#this life is awful and wretched but love still seems to exist
ambedoshowers · a year ago
I wish I could go back to my younger self and say “hey., yeah it’s all really shitty, I know you know that. But you know there’s a lot of good shit too., the stuff worth staying alive for, being there to see. There will still be a lot of bad shit., but you’ll find strength in each passing year. You’ll fumble and fall., and worry about this scary place your head is in catching up to you. But you’ll finally be in control., and that’s something worth staying alive for.”
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spideyspeaches · a year ago
Gold Rush ↬ t.h
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Gif by @parkeraul :)
A/N: I'm in love with that song 🙈 also here's my super late contribution of professor!tom 😋 cause I've been procrastinating on the wandavision au (in my defence though, it's taking a lot of brainstorming 😂) anyway here you go-
Wc: 2.6k+
Warnings: lemme know if you find one :)
Summary: He taught British History and you chastise yourself for not auditing for that subject earlier.
Pairing: Professor!Tom x Student!Reader
Masterlist || Taglist
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Waking up with a start, you groan at the shrill sound of your alarm. With a sigh that was more of a grunt of annoyance, you tried to reach for your phone at the side table, hissing when you felt the corner of your elbow hit the table, pain shooting up to your shoulder. 
Great, you weren't even up yet and your day was already going shitty. You just hoped that your professor won't be grumpy about you being late for the millionth time this semester. 
You hated cultural architecture. You had nothing against the course, but You hated your professor with a passion and wished that you could burn your textbooks for all you cared, right in front of your teacher's eyes, watch him writhe in fear as you banished the very existence of your material. 
You were being dramatic, but in your defence, your professor was an old bastard who never left an opportunity to reprimand you, going as far as letting you know how uneven your margins were on your latest project. 
He wore birkenstocks with a three piece. You wouldn't trust him with your assignments. 
Getting out of your dorm room was work, hard work. But you got out, brushed your teeth and wore what you hoped were presentable clothing. 
"You look hungover." Your roommate, Stacy, commented, spitting in the sink as you scowled at her. 
She was straightforward, outspoken and somehow managed to look like one of those Victoria secrets models that you loathed, even at seven in the morning. You hated her. 
(You didn't.)
"Thanks, I hope I smell too. Want that son of a bitch- what's his name, Wilson, to suffer for giving me that C minus on my thesis." You grumbled, rubbing your hands through your hair to flat them out. 
"You really hate him, don't you." She snickered, popping off her shirt. You tried not to look, not wanting to come off as a pervert, but damn, she was fit. You contemplated her words, frowning at your own reflection. 
You looked disheveled, the dark eye bags under your eyes very apparent as you tried to mask them with foundation, setting your hair for the millionth time. Oh well, you were presentable enough. Sweatpants would have to do for your only class today, you could binge Netflix after this wretched class. 
"I do. I hope his third wife divorces him and he loses his thermos of coffee in the subway." You said, adding your look finally before wearing your shoes. 
"That's cruel, didn't know you had it in you." She snickered, patting your back and following you as you closed the door, "Well I have to go to my boring science lectures now so, see you later hun." 
"Yeah, enjoy your chemistry period with your boyfriend!" You cheered sarcastically, rolling your eyes and hugging her to tell her that you were only joking. Your relationship was this, of jokes and hugs and kisses. You considered her your best friend. 
Rushing towards the gates of your university, you hastily tightened your loosening hair tie, adjusting the straps of your bags. You were pretty sure you had broken your record of being late to your class. You may hate the professor, but you actually enjoyed the subject. 
Wheezing as you ran past the late comers, you nodded at the receptionist, hastily signing yourself in. You would blame your clumsiness for what happened next, because one second you were fixing your sande on the foot of the fountain, and next thing you knew you were crashing into a firm body, your nose hitting the random stranger’s chest.
"I’m so sorry! I’m kinda late to class and I wasn’t looking and- whoa, ow.” You rushed your words, groaning when you felt blood rush from your head to toe, nose throbbing with double vision, a reminder of your clumsiness. 
“Whoa, hey calm down, it’s okay, I wasn’t looking either.” The stranger said, his thick South Western accent snapping you out of your self pity. 
You felt blood rush to your cheeks instead, not anticipating your face in a flush this early in the morning, when you got a good look at the stranger. He was good looking, in his black high turtleneck and brown checkered pants. He had a small leather satchel clutched in his hands, face looking as flushed as you felt when you realised that you had been gawking at him.
He was probably no older than his mid twenties, making you wonder what he was doing in your university. He was too old to be a student, and too young to be a professor. But then again, you wouldn't judge him for joining college late.
"S-sorry, you um, you must be really late, you should go." He stuttered, your heart fluttering at his dimpled chin and thick accent. His eyes were gleaming in the morning sun, captivating in a way that left you in awe. 
"Um yeah, I am." You nodded, composing yourself, hoping that you didn't look too sleep deprived or disheveled, "where are you going, if you don't mind me asking."  
"Um, the architecture wing?" He said, unconsciously stepping besides you.
"Oh, I'm going that way. Is it your first time coming here? Haven't seen you around." You asked, trying not to stare at his sharp jawline and the way the morning sun hit him just right, illuminating and accentuating his curly brown hair. 
"Yeah, it's my first lecture, so um, looks like I'm late too." He smiled. It was infectious, you noticed as you mirrored his expression. 
"Oh, you're a student?" 
"Actually, I'm a professor. Just transferred from UCL." 
So you were right, he was a professor. He looks so young though. You thought, nodding at him, your thoughts interrupted by his laugh. Looking at him with confusion, you raised an eyebrow. 
"Yeah, everyone says that. I started right after finishing graduation so, I guess I'm not much older than you." He smiled, kicking the small pebbles littered around the set grassy ground. It had just rained, the smell of wet ground still fresh. 
"I said that out loud didn't I?" You smirked, ducking your head to hide. 
"You did." 
Entering the building, you realised that you hadn't asked which subject he taught, crossing your fingers and hoping that he would replace the old bastard that taught you cultural architecture. 
"I forgot to ask, which lecture do you teach?" You asked, looking for your class in the end. The hallways were empty, it was way past your first lecture and all the students were already in the auditorium. 
"Oh, uh, British History." He answered. You didn't let disappointment show too much on your face, smiling shyly before gesturing towards the class, "that's you." 
"Oh, um thank you." He smiled, pursing his thin lips together as he walked towards the class. You could hear screaming of the students as you both neared the classroom, you still standing by the door, "I didn't get your name." 
His question snapped you out of your disappointed gaze, 
"Oh, it's Y/n. Y/n L/n." You said with a smile. 
"Pleasure to meet you Y/n, I'm Thomas Holland, but you can call me Tom." He said awkwardly, before turning back to his class, who had yet to notice him.
"The pleasure's all mine Professor." 
For the first time in your college life, you didn't feel like tearing your hair off during your lecture, your thoughts wandering around. You wanted to berate yourself for not paying attention, but your thoughts kept going there. 
It was funny, how you met him not long ago and he was already taking up residence in your brain. You could not control your feelings after all. Something akin to nausea or excitement eased into your stomach when you pictured his smile, his black turtleneck that accentuated his biceps and pectorals. The little rebellious eyebrow and the tiny scar above it. 
It made your heart flutter, everything seemingly seemed to stop around you. It scared you a bit, how You had managed to envision the little details of his face in your brain after such a short duration. 
You didn't realise that you were smiling until you felt a nudge on your side, making you nearly jump on your seat. 
"What?!" You hissed, scowling at your classmate. 
"Who're you thinking about?" She asked, wiggling her eyebrows as she leaned towards you. You had known her long enough to know her name but never bothered learning, and you were too scared to ask now. 
"It's none of your business." You muttered, glancing up to see your professor scowling at a student as they stood up. 
"Well okay, but did you hear about the hot new professor? Apparently he's teaching British History, I regret not taking that as a subject now." She said, her cheeks flushed with excitement. You furrowed your brows, feeling a pang in your chest at the realisation that you were probably just another girl with a stupid crush on the hot professor, that there were already girls who would die to feel his touch. 
"How do you know about him?" You asked, raising an eyebrow as you try to act nonchalant. You weren't being subtle, apparently, because you could see her snapping her bubblegum with a smirk, leaning forward as if trading secrets. 
"You kidding right? Everyone knows about him, you got a crush on him or something?" She suggested, scooting close enough to make you squirm. 
"I literally just met him, and ew, he's a professor, why would I see him that way?" You whisper, willing your heart to stop palpitating at the thought of said professor, your gut twisting in anticipation. 
"I don't know girl, he's hot and young and so much better than this bastard." She sighed, leaning on her palm with a fake dreamy expression. 
You went back to ignoring her after that, noticing how her notebook said 'Eloise'. At least you didn't have to ask her her name now. 
Your class went surprisingly well, or maybe it was because you weren't paying attention and thinking about him again. You really needed to get a grip on yourself. 
Walking out of your class, you decided to go to the cafeteria, your stomach begging for your attention.
Setting your things on a table, you took out your phone to scroll through Instagram, before switching it off and looking around the cafeteria. You didn't know what you were expecting to see, but your stomach was gurgling with hunger and nothing made sense when you were hungry. 
Walking to grab something to eat, you pick up your bag, hanging it over one of your shoulders before getting in the line. 
Just as you were about to turn with your bun and cup of coffee, you crashed into someone for the second time that day. Cursing your clumsiness, you heard a familiar British accent curse not very colourful words, making you stumble over as you tried to wipe off the hot coffee off his shirt.
"Hey, it's okay." He said, stopping your frantic gestures by holding your wrist with his to cease any movements.
"Professor Holland! I'm so sorry, it's like, I'm just clumsy. I have no excuse." You sighed in resignation, mentally facepalming at spilling your coffee at the hot professor. 
"It's okay darling, I've had much worse spilled on me." He smirked, his hand still holding on to yours. You had started walking away from the location, and yet his hand didn't let go, "You know, I used to babysit during my college days." 
"Oh, babysitting, right of course." You chuckled awkwardly, chest heaving with the sudden close proximity with the professor, dissipating the not quite PG thought that just occurred in your mind at his words.. 
"Sorry for-" You said in unison with him, chuckling. 
"You go first." He said.
"I'm sorry for spilling coffee on You, it must have hurt and I ruined your shirt and now there's a big splotch of coffee right in the middle!" You said, circling your fingers around your palm as you walked with your back to the exit as you walked out of the cafeteria, food forgotten and him following your pace. 
Before you could continue your awkward blabber, you were standing in the garden outside, leaning against a pillar with the garden in your view looking golden in the setting sun. He was standing in your view, the shadows around his jaw making it look sharp enough to cut glass. 
Taking a breath, you looked up at his smiling form with confusion when he didn't answer, instead leant onto the pillar next to you.
"You were... gonna say something?" You reminded, smiling awkwardly as you fiddled with your fingers.
"Oh? Oh! Oh yes yes, You know, I was kind of disappointed that you weren't in my class, Mister Wilson talks very highly of you." He said, folding his arms on his chest, it made his biceps bulge. 
"He does?" You looked at him with surprise, guilt panging in your chest when you remembered yourself bad mouthing the professor not long ago. 
"Yes, says you're a bright student with a bright future." He answered, leaning his head back so that his neck was exposed, Adam's Apple bobbing as he gulped, his hair falling into place perfectly against his forehead. The arch of his neck was beautiful, tracing it with your eyeballs as you imagined which other curves of his were as beautiful, immediately dismissing those thoughts, chastising yourself for thinking such a way of a professor. 
"That's… sweet of him. I've never heard him compliment me once in the two and half years I've been in his class." You chuckle, leaning your elbow on the pillar to get a better look at his side profile. 
"Hmm, he says he's hard on you because he wants you to do your best..." 
You stopped listening past that, your breath growing more erratic the more he talked, his smooth voice washing over you like warm honey with a squeeze of lemon. Swallowing a sudden lump in your throat, your heart leaping, leaving you nauseous and in a dream like trance. 
Tom noticed immediately, noticing your slouched posture as you stared at him with a small smile, the upturn of your lips so inviting that he almost dived in, wanting to know the feeling of them what they felt like against his. 
He wasn't the kind to date his students, in fact, he rarely dated after joining uni and becoming a professor. 
He strictly believed that student/teacher relationships should end in only a professional non romantic set up. That was all up until he crashed into you that morning. 
You had been in his mind all day, stirring him crazy as he imagined your smile, the way your eyes lit up when you talked about your subject of interest, the say your fingers fiddled with the ring you wore on your index finger. 
He wondered if this feeling would last forever or become a vague memory, an attraction of hearts that didn't last but felt good till it did. If he was rushing, or if you even felt the same way. 
He was smart, of course that's how he became a teacher, but he still couldn't place your feelings. 
So when he saw you staring at him, his heart leaping in his throat at your adorable smile, the only logical answer his brain gave was that you liked him too. Temporary attraction or not, he wasn't one to look a gift horse in it's mouth. 
Next thing he knew your lips were crashing onto his, your chest pressed against his firmly as your hands reached up to the base of his neck. 
Your fingers were soft, tongue swishing against his as he opened his mouth to let you enter. His hands automatically reach for your waist, holding onto firmly as he slammed you against the pillar. 
The sun was nearly down, the last of the rays hitting the garden, lighting you both up in a golden glow that left you breathless with a fire raging in your souls. 
"What do you say that I audit for British history? I'd like to learn more lessons from you, Professor Holland." You said, breathless against his chest, hiding your nose against his sternum, blood rushing to your ears as his warm hand burned against the bare skin underneath your shirt. 
"That would be great darling, anything to see your pretty smile every morning." 
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A/N: let me know what you think! :)
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sunny-sings-sooth · a year ago
Words: 4.5k
TW: Sexual assault, abuse
Here's my retelling of the myth of Apollo and Daphne! Highly experimental, as I usually write in first person and not so poetically. Hope you enjoy, and if anything doesn't make sense lemme know and I will add some context here. (Also FYI some of the dialogues are pulled directly from Homer's narration)
Phoebus Apollonas had been alive too long.
He was young by god standards, barely over a millenia old, and still one of the youngest Olympians. And yet he had grown exhausted. He’d been suffering the curse of life long enough to see the boy he used to be -- Phoebus -- die. The demise of the boy began when, in attempt to protect his sister Artemis, he had committed his first murder and thereby lost her forever. The boy decayed further when he’d held the corpses of his sons in his arms. And he’d finally killed the boy with his own hands when he turned his grief-fueled wrath on mortals. Phoebus, the bright, the innocent, the golden prince of Olympus, was dead. All that remained was Apollonas, the destroyer, the terror, the monstrous god of plague.
Except he no longer wished to be Apollonas. Apollonas was addicted to alcohol, drowning himself in it so that he wouldn’t have to face the memories that had murdered Phoebus. Apollonas had struck his younger brother Hermes, the only friend he had left, in drunken rage. Apollonas was despicable and deserved death. He could never be Phoebus again; that he knew and had accepted. But perhaps he could rid himself of Apollonas and become just Apollo. That did not mean erasing Apollonas; he had too many crimes to pay for, and running away would be a dishonor to all those who had suffered at his hands. He would repent for everything he had done as Apollonas, and thereby recreate himself as Apollo.
The first thing he needed to do was to break alcohol’s hold on him, which meant distancing himself from Dionysus. He didn’t want to abandon his youngest brother, but the temptation to drink was too strong in his presence. He hoped Dionysus would understand, and that he would one day be strong enough to bridge the gap of his creation.
He had been clean for three whole days. It didn’t seem like much -- blink of an eye in the lengthy lives of gods -- but that alone had taken him all his willpower. In the absence of the gallons of drink he had been consuming daily, not only was he plagued by memories and sheer self-hatred, he suddenly became highly attuned to the gossip that trailed him. Every moment on Olympus, hundreds of eyes were trained on him, and the whispers never escaped his sharp ears. It wasn’t that he was not used to being the center of attention, but rather the harsh truth of their statements. Phoebus Apollonas is a murderer. He flayed Marsyas alive for daring to challenge him. He curses anyone who questions his authority. He has killed thousands with his plague arrows. He is a monster. He knew these were all true and that he deserved to be pierced by such words, but the anxiousness caused by his withdrawal made them unbearable, and he had to escape to the woods. Here he found solace. Here he could work to slowly put himself together again until he was strong enough to face those who he wronged.
If he hadn’t been so lost in thought, then perhaps he would’ve heard the flap of wings before Eros was standing before him. He nearly dropped the silver bow that he’d been restringing and looked up to meet the other god’s gaze. Eros was the only man Apollonas considered a possible competitor in terms of beauty; his fair skin was smooth as a pearl, his wings the color of one, his features the aspiration of every artist’s portrait. And yet there was something unnerving about the other god. Perhaps it was his hair that, while comparable to a young maiden’s blush, was also the same shade as blood. Perhaps it was the deep red hue of his eyes, made of crushed hearts and rubies. And perhaps it wasn’t his appearance at all, but the mystique that surrounded him; he was the fourth being to come into existence and was old as time itself, and that was one of the only two things Apollonas knew about him.
“Phoebus Apollona,” Eros stated in greeting, and Apollonas hated how wrong it sounded, though he couldn’t tell if it was the names themselves or simply the one who spoke them.
“What do you want?” He couldn’t hide his irritation. The other thing he knew about Eros was that he was the god of love, and love had only ever caused Apollonas pain. He had no reason to like the god nor felt the need to veil his displeasure. All he wanted was the solitude necessary to rework himself.
“I was simply admiring your bow, oh He Who Shoots From Afar.” There was no missing the mockery in Eros’s voice, and his eyes gleamed as he gazed at the weapon. “Why, your skill is almost comparable to my own! Perhaps with some effort, you can become the greatest archer in the land.”
“Are you implying that you are the greatest archer?” Eros nodded, and one glance at the winged god’s slim arms and the modest bow slung across his back sent Apollonas into a fit of laughter. It was many moments before he could calm himself enough to speak. “What have you to do with the arms of men, you feeble thing?”
“I am merely suggesting I may be god of archery as you are god of plague.” Apollonas’s head snapped up at the idea, and his hands curled into fists as he stood, towering over the shorter god. If Eros was a painter’s fantasy, then Apollonas was a sculptor’s. His toned body was the epitome of perfection, the ideal balance between strength and beauty. He was well aware of this fact, and though he rarely preferred to use his appearance for intimidation purposes, Eros’s insult necessitated such action.
“Do not lay claim to my honors,” he hissed, his sky blue eyes glinting with divine power. Archery was the one constant he could always rely on. With his bow and arrows, he could protect and punish, wound and save. It was the one part of him that stayed no matter if he was Phoebus or Apollonas or whoever, and he’d be damned if he allowed this worthless winged wretch to even suggest taking that from him.
“Let us put it to test, then,” Eros declared, unfazed by the archer’s anger. What would the ancient deity have to fear from the youth? He was well aware of his capability, and little did Apollonas know he was falling into another trap, his emotions and naivety deceiving him once more. He was but a pawn in Eros’s game. “What say you to a battle of skill?”
Apollonas did not grace the other with an answer, lifting his weapon and drawing an arrow from his golden quiver in response. The toned muscles of his back flexed as he pulled back the string and released, and the arrow had barely gone forth an inch before he sent forward another, and then yet another. His arms were but a blur as arrow after arrow went flying, striking the most minuscule of targets: the pupil of a fly’s eye, the thread of a spider’s web, the stem of a single olive. Apollonas did not stop until his quiver lay empty, and he took in the perfect shots before him that seemed almost artistic by his hand. No matter how low he may have descended in these past years, there was no denying the masterpiece he created from the most basic of weapons. This was his domain. He couldn’t keep his lips from curling in conceit as he turned to Eros.
“That gear becomes my shoulders best,” he declared, setting his bow back beside his quiver to draw emphasis to the weapons that had adorned him for centuries. “I wound my enemies; I wound wild beasts. My countless arrows slew the bloated Python, whose vast coils across so many acres spread their blight. You and your loves!” Apollonas couldn’t hold back his scoff at the mention of Eros’s inferior work. “You have your torch to light them. Let that content you. Never claim my fame!”
“Your bow, Phoebus Apollona, may vanquish all, but mine shall vanquish you. As every creature yields to power divine, shall your glory yield to mine.” At Eros’s threat, an enraged response was making its way up Apollonas’s throat, but before it could spill off his tongue, the love god drew his own golden-tipped arrow. In the blink of an eye, he shot it forth right into the other god’s heart before taking flight.
Apollonas stumbled back, a gasp more of shock than pain escaping him as he clasped his hands over his chest, fingers fumbling for the arrow. However, it had already dissolved into him, its magic making its home in his body. He felt something ooze into his heart and bloodstream, shoot up his spine, ensnare his mind. He turned his attention inward, trying to identify the invader, but he could not locate it, nor could he compare it to anything he had ever felt before. What had Eros done? He lifted his head, searching for the god, but instead his gaze fell upon another figure altogether.
There, a few feet away, stood the sweet river nymph Daphne. He knew her -- he knew the names of many of the nymphs that resided in these woods -- but beyond a passing glance and a murmured greeting, she had never caught his attention. But now… he couldn’t seem to look away, his lips parting in awe as he stared at her, dumbfounded. Had she always been so breathtaking? How could he have missed such a beauty? Her dark locks flowed down like a waterfall of ink. What it would be to hold that silky hair between his fingers, to braid it and adorn it with flowers and beads! Her eyes were a startling shade of not blue, not green, but something between the two, and he could spend hours drowning in their depths. Her figure had the slightest curve to it, the outline of a river, and he imagined that her body had been crafted to fit against his perfectly. He saw her, loved her, wanted her.
“Daphne.” Apollonas whispered her name, marvelling at the nectar-like flavor that coated his tongue. If just her name was so sweet, then how must her lips taste? Looking was not enough. The urge to find out was unbearable, the earlier argument stolen from his mind entirely as he found himself tossing aside his bow and quiver. What did archery matter when he could master the bow of her lips instead? He would claim it, make it and the rest of her his and his alone. He took a step forth, a giddy smile alighting his features.
“St-stay back,” the nymph stammered, icy fear coiling in the depths of her stomach. She could read his intentions clearly on his face, from the crazed look in his eyes to the wolfish grin he wore to the way his hands reached towards her. Daphne knew all too well what this man planned to do with her, and that should she fall into his grasp, she would not be able to stop him from having his way. So when he took another step forward, she turned and ran as fast as her legs could carry her. Apollonas gaped only a moment before rushing after her, an arrow released from its bow.
“Daphne, please wait! I am no foe! You don’t need to fear me!” he cried out after her. Daphne did not answer him, her thoughts only on escaping. Thorns and brambles tore at the bare skin of her calves, yet she refused to slow down. “You run as if I am a wolf and you a lamb, but that is not so! It is love that spurs me! Don’t fly so fast, lest you fall and wound yourself!”
“Leave me be, you horrid man!” she shrieked, not stopping even as her dress got caught on the surrounding plants and began to tear, revealing her to him little by little. Apollonas’s brows furrowed in worry at the sight of bloodied cuts on her legs. From within him a voice called out: What are you doing, Apollona? Why are you tormenting this poor girl? Leave her be! You will not have your way with her! But before the voice could say more, he caught a glimpse of the bare skin of her thigh, and everything left his mind. His conscience was once more bound and gagged by Eros’s power, forced to watch it all in horror. Speaking of the god of love, he also watched, flying unnoticed above them, yet he felt only amusement from the sight. The sheer terror that had contorted Daphne’s face and drawn panicked tears from her eyes made him smirk, and Apollonas’s frantic yelling drew out peals of laughter. They had both bent to his will so easily, and he was eager to see how this played out.
“You run because you do not know. I am no peasant, no shepherd!” Apollonas called out to her again. She was only afraid because he didn’t know who he was. He knew the moment she realized his true identity, she would stop and turn to him with a blessed smile. “I am the son of Zeus, prince of Olympus, lord of Delphi. By me things future, past and present are revealed. I shape the harmony of songs and strings. You will be happy as my bride, dear Daphne! I will see that your every wish is granted and that no desire goes unfulfilled. Please stay!”
“No! My only desire is to escape you!” Yet this would not be granted, as her body was beginning to fail her. Try as she might, she could not outrun Apollonas; he was strong from years of training and battle, and though she was swift and sure-footed, she had used up all her limited mortal strength. Her legs trembled with every step, her lungs two pits of fire in her chest. And so her traitorous body came to a stop as she gasped for breath, and Apollonas finally had her. He held her hip tightly, freezing her in place. Had he been in his senses and had control over his own body, he’d never have done this, and his conscience screamed within him. But he was deaf to it, the lust coursing through him silencing all else. His eyes soaked in her bare skin when he would’ve shielded them, his hands pulled her closer when he would’ve let her go, and he was ready to claim her when he would’ve done anything but this crime.
“My love.” His warm breath brushed against her ear as he leaned down, pressing his lips against the pale column of her neck. Daphne gasped and tried to pull herself away, but his grip was too strong, utterly unbreakable. How could she escape a god? She was helpless and frail, trapped and alone. There was no one to aid her, no one to stop Apollonas from running his hands down her body and forcing himself against her. And then he was turning her around, wishing to taste her lips, and a final plea escaped her.
“Help me, Peneus!” she screamed for her father. She knew her father could do nothing against an Olympian, but perhaps he could do something to her, and she would accept any escape from this fate. “Open the earth to enclose me, or change my form, which has brought me into this danger! Let me be free of this man from this moment forward!”
Daphne’s prayer was answered, and she was changing.
A stiffness had taken over her body, the swiftness that had protected her for so long sacrificed to escape Apollonas. Her arms lifted of their own accord, her fingers elongating up and her feet rooting into the ground. The dark waterfall split into a hundred streams that lightened to a soft green. Her curved figure fell away as her body thinned into a single arc, her legs fusing and her hands reaching higher and higher. Bark was creeping up from her extremities, down what were now branches and up what had transformed into a trunk. It conquered her shoulders, her chest, her neck. A soft sigh, her last breath, escaped her just as her lips were encased.
Apollonas’s lips met rough bark that cut at his soft skin. With a small gasp, his eyes flew open and he looked straight into Daphne’s piercing eyes. The waves in them had finally calmed, as the storm that had tormented them could no longer ripple its waters. He stared into those beautiful orbs, breathing her name, and watched as they shut forever.
Apollonas couldn’t tear his gaze away, his mind still unable to process the transformation that had unfolded before him. His hand trembled as he raised it, placing flat against the trunk of the tree. A steady pulse graced his fingertips -- a heartbeat. Daphne’s heartbeat. She was this tree, this sorrowful laurel tree, lost from him forever. His legs gave out beneath him as he wept, wrapping his arms around her and leaning his head against her bark. And yet the lust hadn’t left him, and he was kissing the wood over and over, whispering her name and an endless string of apologies as the skin of his lips tore and blood dripped down his chin.
“Oh, Daphne. My Daphne,” he cried, yearning what could’ve been. He thought the image of her smiling sweetly at him, kissing his cheek and calling him ‘husband’, was a vision, a prophecy promising that he could be the source of her happiness until the end of time. But he was wrong. It had been a fantasy, a dream that had slipped out of his grasp. And now she was gone. His sobs doubled in intensity as grief wracked him, and he didn’t notice Eros approaching until he spoke.
“Isn’t this a beautiful sight?” the god of love asked, his lips twisting into a smirk. “Phoebus Apollonas, broken and filthy inside and out. A slave to his desires. Do you accept defeat, oh lustful one?”
Apollonas turned to the other god, and the grief in him sharpened to rage. His beautiful Daphne, the love of his life, had been stolen from him, snatched right out of his hands, and the cause of it all was simply standing there, taking amusement in his loss. He reached for his bow only to find it missing, and so he lunged forth and tackled Eros to the ground, wrapping his hands around the smaller man’s thin neck.
“You monster,” Apollonas growled, his sky blue eyes glowing with divine power. This horrid creature had taken his Daphne from him and deserved nothing less than death. Apollonas would deliver him to the gates of Tartarus himself if necessary. The man must pay for his crimes. He increased the pressure, causing the other god to choke under his iron grip. “You did this!”
“Oh no, Apollona. I merely gave you a nudge. The rest was all you,” Eros gasped out, managing to laugh even as his windpipe threatened to collapse altogether. The sun god’s brows furrowed at the statement, and Eros subtly waved his hand, calming the effects of his magic. “And who knows what you’ll do next if I keep nudging you forth? You’ll be giving your father quite the competition, won’t you?”
The spell finally broke, and Apollonas’s grip slackened as the lust drained out of him and the truth became clear. He had chased Daphne. He had chased Daphne with the intention to force himself on her. He had tried to kiss her and claim her as his own with no care for her terror. He pushed her so far that she thought it better to lose her humanity than to be his. Oh Fates, what had he done? You are the most wicked person to live, Phoebus Apollona. You are no better than your father. You did this to that poor girl. You ruined her.
“N-no,” he whispered, backing away from Eros and clamping his hands over his ears, but it was in vain. The voice came not from outside but from within, where his conscience was finally free to reclaim its owner. And so Apollonas relived the incident that had just taken place. He saw himself chase after her just as Python had chased him and his family, heard his plans to ruin her just as he believed Orion had intended with Artemis, felt himself force himself upon her just as Zeus did to his mother Leto. Never in his life had something been so achingly clear to him as this truth: while he had spent his whole life painting others as wicked, he had been the most terrible monster all along. Apollonas doubled over, spilling his insides onto the earth as though he could purge the maliciousness from his body. But alas, he could not; he was born the destroyer, and he had truly lived up to his name. He could not tell if his scream remained in his soul or ripped out of him. He didn’t know if it was tears or fire spilling from his eyes. All he knew was the terrible truth that he has been blind to all his life.
“You are weak, boy. But I can make you strong,” Eros declared, towering over the hysterical god. He wondered how Olympus would react to seeing their golden heir broken on the ground, sobbing like a spoiled child. He could only imagine they’d be just as entertained as he. Still, the time for games was over. Making sure to avoid the pool of vomit, he crouched down and placed a thin finger under Apollonas’s chin, forcing the young god to meet his gaze. “Here is my offer to you: vow to me on the river Styx that you will follow my every command, and I will save you from further humiliation and heartbreak.”
“What, so I can spend my life blind and deaf, a mindless slave to a heartless man?” A dry, humorless laugh slipped out of Apollonas’s lips. He had seen and tasted truth, and he would not give that up to become Eros’s puppet. He scowled and spat at the love god’s feet, glaring into those blood-red eyes. “That is what I think of your offer.”
“I expected the god of intellect to be wiser than this, but I now see the difference between you and Athena.” Eros sneered, wrinkling his nose at the sorry display. “Do not be hasty, godling, and ponder my words carefully. I am offering you invulnerability. I will harden your heart to stone so that none may hurt you. Without your greatest weakness, you will be unstoppable. You will never have to feel such pain again.”
Apollonas paused for a moment, considering Eros’s claim. To never feel this soul-tearing agony again? To be free of the organ that rebelled against his mind at every moment? Now that he contemplated it, the offer was quite tempting. Without his heart, he would only have to rely on his body and mind, both of which were immaculate. He would indeed be unstoppable, finally the golden heir of Olympus he was expected to be. And yet… his gaze moved to the laurel tree, and a single leaf drifted down before him. Apollonas caught it in the palm of his hand, carefully tracing its pale green veins. If he were to remove his heart, to lose his ability to feel, would that not be a dishonor to Daphne? After all he had put her through, did she not deserve to be mourned and remembered? And what about all the others, every mortal that had suffered at his hand? He would be spitting on their graves by choosing to run away from the pain that, in the face of what torment they had lived through, was nothing. And so Apollonas rose to his feet, stretching to full height and then kneeling down so that his face was merely inches from the love god’s. “Rot. In. Tartarus.”
“You really should have chosen the easy path,” Eros muttered, the smirk sliding off his face as he grit his teeth. Apollonas wanted to regret? Then he’d give him reason to regret. His hands flew to Apollonas’s temples, freezing the younger god in place. Eros’s eyes glowed, twin pits of lava, and his voice boomed as he invoked his ancient power. “I curse you, Phoebus Apollona. May love be your enemy and your heart a traitor. May you be powerless to control the whims of your desire, and may you be the cause of pain to those you love, over and over until the end of time itself.”
Apollonas fell to the ground once more, struggling as the curse rooted itself deep in his soul, at the very essence of his being. By the time his throat had grown too raw for him to continue screaming, Eros had already flown away, leaving behind nothing but punishment. He found himself crawling back to the laurel tree, to Daphne, leaning his forehead against her trunk as he wept. He wept for her, for those before her, and for those after her.
“I’m sorry, Daphne,” he whispered, holding on so tightly the bark dug into his skin and realizing how powerless he really was. “I’d change you back if I could, sweet nymph, but I cannot. Instead, I swear by the river Styx, I won’t let you be forgotten. I bless you so that your leaves are never shed and instead will be woven in wreaths that will become a symbol of honor, the very thing I tried to steal from you. Let mankind see me to be the monster I am if that means your memory will live on. And even if your name no longer forms on the lips of men, they will live on eternally upon my own. This I vow to you.”
With this, he lay one last touch upon the tree before turning away, trudging his leaden feet back to Olympus. He heard the whispers as he arrived in the city, but he paid them no mind and made way to his house. Barely moments after he entered, his fingers scurried over the wall until they found the loose brick that he yanked out and tossed aside. His hands trembled in a moment of hesitation before reaching in. He grasped the bottle of his poison, his secret, his solace. Apollonas lifted it to his lips, tears running down his face, and drank his worries away.
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onthevirgooftears · 10 months ago
basically just me ranking all the sad haikyuu fanfics except my opinions have changed dramatically and I've read way more fanfics then I had last time.
1 - Burden of blame, to my chagrin, effectively ruined my life. I cannot stress how amazing this fanfic is, I literally physically cannot, it's just so, so amazing. Maybe it didn't make my cry quite as much as some of the others, but it made me feel very empty, kinda drained me, and fucked with my emotions. It's an amazing fanfic and I am physically pained.
2 - Okay wow, I avoided this fanfic for ages, just because I wasn't sure if I'd be able to take it, I read it anyways, because I love torturing myself, but yeah, this fanfic is called 'Touchdown,' and, just like burden of blame, it actually ruined everything I've ever known to love. All of them sucked, I know that, but like, they didn't deserve any of the shit they went through. Like damn, idk, i cried alot throughout this fanfic, felt really empty and I just very much did not enjoy myself lmao.
3 - number three is a fanfic i read blindly, as in, I had no idea it was gonna fuck with me that badly but hey, I can't really do anything about it. 'April 10th,' is very much the reason for my indescribable sadness, I wish i could turn back time and actually prepare myself for how sad this fanfic was going to be, but I can't, sucks to be me ig 😕
4 - A liars truth is another one that took my heart and just absolutely destroyed it, the romance was cute, but like everything else was just, sad, very, very sad. I cried so much and I felt so empty after actually reading the entire thing, like damn, I was not okay lmao, I'm still not okay, in all honesty.
5 - I know the stars are lighting your path is, if I'm being honest, the only yamatsuki fanfic i will ever read, it made cry, it made me smile, it just sent me through the 5 stages of grief and I'm not sure how I feel about that, the art of moving on and finding peace was done so amazingly, especially for a character who barely shows any emotion and is pretty much a closed book, showing tsukkis grief like that was just done so amazingly, i literally cannot 😭
6 - Sendai Magnitude 10.0 is just a masterpiece, the initial panic of the earthquake and the way everything just completely went to shit was done amazingly, the team dynamic, how they never lost hope because they had each other, how they made it through, how they never lost sight of the sun and made sure they lived another day, my fucking heart cannot take it 😭
7 - Come morning light broke me, it broke me so much that i couldn't even get through the second chapter, so, this fanfic (if i ever work up the courage to read the entire thing,) will probably be way, way higher up on this list, I was physically not okay after this, just, Hinata finding a home, and never forgetting the sun, the metaphors and the idea that even if life seems hopeless, morning always comes. Just, holy shit 😭 it probably doesn't help that I had fearless on repeat while reading it, but like, i enjoy torturing myself 😔✊
8 - Plastic rings, god fucking damn this fic brought be too tears, the marriage proposal, the ring, the shooting scene, ah shit, everything was just so amazingly perfect, I cannot find a single thijg wrong with this fic except that it was to short, like damn, when's the 100k haters-to-lovers apocalypse fanfic coming, I need it 😰
8 - All the small things is THE oisuga fanfic, it's the very reason I didn't give up on my oisuga phase, I'm so glad i didn't, because if i did i wouldn't have been able to read this masterpiece. Psrsonally, it didn't make me cry, but the anguish, the hurt, the love and warmth and just everything, it's so perfect, everything about it is just so in character and reflective of real situations 😭 I loved baby tobio so much, him hating oikawa at first because of trauma just, omfg 😭
9 - One way ticket to heaven is the underrated, and way, way better sequal to oikawa's last wish/es, their writing improved so much, and the plot, the plot was just so amazing. Oikawa allowing Iwaizumi to move on and not dwell on the past, and the way the train station was described was so fucking perfect, it felt real 😭
10 - Burning bright is like, my go-to kuroi fanfic because, just wow, the inital dread oikawa felt was done so well, him not knowing how to deal with someone (besides iwa-chan,) with a fire ability, but slowly realising that kuroo was approachable and wouldn't do anything to purposefully hurt him, the love story was done so well, like holy shit 😭
11 - Hachiko is THE kuroi fanfic and it needs to be recognised right the fuck now. I shed a few tears reading this, not because I was sad, but because I was so fucking happy. As you can see, I went through a very bad kuroi phase and this fanfic just fueled it 😔✊
12 - Haikyuu Superhero AU: Rise Of Heroes, is single handedly the most underrated superhero au to ever exist, listen to me, this masterpiece, has under 60 kudoses, and doesn't get any of the recognition it deserved, this fic put me through hell, bokuto and hinata realising that they can't save everyone, that society is fucked up, and that they just have to take it. READ THIS FANFIC 😭 IT'S A MASTERPIECE.
13 - Where the stars shine the brightest just absolutely ruined everything I've ever known to love and crushed it, oikawa was so happy, eccentric and iwaizumi had no fucking clue that he was on the brink of death, this would've been so much higher on the list if I remembered the plot before I'd wrote half the list, but sucks to me ig 😔✊
14 - Queen bee, is such an amazing sequal, I literally cannot fathom how every single sequal to touchdown lived up to the high expectations of the original, oikawa's backstory was sad asf, bokuto can go fuck himself, so can those weirdo people who [email protected]€d oikawa, like legit all of them can go fuck themselves 😰
15 - Champions in their own right gave me some well needed closure, I absolutely adored aoba josai, I loved them so much, seeing them crumble and fall and break when they lost against karasuno absolutely destroyed me, so, them getting the closure they deserve and realising that they are fucking champions, they are, and it makes me so fucking happy.
16 - A co-captains doubts is like, my go-to "i wanna be fucking angry at fictional characters so I might as well be fucking angry at fictional characters," the bullies in thjs fanfic made me angrier then the bullies in a split second of violence, (maybe not, but they definitely made me wanna fight a fucker,) but fr, the writing was so amazing, I literally can't 😭
17 - don't talk to me or my 14 children ever again is like, the best Haikyuu characterisation I have ever seen, every character is just so, so in character, ukai adopting the entire volleyball team makwa me happy lmao, kageyamas chapter had me in floods lf tears, kinoshitas chapter nearly caused me a mental breakdown, nishis chapter was amazingly written, so was sugas, just everything about it was just wow 😰 I'll stop fangirling now, but fr, go read it.
18 - i don't think I really have to say anything about this fic because it's self explanatory, in another life made me have a whole ass menttal breakdown i was not okay 🙁
19 - A split second of violence, okay, so, this fic had me raging so many times, those bullies literally spouted fucking bullshit, you smashed hinatas fucking face in because he was annoying, bitch, sit the fuck down and fuck off 😐 as you can see, my feelings towards this fic are very, very strong.
20 -open when was short, sweet, and very, very sad, my heart broke, like, if you listen close enough you could hear the crack of my heart and my wretching sobs, just listen closely 😰
21 - Cold brew, is very much a masterpiece, I don't even know what to say, its just, wow, the suga sequal we all needed because the only significant scene he had in touchdown was him telling bokuto to run someone over 🙁
22 - in disguise of revelation isn't even sad lmao, I just love it alot and I think, if the right person read it, it could very much bring someone to tears, just matters what context you read it in, personally, I didn't cry, but I felt the tension and just damn 🙁
23 - another underrated asf superhero au, 'Empowered,' I love it so much, the only bad thing is the fact that it isn't fucking finished, I am so emotionally frustrated by this, like damn, update the fucking fanfic 😭
24 - Crumbling foundations is amazing writing at its finest, the way the panic is described, the way everything is described in all honesty, it's just, so amazing 😭
25 - oikawas last wish/es, made me shed a few tears, idk, it just made me feel very sad, especially the line about moving on and loving again, that had me full on fucking sobbing, that line shouldn't be fucking legal and I am not okay.
26 - He smelled like oranges, I haven't actually finished the entire thing, but it had a few good moments, I dont remember if it made me cry, but i definitely felt something, i don't ship kagehina, but this fic made me question my decision, like damn, they where so cute together 😭
27 - Under the led lights, didn't make me cry, the characterisation was off, but the writing wasn't awful. It was mediocre at best, but definitely not awful. I enjoyed it quite a bit, but as I said, it definitely wasn't "amazing emotional masterpiece" like everyone made it out to be.
28 - four out of six confused me, it was good, ths writing was good, the pacing was okay, but nothing was great, nothing was groundbreaking, from the way people talked about it, I expected it to emotionally constipate me, but it didn't, and I was kinda disappointed 😰
29 - and last, but not least, the galaxy is endless, okay, so, I love this fanfic in general, love the writing, the pacing, the plot, everything about it was perfect, but in terms of sad fanfics it didn't hit the mark, it just didn't make me sad, I expected to run out of tears after reading this, but instead, it just didn't do anything? Maybe I'm weird, but this fanfic just never felt sad, idk, I'm probably fucking heartless, but I cried to pretty much every other fanfic on this list, or at least teared up, but with this one, I kinda just felt nothing.
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gltwrites · a year ago
the day isym said: i'm gonna fuck shit y'all up
So this is how it ends. I guess I won't be able to let this go sooner, or not ever.
Following the lives of these incredible characters since 2014 had been an astonishing journey for me. And now, we reached the end of one of the most-loved mangas, Attack on Titan/Shingeki No Kyojin—probably the only masterpiece that will touch my heart like this in this lifetime.
What an awful timing it was that chapter 139 arrived at the time I was supposed to be celebrating with my mutuals on exoltwt lol. While, overall, I rate AoT as 11 out of 10, I can't eschew that the culmination has left me qualms and questions unresolved.
Let's start with Armin thanking Eren for his sacrifices for Paradis—which equates to thanking him for committing a global genocide (bro, wtf???). This did not sit right with me, but I'm taking into account that Armin could see there was no easy way out, and that he believes achieving peace requires sacrifices, notwithstanding his altruistic nature and efforts to not completely throw away his humanity.
And I'm also considering the fact that, with the reality Paradis had, bringing off peace without lives being taken was a wishful thinking.
His idealistic worldview clashed with Eren's, and he wasn't able to present a solid resolution 'til the windup. And yet, Armin was still willing to talk things out with his best friend so they could come up with a better plan, without further casualties.
Up until the very end, he wanted PEACE.
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I think, this is what makes Armin admirable, contrary to what other readers paint him out to be—weak and useless. He's one of the strongest and skilled characters in AoT imo. He didn't need to be a Titan or an Ackerman. He's innately whip-smart and a natural tactician, making himself a consequential character despite his lacking combat skills.
Weighing up Armin's burdens and the mental load he carries, it hurts to be in his shoes, especially since he's the commander. He's torn between his friend's life and the rest of the world. He took the responsibility of the Rumbling aftermath to shoulder Mikasa's burden and let her live in peace.
And in the end, conflict dragged on, and he ended up with a large obligation to the people.
There were little appearances of Historia, which I initially found a bit absurd since she's among the important characters in the whole series. She didn't say anything, and her pregnancy was for what again? I was disappointed. Her bearing a child held no importance and was a random subplot.
Conversely, amid a slew of readers demanding her clarification on knowing Eren's plans from the get-go, her explanation on the matter would be unnecessary. It seemed to me she has done her part on how the story would play out. And if there was an epilogue or a succeeding set of panels, Historia might've made her comeback since her role as the queen is expected to hugely partake in peace propositions.
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And over and above these, the final chapter seemed...rushed? I feel like some panels need to be fleshed out more, such as the whole of Founder Ymir's feelings towards that bitchass abuser Karl Fritz. I was appalled that the root of the sufferings that prolonged for two millennia was because of her martyrdom and servitude to the king and the royal family, which she described as love.
But in reality, without having to chew this over, Ymir didn't really know what true love is. She was a slave since birth, her family was massacred by Karl Fritz, and was impregnated thrice by this murderer who never gave a shit about her. She lived a wretched life, manipulated and abused, and died after jumping in front of the spear to protect the king.
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Brought by fear of losing the power of the titan, he made her daughters eat Ymir's flesh and told then to bear many children. Sick fuck.
Then Ymir discovered Mikasa, who she deemed a mirror of her own. The difference, however, is that Mikasa's love for Eren isn't one-sided. And so her greatest desire to be freed from an abusive relationship was accomplished after discovering what real love is through EreMika.
Speaking of Eren, I can understand why plenty of readers condemned him. The guy, who masked himself as a peak tsundere, cold, temperamental bastard, exterminated almost the entire global population, and when asked by Armin his reason, he said he didn't know why, so from here we can assume he neither had a goal behind that warped undertaking nor did it for the greater good.
But Armin is smart, and Eren's silence was a tacit answer. The predicament seemed unsolvable, and wiping 80% of humanity is his last resort to hold off the rest of the world from attacking Paradis.
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Taking also into account that he didn't mean to have his mother killed by Dina after rerouting her from Bertholdt. If he didn't, Bertholdt wouldn't end up as the Colossal Titan and Armin wouldn't have eaten him and died along the way.
Bear in mind that Eren believed Armin would save the world, but if he kicked the bucket—and had Eren, who was obviously enslaved by his destiny, altered anything in his memories—would unravel another reality unknown to Eren that could pose a bigger risk.
And the fact that he let the familiar fate dictate him meant opening a door to another door of possibilities of achieving world peace, with Armin taking the lead.
By making himself the bad guy in his story to make his friends be the heroes, the ending suggests that harmony would work out in the end.
In 139, Armin, Reiner, Pieck, Annie, Jean, and Connie were planning to make peace negotiations. And through this, there's a light at the end of the tunnel.
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Levi finally bidding farewell to his comrades bawled my eyes out—this is probably the saddest shit ever AoT has ever done to me, next to Erwin's death. Levi is the last one existing among his original comrades, and it sent a pang to my heart when he did his final salute, wearing a faint smile while wrapped in bandages.
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It was not indicated what he'd been doing post-Rumbling. The end of Titans' curse also put an end to the Ackerman bloodline's "awakened power" and above-average human strength, so he's probably a military consultant or mentor, given his amazing contribution as humanity's strongest warrior.
It was also shown he remained in the capital and is with now-grown Falco and Gabi, who both have shown their potential for a military career.
Meanwhile, unlike Levi, Mikasa chose to retire and live in her hometown. While others remark her ending as tragic (I'm guilty of this tbh), her former comrades were on their way to see her and visit Eren's grave next to the tree from their childhood, making her not entirely lonely. I wished she and Armin were in the same multiple frames of the latter panels of the final chapter as they both grieve losing Eren. But given Armin's new and bigger responsibilities for humanity, it's impossible.
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EreMika may not be endgame, and I may be bound to perpetual frustration of them never getting the chance to wear their hearts on their sleeves, I am satisfied with the ending—imperfect but fitting. It's actually funny that my feelings got the best of me upon reading the last chapter, and cursed at the story for not ending in absolute peace and bliss, forgetting that AoT had always been a poignant, anxiety-induced, existentialist story, and hinted at a bittersweet finale from the start.
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No Matter How Many Skies Have Fallen
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A/N: I really have nothing to say for myself at this point. 
Sequel chapter to this fic here, if you’d like to catch up. 
Thank you to @caffeine-in-an-iv​ for being my incredible beta and to @maybege​ for letting me rant to you and giving me so many wonderful ideas when I hit my walls. Also to the Obi-Wan fandom in general: Y’all are some of the kindest, most supportive people I’ve ever encountered on this hell site. Thank you for your support and your content! 
Pairing: Obi-Wan Kenobi x Force Sensitive! Fem! Reader (no Y/N)
Word Count: 11.9K (I lost all control) 
Warnings: SMUT!!! Soft Dom! Obi rights, Also, Sub! Obi vibes, Foodplay (but not how you’d think), Inappropriate use of the Force, Voice Kink, Obi-Wan Kenobi’s Hands Appreciation Society, As Usual: Too Many Feelings For Porn, Emotional Competence Kink, Trust Kink, TW: Pregnancy, TW: A character draws blood on themself unknowingly
Title from one of my favorite quotes:
“Ours is essentially a tragic age, so we refuse to take it tragically. The cataclysm has happened, we are among the ruins, we start to build up new little habitats, to have new little hopes. It is rather hard work: there is now no smooth road into the future: but we go round, or scramble over the obstacles. We’ve got to live, no matter how many skies have fallen.”
-D.H. Lawrence
What infinite irreverence the galaxy has for Obi-Wan Kenobi. 
As if his master and only semblance of a parent wasn’t taken from him when he needed him most.
As if a boy who needed a father wasn’t entrusted to Obi-Wan quickly following, far too young and full of his own loss. 
As if he wasn’t thrust onto the pedestal of parenthood when he really only wanted to be a brother. 
As if that isn’t what they became anyway, and as if that wasn’t the exact cloud that hung over the atmosphere of your lives ever since you’d arrived on Tatooine. 
As if the being whose life signature resided in your abdomen didn’t throw a punch into each of those blooming bruises by its very existence.
Which is why, you knew, without a shadow of a doubt, that you couldn’t tell him yet. 
Normally, it’d be no small feat to keep something of this scale from him. But these days, he’s so focused on having his shields up around you, keeping you from both being hurt by or helping with his torments. 
You have to take great care to control your body language, because even when he’s shut off from you in the Force, his keen perceptiveness will pick up on something being off anyway.
The art of a convincing lie is having layers. If he senses your feelings and decides to dig, then only give up one layer, and he’ll stop looking.
 In this case, it’s your worry over him. It is true you’re trying to shield him from feeling that, not wanting him to carry the burden of it on top of having to work through his own pain.
  But it’s not everything you’re trying to hide from him. So you let a small projection of your fear over his well-being escape, like you’re losing control of your feelings. It’s enough to convince him, and something critical inside you dies at the victory every time.
 He deserves your honesty, and you’ve never given him anything less until now.
 You hate how well your strategic deceit takes root. Because only part is due to your talent as a liar. The rest comes from how much he trusts you.
  You’re not stupid, though. You know it’s only a matter of time before the biological changes in your body betray you. 
Obi-Wan said he needed time, and you’re going to give him as long as you possibly can before dropping this anvil on him, hoping the further he gets from it all, the better off he’ll be. 
You could kick yourself for not being more careful. You hadn’t missed any dose of your herbal Ho’Din contraceptive. It was one of the few things you shoved in your bag with the mere minutes you had to leave Coruscant for good. It was from a reliable medicinal shop, and there’s no good reason it should have failed in any way.
But here you were anyway. 
Of course, there are options that free you from the obligation of carrying the child to term. All are expensive, and Tatooine is sorely lacking in any trustworthy medical facilities. The alternative methods could put your own life in danger as well. 
Even if it wasn’t, you’d feel so strange making that kind of decision without Obi-Wan. Not that he wouldn’t support whatever decision you needed to make for yourself if you did, but going behind his back is something you’re not sure his trust could recover from. 
And really, far too much has been decided for him in his life. 
The worst reason why you can’t bring yourself to move towards any solution that ends the pregnancy now, the reason you abhor, is because somewhere within you, despite the awfulness of the time and place, you want this baby. 
You couldn’t give a definitive explanation for yourself, but you did. Undoubtedly
Obi-Wan doesn’t press when you ask to cease your combat training for a time, asking to start learning the new offerings of the Jedi texts instead. 
He’s concerned when you tell him, but if he’s suspicious as for your reasoning, he doesn’t show it outwardly, at least. 
The way he doesn’t even ask about why, though: It makes you wonder if he had a reason all of his own why he’d rather not fight, even in imitation.
The Jedi writings given to Obi-Wan by Master Yoda are often more cryptic and mystifying than logically applicable without deciphering, which you are at first annoyed by, but then strangely thankful for, as Obi-Wan verbally processes his understandings of it, knowing what he does of the Jedi way, and you adding your thoughts from the stance of fresh eyes. 
The conversations distract wonderfully, and you savor any way you still get to connect with him.
You don’t push for the ways he doesn’t allow you to connect with him anymore. The way he won’t let you in his mind. Because now, you too have a reason to not let him in yours. 
When it’s time to go into town for supplies again, you make up some feeble excuse which you know Obi-Wan sees through as a lie, and this time, he does pry, eyes soft and concerned. He knows you love going to the markets. You simply explain that you’re tired, which is true enough to satisfy him, leaving you behind with a kiss on your forehead before you watch him saddle up your eopie and ride off.
You sigh, sagging against the closed door once he’s disappeared into the horizon. You do love the markets. They’re the most colorful thing the planet has to offer, textiles and rugs and shiny, hanging things. 
But the spices. Fragrant and potent, usually so appetizing and intoxicating, you know would turn your stomach alone. And that doesn’t even account for the strange meats being cooked at different vendors, and Maker help you if anyone was selling raw meat of any sort today. You’ve done your best to keep your nausea at bay, at times even tapping into the Force for centering when the world felt like it was rocking. But you know the market would be too much, too many variables.
It’s not a fast journey, even on the eopie, and you don’t expect Obi-Wan to be back for hours. Which is why when you hear a knock on your door, the tool in your hand clatters to the floor, as does the remnants of your project. 
You quickly grab one of the long staffs you and Obi-Wan had only begun to use in your defense training, trying to recall the lessons as adrenaline begins to rush through your veins. Tatooine isn’t known for its pleasant company, and if anyone was going to try to rob your home, now would be as good a time as any. 
The knock sounds again, and you shout from the inside, “What do you want?!” 
“A peace treaty in the form of baked goods,” comes the feminine voice, one you recognize. 
Opening the door, you lower the weapon in your hand as Beru Lars blinks at you.
“I’m sorry, I thought you were…” You step aside, gesturing for her to come in.
She waves a hand, dismissive. “I understand.”
You lead her over to the small living area as you fix two glasses of water from the kitchen. 
When you set them down on the table, Beru speaks. “I apologize for the intrusion, if there was another way of contacting you before coming here…”
“It’s absolutely fine, I’m glad to have you.” You smile in what you hope is an assuring way.  “Although, I’m surprised at it just being you. Where’s Owen?”
Her eyes flick to the stone floor. “He um… doesn’t exactly know I’m here. He’s out on a business deal today.” 
You feel your eyebrows go up at that, waiting for her to continue. But instead, she changes the subject. “Where’s Ben?” 
“In town. We needed some things from the market.”
Awkwardness settles in as a conversation topic evades you. 
She breaks the beat of quiet. “Here, I brought these for you.”
You take the basket in her hands from her, peeling back the thick woven cloth to reveal a simple form of bread. It looks so appetizing your stomach clenches, and you instantly realize you haven’t had anything since breakfast. 
But then the smell hits you, hard and powerful, and stars, it’s just bread, there’s nothing that should do that about bread, but you’re on your feet in a minute, forsaking the basket on the ground as you bolt to the fresher, barely making it in time to the sonic sink before you start heaving. 
In a moment, you feel soft hands at the nape of your neck, gently holding back the fabric of your shirt and blowing cool air as you continue to wretch. 
By the time everything has settled again, you’ve dealt with the aftertaste in your mouth, and splashed on your face with a precious cup of cool water, hot shame rises in your cheeks at how this must seem to Beru. 
You wipe at your face with a rag, half muffling your words when you address her. “I’m so sorry, I’m sure they’re absolutely delicious, It really has nothing to do…” 
“How far along are you?”
Your spine straightens instantly, and you let the cloth drop to the floor.
“I… what?”
Now she’s the one to flush. “My apologies, it’s just that it’s known for being a very gentle bread, it’s one my mother used to feed me when my stomach ached. If that smell turned you... I just assumed, and I shouldn’t have.” 
Your lips purse as you consider your options. It’d be easy to say nothing, or just to nod. 
“Two months,” you hear your own voice answer despite yourself. You’ve never been one for easy anyway.
A surge of emotion wells up in you at even being able to speak it aloud, aloud to another human, and next thing you know, to your absolute horror, you’re crying into your hands as your shoulders crumple in on themselves. 
Why now, of all times? In front of Beru Lars? Whom you know accepted Luke with her husband without question because they couldn’t biologically have any children of their own? 
“I’m… so… sorry,” You manage to choke out through the sobs, disgusted at your own lack of control.
At some point Beru must join you on the floor, patting her hand soothingly on your back. “Shhh, it’ll be alright. You’ll see. It’s not so bad having a young one around, you and Ben have so much to look forw…”
“He doesn’t know.” 
Her hand pausing briefly on your back is the only indication she gives of shock.
“Would he not be happy?”
You take a steadying breath in, trying to calm yourself. “I don’t know,” you whisper, small and almost frightened to let the room hear you say it.
It falls silent again, but it echoes around in your brain, bouncing against your thoughts until you feel the onset of a headache.
After you’re to a numb enough state to enjoy yourself, you and Beru make tea and bring it back to the living area. 
She lifts her glass to yours, clinking them. “To secrets kept from men and the mischievous company they bring.”
Your head now throbs with pain, but you smile anyway. “Thank you,” you say to her, and you mean it so very much.
The next time Obi-Wan goes into town, you’re feeling well enough to go with him. 
You’re not visiting the food portion of the market, after all, so you’re not as much of a risk to set your stomach off. He’s taken to fixing small machinery for trading with the Jawas recently, the extra income helping with the projects around the house. 
There’s a trap door that you found within the first day of being there. The staircase carved out of the bedrock beneath the hut leads to a small room that has now served as additional storage and a place for Obi-Wan to work. It’s also quite cool during the day, so if you can stand the smell of the various meats hung to dry, you’ll sit down there with some sort of project, or even reading material if you come upon it.
So today, he’s looking for a few specific tools that will streamline his working. 
It doesn’t take long to find a promising stall among the maze of shopkeepers, selling everything from trinkets to weaponry of questionable legality. Obi-Wan finds what he needs easily enough, and it looks like the trip is going to be as efficient as it is successful as you walk through alleyways with him. 
At some point, he takes your hand in his, squeezing it gently, projecting an assuring strand of affection toward you. It’s such a small gesture, but you’ll never tire of the feeling of his hand clasped in yours. 
You’re almost back to where the eopie, Rooh, as he named her, is stabled when Obi-Wan abruptly slows his pace, dropping into a stall. An alarm goes off in your head when you watch him pick up a frivolous trinket on a table that you know he has no interest in. 
You open your mouth to inquire at his actions, but it answers itself once you see him glance out of his peripheral vision to where the holonews plays in the stall adjacent. 
Battle footage on what you recognized to be Kashyyk at the presence of the many Wookies plays with the Emperor addressing the viewers in a very two-dimensional, sugar-coated, thinly-concealed threat to any other world that would try to resist occupation.
There’s wreckage and uncensored violence, and you turn your head away. 
“May it be known that Lord Vader is quite capable and willing to help those into compliance that require assistance... “
The item in his hands crushes, ceramic tile cracking into his hands, breaking the skin and drawing out drips of red.
But he doesn’t flinch, doesn’t even seem to register the glass he’s pushing into his own hand. His eyes are wide and he makes a wounded noise from the back of his throat, eyes peeled to the holonews now, not even trying to feign disinterest.
His signature sparks, giving a flash and then a severe cry of anguish, and it hits you then. Pieces of information coming together as you feel Obi-Wan tear apart at seams. 
Anakin Skywalker turned to the Dark Side, and Obi-Wan thought him dead. There’s a new Sith Lord now; the correlation and timing can’t be coincidence. 
The Toydarian male behind the stall shouts something about paying for it in full, and you quickly hand over the credits with a glare.
You start to pull Obi-Wan’s other hand off the table, but you quickly realize your mistake in that.
The moment it isn’t holding his weight anymore, his knees start to give, and you’ve only a second to react, jamming your body under his arm to keep him upright. His momentum nearly pulls you forward, but you plant your feet and remember at the last second to call on the Force to assist you.
He seems to come to himself enough to walk somewhat as you steer him to the nearest alley away from the vendors.
He braces a hand on the stone wall, but even it isn’t enough as he drops to his knees. He doesn’t even seem to have the will to stand.
Crouching beside him, you place one of your hands on his chest. 
“I…. I…” The tremor in his usually so crisp wording and steady voice crushes your chest, making it hard to breathe. “I failed him. I failed him.” 
“Obi-Wan,” you start, trying to grasp at anything, everything to comfort him, not even thinking of how you can’t call him that here, even if there’s no one in sight.
If he registers your call, he doesn’t let on, continuing in his whispers to the wall.  “He was burning. Burning, but I couldn’t do it. It would have been mercy to kill him, it was my mandate to do it, but I could not...” his voice gives out on the last word, and his shoulders fall forward in a shuddering inhale that transforms into a cut-short sob on its exhale.
“And now…” as the words pour from him, his shields fall, and so do the floodgates on his emotions, and it takes all the training you know to not be washed away in the torrential current of his grief. Does he even know he’s doing it, or has the insurmountable weight of his burden finally overridden his innate control over them?
“I’ve sentenced him to a fate worse than death.” He’s only barely choked out the end of his thought before his shoulders start to shake in earnest and he crumples in on himself as he begins to weep for his brother.
Giving no heed to the odd angle, you throw your arms around him. Trying to get your arms around his body is exactly the embodiment of the feeling of the moment, this anguish you don’t even begin to be enough to cover. 
What could you say? What could you do? What would even begin to… 
When you press your fingers to his temple, it’s light, a show of how unforced this is, how much he can say no if he needs.  Because this isn’t for you. No, it’d be so much easier to not know the exact depth of his pain and rip your chest open with that knowledge. But you’re offering it,  meaning it absolutely, desperate for him to take the hand offered to him. “Please let me in. Don’t do this alone. Let me…”
Then he’s pulling you in, not just letting you come in yourself, clinging to you like a person drowning. You remember to steady, to try to keep your own head above the water as wave after surging, overpowering wave of soul-crippling agony like you’ve never felt it engulf you in their surge.
You can’t hold out against it no matter how hard you try, so you refocus from centering yourself to pulling his signature into yours as you wrap your arms tighter around his torso. 
 And you begin to weep with him.
 The suns are drifting low by the time both of you have any intelligible thought, far too late to start the journey back to the hut. 
At the inn, as Obi-Wan falls into the beginnings of a restless sleep, a thought emerges, clear and crisp in its awful truth. 
 You cannot tell him for a long while still. 
 It’s different now. Because when he wakes in the night, he doesn’t give you falsehoods you see right through. He lets you into the terror and distortional dreams that all reside over one theme.  
There’s silence in the first days after. Just silent tears and still embraces and the way time seems to freeze when grief is at its worst.
But then he starts talking. It comes in little pieces, then in larger ones.  
The loudest thing his signature screams is guilt.
You tell him how it isn’t his fault, how Anakin is responsible for his own choices, but he just gives you a new reason every time as to why it is his fault, how he could have stopped it. 
Because even in what he considers his worst failure, his verbiage is indicative of how it’s not his own image and pride hurting that he’s even considered. All of his thoughts, all of them, are on what Anakin needed that he didn’t give.
 At first, it’s just impressions from his mind, unsorted, blurry thoughts and feelings, but it eventually begins to become words. 
“After his mother died… I know that he blamed me. How couldn’t he? He told me of his dreams, dreams he knew were foresights, but I dismissed them, multiple times, at that. And the council… advised me against comforting him, but he… I… I did anyway.” His shoulders are forward, body sagging with unsureness that doesn’t fit him right in the slightest. “But it was far too late. I know there was something pivotal about the death of his mother, and I am...” he hesitates, seemingly not because he doesn’t know what to speak, but because he does. “Terrified. Terrified it’s all because I didn’t validate him sooner. If I had not...” His voice breaks off, as he shuts his eyes.
Fear is not something admired by the Jedi, you know. When he speaks of his own emotions, he speaks them like he’s confessing them.
 And as he confesses and confesses, you comfort where you can, cry with him when you cannot.
 The swells of sorrow ebb and flow in their intense bursts and receding stillness, and despite the moments of not being able to breathe under the weight of it, there are miniscule, almost violating, hysterical intervals where smiles and life spring to the surface, gasping for air. 
Or in this case, the inexplicable desire to dance. 
You don’t even really know when you start, simply going about cleaning clothing in the sonic washer, and the next, some ridiculous, repetitive tune sweeps you to move your hips and feet, uncoordinated and graceless. The tune itself played from a datachip, scrapped with some pieces Obi-Wan was repurposing to make repairs. You’re not even familiar with the type of music, and it’s hardly the type of music you’d normally choose, but you find that today, it’s an improvement on the quiet that falls upon the house as Obi-Wan works outdoors. 
The song swings into a bridge, and you slide across the stone floor, imitating something you saw in a music holo years ago, as you do, your foot catches on the rug you recently added, sending you fumbling for your footing. You eventually catch it before you fall, but as you look up, you decide to lower yourself to the ground anyway at the sight of Obi-Wan, leaning up against the door frame, watching you with an amused expression, the fingers of one hand tracing between his lips and chin.  
You sit splayed as tactless and gangly as you danced and let out a short, startled laugh. 
“Please, don’t stop on my account. I was quite enjoying myself.”  
Maker, could you just hide under the rug you tripped over? “Please tell me you haven’t been standing there long.”
He pushes off his lean on the wall, crossing the room to you. “I won’t tell you lies, my love.” 
Shame twists in your gut at his words, chasing the laughter in your throat away. But Obi-Wan extends a hand down, and you take it, letting him draw you to your feet. 
He kisses the back of your hand before taking it in his, extending the clasp out to the side of your bodies as his other hand rests hot on the small of your waist. 
“But I will join you, if you don’t mind a style change.” 
“I don’t know how to dance like this,” you say, factually.  
“Then allow me to teach you.” When you look in his eyes, they’re lined with the etches of heartache still, but there’s something else too, brimming to the surface. 
“What, to this music?” You give your last, unconvincing protest.  
He simply drops his forehead to yours, and the small sounds of the room fade to white as a sweet, moving melody replaces it. It’s not perfectly clear, and it takes a moment to realize that it’s because it’s coming from Obi-Wan’s memory.  
The music has a distant, foggy quality, and it has potential to be eerie, but instead, it just lifts you into an ethereal feeling.
He steps, and your feet follow, not as graceful, but he makes it easy for you, the steps hinted out in his thoughts before taking them in actuality. 
When you start to feel confident enough in the movements, you look up at him. “Does this mean I can teach you my dances next?”
He laughs, laughs, unabashed and with no emotion harbored under it, and some torn piece of your heart mends at the sound.
“Certainly not.” 
You laugh too, even at the thought of him trying. The laugher rolls into a smooth quiet, and you let yourself bask in the feel of his body against yours, the press of his hand on your back as you rest your cheek against him. 
Obi-Wan cradles you to him, forsaking the pattern of the dance as he encompasses you in his arms, lowering his lips to your cheek, then your mouth in a blazing kiss. 
He takes your hand in his, lifting it above your head. Then you’re guided into a spin, and the room spins double with it as you abandon all endeavors of trying to get the dance correct. Your hand drops protectively to your belly before you can even think better of it, and by the time you know you’re not going to throw up, it’s too late. You already feel Obi-Wan’s unmistakable concern right before he asks, “What’s wrong?” extending an arm out toward you. 
His complexion is ashen with worry, and when you don’t respond, you feel him start to reach out to your mind; a spike of panic zaps down your spine, and you’re suddenly not sure you’re not going to throw up after all. 
Your shields crash down, not enough time for subtlety, and he retracts both his hand and inquiring tendril of energy as hurt and confusion shape his features. 
You can’t do this. You can’t keep up this facade or cover this moment with a lie you know he’ll see through. But you can’t tell him either. After all the weight he’s carrying, the weight of the being that grows in you should be yours alone. You can’t thrust that upon him. 
But it’s a delusion that you can keep this from him forever. You’re going to hurt him one way or another, and the weight of your silence and lies multiply every day you insulate him from the truth. 
You take in a shuddering breath as dread settles into your bones. You know what you have to do.
Even as you slowly lower your shields, opening your signature, your mind screams at you in opposite directions, ripping you in half, and your hand shoots out to the nearest wall to stabilize yourself. How could you be so sadistic to tell him this? How could you not tell him? After all the trust you have in each other?
But he doesn’t take the invitation. “I will not touch your mind if you are still unsure you want me to,” he says softly but resolutely as he approaches you, but stays an unthreatening distance away, as if approaching a frightened animal. 
No, no, no. You won’t have him being the one to sturdy you through this. You need to be strong, be ready, don’t force him to coddle you through the blast to his own chest. 
So you dial down your own emotions and switch your absorption to amplifying the still tiny, barely recognizable life you’ve been carefully censoring ever since you heard it yourself.
You want to close your eyes, blockade the pain of both how it impacts him and how it will impact you, but that’s not how you two do things.
Summoning every iota of bravery and resolve running in your veins, you force yourself to look up at him as you watch understanding coat him. 
His eyes go wide, and his hands clench and flex at his sides in an erratic, nervous pattern. 
You can’t keep your signature open to his mind’s reaction, you just can’t. He’s seen enough, and you can put your shields up again. His face is enough to confront all on its own.
Obi-Wan steps toward you, slowly, dazed in a completely uncharacteristic way. With the way he seems to ever be prepared for the blows life throws at him, you hate how you have to be the harbinger for the second one that’s knocked him off his feet.
When he stops in front of you, he places his hands on either of your shoulders and looks into your eyes, searching for confirmation, and you nod, trying to not let fear seep into your expression.
One of his hands covers his mouth as he takes it in. 
And then he’s sinking in front of you, off of his feet indeed, and onto his knees. You want to follow, ready to hold him through the heartache sure to follow, at the second child he didn’t ask for while he still grieves the loss of the first. 
But his hands instead take purchase on your stomach, tightening the fabric of your tunic around the barely-visible bump before bunching it up and lifting, just enough so he can tilt his forehead against the skin there. 
You can feel him reaching out, not taking him long at all to find what he’s searching for, and curiosity beats self-preservation at the last moment, prompting you to open your mind again, just for you to be able to catch elation coursing through Obi-Wan.
You don’t even bother trying to stifle your confusion as he looks up at you with glassy eyes.
Sinking to your knees to meet him, you take his face in your hands, trying to make sense of it all as he takes your hand in his. “I never... “ when his voice comes out unsteady, he clears his throat and tries again. “I never thought I’d have... That we could… didn’t occur to me that now...stars above, how long have you known?”
You don’t recall when you start crying, but tears are falling freely down your cheeks as you shake your head. “I’m so sorry. I… I would never want to keep something like this from you, Obi-Wan, but I couldn’t tell you, not with everything, not with all you already have…and i’m so sorry.”
“Oh, heavens, no. You should not have to do this alone. Please don’t keep things from me, even if you think it to be for my sake. We can…”
You fix him with a pointed, unamused stare. He exhales as he must notice his hypocrisy. 
“Your point is well-put and taken, but the sentiment still stands. We’ll not keep secrets from each other anymore. Do we have an accord?”
Despite it all, you smile at his overly-formal phrasing, something you’d normally have a quip about if it weren’t for the concern still nagging at you.
“Are you not angry then? Or disappointed?” you watch him carefully, praying to any deity listening that he doesn’t concoct some half truth to placate you. His first instinct is always to protect, but you’d never want it at expense of his authenticity. 
Bafflement marks his brow at first, then he takes your face in his hands. “Darling, no.” He says your name, gathering every bit of your attention. “I dreamt of you. During the war, when I was away. I did not sleep well, even then, but when I did, I’d sometimes dream of you, holding a child that I knew to be ours. When I woke, I would remember it so vividly, so painfully, because I never thought that was an attainable future for us.”
But that doesn’t need to matter if you… do you want this child?” His eyes are so full of hope, and it was the last thing you expected, but here he is laying it down on the altar of your preference, and maker, are you glad those two things aren’t opposing each other. 
Because his hope and yours are one in the same, and once he knows it too, at your whispering, choked, “yes,” he’s clutching you in his arms.
And for the second time in a month, you’re both huddled on the ground in tears. The first, bowing under the mass of catastrophe. Now, at the glowing relief of the sprouting of a dream sown in tears, too tender before to even say aloud.
But now? You’re saying it, back and forth, from him to you as your walls fall, permitting him into your mind as he welcomes you into his, and finally you take true comfort once again in the home you’ve built in each other. 
The night after, you lie side by side, hand in hand, on a blanket splayed not far from the hut. The suns have sunken, but the pinks and oranges of their palette still paint the sky where it hasn’t yet turned to midnight cobalt. The light of the lantern gives off a similar hue, dousing everything in your reach in soft, warm hues.
It has taken Obi-Wan some convincing, being so out in the open with everything he had to worry about wasn’t his first choice, but you compromised for a small alcove in the rock formations which surrounded you on two sides. More easily defensible. Not that he needed it, but if he was cautious before, it was borderline unbearable now. With the added danger of the Empire knowing without doubt that he lived.  With more than ever to lose. 
So, he was in charge of safety, you were in charge of snacks. And if they so happened to be almost entirely comprised of those melons you couldn’t quite get enough of lately? That was no one’s business except yours. You brought a few things you knew Obi-Wan liked too, of course. 
What little remains of the miscellaneous spread you push to the edge of the blanket so you can both lie down. 
“I dare say it’s almost pleasant out tonight.”
You turn your head to him, a snort ready at him discussing the weather of all things, but it instead forms a cloud in your throat at the sight of him. 
His eyes are closed, hair rustling in the slight evening breeze, a tranquil ease over his profile. 
The small patches of grey in the part of his beard next to his ears catch the first glints of moonlight in a way the rest of his hair doesn’t, giving them away. 
The mellisonant lowness of his voice brings you back to yourself, cheeks heating. 
“I can feel you staring, little one.”  He opens his eyes, leisurely rolling to his side. “Some say it’s quite impolite.” Slanting over you, he lifts a brow, daring your response.
“And is that a problem?” You look up at him through your eyelashes, feigning innocence. 
Obi-Wan’s gaze follows back up to the stars, as he plays right along, pretending to have to think on it. “I suppose it depends.” 
“On whether or not you allow me to return the impropriety,” he responds with a coy smile, moving back to you, so close now you can feel his exhales on your cheek. 
Warmth blooms through you as you answer back, “You can always look, Obi-Wan.” You lift yourself to close the short distance between your face and his, pressing your lips together, which he deepens right away. Using the hand not supporting half his body off of you still, he fans out his fingers across your belly, towing the line between caressing gently and clutching protectively. 
You pull your lips back from his as an uninvited slither of insecurity slips into your chest. 
He senses it, of course, so you speak before he even needs to ask. “Are you really, truly, certain this is what you want? Now? I don’t want you to just say so because…and we could wait, we have...”
“I am,” he says, adamantly, before you even have a chance to finish. His eyes flash to the side. “I…” He rolls back onto his back, looking straight up as he talks seemingly half to you, half to himself. “There is not much I know for certain these days. Some days… I scarcely can remember who I am anymore.” 
He turns his eyes back to you, unwavering. “There are seldom few things I haven’t questioned of late, and my love for you isn’t one of them. And from the moment I’ve known, from the very first instant you let me feel the life within you, my love for them hasn’t been one either.” 
Your thoughts split into two, one wanting to lean into it, to take him for his word that’s always true, and the other cautioning you, telling you to keep distant and watch for the surface level honesty he gives that hides the brutal one he safeguards you from. 
But you’re not hiding anymore, feelings unconcealed in your energy and on your face, so he leans back into you, grasping your arm in his hand, squaring your shoulders to him. You cringe at yourself when you know he’s heard the impression of you questioning. It’s redundant, but self-doubt always is. “Know, please know, my darling.” Taking your hand in his, he brings it up to his temple with an insistence that you have no desire to counter. 
And it’s there. Right there and sparking in its clarity, right at the threshold of his mind as you enter it. How much he means his words, no holds barred, no cleverly crafted glazes to an unly underbelly of reality. His reality was this, how severely he craves starting a family with you. How much he already loves the being within you, how he looks forward to the day he gets to hold them in his arms. 
The fear is there too, quiet, but not kept from you. The fear of failing as a father, unsure of assuming any role that resembled a mentor again, all-too-familiar with the ghost that will float over him in every lesson he teaches. 
What shocks you there is his faith in you. In how much he’s already learned from you about the impact of open affection, in how you don’t let your feelings lead you, but you let them breathe, not suffocate them. It’s part of how he even can acknowledge his fears to himself and to you without berating himself under the too-simple phrase “fear leads to the dark side.” There’s truth in it, but also inaccuracy. 
Because he’s afraid, and yet, there is so much light in the acknowledging of it to himself, and in that very act, it loses much of any power it could have had over him. Oh, how deeply he wishes he could have articulated that understanding to Anakin. 
The pain is fresh, but so is his anticipation for the future, swirling together in a potent drink, and his throat bobs with the effort to swallow them down simultaneously. 
He knows you’ll help ground him through it, he trusts you, even in his uncertainty in himself.
It breaks your heart but also warms it: the knowledge that he lets you into that place where he keeps the questions of himself, the place only you and the man who’s caused most of this doubt have been permitted. 
 With a thankful short farewell, you part from his mind as you know exactly what you want to do.
The remains of your snacks still rest on the edge of the blanket, including the shells of the deep purple-pigmented melons. The one draw-back to their delightful taste was how badly they stained your fingers. You had to break them into tiny pieces, plopping them into your mouth without allowing them to touch your lips unless you wanted your mouth to stain too. 
But right now? The staining quality was just what you needed. 
Although first you needed a blank canvas. 
“May I take your tunics off?” you ask, sitting up. 
Despite a short twitch of confusion and then interest, Obi-Wan follows, raising himself up into a kneel, slightly lifting his arms in compliance. 
The paleness of his skin catches all the light of the lantern, highlighting your view as you slowly slide the fabric up and off, gliding your hands up the line of hair dipping below his navel as it becomes more exposed. It grants you a quiet, steep intake of breath from him and you suddenly give halt momentarily, distracted by the alluring appetite you’ve created. 
No, you won’t give in. Not yet. He needs to know this. 
You take one of the broken pieces of melon rind in your hand, where little tart bits of the fruit still cling, dribbling pigment, but before your finger makes contact with the taut skin of his chest, you pull back at the realization you might have bitten off more than you can chew. 
How do you even begin to describe him? Obi-Wan is so many things at once, so many attributes, and every descriptor that comes to mind falls blatantly short of him. 
Then you recall Obi-Wan going through the motions of Alchaka, watching his body fight to maintain the poses at times. Being such a personal practice, you felt honored that he let you see him go through the exercises, and even more honored that he opened up to you about the purpose behind it later. It was an exercise of both physicality and Force use, and the goal was absolute exhaustion. That was the destination. Trying, knowing from the start that he’ll fall short in the end, but doing it all the same. Because there’s so, so much to be said for the trying.
So you do. You bring the messy fingertip to his clavicle, smearing the first word you know to absolutely be true of him, as if starting the premise with a whisper of I know you’re even more than the sum all of these singular praises. 
The word “complex” appears in your penmanship on his skin as you drag it to life. You look up to his eyes, and his curiosity is clear there, but also so is the tenderness that is elemental to any time he looks at you. And just like that, you have your next word.
And at the way he flushes so lovely for you at that?
You feel his protest before you see it, the objection in his signature, and you know you’re going to have to switch methods. 
Just then, a droplet from where you’ve written the last word on his pectoral falls, down, down, threatening toward the hem of his trousers, but you’re fast, dropping your mouth down and catching it all on your tongue before it can stain the bleached beige of his remaining clothing. 
When his stubborn revolt at the affirmation quiets in his mind in exchange for a flash of searing lust, you know exactly how you’re going to continue. 
Because Obi-Wan Kenobi, general, warrior, negotiator, Jedi Master, legend, has rarely ever been affirmed as such, and he squirms under the thick blanket of his humility and deprivation anytime someone endeavors. 
So you need his mind to be preoccupied enough, guards down low enough, so he can even hear the message get through.
When you place your hands over his waistband, locking eyes in inquiry, stopping when he hesitates, scanning the area around you, vigilant as always. Overly so now. 
“We’re alone. And wouldn’t you be able to sense it if we weren’t?” 
He looks down at you as he answers. “If I stay mindful enough to do so, yes.” 
Good, he’ll be even less prone to fight you if he has some of his mind sensing outward.
You look back up at him with the facial equivalent of asking “well?” to which Obi-Wan sighs in response. “Very well then.”
With your familiarity with ridding him of clothing, it only takes moments before you can finally taste him where you want to, where he’s already hard and swollen for you. 
 You know you won’t be able to take him as much as you want, a recently-developed overactive gag reflex preventing you. But it just so happens to be convenient tonight, as the resulting taunt should have him right where you want him.
A gentle kiss, right to the head of his cock is all the warning you give him before taking the whole tip in your mouth, swirling your tongue around him, pulling a choked hum deep from his throat. 
Oh, oh, Maker, have you done a grand miscalculation, because you forgot an entire factor in this equation: the way you have been borderline hysterical in hunger for him.
You’ve kept so much from him, and part of how you’ve even managed is starting to convince yourself of less than fact. Facts like how many times you’ve had to change underthings recently, physical evidence of desire unwilling to comply to your head’s demands. Facts like how you’ve literally had to bite your finger to keep the feelings at bay. 
You’d expected changes in your body even before your belly grew, but this was one you hadn’t anticipated. In some ways, it wasn’t that different than usual. You never knew you could want someone with the breadth that you want Obi-Wan. 
But this? Of late? It feels like it’s been amplified tenfold. 
You’re not keeping any cards close to your chest anymore, but you do have to ignore your own body’s screaming cries as you complete this.
He needs to know. 
Nerves still serenading his brain with feedback, you re-wet your finger with the purple juice and write the next words across his abdomen. 
He’s caught on to your scheme by now, cued by the all-too appropriate addition of the last word, and he lets you know it, an impression projected, speechless but still unobstructed. He’s still powerless against it. Or rather, letting himself be powerless. Trusting you with the control he has left, trusting you in his vulnerable places. The places where he’s weak.
The word spread over his right upper arm, where he’s obviously just that. But may the tint of the word bleed through his skin, may it run through his veins, because that’s how deep and deeper still that his strength runs. It’s in the way he doesn’t flaunt it. It’s in the way he chooses to wield it. 
He closes his eyes, flinching at the onslaught of acclamation, and you dip your head down again, wrapping your lips around his cock, letting him slide to where you can take him comfortably, just starting to build a pace as his hips squirm in harmony with his suddenly erratic breaths. Oh, how you’d love to let him deeper, allow his cock past your lips beyond the teasing amount you can take now, but the little writhes his body gives in protest are enough to almost make you okay with how your mouth won’t agree with your ambitions. He says your name, groaned out in bliss as he cups a hand on your cheek.
His barriers are down, so it’s easy to hear when his deprecating thoughts quiet again, and you switch back to coloring him again. 
You know the moment you look up at him that it’s a mistake, because he’s flushed, so torn, suspended in the limbo of your give and withdrawal, mouth ever so slightly open, tongue darting out to wet his bottom lip. 
You’re only human, so before you draw anything else, you bring your lips to his, which is yet another mistake, because among the many things Obi-Wan is, he is a deep kisser, and as his tongue delves into your mouth, your will power takes a devastating blow. 
You pull back, reeling at the reminder of how easily he can take back control, knowing you have to complete this before you let him. 
Stars, how you want to let him. 
For now, you need that control back, so you take him into your mouth again, filthily wet and not nearly long enough as you quickly pull back, watching in satisfaction as he heaves forward at the loss, correcting himself quickly back into straight posture. 
With a smirk, you drag your slippery, pigmented finger across his lower stomach. 
There’s so many more words, so much more he needs to know, and if you covered every inch of his skin in the smallest writing it still wouldn’t be sufficient of all that he is. 
Or you could whisper it all through the Force, embed it all in his mind. 
But because you’ve been there, know his mind inside and out, you know every time he sees his own skin, all he sees is the red of blood on his hands. The blood of his brother. 
And that’s exactly why you’re going to stain it in your own colors. Take back territory and push back the front lines that the army of guilt has taken over on him. 
Your Jedi, ever-adorned in unassuming beige, now drips in the color of royalty.
You’re only left with enough space for one more word, and you want some sort of conclusion to it all, something to summarize the expanse of the man kneeling in front of you. 
Nothing can. 
But maybe, just maybe, one word encapsulates what he is to you. 
This time you do chant it across his thoughts, prompting him to open his eyes and look at you.
Cerulean blue blinks open, slowly, almost painfully and nearly overflowing with emotion. 
Thank you, is all he says, unable or unwilling to say it out loud, much too heartfelt and newly-budded for that.
You know his pain has older roots than those tended to in this moment, but you vow to yourself that you’ll never stop trying. 
Lowering your mouth around him once again, you don’t tease him anymore, at least not intentionally, even though you still can’t take more than half of him. 
“Look at you, you’re…” he hisses in a breath as you swipe your tongue against that vein on the underside of him. “Stunning. You’re doing so well, little one.” 
The taste of him compels you as much as his words, seizes you in spice-like addiction, and how interesting it’s going to be explaining that taste craving to him, among your sudden adoration for those damn melons. 
“Darling, I’m…” 
You feel it in his energy before he says it, already pulling off, replacing your mouth with your hand, dropping your lips down even lower, mouthing at his balls, and the feedback is instant. An outpouring crest of his pleasure blasting outward as he lets out a depraved moan, netting his hands into your hair.
Your hand is wet and so is where he’s spilled on his still flexing and releasing stomach, clear white maring the lettering halfway through “disciplined.” You’d clean it with your tongue if you weren’t sure how your overly sensitive taste buds would react now. 
It’s not the first time you’ve had sex since you’ve known you were pregnant, but it’s the first time since he’s known, and it’s the first time you’re not hiding the symptoms. Before, you carefully shied away from anything that might give you away, and between the preoccupation of everything on his own mind he was trying to keep from you and his respect for your boundaries, he never pressed. He had questions in his eyes, but you knew how to carefully reveal partial vulnerabilities to keep him off your trail.
Your chest flares at the memory.
We’re not hiding now. 
It’s your chant, your reminder, your comfort. How nothing of this caliber will be kept between you again.
His eyes confirm it, sincere and exact as they fight to break through their dazed slipping. 
Never again. His voice in your head is home, so consoling it can and has put you to sleep before. 
Right now, it wakes you up in a different light, dowsing you in heat as Obi-Wan takes your hand in his, wiping it on a piece of his discarded clothing before wiping the spend off himself. 
Then he’s taking your face in both his hands tilting you up before kissing you soundly. 
I love you, he says across the wire that ties your minds, the wire that keeps growing stronger every day. So, so very much.
You say it back, a fact as simple as breathing. You love him.
You want him, borderline need him the way you need your next inhale, you don’t say, but he must hear it anyway, because that cocky little smirk that’s been gone far too long is back.
“Shall we do something about that?”
You’re about to just lift your shift dress up and off in response, but he halts you, grasping your wrists. 
“Allow me.” 
He pulls you into another sultry kiss, completely neglecting the task of ridding you of clothing.
Or so you think.
There’s buttons all the way down the dress, and you’ve never used them, always wondering at their purpose if it can so easily lift over your head. 
At first, you don’t even know he’s doing it until you start to feel the coolness of the night air on your nipples. Opening your eyes, you pull back from him to watch as seemingly in thin air, your buttons undo themselves. 
“You needn’t seduce me further. You already know how much I need you,” you gasp, breathless from the kiss.
Obi-Wan just gives a small smile as he drops a hand, dragging it down your side, then down your thigh. “Hm. So impatient. All this from just pleasuring me?”
Maker, he knows! He knows that you are. You always have been, and it’s not as if you weren’t projecting your feelings too.
When he reaches a hand between your thighs, parting them and making a single, tempting stroke through them, his fingers come back glistening. 
“I should think you could feel that I am.” You let the tide of your frustration spill over into your connection to his mind. 
You know he had to hear you, but he gives no indication that he did. 
“Mm. Desire needn’t always be indicatory of impatience,” he punctuates his statement with a hand at the base of your skull, tipping your head back to expose your neck. “I need you to be patient, little one. Let me savor you.” And with that, his mouth makes contact with your neck at the same time his other hand plays with one of your exposed nipples. 
You whimper at the attention, quietly pleading with him for more. Among the still slight changes to your body, this has been the most notable one. How sensitive your breasts have become to even the scrape of the fabric of your clothing. 
And with the rough pads of his fingers working only one, leaving the other to pang in want...
“Obi-Wan,” it’s a prayer, a request. He doesn’t need his hands to cause sensation, and you’d beg him right now if he asked. 
He lets up on your neck, only barely, lips moving against the now throbbing skin. “Answer me first.” 
Clearing your throat, you give the most cogent response you can muster. “Depends on if you’re definition of savor is synonymous with torture.”
He locks eyes with you then, gently grasping a breast in each of his hands, dragging his thumbs over the nipples as you moan out your assent.
His chuckle is far too self-satisfied to be becoming of a Jedi, but you’re already too far gone to call him on it. 
“Is that what you want, little one? For me to torture you so?”
An affirmative whimper is all the response you can give, and Obi-Wan reacts quickly, taking your chin in his fingers and tilting your eyes up to his again. 
“Then you will be patient for me. Because I’m always happy to stop, and we can begin again when you decide to adhere.”
Your brain short circuits on the spot, and all energy is redirected much, much lower. His voice, stars above, his voice when it takes a commanding tone. 
It’s intimate, it’s personal, and yet this game is almost inappropriately playful for how sincere the moment is. 
But such was being loved by Obi-Wan. Full of dissimilar feelings that shouldn’t fit, but moved together in liquid consistency. Like metaphors that didn’t rhyme but still somehow gave their own life-giving rhythm, not dissimilar to the sound of his heartbeat when you lay your head against his chest at night. 
Making quick work of the remaining buttons of your shift and underwear, he beckons you to join him as he lies back down, large, warm hands guiding you to turn around so you’re facing away from him. 
You know that the purple stickiness of the fruit will smear from his body to yours like this, but you can’t at all bring yourself to care. 
You gasp a sigh of relief as one of his hands finds your breast, brushing a knuckle over the too-sensitive nipple. 
“Please.” Your whispered beg sounds pathetic, even to your own ears. But as you arch against him in a frenzied attempt at skin contact, Obi-Wan juts his hips forward, grunting into the exposed column of your neck, and stars, yeah, maybe he didn’t find that so pathetic after all. 
“What do you want, darling?” His voice doesn’t divulge any desperation, and for only the hundredth time do you envy his immaculate self-control. 
“You know, don’t pretend you don’t.” Leaving any doubt to the wind, you push your chest against his barely-touching hand. 
“Specificity can be a virtue; that I also know.” 
You change techniques, driving your hips back softly into where he’s hard and insistent against your ass, hoping it compels him. 
Then you simply… can’t anymore. You’re frozen, unable to move your lower half at all. 
Tangling your desires into a knot and tucking it away, you find the mindfulness to reply. “Yeah, so is mercy.” 
“Indeed it is. I shall concede when you do.”
You won’t win a battle of the wills with him. You’re not sure anyone could.
So you bring his hand over to your nipple. “Touch me here.” 
You feel his smile without even seeing it as he starts tweaking the bud. “Like this?”
It’s so much sensation, all concentrated on such responsive flesh, that you want to beg for him to switch to touching you between your legs.
You haven’t even finished the thought when you feel his unmistakable metaphysical brush against your thigh.
Extending a tendril of your own energy, you invite him in, and he takes it eagerly, ever as eager if not more to be entwined with your mind as with your body. 
He hears it all, the besottment, the arousal, the neediness. The panic that he might drag this out longer, that you’ll have to go a single minute longer without...
“It’s alright. It’s alright.” He sends soothing waves through your connection, and he swaps the positioning of his hand with the curl of power. He turns his hand so that the back of it runs through where you’re aching for him, gathering up your slick on the backs of his knuckles. You have to contort your neck to see what follows when he takes the hand back behind you, and your mouth goes dry when he sucks the knuckles in between his lips. 
You want to hear, you want to know what he’s…
He’s welcoming you in, navigating you to the brink of his mental barriers, letting you take that final plunge into the unsuppressed fullness of your bond to each other.
Now it’s your turn to hear it: how his carefully constructed unaffected persona is not at all a match for his naked, wanton need for you. 
And under that, the foundation on which that desire is built, not the product of it, is his love, his unyielding, unashamed, iridescent love for you. 
It’s all you can do but to pour it back, affirming and soothing and calling his love into action with your own. 
You both don’t want anything else except the most complete of entanglement, and that’s exactly what he moves to do, situating your bodies, hiking your top leg in the crook of his arm as you feel the initial breach of his body into yours, and all breath leaves your lungs in an exhilarating evacuation.
His audible gasp is an echo of his emotions, how he thinks he’s prepared for this onslaught of feeling, but how you take him off guard, how his equilibrium threatens to teeter every time. 
The web of his consciousness enveloping you, it’s easy to pick out a single thought blaring within him: How much he adores the way you fit together. Your back against his chest, how your breast fits in his hand, how the snug joining of where his cock presses into your body sends you into trembles, how comforting your very presence is to his soul when he lets you in like this. 
Tears, without warning, seep out of your eyes as he starts to move against you, slow and deep. You close your eyes, willing the powerful emotion away, but glimmers of light flash out behind our closed lids the moment you do, and how the kriff does he stay composed? 
Anchor. Anchor against me. 
He stills, letting you have a break from the barrage of pleasure blinding you as you search him out, looking for the cords of his intellect that seemingly both steam downward and beam upward, grounding him.
You find it, and you clasp on tightly.
But the moment he starts moving again, you lose sight of it all over again.
Your heightened hormones make your flesh so susceptible, and the tears start to fall again. Obi-Wan rolls your nipple in between his thumb and index, and he’s so good, and you’re so full, and you can hear his pleasure as your own, adding, doubling everything…
Scorching, electrifying heat speeds through your veins, hitting hard and fast, leaving you astounded and even more sensitive than before. 
Obi-Wan’s signature spikes as your climax resounds through him, and you can feel the vibration of the wanton noises he’s making right where his beard scratches against your neck. 
But he doesn’t allow it to overtake him, letting it run through him without resistance, making himself pliable but unmovable, keeping himself back from the edge. 
You still have much to learn.
Because that control? Gives him the ability to not even stop, not even hesitate once, even at both yours and his own ecstasy flowing through him.
When he starts striking his hips hard into yours, the weight of him inside you dragging exactly in the right place, you start to cry in earnest. Obi-Wan stops for a millisecond, concern radiating off of him, even when he can hear how much you want this so clearly, has access to every little passing thought. 
“Don’t stop, I’m fine, I pro…” He does just as asked while moving his hand down to your belly again, a soothing touch to his rough thrusts. Your eyes are blurred with wetness, overwhelmed with him. 
He’s listening to it all, applying every micro-feeling of feedback into action against your desperate, post-orgasmic skin, hand switching back and forth from your nipples to loosely clutching your neck, Force energy focused on applying pressure to your clit. 
“You’re doing so well, so good for me,” comes the wisp of his sultry tone, lips pressed against your ear. 
Since you aren’t even thinking about changing position, you know it’s his own preference that has him withdrawing, guiding you onto your back. 
There’s no inhibition this way, not the way there is when you’re on your side, no separation from your bodies being flush when he pushes into you again. You have to anchor in him, both mentally and with your fingernails clawing at his shoulder blades as your body starts into tremors.
He’s keeping the weight of his chest off of you, even though your belly is still barely swollen into distinguishable roundedness, and as much as you miss the contact, you can look into his eyes like this, can see the unfiltered attachment and all the weight of all the emotion he wills his body to not cave under. 
But then the tremoring transforms into series of contractions throughout your body, centering through your slick core, and you thrash your head to the side catching a glimpse of Obi-Wan’s fingers clenching into white knuckles, grasping into the exposed sand from the blanket being bunched up. 
He projects his thoughts across the tether to you,  how thoroughly impacted by the very fact you’re carrying his child, how affected he is by every little thing about you, honored that he’s allowed to touch you like this. 
You roll your hips back up into his, and that’s what it takes. His stuttering body is the lightning, and the searing, molten pleasure across your connection is the thunderous repercussion. 
It completely overthrows you, and your body bows against him as his high instantly cues yours again.
You can feel him throb inside you at the very moment you do, his turn to experience the secondary sensory white-out of your mate’s climax through the Force, his shuddering shout meeting your breathy whines in the close distance between your mouths. 
And he does kiss you then, soundly but with the haze of afterglow slowing it. 
“Have you any idea how bewitching you are to me?” He breathes it out, and despite all the ways you’d normally scoff at such words, his eyes tell the story, and you listen to it’s truth. 
His eyes hold that constant infiltrating study of you, the one that could be unnerving if his mind, still tethered to yours didn’t hold such amor, heart bleed such fondness that settles in the creases around his eyes. 
How interesting it is watching someone as knowledgeable as him having such an inquisitive outlook on life, and being so frequently the object of those investigations. 
Did the galaxy know her debt to him? Did she know the sum owed to inflicting the worst of life’s pains on someone who refused to let it build anything except an even gentler man of himself? When does she plan on repaying him? What does she offer in exchange for her cruelty of the hand she’s dealt Obi-Wan Kenobi?
Then the whisper comes, soft but crisp, from somewhere in the threads of existence around you, “Can’t you see? It’s you, child.” 
You could argue it. You could scream how it’s not enough, how you’re not enough,  how he deserves so much more from some dark insecure place inside you. Or how love shouldn’t be treated as currency in exchange for pain, how the galaxy could still have your fists if that was how it tallied. 
But the finality of it settles in your soul, more impressionistic than in solid wording: there is no easy conclusion that ties the suffering of life into purpose, no experience that erases or mends its pain. But love. Love makes the complicated endeavor of trying to find purpose in the madness worthwhile.  
Obi-Wan’s hum of agreement resounds in your ears and through to your head. His Force signature feels so familiar, so at home within yours and yours within his, that you’d briefly forgotten he could still hear you. 
With all the strength still left in quaking limbs, you wrap your arms around him, and he melts into it. 
The compassion of his soul hardly matches his war-ravaged skin, his guilt-ridden memories. Every good thing here came to be with a war waged, refined and not burnt away in fire at his sheer tenacity. 
It’s a growing thing, blooming in the desert. The beliefs in both of you. Your love for each other. Your own trust in the Force. 
Healing is no short journey, but her two sojourners here are determined.
And if that tender hope can blossom here?
Then maybe, just maybe: Tatooine is exactly the place for a baby after all. 
In the valley beyond the hut, a boy jets quickly away in some mechanical contraption he recently motorized, a girl in a similar vehicularized compilation of junk not far behind. 
On the cliff’s edge stands Obi-Wan, eyes scanning the landscape intermittently for any sign of threat between longer affectionate looks at the children before him.
He turns, feeling your approach in his keen awareness as you set a hand on his shoulder from behind. His temples are now even thicker with sun-bleached silver, and his eyes wield the lines of laughter around them. 
And you? You’re as roped in by his gravitational pull as you’ve always been. 
He puts a hand over yours, clasping it to bring you in front of him, where he can still watch the children and encase you in his arms at the same time. 
“Slow down, Luke! You’re going too fast!” comes the distressed cry of your daughter, Ahlina, drawing your attention away from admiring Obi-Wan and back to the valley. Her vowels curl in the same way her father’s does, but her more casual phrasing was certainly thanks to you. Luke shouts back at her, “Come on, keep up!” while he races on ahead.
Obi-Wan smiles, seemingly amused at a secret joke. 
“They are much too young for this nonsense still,” he speaks, muffled slightly as he hides his lips in your hair. 
“Probably,” you reply with an airy laugh.
Not long after, the engine on Luke’s small contraption gives out, jutting him off and tumbling forward into the sand. 
“I told you!” Ahlina yells, her own machine coming to a halt not far away from Luke. 
When they make it back up the cliff, Obi-Wan couches and opens his arms, and they both come running with smiles. They’re still young enough to be unshy about affection, and Obi-Wan knows to soak it up, closing his eyes in relishment. 
Luke is the first to wiggle down, waving before running over to hug your leg, which you happily return, brushing some of the blonde mop of hair from his forehead. You adored the nights that the Lars let him sleep over. 
Although the nights that Ahlina slept over at theirs certainly had their allure too. 
“Can we have a snack, Daddy?” Ahlina asks, still happy to be hoisted up on one of his arms. 
“Hm. Perhaps I can make some of those ahrisa sweet breads again?”
She wrinkles her nose. “Can Mommy make them?”
“Why not mine?”
“Because you always burn them.”
He bops a finger lightly on her nose with a smile. “Cheeky.”
She goes to bop him on his nose in return, but he catches the finger, holding it. 
“Give it back!” she screeches through a giggle. 
“No, no. I think I’ll keep it now.” 
The suns are dipping low as you retreat into the hut, the two children running ahead, racing to gather the ingredients to help you bake the bread. Luke especially was an enthusiastic sous-chef. 
You step to follow them, but Obi-Wan grasps your hand. You turn back to him, and he barely gives you a second before he joins his mouth to yours. Sliding a hand into the auburn beard, you open your mouth to him, letting his familiar taste permeate your senses. 
He reluctantly breaks after a long moment, and you take his hand in yours. When you turn back to the horizon, the suns are dipping, blanketing the landscape in the most celestial light of the day. 
The planet’s eyes aren’t harsh in the way you used to see them. They’re still intense, and frequently unforgiving. 
Perhaps they never changed. Maybe only you did.
But as they sink now, you give a silent, partial farewell, knowing they’ll greet you again in the morning. 
Because if Dark’s patience is infinite? 
So is the promise of the return of the Light. 
Tagging upon request: @million-dollar-legs
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animebw · 11 months ago
Short Reflection: Evangelion 3.0- You Can (Not) Redo
What is the point of remaking Evangelion?
That question hangs over the Rebuilds like a storm cloud. Evangelion the TV show, and its movie conclusion End of Eva, endure as anime staples to this day. It’s a story that’s just as captivating now as when it came out over two decades ago. It doesn’t need a remake to remain relevant; I doubt Eva will ever stop being relevant, at least for a very long time. And say what you want about Hideaki Anno, he’s never been the kind of guy to create art for the sake of cynically milking cash from his audience. So the only reason to remake it is if there’s something more to say. Something that the original show and movie didn’t quite capture, something that Anno desperately needs to contribute to the never-ending conversation he started so long ago. But what is that something? For what reason does this story need to be told anew? As much as I enjoyed the first two Rebuilds, they don’t really do a good job of answering that question. 1.0 literally just repeats the show shot for shot. 2.0 mostly condenses and remixes stuff that’s already happened, but less good and more needlessly indulgent. We’re halfway through the Rebuilds and we still don’t understand why this movie series even exists. And after 2.0′s barn-burner of a finale, I was hopeful that 3.0 would finally deliver the answers I was waiting for.
Then I watched 3.0.
And suddenly, everything makes sense.
Ladies, gentlemen, and everyone in between, You Can (Not) Redo is utterly fucking amazing. It’s a statement of purpose that makes every unanswered question click into place. It’s a staggering work of artistic vision. It’s a statement of purpose like a lightning bolt from hell. It blows everything about the previous two Rebuilds out of the water so effortlessly, it honestly makes them feel worse by comparison. It’s everything I hoped it would be and so, so much more. Whether or not it’s truly on par with the original Evangelion, I don’t know; I guess I’ll have to wait for the final movie to answer that question. But for the first time since I started watching the Rebuilds, I finally feel like this series can match up to the original Evangelion. It can live up to its staggering legacy. Somehow, Anno and his team at Studio Khara have written a new chapter in this franchise’s legacy that genuinely feels like it’s adding to the conversation. And it comes in the form of a movie that’s just as heartwrenching, just as pulse-pounding, just as wretched, and just as beautiful as the tale that’s lead it here.
It’s also a very disorienting movie, which is entirely the point. We cold-open fourteen years after Shinji caused the Third Impact at the end of the last movie, fourteen years that Shinji’s essentially spent in cryosleep as the world has collapsed and struggled back to post-apocalyptic life. When he’s finally wokem up, he finds himself in a world where everything is changed, everything is broken, and barely anything resembles the people and places he left behind. And just as he reels from this staggering information overload, the movie doesn’t slow down to explain anything until around halfway through. The first twenty minutes are nearly non-stop action, showing off the new status quo in a barrage of futuristic technology, breathtaking monster fights, and sweeping apocalyptic landscapes. It’s an absolutely insane rush, tossing both us and Shinji from one jaw-dropping setpiece to the next with barely a moment to catch our breath. At times, it’s so overwhelming that the shock and awe almost becomes numbing. So much technobabble and barely explained high concept fuckery is thrown around that it’s all but impossible to get a read on what’s actually going on between the chaos. You’d think this would be a crippling flaw, but honestly, Evangelion’s plot and lore have always been kind of an incomprehensible clusterfuck, so 3.0��s just carrying on that tradition if anything. And it definitely puts us right in Shinji’s head as he’s assaulted with the innumerable ways that things have changed. “Welcome to the new world,” it seems to say. “Now get up to speed, because we’re not slowing down for you.”
And what a new world it is. The planet is awash in the kind of stunning imagery that would feel right at home in Berserk. Mountains of red bodies, blood dripping from oversized heads, seas burned crimson and teeming with alien life, NERV headquarters reduced to a bombed-out Gothic shell of its former self, and a climactic fight that takes place on an underground mountain of skulls in the shadow of a fossilized titan that dwarfs even the Evas. The grungy realism that defined the show’s aesthetic has been replaced with a majestic, almost Dark Souls-ian portrait of an incomprehensibly primordial universe on the brink of erasing itself from existence. It even makes some genuinely fantastic use of CG during the battles, amping up their scope to mind-numbing extremes. And the cinematography is just as fractured as the world it portrays; at times, the framing, lighting and editing seem to cast the environments as a grand stage upon which actors say their lines. Spotlights shine down on characters without a source. Shaft-esque expressionistic flairs dominate the movie’s conversation-heavy middle chunk. Just like at the show’s end, the fabric of the story itself is beginning to come undone from the shock of what it’s been forced to endure. It hasn’t devolved to the pure abstraction of the final two episodes yet, but the warning signs are all there. Things can’t go on like this much longer. Sooner or later, this world is going to unravel again.
And yet, for all this bleakness and despair, one thing that can’t be denied is that this movie is fucking awesome. It kicks so much ass on so many levels that it’s impossible to keep track of all the amazing moments. I can’t even count how many times it made me shriek with glee as it pulled off yet another Gurren Lagann-worthy setpiece. Evas dueling in the shadow of a god’s withered husk! Evas fighting Angels in space! Captain Katsuragi commanding an army of anti-NERV warriors with unparalleled badassery! AND MOTHER! FUCKING! ASUKA! God, this movie fixes everything wrong with Asuka from the last movie. Every attack she makes, every blow she takes, every Angel she thrashes, every impossible plan she carries out through sheer force of will, all of it left me screaming with joy. It’s like we’re getting to see post-EOE Asuka, the Asuka who conquered her self-loathing and smashed the Eva series to bits, finally get to cut loose and kick some fucking ass. It’s amazing! It’s absolutely fucking amazing! It’s like the past fourteen years turned her into a Gunbuster protagonist! Actually, that’s how all the anti-NERV warriors come off: a colorful cast of misfits stolen from a much more upbeat mecha anime and thrust into a dying world, facing down the post-apocalypse with undying spirit despite the impossible odds. Even though we barely spend any time with them, they feel so lived-in and fleshed out that I could imagine an entire anime series just about them fighting to keep humanity’s flame alive after the Third Impact. It fucking rules.
And Shinji get to enjoy none of it.
Which finally brings me to the point of the whole thing. The reason the Rebuilds had to exist. Why this timeless story was worth continuing. And yes, I do mean “continuing.” Because despite ostensibly being a re-telling, what 3.0 makes clear is that the Rebuilds are true thematic sequels to the original show. They’re not meant to be your first experience with Evangelion; at least, their true impact is lost if you haven’t seen the show already. No, these movies are meant for those who have already been marinating in the NGE stew ever since it first came out and changed anime forever. These movies are for the lost, lonely kids who saw themselves in Shinji whether they wanted to or not. These movies are for the Eva fans who have never been able to stop thinking about it.
These movies are for the Shinjis of the world who never managed to grow up.
Neon Genesis Evangelion came out a full decade before Anno decided to remake it. In that time, those who first watched it as teenagers would grow up into adults. Some of them managed to take Eva’s lessons to heart. They learned to love themselves, to find peace with their demons, to embrace the world no matter how much it scared them to do so. But some of them didn’t. Some of them remained scared and small, a prisoner to their selfishness, their terror, their helplessness. Shinji was able to start the healing process despite all the shit he went through; in real life, not everyone is so lucky. And now, much like Shinji in this movie, those lost kids are faced with an adult world that’s so different from the world they knew, a world where everything is different, everything is broken, everything is a million times harder to deal with... and they’re still fourteen years old, grappling with the same demons that paralyzed them so long ago. Reliving the same memories, making the same mistakes, searching for a way out while stagnating in their comfort zones. And faced with what they can’t understand or accept, all they can do is continue to suffer as they always have.
All they can do... is redo.
None of us will ever destroy the world with our mistakes. None of us will ever be the unwitting key to Armageddon. But there are times when we’ve all felt trapped by our mistakes. There are times when it feels like we’re doomed to keep messing up over and over again, unable to improve or fix what’s broken. Shinji doomed the world to save a single girl, and now he has to face that. He has to face the cruel, unflinching truths of a world he’s ruined, the dark secrets and hidden agendas that brought him to this point. Everyone else has grown up, moved on, created a new world from the wreckage he left behind. But he is still fourteen years old, afraid, grasping for an answer that never comes. The eternal otaku surrogate protagonist has been left behind by time, trapped reliving the same old memories as the people he once cared about become alien and the consequences of his actions grind his soul into dirt. An adult who never got over being a teenager. Who never learned to love himself. Who never figured out how to break the unhealthy cycles he was trapped in. He is fourteen now just as he was fourteen years ago, and unless something changes, he’ll forever remain a child in a world with no more place for him.
Cast in that light, the point behind the first two Rebuilds being what they are becomes abundantly clear. Shinji, just like the audience, is still stuck on Evangelion. He’s stuck reliving the same events, the same memories, searching for meaning without finding the strength to move past it. 1.0 and 2.0 are a comfort zone for Eva fans. They’re familiar. They’re unchallenging. 2.0 in particular is more indulgent and coddling, with its simplified dialogue and aggressive fanservice. They’re what it feels like to be frozen in time, relearning the same lessons without ever moving forward. And then in comes 3.0, shattering that comfort zone to pieces and exposing the audience to the sudden, cruel reality they’ve been hiding from. It forces them to confront the passage of time, their alienation from the world, the fact they’ve just been making the same mistakes over and over again. It forces them to realize that just like Shinji, they never managed to grow up. The comforting illusion those first two movies created was nothing more than the fear of change made manifest. But as much as some may wish to live in the world of 1.0 and 2.0, it’s the world of 3.0 they must have to face. The world where nothing makes sense, where nothing is fair, where your flaws are laid bare and there’s nowhere to run, where time moves forward whether you’re moving with it or not. It’s a final wake-up call to those who are still Shinji to this day, asking them once again... to try.
Which brings me, at last, to Kaworu.
Kaworu was one of the weirdest parts of the original show. He appears out of nowhere in one of the last episodes, has an entire love story with Shinji, and then dies like Jesus for the otaku hero’s sins, all in the space of 26 incredibly esoteric minutes. He wasn’t so much a character as he was a mangled plot device who barely worked as part of the story, even as the thematic point he represented was essential to the show’s overall message. But in 3.0, at last, we see Kaworu as he was meant to be. A fully realized character full of stirring emotion, a loving bond built up with Shinji naturally over beautiful moments of connection, and an ultimate sacrifice that ripped my heart out of my fucking chest. This is the tragic beauty that this character was always meant to represent, finally unfettered by production hell and painted in vivid color. Kaworu Nagisa made me laugh. He made me cry. He made me believe in his love for Shinji ten thousand times more than the original show ever managed. Seriously, that piano duet scene was so unspeakably beautiful, I don’t know how I survived.
And it’s in this scene that Kaworu once again becomes the thematic lynchpin tying everything together. Because his message to Shinji is the message of these Rebuilds: keep trying. Practice the same thing over and over until you get it right, and then move on to even better things. Don’t give up because it seems hard or impossible. Don’t give up because you think it’ll never work. Keep trying. Keep fighting. Even when tragedy strikes, hold onto hope. Because even if you can’t redo the past, you can redo how you approach the future. No mistake is unforgivable, no failure unfixable, no cycle so broken that you can never escape it.
All it takes is the courage to stare the end of the world in the face and say: “Fuck it, I’m going to try again.”
Evangelion 3.0 is a stunning achievement. As pure cinema, it’s a triumph. As a continuation of Evangelion, it’s a masterpiece. As a message for all the Shinjis of the world who remain trapped by their worst impulses, it’s damn near spiritual. I have no idea how the final movie is going to wrap things up, what conclusion it will ultimately arrive at. But after the heights this one reached, I have full confidence that it’s gonna stick the landing. One way or another, Evangelion is going to end again. And this time, maybe we can finally break free of despair and let it carry us through hell into a brighter future. Until then, though, I’ll have to settle for giving this movie a score of:
The only reason it’s not a 10 is because I’m still waiting for that final movie to see if this whole experiment really does end up on par with the original NGE. Hopefully it won’t be too much longer before I get to that one. I’ve remained mercifully unspoiled for so long, and my anticipation could not be higher. Thank you all, and I’ll see you next time as Evangelion ends one last time.
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consumedkings-archive · a year ago
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WITCHING HOUR, a john seed/deputy fic. chapter twelve: the desire to devour
word count: ~10.3k rating: m warnings: naughty language, .000002 seconds of spiciness (but not really), john goes "we were vibing, right? we had the vibes? right?" for like the entire last half. also mentions of self-harm and elliot's previous trauma. notes: hi friends! i hope you enjoy this chapter! this is going to be the last sort of in-between chapter before we really get into it, and from here it's going to go faaaaast. i had a lot of fun writing it and feeling out these different dynamics. not to mention john being a gigantic fuckhead (but like what is new, lmao). special thank you as always to my wifey and beta reader @starcrier for your impeccable eyeballs, and also to @vasiktomis and @shallow-gravy for lending their eyes as well because i did fuss a bit with this chap. i would be lost without y'all. thank you everyone for your love and support, esp with comments! it really fills my heart so so much to hear back from you, and i am always in the market for friends so do not be afraid to reach out to me <3
She is twenty-five.
She’s twenty-five, and it's her first full day of work. Or, it was; now, she's sitting in the Spread Eagle listening to Pratt talk about everything that's happened while she's been gone, because he'd said, c'mon, let me take you out tonight. He grins a boyish, toothy grin at her—the same kind that's mimicked in the multiple school dance photos her mother covets—and tries to sound nonchalant when he asks how she liked being in the city.
It's hard not to think about how this is the first place she had ever met John Seed, then-Duncan, and how it feels like it's spoiled the whole place for her.
Elliot redirects her attention as best as she can to what it is Pratt is saying. He's fishing for information. They've always been each other's safety net, the person they can fall back on when all else fails. School dances. Picking partners in class. Graduation walking buddies. He'd driven her to the airport when she left for the Academy, even. But even though she knows he's trying to figure out if she's still a safety net, Elliot can't disguise the way thinking about Mason makes her feel—disgusting—so she brings the beer bottle to her mouth and takes a swallow.
The result is her face scrunching up. Pratt laughs.
“Geez, Elli, slow down,” he says, his smile crinkling at the corners of his eyes. “Bet money you're still a lightweight. When'd you start drinking beer, anyway?”
“I didn't,” she manages out around the taste, swallowing thickly. “I just won't let your money go to waste.”
He shrugs, as if to say, could, if you wanted, and swivels on the stool a little. He wants to press again—she can tell—but seems to have the good sense not to, instead busying his mouth with his own beer.
“Mama said Whitehorse let you right on,” Elliot says casually, trying to ignore the twinge of envy in her voice.
Pratt shrugs again. “He's known my dad a long time.”
“Known my mom too,” Elliot replies, dry.
“Yeah, well.” Pratt pauses, and sounds a little smug when he says, “Just because your mama likes me doesn’t mean I don’t know how she is to everyone else.”
“Likes you, does she?”
“Obviously,” the brunette replies confidently. “She still keeps all those photos of us. Remember senior year, she had all of her gal pals over when we were getting ready for prom—”
“—took us about 45 minutes before we were exactly where she wanted to take pictures—"
She rolls her eyes. Pratt grins, and then bumps his shoulder against hers. He says, “Aw, c’mon. Not so bad, is it? Having your mom like me?"
Elliot can feel the flush spreading under her cheeks. Not because she's embarrassed, or flustered, but because the beer sitting in her stomach feels rotten, and because Pratt's looking at her with the same kind of eyes he did before—always, always there's the before—and she doesn't know how to say I'm not her anymore, I'm not that girl, I'm different and changed and I don't know how to go back.
It doesn't matter. If Pratt can see it on her face, he doesn't let it show; just pats her shoulder and pretends he doesn't see the way she flinches from his hand swinging into her peripheral, pretends he doesn't notice the way she covers it up by swallowing another mouthful of beer she doesn't want to drink.
“Hudson’s really glad to have you back,” he says after a minute, when she doesn’t confirm nor deny that it’s not so bad knowing her mom thinks he’s a fine enough person. “Been talking about it nonstop.”
A smile creeps its way onto her face. “I’m glad to be back. With her, especially.”
“Yeah, you two always been thick, huh?”
She nods, swallows more beer, and Pratt rolls his eyes and snags the bottle out of her hand.
“Don’t keep drinking if you don’t like it,” he tells her, and then finishes it off himself, setting the empty bottle on the countertop with a grimace. “Can’t have people telling Whitehorse I bullied the probie into drinking.”
“‘Probie’,” she scoffs. “I could kick your ass.”
“Could’ve done it before, Pratt.”
“Now that is lies and slander.”
Elliot only grins at him, the only time since coming back sans Joey getting her from the airport that it’s been a genuine thing; lopsided and a little sloppy but a grin nonetheless. Pratt finishes his own beer now, coughing a little into his fist before he blurts out, “I’m glad, too.”
She blinks. “Huh?”
“That you’re back,” Pratt clarifies. “Y’know—nice to have my friend back. Didn’t like sendin’ you off to the big city, anyway.”
He doesn’t know. He can’t know, because her mother won’t talk about it and Joey would never divulge what it was that had brought about her speedy return—but even though he doesn’t know about the way she has to swallow back a flinch every time he waves his hand in her peripheral, or the way the smell of beer on a man’s breath makes her stomach clench with anxiety, or how her hands are so fucking cold all the time because her heart hammers in her chest, the way he says that (Didn’t like sendin’ you off to the big city, anyway) feels a little like vindication.
“S’okay,” she murmurs, nudging his shoulder with hers. “Came back in one piece, didn’t I?”
The scent of roses wafted over her in waves. The sound of bathwater murmuring against the sides of the porcelain tub rippled each time she moved, each time she used the grip of her hands against the lip of the sides to sink herself under; her knuckles went cold with the ferocious grip, but when she went under she was submerged in quiet once more. Blissful, serene, quiet; just what she wanted.
Elliot pulled herself out of the water. Downstairs, she could hear her mother’s voice, spiking frantic even through the floors and the two closed doors that kept her separated.
“...years, Mr. Seed, I have lost years of my life agonizing over what she did to herself...”
She dipped below the water, closing her eyes. No sound; no shrill noise; just the heavy, bloated static that existed underneath the surface of the bath. Only her and the baby.
It occurred to her, absently, that she needed to start picking out names for the baby. Now that they had a guess at what the gender was, they’d have to decide about a name; not only a first, but a middle, too—the last name—
“...find it quite intriguing, actually, that the second she comes back to me after being involved with your kind that she’s got all this—this—”
Oh, don’t say it, Elliot thought tiredly, closing her eyes.
“—tear, just wretched wear and tear, Mr. Seed, don’t you? Don’t you find that intriguing?”
John was sitting down there, enduring a thorough verbal lashing, and she hadn’t even asked him to. She’d said, I don’t care if she thinks it was me, and he’d guided her upstairs and cupped her face and kissed her, long and open-mouthed, and swept his thumb over her cheek. Now, Elliot could hear the sound of his voice—calmer, empathetic, like just knowing that her mother was hysterical was giving him some kind of control over himself—but that he was speaking in a normal tone meant that his words didn’t come through quite so clearly.
She heard the sound of her mother saying, “I suppose you’re going to tell me why you’re not bothered in the least?” just before she dipped under the water again.
What was she going to name the baby? Did she even have an idea of what kinds of names she liked? Exhaustion pulled at the edges of her attention; she thought, I’m too tired to come up with a baby name, and gripped the edges of the bathtub harder. More fierce, more firm; grip and pull, maybe spill the entire bathtub over, tilt the clawed feet until it hit the tiled floor and the porcelain broke and the rose-scent water flooded the bathroom, her room, the hallway.
Then they’d have to leave. Then they couldn’t stay, surely, in a house flooded with rose water.
Fingers brushed over hers where they’d gone white at the edges of the tub. She pulled herself out of the water to find John sitting there, knelt at the side of the tub—not unlike the way he’d sat back at her mother’s house in Hope County, when she’d drank too much in the bathtub and said that he could mark her.
Because that’s what it had been. As much as she had wanted it, as much as she had enjoyed it, no matter what John said—he had been marking her as his. Like that Oscar Wilde poem.
The same sin binds us.
Elliot brushed the water from her eyes and settled her head back against the tub, regarding him. He looked less bothered than she thought he would, having sat through her mother’s grilling and interrogation—though he did look like he wanted to say something, like maybe it was sitting, burning into ash in his mouth, the way she could see the flex of his jaw and the way his free hand clenched and loosened.
Ignoring the nagging feeling that he wanted to ask her what she’d been doing under the water, and the even more bothersome knowledge that she had, at some point, become painfully aware of his body language, Elliot said, “We have to think of a name.”
John blinked at her. Less than an hour ago, he’d been saying Of course I’d come for you, I love you, with or without the baby I love you, and she’d been sobbing into his arms and clinging to him.
He said, “And a middle name.”
“I’m trying not to think about it.”
A smile finally ticked the corner of his mouth, his fingers uncurling hers from the edge of the tub. Reluctantly, she let him.
“Your mother’s upset.” He paused. “She still wants you to play nice for her Christmas party, but she’s upset.”
“I know,” she replied sullenly. The despair of her shame, which had at once both overwhelmed her and hollowed her out, had dissipated in the wake of her indignation. What would she know, that vicious thing inside of her said, replaying the way her mother’s expression had crumpled. What would she know of our suffering? What would she know of our pain? ‘Wretched wear and tear’, like we haven’t been torn up for ages, like she didn’t throw us to the wolves and scoff in disgust when we came back bloodied and battered.
She wanted to be angry, really angry, but like most things that had to do with her mother, Elliot found herself more exhausted than anything. Scarlet had always found it impossible to comprehend the scars she’d given herself, had always claimed to feel disconnected to the ways Elliot had searched out meaning and comfort.
Absently, Elliot wet her lips and let her gaze flicker up to where John had perched himself beside the tub. He looked mighty pleased with himself, having finally gotten his words out. I love you, he’d said, palm flat against her window, I love you, with or without the baby.
And John, I want a home with you.
And John, Marriage is hard work, but I know you’re just the woman for the job.
And John, No way baby, I’m fucking it for you.
Blood rushed through her head, thunderous. John was saying something to her, but the words felt distant, and far away, and everything felt like it was underwater when she moved—not just the parts of her submerged in the bath, but all of it, the air too-thick and dragging on her skin and pulling her down slow as molasses. She blinked a few times as she disentangled their hands and reached for the towel, but John pulled it off of the hook first.
She watched him. She watched his mouth move, and his brows pull and furrow together at the center of his forehead, and the way his breath rose and fell in his chest, pushing and pulling the Sloth scar scratched across his sternum. Just like me, dream John had said, gripping her blood-covered hands, you’re just like me.
His voice, muffled and bogged down by the blood rushing through her ears, quirked up at the end. Elliot’s eyes darted back to his, and she asked, “Sorry, what?”
“The water’s cold,” he replied, waving the towel a bit. “Aren’t you getting out?”
“Yeah,” Elliot murmured. She felt hollow. Her fingers itched. She wanted—
John caught her hand as she stepped out of the bathtub, steadying her while her free hand gathered the towel up against her front. Goosebumps prickled across her skin, the lukewarm temperature of the bath still lingering; his fingers interlaced with hers, and she used it to steady herself.
He was close. They were close. A part of her resented it—that she let him be so close to her, that she let him kiss her and fuck her but mostly that she let him hold her when she cried, miserably, that she wanted to go home. Because after everything, after all of it, Hope County still felt—
She closed her eyes. Of course it still felt like home. Joey was there; now she knew Pratt was, too.
And among all of that, if she waded through the weeds spreading in her mind, if she hacked and cut them away, there was John.
“What are you thinking about?” John murmured, his cologne washing over her, their noses brushing. Her eyes fluttered open and she let out a little breath, that wanton little creature in her head chanting it over and over. There’s John, there’s always been John, nobody will love us with this much red in our ledger. No one but him.
“You,” she managed. Her head felt swimmy, the words coming out of her mouth sounding like a stranger’s—thick with want. John’s eyes flickered up to hers, having fixed on her mouth.
“If you want something, Ell,” he rumbled, the pressure of his fingertips against the back of her neck guiding her forward just a little but not all the way, “you only—”
Elliot leaned forward and kissed him, her hand lifting so that she could curl her fingers into his hair, the towel slipping to the floor. His body had tensed, like he wasn’t expecting it—like he was waiting for something else—and she thought about the way he’d kissed her with Kian’s blood in her mouth, the way he’d been just rampant with desire, the way the way the way—
Her teeth caught his lower lip, a little sharper than she’d intended, and his hand gripping her wrist tightened and he moaned, and she felt that same little thrill as before surge through her. It’s my magic, too, the itch in her fingers subsiding when she dug her nails in and pulled his hair a little, parting her lips against his; John leaned into her, crowding her up against the counter in front of the mirror, the hand at the nape of her neck threading into damp hair.
“Ell,” he said against her mouth, his voice rougher than before and hands planted on the counter on either side of her, “what are you doing?”
She murmured, “Stop talking,” and kissed him again, fingers clumsily working through the buttons on his shirt—her voice came out even but everything else about her felt wobbly, unsteady, craving craving craving the way it felt to have him begging her. Anything, to feel in control. Anything, to feel whole. Dig, and dig, and when you hit the bottom you keep digging some more, right?
What do we do with grief, right?
Burn and erase the image of her mother’s disgust and horror at seeing a part of her she might actually like, scrape it from her mind, dig her trenches deep deep deep and hunker down where she could feel safe, where she could feel strong; soon she would be home and—
And John’s teeth snagged her lower lip in retribution, sparking violent and red-hot behind her eyes with pleasure lighting her neurons on fire.
“Off,” she ground out against his mouth, pushing helplessly at the shirt she’d only halfway unbuttoned. The brunette grinned; his hands resumed her work, and she instead devoted her attention to the belt at his waist, yanking at it as John’s face dropped to her neck, hot breath fanning across her skin teeth dragging against her pulse point to pull a moan out of her.
There was a split second between John discarding his shirt on the floor and gripping her hips to lift her onto the countertop, his mouth seeking hers out again as she wound her arms around his neck. She had never been completely naked and felt not vulnerable at all, felt more in control—but she did, now, when she grabbed a fistful of his hair and pulled and he moaned her name, a little frantic, Ell, Ell, hellcat, he said into their kiss, let me let me, greedy and wanting as he glided fingers up along the inside of her thigh.
He tensed, like he was going to drop to his knees, and she kept her hand in his hair and said, “Don’t.”
“Hm,” is what he replied, “pulling on my hair, ordering me to take my clothes off—”
“I’m about to tell you to shut up again.”
“—but won’t let me eat you out?” John grinned against her mouth, the scent of his cologne—expensive, stupid shit, but it never failed to feel like it was overwhelming her senses—washing over her. “What is it, baby? Want me to say please?”
Yes, something wicked inside of her said, John’s eyes lifting from her mouth to hers, narrowing playfully. Yes, I’d like that, I’d like to hear you say it like that.
“I know you,” he purred. He dug his nails into her hips, a sound—the wanting kind—trying to crawl its way up her throat. “Know exactly what you want from me. Yeah? So, Ell, won’t you please—”
There was a sharp knock at the door, a pause, and then: “Elliot?”
A near-silent laugh billowed out of John, stifled into her neck when her mother’s voice came through the door. Elliot’s eyes fluttered; her fingers, knotted in John’s hair, loosened and smoothed down the back of his neck, the intoxicating tension relaxing just a little. Heat had coiled in the hollow of her chest, spreading warm fingers at the same leisurely pace that John’s hand drifted up to her hip, his mouth finding the hollow of her jaw.
“I can’t believe her,” she muttered. “Yes?”
“Miss West is here, with her brother.” Scarlet’s voice was tight. “Returning your vehicle.”
Fuck. Elliot sighed, her eyes closing for a second while she tried to gather her thoughts. It was difficult to focus with John’s breath on her neck and his hands on her skin and that fucking cologne—and boy, did she not want to dwell on the fact that he’d shown up with barely anything but somehow also remembered to pack his stupid fucking cologne. But there was a different, special kind of warmth that spread through her when she realized that Sylvia was coming to check on her.
“Hair’s wet,” she called after a moment, “I’ll be down in a minute.”
“Fine.” There was another pause, and then her mother’s voice, scathing even through the door: “Ensure you are put together, Elliot.”
John murmured against her neck, “So no hickeys, then?” and she swatted his shoulder, rolling her eyes and sliding off of the counter. He seemed reluctant to let her disembark, thumb sweeping the slope of her hip before he dropped down—just far enough to plant a kiss on the gentle slope of her tummy. It was—sentimental, unseating her with incredible ease.
And then he ruined it by saying, “Your mommy won’t let me fuck her filthy, but I hear the second trimester throws a woman’s hormones through the roof, so we’ll see how long that lasts,” to her bump as he grabbed the towel from the floor to offer to her.
She snatched it from his hands, wrapping it around herself. “Don’t say that shit to the baby. You think I won’t end your life?”
“I wouldn’t mind,” he offered, head cocked to the side. “Leaving the hickeys, anyway, I mean. Well, and the second part too. About sex. Not the murderous part. Actually, you know I find it—”
Choosing to ignore the latter statement, Elliot narrowed her eyes. “You’d risk Via’s opinion of you dropping so severely?”
“You know what they say.” John spread his hands, almost in a gesture of helplessness; though she knew he was far from it. “Old habits die hard.”
“She’s killing all of my angels!”
Faith’s voice was sharp, piercing; Isolde’s fingers fluttered over the bridge of her nose to fend off an impending headache, pen held poised above the notepad where she’d been writing down her thoughts but had paused in time for the girl’s interjection. She couldn’t stand a messy page—ink smears, jarred letters. Unacceptable.
Two hours ago, she’d had Jacob drive her out to where the service was strongest. A flood of emails and texts from her family had been waiting to overload her phone. Her dad, things are looking poorly, where are you?, her sister, I’ve been trying to reach you for days.
“Jacob,” the blonde plunged on, interrupting her train of thought, “you have to do something. They’re being—gutted like fish!”
“You should have locked them down,” Jacob told her. “And you’re not the only one losing things.”
“I put—” Faith cut herself off, clearly taking a moment to compose herself before she pitched her voice low and said, “I put just as much work into them as you do into yours.”
The red head’s voice bloomed with annoyance when he said, “Oh, did you?”
“No fighting, please,” Joseph called from where he sat next to her. His voice was even, elbows rested on his legs and fingers interlaced in thought. “I know this is stressful. But you must keep your faith in God.”
“Santi told me that—whoever she is has been leaving their corpses all around!” Faith’s voice pitched high with distress, now, sweeping around Jacob to come to where they had sat, big doe eyes wide. “We have to do something. Please, Father—I don’t want our people to wonder if they’re going to be next.”
Joseph paused, looking pensive for a moment; Isolde thought he might have been trying to figure out how he wanted to phrase something, but before he could speak, Isolde looked at Jacob and said, “You were going to hunt her down anyway, weren’t you?”
The eldest Seed’s eyes narrowed. “Don’t you start with me too, Sol.”
“Get some fresh air,” she replied curtly, “go for a drive, clear your head. Eliminate a problem. You’ve been wearing a hole in the floors anyway; put that energy into being productive.”
“P—” Jacob’s voice spiked, incredulous. “Excuse me?”
He was agitated. She could tell—Pratt, and the phone call with the deputy in Georgia, and the Hunter on some kind of one-man rampage. But more importantly, Isolde thought, Jacob was agitated because there had not been a single conversation between him and Joseph since their argument.
Well, not even an argument. Just a lashing. A public one.
Isolde scooted her chair back from the table that had been set up at the front of the chapel, setting her pen down and stepping away. Her hand landed on the crook of Jacob’s elbow as she passed, and though he made a noise that implied disdain, he followed—not without shrugging her hand off by the time they got to the front doors of the chapel, leaving the other two to talk in low, murmured voices.
“You have got to stop letting this get to you,” she hissed.
“Nothing is ‘getting’—”
“Listen to me,” Isolde interjected. “I’ve been keeping as close an eye on the news as I have been on you. Things are—” She paused, mouth twisting around the words. “There is no room for you lot to be bloody fighting with each other. Do you understand me? This has moved far past needing to prepare PR and build a legal defense.”
Jacob’s eyes narrowed. He looked suspicious. “So why are you still here then, Sol?” he asked.
The words burned insult in her chest. Why are you still here, stinging fresh and hot, because it was a fair question. It was the most fair question. Unlike any of these people, she had a family outside that she still loved. Her sister, and her parents. She should have told John and all of the Seeds to go fuck themselves, to enjoy the end of the world, while she went to be with her family.
But she wasn’t. She was here. Doing—this. Finding fresh new ways for Joseph to connect with his people to keep their morale high, keeping the infighting at bay to make sure they looked like a united front to everyone, second doomsday cult included.
“My parents will take care of Avery. You know they’re close with—government,” she replied after a minute, shaking off the unease. “And I told John that I would.”
He snorted. “John says jump, you ask how high?”
“No,” she bit out, “I say jump and you kiss the fucking ground I’m standing on because I cobbled together what the fuck is left of your congregation.” Before Jacob could say anything, Isolde added, “My hands are full, Jake. Do not add to my pile.”
Dark brows furrowed, his mouth thinning in disdain. He clearly wanted to say something. But true to his nature, Jacob straightened back and settled himself before he said, “Fine.”
“Fine,” he reiterated with his eyes narrowed. “I’m going to the Veteran’s Center.”
“That doesn’t sound like where we heard about the killings happening last,” Isolde protested, eyes narrowing.
“But she was there,” he replied. “Or someone was. Someone was there enough to steal my files.”
“Your—” Isolde snapped her mouth shut, sucking her teeth as she glanced back at Joseph and Faith; haloed in the dim lighting of the chapel, she could see them looking back at Jacob and herself expectantly. She wondered how much they could hear, from there.
Turning her attention back to Jacob and pitching her voice down in volume, Isolde hissed, “I don’t think prioritizing files is the best move right now.”
“Thank you,” Jacob idled, “for your input.”
“Fuck you.”
“Have fun,” he added, opening the door and letting in a waft of biting, cold air, before gesturing to the Book of Joseph on the table that she’d had her nose stuck in. All the better to make Joseph’s sermons hit home harder, after all. “You know—with your light reading.”
Isolde narrowed her eyes, watching him trudge down the steps for just a second before she said, “Jacob—”
“Yes, Isolde?”
Her mouth pressed into a thin line. “Don’t get shot.”
For a moment, he looked almost surprised at her words—but it was only a moment before he said, “Don’t worry, I’m taking Vidal. He makes a suitable meatshield.”
“God, he’s a talker.”
A tiny ghost of a smile tugged at the corner of Jacob’s lips, before he said, “John and the deputy should be making their way here any day now.”
Isolde grimaced. “I was there for the phone call.”
“Are you going to leave?” Jacob pressed, expression stiffening again. “When he does?”
She paused, clearing her throat and shifting on her feet. I should, were the words that wanted to come out of her mouth. I should go. I only came down here because John wasn’t here. I should go, and get back to my life, and maybe get to my family and try to stay out of the crossfire and—
After a heartbeat, she said, “I don’t know.”
Jacob shrugged, as if to say, see? Told you, though to what he could be referring to, she had no idea; she only knew that she didn’t like the way he swung around and sauntered out of the chapel, leaving her alone in the tepid warmth with Joseph and Faith’s eyes on her in favor of the blistering cold outside. Snow had continued to dump throughout the day and night, and had only just let up recently; the members of Eden’s Gate—those who had survived the Family’s relentless assaults, and those that had been pulled from the bunkers—had been tirelessly shoving pathways, only to have their work tidily undone each night.
Fingers brushed the palm of her hand. Isolde startled; she glanced back just as fingers interlaced with hers to be met with sweet, bright eyes and Faith’s adoring attention planted on her.
“It means so much to me,” Faith murmured, “that you would help. Not just me, but all of us.”
Soli watched the blonde for a moment, trying to gauge. The physical closeness was not something she was accustomed to; carefully, she disentangled their fingers, skin prickling with unease. When she glanced up, Joseph’s eyes were on them, on Faith’s fingers falling from her hand but skimming the inside of her palm in a lingering touch of affection.
He was always doing that. Watching. Watching, and waiting, and pinning each movement and gesture and thought and word out perfectly like the wings of a butterfly, just the color he liked and just the shape.
“Don’t thank me,” Isolde replied, mustering a smile and brushing the hair from her face.
“It’s my job.”
“Hey, Miss Honey, John!”
Wyatt’s cheerful voice broke through the late-afternoon chill; the sun setting early, people’s breath coming out in puffs of smoke. It all felt oddly normal, given the circumstances of the morning and the way she’d forgotten to call Sylvia once she got home, and that her friend had fished up a reason to come by the house and make sure she hadn’t—
Still, if there was any remnant of the morning in Sylvia’s heart, it didn’t show in her face, and it certainly didn’t show in Wyatt’s. Instead, both blondes beamed at her, radiant, the second she came out with fuzzy, fresh-from-the-blow-dryer hair and swaddled up to her chin in thick fabrics to fend off the cold.
And, truthfully, to hide the bump. John had reminded her of it, and even though the moment had been a...good one, it had also reminded her she hadn’t expressed this truth to Sylvia or Wyatt. As John closed the door behind her and jogged down the steps,
“Howdy,” Ell greeted, albeit a bit awkwardly thanks to her stuck-somewhere-nowhere-sort-of-accent. “You didn’t have to drive it back all the way out here, you know.”
“Sure we did.” Wyatt chirped. “Wouldn’t be very neighborly of us if we let it sit and the battery died out, now would it?”
“No,” John demurred after a moment even as Elliot’s cheeks went warm, “I suppose not.”
“You all recovered from this morning?” Via asked cheerfully, purposefully avoiding the actual question. Elliot shifted on her feet. John’s hand skimmed the small of her back, and even through the layers of fabric, it felt warm; she wondered if this was what it would have been like for them, had their life been normal. Had John been truthful with her from the get-go. Now, with everything laid out between them—the lies unearthed and only the brutal, unapologetic knowledge that they wanted each other, in one way or another—it felt like they might have been normal. Sometime, somewhere, someplace else.
It was still hard to swallow, all of it. The lies and the now-truths and the knowledge that she did, in fact, want.
“Oh, yeah,” Ell replied faintly. “Took a bath and...” She tried for a smile. “Decompressed.”
“That what smells so good?”
“Y’all get that tired from dress shoppin’?” Wyatt tsked, having pulled his coat out of the jeep and started to pull it on. He grinned at her and skillfully dodged a side-swipe from Sylvia; he had a good foot of height on her—and Elliot—so it wasn’t difficult. The siblings fussed for only a moment before Sylvia managed to fetch the Jeep’s keys from Wyatt’s coat pocket and held them out to Elliot, puffing.
She was in the middle of saying, “Your keys, madame,” when John’s head tilted and he muttered, “Now what is this?”, drawing her attention to the end of the drive. A police cruiser made its way slowly down the drive, carefully pulling up behind the Jeep.
Not beside it. Not further up toward the garage, not on the other side of the four of them chatting. Behind it. Blocked in.
Sheriff Pritchard stepped out, shuffling a little as he adjusted the black, fur-trimmed jacket on his shoulders and closed the driver side door. He’d come alone, which made Elliot certain he wasn’t here to arrest her—and what a ludicrous thought, that he might have considered it a possibility, because the mere mental image of Pritchard grabbing her arm and keeping his eyes in his head made a hysterical kind of laugh want to bubble out of her.
Not me, not me and not my baby, that thing inside of her said, lifting its hackles and baring its teeth when Pritchard began to saunter over. Not my baby.
“Afternoon, you two. And Wests,” Pritchard greeted as he drew closer. He’d earned himself a curious murmur from Sylvia. “Havin’ a little shindig out here, Miss Honeysett?” Elliot opened her mouth to respond, but he lifted his hands quickly in defense. “‘M sorry, forgot myself. Mrs. Seed.”
It caught her off-guard, sucked the air right out of her lungs. It was one thing to hear her mother say John is Elliot’s husband, to hear her say John is my son-in-law, but it was another entirely to hear herself referred to as Mrs. Seed. It had never, ever been that she was John’s wife, except out of his own mouth, but now—
John seemed eager to engage with Pritchard, because he said, “Something that you needed, sheriff?”
“Yes, actually. Believe it or not, I ain’t in the business of drivin’ out to the rich part of town just for shits and giggles,” Pritchard replied coolly. “Your mama home, Elli?”
“Probably resting,” Sylvia offered, smiling politely. “We just finished dress shoppin’ for her Christmas Party not but an hour ago.”
“Yeah,” Pritchard rumbled, pulling out a cigarette and lighting it. “Heard about your little trip to the boutique today.”
John asked irritably, “Do you need to smoke that right now?”
Elliot swallowed thickly. Her lashes fluttered, eyes desperate to close; the warmth that had flooded her face now felt like it verged on feverish, threatening to make her head swim again. This was bad. This was bad-bad, chop her hair off and run run run again bad, the kind of bad that made a girl change her name and burn her birth certificate and make sure that nobody would ever be able to find her again.
“I don’t,” she began, “think mama’s feeling up to visitors right now.”
Pritchard eyed her, taking a puff of his cigarette while completely glazing over John’s pointed question. “Imagine not. You know, you been a hot topic of conversation lately, Mrs. Seed. Gotten loads of questions about you. Lady from out of town, Federal Marshals. I don’t like folks sniffin’ around my town, you know, especially not the fuckin’ Feds, but it’s gotta make me wonder.” The smoke curled out from his nose, the smoke of a lazy, self-righteous dragon wafting around her.
“Sheriff,” John continued tightly, clearing his throat, “you’re going to need to put that out.”
“We’re outside, Mr. Seed. You ain’t ever seen someone smoke a cigarette outside?”
“Do you make a habit of smoking around pregnant women?” John snapped viciously, and oh, she thought, oh, I didn’t even think of that, because her brain was too busy kicking into overdrive and parse out the absolute confirmation that Federal Marshals were asking after her and strange women, too. Oh, I didn’t even think about the baby.
And then Sylvia said, eyes wide as saucers as she laughed, flustered, “Oh, John, that’s very kind of you, but I’m not—” and her eyes landed on Elliot, and she blinked rapidly.
Wyatt was looking at her, too. Big, big eyes, surely having not only learned that she and John were married but that she was also pregnant in the span of only a few minutes. At least, Elliot didn’t think Sylvia would have divulged that information, and if the shock he was clearly trying to cover up in his expression was any indication, that gut feeling was right.
No, she thought, no, this is not what I wanted. This is not what I wanted at all. It wasn’t his to tell, it wasn’t his to tell, it was mine, my choice, mine alone.
Her gaze snapped to Pritchard. She said, “It’s time for you to leave.”
Pritchard lifted his eyebrows. “That so? Well, good for me I ain’t here to talk to you, missy.”
“Get. Off. My. Property,” she bit out through her teeth. “Scarlet isn’t taking visitors, and I’ll cut the decay out of my own teeth before she makes anything close to the time of day for you.”
Now, his eyes narrowed and the cigarette sat between his fingers, still burning amber at the end. “Excuse me?”
“And tell the fucking Feds whatever you want,” she snapped, fingers curled tightly around the keys until the metal edges dug into the nooks and crannies of her hand. “But whatever you do, get the fuck out of my driveway, sheriff.”
Something flickered in the corner of her vision. John started, “Ell,” and his hand went to her shoulder, but she jerked back from him before he could make much more than a brush of contact.
“Don’t,” Elliot snapped at him, her voice wobbling and the tears—shameful tears—welling up and burning, “touch me.”
“Alright, okay,” Sylvia murmured, “Elliot and I are gonna go inside, and John can—”
“Ain’t here to talk to Mr. Seed,” Pritchard drawled venomously.
“If you’re asking questions about Elliot,” Sylvia replied calmly, taking Elliot’s hand with a firm squeeze, “I can imagine there is no better person to ask than her husband, don’t you think so, Sheriff?”
Pritchard’s eyes were squinted into poisonous little slits, and he took a long drag of his cigarette.
“Mrs. Honeysett won’t be any type of cooperative if you get her up now,” Wyatt chimed in, eyes flickering nervously to Elliot—perhaps both because of the news and because of her outburst. But she didn’t have time to think much about it, because Sylvia was tugging her out of the cluster of folks, ginger and reassuring even as her brother plunged on, “I mean, sheriff, come on—you know how women can be when they’re gotten up too early, let alone they’ve been shoppin’ all day—”
And Pritchard said, “You want I should put my cigarette out now, Mr. Seed?” as Sylvia opened the door,
and John replied with a slick, charismatic kind of venom, “No reason to anymore, smoke to your heart’s content,”
and the door clicked shut behind her and Boomer scampered out from where he’d been snoozing under the dining table.
She had to leave.
She had to go.
She had to get out.
Federal Marshals and strange women asking after her, and now her only two friends in the whole fucking world—
(well, not entirely true, since we still have Pratt, isn’t that right? Isn’t that right, Elli?)
—had just seen her almost go fucking bananas on an officer of the law, had watched her demand he get the fuck out of her driveway for wanting to ask her mother about her, had seen her.
“Hey,” Sylvia said, “you’re alright.”
I’m not, she thought, dropping the keys into the crystal bowl by the door, smearing red against the glass. Her hand stung. She reached with the good, unmarked hand for Boomer absently. His cold, wet nose brushed against it, and he whined, feet tapping against the wood as he bumped her for her attention. I won’t go. I won’t fucking go. I won’t pay the price for what they did to me, what they made me into.
“I’m sorry,” she blurted out abruptly, her voice coming out tight. “Sorry that I didn’t—um, tell you. About the—”
“It’s okay,” Sylvia told her quickly, “it’s alright, Elli, it’s not a big deal. You don’t have to explain yourself to me.”
Elli, she said, without knowing what the nickname meant. Elli, Sylvia said, it’s alright, and Joey, right now we need to leave, Elli, and Pratt, geez, Elli, slow down, an affectionate nickname saved only for folks who considered her their friend. Sans Pritchard. Fuck Pritchard.
“Lots of people wait to tell,” Via continued, one hand coming to rest on her shoulder and jarring her out of her thoughts, which were quickly and rapidly devolving back into the urge to march outside and ensure Pritchard was obeying her command. Out out out, something vicious inside of her demanded, we want him out we want him gone.
Elliot said, “Yeah, you’re right,” but she felt far away—not lost, not gone from herself, but thinking. She could pack fast. She could pack fast, and John had brought barely anything, and they could leave right now, her mother none the wiser. They could leave now and be gone and Cameron Burke would have to—
But are we sure it’s Burke? Are we sure it’s Burke and not someone else, come to haul your ass to a fucking psych ward, for what you did in Hope County?
For what you did?
No. She wasn’t sure. She could only hope it was one singular Federal Marshall on her tail, and not an actual piece of the government body. That was all.
But whoever it was that was asking after her—strangers, government officials—it didn’t matter. That old mantra had kicked in again; something has to be done, the same kind of calm before the storm that she’d felt when Joey had been killed, something has to be done.
Something has to be done and I’m going to have to be the one to fucking do it.
Pritchard dropped the cigarette into the snow and stamped it out with his bootheel, his eyes fixed on John. Sylvia had rushed Elliot inside, but he didn’t think that had been purely necessary—only in the instance they had wanted to keep Pritchard out of a blood bath. Elliot hadn’t been checking out, trying to keep herself together; she had been angry, and he’d had half a mind to let her say and do exactly as she pleased to the man now standing in front of him in the cold.
“She always been that volatile, Mr. Seed?” the sheriff asked.
“Not undeservingly,” John replied tartly, his eyes narrowed. “Did you have specific questions, sheriff, or did you just come by to terrorize my pregnant wife with your theoretical judgment of her soul?”
“More your speed?” Pritchard replied, lifting a brow.
“Heard about you Seed boys,” he continued coolly, “and your...” He gestured with a calloused hand vaguely, looking for the right word.
John smiled, with teeth. “Before I grow old, if you don’t mind, sheriff.”
“Proclivities,” Pritchard elaborated, “for religion.”
Fucking Burke, he thought, with no absence of venom; fucking Burke can’t resist the urge to try and fuck up my life when he’d be better off trying to find a place to hunker down for the end of the world.
“We’re red-blooded Americans,” John idled coolly, “freedom of religion goes hand in hand with that.”
“Mr. Pritchard, you wanna get that car started?” Wyatt cut in abruptly, glancing around like he thought maybe the rest of the patrol might be rolling in any minute. “It doesn’t sound like you’ve got any questions for Mr. Seed.”
“That’s sheriff to you, boy,” he snapped. And then, after a heartbeat, he fished his keys out of his pocket and said, “I s’pose I got all the information I needed, after all.”
John had turned back to the house, spotting Elliot and Sylvia through the front window, when Pritchard announced, “You make sure Scarlet gives me a call when she’s recovered from your wife’s antics, Mr. Seed.”
His gaze returned to the sheriff, narrowed. “Certainly, Sheriff Pritchard.”
“But if I don’t hear from you, no worries,” the man continued, opening his car door, “I’ll make another special trip out here.”
John flashed another grin when Pritchard’s eyes flickered over him. Wyatt said, “Have a safe drive,” and Pritchard slammed his door shut, his cruiser’s engine roaring to life before he began to slowly back out and make a u-turn to head down the long driveway again. There was a moment of silence, stretching between himself and Wyatt that he didn’t feel particularly inclined to break—after all, Wyatt had been taking liberties with Elliot that he shouldn’t have been—before the blonde finally broke the silence.
“Congrats,” Wyatt said after a minute. “About—uh, the baby, I mean. I didn’t know!”
Ah, he thought, feeling a strange little surge of pride at the way the man across from him shifted on his feet with discomfort, and that’s why Elliot’s mad I brought it up. Her friends didn’t know.
Well, it was better this way, after all. He wouldn’t have taken it back even if he’d gotten the chance, knowing what he did now.
“Thank you,” he replied amiably. “It’s certainly a blessing.”
Wyatt’s mouth twisted for a moment, looking like there was something he wanted to say specifically and didn’t know how to say it without foregoing social niceties, but the sound of the front door opening caught both of their attentions.
“Wyatt, you gonna stand out here like a lemming all afternoon or what?” Via called. “Get the car warmed up, you caveman.” She took a few steps down the front stairs and looked at John. “You’re wanted inside, Mr. Seed.”
A very polite way of telling him that Elliot, perhaps, was in the mood to throttle him with her bare hands. Though he didn’t really see the harm in spilling the news—perhaps with Via, sure, but Wyatt? The cowboy? Like that was ever going to be anything.
“Thanks for your help,” John said, clapping Wyatt on the shoulder before he made his way to the front steps. Via hadn’t moved. In fact, her normally polite expression was eerily cool—whatever amicable, feigned interest she had manicured for him in the past seemed to have evaporated in the wake of Elliot’s own fury.
As he neared, he said, “Something else you needed, Miss West?”
Via’s eyes narrowed. She looked at Wyatt, now inside the car, and then back to John. “You must think I’m mighty dumb, don’t you?”
John lifted an eyebrow inquisitively. “If you think I instigated that little outburst on purpose—”
“What I think,” Via replied, “is that you know exactly what she’s capable of handling. Just because you didn’t do it on purpose doesn’t mean you weren’t thinking of letting her physically assault a police officer.”
His easy-going expression flattened. Sylvia, and her seeing, the same kind of uncanny people-reading skills that Joseph had, too. Seeing his delight at knowing that Elliot would have taken on a man a foot taller than her, pregnant, if it meant keeping him away from the baby, if it meant keeping herself out of the grip of a greater power that wanted her in a psychiatric evaluation.
“I want to like you,” Via continued, taking the steps until she reached the bottom, “and I thought maybe you were here to make a real effort. But it seems like you’re the same person you were before, John Duncan.”
The name sent a jolt of red-hot anger flushing down his spine, filling him up suddenly with a sort of molten rage that only the reminder of his adoptive parents could have inspired in him. When Via went to move past him, he snatched her elbow, holding her in place.
“And where,” he ground out, “did you hear that name, Miss West?”
“It’s called a web browser, John,” Via replied coolly. “You ever heard of Google? Imagine how many John Seeds there are in Hope County, Montana. I don’t need to tell you that the articles regarding you and your brothers, though a bit old, are unflattering. And all I want you to know—” She paused, arm still in his grip. “—is that we’re aware of each other, and that I don’t want anything happening to Elliot.”
“Neither do I,” John replied tightly, “and I especially don’t want someone digging trenches where there’s not a war zone.”
Via regarded him with an even gaze for a moment, glancing back at the car where her brother sat, before she murmured idly, “Kindly take your hand off of my arm, John.”
“Ellliot’s already aware of the any of the information in those articles,” he continued lowly, “just so you know.”
“My point, John,” Via replied casually, “is that I know, and I can—and will—deal with it as I see fit. Now, you gonna take your fuckin’ hand off of my arm, or are we going to have a problem?”
He watched her for a moment—just long enough to consider the dopamine rush of killing her, grabbing a fistful of her hair and slamming her face into the top of the porch, doing something, anything to ensure that Sylvia West was not capable of messing up anything that he was doing—and then he planted a big smile on his face and dropped his hand from her arm.
“Careful,” he said, louder now so that Wyatt would hear, “it’s icy.”
The blonde didn’t respond. Instead, she brushed her hand absently where his had been, as though to brush herself free of his touch, and picked her way across the driveway and to the truck idling just on the other side of the jeep.
Well, that would be one less problem to deal with, in the end.
John made his way inside, closing the front door quietly behind himself and taking a moment to gauge. Just to see what was going on. The house itself was quiet, and Boomer’s little footfalls were nowhere to be heard, and Scarlet wasn’t sipping her vodka in the living room—so.
Taking a breath, he started up the stairs, turning into the hall to find Elliot’s bedroom door halfway ajar. He paused in the doorway; she was rifling through drawers, pulling sweaters and long-sleeved shirts and jeans and sweats out and dropping them into a duffel bag, furious little exhales occasionally coming out of her.
“I was told I was being summoned,” John said, Elliot’s attention razor-sharp and snapping to him immediately.
“Pack your shit,” she said briskly, “we’re leaving.”
He blinked. Taking a step inside, he glanced at Boomer—perched protectively between himself and Elliot—and said, “I thought we were waiting until after the Christmas party?”
“You’re not fucking deaf, John, you heard Pritchard,” she snapped. “The Feds have been asking about me. The only reason they don’t know exactly where to look—whoever it is—is because Pritchard’s a fucking asshole and likes to be as obstinate as possible.”
“And if we sprint out of here,” he replied, “you’re just going to draw their attention.”
“It’s what Pritchard wants.” Elliot zipped the duffel bag shut and then brushed past him into the bathroom, gathering up her toothbrush and toothpaste and the sleeping pills. “For me to be gone. He’ll piss off if I go. And there’s no way he’s going to put up a big fight to cozy up to the government.”
“Elliot.” John watched her furiously gathering things up, and then when she came by again he caught her with his hands. “Ell, just slow down—”
“Stop,” she bit out, “stop telling me what to fucking do, John, and—I told you not to touch me.”
He lifted his hands from her, but not far enough that she could duck past. “Are you that mad about Sylvia and Wyatt knowing you’re pregnant?” When she didn’t answer, and instead hauled the bag over from the other side of the bed to be close to her so that she could dump the collections from the bathroom into it, he sighed. “I didn’t know you hadn’t told them, but I don’t understand what all of the secrecy is about. The baby isn’t—”
“I felt normal!” Elliot replied sharply, her voice pitching a little higher now, and John heard the wet wobble in it too—the way the timbre of her voice thickened and rounded out with the threat of oncoming tears, her cheeks flushed with anger and maybe shame and pain, too. “Okay? I felt—I f-fucking felt normal, for once, and it was enough that Sylvia knew you and I had been—that we’re married, which I don’t even want to dig into right now, but it was another to be like—yes, the father of my fucking child, who I’m actually married to even though I didn’t want it, is here and oh, by the way? He’s part of a cult. Yeah, a fucking doomsday cult. I’m carrying the child of a doomsday cultist.”
“How was I supposed to know?” he demanded. “How was I supposed to know that you didn’t want Sylvia and her brother knowing you were pregnant? You never said. And what does it matter?” And then, feeling the petulance well up inside of him: “I know it probably felt nice, to have Wyatt giving you attention—”
“Are you fucking kidding me?” she asked, incredulous. “You’re really pulling that now? So, what—you dumped the news because you wanted to make sure my friend found me as off-limited as possible?”
John crossed his arms over his chest. “I know this may come as a shock to you,” he said, feeling the tension peeling apart behind his eyelids, “I really didn’t want Pritchard smoking near my baby.”
“My baby.” Elliot jammed her finger into his chest, just above his heart, her words vicious. “It’s our baby, or it’s my baby, but there isn’t a single fucking universe where the only person this baby is beholden to is you.”
“He’s,” John corrected, tartly. “He’s our baby. And at the end of the day, whether you like it or not—”
“Have you ever,” she cut in over him, biting the words out between her teeth, “done anything for me that wasn’t for you too?”
Watching her, the words sat sticky in his chest. His instinct was to say, of course I have, but that wasn’t true. Of course it wasn’t. And he wasn’t going to pretend like it was, either—because he wasn’t ashamed that everything he had done had been for them, that if Elliot wasn’t his then there would be no point in it, that it was a zero sum game where he either had her or he had nothing.
He said, evenly, “No.”
Elliot looked unseated by his honesty. She swept her fingers across her forehead tiredly and turned back to her bag. “Then do me a favor and pack your shit so we can go.”
John sighed. “Don’t you think—”
“John,” she bit out, “I am making an executive decision.”
“Alright, Ell.”
John had turned to the door to go gather what few of his belongings he’d had when Elliot cut herself off, drawing his eyes over his shoulder to her again. She looked unwell—stressed, feverish, her hands buried into the duffel bag maybe to hide the shaking and her face flushed and her brows furrowed together.
“Thank you,” she managed out after a minute, “for being honest. For once.”
Pratt brushed the snow from his hair, teeth chattering as he waded through knee-deep snow out towards the water. It had been three days, and Helmi had told him to meet her out there—how she was going to get past the compound’s security, Pratt didn’t know, but he also thought it probably was best not to dwell on the things that Helmi would do (and could do) to get where she needed to be.
Which is why he found himself less and less surprised to find her standing at the edge of the water, in the middle of the night, swathed up to her jaw in dark, heavy fabrics. The only part of her that wasn’t covered were her hands; the closer he got, he could see she was turning a smooth, dark rock over and over in her hands, passing it between them as she watched him come nearer.
“You remembered,” was how she greeted him, most of her face cast in shadow thanks to the high position of the moon behind her. Pratt shivered and jammed his hands into his coat pockets.
“Yeah, well, kinda hard to forget,” he replied. “Considering it’s been looming over me for the last few days.”
“Poor thing,” Helmi agreed, not sounding sympathetic at all. “Did you call her?”
Pratt paused, clearing his throat. There was something that didn’t quite sit right with him, knowing that he had called Elliot not out of a cry for her help—not really, anyway—but because this other cult wanted her. This cult, which had tore its way through Hope County splitting and gutting its residents, wanted her. And Helmi didn’t seem keen on telling him why.
“I did. They just got word that she and John are on the road now,” he said after a moment. “What, uh—do you want her for, anyway?”
Helmi quirked a brow at him, the corner of her mouth tilting upwards. “Shouldn’t you have asked that before making the phone call, if it was going to bother you?”
A little lick of shame and embarrassment crawled red-hot into his cheeks, and he scoffed, turning his face away. “Well, you said you wanted her alive. Can’t say the same for the Seeds.”
“She’s carrying John’s child,” Helmi pointed out. “You think they’d kill her still?”
Pratt grimaced. It was still hard to stomach—the idea that Elliot was with John. Or had been, at one point. It didn’t sound like things were going great, and he could only imagine why. Still—
Still, he thought there was a lesser of the two evils, and Helmi sounded like it. Maybe not the others, but Helmi.
“They don’t have a problem killing babies,” Pratt replied after a minute. “What are you going to do, once she gets here? They won’t let her leave, and they definitely won’t let you in.”
Now, the blonde grinned—pearly teeth in the dark of the night, surprisingly satisfied with herself. “Big one’s pissed at me, isn’t he?”
“Yeah. Well, you know, Faith too. You've been killing her angels.”
She shrugged. “I’ve got a plan. You know exactly as much as you need to know right now. Are you eating?”
The question came so quickly that Pratt didn’t have time to register the oddness of it, replying on automatic the same way he had been with Arden’s consistent, gentle pestering: “Yeah, I mean—don’t have much of an appetite, but...”
His voice trailed off and he glanced back at the woman. Her head was cocked and her eyes were fixed on him expectantly. “What?”
“Eat,” she told him. “Take advantage of as much as you can. And most of all, listen. Any information you can get will be helpful.”
Pratt’s throat felt a little tight. He kept thinking about the way Jacob had grabbed his shoulder, laughing when he’d insulted the woman doing the heavy lifting for Joseph—grinning like a fucking wolf, like he was going to be dinner, next.
He managed out, “He’ll kill me. If he suspects. He’ll take—everything, from me.”
Helmi planted a hand on his shoulder. The gesture made him want to flinch, but he bit back the urge, and he thought maybe she’d seen but didn’t say.
“He already took everything from you,” she replied lightly, “and do you know what that means?”
The dark of her gaze was intense, piercing even in the late night; it made it hard to look away. Voices echoed back in the compound, and briefly, he thought maybe they’d noticed his absence—but he only shook his head.
“It means you have nothing to lose,” Helmi murmured, “and everything to take back from him.” Her hand moved from his shoulder to the back of his neck, the pad of her thumb sweeping up to his pulsepoint pensively. “See? Your heart is beating, and hard. Your blood knows it’s what you want, even if you don’t yet.”
Swallowing thickly, he nodded his head once. Nothing to lose, and everything to take back. Could he? Could he get things back? Is that what Helmi had done? What Elliot had done?
“And don’t fuck it up,” she added, dropping her hand from his neck and zipping her coat up. Leaving so soon. She grinned. “Or I’ll gut you myself. And I guarantee, it won’t be an Återfödelse.”
A nervous, almost hysterical little laugh bubbled up out of him. Helmi shot him a look and then brushed past him, heading back into where the brush became the thickest, calling over her shoulder, “See you in a few days, Staci Pratt.”
A few days. A few days, Elliot would be back, and John Seed would be back, and Helmi would be seeing him. Seeing them. Maybe it would be better to make a break with Elliot, once she got in—but what if she didn’t want to? What if she was one of them?
Pratt let out a puff of hot breath, digging the heel of his palm into his eyesocket while the pain bloomed just there, turning and beginning to trudge back to the compound before anyone noticed his absence. Each scrape and puff of snow fell in line with his heartbeat, the mantra on and off again.
Nothing to lose.
Everything to take back.
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tomesandsuch · a year ago
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This place is a cauldron, its bubbling contents the last dreams of dead men. As they drift further into the spiraling pit, they are stripped of their reason, of their place in the weave of fate. They are formless entities of thought and will, sinking further and further into the depths. Until they fade. Then there is nothing.
And yet here I am.
A rippling bead of dark sailing a path through grey without end. I cannot see. I cannot feel, or hear. Yet I can still think, and so long as my own awareness has not yet faded, I have not yet been lost. 
Their memories are here. Their hopes for the future, the fears that gnawed at their backs. The full breadth of their stories. What they hated, what they loved. Every misbegotten step on a path that leads to this, an emptiness the true depth of which is lost, even to one such as I. As they drift here, they are further lost to the light of life. Their memories warp, their stories distorted. As the edges of their consciousness fray, what traces are left of are parodies, mockeries of one that once drew breath.
Is this something that is supposed to inspire awe in me?
It disgusts me.
The natural order? The ‘way things must be’? Is this what you call the way of the universe, the fate of all men, the destination which all shall reach in time? 
The very nature of your wretched order turns my stomach. If this is the way of all things, fine. Keep your maddening whispers of living, breathing things spinning themselves out of existence in the dark, tarlike brew. 
Instead, I shall step into the light.
We’d just reached the top of the hill, the furthest away that they'd be able to see the basin's edge peeking through the trees. 
Bell and a half to get here. Bell and a half back. Unless it's dark, then you're better off keeping close to the trail and it becomes two bells. You don't want to cut through the hills once the sun's set.
I always used to hate having to go fishing with Pa. We’d have to cross the barrens, then hike through the hills for what felt like so long before we reached the river bend where he liked to fish. He said that it was just about the only watering hole left that was any good. Further upstream had been tainted, the fish had started dying and he wasn’t about to risk it. The waters grew more and more fertile the closer you moved to the border, but the bend was just about the furthest you could go without having to worry about beastmen. He was a cautious man, but he’d walk any amount of malms to make sure he got his three meals a day, and doubly so to make sure his boy did as well.
He was a private man who spoke very little of what things were like before I was born. I always got the feeling that he wanted to tell me more, but he always stopped himself from answering when I’d ask him. It seemed like he wanted to talk about anything else before that. It isn’t a good thing for a man to go to his grave with his own son knowing nothing about him. He was no great man, but he was a good father to me. I wish I could have known him better.
When I dream, I still dream about that night. That particular shade that was thrown over the hill with the setting sun. We were already tired and we knew we’d have to take the long way back once we were done. 
Everything else from that night is a blur, a haze. What we talked about, I forget. It’s a terrible thing to forget, the last thing you ever said to someone. I think we talked about whether or not it was going to rain. I honestly can’t remember. All I can remember is that hue, that bright white-green that shone out from beneath the surface of the water. 
It was bright enough to illuminate the banks of the river. But I don’t even really remember what exactly that glow belonged to. What I remember most is that look in his eyes when it began to hum from beneath the water. Tears streaming down his face, eyes wide as I’d ever seen them, like he’d just seen Llymlaen herself emerge from the waters.
I tried to chase him into the water but my legs weren’t long enough. As soon as we moved past the shallows I couldn’t keep up with him. He’d dropped his fishing pole in the dirt when he started sprinting for the water, and as he moved deeper and deeper into the river, he didn’t so much as turn around when I nearly drowned. I had to stop when my legs didn’t reach the river bed any longer, but he just kept going, sprinting into the river’s glowing brew like it was the only thing he’d ever wanted. 
I never saw him again after that. They tried trawling the river for his remains, but nothing ever came of it. Sometimes I like to think that it took him somewhere else. Somewhere better than here. 
It’s a childish thought, isn’t it?
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teaandwitchery · a year ago
It had been several years now since Ryou had dueled, which his ranking had reflected as time slipped by. Although it had been an even longer time since he had considered himself a professional duelist back in England, he found his attention being drawn back to the game lately.
This of course concerned the spirit of the ring, who was now separate from his host. Fully resurrected through some ridiculous miracle Pharaoh Atem had been granted which by unfortunate association affected himself as well. And so the nightmare of his existence continued. Of course it did.
And now Ryou was interested in Duel Monsters again, eyeing an upcoming tournament after having been seriously considering registering for the past few days since Kaiba’s latest commercial announced his new tournament.
Bakura-- he’d recovered his own missing memories such as his original name yet opted to continue using his host’s surname instead; after all, why not steal it when he was well known for theft? He’d already taken everything else from this boy over the years-- had never wanted to be involved in another duel after all that had happened in Egypt and in Japan, and he was rightfully aggravated that Ryou wanted to.
“You almost died last time!” he snapped. Violet eyes narrowed, and Bakura asked, “What makes you think something WOULDN’T go WRONG?”
Ryou suppressed a smile. This anger at the prospect of his involvement in a card game… evidenced Bakura cared for him, and this was entirely satisfying. He craved any suggestion that his man could love him. He answered gently, “Nisut Atemu will be there. There haven’t been any more shadow games, but… if something were to happen, I trust him to take care of it.” Ryou looked back to his computer screen, finished the form, and submitted for the tournament. “I’m going. I miss playing.” he remarked then glanced back to Bakura in time to catch the pained jealousy in his gaze. He hated that Ryou was willing to leave his life in Atem’s hands if needed. 
Ryou mused, “I didn’t even get to enjoy Battle City. And I don’t remember um, what was it? What was the other one called? Magic Kingdom? I think it was on an island… Or a lake… There was water. Maybe.”
“Duelist Kingdom.” Bakura mumbled, fresh guilt surging through him for all he’d done to this boy.
Ryou asked curiously, “Did I even start that duel? I’m fairly certain it was with Yugi. Or was it all you? I’ve lived in fragmented dreams for so long. Perhaps I did start that duel before you actively possessed me, I can’t quite recall.”
“I don’t fucking know.” Bakura answered lowly. He didn’t care. He simply wanted that chaos to stay in the past. Why did Ryou need to bring it back into their lives? Their situation had improved so well over the past few months since his and Atem’s return from the Duat… all things considered. There was unfortunately Ryou’s withdrawal from his friends in favor of staying with the thief king. 
Ah, that must be it then. Ryou wanted to duel in an attempt to reconnect with Yugi, Jounouchi, Honda, and Anzu. Why, Bakura couldn’t fathom, obnoxious as they all were but Yugi. Yugi he could understand why Ryou favored. They were quite similar, although Ryou had always been jealous of him.
Although the active possession had not been entirely constant, Bakura had still been aware of Ryou’s interactions at all times, even when the level of focus varied depending on his energy levels and moods. He was perfectly aware of all the feelings that haunted Ryou. The fear he had felt for his friends. The loss and guilt he had experienced when friends from junior high in England had lost their Monster World shadow games. It of course had only gotten worse after that once Bakura had crossed paths with Atem’s host. Ah, Ryou had found such camaraderie in Yugi! He didn’t think he was insane when trying to talk about his experiences with the possession and the shadow games! 
But then the sadness became heavier when he understood how deep and beautiful Yugi and Atem’s bond was. Atem loved him… while Ryou was stuck with a demonic entity who would manipulate him in any way that pleased him and furthered his opportunities for vengeance. It wasn’t fair to have this profound destiny… meant to be the one to host this ancient spirit… only for that spirit to be cruel and reckless.  
“I really like the occult deck we used.” Ryou told him, crossing the room to open a card binder. “I think I’ll change out some of the spells and update it for compatibility with phantom synchro summoning.”
“Synchro what?” Bakura’s anger had mostly subsided. He didn’t entirely want to keep Ryou from his friends… He shouldn’t want to at all as he strived toward being better for him, but there persisted a disdain toward all of the others, even if Ryou did owe Atem his life.
“It’s a way of synchro summoning from the graveyard instead of the extra deck.” Ryou explained, slipping cards out of the pages and setting them aside. His phone illuminated with a notification. “Oh dear, I’m running late!” he exclaimed after a glance to the time. “Would you please make me some tea?” 
Bakura sighed but nonetheless abandoned the bed. “What kind?”
“Any at all, do surprise me!” Ryou smiled, wrapping him in a loving hug before he went to prepare for his work day.
Ryou’s tea collection was immense. Bakura randomly selected a black tea blend after putting the water on. As he waited on it to boil, he crossed his arms over a table and lowered his head, dreading that wretched card game. Not only was the danger apparent to him… but he also would have to subject himself toward Yugi and Company’s stares. If it were only himself, he wouldn’t care what anyone felt or said about him, but Ryou would be hurt by the judgment too. He already had been. They would both be better off in several ways if he kept Ryou from them. And yet… Ryou had already been through so much. He deserved friends.
“There is… something you should know about Ryou I’m not certain you’re aware of.” Atem had told Bakura once he had the chance to approach him alone. A foolish mistake, Atem must have been aware, but the thief king was as exhausted as he was.
“WHAT?” Bakura replied, forcing himself not to ask how dare you speak to me?
Atem stood his ground, determined to deliver the information that would change everything Bakura had ever felt about his host. “He managed to strike a deal… with Zorc… behind your back. That… If you were to fail… He would take your place. He would be bound to the Millennium Ring, and you would be released.”
Bakura’s newly beating heart raced from the revelation. “What? Why would he do that? Why would he do that?! Something that ridiculous? He…” He knew what that curse entailed… forever. So why… Why would he possibly… For ME?
But Atem didn’t have an answer. Not a reasonable one, at least. Who would love a man who had so thoroughly devastated their life and would never give a damn? 
Ryou kept the scar on his arm covered in public, but at home it was a constant reminder to Bakura of the suffering he had inflicted, just as his hand too bore the remnants of the time he impaled Ryou’s hand during a shadow game. Bakura’s eyes fell to the scarred hand when Ryou came to retrieve his tea from him.
“Thank you! You’re the best.” Ryou smiled.
He really wasn’t though. Silently he drank his own tea as he watched Ryou add cream to his, until Bakura broke the silence. “You haven’t told me why you risked everything. For… me. If Atem hadn’t…”
“Oh. Oh, he told you?” Ryou clipped his hair up and pulled his shoes on. “It’s what I was meant to do. I’m the only one who could wield the Ring, right? Anyone else who made the attempt died immediately? It was my destiny to help you. A parallel to Yugi helping Atem.”
“That’s no reason to help someone who would have murdered you, all of your friends, and meant to destroy the world as well. It was your choice. Ultimately your foolish bargain didn’t influence anything, but it was your choice. It was your idea. Why?”
“I love you.” 
Ryou’s response further irritated him. He repeated himself, “WHY?”
“Loving you is my choice too.” Ryou lowered himself onto Bakura’s lap, and the proximity seemed to calm him.
“You’re really weird.” he told Ryou.
“I know.” Ryou embraced him and sighed in delight as Bakura lifted his hands to his shoulder blades, pressing him closer.
For the duration of the time between Zorc’s destruction and Bakura’s resurrection, Ryou had been alone for the first in a very long time. As long as he could remember, the spirit’s presence had remained an inescapable part of his mind. He had spent years wishing for freedom only to find the isolation was entirely maddening. The emptiness was worse than anything Bakura could have done to him. 
Ryou considered himself a skilled necromancer, but no amount of incense or prayers or tears or blood offerings helped him to reach the spirit in those endless, awful nights spent begging for him. He was all Ryou had known; this made being without him the greatest misery… and the one he could not discuss with Yugi, lest he be shamed.
But Marik… Marik he could tell. He never even minded Ryou’s 3 a.m. calls spent sobbing into a glass of wine and confessing his despair.
“I want him back! I can’t live like this!” he’d wept, wondering if this same emptiness was felt by anyone who hadn’t spent their life in a state of possession.
Marik feared for him. “I’ll be there in ten minutes. Okay?” He ended the call, and as he left his apartment, he prayed Ryou wouldn’t think to join Bakura in death instead.
He found Ryou sitting on the floor under his altar table, tarot cards strewn over a blood stained ouija board. A rug was scorched from when a candle had fallen over. Incense smoke curled through the air, and wet eyes looked his way. Marik knelt to help Ryou up and over onto his bed where he lay with him, stroking white hair as Ryou held onto him.
“I’m a worthless spirit worker.” Ryou muttered into Marik’s shoulder.
“No. No, that isn’t it. That isn’t it at all.” Marik’s suspicion of why none of his efforts succeeded in summoning him was far worse.
Thoughts returning to the present, Ryou lifted his face away from Bakura’s neck to grace him with a gentle smile as he said, “I’m grateful you’re okay and you’re here.” He knew Bakura didn’t want to be.
Bakura’s chest tightened with… emotion. He knew Ryou wanted to hear something nice in return… but his feelings were complicated. He’d been so angry with Atem to be back, and although the situation was better as he made a life for himself with Ryou… He was weary. He had been trapped in this world longer than anyone except Atem could imagine, which certainly was a reason Ryou’s little scheme regarding Zorc had touched his heart when nothing else could. There was no way he could understand, and yet… he was willing to suffer… for him.
His strangeness and his strength shouldn’t be overlooked because of his softness, but Ryou was pure. Selfless. He deserved more than… this. Better than… me.
Ryou brushed his lips delicately across the Egyptian’s. “I might have been the landlord, but you are my home.”
There were no words for how this all made Bakura feel. There was great sorrow interwoven with shame and discomfort as well as with desire and awe. 
Ryou brought a hand to Bakura’s face, looking over the scarring under his eye. He stroked his thumb over it then pressed his next kiss to it. “I like this. Does it hurt?” he inquired.
“No.” Netjer, this boy was odd.
“Marik’s back hurts often. So I wondered.” Ryou said before he kissed his lips again, more boldly. “I told him he should go to a doctor, but he’s quite afraid of them. He says weed helps. Did you ever smoke in Egypt? I--”
Bakura silenced him with a firm, soul consuming kiss that ignited Ryou’s heart and brought tears to his eyes. The hand at Bakura’s cheek slipped into his hair, and Ryou opened his mouth to him, clinging closer as his tears fell onto Bakura’s beautiful skin. 
Bakura pressed his tongue past his teeth, eyes closing. Everything about this was divine… and he couldn’t help but to notice how right it felt. Everything that had ever happened to him had served the purpose to allow him this moment. In an instant everything had changed. He smiled against Ryou’s lips. The serenity was a relief he had craved yet had been without for so long he had forgotten what peace could possibly feel like.
“It wasn’t by accident you’re here. Or by whatever technicality of the millennium items you attribute it to through Nisut Atem.” Marik had told him in their first encounter following the resurrection. “The Netjeru have always known your purpose. Whether or not you place any faith in Them... You are loved. And you are a reflection of the divine. They have a plan for you.”
He’d never felt so insulted or infuriated, and he hadn’t spoken to Marik since. Love? If any god loved him, why was he ever in his wretched predicament in the first place? If any god loved him, why had his family been slaughtered? How did any of it evidence Netjer cared at all when suffering thrived throughout the world for thousands of years?  
But now he had this precious boy in his arms. As Ryou eagerly worked his lips against his, Bakura’s tongue stroked over his hungrily.
Bakura reached for Ryou’s phone on the table.
“What are you doing?”
“Texting you in sick to work.”
Ryou giggled at this but took his phone back. “No, I need to go.” Another kiss and he rose from his lap, dropping his phone into his backpack. “Senebty.”
The sunshine this lately morose boy radiated surprised the library staff, but no one questioned it as Ryou went to load onto a cart the books which needed to be shelved. Glancing to the schedule on his way to put the books away, he was pleased to find he would be working the next circulation desk shift with Akali. 
He loved the library, but he was working on plans to open a combination occult and tea shop. Magic and tea were his favorite things!
Book shelving was relaxing. He didn’t know why most staff hated this. It was easy and fun. It only became tedious when too-full shelves needed rearranging to make space.
As he alphabetized, he thought of the discovery last week Bakura had been defensive about. Marik, frustrated with Bakura’s avoidance, had went about texting him using a custom keyboard he had invented for typing in hieroglyphs. It was faster for Marik than transcribing Egyptian into a Latin alphabet, and it just made sense this way since Bakura did not know any Arabic, and Marik hadn’t been in the mood for Japanese. Japanese took more effort. (Atem had been delighted to install the hieroglyphic keyboard.) 
The problem was the vast majority of Egyptians had been illiterate, and this included the thief king. He had no issues with English or Japanese due to living through Ryou for many years, but it was still annoying that anyone expected him to be able to write or read hieroglyphic text.
“You could download Duo Lingo and start learning Arabic with me and Atem.” Ryou had suggested.
“Marik’s Japanese is fine!” Bakura had shouted. “If I wanted to communicate with him, Japanese would be fine! Why is it my fault if that bitch doesn’t feel like texting in Japanese? Fuck him!” Why the hell did he need Arabic? He would be perfectly happy to never set foot in the fucking desert again! 
By the time he finished shelving, then worked in the donation room sorting books, it was time to return to the circulation desk and greet Akali. 
“Hello!” he exclaimed cheerily. He waved to her and stepped to one of the computers, bringing up the tournament page on the Kaiba Corporation website. “I signed up for this, and… I thought you might like to join me?” he asked hopefully. If none of his other friends would talk to him… it would be much better if someone was there who would. Someone unaware of his drama. “I haven’t played an official game in a while, but I’ve been practicing on Duel Links… I used to be quite good in junior high, maybe I can get back into it...”
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infantisimo · a year ago
the earthly shadow of the cloud • anne boyer
It has been thirty years since I saw my first artifact of internet: some BBS porn printed out dot matrix by my friend Steve.  Before that was the first Atari Christmas playing Space Invaders in my pajamas, Oregon Trail, MS DOS, learning primitive programming thinking I would need it, just as later I learned and thought I would need HTML. Born in the United States in 1973, what my life maps onto is not just post-Fordism and an adulthood aligned with neoliberalism: I became an adult in the season of Clinton, had my child in the season of Bush. What my life also maps onto is the enclosure of consciousness -- the private holding of what once was not even property and always commonly held.  Perhaps like every innocent who believed without doubt that land and water and animals would always belong only to the gods, now I look back and think I should have known all along that entities would try to own our feelings and relationships, but I didn’t. Now it is clear to me. Non-property can be made property. Whatever can be abstracted can be owned.
I spent at least twenty years agnostic about the internet, marveling at the marvels of connecting with people far away or reading pdfs, worrying about the worries, like the way interfaces seemed to manipulate people into disinhibition and cruelty. I hated being stalked, trolled, and sexually harassed, but I loved a lot of what happened online, like piracy and flirting. I remember when the internet was about linking, not liking, when it had a sublime lateral spread rather than scrolling into a hole. As a poet I loved deletion, in particular, which you couldn't do in a book, and would create whole projects in order to erase them, wanting to create empty places of longing, which is what I had in me then, too. Memory was still half-human then, and electronic information -- as lost files, deleted things, closed accounts -- was fragile rather than durable. Forgetting, accident, obsolescence, mystery: all of these seemed the quality of the internet -- the beautiful, crystalline, fragile, vulgar, funny, dubious, pasted-together internet.  I even enjoyed the encounters with internet pedants when they encountered my work then: what I made was unintelligible to all the right people. I loved the ease of mixing up of things then, too --  cut and paste and the collaging of sounds and images and texts, the hazey carnival of every pirate, of anti-attribution, anti-property. We were supposed to destroy copyright and this was supposed to be good. Then I remember the day Blogger offered it: MONETIZE YOUR FEED.
Like every innocent who ever didn't remember non-property could become property, I thought, of course, that there would be an organized resistance to that internet, the craven one, that no one would choose to love their own surveillance or live as a personal brand. I didn't think people would willingly hashtag themselves and their feelings into profitable metadata. How funny that we thought the internet was the reverse of what it became: we thought it was turning property into nonproperty, of liberating the common. Perhaps this was  because the early internet had at the beginning felt subcultural, was still dominated by Gen X and our ironic self-protections. Didn't everyone know to distrust the Doritos as we ate the Doritos? To be human was to hate while we loved our cool ranch.
I remember when others warned that we were beginning to fall into a system of self-surveillance, that people would begin to watch each other, to keep records, to aggress and suspect. I didn't want to believe it. Part of the appeal of the internet in the early days was that it was a semi-criminal conspiracy of people downloading pirated Weezer albums and Zizek books while cyber-cheating on their spouses and keeping anonymous blogs about their terrifying secrets. Who among these criminals would associate themselves with authority? Who would use the internet to turn others into the police or bosses or corporate moderators?  No one I knew, even the most wretched trolls. We were better off practicing anti-facial recognition face paint, I thought, still of the old mind that everyone knew what we had to worry most about was the state and the corporations, not each other. I thought individuals and communities would always know the most simple truth, the one heard in every song on the radio: authority = bad.
I was wrong. Most of the awful things everyone predicted came true, and a lot of the bad no one predicted came true, also. I watched the corporations take on the characteristics of self-aware moral bodies and individuals taking on the moral character of the corporations who mined them for profit. The state became, more than ever, the patient servant of the owners, providing the multinationals with borders and prisons and advantageous legislation and not much else. I watched millions work for the billionaires without pay.
As a poet I feel like it is my task to protect consciousness from the tech lords and the moon from Elon Musk, but I am not so delusional as to think I could lead an organized resistance to this process of enclosure. Nor do I think I can, alone, defend those poet things: the moon and love. But I also can't forget that there are people who want to own, as data, the bacteria in our intestines and the salt in our tears. I have watched people being conditioned into screen addiction and once-unimaginable interpersonal viciousness. I have lost loved ones to paranoid screen holes and conspiracies and seen even self-identified leftists align themselves fully to corporate entities. Even as I stepped away, almost entirely, from most everything online — even, for a time, giving up email — I have felt such survivor guilt about those left behind, the ones still compulsively refreshing their twitter or facebook feeds. I also know it didn't have to be like this: that the technologies developed in my life could and sometimes were used for what was beautiful and good.
We don't yet have a name for this era, that intensified enclosure of relationship and feeling and the radical upward redistribution of wealth, that owning of the means of circulation as dominating those who once owned the means of production, this new hierarchy of power and wealth.  The "Amazon data center offensive" continues as does the screenification of all that exists — one corporation is in a quest to for total ownership of the earthly shadow of the cloud, another for space, a third for all of information.  I don’t know what we call this time, except the one that is not yet ours.
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misrihalek · 11 months ago
This is for one person in particular. Well, maybe two people. 
...I wasn’t good for you, was I? 
You found me at a pretty low point of my life, I’ve said that before. I was trying to do what the world told me, trying to be a good little boy, get that job, earn my place in the world and...I failed. I was lying on a bed in a house in the suburbs, flatmates fighting in the ungodly hours of the morning, desperately trying to escape from the world. That was how you found me and for some reason you saw something worth a damn. 
And then I proceeded to bleed you dry. I didn’t know how to get myself out of my hole and so I just started dragging you down with me, using you as just another means of escape and demanding so much of you...far too much. How many times did you lament that your love wasn’t enough to help me stand on my own two feet? How many times did you think that you were inferior because of it? Did I make you hate yourself because of my failures? 
That’s not to say that it was all bad: we wouldn’t have lasted as long as we did if we didn’t click on some level, after all. The talks we had, the things we shared between us...it would be disrespectful to say that they meant nothing: maybe their value to us makes this whole thing worse in retrospect, who knows. What I do know is that, even if only ashes remain now, you were the best friend I ever had: you were kind, funny and passionate and your presence in this world stood in defiance of the forces that sought to bring you low. You fought for your right to exist, so maybe it makes sense that you waited for so long for me to do the same. I’m sorry I let you down. 
That’s the crux of the matter, isn’t it: why didn’t I leave that hole that I found myself in? I can blame outside forces (and I often did), but the fact of the matter is that I just didn’t know how. I didn’t know how to be the person that the world demanded of me and no-one seemed to be able to tell me, so somewhere along the way I just grew comfortable in that wretched hole, at home in my misery. I started pantomiming my own life, living as if death would never come and not really living in the process, and it was this awful piece of theatre that you ended up being an unwilling part of: despairing about the future that I couldn’t see and slowly wearing yourself away. I imagine the tipping point came after those three weeks together ended and you saw how little things had changed. 
Those three weeks...before long it will have been two years since that trip to see you and it’s...weird to think about. I know that time has lost a bit of its meaning since then, but even then it’s hard to believe that it was really that long ago. I still remember the elevator up to your apartment, walking to the tramlines and going to that one tea shop - and you bet your ass I remember that hike uphill to the castle. The emotions have faded over time, but I have no qualms in saying that those were quite literally the best days of my life: I know that the word “literally” has kinda lost its meaning in this day and age, but I can confidently say that no experience before or since has compared. So why didn’t it change anything? Why did I go right back into my hole when I got back? 
I don’t think either of us knew at the time, but come a few months later it didn’t matter all that much anyway. You found someone else and left and, now that I look back, I really can’t blame you for trying to find a less bleak fate than what was in store for you. I remember you saying to me how scared you were of a future where you had to support the both of us: why wouldn’t you be? I had demonstrated no ability to be a functioning human being and I would have inevitably become a burden...well, more of a burden. What kind of future is that, for either of us? And so you left to find a brighter one. 
It was ugly and painful and I have no doubt that it still hurts you, just like it does me. For a decent amount of time I was blinded by my own pain and I said things that I can no longer stand by in good conscience: I blamed you for how things had gone and eventually cut you out of my life so I could best deal with my wrenching sorrow. To some degree that action has proved successful: being able to live without having reminders of my failures at the forefront of my mind has let me claw back pieces of myself and move forward with my life, even if it has taken some time. I cannot however defend the reasons why I did it though, born as they were from an inability to reflect on my own deficiencies. 
It turns out that there might’ve been a reason for that inability, actually. You remember me talking about my Asperger’s Syndrome diagnosis? It was something that I got told about as I was growing up and it was basically conveyed to me as a low-strength form of autism, something fairly surmountable in comparison to the more traditional forms. Last year though, I found media that suggested that Asperger’s Syndrome was a less-than-credible condition from a doctor that quite literally collaborated with Nazis and further research revealed that the term was no longer in official use. I talked to my mother about this and she casually dropped into conversation that I was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. 
ADHD! So many goddamn things clicked into place once she said that and I imagine that the same might be happening for you right now. No wonder I had so much difficulty functioning in that job, how infuriating it was to focus on things, how I would sally forth into different trains of thought mid-conversation. My mother’s general mistrust of the medical system also meant that I’d been dealing with these things all my life without any sort of medication, the usual way that other people with ADHD make themselves co-operate with the strictures of society. No wonder things went to fucking pieces the moment I stepped into the real world. 
I’ve had to do some serious thinking since then, not least of all about my future. I tried to keep on the jobsearching grind for a while after that bombshell dropped, but after months of no luck I snapped and decided to take an alternate route, one that I couldn’t consider while we were together. Since then I’ve moved away from home and I’m studying to maybe one day be a social worker: to one day have the tools to help people like me, people stuck in their own holes and unable to get out without the helping hand of someone who understands what they’re going though. No doubt you’d say that you’re happy for me and I don’t doubt that statement: you’re a better person that I was and even through all this you’ve wished no ill towards me. You’re a good person like that. 
These days I’m doing decently okay: I’m living with 3 flatmates who I get along with pretty well and my studies are progressing as they should. I’m trying to write a bit more as well, although about the only thing I’ve done lately of any tangibility has been...well, this. Even with the progress I’ve made, what happened between us still bobs to the surface from time to time and I have to process things all over again: it gets easier as time marches onwards, but that doesn’t mean that it’s easy. That probably explains why I reacted so violently to the message you sent me, among other things. 
What I said there was true: I can’t face you while things are the way they are. I’m not strong enough to watch you be happy with someone else, because it’s a reminder that I can no longer elicit that same joy from you: a reminder that our time has passed because of my failures. It’s knowledge that hollows me out from the inside. I tried to be strong - tried to ignore that hollowing out and remain friends - and failed over and over, coming close enough to nothingness to feel it encroaching on my soul, so now I put up my walls to protect it.
I need to be okay. And I can’t do that with you around. It’s an awful thing to say and you don’t deserve it, but it’s the truth. Once more you suffer for my deficiencies as a human being. 
I’m sorry that I couldn’t be the person that you needed: I guess the deck was kinda stacked against us from the beginning, considering what I didn’t know about myself and, y’know, the whole long-distance thing, so don’t go thinking that any of this was your fault. You remain one of the best people I have ever met and I am eternally grateful for the time we shared together: do not doubt that you are worthy of love, even in your lowest moments. You’re a damn good human being and you deserve to have good things happen to you, better things than me. 
I imagine you’re expecting me to say this, but oh well: I’d prefer it if you don’t send me a response to what I have written here. Beyond just safeguarding my own wellbeing, I’ve been meaning to write this for a long time now and what you see is pretty much every single thing that I can conceivably say in regards to all that has transpired between us. I don’t really have anything else to say and after this I will hopefully not think about this so much anymore and get on with my life. I would implore you to do the same. 
I wish you all the best. 
...there’s a small piece of me that doubles back on what I’ve written here, seeing if it can instill its will within the paragraphs wherein it can wend its way to you. It’s the piece of me that still loves you, that holds out hope that I may one day see you again and that we can rediscover what was lost. It tells me to leave my heart open to the opportunity, to hope against hope that things change. This last paragraph is my concession to it in the vain hope that it’ll finally fucking shut up.
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kakagai-gaikaka · a year ago
AU in which there exists a society of supernatural creatures (i.e witches, warlocks, werewolves, vampires, etc...). Throughout history the various factions have warred with each other, but in recent years they’ve formed a balanced alliance. There are a set of universal laws that govern all factions, and the enforcers of these laws consist of various people from all the factions trained to apprehend criminals and dissenters. Kakashi, a vampire who has seen first hand the wars of old, was once one of these enforcers, but now he spends his time as a professor at one of the academies geared towards teaching the next generations of all the factions. He specializes in the history of supernatural creatures, but is occasionally drafted to train up and coming enforcers. Due to an unfortunate string of events, Kakashi is asked to be a consultant on an investigation into recent killings of various high profile faction leaders.
It’s a sensitive mission, one that could risk the peace maintained between all factions, but it is also rather tiresome as Kakashi is in charge of a team of the newly inaugurated enforcers (Sakura, Naruto, and Sasuke). The circumstances of the assassinations are troubling at best, and Kakashi realizes he’s dealing with expert criminals. Criminals his team isn’t strong enough to face just yet. So, Kakashi enlists the help of an old friend. Of course, Sakura, Naruto, and Sasuke are intrigued. Professor Kakashi has an old friend? Usually the professor is less than forthcoming about his personal life. The vampire is extremely mysterious, and his reputation only adds to that enigmatic aura.
So, after failing to stop another murder, Kakashi seeks out his ‘old friend’ who live out in the middle of nowhere and Kakashi’s team thinks, ‘who the heck would want to live out here?’ And they get their answer when Naruto falls prey to a trap and a green clad human leaps down from a canopy of trees with an excited whoop and a flurry of exuberance.
Team Kakashi is incredibly confused, because the person Kakashi sought help from turned out to be nothing more than a powerless human. Kakashi, however, merely smiles at Gai’s antics and greets, “It’s been awhile, Gai.” Gai, who is admiring his handiwork, winks at the legendary vampire, “Fifty years, right rival?” Sasuke, Naruto, and Sakura can’t believe the human is over fifty years old, because he doesn’t look a day over 25, and Kakashi, seeing their confusion, Kakashi explains, “Gai is a human born specifically for the purpose of hunting creatures like us. He has an unnaturally long life, much like a vampire. He’s as old as myself, if you can believe it.”
Gai, miffed at being called old, proudly proclaims, “Old? Why, I’m still in the springtime of my youth! How dare you call me old, Kakashi?” Team Kakashi is still hopelessly confused. If this human is one of the rumored hunters—humans born for the specific purpose of killing the supernatural—then shouldn’t Kakashi treat him as an enemy? And weren’t all the hunters extinct years ago? There’s so many questions, and not nearly enough answers provided by the cryptic vampire professor. Kakashi ignores his team's questions in favor of inviting himself into Gai’s cabin for a drink, “For old time’s sake.” He justifies.
It’s apparent that Gai and Kakashi definitely fit the parameters of ‘old friends’. They move around each other with ease and familiarity. Even though they are natural born enemies, they treat each other exactly opposite to their destined predispositions. In fact, team Kakashi has never seen the professor so easy going and...friendly before. He laughs at all of Gai’s ridiculous jokes, and even humors some of Gai’s randomly proclaimed challenges. “I have to make up for the last fifty years since you decided to run off and help form political alliances.” Kakashi explains that his days meddling in politics are over, as are his enforcer days. He’s a teacher now, a professor of supernatural history, which Gai thinks is most suitable for his esteemed eternal rival.
Eventually the two friends pause their catching up long enough for Kakashi to tell Gai the reason he’s here. He explains the mission and the assassinations, and Gai listens with a sense of severity as he nods along seriously to Kakashi’s descriptions.
In the end, Kakashi says, “There’s no one better at hunting down the supernatural. After all, you did manage to catch me all those centuries ago.” He says this with a hint of a fond smile in his voice and Gai huffs, “Not without nearly going insane with how elusive you were. But that’s why I chose you as my rival. There is no one better than you, Kakashi.” Their interactions are a bit too sweet for team Kakashi to bear, and they watch on in vague distaste as they get the hint there might be more to their relationship than just ‘friendship’. Or at least, that’s what Sakura suspects, but Sasuke and Naruto are too dense to notice things like this.
“I’ll help you, only because dissension amongst the alliance never boded well for the human world.” And it’s Gai’s duty to protect the human world to the best of his ability, and previous wars waged amongst the supernatural have cost hundreds of human lives as those violent conflicts spill into the mortal realm.
“Aw, you’re not doing this because I asked?” Kakashi teases, sending Gai a mischievous wink that has the human sputtering in indignation, “I’ve always hated that you can fluster next so easily, rival.” He grumbles into his tea cup as Kakashi laughs easily. After the conversation ends, Gai offers them the spare bedroom to rest for the evening before they return to the enforcement headquarters the following morning. Team Kakashi, exhausted from their trip, gladly takes the offering and rushes off to clean up and sleep before Kakashi forces them out of bed again. This leaves Kakashi and Gai alone for the first time that evening, and although the atmosphere between them is still easy going, there is a slight shift in tension.
Sooner or later, Kakashi whispers quietly, “I’m sorry I haven’t come to visit you sooner and I’m also sorry the first time I’ve seen you in half a century is to ask for your help.” Gai waves off the apology as he takes another sip of his cooled tea. He is a bit saddened that it’s taken Kakashi this long to see him, but he’s also immensely glad the other hasn’t forgotten their special bond. “I always maintain faith that destiny will bring our paths to cross over and over again. I do not mind waiting an entire millennia before I see you again, if it means that you are here and with me.”
Kakashi sighs heavily. Gai has always been so patient with him, so kind and understanding of all the vampire’s faults and decisions. He’s completely undeserving of his friend's devotion, but entirely grateful to know that Gai will never abandon him. Although they are, as dictated by nature, mortal enemies, Gai is the person Kakashi trusts above all others. They are linked in a way no one else could understand. Even during Kakashi’s darkest days, when he wandered a treacherous line between good and evil, Gai was there to hold his hand and draw him into the light once more. There is something so precious about their companionship, that Kakashi curses himself for not coming to the other sooner.
“I know I do not say it often, but you mean the most to me, Gai.” Kakashi says into the dimming light of Gai’s cabin. “I’m sorry I have a terrible way of showing it.”
“Nonsense.” Gai dismisses easily, “You show your affections in a variety of unique and heartfelt ways. Just because you do not wear your heart on your sleeve, doesn’t mean I cannot feel your true passions.” Sometimes, Gai is just too good, and Kakashi both simultaneously hates and loves that.
Wordlessly, Kakashi stands and wanders over to his long time companion. The vampire meets the eyes of his eternal rival, and seeing the glistening adoration Gai has for a wretched creature like him, always leaves Kakashi breathless.
“Destiny really is a funny thing bringing us together, huh?” He whispers as he leans his head against Gai’s. Kakashi’s skin is eternally frigid in a state of being undead, but Gai has always been a source of unending warmth and life.
After a quiet moment, Gai pushes Kakashi away playfully, “You’re getting sentimental in your old age, Kakashi.”
Chuckling at Gai’s antics, the vampire teases, “If I’m old then so are you.” And it triggers the appropriate reaction from Gai, who promptly challenges Kakashi to a competition of youth that involves various little games and trials that keep them occupied until the morning comes.
As their investigation progresses, Sakura silently questions if her team leader, Kakashi, is aware of his feelings for Gai. They seem rather intimate, but they both lack a distinct smell, the one that indicates if two people have mated or not. It’s mind boggling and frustrating for the pink haired witch, who lives in silent suffering because Sasuke and Naruto are always too busy bickering to pick up on the clear romantic and sexual tension between Gai and Kakashi. Sakura has to wonder how these two idiots have spent centuries dancing around this obvious issue. It almost makes her want to meddle. Maybe locking them in a room for a prolonged period of time will spur them to acknowledge their affections, but when she does just that, she walks in on them locked in an intense chess match with Kakashi winning and Gai lamenting his rival’s genius. After several more failed attempts, Sakura almost gives up completely, but in her annoyance she decides to corner Kakashi. So what if he’s one of the most feared and legendary vampires in history? She’s going to get to the bottom of this whether he likes it or not!
“Okay, so what’s the deal professor?” She hisses, fed up and feeling particularly witchy right now as she interrupts Kakashi while he reads. Kakashi, intrigued by Sakura’s blatant disruption of his personal time, lifts a silver brow in question, his blind eye still flitting to hers out of habit even after all these years.
“Yes, Sakura?” He asks, curious. Sakura has a temper, but she’s usually respectful enough when she addresses Kakashi. The same can’t be said for Naruto or Sasuke though.
Upon hearing the easy going attitude of her team leader, Sakura crosses her arms in a fit and demands, “What is going on exactly between you and Gai, huh?”
Kakashi blinks in surprise, not having expected Sakura to broach that topic, but she’s determined, if the scowl on her face is anything to go by. She isn’t below using magic to help her cause either, and recognizing this, Kakashi closes his book and wonders, “What’s this all about?”
“Are you kidding me?” Sakura all but screeches, “It’s so obvious that you and Gai are in love, and yet the both of you refuse to do anything about it!”
Kakashi, mildly impressed by his subordinate’s bravado, draws out, “What are you talking about? Gai and I are just old friends.”
Sakura narrows her eyes in a damning glower, “Don’t play dumb with me professor. You realize my speciality as a witch is reading others auras, correct? Yours and Gai’s are exactly the same. You know what that means.” Kakashi did know what that meant. It wasn’t common knowledge, but those who were ‘in the know’ so to speak, knew that matching auras could only mean one thing: true love, or otherwise known as soulmates. It’s a fact Kakashi has come to grips with a long, long time ago and one that is clearly bothering Sakura who can’t fathom why someone who has found their eternal love refuses to do anything about it.
Sighing, Kakashi sits up from the sofa he was sprawled out on, and motions for Sakura to take a seat next to him. The witch is intelligent, maybe not as smart as him, but she has potential to be incredibly perceptive. Not only that, but she has a big heart, and she cares deeply for those around her. It’s a good combination, and one Kakashi wants to help nurture.
When Sakura takes a seat, Kakashi pats her head affectionately, much like one would do to their younger sister. Unlike his other two subordinates, Sakura never bats his hand away, but she does look incredibly grumpy when he ruffles her pink hair.
“You’re right, I guess. Gai is my destined love. Though, I was unaware of that fact for many years even after I met him. You can say that he and I were...rather oblivious for a long time.” At this, Sakura rolls her eyes with a snort, she can only imagine. “At the time when I realized Gai was the man I was destined to love for the rest of my eternity, we were still in the midst of a war amongst the factions. Not only that, but the Hunters were waging war against us as well. It was a battle fought on so many different fronts, and everyone felt like an enemy. There was no one I could trust, and no ideology I could fight for with full belief. It was a difficult time, and I lost many people I cared deeply about. Finding out that one of my supposed enemies was also the man I was to love unconditionally, and already did at the time, was something I couldn’t process as good news. I was in a dark place, and wasn’t sure of the direction my life was heading. For many years I tried to push Gai away, not only for my sanity, but for his safety. If he were to be caught with me, he would have been put to death, even if I was to prove that he was my beloved soulmate.”
Sakura listened intently as Kakashi weaved his tale, but even though the story was interesting (she never knew so much about her professor) it still didn’t answer her question as to why they weren’t together now.
“Eventually, as you know, the war ended, but there was devastation on all sides. The hunters were nearly extinct, and the factions were weakened to the point that they settled on a truce out of necessity. At that time, I considered running off to be with Gai. It was the perfect opportunity. He and I could disappear and never be bothered again, but the truce between the factions was weak, and without a proper hand to guide the truce into a longstanding alliance, war would be inevitable once again.”
Sakura’s brows puzzled in consideration as she remembered all that she knew about Kakashi, “So...you made the decision to stay with the supernatural world. You spearheaded the alliance in so many ways. Many credit you with being the main reason all the factions were able to reach a peace agreement.”
At this, Kakashi nodded and continued. “However, the peace agreement was between the communities of the supernatural world. Hunters were declared enemies, and they would be killed at first sighting. If I was to bring Gai with me, he would be constantly targeted from those seeking their revenge...it was then that I decided to start the myth that the Hunters were completely extinct, and that I was the one to kill the last of them.”
“Gai.” Sakura answered in realization, and Kakashi agreed once more.
“It was for his protection, so that he didn’t have to spend eternity constantly on the run. During the early days of my political career, I tried to visit him often, but we couldn’t risk forming a relationship, lest those with perceptive eyes and noses caught the intimate scent of a Hunter on my person. Eventually, visiting became too risky. As a leading political head for the Vampire Faction, I was constantly being tailed and I couldn’t risk them discovering Gai’s location. I needed to sort out the alliances first, and let the tensions ease on all sides. I needed to build trust, and I couldn’t do that by sneaking off all the time.”
Kakashi appeared wistfully in the light of the fire place nearby, his eyes taking on a glisten of regret and sadness as he talked about his history. Sakura felt her heart ache for her professor. With her empathic abilities, she could feel Kakashi’s longing and pain as if it were her own, and it brought tears to her green eyes.
“As you know the rest, tensions finally settled. I helped to create the enforcer program, and retired to be a professor. The last time I saw Gai was right after the finalized negotiations of the treaty. It’d taken nearly two centuries, but we finally came to a peace agreement.”
“But...if everything is sorted now, why not retire with Gai? The factions don’t need you anymore.” Sakura asked.
Kakashi shook his head, “If they didn’t need me, I wouldn’t be assigned to this mission.”
And that was true, Sakura supposed but, “But if you’re trying to keep Gai’s existence hidden, why enlist his help in the first place?” Ah, Sakura, as smart and perceptive as always. Truly she was going to grow into a fine, young witch.
Smiling at his student beneath the guise of his mask, Kakashi posed thoughtfully, “Have you noticed I haven’t informed anyone of taking on a consultant? Or that I’m very careful about the places we choose to rest for a night, or where we decide to meet Gai? The truth is, I do need Gai’s help. I wasn’t lying when I said he was the best of the best, and the criminals behind these assassinations are, frankly, too much for you, Sasuke, and Naruto to handle. I feel much better knowing that Gai is watching our backs.”
Sakura supposed she understood her professor’s reasonings, but it didn’t sit right with her that Kakashi had to deny a love written by destiny for the sake of peace. If the factions managed to come together, surely they could accept the Hunters, right? There had to be a way. This was just so unfair! It was clear how devoted Kakashi was to Gai, and how equally devoted Gai was to him. They deserved each other, especially after all Kakashi gave to this silly world. How much more was he expected to sacrifice?
“Careful,” Kakashi eases as he senses Sakura’s magic furiously rise to the surface, “I’m entrusting you with this information because I know you can handle it. Sasuke and Naruto...they mean well, but they’re not the most tactically brilliant as they come.” Sakura couldn’t help but snort. Sure, Sasuke and Naruto were unrivaled in raw power, and when it came to hand to hand combat they were wonderful tacticians, but when it came to politics and such, those two dunderheads were woefully out of depth.
“I guess I understand,” Sakura confessed, “But I don’t like this. You and Gai deserve to be happy.”
“And maybe that day will come.” Kakashi agreed and ruffled Sakura’s hair again, “I have hope that greater peace can be achieved when youngins like you take my place.” Sakura made up her mind then. When her time came, she would take her place on the witches council and change the way this world worked for the better. With Naruto heading the wolves, and Sasuke the vampires, they would be a force to be reckoned with, Sakura was sure of it. Kakashi could finally have his peace and make up for all those years of his continued sacrifice. This was the least she could do.
Nearly a century later, Sakura made good on her internal promise. It wasn’t without struggle and hardship. It wasn’t without loss and continued threats of war, but eventually the new generation took their place on the council and started to mend the ways of old, just as Kakashi had done centuries ago. When the truth about the Hunters came out, the supernatural council made a point of inviting the lead Hunter, a man named Rock Lee, to form an official alliance. Hunters would be brought in as enforcers, and a new era of cooperation would begin.
After the official signing of the treaty, Kakashi waited for Sakura outside in the corridor of the capitol building. He said nothing to her at first, and his eyes betrayed none of his emotions, but in a rush he surged forward and wrapped the pink haired witch in a bone crushing hug. If the wetness on Sakura’s shoulder was anything to go by, then Kakashi might have been crying.
“Thank you.” He whispered, his words full of unkempt emotion. “Thank you so much for this.”
Sakura, smiling, returned the embrace to Kakashi, who had become like a father to her over the years. “It was the least I can do after the headaches we caused you over the years, old man.” Kakashi chuckled, but she could feel him tremble with emotion as he finally pulled back and wiped his eyes.
Sakura, grinning brightly, playfully punched the silver haired vampire on the shoulder, “Now, go get your soulmate. I think you’ve kept him waiting long enough.”
She purposefully glanced over Kakashi’s shoulder, where Gai stood at the end of the corridor in his usual unfailing exuberance. Kakashi’s breath caught, and he felt like this moment was too good to be true when Gai gave a cheeky grin.
“How about it, rival?” Gai announced as Kakashi’s undead heart thundered erratically, “Are you ready to accept me as your man of destiny?” And there was nothing Kakashi was more ready for, he thought. And for the first time since they met, since Gai first declared Kakashi as his eternal man, the vampire finally, finally claimed Gai’s lips with his own. It was a peace Kakashi never knew he needed, and a happiness he didn’t think he could ever feel. After all this time, Kakashi’s sacrifices paid off, and he could live happily in the knowledge that he had an eternity to make up for any time lost.
“I love you.” He confessed in the air between them before dragging Gai into another loving kiss. “I’ve loved you all this time.”
There was a chorus of whoops and cheers behind him, courtesy of Naruto and his rowdy wolves, but Kakashi could care less about them. All he cared about in this moment was Gai, and how the other’s dark eyes glistened with unbridled happiness.
“Of course you have,” Gai managed through the thick of emotion in his throat, “You were destined to love me, Kakashi.”
Kakashi shook his head, silver hair billowing softly with the movement, “I would have loved you anyway, in any life, and at any moment in time. You are someone I will never not love, and I don’t want to waste another moment showing you how much I care.”
Gai, trying to smile through his hot-blooded, manly tears, couldn’t say anything else, and instead threw his arms around Kakashi as he bawled his eyes out, soaking Kakashi’s shirt without remorse. Kakashi, just thankful to be able to hold Gai like this, soaked in the tender affection with love thrumming beautifully in his heart.
Naruto wolf whistled (no pun intended) like the troublesome, but well meaning man he was. Kakashi laughed and kissed Gai again because he could and this was allowed and he would spend the rest of forever kissing Gai whenever he felt like it.
“I think a honeymoon is long overdue.” He whispered against the other’s lips.
Gai blinked in surprise, “Aren’t you supposed to be married to have a honeymoon?”
Kakashi grinned. It seemed Gai didn’t get it, but he would eventually. Until then Kakashi was just going to hold him close, and never let him go. It was a lifetime in waiting, but Kakashi had a lifetime to make up for it.
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luckys-charm119 · a year ago
Chapter Two
Building My Life in Brooklyn
So, after a night with Bucky Barnes and Steve Rogers, life goes back to normal. Ish. I look into the job at Frank’s with Henry, but the position had already been filled. I tell everyone involved that it’s alright, I still have the job at Duke’s that might be available. Even if it isn’t, we’ll figure something out. Henry seems reassured, but says his needs to meet up with Bo so they can get to work. We meet up with Bo at the corner of our street across from the store and chat about what to do about my situation.
“Well, doesn’t Shirley and Elsie work at Duke’s,” I ask the two of them.
“They do, actually. Maybe you can look into gettin’ that job instead,” Henry says, looking to his brother who agrees.
“Alrighty then. I’ll just head on over with them and get things sorted out from there.” I let out a sigh out of relief and a bit of exhaustion. I just hope everything works out the way it’s supposed to.
“Well, just let us know if you need any help, and we’ll figure out something for ya, Miss Em,” Bo reassures me. I chuckle at the concern, knowing they’d fight heaven and high water for me.
“Will do. Now you boys get going on to work, and I’ll meet up with you later, okay?”
We say our goodbyes, and I meet up with Shirley and Elsie, who seem to be heading to work now. They’ve got on their uniforms and are talking about the day ahead of them when I approach. I tell them about what happened with the position at the store and tell them of the plan next. They are delighted to help me get a spot at Duke’s so we can all work together, just us girls, they say. When we get there, it’s not 10 minutes later that I have a position and a uniform, my first shift starting today.
There’s a lot going on once the diner opens. Customers coming and going, us waitresses flying around the place to make sure their needs are met. The place is lit up with chatter and excitement. Something catches my attention as I fill a couple’s coffees. A few young women sit behind the husband, probably gossiping about the goings-on of Brooklyn. I listen in as I walk over to adjacent tables to fill their coffees as well.
“Did you hear about what Bucky Barnes is doing,” the blonde asks the brunette.
“No! Tell me! You know I’d love for a night out with that man,” she demands, sitting up straighter in curiosity.
“Well,” she starts, before taking a sip of water. I fill the man’s drink on the other side of their table. “I heard he was lookin’ for a girl he met last night, but it turns out she didn’t give him her real name since no one’s heard of her.”
“Seriously? Who could turn down that man?”
“I don’t know, but clearly she’s up to something if she’s willing to hide from him,” she finishes.
That’s the last of the conversation that I hear as I busy myself with other people and their needs. I think about what they said. He’s looking for me, and clearly all of Brooklyn knows about. Word from the docks somehow made it all the way to this end. Apparently, it’s quite the talk of the town because as the day goes on, there’s other girls that come in talking about the same thing. To add to the mess, Shirley is curious. She says that she sees Bucky at Rosie’s all the time, and that he works with Bo and Henry. Excuse me while I go scream in the bathroom. Bo and Henry know him from work? They see him all the time? It’s only a matter of time before someone connects the dots and lead him to me. I try to forget the whole mess by carrying on with my work.
As the few weeks fly by with me working at Duke’s, I get to know Elsie and the Harris family. They’ve seemed to adopt me into their family, and not a day goes by that I don’t see them. I even go with them to church on Sundays. It becomes a pattern of work, family, and church in my time in Brooklyn. As fate would have it, this particular Sunday is different. I wake with a hole in my heart, my soul torn apart by things of the past unspoken. I try my hardest to ignore it all and carry on without a care, but one can only do that for so long. By the time we make it to church that morning, I’m a shell of who I normally am. 
After one of the most beautiful renditions of “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot,” I’m given the song I didn’t realize I needed the most; “Amazing Grace.” The first singer comes out of the choir, starting the song off so sweet and gentle. Her voice is as powerful as the wind of a stormy gale, as it whips around the sanctuary, but it comes out as a breeze brushing against the grass and flowers of a meadow I was once in. It hits me, then. Every emotion I’ve been trying to hide comes bubbling up in my cheeks, hitting my tear ducts. 
Amazing Grace
How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me
I was once lost, but now am found
Was blind, but now I see
As the next verse rolls in, the choir begins to back up the lead singer. The woman that sang “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” joins in with her own affirmations and praises, singing with the spirit to cut through my soul. The voices are met with some people in the audience saying, “Amen” and “Hallelujah.” I’m overcome with sorrow, but security of the people around me. I finally let go of the loneliness that rotted my being for too long. I find the strength I need the most when the next verse is ushered in.
Through many dangers
Toils and snares
I have already come
’Twas grace that brought me safe thus far
And grace will lead me home
A sob leaves my throat before I can catch it. I suddenly find peace in where I am, knowing that I’ve found steady ground. I feel a sturdy hand rub my back, then realize it’s Mama Harris. I look into her eyes and am met with a comforting reassurance. When she presumably sees the hurt in my eyes, she pulls me into her chest and rocks steadily. She sings only to me now. She continues to rub my back, trying to eradicate the crippling pain I hold.
“Shh, baby. Let it go. You’re home now, child.”
After service, I’m holding onto Mama Harris as the others trail behind us on the way home. We don’t speak about what’s wrong. I know that she probably isn’t going to ask, but she’ll provide the motherly touch I need. When we make it back to the house, her, Shirley and I head to the kitchen to start on dinner. I tell them that I’ve been happy since being in Brooklyn, but that I miss my family and that I’m a bit homesick. I tell them that there’s personal things weighing me down, but after today, I’ve found comfort in their presence. They reassure me that they’re always there for me when I need them, my gratitude given back to them with hugs and soft smiles.
I know now that tomorrow is a new day. To start over. To begin again. When I show up to Duke’s the next morning, I feel lighter still. It seems to fly by, and before I know it, it’s lunch. I notice most of the other customers are taking care of, except one. I walk up to the table where the customer is reading this morning’s paper. I sigh, getting ready to greet yet another patron and getting out my pad for their order.
“ Good morning. Welcome to Duke’s. I’m Emily, I’ll be your waitress. How can I help you?”
“So, it’s Emily, not Evelyn,” a familiar voice replies, putting down the newspaper and revealing James. “Did you really think I would let you go?”
I don’t know what to say and I don’t know whether I’m flattered or worried. I stare at him and he stares right back. I genuinely don’t know what to do. It’s been 3 weeks, at least, since I met him and Steve. I remember the gossip I heard the next day, but I didn’t hear anything else after that. I must have been so caught up with work I didn’t notice. Not that that’s surprising. Mama Harris said that I needed to get out and go dancing with the eldest Harris children. I told her that I didn’t have time for it, nor was I ready for any dating. Maybe I’ve been avoiding James, since I subconsciously knew he’d be at Rosie’s.
“Would you like some coffee,” is all I can manage to query.
We sit across from each other, both of us not saying a word. We sip on our cups of coffee, the ceramic clinking on the table every so often being the only noice between us. I do feel really guilty. I shouldn’t have lied. I shouldn’t have ignored the gossip. I shouldn’t have not gone out to find him where I left his poor self. I should’ve done what he’s been doing, went after the person you can’t shake. I hear him sigh after some time has passed.
“Why did you feel the need to lie to me?”
I finally look up from my coffee and realize he’s been looking at me. There’s a shadow behind his face. Looking for me has clearly taken a toll on him. James has been genuinely trying to get to me for reasons I can only imagine. He fidgets across from me, playing with the napkin beside his coffee cup. His eyes shine with determination, a vibrant and dark blue swarming with questioning intention. His hair isn’t as well put together as the night I met him, less gel and more loose strands. His biting his lip with nerves, waiting for my reply.
“I’m trying to protect you from the truth. If I told you everything, you’d have me locked up in a psych ward.” I look away, ashamed at the situation and what I just told him. I let out a sigh, shaking my head. “I’m sorry I lied, but I can’t get involved with you.”
“That’s not good enough. I spent weeks looking for someone who didn’t exist, only to find her exactly where I left her. Tell me the truth, Emily. I deserve that much,” he demands, lighting a cigarette to rid the stress and exhaustion.
“Why does this matter so much to you?”
“You came into my life, you danced with my best friend without a second thought or judgement, and you’re unlike anyone I’ve ever met.” He takes another hit off the cigarette, exhaling away from me with a deep sigh. “You can’t blame me for wanting to chase after you, even if I lost my mind along the way.”
I stare at him for a minute, still in awe of what he’s done to get to me. Anyone crazy or stupid enough to go running around probably all of Brooklyn just to find me is being genuine about wanting me. I know he’s no idiot, so he must be crazy, and apparently crazy about me. Damn. What am I getting my dumbass into? What the hell. I’ll roll the dice with this one. If I’m lucky, things will work out differently. A smile creeps its way onto my face and I give into the pleading look on his face.
“Fine, Barnes, you win. But just know, I’m going to tell you the craziest things.”
“I’m all in, Doll,” he throws back at me with the same flirty smile he gave me the night we met.
I tell him as much as I can without what I know about him. I mention that I might know things about him, but he says it doesn’t matter. I tell him I’m surprised he doesn’t think I’m crazy, to which he replies with a sarcastic remark of, “it explains a lot, Doll. I’d try to hide too, if I were as nuts as you.” I kick his shin under the table, but we’re both laughing. I try to assure him that it won’t be easy, if he wants to run, he can. He stares at me blankly, both of us knowing he’s done too much to let me go now. I tell him I need to get back to work, and he says he does too. I tell him to met me here after his shift ends, which is before mine does, and he can walk me home.
Once he leaves, I try to busy myself so the time can go by faster. I’m sure he’s doing the same thing, as we’re both eager to see each other again. Before I know it, it’s closing time. I wave off the girls by saying I have someone walking me home. They obviously want to know more, but I tell them I’ll chat with them in the morning. They begrudgingly leave, and I gather the rest of my things before calling a goodbye to the owner and heading out myself. I smell the smoke before I hear him call out to me. We give each other smiles that’d put the setting sun to shame, the light of it behind him and illuminating me. I take his arm in mine and lead him towards my apartment. On the way, we chat about how our days went following our meeting at lunch.
“Where’s Steve,” I mention the blonde’s absence as we slowly make our way towards my street. Neither of us are in a rush to say goodbye, but I’m still concerned about him having to be somewhere other than right beside me.
“Well, he was at work, but he should be home by now.”
“Do you live together?”
He nods his head somberly. “Yeah, ever since his ma passed away, I’ve been looking after him. Makes rent a bit easier, too,” he finishes with a shrug of his shoulders.
“That’s sweet of you, taking him under your wing,” I softly say, rubbing the arm I’m holding onto in reassurance.
“Yeah, well, he certainly doesn’t make it easy. He’s always getting into fights because someone said or did something awful,” he tells me with a chuckle and shake of his head. “I mean, his heart’s in the right place, but he physically shouldn’t be pickin’ fights with people twice his size. He’s gonna give me a heart attack one of these days.”
We both laugh at the comment, knowing full well Steve might actually give him a heart attack one day. Steve in this state should so not be doing what he’s doing, but it’s Steve. I wouldn’t change that for the world. He taught me how to remain strong and how to keep moving forward no matter what. He taught me to never let anyone push me in the wrong direction and to always use your best judgement in every situation. His strength and determination rubbed off on me, and it’s the only reason I’ve made it this far. I owe him everything.
Before we realize it, we’re in front of my apartment complex. I stop us at the steps to the door, but don’t make a move to go inside. I look to him and I can tell he understands that this is the end of our journey. I give him my best smile, thank him for the walk back, and tell him I’ll see him again soon. He doesn’t seem to have the words to say. I don’t really need him to say anything since this has been a delight in itself. I give his left hand a squeeze, saying goodnight, and turning to head inside. He calls out to me, causing me to turn as he runs up the steps behind me.
“Would you mind if I took you out on a date, I mean, a proper one?”
I look at him with a surprised grin. He’s trying to seem confident, but he’s fidgety and biting at his lip. His cheeks are a soft pink, illuminating his eyes in the dark of the night, even with just the front door light on. In them, I see a hopeful glint. It’s adorable, really. I reach out and grab his hands in mine.
“Yes, of course. I’d love to.” At this, he let’s out a deep exhale and a short, nervous chuckle. His cheeks turn a darker shade of pink.
“Geez, Doll. I was worried you’d try to run away again.”
“You know too much at this point, so running away would put me in danger. Besides,” I pull him closer to me and look up at him with a snarky smile. “Last I checked, you still owe me a dance.”
He giggles with more nerves and shock at my response. My smile gets bigger, and then, I’m giggling, too. I kiss him on the cheek once I’ve composed myself enough to. This catches him off guard, turning him into a deer in headlights. I give his hands one last squeeze before I let go.
“Meet me here on Friday at 7. We can walk to Rosie’s from here,” I say, looking up at him. His blush deepens, and he smiles while looking down at his feet, kicking something that’s not really there. He nods his head slowly, then confidently, looking back up to meet my eyes again.
“Okay, I will,” is all James can say under his breath.
I smile at his boyish nerves, thinking about how cute and sweet this whole thing is. I can’t believe this is what I’m dealing with, but I’d never complain about this. I’m living every fan’s dream, to be Bucky Barnes’ interest and making him nervous for a date with me. But I can’t help myself from what I do next. I shake an accusatory finger at him and look at him fiercely. The smile on my faces remains, nonetheless.
“Now, don’t you be late, James Barnes,” I start, chuckling at how big his eyes get. “You can’t keep a lady waiting on the first date.”
James violently shakes his head. He assures me that he’ll be here on Friday for 7. He wouldn’t miss it for the world, he says. He gives my cheek a kiss goodnight, and ushers me inside. It’s too cold out for a pretty thing like me, he tells me. It’s July, but I don’t dare argue with the man. Once I’m inside and I’ve closed the door, I hear him turn and quickly go down the steps. Then, I hear him give a triumphant shout that causes me to chuckle. I make my way upstairs, rejoicing myself.
It’s Friday all of a sudden, and I’m getting ready for my date. I wear the best dress I own, throw on some nice jewelry, and spray some of my favorite perfume. There’s a knock at the door downstairs, Elsie alerts me, and I throw on my heels as fast as I can. I grab my things, rushing out of our apartment and down the complex stairs. I swing open the door, and I’m met with some flowers and a very neat James Barnes. 
“Good Evening, Miss Wolfe. I hope you like these flowers I got for ya,” are the first words out of his mouth. I take them with a thank you, smelling the few roses in the bundle. I turn to the person I’ve noticed is watching on the stairs and wave her down. Elsie blushes, saying she was just making sure he was being a gentleman, before taking the roses upstairs for me and wishing us both a good night. I look back to the nervous man at my door and tell him to lead the way.
Once we get to Rosie’s, we get a table and he gets some drinks. When he comes back, our conversation kicks off. We laugh and chat until a song comes on that he can’t resist. Or so he says. The next thing I know, James quite literally sweeps me off my feet and takes me to the dance floor. I’m being swung around, dipped, and spun in all directions. I swear it’s just because he wants to hear me laugh because each time he does it, I’m the happiest I’ve ever been. The song is forever and a second all at once. I almost don’t want the energy to leave.
The night is continued with more laughter, dancing, and chatting away. It gets to closing time, so we pack up our things and start heading back to my complex. We’re goofing around and dancing even on the walk back. My cheeks hurt with how much I’ve been laughing and smiling. I truly don’t care because I haven’t felt this light in a long time. James continues to do anything to make me smile, and before long, we’re back in front of the steps. This time, however, he’s more reluctant to leave. I’m more reluctant to tell him goodnight myself. So, we just stand there for a minute, looking at each other with bright smiles and fondness in our eyes.
“I had a great night, James. Thank you,” I say after some time.
“We should do this again,” James starts off, then he quickly adds, “maybe I can come by tomorrow? Or maybe, if you wouldn’t mind, you can come over for dinner with Steve and my family?"
I nod, and say I’ll be there. He tells me he’ll be busy helping someone at the mechanic shop, and Steve will be at the library, but that he’ll be there for 5. I tell him again that I’ll be there before his nerves kill him. James gives me a shy chuckle, and looks down at his feet, then back up to me with a soft smile. I return one myself, and start to say goodnight before he grabs my face, muting me with a kiss. At first, I’m startled, but then I kiss him back just a sweetly as he kisses me. When we pull away, we stay where we are and just stare at each other with bright smiles.
“Goodnight, Doll,” he whispers, pulling away and shoving his hands in his pockets.
I’m stunned for a moment before I smile and wish goodnight. He waits for me to head inside, and then, I hear him go. I stand with my back against the door, fingers to my lips. I still feel the ghost of his kiss, and my breath is still caught somewhere between where I am and where he is. My heart pounds in my chest and rings in my ears. I’m electrified, and yet, stilled all the same. I feel alive, but so calm, peaceful even. I feel as if I’ve been trapped underwater and have finally come up for air. The chill of the water washing over me, cleansing me of the past, and the air reaching my lungs ushering a newness of hope for the future.
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To say that I'm screaming, would be an understatement. I hope you love this chapter as much as I did. Thanks for all the love and support!
Tagging the real ones:
@maaaaarveeeeel @carryonsamuel @myraiswack @rejectofsociety @loki-used-to-rule-the-world
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dantes--rebellion · a year ago
106. — resurrection gone horribly wrong + 055. — forced to kill a transformed loved one
The Super-Awful, No-Good, Terrible Halloween Drabble for @likeasilverbullet and anyone else that wants to read this grossness lol.  
“Dante, you did not do this.” Vergil had warned, but the older twin knew it was a pointless statement; Dante had not listened, or even heard him say it. This was not the run of the mill headstrong defiance, this was grief deafening his brother to any kind of sense. A broken heart that was louder than any warning he could have given. Nero is gone, he’d told him, I know this is hard, but he died in battle and we have to live with it.
Hell, he’d even called Nico to come and talk some sense into Dante, knowing they were good friends and she might be apt to make him listen better than Vergil could himself. She even stayed at the office to watch him, the pair of them making sure Dante didn’t do whatever it was he was thinking. But it was all pointless in the end.
“Goddamn you.” Vergil muttered, he and Nico stood in the office that night looking at Dante in the doorway, his black suit covered in dirt, from the funeral that very afternoon. “Can someone tell me what the hell is goin’ on here?”
Vergil had been vague with the human, telling her Dante was lost in grief and needed all the help he could get and to be watched. Nico had obviously thought maybe Dante would hurt himself, but Vergil was worried about something entirely different.
“He buried him in the cemetery.”  Vergil said, not taking his eyes off his brother when he answered.
“I know he was buried, I was there, remember?” Her southern accent was strong and her voice gave away her confusion.
“Not that cemetery.” Vergil turned to look at her then, deathly serious.
Her face went pale, paler than the night Vergil had to tell her Nero had died. She knew, they all did. Dante had buried Nero alright, but not before digging him up and putting him in the sour ground of the burial site near the Hellmouth.  “He won’t come back the same.” Vergil spoke softly, knowing it was too late for warnings now.
Dante hadn’t said much, some mutterings, nothing sane. Nico looked as if she were prone to vomit at any moment. He told her to stay downstairs and that he was going to watch Dante sleep. There was a part of him that believed nothing would happen, that the tales about the burial ground were just that, but Vergil knew better, he felt the dread in his bones.
The night seemed long and dark, Dante had passed out due to his hard work the night before and Vergil sat on the corner of the bed keeping an eye on his twin. If he had gone mad, what was to be done with him? Nico was quiet for the night, no intruders or screams. And that was good, Vergil felt relief.  
“Wake up, let’s get some food into you, you’ll feel better.” The next morning Dante was still silent and to Vergil that was the most unsettling thing about all this.
They walked downstairs and immediately Vergil felt the cool air from outside rushing in as the front doors to the office were left wide open. “Stop.” Vergil stood and protected his twin instinctively, pulling Yamato from his side because of course he was with his weapon, it seemed like protection from whatever was coming.
Muddy footprints walked from the entrance down to Dante’s desk to the kitchen behind. That’s when the blood started. Vergil felt Dante tense up behind him and he did the same. “Nico?” Vergil asked, pushing open the kitchen door.
A long smear of the blood started from the door and gradually it gave way to pieces. Their eyes followed it until they found the back of a white head crouched and huddled in the corner of the room. The sound of gnawing was unmistakable.
“What fresh Hell?” Vergil turned and almost wretched into a corner. For the first time in his life he was shaken to his core. “It’s Nero…” He panted and grabbed onto Dante’s coat, “He stinks of the ground you buried him in.”
Dante’s face was already white as a sheet and tears ran from his eyes. Vergil could see that it had finally stuck home and whatever shock he’d  been in since Nero died was now replaced with horror. “What have I done?” He spoke softly, shaken and terrified.
At the sound of his name, which he still somehow remembered, Nero whipped around to look at them; Nico’s head in his hands, or what was left of it. The blood all over his pale face, meat hanging from his mouth. He made an ungodly sound, worse than any hound of hell either one of them had ever faced.
“Vergil…” Dante groped for his brother to keep him standing. He wanted to say he was sorry, but the words wouldn’t come.
When Vergil locked eyes with his son he felt the world crash around him and for a moment felt as though he were deaf with hysteria. It took every last fiber of his being to keep his sanity. “He can’t exist like this, I have to…” He couldn’t finish and he had no idea why the task should fall to him, he still wanted to protect Dante from further damage, as foolish as that was.
“No, I did this, and somehow I knew this would happen.” Dante walked over to the thing that used to be Nero, his darling Nero, and grabbed its face. Those blues eyes were milky now and knew nothing. Dante’s strong hands lifted and twisted, breaking its neck and putting Nero down for the second time in less than a day.
Vergil and Dante worked in silence as they cleaned up, wrapping Nero and what was left of Nico in rugs and mopped the floor. They had nothing to say to each other.
When night fell they went to the ruins of their childhood home and buried them there, in a place that was sacred to them. The whole thing seemed like a nightmare.
Dante jolted awake as lightning crashed outside,  his body soaked in a sheen of cold sweat as he battled for air in his lungs. It took him a moment to get a grasp on the dark of the bedroom and to realize where he was.
“Are you alright, old man? Don’t have a heart attack on me.” Nero spoke gently and his hand reached out to touch Dante’s wet arm. Dante jumped with a slight shout. “Hey, hey, take it easy.” Nero grumbled, “All we need is to wake the other old man.”
“Quiet, I’m already awake you insane buffoons.” Vergil turned over and wrapped his arm around Nero to also reach his twin. “He had that ridiculous dream again, about that ludicrous film.” Vergil knew of course, had probably seen Dante’s nightmare.
Dante was immediately awash with happiness. It was a dream, he was here in bed with them, next to the two people he loved most in the world, and although they were playfully complaining, hands rubbed him to comfort him, soothing him down from panic. “Holy shit.” Dante took a deep breath, the fragments of the dream already leaving him.
No more leftover pizza before bed, fuck that.
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knightongale · a year ago
A voice called out to me from the void. It was distant, almost too faint to hear. A soft yet clear sound that pierced the silence. It was oddly familiar, like the voice of an old friend or loved one. Gentle and sweet. But besides my own name, I knew nothing of myself.
I yearned to reach it, this first experience of sensation. I did not know how long I had been numb to sensation before that awakening. But it was the first spark of consciousness I could remember. Partially because I could not remember anything else. The voice, as if knowing that I craved for it continued. It repeated my name, each time softening. The space between us grew with each passing moment. When I realised this, I was overcome with fear.
"Don't leave me here!"
I stumbled around, searching for the source of the voice. Each step, I gathered some vague idea in my head. I remembered the idea of ground as I moved. The memory enlightened me to the realisation that there was no ground for me to step on. Instead, I tripped and scrambled over strange objects. Some of them were vaguely circular, others more like rods. There seemed to be no end to them, no matter how deep I thrust my feet into what I was stepping on. Hollow, empty sounds rung from our contact. Hollow and empty, like myself.
The voice was still faint. I imagined it to be getting louder, that I drew near. I picked up my pace, kicking up the objects. I broke into a sprint as I honed in on the sound. Someone was out there calling for me. At last, after so long in isolation, I was someone. Remembering what it felt like to exist, a wretched hate welled up for what came before it. I had to exist, I craved the state of existence. Never would I allow myself to fall into damned numbness.
"Do you regret it?"
"Regret what?"
A bright light burst forth in front of me, nearly blinding my eyes. I shielded my face in fear and awe, for the I had not known light for so long. The air heated up, rippling waves of heat pulled me out of the cold that I had been accustomed to. I forced my breaths, overwhelmed and in pain. My lungs struggled to contain these breathable blazes. Pain flared throughout my body, on searing patches. My skin was inflicted with swathes of burns. I remembered pain, what it felt like to be in excruciating pain.
"Yuan, do you regret it?"
No longer was my surroundings an endless void. I glanced down and found myself kneeling on ground. Real ground, not a pile of toppling objects. Littered on it were ruins and cssualties. Corpses were almost indistinguishable from the black ground that we were on. Those that were injured were left in grotesque states; one man dragged himself along the ground with a twisted arm and his partially ashed intestines trailing behind him. Children cried for their parents as they dodged burning debris. Their homes were gone. The feeling in my chest was one of loss. I remembered what it was like to have all you love be destroyed before your eyes.
But I still did not know myself. Only these concepts that I should know.
I raced through the paths, searching for the sound. The child's scream rung clear, overpowering the chatter of the rest. I found the girl trapped under a wooden beam. It was not on fire. But it would not take long before it would catch an ember and cook the child. Compelled to help, I tried to lift the beam. My sickly arms could not budge it enough for the girl, whose tears flowed like a river. My heart sank. I felt for the child abandoned by her family in the crisis. I felt a pulsating anger towards those that chose to watch her pass by.
"I'll help you. Just keep calm."
"I'm scared."
"I know. But you don't have to be. I'm here now."
I pulled from a pool of strength within me. My muscles sprung to life, the pain subsiding. I lifted the beam with ease. Power. There was something empowering about what I had done. There was no memory to tell me how I was supposed to be. But at the time, seeing everyone else be helpless brought forth the feeling of superiority. That, unlike others, there was something I could do.
"Look out!"
A roar rocked my ears. I turned around, just in time to see the source of it. I caught a glimpse of the large fox before one of its tails threw me into the air. I landed on burning bushes. Our eyes locked, its topaz irises to my amethyst. When a tail returned to finish the job, I was ready. I caught hold of it. My fingers dug deep into the fox's flesh.
The fox lunged, its jaws narrowly missing my torso. I attempted to strike it with my fist. The fox was far too quick. It used its tails to lift me off the ground. Each of my limbs were bound by a muscular tail, which tightened. The cracking of my bones was unmistakable. The fox glared as it held me up like the victim of a public execution. I wriggled, eager to escape and free myself.
"You claim to fight for justice and peace," the fox said. It held the voice that called out from the void. With it so close, I could tell that it was not a singular voice. "But your friends' legacy has been otherwise."
The fox showed its paw, which was missing a whole claw. I inspected the fox again. There were patches clear of fur. A terrible scar ran down the beast's face. It growled and its jaws went for my face. On instinct, I closed my eyrs and braced for the strike.
But it never came.
When I opened my eyes again, I was no longer bound. The fox was nowhere to be found. The burning houses and screaming innocents were gone. I placed my hand on the wall, made of strong, stone brick. It was not on fire. The floor was made of hardwood. It was not on fire, either. I was somewhere else completely.
"Keep your head on the ground, soldier."
A man clad in armour placed his hand on my shoulder. I realised that I was wearing the same kind of armour, though it was not of any army that I knew of. Armour entirely made of metal was hard to come by. On the chest was an insignia that looked like an spread fan. The man himself looked like a distinguished officer, as his armour had splashes of colour that mine did not.
"Sorry, Sir. I was just thinking about something."
"If you're worried, there's no need to be. Typical of you new recruits. We're Fort Ryeo's Guard. This is an impenetrable fortress. Just keep your discipline up and be alert, that will be enough."
The officer guided me to the training grounds, where there were soldiers that still did marching drills. The snow deterred most of the troops but a certain platoon still carried on their training. Despite the snow, they moved smoothly. They were unhindered by the snow. Discipline and perseverance.
The training dummies on the field were outfitted with wooden armour. They also had masks, which fell off when each soldier would make a good thrust with their practise spear. I itched to join them but I restrained myself. There was a passion in their eyes that was beyond nationalistic duty.
"Shikanira draws near. Are you ready, soldier?"
I didn't answer the man.
"I know I shouldn't wish for war but I do hope I get to fight those bastards. I would like nothing more than to impale one of them for what they did to my family."
A blizzard whipped up in the evening. Many soldiers were told to get back inside but I joined the men stationed on the outside. There were reports of an infiltration by the Shikaniran forces, spotted by someone who was called Captain Tae Ho. There was no reason for me to be on guard, I was not one of the soldiers. But by instinct, I grabbed a spear and scanned the area.
We were not ready for their attack. Agile combatants entered the Fort using the blizzard as cover. While our men were slowed by the weather conditions, they were unaffected. We could move through snow but they were one with the blizzard. Men were cut down like grass, staining white with splashes of red.
I thrust my spear at one of them.
The man attempted to slash at me before his death but I kicked him off my weapon. In the chaos of battle, I lost sight of the other men. The Shikaniran soldier got up and started to limp away from the battle. I took it upon myself to finish him off. I ran up behind him and drove my spear through him once more.
He released a guttural cry. I once again kicked him off my spear, letting the corpse fall onto the ground. I took a good look at the soldier. Just like the dummies, he wore a mask. I noticed a pendant, tied to his hand. Attached to a steel chain was a ring.
"Nations cannot find peace," a familiar voice said. "Divided people only find conflict. Shikanira was founded on the legacy of your friend, Xue Lo. On the other hand, Ryeo's citizens carry the ideals of Yin."
I did not remember the owner of those names. But I felt hatred surge within me. The visions did not end there. The voice taught me more, reminded me of who I am.
I am Yuan the Forsaken, the Hero Lost To Memory. For my sacrifice was in vain, I shall undo it. The paths of darkness that have been forged after my death will be torn asunder. My light will conquer and bring an everlasting peace.
Such is the destiny of the Last Chosen.
"How is the Lord?"
"I have guided him through all the visions, as you have requested. I have shown him the truth and convinced him of his Messianic nature."
"Thank you, Saranae. With Lord Yuan guiding us, we will be able to cleanse this land of its impurities. And we will finally achieve the distant dream. A united Takarahana."
"Long live Lord Yuan and may his reign be everlasting."
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worldofvixen · a year ago
Weird News
Here comes the first challenge :) 
- Are you reading this crap again? -  I sat down next to my mother at the breakfast table. I couldn’t hide my disgust for something, what she held in her hand and called a newspaper. 
- There are some interesting things in it.  -  my mother looked at me with an angry look. In the meantime, I poured myself some coffee, and took some food. The breakfast at my  childhood house, not comparable to anything. I need to waik up, because it will be a long way to go home.  
- Of course like UFOs, Big Foot and returning ghosts. 
- Don't joke with ghosts, they do exist -  My Mother tried to teach me. - Mrs. Wilson has said , she often sees her poor husband  sitting in the small garden, which he loved so much,  while he was  alive. 
- Oh, gosh! She's alone, lonely, and she's old, and I’m sure she eats a lot of strong medicine. 
 - Yes, she is old, but not fool. I say, our loved ones never leave us, they watch us. - my mother replied. 
- Well, then they see a lot of things they shouldn't, -  I laughed. I was simply unable to take this whole thing seriously,  And I was not at all happy, that my mother believed in such things. 
-  That mockery again. -  she shook his head disapprovingly.  - You act like,  your science knows the answer to everything!
- No, we do not know the answer to many things. Not yet! But I’m sure there’s an explanation for everything. Which can be physics, chemistry, biology, etc. But not this paranormal trashy. 
We continued to eat in silence. Meanwhile, my phone “beeped”,  that a message had come. A happy smile ran through me face, even though I only saw the sender. I was hoping Mom wouldn't notice anything,  because she was starting to combine, asking questions, and I didn't want to explain about nothing.  But I probably blushed, which he immediately noted. 
- Why are you so happy? Who was that? She tried to lurk, even putting down the newspaper.
- Just a workmate. - I wanted to cut this conversation. 
- In an early morming? - she looked at me, with a raised eyebrow, and full of with questions. 
- Is it a problem? It's not early, anyway. - I want to skipp this, so I asked her if she could pack me some snacks for the trip, because the 9-hour train ride would be long.
- You girl, you're not telling me something. -  she growled than, she  got up to take the couple of dirty dishes to the sink.
- How could I lie to you? -  I asked back with a smile.  - You know me very well. Sometimes I feel,  You're almost reading my mind.
- I’m sure,  you don’t believe that? 
- In telepathy? No. At least not, as these newspapers serve it. - I waved the newspaper.
- And I'm already starting to be glad that some boy wrote to you. You live there, in that big city alone. You're not going anywhere, you're going to run out of time.
- Oh, no, not again. We've talked about this so many times. - I feel embarrassed that the same record was playing again and again, when I visited them. 
- You could really find someone. You're not so ugly to be left alone. It’s true that your humor is sometimes very hurtful, but you can be nice too.
I didn't answer him, but started to flip through the newspaper ,  because it’s even better than this “marriage” topic. 
“Weird News”  I didn't like the title either. 
There were interviews with the medium, case study reports, photos. I don’t even remember when I read much stupid things like these. Sometimes I had to growl.  Mom looked back at me.
- What's so awful?
- Just listen this -  I started to read aloud.
“ Special! “ - stood at the beginning of one article. What could be so important is that it should be highlighted.
“ There are mysteries in a small town in New Mexico . The locals are afraid of the ghost motel, but it is not the only thing that disturbs the calm of the surrounding,  But also the people who emerge from nowhere under mysterious circumstances.
A bizarre and unexplained case haunts the life of Toryn Holden from Pennsylvania. The 43-year-old man got into an argument at a bar with a stranger. Word followed word by word, we couldn’t agree on who had right. We started pushing. And what happened next is inconceivable to me to this day. - Toryn began his story. -  After then he started preaching about etiquette and respect,then took a sheet of paper resembling a ticket out of his pocket and said he would send me to Hell for my sins. “
I laughed at that sentence. This sonds so funny, but I continued the reading 
“ He hit my forehead with that ticket, and the next one what I remember I falled down and then hit the ground. I was really scared because I was sure I’m in the Hell. There was nothing there but an empty road and an old ruined house, plus it was warm. No doubt the guy was telling the truth, and he sent me to Hell. 
I don't know who wrote this article but he or she has really good fantasy.
“I started walking. I didn't quite understand the situation. Then I reached the town, where several locals tried to reassure me that I was still alive, and no matter how unfriendly this place seemed, it wasn’t Hell. I landed in Gallup, New Mexico,  so that a few moments before I drank a beer in another state, thousands of miles from here. Even then, my biggest problem was how to get home. 
Yeah, and someone's even belive in this. Then they wrote about it wasen't first case. It has happened before. The locals are afraid, but most of all they just don’t like the fact that those who get here believe their town is the Hell.
- And you asked, why I don’t like this kind of newspaper... - I grimaced. and I put it back to the table. . -  If the guy invented teleportation, he's a genius. But in my opinion this Toryn guy got drunk terribly ugly and doesn’t even remember going there.
- But he said, he just “ooops, he just found himself there  “- mom said 
- Then he a genius. Or the guy with the ticket. But if this technique exists , I would pay for it. Just immagine, I could skip the 9-hour train ride. Unfortunately, this is not possible. -  I shook my head. - "Does anyone seriously believe such shit?" Teleport would be one if not the greatest invention of mankind.
- There are inexplicable things, you said that . -  Mom reminds me of what I said a few minutes earlier.
- That's a fact! Just like the fact that someone can’t suddenly disappear in one half of the country and show up somewhere else. This is contrary to all physical laws.  Anyway, you’ve noticed that most of these strange cases happen in some wretched little town. A lot of stupid people…
- Beware what you're talking about! - my Mom wouldn't let him finish the sentence - Maybe you're a big-city girl right now and you can be proud of your job in the university. But never forget where would you come. You also came from such a wretched place with silly people.
- I did not mean. - I was ashamed of myself. I didn't want to hurt her. - Sorry. I was just annoyed that they wanted to brainwash people with these.
- “If you weren’t so rigid and dismissive of everyone, I’m sure, you would be happier. Be forgiving to people. You never know, maybe even this Gallup tale is true.
- Then I hope and can send a few people to Hell. - a laughed, but she didn’t find this funny. 
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