and then closing while the pandemic ebbed and flowed in the months after the summer season, it was starting to look like there might not have been ANY big budget blockbusters to enjoy before year’s end as heavyweights like Black Widow, No Time To Die and Dune pulled back to potentially more certain release slots into 2021 (with only WW84 remaining stubbornly in place for Christmas).  Then Paramount decided to throw us a bone, opting to release this post-apocalyptic horror comedy on-demand in October instead, thus giving me the perfect little present to tie me over during the darkening days of autumn. The end result was a stone-cold gem that came out of nowhere to completely blow critics away, a spectacular sleeper hit that ultimately proved one of the year’s biggest and most brilliant surprises.  Director Michael Matthews may only have had South African indie thriller Five Fingers for Marseilles under his belt prior to this, but he proves he’s definitely a solid talent to watch in the future, crafting a fun and effective thrill-ride that, like all the best horror comedies, is consistently as funny as it is scary, sharing much of the same DNA as this particular mash-up genre’s classics like Tremors and Zombieland and standing up impressively well to such comparisons.  The story, penned by rising star Brian Duffield (who has TWO other entries on this list, Underwater and Spontaneous) and Matthew Robinson (The Invention of Lying, Dora & the Lost City of Gold), is also pretty ingenious and surprisingly original – a meteorite strike has unleashed weird mutagenic pathogens that warp various creepy crawly critters into gigantic monstrosities that have slaughter most of the world’s human population, leaving only a beleaguered, dwindling few to eke out a precarious living in underground colonies. Living in one such makeshift community is Joel Dawson (The Maze Runner’s Dylan O’Brien), a smart and likeable geek who really isn’t very adventurous, is extremely awkward and uncoordinated, and has a problem with freezing if threatened … which makes it all the more inexplicable when he decides, entirely against the advice of everyone he knows, to venture onto the surface so he can make the incredibly dangerous week-long trek to the neighbouring colony where his girlfriend Aimee (Iron Fist’s Jessica Henwick) has ended up.  Joel is, without a doubt, the best role that O’Brien has EVER had, a total dork who’s completely unsuited to this kind of adventure and, in the real world, sure to be eaten alive in the first five minutes, but he’s also such a fantastically believable, fallible everyman that every one of us desperate, pathetic omega-males and females can instantly put ourselves in his place, making it elementarily easy to root for him.  He’s also hilariously funny, his winningly self-deprecating sass and pitch perfect talent for physical comedy making it all the more rewarding watching each gloriously anarchic life-and-death encounter mould him into the year’s most unlikely action hero.  Henwick, meanwhile, once again impresses in a well-written role where she’s able to make a big impression despite her decidedly short screen time, as do the legendary Michael Rooker and brilliant newcomer Ariana Greenblatt as Clyde and Minnow, the adorably jaded, seen-it-all-before pair of “professional survivors” Joel meets en-route, who teach him to survive on the surface.  The action is fast, frenetic and potently visceral, the impressively realistic digital creature effects bringing a motley crew of bloodthirsty beasties to suitably blood-curdling life for the film’s consistently terrifying set-pieces, while the world-building is intricately thought-out and skilfully executed.  Altogether, this was an absolute joy from start to finish, and a film I enthusiastically endorsed to everyone I knew was looking for something fun to enjoy during the frustrating lockdown nights-in.  One of the cinematic year’s best kept secrets then, and a compelling sign of things to come for its up-and-coming director.
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7.  PARASITE – I’ve been a fan of master Korean filmmaker Bong Joon-ho ever since I stumbled across his deeply weird but also thoroughly brilliant breakthrough feature The Host, and it’s a love that’s deepened since thanks to truly magnificent sci-fi actioner Snowpiercer, so I was looking forward to his latest feature as much as any movie geek, but even I wasn’t prepared for just what a runaway juggernaut of a hit this one turned out to be, from the insane box office to all that award-season glory (especially that undeniable clean-sweep at the Oscars). I’ll just come out and say it, this film deserves it all.  It’s EASILY Bong’s best film to date (which is really saying something), a masterful social satire and jet black comedy that raises some genuinely intriguing questions before delivering deeply troubling answers.  Straddling the ever-widening gulf between a disaffected idle rich upper class and impoverished, struggling lower class in modern-day Seoul, it tells the story of the Kim family – father Ki-taek (Bong’s good luck charm, Song Kang-ho), mother Chung-sook (Jang Hye-jin), son Ki-woo (Train to Busan’s Choi Woo-shik) and daughter Ki-jung (The Silenced’s Park So-dam) – a poor family living in a run-down basement apartment who live hand-to-mouth in minimum wage jobs and can barely rub two pennies together, until they’re presented with an intriguing opportunity.  Through happy chance, Ki-woon is hired as an English tutor for Park Da-hye (Jung Ji-so), the daughter of a wealthy family, which offers him the chance to recommend Ki-jung as an art tutor to the Parks’ troubled young son, Da-song (Jung Hyeon-jun). Soon the rest of the Kims are getting in on the act, the kids contriving opportunities for their father to replace Mr Park’s chauffeur and their mother to oust the family’s long-serving housekeeper, Gook Moon-gwang (Lee Jung-eun), and before long their situation has improved dramatically.  But as they two families become more deeply entwined, cracks begin to show in their supposed blissful harmony as the natural prejudices of their respective classes start to take hold, and as events spiral out of control a terrible confrontation looms on the horizon.  This is social commentary at its most scathing, Bong drawing on personal experiences from his youth to inform the razor-sharp script (co-written by his production assistant Han Jin-won), while he weaves a palpable atmosphere of knife-edged tension throughout to add spice to the perfectly observed dark humour of the situation, all the while throwing intriguing twists and turns at us before suddenly dropping such a massive jaw-dropper of a gear-change that the film completely turns on its head to stunning effect.  The cast are all thoroughly astounding, Song once again dominating the film with a turn at once sloppy and dishevelled but also poignant and heartfelt, while there are particularly noteworthy turns from Lee Sun-kyun as the Parks’ self-absorbed patriarch Dong-ik and Choi Yeo-jeong (The Concubine) as his flighty, easily-led wife Choi Yeon-gyo, as well as a fantastically weird appearance in the latter half from Park Myung-hoon.  This is heady stuff, dangerously seductive even as it becomes increasingly uncomfortable viewing, so that even as the screws tighten and everything goes to hell it’s simply impossible to look away.  Bong Joon-ho really has surpassed himself this time, delivering an existential mind-scrambler that lingers long after the credits have rolled and might even have you questioning your place in society once you’ve thought about it some. It deserves every single award and every ounce of praise it’s been lavished with, and looks set to go down as one of the true cinematic greats of this new decade.  Trust me, if this was a purely critical best-of list it’d be RIGHT AT THE TOP …
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6.  THE OLD GUARD – Netflix’ undisputable TOP OFFERING of the summer came damn close to bagging the whole season, and I can’t help thinking that even if some of the stiffer competition had still been present it may well have still finished this high. Gina Prince-Blythewood (Love & Basketball, the Secret Life of Bees) directs comics legend Greg Rucka’s adaptation of his own popular series with uncanny skill and laser-focused visual flair considering there’s nothing on her previous CV to suggest she’d be THIS good at mounting a stomping great ultraviolent action thriller, ushering in a thoroughly engrossing tale of four ancient, invulnerable immortal warriors – Andy AKA Andromache of Scythia (Charlize Theron), Booker AKA Sebastian de Livre (Matthias Schoenaerts), Joe AKA Yusuf Al-Kaysani (Wolf’s Marwan Kenzari) and Nicky AKA Niccolo di Ginova (Trust’s Luca Marinelli) – who’ve been around forever, hiring out their services as mercenaries for righteous causes while jealously guarding their identities for fear of horrific experimentation and exploitation should their true natures ever be discovered.  Their anonymity is threatened, however, when they’re uncovered by former CIA operative James Copley (Chiwetel Ejiofor), who’s working for the decidedly dodgy pharmaceutical conglomerate run by sociopathic billionaire Steven Merrick (Harry Melling, formerly Dudley in the Harry Potter movies), who want to capture these immortals so they can patent whatever it is that makes them keep on ticking … just as a fifth immortal, US Marine Nile Freeman (If Beale Street Could Talk’s KiKi Layne), awakens after being “killed” on deployment in Afghanistan.  The supporting players are excellent, particularly Ejiofor, smart and driven but ultimately principled and deeply conflicted about what he’s doing, even if he does have the best of intentions, and Melling, the kind of loathsome, reptilian scumbag you just love to hate, but the film REALLY DOES belong to the Old Guard themselves – Schoenaerts is a master brooder, spot-on casting as the group’s relative newcomer, only immortal since the Napoleonic Wars but clearly one seriously old soul who’s already VERY tired of the lifestyle, while Joe and Nicky (who met on opposing sides of the Crusades) are simply ADORABLE, an unapologetically matter-of-fact gay couple who are sweet, sassy and incredibly kind, the absolute emotional heart of the film; it’s the ladies, however, that are most memorable here.  Layne is exceptional, investing Nile with a steely intensity that puts her in good stead as her new existence threatens to overwhelm her and MORE THAN qualified to bust heads alongside her elders … but it’s ancient Greek warrior Andy who steals the film, Theron building on the astounding work she did in Atomic Blonde to prove, once and for all, that there’s no woman on Earth who looks better kicking arse than her (as Booker puts it, “that woman has forgotten more ways to kill than entire armies will ever learn”); in her hands, Andy truly is a goddess of death, tough as tungsten alloy and unflappable even in the face of hell itself, but underneath it all she hides a heart as big as any of her friends’.  They’re an impossibly lovable bunch and you feel you could follow them on another TEN adventures like this one, which is just as well, because Prince-Blythewood and Rucka certainly put them through their paces here – the drama is high (but frequently laced with a gentle, knowing sense of humour, particularly whenever Joe and Nicky are onscreen), as are the stakes, and the frequent action sequences are top-notch, executed with rare skill and bone-crunching zest, but also ALWAYS in service to the story.  Altogether this is an astounding film, a genuine victory for its makers and, it seems, for Netflix themselves – it’s become one of the platform’s biggest hits to date, earning well-deserved critical acclaim and great respect and genuine geek love from the fanbase at large.  After this, a sequel is not only inevitable, it’s ESSENTIAL …
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5.  MANK – it’s always nice when David Fincher, one of my TOP FIVE ALL TIME FAVOURITE DIRECTORS, drops a new movie, because it can be GUARANTEED to place good and high in my rundown for that year.  The man is a frickin’ GENIUS, a true master of the craft, genuinely one of the auteur’s auteurs.  I’ve NEVER seen him deliver a bad film – even a misfiring Fincher (see The Curious Case of Benjamin Button or Alien 3) is still capable of creating GREAT CINEMA.  How? Why?  It’s because he genuinely LOVES the art form, it’s been his obsession all his life, and he’s spent every day of it becoming the best possible filmmaker he can be.  Who better to tell the story of the creation of one of the ULTIMATE cinematic masterpieces, then?  Benjamin Ross’ acclaimed biopic RKO 281 covered similar ground, presenting a compelling look into the making Citizen Kane, the timeless masterpiece of Hollywood’s ULTIMATE auteur, Orson Welles, but Fincher’s film is more interested in the original inspiration for the story, how it was written and, most importantly, the man who wrote it – Herman J. Mankiewicz, known to his friends as Mank. One of my favourite actors of all time, Gary Oldman, delivers yet another of his career best performances in the lead role, once a man of vision and incredible storytelling skill whose talents have largely been squandered through professional difficulties and personal vices, a burned out one-time great fallen on hard times whom Welles picks up out of the trash, dusts off and offers a chance to create something truly great again.  The only catch?  The subject of their film (albeit dressed up in the guise of fictional newspaper magnate Charles Foster Kane) is to be real-life publisher, politico and tycoon William Randolph Hurst (Charles Dance), once Mank’s friend and patron before they had a very public and messy falling out which partly led to his current circumstances.  As he toils away in seclusion on what is destined to become his true masterwork, flashbacks reveal to us the fascinating, moving and ultimately tragic tale of his rise and fall from grace in the movie business, set against the backdrop of one of the most tumultuous periods in American history.  Shooting a script that his own journalist and screenwriter father, Jack, crafted and then failed to bring to the screen himself before his death in 2003, Fincher has been working for almost a quarter century to make this film, and all that passion and drive is writ large on the screen – this is a glorious film ABOUT film, the art of it, the creation of it, and all the dirty little secrets of what the industry itself has always really been like, especially in that most glamorous and illusory of times.  The fact that Fincher shot in black and white and intentionally made it look like it was made in the early 1940s (the “golden age of the Silver Screen”, if you will) may seem like a gimmick, but instead it’s a very shrewd choice that expertly captures the gloss and moodiness of the age, almost looking like a contemporary companion piece to Kane itself, and it’s the perfect way to frame all the sharp-witted observation, subtly subversive character development and murky behind-the-scenes machinations that tell the story.  Oldman is in every way the star here, holding the screen with all the consummate skill and flair we’ve come to expect from him, but there’s no denying the uniformly excellent supporting cast are equal to the task here – Dance is at his regal, charismatic best as Hearst, while Amanda Seyfried is icily classy on the surface but mischievous and lovably grounded underneath as Hearst’s mistress, Marion Davies, who formed the basis for Kane’s most controversial character, Arliss Howard (Full Metal Jacket, The Lost World: Jurassic Park, Moneyball) brings nuance and complexity to the role of MGM founder Louis B. Mayer, Tom Pelphrey (Banshee, Ozark) is understated but compelling as Mank’s younger screenwriter brother Joseph, and Lily Collins and Tuppence Middleton exude class and long-suffering stubbornness as the two main women in Mank’s life (his secretary and platonic muse, Rita Alexander, and his wife, Sara), while The Musketeers’ Tom Burke’s periodic but potent appearances as Orson Welles help to drive the story in the “present”.  Another Netflix release which I was (thankfully) able to catch on the big screen during one of the brief lulls between British lockdowns, this was a decidedly meta cinematic experience that perfectly encapsulated not only what is truly required for the creation of a screen epic, but also the latest pinnacle in the career of one of the greatest filmmakers working in the business today, powerful, stirring, intriguing and surprising in equal measure. Certainly it’s one of the most important films ABOUT so far film this century, but is it as good as Citizen Kane?  Boy, that’s a tough one …
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4.  ENOLA HOLMES – ultimately, my top film for the autumn/winter movie season was also the film which finally topped my Netflix Original features list, as well as beating all other streaming offerings for the entire year (which is saying something, as you should know by now).  Had things been different, this would have been one of Warner Bros’ BIGGEST releases for the year in the cinema, of that I have no doubt, a surprise sleeper hit which would have taken the world by storm – as it is it’s STILL become a sensation, albeit in a much more mid-pandemic, lockdown home-viewing kind of way.  Before you start crying oh God no, not another Sherlock Holmes adaptation, this is a very different beast from either the Guy Ritchie take or the modernized BBC show, instead side-lining the great literary sleuth in favour of a delicious new AU version, based on The Case of the Missing Marquess, the first novel in the Enola Holmes Mysteries literary series from American YA author Nancy Springer.  Positing that Sherlock Holmes (Henry Cavill) and his elder brother Mycroft (Sam Claflin) had an equally ingenious and precocious baby sister, the film introduces us to Enola (Stranger Things’ Millie Bobby Brown), who’s been raised at home by their strong-willed mother Eudoria (Helena Bonham Carter) to be just as intelligent, well-read and intellectually skilled as her far more advantageously masculine elder siblings.  Then, on the morning of her sixteenth birthday, Enola awakens to find her mother has vanished, putting her in a pretty pickle since this leaves her a ward of Mycroft, a self-absorbed social peacock who finds her to be wilfully free-spirited and completely ill equipped to face the world, concluding that the only solution is sending her to boarding school where she’ll learn to become a proper lady.  Needless to say she’s horrified by the prospect, deciding to run away and search for her mother instead … this is about as perfect a family adventure film as you could wish for, following a vital, capable and compelling teen detective-in-the-making as she embarks on her very first investigation, as well as winding up tangled in a second to boot involving a young runaway noble, Viscount Tewkesbury, the Marquess of Basilwether (Medici’s Louis Partridge), and the film is a breezy, swift-paced and rewardingly entertaining romp that feels like a welcome breath of fresh air for a literary property which, beloved as it may be, has been adapted to death over the years.  Enola Holmes a brilliant young hero who’s perfectly crafted to carry the franchise forward in fresh new directions, and Brown brings her to life with effervescent charm, boisterous energy and mischievous irreverence that are entirely irresistible; Cavill and Claflin, meanwhile, are perfectly cast as the two very different brothers – this Sherlock is much less louche and world-weary than most previous versions, still razor sharp and intellectually restless but with a comfortable ease and a youthful spring in his step that perfectly suits the actor, while Mycroft is as superior and arrogant as ever, a preening arse we derive huge enjoyment watching Enola consistently get the best of; Bonham Carter doesn’t get a lot of screen-time but as we’d expect she does a lot with what she has to make the practical, eccentric and unapologetically modern Eudoria thoroughly memorable, while Partridge is carefree and likeable as the naïve but irresistible Tewkesbury, and there are strong supporting turns from Frances de la Tour as his stately grandmother, the Dowager, Susie Wokoma (Crazyhead, Truth Seekers) as Emily, a feisty suffragette who runs a jujitsu studio, Burn Gorman as dastardly thug-for-hire Linthorn, and Four Lions’ Adeel Akhtar as a particularly scuzzy Inspector Lestrade.  Seasoned TV director Harry Bradbeer (Fleabag, Killing Eve) makes his feature debut with an impressive splash, unfolding the action at a brisk pace while keeping the narrative firmly focused on an intricate mystery plot that throws in plenty of ingenious twists and turns before a suitably atmospheric climax and pleasing denouement which nonetheless artfully sets up more to come in the future, while screenwriter Jack Thorne (His Dark Materials, The Scouting Book for Boys, Wonder) delivers strong character work and liberally peppers the dialogue with a veritable cavalcade of witty zingers.  Boisterous, compelling, amusing, affecting and exciting in equal measure, this is a spirited and appealing slice of cinematic escapism that flatters its viewers and never talks down to them, a perfect little period adventure for a cosy Sunday afternoon.  Obviously there’s plenty of potential for more, and with further books to adapt there’s more than enough material for a pile of sequels – Neflix would be barmy indeed to turn their nose up at this opportunity …
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3.  1917 – it’s a rare thing for a film to leave me truly shell-shocked by its sheer awesomeness, for me to walk out of a cinema in a genuine daze, unable to talk or even really think about much of anything for a few hours because I’m simply marvelling at what I’ve just witnessed.  Needless to say, when I do find a film like that (Fight Club, Inception, Mad Max: Fury Road) it usually earns a place very close to my heart indeed.  The latest tour-de-force from Sam Mendes is one of those films – an epic World War I thriller that plays out ENTIRELY in one shot, which doesn’t simply feel like a glorified gimmick or stunt but instead is a genuine MASTERPIECE of film, a mesmerising journey of emotion and imagination in a shockingly real environment that’s impossible to tear your eyes away from.  Sure, Mendes has impressed us before – his first film, American Beauty, is a GREAT movie, one of the most impressive feature debuts of the 2000s, while Skyfall is, in my opinion, quite simply THE BEST BOND FILM EVER MADE – but this is in a whole other league.  It’s an astounding achievement, made all the more impressive when you realise that there’s very little trickery at play here, no clever digital magic (just some augmentation here and there), it’s all real locations and sets, filmed in long, elaborately choreographed takes blended together with clever edits to make it as seamless as possible – it’s not the first film to try to do this (remember Birdman? Bushwick?), but I’ve never seen it done better, or with greater skill. But it’s not just a clever cinematic exercise, there’s a genuine story here, told with guts and urgency, and populated by real flesh and blood characters – the heart of the film is True History of the Kelly Gang’s George MacKay and Dean Chapman (probably best known as Tommen Baratheon in Game of Thrones) as Lance Corporals Will Schofield and Tom Blake, the two young tommies sent out across enemy territory on a desperate mission to stop a British regiment from rushing headlong into a German trap (Tom himself has a personal stake in this because his brother is an officer in the attack).  They’re a likeable pair, very human and relatable throughout, brave and true but never so overtly heroic that they stretch credibility, so when tragedy strikes along the way it’s particularly devastating; both deliver exceptional performances that effortlessly carry us through the film, and they’re given sterling support from a selection of top-drawer British talent, from Sherlock stars Andrew Scott and Benedict Cumberbatch to Mark Strong and Colin Firth, each delivering magnificently in small but potent cameos.  That said, the cinematography and art department are the BIGGEST stars here, masterful veteran DOP Roger Deakins (The Shawshank Redemption, Blade Runner 2049 and pretty much the Coen Brothers’ entire back catalogue among MANY others) making every frame sing with beauty, horror, tension or tragedy as the need arises, and the environments are SO REAL it feels less like production design than that someone simply sent the cast and crew back in time to film in the real Northern France circa 1917 – from a nightmarish trek across No Man’s Land to a desperate chase through a ruined French village lit only by dancing flare-light in the darkness before dawn, every scene is utterly immersive and simply STUNNING.  I don’t think it’s possible for Mendes to make a film better than this, but I sure hope he gives it a go all the same.  Either way, this was the most incredible, exhausting, truly AWESOME experience I had at the cinema all year – it’s a film that DESERVES to be seen on the big screen, and I feel truly sorry for those who missed the chance …
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2.  BIRDS OF PREY & THE FANTABULOUS EMANCIPATION OF ONE HARLEY QUINN – the only reason 1917 isn’t at number two is because Warner Bros.’ cinematic DC Extended Universe project FINALLY got round to bringing my favourite DC Comics title to the big screen.  It was been the biggest pleasure of my cinematic year getting to see my top DC superheroines brought to life on the big screen, and it was done in high style, in my opinion THE BEST of the DCEU films to date (yup, I loved it EVEN MORE than the Wonder Woman movies).  It was also great seeing Harley Quinn return after her show-stealing turn in David Ayer’s clunky but ultimately still hugely enjoyable Suicide Squad, better still that they got her SPOT ON this time – this is the Harley I’ve always loved in the comics, unpredictable, irreverent and entirely without regard for what anyone else thinks of her, as well as one talented psychiatrist.  Margot Robbie once more excels in the role she was basically BORN to play, clearly relishing the chance to finally do Harley TRUE justice, and she’s a total riot from start to finish, infectiously lovable no matter what crazy, sometimes downright REPRIHENSIBLE antics she gets up to.  Needless to say she’s the nominal star here, her latest ill-advised adventure driving the story – finally done with the Joker and itching to make her emancipation official, Harley publicly announces their breakup by blowing up Ace Chemicals (their love spot, basically), inadvertently painting a target on her back in the process since she’s no longer under the assumed protection of Gotham’s feared Clown Prince of Crime – but that doesn’t mean she eclipses the other main players the movie’s REALLY supposed to be about.  Each member of the Birds of Prey is beautifully written and brought to vivid, arse-kicking life by what had to be 2020’s most exciting cast – Helena Bertinelli, the Huntress, is the perfect character for Mary Elizabeth Winstead to finally pay off on that action hero potential she showed in Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World, but this is a MUCH more enjoyable role outside of the fight choreography because while Helena may be a world-class dark avenger, socially she’s a total dork, which just makes her thoroughly adorable; Rosie Perez is similarly perfect casting as Renee Montoya, the uncompromising pint-sized Gotham PD detective who kicks against the corrupt system no matter what kind of trouble it gets her into, and just gets angrier all the time, paradoxically making us like her even more; and then there’s the film’s major controversy, at least as far as the fans are concerned, namely one Cassandra Cain.  Sure, this take is VERY different from the comics’ version (a nearly mute master assassin who went on to become the second woman to wear the mask of Batgirl before assuming her own crime-fighting mantle as Black Bat and now Orphan), but personally I like to think this is simply Cass at THE VERY START of her origin story, leaving plenty of time for her to discover her warrior origins when the DCEU finally gets around to introducing her mum, Lady Shiva (personally I want Michelle Yeoh to play her, but that’s just me) – anyways, here she’s a skilled child pickpocket whose latest theft inadvertently sets off the larger central plot, and newcomer Ella Jay Basco brings a fantastic pre-teen irreverence and spiky charm to the role, beautifully playing against Robbie’s mercurial energy.  My favourite here BY FAR, however, is Dinah Lance, aka the Black Canary (not only my favourite Bird of Prey but my very favourite DC superheroine PERIOD), the choice of up-and-comer Jurnee Smollet-Bell (Friday Night Lights, Underground) proving to be the film’s most inspired casting – a club singer with the metahuman ability to emit piercing supersonic screams, she’s also a ferocious martial artist (in the comics she’s one of the very best fighters IN THE WORLD), as well as a wonderfully pure soul you just can’t help loving, and it made me SO UNBELIEVABLY HAPPY that they got my Canary EXACTLY RIGHT.  Altogether they’re a fantastic bunch of badass ladies, basically my perfect superhero team, and the way they’re all brought together (along with Harley, of course) is beautifully thought out and perfectly executed … they’ve also got one hell of a threat to overcome, namely Gotham crime boss Roman Sionis, the Black Mask, one of the Joker’s chief rivals – Ewan McGregor brings his A-game in a frustratingly rare villainous turn (my number one bad guy for the movie year), a monstrously narcissistic, woman-hating control freak with a penchant for peeling off the faces of those who displease him, sharing some exquisitely creepy chemistry with Chris Messina (The Mindy Project) as Sionis’ nihilistic lieutenant Victor Zsasz.  This is about as good as superhero cinema gets, a perfect example of the sheer brilliance you get when you switch up the formula to create something new, an ultra-violent, unapologetically R-rated middle finger to the classic tropes, a fantastic black comedy thrill ride that’s got to be the most full-on feminist blockbuster ever made – it’s helmed by a woman (Dead Pigs director Cathy Yan), written by a woman (Bumblebee’s Christina Hodson), produced by more women and ABOUT a bunch of badass women magnificently triumphing over toxic masculinity in all its forms.  It’s also simply BRILLIANT – the cast are all clearly having a blast, the action sequences are first rate (the spectacular GCPD evidence room fight in which Harley gets to REALLY cut loose is the undisputable highlight), it has a gleefully anarchic sense of humour and is simply BURSTING with phenomenal homages, references and in-jokes for the fans (Bruce the hyena! Stuffed beaver! Roller derby!).  It’s also got a killer soundtrack, populated almost exclusively by numbers from female artists.  Altogether, then, this is the VERY BEST the DCEU has to offer to date, and VERY NEARLY my absolute FAVOURITE film of 2020.  Give it all the love you can, it sure as hell deserves it.
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1.  TENET – granted, the streaming platforms (particularly Netflix and Amazon) certainly saved our cinematic summer, but I’m still IMMEASURABLY glad that my ultimate top-spot winner FOR THE WHOLE YEAR was one I got to experience on THE BIG SCREEN. You gotta hand it to Christopher Nolan, he sure hung in there, stubbornly determined that his latest cinematic masterpiece WOULD be released in cinemas in the summer (albeit ultimately landing JUST inside the line in the final week of August and ultimately taking the bite at the box office because of the still shaky atmosphere), and it was worth all the fuss because, for me, this was THE PERFECT MOVIE for me to get return to cinemas with.  I mean, okay, in the end it WASN’T the FIRST new movie I saw after the first reopening, that honour went to Unhinged, but THIS was my first real Saturday night-out big screen EXPERIENCE since March.  Needless to say, Nolan didn’t disappoint this time any more than he has on any of his consistently spectacular previous releases, delivering another twisted, mind-boggling headfuck of a full-blooded experiential sensory overload that comes perilously close to toppling his long-standing auteur-peak, Inception (itself second only by fractions to The Dark Knight as far as I’m concerned). To say much at all about the plot would give away major spoilers – personally I’d recommend just going in as cold as possible, indeed you really should just stop reading this right now and just GO SEE IT.  Still with us?  Okay … the VERY abridged version is that it’s about a secret war being waged between the present and the future by people capable of “inverting” time in substances, objects, people, whatever, into which the Protagonist (BlacKkKlansman’s John David Washington), an unnamed CIA agent, has been dispatched in order to prevent a potential coming apocalypse. Washington is once again on top form, crafting a robust and compelling morally complex heroic lead who’s just as comfortable negotiating the minefields of black market intrigue as he is breaking into places or dispatching heavies, Kenneth Branagh delivers one of his most interesting and memorable performances in years as brutal Russian oligarch Andrei Sator, a genuinely nasty piece of work who was ALMOST the year’s very best screen villain, Elizabeth Debicki (The Night Manager, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Widows) brings strength, poise and wounded integrity to the role of Sator’s estranged wife, Kat, and Aaron Taylor-Johnson gets to use his own accent for once as tough-as-nails British Intelligence officer Ives, while there are brief but consistently notable supporting turns and cameos from Martin Donovan, Yesterday’s Himesh Patel, Dirk Gently’s Fiona Dourif and, of course, Nolan’s good luck charm, Michael Caine.  The cast’s biggest surprise, however, is Robert Pattinson, truly a revelation in what has to be, HANDS DOWN, his best role to date, Neil, the Protagonist’s mysterious handler – he’s by turns cheeky, slick, duplicitous and thoroughly badass, delivering an enjoyably multi-layered, chameleonic performance which proves what I’ve long maintained, that the former Twilight star is actually a fucking amazing actor, and on the basis of this, even if that amazing new teaser trailer wasn’t making the rounds, I think the debate about whether or not he’s the right choice for the new Batman is now academic.  As we’ve come to expect from Nolan, this is a TRUE tour-de-force experience, a visual triumph and an endlessly engrossing head-scratcher, Nolan’s screenplay bringing in seriously big ideas and throwing us some major narrative knots and loopholes, constantly wrong-footing the viewer while also setting up truly revelatory payoffs from seemingly low-key, unimportant beginnings – this is a film you need to be awake and attentive for or you could miss something pretty vital. The action sequences are, as ever, second to none, some of the year’s very best set-pieces coming thick and fast and executed with some of the most accomplished skill in the business, while Nolan-regular cinematographer Hoyte van Hoytema (Interstellar and Dunkirk, as well as the heady likes of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, SPECTRE and Ad Astra) once again shows he’s one of the best camera-wizards in the business today by delivering some absolutely mesmerising visuals.  Notably, Nolan’s other regular collaborator, composer Hans Zimmer, is absent here (although he had good reason, since he was working on his dream project at the time, the fast-approaching screen adaptation of Dune), but Ludwig Göransson (best known for his collaborations with Ryan Coogler Fruitvale Station, Creed and Black Panther, as well as career-best work on The Mandalorian) is a fine replacement, crafting an intriguingly internalised, post-modern musical landscape that thrums and pulses in time with the story and emotions of the characters rather than the action itself. Interestingly it’s on the subject of sound that some of the film’s rare detractions have been levelled, and I can see some of the points – the soundtrack mix is an all-encompassing thing, and there are times when the dialogue can be overwhelmed, but in Nolan’s defence this film is a heady, immersive experience, something you really need to concentrate on, so these potential flaws are easily forgiven.  As a work of filmmaking art, this is another flawless wonder from one of the true masters of the craft working in cinema today, but it’s art with palpable substance, a rewarding whole that proved truly unbeatable in 2020 …
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hxbbit · a year ago
Playing With Fire (Rafael Casal x Reader)
Words: ~6.4k
Warnings: Pure, unadulterated filth. bdsm themes (dom!rafa), swearing, alcohol
Summary: While attending a wedding, you decided to tease Rafael a little too much. And he decides you need to be punished because of it.
I don’t know what happened, and how it happened, but it’s here. And I’m so excited and I hope you like it, too. Special thanks to @braidedchallah​ for making me write this and hyping me up lmao
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“Can you zip me up?” You asked as you walked towards the bathroom, holding up your dress with your hands. Rafael was standing in front of the mirror, perfecting his hair.
“Sure,” he said and you turned your back towards him and he quickly pulled up the zipper. He leaned down to place a kiss on your shoulder and then turned you back around to look at him.
Fuck, you only thought. Obviously Rafa looked good in everything he wore, but today he looked especially hot. He wore that suit with the black and white patterned jacket and the solid black lapels and black dress pants. He added his thick gold chain under the collar of his white shirt, so it mostly just peaked out in the middle as well as wearing gold rings on both his pinky fingers. The hair that had grown out a bit was carefully styled back in a pretty sleek look and his beard was trimmed to perfection.
“Like what you’re seeing?” He asked cockily with a grin, obviously noticing your staring.
“Definitely, my boyfriend is hot as hell,” you said, stepping closer and running your hand over his chest.
“Yeah? Well, my girlfriend is pretty hot, too,” he replied, leaning down to kiss you slowly, his hands moving to squeeze your ass.
“I want you to fuck me tonight while you’re wearing that suit,” you whispered against his lips and then kissed him again.
“Oh, I think that can be arranged,” he whispered back, pinching your butt cheek, making you jump with a squeak and then you let out a giggle.
“We have to leave now, though or otherwise we’ll be late for the ceremony.” Rafa ushered you out of the bathroom and you both got ready to leave.
The uber was already waiting outside when you stepped out of Rafael’s place. You would both be drinking tonight, so you decided not to drive yourselves.
You both got into the car, making sure you had the gift and everything else you needed with you and then you were being driven to the location of Anthony and Jasmine’s wedding.
There was already a big crowd of people when you arrived, a lot of them you knew, since you had a lot of mutual friends, but some were family or friends of theirs you weren’t familiar with. You looked around, everything was decorated so beautifully with white flowers and great attention to detail. At the front there was an arch where the bride and groom would stand when the ceremony was held and then countless rows of chairs in the grass for all the guests.
Almost immediately you also spotted Daveed, chatting to some people. You knew that Emmy was a bridesmaid, so she was probably off helping Jaz get ready.
You dropped off the present on the table with all the others and then Rafa and you made a beeline towards Daveed.
Diggs wore a dark purple checkered suit, it was relatively tame compared to what he usually wore, probably not wanting to draw too much attention, but still enough to stand out between the other simple black suits.
“Yo, Diggs,” Rafael shouted at him before he reached him, a big boyish grin on his face, making him turn around and then they hugged each other. You knew that they hadn’t seen one other in a while, Daveed having been off filming the second season of Snowpiercer, so they had a lot of catching up to do.
“Hey, Y/N! How’s it going,” Daveed then turned to you, hugging you tightly as well.
“It’s going well,” you smiled brightly at him. “How’s shooting going?”
“We’re a little behind, but it’s gonna be good.”
You were about to say something else when a woman at the front by the arch asked all of the guests to please take a seat.
The ceremony was absolutely beautiful and made you tear up a bit and when Rafa saw that you had tears in your eyes, he wrapped an arm around your shoulder and pulled you in close to his side, kissing the top of your head.
And once it was over, the celebration began. And oh, what a party it was. The people were only really seated when the food was served, otherwise they were dancing and drinking, celebrating the newlyweds.
You also had a couple of glasses of champagne. You wanted to dance but Rafa was busy talking to Daveed. You talked to some other people and danced with some of the girls you knew, but you wanted to dance with Rafa. Craving attention, you were sitting down next to him as he was still chatting to Daveed and you couldn’t help but place your hand on his thigh, rubbing your thumb back and forth slightly. But he didn’t react to that in the slightest, used to your casual affection, so instead you slid your hand further up his thigh, straddling the line of indecent hand placement, yet still no reaction. You went up a tiny bit further. That’s when his hand suddenly, yet subtly, grabbed your hand, holding it in place as he kept on talking to Diggs as if nothing was happening.
A few minutes later, Diggs excused himself, Emmy wanting to dance with him, when Rafa turned towards you. A dangerous glint in his eye.
“Behave,” he only said and that single word alone stirred something inside of you.
“Dance with me,” you then whined and he finally indulged you, pulling you up and dragging you to the dance floor where he spun your around for a few songs.
After a couple of dances, a slow song was played and Rafa pulled you close against his chest. You had a smile on your face as you swayed back and forth together and having him so close to you in that moment made all sorts of thoughts run through your head. You moved so your lips were right against his ear.
“I want you so bad right now,” you whispered quietly, so no one would hear you.
“How about we find a secluded little corner and you can make good on your promise a little early? I mean, why wait until we’re back at home again?” You said with a mischievous grin on your lips. You could hear a soft groan come from Rafael and you could swear that you already felt his semi-hard cock press against you, the thought of ravaging you in public turning him on.
“They’re about to do the speeches,” he replied, not giving you the answer you wanted.
“So what?” You asked back, now pressing a kiss to his neck, right underneath his ear and then also nibbling on it a little, Rafa letting out a heavy breath.
“So you know I have to be here because Jaz asked me to say a few words.”
You obviously knew that Rafa had prepared to say something, but that didn’t mean that you were going to make it easy on him.
“If that’s the case, then I’d better find myself someone else to entertain me during all of the boring speeches,” you moved back a bit so Rafa could look at you as you said that, seeing the teasing and provocative look in your eyes as you raised one brow at him.
“If you’d rather be ‘entertained’ by someone than be satisfied by me then go right ahead, baby. But we both know that no one else can give you what I give you,” he said with a cocky tone to his voice and while you knew that he was right, you were still up for the challenge.
The game was on. You got a special kind of satisfaction from teasing Rafael, trying to push his buttons, because you knew that what came after, was always mind blowing - for both of you. You both also knew that it was all in good fun and you weren’t actually trying to make him jealous for nefarious reasons.
So once the dance was over and you were sitting back down at the table with all the others, because the speeches were about to start, you let your eyes wander over the crowd, looking for a potential candidate to get close to. You saw an objectively attractive guy sit at one of the tables that was mostly just old friends of Anthony’s that you didn’t know. Which was perfect. That way he didn’t know you or Rafa or that you were together.
You waited until the speeches were over, obviously you wanted to hear what Rafa had written and how he made the crowd laugh, but afterwards you got up and moved through the room. Rafa spotted you and you only gave him a wink, before you made your way over to the guy that you had set your eyes on perviously. And once you reached him, you didn’t hesitate chatting him up, starting a friendly and flirty conversation. You felt a little sorry for him, only being a pawn in yours and Rafa’s game, but you didn’t feel quite sorry enough to stop.
Ben, you learned, was and old college friend of Anthony’s and on top of that quite receptive to your advances.
You went to the bar together, got some drinks and then chatted. You glanced over to where Rafa was standing and talking to some people but you saw that his eyes were on you. You made sure to touch Ben a little, only a hand on his arm or chest, nothing too much. But when he then got a little more comfortable and put one hand on your waist, moving closer towards you, Rafael was suddenly next to you.
“Hey, baby, there you are,” he said and Ben immediately retracted his hand from your body, stepping back and Rafa didn’t even look at him, instead he leaned down to kiss you, pulling you close to him, making sure that the other guy knew that you were his.
And oh, possessive Rafa always turned you on.
“I should get back to the others,” Ben then spoke quietly and quickly disappeared, obviously having understood the very obvious hint.
“You’re playing with fire,” he said, kissing you again.
“I know, but don’t pretend like you’re not loving it,” you said in return, pecking him on the lips once more.
The rest of the night was spent dancing, laughing and drinking and eventually you and Rafa both decided to head home. You said your goodbyes to everyone. By now you had taken off your high heels, feet aching, carrying them in your hands to the uber you had ordered, holding Rafa’s hand in the other. And when you got into the car, you leaned your head against his shoulder, still holding his hand until you arrived back at home.
Mia was not at home, you had placed her in the loving care of a friend for the night so she wouldn’t be alone while you were out all day and night, so there was no one to greet you when you came home.
You were barely through the door of your apartment, dropping your shoes by the door, when Rafa turned around, looking at you while he undid the top button of his dress shirt.
“Take off that dress and get on your knees,” he said in a voice that you knew all too well. It was the voice he used when he didn’t want any talk-back or arguments. The voice he used when he wanted you to say ‘Yes, Sir’, ‘Please, Sir’ and ‘Whatever you want, Sir’. And it was the voice that made you immediately wet whenever he used it on you.
While it took you a little by surprise, excitement still rushed through your body as you reached around to your back to undo the zipper of the dress - thank God it was easier to open than zipping it up - before you then proceeded to take it off completely, letting it pool around your ankles on the floor. You took one step forward, one step closer towards him, and then sank down on your knees, only in your matching bra and thong now. Clasping your hands together in your lap, you looked up at him through your lashes with faked innocence, trying to hide your excitement.
But as you looked up Rafa’s body, you could definitely see his excitement, straining against his black slacks. It made your mouth water.
He took two steps, so he was directly in front of you now, you had to lean your head back into your neck to look up at him. The tension in the room and between Rafa and you was electrifying, not knowing what he had planned for you, but knowing that you were going to love it either way.
Rafa placed one of his hands on your cheek, gentle and soft, thumb rubbing over your skin.
“Did you have fun today?” He asked and at first you were a little taken aback by that question. But it was a nice day and you had a lot of fun, the wedding was beautiful and being with all your friends and Rafa made you very happy.
“Yes, Sir,” you then replied with a little nod.
“Well, I hope it was worth it, because I’m gonna have to punish you now.” Rafa moved his hand slightly so it was under your chin, running his thumb along your bottom lip.
“See, I was going to take you home tonight and fuck you nice and well, just like you asked me to, make you cum at least three times until you screamed out my name… But you had to be an impatient little brat. Teasing me, trying to make me jealous. You know I need to punish your for that,” he said and he almost looked sympathetic, as if he didn’t really want to punish you, but you both knew that that was not the case. Rafa was going to enjoy punishing you very, very much.
Rafa’s thumb was still on your lip and you couldn’t help but dart your tongue out to give the pad of it a little lick, wanting to taste him.
“Oh, that’s how you wanna play it?” He asked with a scoff, pushing his thumb past your lips and pressing down on your tongue slightly. You immediately started sucking on it, hollowing your cheeks and letting your tongue swirl around his digit.
“God, look at you, you’re such a little slut.” He let you continue to suck on his thumb like that as if it were his cock.
“I was only going to spank your ass until it’s red and raw, but now I’m thinking I’m going to have to fuck that pretty little mouth first, make you gag on my cock and have you swallow all of my cum,” Rafa mused and you couldn’t help but let out a soft moan, the prospect of having him fuck your face made heat spread throughout all of your body.
He pulled his thumb from your mouth and then opened the button and zipper of his pants as you watched him intently and once he had freed his member from his boxer briefs, you licked your lips almost unintentionally. He held his hard and thick cock in his hand and guided it towards your mouth, rubbing the head over your spit-slick lips that also still had remnants of your lipstick on it. You raised your hands to reach for it, wanting to wrap your fingers around him, when Rafa suddenly pulled back a little.
“No hands. I get to decide how hard and deep I fuck your mouth. Disobedient little brats like you don’t get to have a say in that,” he said before he put his tip back to your lips. “Now open that mouth for me.”
You did as you were told, opening your mouth and letting him slide in, loving the taste of him and the feel of the velvety skin on your tongue. One of his hands moved to the back of your head, gathering your hair, holding you steady for now as he slowly started thrusting into you. He started out slow at first, letting you move your tongue around his cock just as you had done minutes ago to his thumb. Then he pushed in deep once, agonizingly slow, making you feel every inch of him as he slid down your throat. It almost made you gag, but you managed to relax your throat and take him deeper, swallowing him down until he was completely inside of you, the tip of your nose touching his pelvis.
“Just like that,” he breathed out, suppressing a moan as he pushed you down just a little bit further. “Put your whore mouth to good use for once.”
You tried pushing your luck a little by moaning around him, it was obviously stifled by his cock, but you knew that he would feel the vibrations of it. And the moan he let out in return told you that he definitely did. He pulled his cock out, letting you breathe again, but only for a second before he slammed back in and this time he set a bruising pace.
The grip in your hair tightened and he grabbed your chin with the other hand and pulled your head against him every time he thrusted into you, making you take him deep with every move and making you stay in place. At this point you couldn’t even really wrap your lips around him anymore as he was just fucking your throat sloppily, gagging, spit starting to drool down your chin and tears were gathering in the corners of your eyes.
Your hands were balled into fists, but still resting on your thighs, wanting so badly to touch him, but wanting to be good for him and obey his orders.
By now, the tears were rolling over your cheeks freely, not only from the way he fucked your face but also from the frustration of wanting to touch him, letting out a whine as he kept on thrusting into your mouth.
“I’m gonna cum,” he panted between heavy breaths and moans.
“I want you to swallow every drop of my cum,” he said, stilling for a second as he was deep inside you, so you could hum your agreement.
“Gonna put my cock so far down your throat and make you swallow it, if you want to or not,” he continued, as he kept on moving again, a slower pace, but each thrust deep and forceful, making you gag around him some more. You wanted him to cum so bad, wanted to taste it, wanted to feel him cum down your throat, wanting to give him that sweet release.
Rafa thrusted into you once, twice and a third time before he came with a low groan. And just like he promised, he pushed his cock down deep, you took him down as far as you could once more, his hand moving down your throat to feel himself inside of you and then he released his load, hot ropes of salty cum spurting down your throat, swallowing it all down and starting to feel a little light headed from the lack of oxygen, when he finally pulled back and out of your mouth completely, leaving you breathing heavily.
You finally unclenched your fists and raised one hand to wipe away the spit from your chin, you looked up at Rafa, his chest was heaving and he was looking down at you with a satisfied smile on his lips. His hands found your cheeks and wiped away the tears.
“You did so good for me, baby,” he said, voice soothing and it made you smile, to know that he was happy with you, that you pleased him.
“Thank you, Sir,” you replied, voice a little hoarse.
He tucked himself back into his pants and then helped you up and only in that moment did you realize how bad your knees hurt from kneeling on the hard floor. He leaned in to place a kiss on your lips, you tried to deepen it, but Rafa moved back, always leaving you wanting more. Instead he slid one hand between your legs, pushing your panties to the side and letting one probing finger move through your slit, feeling the obvious wetness that had gathered there. You already let out a moan at that, even though he barely even touched you.
“Oh, baby, it’s not a punishment if it turns you on this much.” He almost sounded scolding, with the tiniest hint of a smile on his lips. He obviously enjoyed it and liked how you got off on being used by him like that.
“You know I’m still going to have to spank you, right?” He asked with a sadistic smile on his face, you only nodded.
“And if you’re a good little slut, I might even let you cum.”
Rafa pulled his hand from between your legs.
“Let’s go to the bedroom,” he then said, taking your hand and leading you towards it.
Rafa took off the suit jacket and rolled up the sleeves of his shirt, then sitting down at the edge of the bed. You watched as he did all that, and then stood in front of him.
“How many spanks do you think you deserve for the shit you pulled tonight?” He asked, head tilted to the side as his eyes were wandering over your body, taking in your form.
You thought for a second.
“Twenty?” You asked, unsure.
“Twenty?” Rafael scoffed a little. “I was thinking more like thirty. I think that’s more in line of what you deserve,” he explained to you and you only nodded wide eyed, swallowing hard.
“Get on my lap then,” he said and you moved to lay across his lap, the rest of your body resting on the bed. Rafa immediately put a hand on your ass, moving it across your skin, softly.
“What’s your safe word, baby?” He asked, he obviously knew it, but he wanted to make sure that you remembered it and that you would actually use it if you needed to.
“Red,” you replied with a smile, craning your neck to look back at him.
“I want you to thank me for each hit. Do you think you can do that?”
“Yes,” you said and that earned you your first spank on your right ass cheek, taking you by surprise and making you jump a little.
“Yes, what?” He asked with a sharpness.
“Yes, Sir.” You said. “And thank you, Sir,” you immediately added.
“I think you need reminding who you belong to. The way you pranced around tonight, like a whore, offering yourself up…” He said before delivering another slap that stung, surely already leaving a red print of his hand on your ass.
“Thank you, Sir,” you quickly said.
“Who do you belong to?” He asked with another slap.
“Thank you. I belong to you, Sir. Only to you,” you whined out desperately from the pain but also from the pleasure. Rafa claiming you as his and you declaring yourself to belong to him always did something to you. It made your heart swell and your insides tighten in the best way possible, making wetness pool between your legs and you were sure you were practically dripping by now.
“That’s right. You’re mine.” Another slap.
Again you thanked him and then he proceeded to spank each cheek multiple times, alternating between them, not adhering to a pattern to keep you on your toes, until the flesh was burning and sensitive and probably glowing bright red. Your hands were fisting the blankets by now, clenching them tightly, needing to hold on to something, something you could focus your pain on.
You didn’t count, having lost track in your lust and pain-riddled haze quite quickly, so when he stopped to spread your legs a little more and his fingers found your dripping core, you assumed that that must have been it, letting out a quiet breath of relief. But then he removed his fingers again and instead brought his flat hand down again in another slap right to your clitoris, sending a jolt of electricity through your body. Your clit was swollen and sensitive from arousal and while you wanted to be touched there, it was too much, way too much and way too sudden. Tears started prickling in your eyes, overwhelmed with the sensation and you barely managed to remember to thank him.
“Only three more, baby, you can do it,” he then said, seemingly sensing you teeter on the edge of your limit.
It took all your willpower to keep your legs spread for him. The urge to just clench them closely together to deny him access was strong. But you so desperately wanted to be good for him, wanted to take the punishment you deserved.  
And he delivered those last three slaps one after another, with no break to let you catch your breath and it made you cry out and the tears fell from your eyes.
Still you managed to mutter your thanks on a shaky breath.
“Thank you, thank you, thank you,” you sniffled quietly, trying to hold back sobs.
That’s when Rafa pulled you up and against him, making you straddle his lap, holding you close.
“It’s over. It’s over, baby, you were so good, so perfect for me,” he whispered soothingly into your ear. His hands moved down to your butt to rub over the reddened, burning skin most gently with his hands.
“I love you,” Rafa muttered, placing a kiss into your hair.
“I love you, too,” you whispered back, voice still a little shaky, but becoming more steady again. You pulled back from him slightly to look at him and he had a look of pure adoration on his face. You gave him a little smile and then kissed him and Rafa almost immediately licked into your mouth, deepening the kiss, entangling his tongue with yours.
He slowly slid one of his hands from your ass over your hip and down to the front between your legs where he found you still completely soaking wet, pushing your panties to the side once more, he then finally gave you the attention you needed, circling your clit with his fingertips. You were so sensitive, not just from the arousal, but also from his punishment. And right now, his fingers felt like heaven and it had you moaning into his mouth right away.
But you also needed more, wanting to be filled up by him.
“Please, need you inside me,” you said, your lips so close to his they were touching as you spoke. Rafa didn’t hesitate and decided to indulge you by pushing two fingers inside of you, making you sigh out, eyes fluttering shut, giving yourself to the pleasure.
He started pumping his fingers in and out of you, but you needed more and couldn’t sit still and started grinding your hips down on him. You had your hands on his shoulders to keep your balance.
“Yeah, fuck yourself on my fingers,” he said, making you open your eyes again.
“You’re such a little slut.”
“I’m your little slut,” you said with a wicked grin, which pulled a smile from him as well.
He pushed another finger into you and the slight stretch was exactly what you needed, he then also started massaging your clit with his thumb. Those combined sensations made heat build up low in your stomach and a knot of pure pleasure forming.
Your nails started to dig into his crisp white shirt and the skin underneath it, starting to breathe heavier. Rafa used his other hand to pull your bra down to expose your breasts, attaching his mouth to your hard nipples, first one, then other, but giving them the same treatment of biting and pulling and sucking.
“You can cum when I tell you to,” Rafa then said, knowing that you were nearing your climax. He didn’t make it easy on you, though, curling his fingers now so they hit that spot inside of you precisely and perfectly, making your breath hitch.
“Fuck,” you breathed out quietly, knitting your eyebrows together and squeezing your eyes shut as the pleasure grew, trying desperately to hold it back and hold out until Rafa allowed it.
“Look at me, baby,” he said and you opened your eyes again, looking at him.
“I want you to look at me when you cum.”
“Please,” you whined. “Wanna cum. Need to cum,” you begged breathlessly.
“Just a little longer,” he replied with a smirk. He enjoyed this a little too much, seeing you squirm and beg for release. You bit your bottom lip, still riding his fingers though, keeping yourself achingly close to the edge.
“Okay, baby, let go. Cum for me,” he finally gave you permission and you were so grateful because you wouldn’t have been able to hold off any longer. Your orgasm crashing through you, your entire body tensing up as the pleasure moved through your body in waves, toes curling, before you then felt weak and like you were close to falling apart. Your walls clenching around his fingers.
But Rafa didn’t let off, he kept the same pace, fucking you with his fingers and still rubbing your now overly sensitive clit.
“Too much,” you breathed out, but you weren’t quite sure that was true, because while it felt like too much on the surface, below you could feel another orgasm already building, dangerously close to breaking through.
“I promised you at least three orgasms and I intend to keep that promise,” he said, sounding very confident. And he had every right to be confident, because he knew your body, better than yourself sometimes, and he knew that you had some more orgasms in you that he was  fully intending to coax out.
“Come on,” he said. “I know you can do it.”
Rafa started peppering your neck with kisses, from your jaw down, leaving the occasional dark purple mark by nipping and sucking, and once he reached the junction of where your neck met your shoulder, he suddenly bit into the soft flesh hard. And that pain took you by surprise, triggering your orgasm unexpectedly. Making you gasp out and moan while he kept on fingering you, until that second orgasm slowly subsided, too.
His movements slowed down and then he pulled his fingers out of you, making you feel very empty, but also feeling relieved at the short break that gave you time to catch your breath.
You watched him lift the fingers that were just inside you to his mouth and lick them clean, moaning at the taste of you.
“You taste so fucking sweet,” he told you once his fingers were clean of your juices.
You leaned in to kiss Rafa, you could taste yourself faintly on his lips and while you kissed, he reached behind your back and opened your bra, making you take it off completely.
You wanted more of him now, too, so your fingers found the little buttons of his shirt and started unbuttoning them and once it was completely open, you pushed it off his shoulders and then let your hands roam over his chest, which was only adorned by his gold necklace now. You broke the kiss to look at his tattoo, fingertips trailing over the letters on his left pectoral. Rafael knew that you had a thing for his tattoos, tracing them with your fingers or your lips any chance you got and this time was no different, placing a kiss on the capital letter I.
“Need to fuck you, babe,” Rafa then whispered and you looked back up at him.
“How do you want me?” You asked, biting your lip. Taking a quick glance between your bodies to see that he was obviously already hard again.
“On all fours.”
You got up from his lap, legs still feeling a little weak from the orgasms, and then you first got rid of your panties before getting onto the bed, positioning yourself in the middle of it, just how Rafa had ordered. He had gotten up from the bed, too and rid himself of the rest of his clothes. You felt the mattress dip when he kneeled on the bed behind of you, his hands finding your ass and smoothing them over the still slightly red and sensitive skin.
“You’re so fucking beautiful like that. On all fours, ass red, waiting for me to fuck you,” he said as his fingers found your pussy once more.
And when he then replaced his fingers with the tip of his thick cock at your entrance, you were more than ready for him, needing his hard cock inside of you. You wanted to move your hips back, trying to get him to enter you, to get him deeper, but you decided to hold still, even if the anticipation was almost killing you. You knew that Rafa would appreciate it, you behaving.
“Tell me how badly you want my cock?” He said, wanting to hear you beg for it.
“So badly, want you inside me. Want you to fill me up and have you deep inside of me. I want you to fuck me hard, Sir. Please,” you then said, desperation lacing your voice. Having Rafa inside you felt like nothing else. You were addicted to the feeling and right now you were craving your next fix.
“Now, how can I say no to that?”
You didn’t turn around, but you could vividly imagine the smirk that Rafa probably had on his face right now.
Slowly, achingly slow, Rafa sank his hard member inside of you, stretching you slightly, making you sigh out in pleasure. Once he was completely sheathed inside of you, he stopped, before pulling out again almost entirely in the same pace, torturing you with it, teasing you. You just wanted him to fuck you, to pound hard into you, and he knew that.
“Rafa, please,” you whined out, needing more, but suddenly he stilled his movement completely.
“What did you just call me?”
“Sir, sorry! I’m sorry! I just- I just want you to fuck me, please,” you all but begged now.
“Oh, you want to be fucked like the whore you are?” He asked.
“Yes, yes, please,” you replied.
Suddenly you felt his hand between your shoulder blades, pushing you down forcefully against the mattress and then he leaned over you, taking your hands and gathering your wrists together behind your back. That way your cheek and your chest were pressed flush against the bed, no way to hold yourself up anymore.
Rafa liked restraining you like that. Sure he enjoyed tying you up a lot, too, but there was something about holding your hands like that with his own that he especially liked. Having that physical power over you, being the actual thing that holds you down instead of ropes or his belt.
“Act like a whore, get fucked like a whore,” he said as he entered you again with a hard thrust, making you gasp. “But then again, you like that, don’t you?”
“Love it,” you moaned out as he repeated the action.
And then, Rafa just started fucking you. Just how you wanted him to, how you needed him to.
Hard and fast, making you moan and breathe heavily in an instant.
Rafael knew exactly how to fuck you to make you cum from penetration alone and he was doing just that, keeping his rhythm steady and deep and at just the right angle to hit your g-spot on every thrust. It had you on edge in no time, but you knew that you needed to wait, hold on a little longer. And Rafa made you wait, made you bite back and hold back your orgasm as he kept on rutting into you, grip still tight and borderline painful on your wrists.
“I’m close,” he then finally said between heavy breaths.
“Me too,” you said, but you were sure he already knew by the way you tightened around him and how your body tensed up.
“Cum for me, baby. Cum on my cock,” he then finally pressed out as he thrusted into you one last time and released himself inside of you. And you came too, when you felt his warm cum deep inside your pussy, as you were clenching around him until you had milked him of every drop, while moans of pure pleasure spilled from your lips.
“Fuck, baby.” Rafa was breathing heavily, letting go of your wrists. You pulled your arms to the front, alleviating the ache in your shoulders from the position he had held you in.
He then also slowly pulled out of you.
“Stay like that, gonna clean you up,” he said, getting up off the bed and walking towards the bathroom. You couldn’t stay like that, though, no energy left to hold yourself up. Instead you moved so you were laying flat on your belly, needing to relax your body.
You could feel the cum slowly dripping out of your pussy, but Rafa was already back again with a wet wash cloth to clean you up. You flinched a little when he moved it through your folds because you were so sensitive, which made him chuckle in return. And once he was done with that, he took out some lotion from the nightstand and rubbed it on your butt, cooling and soothing the skin.
“Thank you,” you mumbled against the bed, a dopey, satisfied smile on your face.
“No, thank you. You were fucking perfect tonight,” he said, laying down next to you and pulling you into him.
“How are you feeling?” He asked, taking one of your wrists into his hands and massaging it slightly.
“So good.” You couldn’t think properly, mind still in a haze from the multiple orgasms, your body limp. All you knew was that you felt good.
“Want me to run you a bath?”
You shook your head at that. It was late. You didn’t know how late exactly, but all you wanted to do now was cuddle and then sleep, so you told him that, snuggling closer into him as he pulled the covers over you both.
“Sometimes I wonder how I got so lucky to be with you,” he said softly, before he moved so he could kiss you.
“I ask myself the same thing every day,” you replied, connecting your lips to his  once more before you rested your head on his chest, listening to his heartbeat as you slowly drifted off to sleep.
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thebossofcute · 7 months ago
The Critique of Manners: Part III
A Somewhat Indecisive Review of “Emma” (Miramax, 1996)
I have a feeling this review is gonna be a little harder for me to write. Everyone knows that recaps and reviews are most entertaining when the writer has an intense dislike (or intense feeling of any kind) for the drama they’re reviewing. It falls to other writers to pan or praise this film as they will, but I simply don’t have many particularly strong feelings about it at all. I have neither that repulsed dislike for this movie such as I did for Emma 1997, nor that disappointed frustration as for certain aspects of Emma. 2020, but neither do I have a deep, profound love and appreciation for it as I do for Emma 2009.  
Written and Directed by American Screenwriter, director and actor, Douglas McGrath, Emma (1996) is rather what one expects it to be: a 90’s romance film. Perhaps it’s because I had expectations due to the era in which it was made, but I think I have a tendency to excuse some of the problems with this film. There are many unnecessary additions (for comedy’s sake usually and often quite cringe-y) and one definitely can’t claim that the dialogue hasn’t been tampered with. I don’t normally side with the “I do so miss Austen’s biting wit” crowd but, by ‘eck I felt it this time. That’s because Austen’s Biting Wit™ just doesn’t suit a fluffy 90’s chick flick (which this film is in a way that other big screen Austen adaptations of the time just aren’t – and I think approaching this film from the 90’s chick flick perspective is probably the best way to digest it.) This version, more than any other (except perhaps 2009) brings the concept of Emma-as-Matchmaker to the fore with a particular emphasis precisely because it’s a concept that fits well with the rom-com style of filmmaking used here.
The bones of this review, like my review for the ITV version, were written six years ago following my initial viewing only a select number of portions survive from that review (which is still on IMDb).
As with all my reviews I'll be comparing the script, characterizations and plot to the book and commenting on the authenticity and attractiveness of the costumes, and suitability of the houses and sets.
Let’s dive in.
Cast & Characterization
Emma is arguably the easiest of Austen’s works to read because of Emma’s generally good (if condescending and overly self-confident) character, and Mr. Knightley’s sober, mature but exceedingly pleasant manner. I had my doubts about Gwyneth Paltrow playing an Austen heroine, but I at least had faith in Jeremy Northam’s ability to portray the mature Mr. Knightly. My expectations were not entirely disappointed in either case.
My prevailing feeling about this film is that it’s not so much set in Jane Austen’s Regency England, but in an American fantasy of what Regency England was like. Perhaps the biggest factor that reinforces this impression is (of course) the casting choice for our leading lady, Gwyneth Paltrow.
Freckled, ruddy and thin as a twig, Gwyenth didn’t quite, to my mind, fit the physical description of Emma, who is supposed to be “The picture of health” according to Mrs. Weston. Add to this the Regency beauty ideal of a soft and shapely figure with regular features. Fair hair was generally preferred (and I have always imagined Emma as blond, although I’m given to understand that Austen’s idea of pretty generally favored dark hair), so I can’t fault Gwynnie there. What I can fault though is her so-so British accent.
I recently learned that the reason McGrath thought Paltrow would be a good choice was because she’s the only Texan he’d ever met who’d managed to entirely throw off her native accent; I guess he decided that if she could do that she could do any accent work? I guess? Seems questionable to me.
You know Joely Richardson was considered for this part? Gorgeous, refined (British) GODDESS Joely Richardson was passed over because Gwyenth managed to shake an embarrassing accent.
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I hate American directors.
I’m not sure if it’s just part of the accent, or her attempt to sound upper class, but on this most recent re-watch it hit me for the first time how very nasal many of her line deliveries are. She also has this problem with looking (and sounding) sort of vapid and… just what is happening here?
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Is she having a stroke at the end there?
A bigger problem than Emma’s casting, however, is her characterization.
Part of the above mentioned script tampering is in lockstep with some of the issues with Emma’s characterization here. Her very teenager-esque swings from vowing to never make another match again to immediately trying to think of another guy to set Harriet up with, and her getting carried away in potential scenarios “But if he seems sad I shall know that John has advised him not to marry Harriet! I love John! Or he may seem sad because he fears telling me he will marry my friend. How could John let him do that? I hate John!” (Especially when you never even really get to meet John Knightley in this version? Ugh, pass me with this shit) is so bizarrely childish it’s a little hard to stomach. She spends the movie going back and forth between mature and manipulative to childish and naïve and it just… doesn’t work for me.  Emma can be all of these things but the transition from one extreme to another here seems a bit disjointed to me.
Knightley was a bit of a disappointment to me in this version. That’s not Jeremy Northam’s fault because I can’t think of a better choice they could have made. McGrath showed much better judgment with his choice for Mr. Knightley than he did with Emma.
My biggest problem with this interpretation was how laid back he was when he was supposed to chastising Emma. Their quarrels became more like mere disagreements so the proposal line of lecturing her and her bearing it as no other woman would have isn’t entirely earned. Even in the big scene at Box Hill where Knightley is really supposed to lay into Emma, he starts off pretty solidly, but by the end so doe-eyed and apologetic it fails to deliver the sting of rebuke that is Emma’s biggest learning moment in the story. Perhaps they were trying to go for a more disappointed feel (the kind that makes you feel worse than being shouted at because you really respect the person you let down) but it just didn’t come through for me.
Also of note is the fact that, (I assume) because John Knightley isn’t really allowed time to be a character in this film, McGrath took some of John’s introverted tendencies and transplanted them into his more convivial older brother (“I just want to stay home, where it’s cozy.” – I mean I feel that, but this isn’t something George Knightley would say.) 
Onto the less central characters
I question also the choice of Toni Colette for Harriet Smith. I mean I actually liked her performance more on this watch than previously but I just don’t think she’s pretty enough for Harriet, and she looks a bit clumsy (though that might have more to do with her costumes.)
I also noted that McGrath bumps Harriet’s comprehension skills up just a scooch. Emma never has to explain the “Courtship” riddle to her, Harriet figures it out on her own after a while, while she never manages to in the book.
Now we come to the crux of Jane Fairfax, played by Polly Walker. I don’t care for this choice. My issue is the simple fact that she just isn’t believable to me as a demure, wronged character like Jane Fairfax. Seriously she looks like she would sooner throw Frank across the room than take his cruel teasing, and not in the subtle way that Olivia Williams managed to. They never even utilized her by including some of Jane’s more pointed returns to Frank’s jabs, which they even managed to squeeze into the massively cut down TV movie.    
Speaking of Frank; Ewan McGregor, though generally delightful, was so under-used. Frank and Jane’s plotline always kind of gets shafted in Theatrical release adaptations of this story. It’s not as bad here as it is in say, the 2020 adaptation (they were in that version so little I actually forgot what their actors looked like), but it’s still pretty stunted.
I find it interesting that Ewan McGregor himself thinks his performance in this movie isn’t good; and I’ll agree it’s not his best (certainly it’s no Obi-wan Kenobi) but I thought he did a pretty good job with obviously unfamiliar material
Also if the Davies screenplay of ’97 made Frank’s character too caddish, I think this version didn’t make him caddish enough. I mean he’s hardly around enough to really develop his flirtation with Emma, and they merged Strawberry Picking and Box Hill into one sequence so we never see Frank’s ill humors. I can perhaps excuse this, since it seems like a nuanced story really wasn’t what McGrath was going for here, I think. This is a lite version of the story; schmaltzy fluff for teenage girls’ movie nights. Frank’s ill humors wouldn’t really have fit the tone of this version at all.
Interestingly enough, though it’s taken me a long time to make this decision, I think Alan Cumming might be the definitive Elton? He’s the only one who doesn’t immediately read as a slime ball from the get go. I mean he’s got all the warning signs that Austen wrote into him, but no more than that. He’s not slinking about greasily or obviously pandering (at first), so Emma’s uneasy realization of what’s really happening here isn’t a hundred miles behind the viewer’s (maybe just fifty).
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There are as many Mrs. Eltons out there as there are adaptations of this story, and they’re all pretty great (funky accents aside), but other than the 1997 take, this one might be the least great to me. She’s not nearly pushy enough, because Mrs. Elton would never let Emma prompt the conversation when she could do it herself.
  Also, I think McGrath misunderstands Mrs. Elton’s brand of New Money vulgarity. He has her talking with her mouthful, clanking her utensils on her plate as she eats, putting biscuits which she’s bitten into back onto communal plates, which I think even Mrs. Elton would know not to do. Table manners are pretty basic; the couth that Mrs. Elton lacks is of a more nuanced social kind – for instance, what is and isn’t considered gauche to talk about (like how big one’s brother in law’s house is or how many horses he keeps.)
(A sudden thought has just occurred to me: is Mrs. Elton just a more mean-spirited Hyacinth Bucket from Keeping Up Appearances? “It’s meh sister, Mrs. Suckling! That’s right, the one with an estate in Warwickshire and the two barouche landaus!”)
Sophie Thompson’s Miss Bates is chatty and one of better takes on the character, but lack of necessary background hinders her impact on Emma’s story. The comedy in her scenes is some of the best and actually made me laugh, although I think she was just way too giggly.
Miss Bates’s mother, Mrs. Bates, is played by Sophie Thompson’s real-life mother Phyllida Law in a completely coincidental quirk of casting. (I noted in this film how very much Emma Thompson, Sophie’s older sister looks like their mother.)
My only other serious issue with characterization in this adaptation is the representation of Mr. Woodhouse. He is somehow simultaneously more cheery and more disagreeable than he is in the book. His chiding about the cake at the Weston’s wedding seems more like a scolding rather than an anxious admonishment. In one of the first scenes, during Mr. Woodhouse’s “Poor Miss Taylor” speech, he says he cannot understand why she would want to give up her comfortable life with himself and Emma, to have “mewling children who bring the threat of disease every time they enter or leave the house,” and he says this IN FRONT OF ONE OF HIS TWO DAUGHTERS.
Of course in the book, Mr. Woodhouse does lament Miss Taylor marrying, leaving and even having children – but this is all in the context of the danger childbirth presents to Miss Taylor (And the fact that he can’t stand losing a companion). These are his complaints – not the children themselves. In addition, his elder daughter has quite a fine number of children, all of them very young, of whom Mr. Woodhouse is very fond. He’s a character that needs to be carefully handled because, much like his daughter, it’s very easy for him to become unlikeable.
For the rest of the time, though, he just sort of cheerily laughs and is very at ease, when Mr. Woodhouse, as a chronic hypochondriac should be made anxious by just about everything.
Sets & Surroundings
One thing I find interesting about this adaptation is that the houses they chose to use are all of a very neo-classical Palladian style, which I believe (given her disdain for the contemporary trend of knocking down England’s great houses just to rebuild them in a more fashionable style) Austen may have disliked to some degree.
One such house is Came House in Dorset, which was used as the Woodhouse’s estate, Hartfield. Now Hartfield is, I think, described as a well-built modern house so this could be pretty accurate (although Modern could refer to the red bring, boxy style of Georgian architecture, such as the houses used in the 1997, 2009 and 1972 versions.)
Another, Claydon House in Buckinghamshire played the role of Donwell Abbey. I think this might be the worst exterior ever used for Donwell, from a book accuracy perspective. Utterly Georgian, with its’ square façade, Claydon house sort of directly contradicts Austen description of being “Larger than Hartfield, and totally unlike it, covering a good deal of ground, rambling and irregular…” not only is the architecture totally wrong, so is its’ situation, in Georgian fashion, perched on a hill, when Donwell (a very old building) is supposed to be “Low and sheltered”.
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Mapperton House is maybe the grandest house yet used for Mr. Weston’s Randalls (I’ve already covered in my review of Emma (2020) why this is a problem – although in this version, as in the 1997 adaptation, there’s no full panic over the snow, so this is less of a problem, but a house like this is still too grand for the reasonably sized Randalls of the book), but it fits the usual 15th-16th century house type that always seems to be used for Randalls.
A myriad of other great houses were used for interiors, however other than Crichel House (Dorset), which was used for Donwell’s interiors, I can’t find information on which ones where used for what. They include Breakspear House (Harefield), Coker Court (Somerset), Stafford House (Staffordshire) and Syon House & Park (Middlesex).
I really appreciate the interiors which were all very colorful and even included doors and molding painted the same color as the walls which is a very Georgian decorating convention, although it looks odd to the modern viewer.
Costumes & Hair
As a rule, the costumes (Created by Ruth Myers) in this movie are pretty damn good, composition wise, but the arrangement leaves a lot to be desired. Myers talked extensively of wanting the costumes to be colorful and bright like the water colors of the time, which she achieved brilliantly. What I find funny is that she talked about using color as if it would be controversial from a historical accuracy point of view, which couldn’t be further from the truth.
The evening wear is generally excellent
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My only question around evening wear here is… what’s up with the waistline on Harriet’s ball gown? Why is it going up in the middle? Toni Collette (who actually gained weight for the role, since Harriet was described as “Reubenesque”) verged on looking a little dumpy throughout the film and awkwardly bumping up her waistline in the middle really didn’t help.
I’m pleased to report that is is the one version where Miss Bates’s evening-wear is allowed to look like evening wear. Even Maiden Aunts wore shorter sleeves and lower necklines at dinner or balls. They fussed her up with some lace gloves and frilly fichus but it follows the conventions of the time. I appreciate that immensely, though I have the sneaking suspicion that it’s because of Sophie Thompson’s age.
At 37 Thompson was an unconventionally young choice for Miss Bates, a character who previously had only been cast as older than 50 (Prunella Scales, who would play the role later in 1996, was 64). Indeed, Douglas McGrath almost passed Thompson over for the role on account of her age, but reconsidered after seeing her in spectacles. It seems possible to me that since Thompson was considered young they dressed her “young” as well.
The daywear is where the costumes start to really fall apart. There are a lot of looks here worn in the day that are VERY not day/outerwear appropriate, especially on Emma, most especially the yellow dress she’s wearing while driving that carriage (which, btw is inappropriate on a whole OTHER level). Can we just talk aboutt he cognative dissonance of bothering to put a bonnet on her when her arms and boobs are just hanging out like that? Like, it would almost have been less egregious to just leave the bonnet where it was.
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But then there are a lot of Emma’s day-wear looks that are perfectly suitable and appropriate. What I find ironic about that is that most of the short-sleeved, low-necked “Evening-gowns as day-wear” looks are worn OUTSIDE in the sun and most of the long-sleeved, sun protecting, day-wear appropriate looks are worn INSIDE.  She’s also got a profusion of dangling curls in day-time settings that are also more evening-wear appropriate (to match the dresses, perhaps?)
I’m also pleased to report that even in day-wear Miss Bates gets a break from brown in this version. Her clothes are nice, but not fancy like Miranda Hart’s in Emma. 2020, and I like to think that nice thick shawl with lace overlay is the one mentioned in the book that Jane’s friend Mrs. Dixon sent along home with her for her aunt.
My only problem with Mrs. Elton’s kit is that it’s all perfectly nice, but none of it is overly-nice. There’s no extra trim, no unnecessary lace, not even any bold colors. I hope Myers and McGrath didn’t take Mrs. Elton’s line in the book about her fear of being over-trimmed seriously.
Let’s talk outerwear. There’s a lot of going into town with JUST a shawl on in this movie (usually over short sleeves), and I’m sorry but I don’t think that’s how outer-wear worked in this time period. A shawl is good enough when you’re taking a turn in the garden but not for going out in public into town, unless maybe you’re wearing long sleeves, or perhaps paired with a SPENCER.
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Never mind Mrs. Elton’s line about a shocking lack of satin at the end of the movie, I’m more concerned about the shocking lack of spencers. There are precisely three in this film. I counted (and the sleeves on Emma’s look like maybe they’re too long for her?) Mrs. Elton sports the only redingote in the film.
Jane Fairfax is, as always, in her classic Jane Fairfax Blue™,
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although she has some nice white gowns at some points too.
Now, onto 
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Definitely a bit more colorful than the 97 adaptation. Mr. Knightley benefits most from the addition of colors other than green. He’s even got some smashing waistcoats and a very nice blue evening coat (I couldn’t get very good shots of them though). The problem is; those trousers? NOT. TIGHT. ENOUGH.
Also… you all see it, right? I circled it in red so you should. Yeah. Knightley is dancing in boots. WTF RUTH? Please! You’re better than this! Who dances in Prussians like that? I ask you! (Frank also wears boots to the Cole’s dinner party so that’s two strikes.)
I’m not sold on Frank’s looks. His day-wear is a bit sedate for such a confirmed dandy (I believe he’s called a “coxcombe” in the book?) and his evening wear… well he apparently only has the one look.
And speaking of Frank’s look in this film, I’d like to know at whose doorstep I should lay the blame for what Ewan McGregor himself has called “The Worst Wig Ever”; and why the hair designer in charge decided to model Frank’s aesthetic on a theme of “Chucky meets the Mad Hatter”.
This hairstyle not only looks dreadful, it’s not at all fashionable or authentic to this time period! Fashionable mens’ hair styles at this point were all relatively short. A Beau Brummel coiffeur, or a short Roman style, or a fashionable head of curls like Mr. Elton’s! Not this farmer chic. Robert Martin’s hair is more fashionable than Frank’s!
The tune they chose for Emma and Knightley’s dance is a baroque melody (so a hundred or so years out of fashion) called “Mr. Beveridge’s Maggot” and as is pointed out in the video linked above, and is the same tune and dance used for Lizzie and Darcy’s big dance in Pride and Prejudice (1995).
I get why it was used in P&P because, slow, stately baroque tunes are often used as on-screen short hand for snobbish character like Mr. Darcy. It’s not super intense either, like the baroque tune used in P&P 05, which was chosen for more romantic effect. So why use this kind of “stuck up” tune for what should be a romantic dance? Maybe because it was used in the 95 P&P which became, almost instantly, one of the most popular Austen adaptations?
Quick note on the dancing and music in this movie. I’m not an expert on English Country dance (I’ll outsource that by giving you the usual link to Tea with Cassiane’s analysis on YouTube) but I’ll add my two cents  - I know Cassiane gave this a pretty favorable three full dance slippers but I think the way all of the actors and dancers move looks very poorly rehearsed and kind of sloppy. I think everyone just spread out way too much.
Douglas McGrath’s Script
I have to say one of the things this film did very well and brought to the forefront is how insular Emma’s life is. The opening credit sequence brings this to our attention right away by showing a spinning globe which, once it slows down is shown to be, literally, Emma’s whole tiny world. Hartfield, Donwell, Randalls and Highbury. That’s it. It’s perhaps not a very subtle device, but it does get the job done and very succinctly too.
I would now like to talk about my issues with the script of this movie; I have some problems with it. Very different problems than it’s 1996 counterpart though.
 First let’s go over the comedic device that jumped out to me most in this movie: the awkward pause.
I think it’s only used twice but they both bothered me.
First there’s the pauses while Emma and Mrs. Weston grill Knightley on whether he considers Jane Fairfax romantically. It’s all written as very “OoOoOooo” with Knightley answering their interrogations and then sitting between them awkwardly as they stare him down as, none of his answers giving either Emma or Mrs. Weston satisfaction. This is one of the most teen rom-com moments of the film to me.
Next there’s all the quiet stretches while Emma and Mrs. Elton have tea at Hartfield. I don’t like the use of awkward pauses in this case because (as I mentioned in Mrs. Elton’s characterization section) it’s so ludicrous to me that there are pauses in this conversation at all. Surely the point of Mrs. Elton is that she loves to hear herself talk and her conceited obsession with the idea that everyone around her must only benefit from hearing her opinions. There should be no conceivable reason why Emma should have to prompt conversation like she does in McGrath’s version of this scene, except to derail Mrs. Elton’s constant self-important yammering.
Watching it this time around I found myself wondering exactly what McGrath wanted to do with this film. I mean I’ve been attempting to decipher exactly whether the changes made were conscious and based on artistic vision, or whether they were changed because the source material just flew over McGrath’s Hollywood Director head.
I mean he gets the important plot points across, but there were other scenes that I had issues with: namely, the Archery scene. This is a pretty intense part of the book because Mr. Knightly goes from astonished, to indignant, to truly vexed with Emma in a short period of time. But this scene in the movie is very casual. The part where Emma’s arrow goes wide and into the general direction of Knightley’s dogs, and he takes an opportunity to make a quip and says “try not to kill my dogs” particularly annoyed me. My issue is that this totally ruins the tension of the scene; and why are Knightley’s dogs sitting BEHIND THE TARGETS ANYWAY? Knightley is a sensible man, and one who knows better than to let his dogs rest in a place where stray arrows could hit them!
The dialouge is very jarring because it flips back and forth beetween being alright, and period appropriate and then it will just spring a very modern turn of phrase and pull you completely out of the setting. I know this is something that’s been brought up with the 2009 version as well but maybe it’s because the actors in that version have (in my opinion) better chemistry that it simply doesn't stick out to me as much.
The comedy in general in this movie just makes me cringe a lot of the time (Sophie Thompson’s “oh sorry, napkin” bit notwithstanding). Like the soup thing when Emma and Harriet meet Mr. Elton after visiting the poor, and the random kid that gets tossed into this scene with Emma… just doesn’t work for me.
Wikipedia describes McGrath’s tweaks on Emma and Knightley’s banter (which really weren’t changed that much, textually) as “Enlivened” to make the basis of their attraction more apparent, which… I’m sorry but nothing about the exisiting banter isn’t lively if delivered in a lively manner. And I wouldn’t exactly call Gywneth’s performance lively, because she has to concentrate to keep that accent up.
I mentioned already that what McGrath essentially did with Emma was take Austen’s story, and remove the nuance (Such as lightening Frank’s infractions in his relationship with Jane and, while not totally contradicting, but also not highlighting the economic commentary of the story that is thematic in Austen’s novel) in order to make a straight up 90’s comedic romance film (Which, if you doubt this, look no further than Rachel Portman’s Oscar Winning but very dated score).
My Question is why? Why bother when the SAME STORY had been adapted into a HIGHLY SUCCESSFUL, modernized rom-com THE PREVIOUS YEAR, which actually, even while being set in the 90’s, did the story greater justice, with far more insight and quality?
Emma (1996) was always going to be over-shadowed by Clueless. At the end of the day this whole movie was kind of a futile effort because despite excellent production quality, the actual contents are watered down and, in my own opinion, pretty roundly mediocre.
Final Thoughts
When I first watched both of these versions I came at it from a very one-or-the-other perspective. I forgave McGrath’s film because it was light and colorful and I’d heard Davies’ version praised so highly at that time as the only faithful, definitive version (only to be let down by it in almost every possible way). But coming right down to it now, it’s hard for me to really excuse McGrath’s effort because a version of Emma that doesn’t take itself seriously enough is almost as bad as a version that takes itself too seriously.
It never fails to jump out at me how diametrically opposed these interpretations are, from the characterization right down to the tone and lighting.
McGrath’s Emma is light in every sense of the word, where Davies’ is dark and ponderous. McGrath’s Knightley is laid back where Davies’ is aggressive and ferocious. Frank, in McGrath’s version, is let off easy by the narrative playing down his moodiness, while in Davies there’s an overshadowing dark-cloud of off-putting caddishness.
Ribbon Rating: Tolerable (58 Ribbons)
The more I watch the 1996 adaptations of Emma (invariably back-to-back) the more firmly I am convinced that Andrew Davies’ made for TV film was (in some ways) a direct response to McGrath’s motion picture.
Tone: 7
Casting: 7
Acting: 5
Scripting: 5
Pacing: 4
Cinematography: 4
Setting: 5
Costumes: 6
Music: 5
Book Accuracy: 6
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tea-at-221 · 10 months ago
So, let's delve a bit into the Spanish dub of Supernatural.
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I'm going to go through a lot of terms here, and a lot of basics, in order to increase people's level of understanding as to how the dub may possibly have come about the way it did.
This post will provide information and, I hope, allow some members of the fandom to move forward with their own theories with more reassurance. Information is power. I will define and clarify industry terms to the best of my novice ability to make it easier for others who wish to do their own research.
This post was inspired by the fact that I've been part of multiple fandoms in which queerbaiting has played an enormous part: I am tired of seeing fandom friends left devastated and without answers, no emotional resolution in sight. So this post is, in spirit if not content, largely dedicated to my fellow Johnlockers and Queliot shippers. And most of all, for Quentin Coldwater, who deserved not just better but the very best.
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Disclaimer: This is my own research and there is a bit of speculation involved; I can't guarantee 100% that I will get everything right (I hit some very frustrating walls looking up what should be easy-to-find facts), but I did a *lot* of work for this. Other people will doubtless be able to clarify points/give better specifics/correct what I've gotten wrong. I am not promising a concrete answer to “SPN gate” here, as without more information than we currently have that is impossible to declare with certainty.
More under the cut.
All that having been said, onwards (see end for sources):
First, who airs the Spanish dub of Supernatural?
Answer: the Warner Channel.
Why? It goes back to who owns The CW.
From Wikipedia (2): "The CW Network, LLC, a limited liability joint venture between the CBS Entertainment Group unit of ViacomCBS; and the Studios and Networks division of AT&T's WarnerMedia, the parent company of Warner Bros., former majority owner of The WB. The network's name is an abbreviation derived from the first letters of the names of its two parent corporations (CBS and Warner Media)."
Warner Bros apparently is the side that handles the delegation of dubbing to outside studios. So, who does Warner use for their dubbing? Perhaps multiple studios, but the two I found in the course of my research were SPGStudios(5) (who specifically handle localization for Latin American Spanish productions) and Iyuno Media Group (formerly BTI Studios)(3).
What is localization?
Simply put, it refers to the translation of the home language of the show in question to the language of the new market it's entering. So, Supernatural 15x18 is translated from its native English to Spanish for Latin American viewers.
And what exactly *is* dubbing (actually called revoicing within the industry; dubbing is a widely-recognized term, however, and it's pretty well understood what is meant by it)?
Here is the Merriam-Webster definition:
"1 : to add (sound effects or new dialogue) to a film or to a radio or television production —usually used with "in"
They dubbed in the music.
2 : to provide (a motion-picture film) with a new soundtrack and especially dialogue in a different language
The film was dubbed in French and Spanish.
3 : to make a new recording of (sound or videotape already recorded) also : to mix (recorded sound or videotape from different sources) into a single recording"
There is a slang term, "dubby," which refers to any overdub that is comically jarring and obviously a dub. The history of dubbing has been such that this has become a way to think of and recognize it: by how awful and ineffective it used to be when it came to foreign films sloppily overlaid with English dubbing.
However, we are in the midst of an age of networks and companies scrambling to play catch-up, eager to use modern technology to create more effective, convincing dubs. In short, they see the moneymaking potential of presenting finished works that viewers may not even realize *are* dubbed without careful inspection. It's true that a good dub is about 10x more costly than subtitling, but it's hard to satisfy the viewer's desire for escapism if they can't suspend disbelief because they're busy reading.
The truth of that is reflected in internal statistics Netflix (for instance, but not just them) parses to gauge viewer interaction and retention with their various shows: when comparing subtitled vs. dubbed shows, it's easy to see which is the winner.(1)
So to be sure there is no nefarious intent here, we would need to be able to identify the following:
A.) What exactly was the process for this dub?
B.) Who decides what changes to make during a dubbing process?
C.) Who approves those changes?
*Can* there be such a thing as a "rogue translator," as Misha Collins put it? (I am going to clarify here that I think Misha is an upstanding person who believed the best of the show he was involved in and all the people who made it, so his assumption of a rogue translator makes sense in the context of that emotion-based reasoning).
I'm not sure which studio did the dub for the Latin American Spanish version of Supernatural; if I had access to that episode perhaps it's mentioned in the credits. You'd think that would be simple enough to figure out anyway, but I was unable. So maybe someone can take a look and let me know. But, as an example, here is how SPGStudios outlines their localization (dubbing) process:
1.) They make a digital or analog transcription of a show/movie.
2.) The translation, or localization, is done by their staff (in any of 40 available languages their staff can speak). When translating, they translate for meaning and then adapt for time, tempo, and style. They say that "extensive experience is required to capture the essence of the language dialog while accounting for variances in speaking time between the source and destination languages." i.e.,  wording/word choice will be kept as true as possible to the original intention of the native language, but at the same time the translation will need to use its chosen wording in a way that fits what is being shown on-screen. To produce a convincing/pleasing dub, they won't replace a word like "looked" with a longer phrase like "scanned the horizon" because it's not going to match what's onscreen. That would be venturing into "dubby" territory.
3.) They perform the ADR process: the voice actors (in this case it would normally be Guillermo Rojas performing for Dean Winchester, though it appears things may have been different in 15x18, possibly due to covid) record the new dialogue to replace the original actor's performance.
4.) The newly recorded dialogue goes to the sound editorial department "to ensure that lip-synch is optimized and technical aspects of the vocal performance match the original."
5.) All of the new audio--including dialogue, music, and sound effects--is mixed together to emulate the quality of the original production as closely as possible despite the changes in rhythm that resulted from the dialog having been translated.
6.) Designers, animators, and VFX editors assist with the localization or enhancement of graphics, if needed.
7.) Localized Master: SPG has a 'traffic team' who 'ensures that all client delivery and storage specifications are met, including file formatting, labeling, and uploading." So in other words, the files are heavily encrypted (or that's how I read this).
Presumably, after all steps are performed, SPGStudios transfers the show back to Warner, who then distributes it. The other studio, Iyuno, makes it very clear that *they* can coordinate and handle all distribution themselves to a vast number of networks. That means that if the client desires, Iyuno can send the finished product directly out into the world.
There seem to be two types of scripts that can be given to the dubbing company:
1.) "In-Production Dubbing indicates that dubbing production is active in tandem with post production. In-Production Dubbing fulfillment partners should expect potential changes to source materials."(4)
2.) "Final Asset Dubbing indicates that dubbing production takes place after final delivery of the show. All source assets will be in a final state. The dubbing fulfillment partner should not expect any changes to the source materials."(4)
Without knowing which of these was agreed upon for SPN 15x18, it is very hard to say exactly where or if additional edits may have been performed on the original material that weren't performed on the translated material (in other words, earlier draft).
If the studio was given the episode as an In-Production Dubbing project, this could explain why the title of the Spanish translation reflected the original script title, "The Truth," rather than the final title in English, "Despair".
Assuming this difference was unintentional, rather than a calculated marketing ploy re: audience enticement (which seems admittedly unlikely), then yes, it could indicate a screw-up on someone's part. The question is, was the dub company given the task of generating the title card, or did some other graphics department handle that before the project made it to them? If the latter is the case, the choice to add "Me too" instead of "Don't do this, Cas" could be either a conscious choice on the dub studio's part as sort of a nod to what they thought "the truth" was, or could just be them going with what they were given and making their translation choices based on something else, such as rhythm/timing.
SO, could there have been an original script that had Dean say "me too" in response to Cas, which then went through translation and made it out into the world? Teeechnically yes, but one would assume that the original script and original *footage* would have to have arrived at the dub studio together if the script is being transcribed in-house as SPGSTudios outlines in their process. I'm going to reason that the odds of them using a later edit of the visual--one that contained what in this instance we would be assuming was Warner's preferred dialogue ("Don't do this, Cas") yet choosing to stick with their own audio revoicing of the (supposed) original script/visual's "Me too, Cas" with its now subsequently poor timing, seems unlikely.
So either they would likely have to redo the exact same "Me too" audio again (having made the choice to keep the original dialogue, while also having to work under pandemic restrictions re: travel and talent availability) to make everything match the visual footage time-wise, OR, it was simply a matter that the English scene always was just as we saw it, but that the studio chose to interpret the script the way they did and were able to do their timing the first time around to match accordingly.
This still leaves a question in the air regarding the origin and fate of certain clips of Dean's more visually emotive reaction to Castiel's confession that have been floating around the internet. I've only seen very very brief glimpses of them, myself, and I'm not certain that they're really evidence of anything other than more than one take having been done of that scene, which wouldn't be uncommon and doesn't necessarily point to a conspiracy.
I also want to state that in the wake of 15x18, I opted to protect my mental health rather than follow every development/rumor/speculation that cropped up in the aftermath, so there’s probably a lot that I’m leaving out of this post that may be pertinent. Do me a favor and do assume that I know nothing of it. lol
I will also add this about the other studio, Iyuno: they are very careful to state on their site, repeatedly and with great pride, that they are committed to presenting the world with the smoothest, most true-to-the-original localized version of a film or show possible. Quote: "...our entire team of staff wants nothing more than to make every single one of our partner's content feel as if it were never translated." They are not fucking around. They want to please the client. Would they have done something like the translation in question without any direct go-ahead from Warner? It seems unlikely, though they don't outline their process on their site the way SPG does.
Notice that in the SPGStudios process outlined above, there is no mention made of a review step in which the studio presents the translated dialogue to the client for approval re: the new wording. That doesn't mean there isn't a review step; however, without seeing the contractual agreement that was made between Warner and whatever dub studio they used, or knowing Warner's preferred process by some other means, it's difficult to be certain whether or not there was a review process for the translated script. I did find evidence that Netflix reserves the right to review such translated scripts before air.
Speaking of Netflix, I will include here what their translation requirements are, as I did find those. They, like Warner, also use Iyuno Media Group much of the time for dubbing (voiceover style dubbing in which they apparently like to leave the original language audible underneath, so that's slightly different from revoicing, but I'm working on an assumption that the general expectations are the same for both):(4)
"1. Translation Requirements
1.1 Main Dialogue
   All main dialogue in the source (original) language should be translated unless specifically noted.
   Due to timing limitations, some of the dialogue may be condensed/truncated as long as it retains all essential elements of the plot.
   Please refrain from dubbing redundant words such as character names and repetitions.
       Additionally, do not recreate laughs, hesitations, reaction noises, etc."
I'm looking at that bit: "Due to timing limitations, some of the dialogue may be condensed/truncated as long as it retains all essential elements of the plot."
So let's say just for argument's sake that this is pretty standard language provided to the dubbing studios. Netflix is a giant, so I'll proceed with that assumption given the lack of more concrete information:
Does it really change essential elements of the remaining plot to have Dean return Castiel's declaration of love? Forgetting about the outside, emotional ripple effect such a declaration was bound to set off in the viewing audience, no. The two characters have no further scenes together, nor does Dean go on in the next episode to immediately embark on a new relationship, or tell anyone that Cas said he was in love with him but he couldn't return it because he didn't feel the same. So technically, no rule was broken. And that is what it comes down to, if you're thinking like a lawyer reading a contract: specifics, not theoretical implications or consequences.
So, possibly what we have is something that was simple to add and easy to get away with/argue for: translated dialog that fit a dub better due to its length, and didn't actually change anything plot-wise (or at least, the argument for that could easily be made). This points to the painful crux of the matter: why would the Spanish version of Supernatural which aired in Latin America allow Dean Winchester to return Castiel's declaration of love with a "Me too, Cas"? Could it *really* be as insulting as the fact that "Yo a ti, Cas" would be a quicker, smoother dub than "No hagas esto, Cas"? ("Don't do this, Cas" in English.) Or did they see something they could get away with, and a reasonable argument to provide for it, so they went ahead and claimed a small LGBT+ victory?
Is someone, somewhere, getting in trouble for all this? Maybe. But could action be taken against them? That would look pretty bad, public-relations-wise, for the party expressing condemnation if that got out. Could Iyuno, or whatever other studio (again, I don't actually know which one handled the dub) theoretically feel a ripple effect from the fallout of this? Could they quietly suffer a drop in acquisitions/revenue for "reasons unclear"? Sure. That sort of thing happens all the time, so theoretically yeah.
Whatever the reasoning behind the decision to have Dean return Cas' declaration of love, surely they didn't have to do it. Surely they could have chosen some other phrase that fit. But they chose to do exactly what they did. I don't know what went down, in the end, or whether censorship was indeed involved, but I will certainly say that I think it was a brave and admirable choice that was made with the Spanish dub. It doesn't undo the "bury your gays" trope of course, but for some LGBT+ audience members it surely provides a sense of validation and maybe even lends a little hope for better representation--which is long, long overdue.
Thanks if you read this far. I hope that even though it’s not perfect it will be helpful in some way.
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just-come-baek · a year ago
take a seat, princess
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Pairing: Jaehyun x OC
Themes: mafia!au
Word count: 2.2k
Summary: Although Jaehyun is Taeyong’s most loyal right hand, it pisses the hell out of him, when his boss ignores his advice. Taeyong obviously thinks with his dick, and Jaehyun needs a few glasses of hard liquor to calm his nerves, and perhaps a mesmerizing pole-dancing performance to get his mind off work.
Warnings: alcohol consumption
it’s a bonus chapter/intro to my upcoming Taeyong fic which should be posted sometime this month | smut will be in full chapters and (maybe) in other bonus chapters
Jaehyun was pissed beyond comprehension; he was one minor inconvenience away from foaming at the mouth. Taeyong was getting soft, and it was driving Jaehyun up the wall. Though Taeyong assured Jaehyun a few times, Jaehyun could notice every change in his boss’ demeanor. If others saw it too, Taeyong’s position might’ve been endangered.
They had enough problems to deal with; they didn’t need to fight among each other because the boss found interest in the wrong girl. Jaehyun warned him plenty of times, yet each time, Taeyong would dismiss him, reassuring him that everything was under control.
Jaehyun was slowly running out of patience, but when Taeyong, instead of killing her on the spot, handed her a recruitment envelope, he couldn’t contain his frustration. It wasn’t the way they handled things within their gang.
Around midnight, Jaehyun excused himself and left Taeyong’s office. He needed something to take the edge off. He couldn’t go on with this much of pent-up frustration.
Thankfully, he had one place in mind.
It was an elegant club across the town, which wasn’t yet under Taeyong’s control. Jaehyun, of course, tried to convince Taeyong to buy it off multiple times, yet it never happened. Later, Jaehyun began to realize that it was actually pretty great. It felt nice not to be surrounded by associates all the time.
Jaehyun strolled to the underground parking lot and got inside his shiny jet-black 2013 Ford Mustang GT500. While Taeyong liked the newest sports cars, classics were more Jaehyun’s style. He would never trade his four-wheels for any of Taeyong’s. He has made many memories with his vehicle (mostly fucking beautiful girls on the back seat), and he grew really attached to it.
Jaehyun had the route to the Shangri-La night club memorized by heart. Whenever he needed a drink, it was his go-to place. Since it wasn’t one of Taeyong’s establishments, it felt refreshing to not be recognized by any business partners and associates. By being Taeyong’s right hand, Jaehyun was pretty infamous within every crime circle, and right now, it was very comfortable to be anonymous.
Jaehyun undid the button of his jacket and sat down in a leather sofa a few meters away from the stage. Nonchalantly, he threw one leg over the other and swung his left arm, reading the time off his silver wristwatch. In a few minutes, the main show would start.
A young waitress in skimpy clothes approached Jaehyun’s table with his usual order – whiskey on the rocks. Shyly, she set the glass in front of him, and walked away, as she must’ve been warned by the bartender than Jaehyun wasn’t particularly fond of small talk with the staff.
Having taken a sip, Jaehyun leaned back on the sofa and loosened his tie a little bit. It was already after hours, and he couldn’t be all serious all the time.
“Ladies and gentlemen,” the distinct voice of the DJ echoed in the establishment, making all faces turn toward the main stage. “Please, give a round of applause for our new recruit,” the man announced, and Jaehyun cringed a little at the mention of the word “recruit”. It made him think about work, and he cursed under his breath in utter annoyance.
“Ugh,” Jaehyun huffed, gulping his drink in one go.
“Her name is Rita, and she’s our rising star. I know what I’m talking about, I’ve seen her practice today,” the DJ joked, and a few elderly businessmen in the back chuckled. Jaehyun only cocked his eyebrow in curiosity, excited to see the new dancer perform. Hopefully, she would live up to his high expectations. Other customers would be satisfied with a glimpse of a boob and a split in ridiculously high stilettos, but Jaehyun was different. It wasn’t the nudity that impressed him. No, he was there to witness a high-class performance the club often provided. He hoped Rita would own the stage regardless of the amount of clothing she had to strip during her number.
The lights went out, and the music started to play faintly in the background. The crowd applauded, and a woman confidently strutted to the center of the stage. She was wearing a medium-length pink wig, a short bodysuit embroidered with sparkling silver sequins, and a pair of matching high-heels. Her make-up was heavy, but it wasn’t overdone; Jaehyun thought it complimented her features well.
The music got louder, and she began her dance routine. At first, she showcased the simple techniques, and she mastered each and every one of them. The audience was mesmerized; they observed her moves with plenty of attention. They couldn’t take their eyes off her, and Jaehyun was no different. He could tell how much time she had invested in perfecting her skills, and he was impressed. Her performance was breathtaking.
When Rita was done performing, everybody stood up and clapped.
Shortly after another dancer walked on the stage, but compared to Rita, her skills very pretty rusty. Jaehyun watched her but quickly got bored. It wasn’t the same.
When the waitress walked up to him with his order, he grabbed her wrist and gently pulled her down. “I’d like to talk to Rita. Would you mind asking her if she’s like to join me?” Jaehyun whispered, and the waitress nodded her head vigorously, a little bit intimidated by his calm voice.
Within ten minutes, Rita approached Jaehyun’s table, yet hesitant to sit by his side.
“You wanted to talk to me?” She inquired, staring at him. It was her first time performing in front of such audience, and Jaehyun’s invitation freaked her out a little bit. She wasn’t interested in engaging in any other activities than pole-dancing. It was common knowledge in their field that some rich dudes often confused them with hookers, thinking they could have their way with the girls if they named an amount of money high enough for them to give in.
It was disgusting, and Rita despised them with every fiber of her being.
“Take a seat, princess. I really enjoyed your performance, and I wanted to buy you a drink,” Jaehyun started, standing up, pointing toward the sofa next to him, gesturing her to sit down.
“Rum and Coke, please,” she said, and Jaehyun raised his hand, calling the waitress.
The waitress quickly returned with the drink and placed it in front of Rita.
“Is it your real name?” Jaehyun asked while observing her quite meticulously. His eyes were trained on her. He noticed how her cheeks slightly hollowed when she was drinking her drink with a straw, how her violet contact lenses complimented her complexion, how her tongue swiped across her bottom lip, how she was stealing tiny glances at his handsome face.
“No,” Rita answered honestly, yet didn’t reveal her true identity. She didn’t have a reason to, she didn’t know his name yet, and to be completely honest, she wasn’t sure of his true intentions. She could guess what they might be – that seductive gaze he used to look at her, couldn’t mean anything good. “I’m not that type of a girl,” she clarified before he could voice his immoral proposition.
“What type of a girl?”
“Men, who frequent such places, often confuse performers with prostitutes,” Rita stated, and Jaehyun smiled adorably. He was lethal, but when his lips curved in such an innocent grin, he looked like an angel.
“I’m not that type of a man, either,” Jaehyun quickly assured her, not wanting any further misunderstandings. “I don’t have to pay women to fuck me; they do so willingly, princess,” he added cheekily, and Rita refrained herself from smiling. It was a relief that he wouldn’t do anything without her consent. Instantly, she became relaxed. “I’m Jaehyun, by the way.”
“Nice to meet you,” she replied genuinely, drinking up the drink Jaehyun had ordered for her. Rita finished her rum and set the glass on the table before she spoke. “What type of man are you, then?”
Jaehyun smiled mischievously, thinking of a proper way to phrase his short description. “I’m the type of a man that always draws women closer although they should stay the hell away from,” Jaehyun stated, and Rita chuckled loudly, leaning backward.  
“What made you think that this neck tattoo was a good idea?” Rita inquired, changing the topic. The tattoo intrigued her, and she really wanted to know what motivated him to get it inked on his neck. Not like it didn’t suit him, because it really did. All she wanted to do right now was to sit on his laps and trace the lines with her fingers. Jaehyun looked hot. “You must be killing it at the job interviews,” Rita joked, and Jaehyun laughed, but for a very different reason.
Jaehyun rubbed the back of his neck, turning it slightly to the side, allowing Rita to have an even better view at the inked masterpiece. “Well… it might not be the best decision I made, but I don’t regret it. I look hot,” he answered, and Rita gently nodded, taking note of his incredible level of self-confidence.
“So... what do you do for a living?” Rita inquired, reaching for his glass and taking a sip of it. Whiskey wasn’t her preferred liquor, quite the opposite. She felt a little intimidated by Jaehyun, and it ought to help her contain her nerves. She needed some liquid courage to survive their conversation without getting nervous. “You look like a hot accountant to me,” she added, finishing the drink, grimacing at the bitter taste.
Thankfully, the waitress came to her aid with the refills.
“Well… tonight, I can be anyone, I can be a marketing director, or a pilot, or a street racer,” Jaehyun said mysteriously, and Rita started imaging him in each profession. The picture her brain conjured was sexy, and at some point, she even bit her bottom lip. However, hot or not, it wasn’t the answer to her question. For some reason, Jaehyun didn’t want to disclose this information with her, and she decided not to get overly curious. It wasn’t their first date, so there was no need to exchange basic bios with each other. He was just a customer who enjoyed her performance.
“Are you always this… vogue?”
Usually, there was no need for Jaehyun to introduce himself. He was infamous among all the people he crossed paths with, and they already knew who he was and what he was capable of doing. Talking about himself felt strange, but at the same time, nice. Or at least, it would feel nice if he could give her an honest answer. Unfortunately, it was not possible.
“Can’t help it, princess,” Jaehyun answered, and Rita rolled her eyes. What kind of answer was that? “It’s better when you don’t know anything. If you knew, you wouldn’t want to talk to me,” he added, making her curiosity grow some more. Now, she really had to know.
“Try me,” she challenged him, but then burst out laughing. He was just a stranger from the bar; he didn’t have to tell her anything. And if it was really as bad as he made it out to be, the reasonable part of her being didn’t want to know. They’ll probably never meet again, though the fantasies of his dimpled face between her legs might keep her awake at night for some time. “I’m kidding, don’t worry, I don’t want to interrogate you.”
“You were amazing up there, other dancers look like amateurs compared to you,” Jaehyun complimented her skills, and Rita blushed. Thankfully, she was on her third drink of the evening, so she could blame the alcohol for the pink color decorating her cheeks. Rita was confident in her craft, but she couldn’t lie – his kind words did stroke her ego. It was her first night performing at Shangri-La, and she felt a little bit anxious. She was happy didn’t screw up anything.
“I know,” she answered confidently, yet it didn’t come out even half as arrogant as Jaehyun’s previous statement.
Slowly, their conversation started to flow in a steady flirty rhythm. Quite subtly, they would flirt, teasing each other. Jaehyun felt strange out of his element, talking to someone who didn’t fear him, but he was getting addicted to this feeling. He didn’t feel that way in years.
It’s been a long time since Jaehyun had so much fun by just talking, and it drove him insane when he felt his phone buzz in his pocket. He knew it must’ve been something important, he had to take it, but at the same time, he wished he could take a day off to experience a normal life, to chat with someone without thinking about the job.
Groaning, Jaehyun pulled out his phone and read the caller’s name. It was Taeyong, and regardless of how angry he was with him, he had to pick it up.
“I gotta go,” Jaehyun said when he raised from his seat, looking down at Rita. “See you around, princess,” he added before he turned around, answering the incoming call.
Making his way out of the club, he stole one more glance at Rita.
She was perfect, yet they both know it wouldn’t work. Jaehyun’s lifestyle was too dangerous for him to consider inviting her into this hot mess. For her own sake, Rita had to stay away from trouble, and she understood it perfectly.
Rita knew it was wrong, but at the same time, she had a feeling Jaehyun’s not gonna come around, and in all honesty, it was all for the better.
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tokoyamisstuff · a year ago
Oneshot: Substance - Bucky x Reader
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Summary: After stumbling upon certain things on your boyfriends phone, your self-esteem drops below zero.
Warnings: Self-hatred, Angst, Fatshaming, kinda Self-Harm (like withdrawal, not eating enough and overly excessive sport), one or two Swear Words.
Words: ~2900
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A/N: Didn’t want to keep you guys waiting any longer, so this has been written in an hour without proof-reading. please have mercy with my soul
“Heya, sweetie-pie. Mind giving me the usual?”
There he was, 12 o’clock as usual. Bucky was leaning over the counter and staring at you with his piercing blue eyes.
He gave you a wink as he shoved the money over the counter, looking around the small but full diner. It was always that crowded at this time of the day.
“Come on, you doofus. You know it’s on me” you chuckled as you pressed the coins back in his hand, relishing at his warmth for a brief second before stepping back.
It has become a ritual to prepare his favourite on almost every single day, even though he claimed to love everything on your menu. His therapist once told him that a certain routine would help him adapt to society again, and he stuck to it pretty closely.
And visiting your restaurant was an important part of his day.
“Do you think we can spend the evening?” Your boyfriend was sipping on his coffee, eyes lighting up when you finally got him his piece of plum pie with whipped cream.
When you watched him eating it in almost one bite, you kind of admired him for being able to eat basically anything without gaining weight. But well, on the other hand, training and fighting were his daily bread, so it was no wonder those calories would be burned like it was nothing.
“Gosh, delicious as always” Bucky mumbled and you couldn’t surpress a quiet laugh at your dork while you were serving another customer. “And I mean you in that dress, not the food. Love your style.”
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You usually avoided to fuel his stupid way of flirting, no matter how flattered you felt anyway. So you simply changed the topic. “Dunno. Might get late. Today seems to be very profitable.”
It was just wonderful how understanding Bucky was. Well, he knew he was a piece of work as well. Why should he be mad if you were sucessfull anyway?
So he just shrugged with a wide grin as he handed you over the empty plate, saying “Well, then I’ll tidy up the flat until you’re done. Guess who’s gonna get a back rub when they’re back home?”
“Sounds like a Netflix and Cuddle evening?”
“Everything you want, doll.” He gave you a quick kiss on the cheek, knowing you weren’t all that comfortable with PDA - at least at work. “I won’t bother you any longer.”
“You’re never bothering me.” Smirking, you admired the way his muscles bulged through his sleeveless top. “Distracting is a far better word.”
He won’t comment on your statement, rather winking at you and mumbling something like “You just wait until later...” as he already rushed out of the entrance.
Six hours later you were finally able to end your twelve hour shift and close the restaurant almost on time - the few customers who came about five minutes before closure, and having to clean up the mess you’d always leave behind when cooking as quick as possible.
“I’m home, darlin’!” you cheered as you threw your bag into a corner and got rid of your shoes.
Seems like he was in the shower, at least he yelled something like ‘having something for you when he’s done’.
Well, if the surprise was something cute or nasty - you’d have no problem with either one.
“Hey, babe!” his voice called you out of the bathroom. “Can you look up when we made the reservation for cinema? I made a screenshot from the booking confirmation.”
He’d always ask for that kind of stuff in the weirdest situations. Probably because he knew he’d forget it otherwise.
“Alright.” His smartphone was placed on the nightstand, as usually. It was a miracle that he learned to use it that quickly, but on the other hand he’d always been very invested with new technology.
The two of you had no secrets. And even if: Taking each others cellphones wouldn’t really tell you something you didn’t already know about each other, so it had never been a no-go to use the others phone.
You sat down on the edge of the bed after throwing your sweat-soaked and stained clothes into the basket, wishing Bucky would hurry up so you could clean up and enjoy some hot water.
Scrolling through his picture folder, you hummed a happy little song, already wondring what you’d do on your day off tomorrow.
James is still pretty awkward in todays society, but hell he knew how to treat a woman. And dates were his speciality.
“I can’t fi-” Your words turned into a loud gasp as you saw the preview image of a seemingly naked woman. Shocked, even though you felt bad for prying instead of trusting your partner, you klicked on it to see the whole picture.
It was exactly what you thought it was. That sort of picture drunk elderly men would send each other in Whatsapp Groups.
A beautiful woman, only wearing a thong and presenting it in a - let’s call it ‘seductive’ pose.
And the worst of all was the headline, floating above the models face:
“The Perfect Woman”
This was not the only pic of some sort - you found a dozen of it, videos as well.
Disgusting was the only thing that came to your mind.
Not the woman, though. You were not one to slut-shame anyway.
But a feeling of disgust came up when you layed down the phone and went to the mirror, watching yourself closely. And for the first time, you were not satisfied with what you were seeing.
Sure, you’ve always been kind of chubby. But up until now you’ve never doubtet your beauty.
Curves were always something beautiful to you, even though you had to admit that some days, you were asking yourself why you had to be the only one of your friends who had that hard cellulite and stretch marks.
Maybe if you’d already have kids or were older, you’d be fine with it, but...
On the other hand, your friends would admire the fact that you had bigger breasts and a ‘peach ass’, as they’d call it.
Your mother used to call it ‘atomar boobs’ and ‘birth-enthusiastic hips’, always making you laugh about how self-ironic she was. But on the inside you knew how much she was struggling as well.
There were so many forms of beauty, and you loved every single one of it - including your own. But now..
“Ugly” you told yourself again and again, while trying to find a suitable pose that didn’t make you look like a small, wobbly piece of fat.
Did the opinion of a man really matter more to you than your own? Now you also felt kind of pathetic.
Actually, you were just hurt. Of him not being honest, and obviously searching for didn’t want to say ‘better’, but rather ‘different’ than you.
As former Winter Soldier, he might not be that popular, but his looks sure did the trick anyway. So why not searching for a thin woman if he loves them so much?
Or does he already know them? What if those were not mere pictures, but woman he actually contacted?
The thought alone made you tear up.
You’ve tried. Your whole life you did and he knew that.
It’s a problem you’ve been struggling for your whole youth, after all.
No matter how much sport or diets you tried out, your body just wouldn’t change. Even after you’ve got diagnosed with hypothyreosis, the medication would only do so much as prevent further weight gain.
Things got a lot easier when you were grown up, and the bullies would decrease.
You learned to love yourself, and realized that many people were into exactly your kind of body-type. After finding your own style and way of living, things became so much easier and you could finally be yourself.
“Heya, there” a familiar voice snickered behind your back, “What’s cookin’, good lookin’?”
The only reaction Bucky would gain was a pained groan, yet you didn’t dare to make a scene just yet. You wanted him to take the hints and be honest with you, that was what you had decided.
“Didn’t find the picture. Go look yourself.”
With that said, you’d walk straight past him and towards the bathroom. It took you quite a while to cry to your hearts extend, sobs being deafened by the pattering sounds of the shower.
You wrapped a towel around yourself, but when you saw your reflection again as you put on some lotion, you decided to wear the bathrobe.
No matter how you moved, you felt like some fat would always wiggle or roll up somehow - and Bucky felt your discomfort as soon as you greeted him with a twisted face.
“C’mon here, babydoll. We can talk.” He patted the spot right next to him on the bed, and goddamn it was just too unfair how he was posing there on the mattress, looking like a fucking adonis compared to you.
The very second you stiffly layed down next to him, you felt his hand slip under your bathrobe and squeeze your thigh, making you gasp.
“Maybe I can cheer you up otherwise before we talk...” he breathed into your ear, adding a bittersweet “I missed you.”
“Bucky, please. I’m tired.” Perfect. You managed to get that sentence out without your voice cracking once. Now you just needd to turn around and wrap yourself in your comforter before he’d see the tears in your eyes.
You didn’t want him - or anyone else - to touch you ever again.
“O-okay...” James stuttered, already reaching out his hand to touch your shoulder. But in the end, he retreated it, realizing you needed some time for yourself. “Imma be at the sofa if you need me.”
“Or tell me what the fuck is wrong all of a sudden...” He kept himself from saying that.
The following days were the hardest ones yet to come - for both of you.
It all started with you declining all offers from friends to go swimming or visiting some food-places, slowly but steadily withdrawing you from the happy, active life you’ve built up out of anger and shame.
You had grown quite distant as time passed, at first finding any kind of excuse for intimacy, and afterwards not even bearing any kind of physical contact. Not to speak of simple and carefree talking...
The air had become strained around the two of you, but Bucky was too afraid to ask you what was wrong.
Instead of letting off some steam through work as always, you took a few weeks off. It wasn’t like you needed the money anyway, looking at how successfull your work was.
Your restaurant, even though being more of a small diner, had been on the top of New Yorks most popular ones for years. And you were damn proud of it.
Bucky would always say you’re the only one who cooks just like home, and meanwhile you knew all of his favourite dishes.
An unconscious smile ghosted your lips when you thought back to the day where Bucky would go all Winter Soldier on a dude that made fun of you for being “a wandering cliché: a fat woman running a kitchen”. Ouch.
You didn’t go on vacation those days - there was different work to do.
Actually, you liked sports. For fun, that is. Like going to swim with your friends, or going for a walk. Sometimes visiting the gym, even. To you, it was more part of a healthy lifestyle instead of a competition for appreciation.
But now, things were different. You tried to built up your confidence again through secretly visiting the Avengers training rooms - yet to no avail.
Steve kindly offered you help with any certain training, but you declined. This was something you wanted to achieve yourself.
As if that would change anything about your feeling of betrayal...
“Fuck!” you exclaimed after almost falling off the treadmill, having to use the emergency turn-off. Even though many people assumed it, you weren’t really unfit. But those past days, you’ve just overloaded yourself through excessive training and eating almost nothing.
You kneeled down, desperately trying to catch your breath. Looking down, you saw your bruised knuckles from punching the bag earlier and thinking of that damn beautiful woman on Buckys cellphone.
If only you would have the courage to talk this through with him...but you were afraid of the outcome. Of the truth.
Knowing you were all alone on the floor, you finally gave in to your emotions, huddling to a fetal curl and starting to sob over your deadlocked situation.
Dear god no - it was Bucky. What was he doing here? It was not his usual training time!
On the other hand: What else did he have to do in his free-time, now that the other Avengers are on a mission and his girlfriend is avoiding him at all costs?
Actually, he wanted to let off some steam as well. But seeing you like this swung his mood in an instant, and he aided you immediately.
“What’s wrong? Are you hurt?!” There was genuine compassion in his voice, sorrow even. As if it was his fault.
He was kneeling right next to you, and for the first time in two weeks, you wouldn’t flinch at his touch. “Let me help you...”
“You don’t need to play anymore, James” you whimpered, slapping his hand away. “Just get this over with.”
Now you’ve got him mad. “What the fuck did I do wrong to deserve this, Y/N?!” he screamed and his metal fist would meet the floor, cracking it broken.
“I know damn well I’m far from the perfect boyfriend...” Bucky began to sniffle, still clenching and unclenching his fists. “But I thought you’d love me as I am.”
“You’re one to talk.” Fuck it, now that you seemingly screwed up anyway you could talk freely. “I’ve seen the photos, Bucky. Of the perfect woman. Many of them. Seems like you prefer something not remotely close to me.”
For a while, there was only silence.
Bucky dug his face deep into his palms, as if he wanted to disappear in them - or simply to facepalm in a pretty weird way.
“Doll, is that what all this is about?”
His reaction made you feel kinda strange. “Y-yeah.” Did you overreact?
“You know I don’t possibly know her. Don’t care about her or her body either.” He sat there, cross-legged and with a face as dark as your heart had been those past weeks.
“Then why do you keep a ton of photos of naked models on your phone?!” You jumped onto him, effectively knocking him over and pinning him on the floor. Out of a whim, you wanted to run away, but he trapped you in his hold.
“Gosh, why can’t you talk to me for once?” It almost sounded like he found it funny. “You’re usually one to be upfront about everything.”
A sole tear escaped every eye, but Bucky would catch them with his thumb.
“Sam sent them to me. We have that Whatsapp-Group, and he’s simply that single, horny dude that finds that kind of stuff funny. You know I never delete anything. I have over 5000+ photos on that shit phone.”
You were stunned, looking at him in disbelief. “I’m sorry, doll. I should’ve know you’d stumble across them eventually. But you were always so confident and strong, the thought of it bothering you never crossed my mind.”
“Y-you-” Gosh, what a fucking idiot you were. “You’re not at fault, Buck! I’m so sorry! I feel so stupid right now.”
“And I thought you wanted to leave me...” he murmured, mainly to himself.
“Wha- how could I ever?! You’re the love of my life! Why else do you think your opinion matters this much to me? Look where we are right now!”
“And you know that the beauty-standarts of the 40s are exactly what you look like, right?”
The situation changed so drastically, it left both of you in boisterous laughter.
When you finally catched your breath, holding your thummy at how much you laughed, Bucky would not give you a break - rather cupping your cheeks and pulling your lips onto his.
“Look” he breathed out calmly, his cheek barely brushing yours. “I feel stupid for even saying this, but: My girl doesn’t have to be a model. Beauty is a concept, dear. Everyone pictures something else when they think of it. And I think of you.”
You had already snuggled up onto his chest as he swiftly picked you up, your ear able to sense his heartbeat. Absentmindedly running your hand over his prosthetic one, you realized that you were not the only one who was self-conscious about their appearance.
But just like you never doubted the true beauty of your lover, neither did he.
“Y/N...You’re strong and smart and kind. No one had ever touched my heart the way you did. That’s all that counts.”
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blankdblank · 7 months ago
It’s a Mother Flocking Puffin Pt 16
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The doorbell on their lazy Saturday in had the brothers upstairs editing the video you had shot earlier that morning before heading out to the orchestra turning to face each other in silent conference of who could that be. Once on their feet after ensuring the video was saved they hurried down to go and check it out. Behind the door however the belly of the eight foot Emperor was in their eye line causing them to tilt their heads back peering up at the dark haired circlet wearing Noldo. Bowing his head he spoke in clear Hobbitish he had been perfecting for when he came here to see you again. “Princes Fili and Kili, it is a pleasure to meet you, might I inquire where my daughter is? She did not answer the door below.”
“No,” Kili blurted out then wet his lips in an anxious twitch.
Fili cleared his throat and replied, “What he means is, no she would not answer, she is at the Erebor Orchestra repairing their instruments. Should return in an hour or so. Depending on how bad off the instruments are.”
“Come eat,” Kili said stepping back allowing the Emperor to duck and pass through the size foot door frame to enter the tall main floor he inspected with outer robe over his dress shirt, vest and slacks tucked into his knee high boots unbuttoned to hang by the door at the cozy warm temperature compared to the chill outside. Every stitch of his clothing though not identical in style gave the clear impression of your bearing the same sense of taste in clothing, patterns and materials. A minimal tour was given along the way and he sat on one of the stools along the counter while the brothers got to whipping up some tea and a snack.
A request of a tour of your room was accepted and impressed he strolled through your floor all to yourself impressed at all the space you had been given. Decorations and random items clearly yours in the midst of the furniture gifted to you were grinned at. Ruffling feathers turned his head and with a bow of his head to Bagheera the Emperor said, “There you are, had a notion you might have followed my Yuula here.”
Kili looked between them in the bird stretching his wings and legs from his nap and Fili asked, “You know Bagheera?”
“That is his name? Yes, he was in the orphanage and then again in Numenor, commandeered one of our open walkways after we covered our windows. Once they were uncovered he moved to the courtyard in a tree beside her bedroom reading window seat.” His eyes lowered to the kitten scaling his boot, “You are new,” bending to lift the kitten at whom he chuckled upon seeing its facial markings. “When did she get you little one?”
Kili, “Found both of them in an organ she was asked to tune. Dwarf tradition of courtship had her in need of a kitten to protect from bad totems.”
“Ah,” he said cradling him in a palm freeing the other to stroke the kitten now purring and flattening out in his path to your mantle where he eyed the pirate ship urn he unfortunately never spent enough time to inspect before now. “There you are,” he muttered in Noldorin and the boys glanced between each other then to Fili’s phone in another check of the time.
Kili, “We’re gonna give Jaqi a call.”
“Alright, I will be fine waiting here, thank you.” Keeping his eyes fixed on the urn as they turned to hurry upstairs to call you granting him some time alone to pay his long overdue  respects to your parents. Upon hearing the door close he spoke in Hobbitish again so they might understand him. “I owe you an apology for not paying you mind earlier it was foolish of me not to inspect the ship Yuula had protected so adamantly from being touched. However I might have raised your child in your absence I do hope you find peace in the incredible young woman she has become. I have many faults and regrets on how I might have spared her more suffering. Yet for your peace I might share those behind your murder have been captured and put on death row. While they remain to gather information from the culprits your kin are merely a few hours away and have the intention of meeting and enfolding around our precious daughter. I pray that may bring you peace as this slowly bleeding wound begins to show signs of healing.”
Upstairs, while he turned his attentions to your wedding acorn totem you had mentioned, over speaker the buzz of the dialing phone between the boys repeated again while you dug your silenced phone from your pocket shuffling the tools in your palms to do so. “Hey,” you said finally able to answer the call making sure to talk softly as to not disturb the others back to their meeting. “What’s up?”
Kili, “How much longer do you have?” He asked as you pinned your phone to your shoulder to finish this string hey heard you pluck to test again then tighten it some more.
“About halfway through my second harp, why?”
Fili, “Emperor is here.”
“What? He say why?”
“Nope,” Kili said, “Just dropped in said you were out but he’s insisted on waiting. You never said you grew up with Bagheera.”
“I,” you let out a breath, “I obviously didn’t think it was the same one owls don’t live for centuries.”
Fili, “Well we fed him, the Emperor not Bagheera, we all know the latter only likes to eat fruit from you.”
“Ok,” you whispered, “It shouldn’t be long, then I just have to drop by the office to put the funds in the safe and I can come back.”
Fili smirked with Kili as they both said, “Even better! We’ll meet you there!”
They hung up and you huffed pocketing the phone shaking your head to keep focused. One by one each string was tested and on their next break of silence resting your hip against the handle of the step ladder your weight held with feet on separate steps to be able to play the pair of harps one at a time with the same lullaby. Both tries added to the video one of the members had been taking of your instruments testing that would be airing sometime later replayed from its place posted on their social page. Another display of talent for their Crown Princess who had been aiding the orchestra to be back to show shape and granting in your absence a first try on one piece with the usual players for said instruments smiling at taking them up again after your having fixed them.
100 coppers for the tunings and 30 for the hourly wage was swapped for their receipt and to your car you quickened your pace across the parking lot to hurry back to your office to learn why he had dropped in out of nowhere without notice.
“How would you like to see Jaqi’s workshop?!” The boys asked with a smile that spread to the Emperor’s face in excitement to see your business in action so to speak. A suggestion accepted with the transfer of now napping kitten to the carrier they produced from along the wall on his way to the stairs for the chauffeured drive to said office where their earned uncle’s could get a meeting of their own to help grant you some time to get back without rushing your work.
The eldest Durins readied the clan to gather themselves up in what would be a mingling of casual family time and official business in the meeting of the clans with his being offered a place to stay the night as well in the guest room of your assigned apartment to share with you. All that was achieved would be gone over with some more boxes to check off tonight and the following day with your help to smooth things over. Though again for them the same question came up. Why did he arrive out of nowhere weeks prior to the Feast of starlight without even notifying you? A test. That was suggested by Groin, and all his children promptly agreed taking this matter more serious than ever to be ready for anything.
Outside the Office the trio watched from above the large car the Emperor’s Driver exited to open the door to let them out behind the dark haired eight foot Emperor smoothing his hand over the buttons on the front of his outer robe settling around his body again. Pictures of the visiting Elves had been taken by passers by and the lone photographer who had staked out your days in office for another weekly touching of base with the new Senior Noble. Up the steps he went and following into and out of the lift the first view of your simple office had his grin out again. Tall ceilings had him upright with little reason to hunch unless inspecting things closer.
At his desk however Bilbo eyed the unexpected guest with phone in hand, calming when the Princes came into view behind him on his exit. From the main lounge and office area he strolled for the milky doors to the workshop that in his opening the doors after eyeing the toddler asleep in the playpen he entered. Behind him the brothers waved their hands silencing Bilbo’s silent argument at his entering that area on their way to the windows overlooking the front of the building to see if you could be seen yet. Finishing his call Bilbo stood and hurried to the boys feigning a new cup of tea for the Elf too distracted to care whispering lowly, “Who is that?”
Fili said, “Jaqi’s adopted Adad. Came to surprise her. We’re off to the Palace after this when she arrives. Thought he might like to see her office.”
Bilbo wet his lips, “Should I make some tea?” Turning his head to hurry to the workshop doorway asking the Elf crouching to inspect the name plates and notes on the doors to the lockers after having seen one of your notepads on the workstation he returned to with a spreading smile understanding the system you had set up, “Would you care for some tea, Sir?”
Looking up his soft eyes landed on the Hobbit straightening up in wonder as to the title of said Elf if you were considered a Grand Duchess, “No thank you. I take it you are my Yuula’s first employee. How are you liking it so far?”
Unknown as to why Bilbo nodded and replied after a hasty wetting of his lips, “Very, very much. Yes, Her Royal Majesty was very kind to have hired me in my circumstances and has settled a very handsome deal for my employment here.” After looking over the Elf he stated, “I do apologize for my ignorance as to your proper title to address you properly.”
The Emperor chuckled and replied, “I am Emperor Winge Warbucks of Numenor, although my rank is rather more of financial means than Noble Blood you have not faulted my station, might I know your name in return?”
“Oh yes, Bilbo, Bilbo Baggins. At your service.”
“Would that be your child asleep?”
Bilbo nodded, “Yes, my cousin’s child I was left custody in their passing, Frodo. Your daughter was very kind to allow me flexible hours and to bring him with me to work.”
“It is a good thing,” he said to the sound of the lift chiming at its arrival at the upper floor, “My Yuula being around children. We were unfortunate on that matter in Numenor.”
“Yes,” Bilbo nodded shifting his fingers around his mug, “She did mention that children are guarded there. Would you like to see the system?”
“Very much so,” he said following the Hobbit out to his desk where he crouched to get the sharing of the basic configuration bolstering his pride even more for all you had achieved especially seeing the smooth interface that had helped you to get this far in this growing career field you seemed to have control over. No competition anywhere close by had been shared by Bilbo and the Princes who shared that those from the Iron Hills and Orcarni had even begun to inquire for shipping their instruments to you for tuning and basic repairs. Fili, “Been nice to hear how having a Hobbit Smith here has helped to build up pride in our Kingdom.”
Kili, “They only build instruments in Orcarni.”
The Emperor asked, “Your kin would still name my Yuula a Hobbit Smith even with Vanyar lineage?”
Bilbo said, “Hobbit Blood is Hobbit Blood.”
The Princes nodded to his approving chuckle then turned with him to face the lift where their uncles exited looking up to the guest they stepped out to bow their heads to, “I am aware one of you two is my son-in-law,”
Thorin stepped forward extending his hand returned to by the Emperor’s for a forearm gripping greeting. “I am Thorin, we were surprised to hear of your arrival Emperor Warbucks, though my clan are eager to meet you at our Palace should you agree to come spend the night with Jaqi.”
“Of course, I would be honored, all the better to face these introductions first before her clan members encircle her. My Yuula shall be requiring all the support we can provide in their approach to include her.”
Bilbo asked, “Yuula, is that Noldor for daughter? It sounds pretty.”
The Emperor stated, “That is my father-name for Jaqi, it means Ember.”
Dwalin asked, “Her clan members will be that harsh to require our support?”
To which he replied, “Not harsh for her, I might have come sooner though the interrogations upon myself and the captured Lord and his accomplices hindered that goal.”
Frerin, “They interrogated you?”
“To inquire upon my own knowledge of her history and family, though were I in their position I would do the same, someone with my wealth commandeering a child lost to their distant kin. Though sharing my nephews’ plots and imprisonment did calm them to any wrongdoing on my part. I bear no ill will to the clan for their worries and I fully believe that once the executions have commenced the impression of danger will cease. Yuula has been safe here under your protection and shall remain so.”
Bilbo muttered, “Executions-,” Walking around the Princes he muttered, “Dwalin, tea, right, I will make you some tea.” Making the Dwarf smirk at his flustered self walking to the kettle uncertain if he should have remained with the group for that conversation.
The Emperor asked softer, “Did I say something?”
Frerin waved his hand and Dwalin replied, “Just the Hobbit nerves. Not used to hearing topics including executions and such. Prince Dwalin son of Fundin, at your service,” he added with a bow of his head.
Frerin did the same introducing himself gaining nods in return from the Emperor who accepted the offer to move to the lounge to wait for you. There he said to Thorin, “To calm you the clans would not try to pressure Yuula, however with my experience of her history on discussing her parents or how they were lost that wound would be pressed, unintentionally or not. And were they to suggest her confronting the remaining Lord or simply confirming his identity her nightmares at the least may return or worsen.”
Thorin wet his lips as Frerin asked, “She has nightmares?”
The Emperor let out a reluctant breath and said, “She was there the night her parents were killed, her recurring dream of the event is a broken memory of what occurred. Through her sketches of it and her sharing with me what happened in the memory was how we found the remaining culprit. He was in possession of her Naneth’s stolen ring her Ada forged as a conception gift.”
Mouths were open and after a dry swallow Thorin inhaled trying to remain calm, “Then why would they require her to confront the culprit?”
“Normally they wouldn’t, however the main identifying image was a reflection of the trio in a window she drew. All of this, is highly excruciating, already there have been journals confiscated from that time from the Lord’s household and even his late wife’s whose already with a basic skim has granted details of his nightly mutterings and his own nightmares. Even the guards around their cells say each of them have night terrors, which is never uncommon for those who have unjustly attacked Vanyar, who are the Valar’s cherished race among our kin. Part of why I believed her to be in need of a good home seeing how her owl would refuse to leave watch of her.”
Dwalin, “Owl?”
Fili, “He said Bagheera was with her at the Orphanage and since then.”
“Aule has sent owls to guard orphans before, part of why we ensured he also was given the utmost comfort we were allowed to bestow him. And why I was glad to see him here once the both of them were gone suddenly.”
Frerin, “How long will they be kept alive?”
“Not much longer, along with the ring ample evidence is being gathered, though the offer for her confrontation or identification may yet be the minimum factor. For some who face trauma, confrontations my aid in healing. I doubt that would be true here, I wouldn’t dare to imagine what they might try to say, I would never allow it unless they were gagged to protect her. But the offer must be given, as proof for her if needed.”
Thorin nodded, “We share similar laws for certain crimes. Should she claim to require that we would honor that and be there for and with her, as you would I imagine.”
“I would never leave them alone with her again. Not after what they have done,”
Frerin asked, “Forgive my asking, however, was it brutal? Our kin bear certain rites to honor lost parents that shift on how they were lost we might guide Jaqi through.”
“They used a gas. Relatively quick, a relief for their clans. The only shouts were from the culprits who tried to steal their gems.”
Dwalin nodded, “Yes, Adad did say there was a mighty enchantment on them for those against her kin. Refused to break even in their reforging.”
“Perhaps a memorial ceremony for her to actually remember may bring some solace.” His eyes shifted to Thorin and asked, “I hear you have chosen a cottage already?”
Thorn nodded, “Yes,”
“Good, I should require an inspection of that, there are traditions of garden placements I should like to ensure is seen to before the courtship is at its end and the pair of you move in. Also her clans would be gifting cuttings as well.”
Thorin, “There’s a lovely greenhouse as well to protect those when they are given, part of why I imagined we might agree on that cottage. Also on this trip with your aid we may be able to begin discussions on terms of wedding rings, they take some time to forge to proper degrees.”
“I would enjoy that, perhaps might be able to ease her timid stance on that. Always reluctant on receiving or asking for jewelry, not without reason. Though she does tend to show interest in flashier pieces.”
Frerin chortled, “Next in line for Queen our kin will welcome flashy rings.”
Dwalin, “True, no chance of shaming her for her choice on size of stone count.”
A round of mugs were passed out and Bilbo from his try to settle down beside Dwalin halted to hurry and grab Frodo at his waking grumble ready for his next changing and snack. The Emperor looked to Thorin asking, “Your family would not mind your visiting Numenor sometime, would they?”
“No, I am quite free to travel. Was there a time you had in mind?” Thorin replied.
“Spring time, I could always travel here for her Yule break, I do know she has missed the snow. There is a festival she heads certain traditional roles among King Elros’ court. Part of her compensation for the possible try to bind her to his son, a common tradition for our kin. Although now that you are known as courting she may be exempt.”
Thorin said, “If she wishes to go I would be glad to see her childhood home and some of her roles among your culture. Through summer as well once her second semester is through ample aid in visitations to Numenor will be seen to as well. As for her Vanyar kin-,”
The Emperor shook his head, “No, they would travel here for some time. Vanyar has strict travel bans guarded by the Valar, many a craft has crashed on the way there attempting to break those. However a lengthy clearance period will eventually grant her a trip to her lost motherland. They would not rush that, the bond will be secured first along with trust. I would imagine an invitation for that trip would be arriving well after your official wedding.” After a pause he asked, “Would there be a coronation? Or would that only be when you would become King?”
“There is one for our role, we must honor our future Queen’s rank even without a lineage for Dwarven clans.”
Frerin, “Especially then, and she does seem to be making strides in gaining favor. Answered a question on policy the other day masterfully. Claimed ignorance on the subject then gave an example on another failed Bill to give example of what to avoid which Gramps had used to aid in his final edit of the Bill.”
Dwalin, “Then gave some small bits to share on the courtship to feed the papers after sharing we’d not gotten to official lessons on policy yet and were working social matters and language first to go with the basic courtship terms.”
“That, yes, she has always been skilled-,” he stopped suddenly to look to Thorin and asked, “Yuula mentioned a list of steps for your courtship, there is one concerning a bundle of feathers, that is included, correct?”
“Yes, we have that marked past the next equinox, she mentioned something about the proper alignment of stars to complete.”
“Good,” he replied releasing a breath, “Noldo may skip steps to honor Manwe and Vana, however Vanyar must hold those steps to great importance no matter how small. A crafting skill was mentioned, Love Spoons?”
Thorin smiled, “Yes, I just received them yesterday. I have already begun my sock animals in return.”
“Good, very good. Aule shall be amply pleased.”
Thorin nodded, “Yes, I have the spoons in a display box you may inspect at the Palace. A screech owl left a rough fire opal on my window ledge at dawn marking Mahal’s approval. I do adore the change to my responding gift, in our kin normally I would be set to use stone or metal, jewelry is a common choice. This is much more touching as to be passed down to little ones.”
“Yes, it was one of her favorites she looked forward to as a child, her Ada chose a Puffin. Rarely brought it out of her trunk from their home, mainly for anniversaries. That is his father-name for her, Snowy Puffin.”
Again the lift chimed and heads turned to the doors that soon after opened for your entrance into the floor. Flashing a quick grin to the group you listened to the Emperor in his suggestion, “Handle your business we can wait, my Yuula.”
You were glad to have him within reach again and nodding you made your way to Bilbo’s desk shifting the piano and harp job over to the finished column. Hearing the kitten in the carrier the boys had brought purring still in his sleep as Bagheera sat on the back of a chair. Into the slot of the safe in the wall you eased the coppers and confirmed the job into the ledger you sealed back into its drawer then moved to set your tool bag into the workshop. A welcoming shriek from Frodo sounded your approach and with a leg raised to settle across the Emperor’s lap a smile melted across his face at your lean into his chest wrapping your arms around his neck. Softly you muttered, “I hug people now.”
Lowly he chuckled in the lacing of his arms behind your back, “Hugs are always welcome whenever you wish.” Switching to Hobbitish he asked, “How was the orchestra?”
Eased back just a bit to remain seated leaning against his chest in his arms now relaxed around your hips and lap smiling still at your hands resting on his arm in front of you. “Good, the piano didn’t need much for tuning it was mostly in the pedals. Harps were twice my size fairly simple though and got it done in some good time giving them time to rehearse a bit on their new pieces.”
Kili pulling his phone from his pocket to the continued buzz of alerts from the guys from the team and he said, “One of the players must have filmed you playing. Got a video on you testing the piano and harps after tuning.”
“That should be fun for people to comment on.”
Fili looked at the comments scrolling down on Kili’s phone, “All seem more curious what song it is you’re playing.”
Looking to Thorin who seemed to be relaxing at how close the pair of you had grown since reconnecting. Asking, “Your appointment go well?”
“Yes,” he answered with a grin, “Very well, the groom seems to be accepting the help for the ceremony finally.”
Emperor, “Wouldn’t anyone want help?”
Dwalin, “Not always, some people want to be able to pull off perfection on their own.”
Frerin, “But we got them talked down to accepting help managing the ceremony and services while he plans the designs and décor to keep his stress down.”
Thorin asked, “Would you like to head to the Palace now?”
In your glance to the Emperor as you moved to stand again he said, “You can ride with me, and I can explain my sudden trip.”
“Okay, just us?”
“There’s room for us all if you like.”
Dwalin said, “I’ll use our driver so he’s not riding alone he lives on the Palace grounds.”
He chose to linger to keep Bilbo company for a bit longer until his shift had ended while the others walked out with you to the large car. Seated between the Emperor and Thorin you looked across to Frerin, Fili and Kili on the bench seat facing yours with hold of the carrier and owl on Thorin’s knee, the view of the rings on your hands had the Emperor gently cradling them to draw them more into view for inspection. From the new vine ring to your wedding band his eyes shifted before falling on the repaired ring of your mother’s, on which his thumb smoothed revealing the mint colored mist inside the center clear stone proving the enchantment was still intact. “Beautiful rings. I do adore the bow tie ring for a wedding band.”
“Thank you, Hobbit tradition for bow ties.”
Cradling your hands in his he let out a breath and said, “I suppose I should start here. The past few weeks I have been in Greenwood at the request of King Oropher to aid in the welcoming of your kin to settle a friendship of sorts,” you nodded and he said, “Yuula, you come from the two eldest ruling lines of the Vanyar people.” Parting your lips and the guys’ at the stunning revelation. “On your Father’s side your Great Grandfather First Born Imin has come with his Wife Iminyë, your Grandfather Isil has traveled here while his sisters remained behind. From his line you are 4th generation of the Eldar. On your mother’s side your Great Grandfather High King Ingwë has arrived with his Wife Ilma with your Grandfather Ingil. Your name to them is High Princess Nique-Puifíní Jaqiearae of the Hobbit Pear Line, now added by Grand Duchess Yuula of Numenor, Crown Princess under the Mountain.”
“That’s a mouthful,” Kili muttered making you remember to breathe again from your stunned stare at your adopted father’s face.
“High Princess?” You whispered.
As he nodded his hands cradled yours in a comforting way to Thorin’s hand smoothing over your back, “Which is why they wished to speak to me concerning your childhood and how much I knew of your origins before that orphanage. And why it has been weeks I have been so close and not able to come visit. While they continue to build up proof against your attackers and his accomplices they wished to know more about you. They are eager to meet you, while any trip to Vanyar would be long off still they wish to make a connection. From what they have learned so far they are impressed with all you have earned, and are so content to hear you have had your parents so close.”
“How does this change things? My new title?”
“Not very much, should you wish it we all might aid in your courtship rites and wedding plans once you arrive there. Though only if you ask for aid.”
After a pause you asked, “You said still gathering proof?”
“Yes, to ensure there were no other accomplices,” earning a nod from you. “When we do get to Greenwood by law they will offer you a chance to confront the remaining of the three others, you are not required to accept,” he added to the flinch of fear in your eyes. “Which you are not required to act upon. You are not required to see them ever again, they can easily execute the lot with the proof they have now. Merely a legal requirement to offer that to you.” Again you nodded in the gentle tightening of his grip, “They will not leave their cells until they are to be executed and are under heavy guard, I have looked in on them myself, all self starved and weakened near to failure on their try to play martyr.”
Frerin, “Either way you won’t be alone in Greenwood ever, no harm will find you.”
“I don’t,” you sighed, “That’s not the issue, I don’t know if my parents would want me to see them. And if I did what would I ever say to them?”
Emperor, “I could think of countless unsavory things, ample has been said by your clan in their own interrogations. Would you like to hear about your relatives?” You nodded and he gave you a soft smile beginning to share about your clan in and out of Hobbitish when his vocabulary ran thin.
Pt 17
All –
@himoverflowers​​​, @theincaprincess​​​, @aspiringtranslator​​​, @thegreyberet​​​, @patanghill17​​​, @jesgisborne​​​, @curvestrology​​​, @alishlieb​​​, @jogregor​​​, @armitageadoration​​​, @fizzyxcustard​​​, @lilith15000​​​, @marvels-ghost​​​, @catthefearless​​​, @imjusthereforthereads​​​, @c-s-stars​​​, @otakumultimuse-hiddlewhore​​​, @mariannetora​​​, @shes-a-killer-kween​​, @ggbbhehe4455, @xxbyimm​​
Hobbit/LotR – @abiwim​, @jotink78​​, @pastelhexmaniac
x Thorin – @evyiione​​, @deepestfirefun​, @queenoferebor​​
X all Rich. A - @abiwim​​, @deepestfirefun​, @thestorybookmistress
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Writing Dialogue
Below the read more is a lesson on writing effective dialogue in fiction. As with everything in art, rules are there to be broken, so please do treat the below lesson as a guideline rather than a legal document, and remember that it is based on what works for me as well as advice I have received from other writers. It might not match your style, and that’s all right. It’s also a very lengthy blog post, but I have used headings to try and break it up and there’s a little contents of sorts at the start, so feel free to skim/skip where needed. 
If you do find it useful, however, please consider helping me through a tricky time by sending a few pennies my way via ko-fi. 
Dialogue is the written speech of your characters in your story. For some people, writing effective dialogue comes naturally, for others it feels almost impossible to master. It is worth considering, as well, the differences in dialogue for different kinds of media - in screenwriting, for example, a writer will be able to rely more heavily on actors’ expression, comic timing, body language and other effects such as music. However they will also be constrained by shorter time, more need for unnatural exposition, and lack of internal thoughts. The following lesson will focus on dialogue in fiction - for short stories or novels - although some rules will be applicable to dialogue in other mediums too, so they’re worth keeping in mind. 
The Purpose of Dialogue
Dialogue should:
Progress the story
Deepen character and relationship
Have realism
Be embellished/supported with suitable dialogue tags and appropriate narration. 
Easier said than done. Let’s take them one at a time. 
Progress the story
As with most writing, the writer needs to be constantly asking herself ‘what is the point?’ Why am I having my characters say/do/notice this? It may be to deepen character and relationship (and we’ll get onto that), but for longer stories we must acknowledge that the dialogue needs to move the plot along as well, as much as we might want to indulge in a bit of pointless fluff now and then. 
Dialogue can drive the plot in a more engaging and exciting way than plain narration. Narration on its own can be effective at building tension, but usually only in small doses, and having many pages of narration without dialogue or internal thought will feel more like a summary of events or a witness statement than the author would perhaps like. Consider the below: 
Breakfast was tense that morning. They ate silently as they pondered what to do. Michael buttering his toast so aggressively that it was surprising that the knife didn’t go through it. Susan asked him to stop, but that only started the arguing again. He accused her of expecting him to get over the affair so quickly. She threw back that there was nothing left to say if he refused to get therapy, and she had warned him for years that things had to change, and that it had been one foolish night in twenty years of unhappy marriage. She, Susan insisted, had excused plenty of foolish mistakes on his part. 
Compared to: 
‘Will you stop that?’ she said sharply. Michael did not pause in the furious buttering of his toast. ‘I said I was sorry.’ 
‘What, you say the magic word and I’m meant to shrug it off?’ he replied. ‘Pretend it never happened? Pretend you didn’t-’
‘You’ve made your anger perfectly clear, and I understand, but you don’t need to be so aggressive with everything, I get it.’ 
‘Oh, here we go. Buttering toast is aggressive now.’ 
‘Well, yes, like that - I’ve tried to talk to you like a grown up, but-’
‘It really bloody winds me up when you just say insane stuff patiently and without emotion and think that makes it acceptable, d’you know that? I’m allowed to be angry, you cheated.’
I could continue. The first example can pack a lot more information in, but using dialogue to drive the plot makes for more interesting and deeper meaning. It turns it into a story, rather than an account of events that occurred. It allows the writer to layer the plot with character work and unlock the story a little at a time.
In this regard, it is good to have your characters talking. To each other, to themselves, to the reader - whatever your particular style demands. Having that personable voice is engaging. 
There are a few “rules” to keep in mind in order to ensure you remain plot-focused with your dialogue:
Avoid small talk. Enter late, leave early. Naturally there are exceptions (if you want to emphasise the awkwardness of a relationship between two characters you might want to include some failed attempts at small talk), but the usual chit-chat and extended greetings that we are used to saying in every day life can normally be skipped or avoided. You don’t need to have lots of ‘hi, how are you?’  ‘I’m fine thanks, you?’ ‘Fine, cheers. Have you seen the rain?’ Your characters are allowed to just get to the point and your reader will thank you for it. 
Have characters on their own thought trajectories. This is a great way of driving the plot, and though it can be tricky to master it can really help in making your characters believable individuals as well as creating some conflict. If characters know each other, or both know the topic, they will likely jump ahead, make assumptions, fail to answer each other directly - this can be a great way of showing that they’re on the same wavelength, but can also be a vehicle for miscommunications and misunderstandings, or deliberately misleading one another. In that vein, don’t have the characters telling each other things they already know, unless made to sound believable. 
Similarly, don’t have characters say things solely for the benefit of the reader. This is called exposition, and while exposition is necessary, it can be clumsily handled in dialogue. It’s made fun of frequently in films where they have such limited time to get background information across. You definitely don’t want dialogue like ‘So, Michael, it’s been three years since your divorce, have you thought about dating again?’ Michael knows this, his insensitive friend knows this, the reader is not stupid and knows that it’s not natural sounding. If it must be said in dialogue, weave it into a more natural conversation - ‘I haven’t been to Ibiza in three years, and I don’t plan on going back any time soon. Don’t want to run the risk of bumping into Susan and Jorge.’ 
We’ll get onto weaving it in with narration and dialogue tags later, which makes that a lot easier, but, in short, use dialogue to drive your story. 
Deepen character and relationship
This is my favourite thing to do, and why I often prefer to write shorter stories than longer ones. A writer can find great joy in bringing a character to life through dialogue, dragging them away from plot vehicles and making them people of their own.
Firstly, it’s important to remember that your character’s background and personality will affect the way that they speak. If all your characters sound the same, they probably sound like you! A well educated character will obviously have a different way of talking than a common street urchin, but everyone has quirks and patterns to their speech that you can use to say a lot. You might use long meandering sentences with lots of rhetorical questions for a character known to be boring, for example. You might use short, sharp sentences for a character that’s grumpy or distracted with some deeper internal struggle. You can use the way two characters talk to each other to say a lot about their relationship and power dynamic, especially if you remember that good dialogue should have subtext (what isn’t being said being important).
A good example of this is from the short story Hills Like White Elephants, by Ernest Hemmingway (CW; indirect discussion of abortion). Consider the short passage below. 
‘It’s really an awfully simple operation, Jig,’ the man said. ‘It’s not really an operation at all. 
The girl looked at the ground the table legs rested on. 
‘I know you wouldn’t mind it, Jig. It’s not really anything. It’s just to let the air in.’ 
The girl did not say anything. 
‘I’ll go with you and I’ll stay with you all the time. They just let the air in and then it’s all perfectly natural.’ 
‘Then what will we do afterward?’ 
‘We’ll be fine afterward. Just like we were before.’ 
‘What makes you think so?’ 
‘That’s the only thing that bothers us. It’s the only thing that’s made us unhappy.’ 
The girl looked at the bead curtain, put her hand out and took hold of two of the strings of beads. ‘And you think then we’ll be all right and be happy.’
It’s a really interesting story that is almost entirely dialogue, so it’s well worth reading to get a good sense of using subtext. I wasn’t aware of the abortion connotations when I first read it because I hadn’t heard of the very dated term ‘letting the air in’, but really the story is great at demonstrating the uneven power dynamic between the two even without knowledge of what the operation is. Without much description (though ‘man’ and ‘girl’ says it all really, doesn’t it?), you get a sense that a much older man is persuading this reluctant girl into this act by leveraging how hopelessly in love she is with him, though he does not seem to feel the same way. He speaks most when he is trying to persuade her - the rest of the time he is snappish and short with her childish and ignorant questions about the world around them. The above passage is the only time in the story where he refers to her by a name, and we can gather that it’s a pet one. The girl’s silence says as much as her dialogue, and when she does speak it is questioning - looking to him for authority. 
Understanding character motivations and background is what makes this masterful use of dialogue. It would be tempting, for a novice writer, to have the girl argue. For her to say something like ‘what if we could be happy without it?’ But where that should be, there is silence, or repeating his thoughts back to him - because Hemmingway is not only driving the story but emphasising the imbalance of their relationship and her own naive nature. She would not argue with him, she can only wish that he will change his mind. This is all through dialogue and a tiny bit of narration, barely any dialogue tags, and really says so much without saying it at all. Show vs tell is about more than description after all. 
That kind of depth when it comes to writing dialogue is... really hard. I haven’t picked Hemmingway to suggest that this is the quality all writing should be at, and I certainly don’t mean to intimidate anyone. But it really is a golden example of thinking about your dialogue within the context of the character, and how their background, situation, and goals will affect how they respond and react to those around them. Your character may not always be able to say what is convenient for you, the author, to tell the reader, because it may not be in their nature or sound authentic. But there are clever ways around that and it can make for more powerful writing, between the lines of what is said. 
Have realism
If you skipped down to this bit, I understand. It’s the area that people most often struggle with. I find that people tend to fall into two traps here - either their characters sound like robots because they are over formal and have too much emphasis on being grammatically correct or over eloquent at the expense of natural dialogue, OR they swing in the other direction and try to replicate perfectly how people speak in day to day life. 
If you do have a problem with stilted dialogue, it is a good idea to listen to how people naturally speak and try typing it out to get yourself out of the habit. But on the whole, the way people normally speak actually doesn’t sound that great in written format. In real life, we use lots of filler words, we get muddled, we go off on tangents, we trail off, we stutter and stammer and phrase things badly, we um and ah and say far more with our body language and expression than we realise. If you ever read transcripts, from interviews or courts, you’ll see how much of it actually doesn’t make a lot of sense. Our brains make sense of it when we listen to others, based on other parts of communication. Yes, sometimes adding in a ‘er...’ is beneficial and good, and you might have a really nice character moment of someone anxious trailing off when they realise no one is listening to them. Sprinkling those moments in can absolutely make your dialogue sound more authentic, especially when carefully used with character knowledge, but be careful not to over use it. In written dialogue, our characters can and should be more articulate and quicker to formulate their thoughts than in real life for the sake of the story. Striking that balance between overly structured and too real and easy can be really hard, but it only comes with practice - reading dialogue out loud can be a big help, as can writing the dialogue first with no narration or speech tags (more on that later). 
Some common mistakes when it comes to dialogue: 
Having one character speak too long without a break. Monologues are tough to get through as a reader and don’t come up often in real life in any meaningful way. They can end up cheesy or exposition heavy. Occasionally you can get away with it with very particular characters, but in general, avoid. 
Over use of names. It’s really distracting as a reader if dialogue is constantly like, ‘what do you think, Harry?’ ‘Charlie, I just don’t know.’ ‘Really, Harry, you need to decide if you’re going to marry her or not.’ ‘I know, you’re right, Charlie.’ Use names to get someone’s attention and then don’t use them again unless you need to make it clear to the reader who the character is talking to. 
Not using contractions. Even very formal people use contractions such as don’t and won’t, it is part of natural rapid speech. Save the ‘do not’ and ‘will not’s for when the emphasis is really needed. 
Having characters speak in unison. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes this can be used to hilarious effect and can always be used for a bit of comedy. But on the whole people don’t do this, including twins. 
Misuse of slang or dialects. If you’re going to use it, make sure you do your research. It’s also worth bearing in mind that if you over use it, it will be hard for the reader to understand and may break immersion. 
Over explain for the reader. I mentioned this before but it’s worth repeating. If you went outside right now and saw a UFO, you would probably shout something along the lines of ‘wtf is that?’, and you would perhaps point or scramble for your potato to take a shaky video. You would probably not shout, ‘look at flying saucer! I’ve never seen anything like it!’ Think carefully about realistic reactions, even if they are not particularly convenient to you as a writer. 
Over use of exclamation marks/caps lock. People aren’t that vibrant and it’s tiring to read. The less you use it, the more punch it packs. 
Using narration and dialogue tags
First, a quick grammar lesson. Sorry. 
‘This is some speech.’ 
‘This is also some speech,’ said the character. 
‘Is this also speech?’ asked another. 
‘Well,’ said the first, ‘yes.’ 
‘Brilliant,’ said the other. ‘Thanks for letting me know.’ 
I use single quotation marks because I’m British and annoying, the conventional double quote marks the Americans use (”like this!”) is also correct. The only important thing is that you pick one and stick to it. Quotation marks always surround the words that are being spoken aloud, and must be opened and closed. Where the sentence ends, you must use a full stop (period), or another piece of punctuation like a question or exclamation mark before closing the speech with the marks. 
Where there is a dialogue tag (he said/said/replied, etc), the sentence is continuing, so a comma is more appropriate (but you can also use a question/exclamation mark and the sentence still continues), and again this must go before the speech marks close the dialogue. If you want to continue the sentence with the dialogue tag in the middle, you can continue by using another comma, or you can end the sentence with a full stop and continue the dialogue as a new sentence. 
Use a new line for a new character speaking.
Phew, that’s over so you can pay attention again. But unfortunately I still have more to say. 
Here is a fun little exercise. Take the below dialogue between two characters, A and B. 
‘Do you love me?’ 
‘You’re drunk.’ 
‘Why won’t you answer the question?’ 
‘Sit down. I’ll make you a tea.’ 
‘I don’t want tea, I want an answer! Tell me!’  
The dialogue alone already tells us a bit of a story - a picture is probably already forming in your head, perhaps of the characters, perhaps of the setting. As it stands it’s ok, and if you struggle with dialogue it can be effective to write only the dialogue out in this way (this tip from my writing teacher also helped me cut down on purple prose!). But now look at the scene: 
It was not the first time, nor would it be the last, that Alex was woken at 3am by repeated bangs on the floor and shouts through the letterbox. Nothing else would have made her rise from bed. If she had suspected even for a moment that it was anyone else, she would have called the police. 
But as usual, it was Sam. Blonde, tousled hair a mess, eye make up smudged, pouting lips trembling as she swayed. 
‘Do you love me?’ 
‘You’re drunk,’ said Alex, wincing as Sam’s grey eyes shone with tears. ‘You’d better come in.’ 
‘Why won’t you answer the question?’ 
Alex ignored her, pulled her in by her slender arm. ‘Sit down. I’ll make you a tea.’ 
‘I don’t want tea. I want an answer. Tell me!’ Sam’s voice was loud and high, and it pierced her. 
So, we haven’t actually added that much narration or dialogue tags (t’s best, if you can, to avoid using them too much), but we’re able to give a clearer picture of these two characters. You may even now be reading the dialogue in a different tone to the one you originally did - picturing the scene with a different feel. Not convinced? How about now? 
Yet again, as had happened dozens of bloody times before, Alex was woken at 3am by incoherent, slurred shouting through the letterbox. 
‘Do you love me?’ was Sam’s immediate demand as Alex wearily opened the door. 
Alex rubbed her hand over her bleary eyes and sighed. ‘You’re drunk. You’d better come in.’ 
Sam turned on the tears at once, mascara running in thick, spidery lines down her blotchy cheeks. ‘Why won’t you answer the question?’
‘Sit down,’ Alex muttered. ‘I’ll make you a tea.’ She stood aside and jerked her head towards the living room.
‘I don’t want tea, I want an answer! Tell me!’ 
Wincing once more at her piercing shriek, Alex closed her eyes. 
The very same dialogue can be shaped by carefully worded narration and dialogue tags. It’s a fun exercise to do with writing buddies - all use the same dialogue and see how different the stories come out. It can also be a pretty nifty way to challenge writers block or shake up a scene you’re struggling with. 
Some extra tips from my writing teacher - I fully confess that I am not always the best at following these ones, because my writing has been heavily influenced by JK Rowling who also doesn’t seem to set much store by them. But they are good, and since I’ve kept them in mind my writing has improved. 
Avoid overuse of adverbs (’she said nervously’). Use action or dialogue alone to convey this information instead. 
Avoid overuse of verbs besides ‘said’. The reader will skim over said and barely notice it, if every character is whispering and muttering and shouting all the time it stilts the flow of the scene - use sparingly.
Use tags when necessary to ensure clarity as to who is speaking, otherwise let the dialogue stand for itself. 
Use internal thoughts in place of speech tags sometimes. 
Use action beats (’he turned to stare coldly out of the window’) in place of speech tags sometimes to help set the pace of the scene. 
I hope this very lengthy post has helped! Please do get in touch if you have any further questions or would like any elaborations on anything I’ve mentioned here, or if you have suggestions for future lessons!
Lastly, I hate to do this but times must - if you have even just a couple of quid to send my way it would be a massive help to me. If you did find this useful, please consider donating to my kofi. 
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