Safia Elhillo, from Home Is Not a Country; “Boys”
If thou hadst looked at me, thou hadst loved me.
"You know it", "What do I know?" / "That I only have eyes for you".
‘Look at me’ is one of the most fundamental desires of the human heart.
Her eye and my ‘I’: / Her gazing / Creates me.
He had given me a piece of himself that he had never given to another human being, and I hadn't even bothered to look at it. Why was I doing that?
To see and to be seen
Salomé, Oscar Wilde
Diary, Sylvia Plath
A Thousand Splendid Suns, Khalid Hosseini
What Desires Are Politically Important?, Bertrand Russell
Portrait of Fryderyk in Shifting Light, Richard Siken
How Beautiful the Beloved, Gregory Orr
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, B. A. Sàenz
151: All the Parallels and Callbacks
Someone on reddit asked for an analysis of episode 151, specifically asking if there’s any links to past or future episodes, or if it could provide insight into Nol and Shinae’s future, so I took it upon myself to write the piece I’ve been dying to, about all the parallels and callbacks presented in this episode. Spoiler alert: It’s A LOT. If you guys have learned anything from me so far, I hope it’s that i absolutely LOVE parallels, mirrors, and foils.
Sticking this under a read more because it’s that long lol
I think there are a lot of things that can be taken away from 151. Importantly, this is an emotional catalyst for Nol and Shinae and how their relationship will ultimately be one day. I am an optimist and I believe that we will ultimately see a reconciliation between them - I hope for sooner than later, but knowing the current state of Nol, it's hard to really assume we'll get to see that any time soon, but.... frankly we know so little of what goes on inside of his head. Rather than get into the obvious things about how much pain we know Nol is in, and to what extent his self-loathing is that he's willing to abandon his friends, I think an interesting focus is the amount of parallels and callbacks we get in this episode.
Parallels and callbacks
The very opening is obviously a callback to the different stages of Nol and Shinae's developing friendship, echoes of the lines he said to her as he endeavored to make a friend out of her. The melting snowflake feels like the way she thawed out thanks to him and ultimately let him in. I also think, though, the opening is not only a recollection emphasizing how meaningful it was that Shinae let him in, but is also her own manner of thinking towards him: "We'd make such a great team", "Let's be friends", "It's not good to bottle everything up inside. You can only hold out for so long before you break."
More than that, the last part feels directed especially at both of them - Shinae wants Nol to open up and tell her all these things he's been hiding, all the burdens he's keeping to himself, but just as well, there is only so much she can take before she also breaks. Even without being inside her head, we know Shinae is breaking; she's showing more emotion than she typically does, she's saying vulnerable things, she cries a couple different times.
I think "I feel like shit. Why do I feel like shit? Why am I not angry?" is a callback to the hospital, on the balcony when she asked Nol why he keeps smiling and "I felt like shit when I heard what happened to you! How can you be fine when I'm not?" In fact, in general, this entire scene is a lovecall to the hospital balcony scene, which was also a case of Shinae having to chase down Nol because he is trying avoid her and she's worried about him. She doesn't consciously realize it yet, why she feels like shit, why anger is not her predominant, immediate emotion, but we can surmise that it's her genuine worry and care that has her upset. She's upset because she's realized how little she knew about someone she cares about - she's upset that he's yet again in the way of harm. Shinae sincerely cares about Nol.
I'm not sure if we can count these, but I think it's worth considering that "Were you planning on leaving without saying goodbye?" feels reminiscent of Shinae finding out Nol was planning to go to Oxford with "You were planning on leaving?" I think more important than how they connect to each other is how they foil with Alyssa, who has shown little reaction to Nol choosing to go abroad, going as far as to encourage him with "It's like we're already long distance anyway" or whatever and "I'm not going to stand in the way of what you want" (further juxtaposed with her reaction to learning Kousuke might be leaving for Japan). Unlike Alyssa, Shina is the one who shows actual concern and reluctance about learning Nol is leaving, and is legitimately upset about the idea of it. We can always argue that what bothers her most is that he didn't tell her he was planning this, which is a fair argument, but I wager Shinae would still be upset about the idea of him leaving had he told her. She probably wouldn't try to stop him, but the point still stands that I think Shinae would be more upset than Alyssa shows herself to be.
Someone else brought up the Nol and Alyssa parallel, which I'll link here, but I'll also elaborate further. This is, I think, absolutely a purposeful parallel and I think it will serve as a catalyst for things to come. Much like the way Minhyuk teasing "Why would anyone want to be friends with you?" was a catalyst for Shinae's doubt and trust issues coming forth, Nol echoing Alyssa's "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to" will probably (subconsciously) come to play. The words are spoken now when he unintentionally makes her fall, but it's worth noting that on different occasions, both have caused Shinae injury from a fall from a balcony. I do think there is a lot of stock in Shinae/Nol/Alyssa as a trio of foils, parallels, and mirrors, but I get more into that in the comment over there and it's a bit off tangent here. The point though is, it's certainly a parallel, and I believe the way Nol handles it will factor into some ideas about what we can expect from their future dynamic. (Nol coming to his senses and apologizing/atoning would be a departure from Alyssa who, as far as we've been shown, never seemed to really atone for what she did. But maybe that's yet withheld information.)
Comparing "I should distrust you" to "You've proven to me that you're somebody I can trust" feels a little.... weird since it's less of a callback or parallel as much as something that comes from a past episode of a future we've yet to see played out, but I do think it's worth considering this, because right now, it's hard to imagine how Shinae and Nol's relationship will play out/repair by the time the party happens. Does that mean that somehow, in between those scenes, they'll patch it up? Does it mean she'll pick up on the signs he's been having for years? I know a lot of people have hoped that this means he'll be the person who shows up on the balcony and they'll reconcile, but she has that thought before the mystery person appears so.... I can't give anything concrete for this but assume it's some kind of sign that between now and then, some kind of peace will happen. What kind remains a mystery. (I think it's also a nice parallel to Shinae's trust issues period; Shinae has confessed to Dieter that she's doubted her friends before, so being able to admit that she trusts someone at all is a pretty significant deal, I think. "You've quickly become someone I can trust." That is SO unusual for someone as guarded Shinae, hence our little melting snowflake.)
"I don't want you to go away" foils, again, Alyssa never saying these words to Nol, but also Kousuke, in a very direct way. "Why did they have to keep coming back?... I want him out of my life!" Again, Shinae is the ONLY person besides Nana that we've seen who tells Nol that she wants him here, wants him to stay. Alyssa never fought for him to stay, but Shinae came out in the freezing rain!!!! to tell him this and to fight for him. Even Rand has said things about how he should have sent Nol away. But Shinae wants him to stay.
"I don't want you to disappear" is bigger than the previous line, and imposed over his face, which looks a little less guarded as he watches her and listens to her tell him the things he's wished people would tell him. Just days prior (like, literally 2 nights ago?) he overheard Kousuke, when he reached out to him and tried to call him, saying "They just wouldn't disappear!" and "I want him out of my life!" But again, we have Shinae telling him: I don't want you to leave. I don't want you to disappear.
The juxtaposition of Alyssa's "Do you hate me" versus Shinae's "You don't hate yourself, do you?" really cuts through me, because it's just yet again another iteration of how Alyssa doesn't see Nol for who he is but for how he views her. Alyssa is all about upkeeping images, how people see her, and people-pleasing. She needs Nol to not hate her. Shinae, though, is seeing Nol as something broken, something in pain. Alyssa asks him on her behalf, Shinae asks him on his behalf. Again, more cases of how people miss so many things about Nol, even people who are supposed to be the closest to him, people who are supposed to be on his side, people who are supposed to be on his emotional wavelength. Shinae is seeing a vulnerable side of Nol that he's carefully guarded and tried to keep people from seeing, but she still sees it and asks.
I think we can call the two times Nol reaches for Shinae callbacks, as well, because they are not the first time he's reached out to her and been unable (or rather, would not allow himself) to close the distance. The first time he reaches, he doesn't close the distance, because he believes he doesn't deserve it, because the whole point is to walk away from her and create that distance. The second time, he can't help but finally close the distance, because Shinae doubting their friendship is too much for him to bear. The irony, that he's here trying to literally abandon her and their friends, but the thought of her doubting their friendship is what breaks him and gets the mask to drop, at least for that moment. For one intense moment, Nol allows himself to seek and give the comfort that he's wanted to since the night on the hospital balcony, to console Shinae the way she deserves, and maybe to console an anguished part of himself. It doesn't last long before has his guard up, but for one moment, he allows himself to give in.
Someone also noted that the way Shinae tips her face up when she cries into the rain is very much the same kind of pose she has in the prologue, after she's splashed in the car and she looks up at the sky, saying she just wants to feel okay again. And Shinae most definitely is not feeling okay again - which puts us again at odds with the mid-season trailer where Shinae is saying she's finally feeling okay. Again it leaves us wondering: what the heck is going to happen between now and the Minhyuk's party? I have to assume there will be some kind of reconciliation, based on the way Shinae narrated of Nol with such fondness, but is it fondness of someone who is still friends with him? Or fondness of someone who let him go peacefully?
What does this say for their futures?
A long time ago, I used to think our timeskip would see all three MCs going their separate ways and reunited by some kind of event that makes them come back together. I still wonder if we might see that, but in a different way than we expected? But at the time, I thought that Nol would skip out to Oxford without saying goodbye to his friends, so when he and Shinae reunited they'd be on bad terms, at odds with each other. I don't.... think that's the case. There wouldn't be all this emotional climax right now if that were to be the big obstacle between them. In fact, in a weird way I think this is an act that will strengthen Shinae and Nol's relationship to come. It's hard for me to like, actually put this into words in a way that makes sense, but it just feels like something breaking so that it will grow back stronger - maybe this can be a catalyst of some kind for Nol finally, eventually opening up to Shinae? I like to hope that he'll be haunted by how much he hurt her and find that he can't bear it and he can't stand to part that way but Nol is so resolute and stubborn that frankly, I'm not sure if that will work. Will she ask Dieter and Soushi how to find Nol's home and track him down there?
More than that, though, I think what this episode has done is first off, reinforced that Nol and Shinae are absolutely mirrors to each other. We already kind of knew it, with the Wacdonalds Nugget scene, where Shinae noted that it seems like they've switched roles - now she's chasing him down and he's the one who needs to open up. But even more than that, Shinae is seeing just how much she and Nol are mirrors: both of them have been carrying burdens they cannot share (Shinae is learning to share hers; Nol holds tight to his); both of them have been at breaking points (Shinae finally relied on people; Nol is literally breaking and continuing to combust as we speak); they both have worn facades, etc. etc. I think there is a lot to glean from the way they share weaknesses - faking it for others, a lack of care for themselves, feelings of being a burden.
There's more that we as readers can glean, too - Nol was made his whole life to feel like nothing, that he's worthless. Shinae as a child bullied by people was also told she's worthless. Both of them have such little self-value, but the difference is that because of Nol, Shinae has started to work on these flaws of hers. And I think, in time (and with healing because Nol's issues are pretty deep and this ain't a love heals everything fairytale), with Shinae Nol will be able to work on his, too. They have a tendency to amplify the good in each other. Even while he tries to pull away and distance himself from Shinae, Nol still goes out of the way to help and defend her. He believes himself a villain, but at his core, he's a good man who wants to help those who cares about, a hero in the shadows. Shinae has learned from Nol to let her guard down, to let people in, and give them chances, that she needs to rely on people. It's funny that he hasn't learned these lessons for himself, but I think it's something that he will ruminate on in time we'll see him making these same improvements in himself.
If nothing else, I think this episode has absolutely reinforced that Nol and Shinae are tethered to each other - even if they were to part right now and go their separate ways, they are inevitably going to be drawn back to each other, because they are the people who bring out the best in each other, who reflect each others' flaws and weaknesses and makes it easier to identify and work on them. They will in the future remain (become again?) a team, no matter what their paths become. Will they work together for the Hirahara Corp and try to dismantle things from the inside? Will they work together to find their own paths, the ones that are right for them? No matter what it winds up being, I think it's been really reinforced to us that Nol and Shinae are two halves of a whole. There's a lot of theories about why Nol gets illustrated in shadows relating to his anti-hero arc; maybe Nol is the shadow to Shinae's light, and together they cover that spectrum and ground each other? That's conjecture and I'd be interested in hearing if people have any better ideas on that. I do think, though, that they will continue to ground each other. Even if we went with a "three MCs off on their own separate ways to reunite again later" we'd see that Shinae and Nol reuniting would probably be some kind of grounding that they'll find they need at that time.
God this is so long and I apologize profusely lmao but this is something I've been wanting to write so I couldn't resist the urge to do it! And because I teased my Stalkyoo feelings, I think it does make me feel a little optimistic about them as a pairing. Nol and Shinae have been demonstrated so many times as being people who get each other. While Shinae wasn't able to see through Nol's mask until now, she was able to notice the smaller things - I always think of that scene after she eats out with Kousuke and Nol when she notices his knuckles are scuffed up from his punching bag, and the surprise on his face when she says something because people don't pay attention to those details. It's the way she always says the things Nol needs to hear, actually pays attention to him, actually CARES about him. I know the bar is REALLY low lol between "Hey I'm cold let's go inside" and "Aren't you cold you should go inside" but when you're a person who hasn't been given much attention or affection, being noticed by anyone means a lot. And likewise, we've seen that Nol is a person who can often anticipate Shinae's needs (Kousuke sends her coat away; Nol intercepts it to get it back to her. The whole black and white formal arc is nothing but a demonstration of the ways Kousuke tries to help Shinae without an actual understanding of her needs vs Nol knowing very well what she requires and doing what he can to help her) as well as that he's a person who, despite trying this best to pull away, still can't resist helping her. I could literally write an essay on why I ship them, but to link this to the episode: I think 151 has revealed that the framework is long since established for these two. They each carry a deep care for one and other. I'm not saying they're in love or anything - they definitely aren't yet, though I do believe that they are both developing feelings. But by that I mean, the seeds are sown. 151 reveals that they are ultimately incredibly important to each other, and I feel a whole episode dedicated to this emotional break, to Shinae being shattered by his betrayal seems pretty significant, right? But this is a whole other aside lol.
To let a person see you, the actual you, and not the persona you've created as a form of preservation, is love at its truest form.
To be seen by someone who would accept you for your flaws and quirks, and to be given the opportunity to see another person's nature without the barricade of heart-shaped glasses is simultaneously heartwarming and terrifying.
Maybe that's why the concept of soulmates is idealised, we are terrified of rejection for being a human with flaws.
To anyone interested in the dynamic between Alina and the Darkling, you should read this bc it is just pure art. Once I started it, I could do nothing but keep on reading. If the power imbalance between the two original characters usually disturbs you, this fic really fixes this aspect by making Alina and the Darkling true equals. It also gives characters much deeper developpment, ridding the original story of its exaggerated manicheism.
Moreover, if you're interested in thirsting over Ben Barnes and his rendering of the Darkling, this fic is definitely also for you. You won't regret it. (just replace the "grey" before the word "eyes" with "impossibly dark" and it works)
Warnings: Malina shippers or simply Mal lovers will be disappointed by the fact that his character is...not part of the story (as Nikolaï, btw). So pure Darklina here. Plus this fic may or may not include hot bedroom scenes with the shadow man so sensitive souls keep away or just skip the sexy parts.
So I found this book at Goodwill
Robot arm. Cool. Awesome. Then I read the summary
Holy hell this book sounds awesome! A female pirate named Jack?! Color me gay. AND THEN. I turn a few pages... y'all the dedication
Is this what I think it is????
But wait. There's more. I turn the page and there it is. My favorite sea shanty (at the moment) in all its glory
The Last Saskatchewan Pirate. Damn I love that song.
Annalee Newitz, babe, I've got high hopes and a shit ton of coffee.
Please please please let it be queer
Guys the way my eyes teared up by this trailer I legit have tears in my eyes I am so excited I cant wait for you all to see it! I just cant believe the magic of my country the colors, the music, the joy and quirks, the world is gonna get to see it and Im so happy Im so incredibly proud, I can varely type right now Im just 😭❤❤✊🏼✊🏼✊🏼🇨🇴
A Playful Family
OTP Challenge 10/02/2020
Pairing: Thor x Reader Word Count: 2,003
Warnings: Adult themes, language, LOTS of more fluff, sexy talk
A/N: This is for @thefanficfaerie ‘s OTP Challenge. I’m really enjoying these! Writing these out and just getting them out right away without worrying too much about plot. Just character stories with a family I already love. If you happen to reblog, thanks so much for helping me spread my work! xoxo
“NO!” Thor shouts, nearly pushing your heart to stopping as he jumps towards you from the stairs.
You jump and gasp, pressing your hand against your chest as you try to catch your breath.
“Thor, what the fu-?”
“Ah-ah!” Thor chastises you, frowning. “Little ears abound, my sweetest, beautiful, loving, and most of all forgiving wife.”
He closes the distance between you, putting his hands on your hips and pulling you against his chest.
“What did you do?” You ask him, suspicious but he chuckles and kisses you, bring both hands up to hold your head still as he does.
His kiss is sweet and warm, a fluttering of his lips prompts yours open and he tastes you, guiding your head to the right as his own goes left and he wraps his arms around you to support your weight as he dips you to the side and very nearly sweeps you off your feet.
Your eyebrows shoot up into your hairline as your arms go limp and you drop your sewing bag. Without its weight, you reach up and wrap your arms around his neck loosely as Thor kisses all of your senses away.
He draws his tongue out slowly, letting it trace the center part of your upper lip as he stands you upright again. When you’re straight he gives you one final peck.
You’re not unaware of the fact that you’re standing there with your arms around him, lips still puckered, and your eyes shut as your now foggy mind begins to clear.
Holy fuck, this man can kiss.
“Now I know you did something.” You mumble.
Thor laughs but reaches down to take your bag and hurries around to hang it in its spot by the door. Your little bungalow, gifted by Tony when Thor had left you pregnant—though in his defense he didn’t know you were pregnant when he left you—hasn’t changed much. There are new additions to your walls and tables. New pictures with Thor and Rosie and Ben looking bigger and happier with his sister and his daddy at his side.
Your little kitchen with it’s round table is more scuffed than before with Thor here to add his own rough touch to it every now and then. Ben’s booster seat is gone as he’s grown enough to sit without one, but Rosie’s highchair sits among the other three, pink and yellow and green. And all throughout an array of pumpkins, both plaster and plastic, Rosie’s color changing ones on the island counter by the jar of Splenda packets.
Ben’s spoopy mirrors are hung upstairs along the hallway, wrapped in pulled cotton spiderwebs.
“I have done nothing. That is to say, nothing worth you getting angry at me over.” Thor corrects himself when you look skeptical. “May I ask a favor?”
With your arms hanging at your side, your coat still on, Thor slides behind you and helps you take it off. “Depends on the favor.”
Thor nods, moving to stand before you as he folds your jacket neatly and works out the creases you’ve made throughout the day. “What if I told you it was more a favor for Ben, than for me? Would that make you more amenable?”
You glare at him, reaching down with his hands nice and busy, and slide it far back enough that you can reach his butt and give it a pinch.
He jumps, “Hey!”
“You using our son to get me to agree to play your sick games?” You accuse.
Thor smiles slowly, softly, and the look in his eyes drives all teasing from you and makes your stomach flip. How can he look at you like that? How can he mean it? After everything you two have been through to get to this happy place—this happy home—you still can’t believe that Thor picked you.
“Only if it works.” He admits.
“Fine.” You sigh.
Thor smiles more widely then moves around you to hang your coat.
His heat suddenly wraps around you from behind, his hands tracing all the way down to your wrists then the backs of your hands which he cups gently, taking hold of them as he presses himself against you.
You can feel his pelvis pressed against your bottom, the subtle rubbing he’s teasing you with probably to punish you for the pinch to his butt.
When he speaks, the heat of his breath wafts along your ear and neck, chills erupting along your skin as your heart begins to pound and your panties become suddenly soaked.
“Close your eyes.” He whispers, voice so deep you can feel it in your hoo-haw.
“Thor-” You plead, hating him every bit for torturing you.
He leans a little further forward and presses a kiss to your cheek. “Please?”
You sigh but do as he wishes, shutting your eyes tight.
He takes hold of your head again, tilting it back and sideways until your lips meet his and he gives you another world melting kiss that leaves you breathless and hungry for more.
“I’ll be right back.” He tells you, then abandons you and what sounds like sprinting up the stairs.
“You’re gonna break the house!” You call to him, but he doesn’t reply.
A few minutes pass and your patience grows thin. You open your eyes and look up at the second floor landing but find it empty.
“Thor? How much longer?!”
“Do you have your eyes shut?!” Thor booms down the stairs.
You sigh, shaking your head as you turn slowly and press your hands over your eyes. With a smile you wait, your mind racing with all the possible surprises Thor and Ben might have cooked up in your absence.
“Okay! They’re shut.”
You try not to turn instantly when you hear Thor’s footsteps coming down the stairs accompanied by the sound of much smaller feet at his side.
You can hear Ben’s quiet giggle, his voice a little hiss. “Mommy will wuv it, wight daddy?”
“She’ll love it.” Thor whispers back and your heart could explode with the love you have for your boys.
They stop walking and a moment passes before Thor clears his throat. “Okay, you can look now.”
You turn, much too eager to see what they’ve been doing to take it slow and you very nearly fall to your knees at the sight of them.
All three of them, Thor, Ben at his side, and Rosie kicking and slapping her hands against Thor’s chest in excitement are dressed in footie pajamas.
Thor’s are black, the outline of bones along every inch of it making him look like a walking skeleton. Ben’s a little scarecrow with brown shoes, green pants with sewn in patches, a checkered red and yellow shirt with a patched up brown vest. Just above where the shoes end, where his pants end, and where his shirt meets his neck and wrists are tufts of soft stringy sun colored threads and fabric to make it look as if he is indeed fill with hay.
In Thor’s arms, Rosie’s own onesie is black on the top with what looks like the outline of what should be a corset that runs into the skirt of her pajamas stitched into the onesie, and then her legs are purple and green, made to look like a witch’s socks.
“Oh my goodness!” You gasp, genuinely pleased by the sight, downright tickled by how adorable your babies look but you play up the reaction for the benefit of your little ones.
Ben giggles, jumping once but remembers the rule about jumping in the house and stops immediately.
“You wike it, mommy?” Ben asks, clinging to Thor’s free hand tightly.
“I love it, sweet pea. Oh you all look so amazing! Come here, come give me a hug!” You drop to your knees and open your arms for him and he flies right for you, clinging tight when he’s in your arms.
“Surprise!” Thor exclaims, grabbing Rosie’s hand and shaking her little fist in celebration, then speaks for her. “Surprise, momma!”
“My Rosie, look at her, she looks so dang cute, Thor! Where did you find these?” You let Ben pull away from you as he runs into the living room, excited and eager to expend the extra energy that this little show has given him.
“At the shop, when we went to buy the decorations. I have yours upstairs. Yours is all white, with a shocked ghost face on it. Kinda looks like you did when I startled you.” He chuckles, teasing you heartlessly.
“Jerk.” You laugh, getting up and reaching for Rosie. She throws herself at you and you smother her cheek with kisses as Thor marches into the living room after Ben.
“Alright, son, we’ve shown your mother the pajamas. It’s time for bed.”
Ben gives a small defiant whine but then struts to the stairs and with lead in his feet and a pout on his lips, he walks up the stairs with Thor trailing behind him.
“Are you really trying it on?” Thor calls from the room, waiting for you to make your appearance in your Halloween themed PJs.
“Of course. I need you to see me in it.” You tell him, wicked and knowing as to what you’re about to do.
He deserves it. He really deserves it after what he pulled downstairs.
“You’re not looking right?” You check, waiting with your hand on the door to your bathroom.
You’d left him sitting on his side of the bed, facing the large glass sliding doors that lead to the tiny balcony attached to your room. He’d already drawn the curtains thankfully.
“No. I’m not looking. I won’t cheat.” He promises and you believe him.
“Okay, here I come!” You announce then pull the door open and step out into your room.
He’s really still sitting facing the doors.
“What do you think?” You ask him and watch him lift his left leg onto the bed to traverse and turn towards you as best he can.
He might have been expecting the ghost pajamas but what you give him instead is soft gray baby doll lingerie set, with lace that looks like twisting dead tree branches along the top of your bust. The V neck ends between your breasts where the clasp holds the skimpy nightie shut. The layers of thin sheer fabric flow out at uneven lengths but hide just enough of the matching gray panties to tempt and give tantalizing sneaky peeks.
Thor’s jaw drops. He freezes. His eyes devour you from head to toe, but he doesn’t speak as you give him one quick spin that gives him a generous amount of you to ogle, the stop and pretend to only just remember the finishing touch.
“Oh! I almost forgot.” You move around the bed towards your small vanity by the sliding doors and reach for the headband with small black horns.
You slide them onto your head and turn back to Thor, smiling when you see that his gaze has followed you from one side of the room to the other.
“Well? What do you think?” You give him another spin then sigh. “Maybe I should just go put on the ghost?”
You pretend to think about it.
“Yeah, I think the ghost would be better. Right?” You nod and make to move back around the bed to the bathroom but Thor’s arm shoots out at you like a cobra and with an easy pull he’s got you falling onto the bed on your back, bouncing as you laugh.
“Woah,” You laugh again. “Okay, maybe I’ll keep this one on then.”
“No.” Thor shakes his head, reaching down between your knees to trace his hot calloused fingers along the soft flesh of your inner thighs. “No, I think you should take it off.”
His hands makes you breathless and as his fingers find the elastic edge of your underwear, you gasp, and he swallows hard.
“Here, let me help you.”
What did she want? Adventures. Cupcakes and kulfi. To be star bright and mortal dark and make her own choices, too. To not be bound by other people’s expectations.
More than anything, to be seen.
― Shveta Thakrar, Star Daughter
❛ 25 . a kiss on the fingertips . [Either khoi or roka]
The Shroud sang with its evening song, the melody as varied as the voices of its many participants. Quiet chirping and rustling leaves played the chorus deep into the midnight hours as soft wind swept through the Wood. Its harmony was accented by the quiet babbling of a nearby stream and distant howls crying up towards the breaks in full canopy above. Although many might find the lurking presence and enclouding darkness unsettling as daylight swept away over the horizon, the strange pair couldn’t be more at home.
Vaza had lost track of the passing time since that first bloody encounter. Time had slipped away without mention as they’d continue to stumble upon each other; the huntress supposed that was bound to happen when they were both were in search of a common prey. Yet each new grisly rendezvous ushered forth a budding kinship, however lurid that shared interest might be. Before long such meetings were planned as they took off to hunt the hunters, often leaving ghastly scenes in their wake.
But tonight was different.
With appetites sated and aether sufficient to quiet that beckoning call, the pair sought to enjoy a more pleasant evening. There was no blood to drip from their fingertips as they lounged over a comfy mass of furs and pillows, each with a book splayed open before them. The Keeper’s head enjoyed a resting place against Roka’s stomach, her own tome situated across scarred thighs as a claw was used to flip between pages. Music churned quietly from an orchestration downstairs; the women having chosen Vaza’s quaint hovel for the night. Where they ended up on occasion was often unspoken, discovering both their homes within a reasonable distance in the thick of the Wood.
Chilled skin rose and fell with each quiet breath, neither overcome with a need to fill the silence between them as the night slipped away. The lush tail of her guest was warm against her side, and one hand rested idly upon her shoulder while the other turned their pages. It was a simple pleasure to enjoy the other’s company, relishing in a companionship where there was no need to hide those dark urges away. Every so often the huntress felt that familiar pang in her chest dampen, the quiet ache soothed just within the woman’s presence. However faint, it started to begin feeling strangely like home; like that lost aspect she never imagined could possibly return.
Soft breath tumbled over parted tiers, molten hues locked upon the page of her tome as her free hand drifted lazily up to the touch upon her shoulder. Calloused fingertips laced within Roka’s, drawing them gently towards where soft tiers brushed over the digits thoughtfully. Such a gesture earned a brief glance from the blonde-headed not’qote, but the silence remained as she’d simply look back over to her own book.
Whatever it was, Vaza would enjoy it however long it would last.
Thank you so much for the prompt @rokachan! It was fun to imagine the complete opposite types of encounters they could have together. Murderbots just hanging out enjoying the evening.
the presents they measured (the presence she treasured)
Love is a powerful motivator. Jealous is even more so. Suddenly, someone finds themselves falling faster than they knew how to breathe, before they knew they were even walking to the edge of a cliff, too quickly to enjoy the scenery on the walk over, and all they know is that by the time they crash-land, they’d better be ready to fight. Someone pushed them over the edge. It’s time for revenge.
Happy @felinettenovember, y’all! Yes, we are in fact back to happy times. This has been written in collaboration with @musicfren, who will be posting the second part on his account tomorrow. It continues to be fluffy fluff, don’t worry... for now >:3 We’ll be doing every weekend pair together, so follow him if you don’t already or you’ll be missing a whole chapter!!!
Part 1 below. Part 2 upcoming.
“...did I miss Marinette’s birthday?”
“Dude, what are you talking about? Mari’s birthday is in April.” Nino shoots a pointed look at the snow drifting down to the streets as he shakes the now-sludgy water off his snow boots and starts unwrapping himself out of his winter gear, piling them up in a wet mess on Felix’s desk. Felix, for once, chooses not to complain, opting instead to focus on the main issue here.
“Well, but there’s a gift on her desk and November seventh is definitely too early for holiday gifts.” Felix smirks slyly at a camera no one else can see as he said the date, making Nino send him a weird look. Then again, Felix was weird all the time. Nino is used to it by now, so he doesn’t comment any further.
Nino shoots him a sidelong glance. “Dude, why are you specifically checking her desk?”
“Unimportant, I saw it as I walked in. Do you know who put it there?” Felix says, swerving the discussion violently back to the most salient point.
“…bruh… her desk requires you to turn almost 180˚ from where you would need to go for your desk.”
“Unimportant, I said.” Hopefully his Ladybug-red blush doesn’t show under the still-flickering half on lights that no one has bothered to flick the other switch for. The back half of the classroom is bathed in residual light and Felix can hardly see his own hand in front of him, but by Nino’s amused smirk, his blush is clearly bright enough to light up the path to his doom.
Nino opens his mouth, but whatever snark he was going to respond with is lost under a quiet “ooooooh!” and the sound of wrapping paper being carefully pried apart. Felix turns and his meticulously coiffed composure slips a bit.
“Marinette!” He half-falls out of his chair as he scampers anxiously to her side. He stands protectively behind her as if about to pull her to safety, hands hovering awkwardly around her waist, but she seems far too engrossed by the present before her to notice. Later, Felix will blush and be glad she didn’t. Later than that, she’ll admit she saw and just chose to ignore it, and Felix will blush again.
“I wonder what it i-- ooh!!” With a small happy gasp, she pulls back the paper (a disgustingly garish shade of green, easily three shades off of the correct shade, obviously) to reveal a dainty box of chocolates and an elegant white card, ornately decorated in gold leaf print. Marinette curiously picks up the card as Felix cranes his head intently over her shoulder. Inside, in pretentiously penciled cursive, is a simple phrase:
“With love, your secret admirer <3”
Felix immediately scoffs, grabbing Marinette’s wrist and pulling her into his chest, but she scarcely pays him any mind, so engrossed is she in her gift.
“Gosh, that’s really thoughtful of them, picking my favorite! Who… whoever they are…”
“It’s not even your favorite kind of chocolate!” Felix screams in his head, and refuses to acknowledge the follow-up question of whether he even knows what her favorite chocolate is. He’s quickly distracted, anyways, when Marinette giggles, which is a very distracting sound, Nino, stop looking at him like that!
“Haha, I could even say it’s… sweet! of them!!” She pops a chocolate in her mouth and Felix is riveted to the way her lips purse around the sweet, the way her tongue swirls around her finger as she sucks the last of it off.
Nino shoots him an impressed glance and mouths, “Dude, nice!” but Felix’s mind is too busy spinning to process why. What on EARTH was happening?!
It takes him the next two classes and most of lunch to work up the courage to ask. “Um… what’s a secret admirer?”
Nino pauses mid-bite, fork dangling in the air, to give Felix such a dumbfounded look that Felix immediately chooses to google the term instead, furtively hiding his phone under the bench. “Dude… why did you use that word if you didn’t even know what it meant, you walnut??”
Felix slams the lid down on his food and walks away immediately, footsteps echoing to the sound of Nino’s laughter.
He hopes to put this baffling incident behind him, but to Felix’s immense distress, the parade of gifts does not stop there. At her locker the next morning, Felix finds himself needing to push through a group of students all cooing over… something he cannot make out from behind the crowd. As he gets closer, he notices flowers pinned up in the shape of a heart over her locker, with a grand bouquet of roses pinned in the center. Felix’s nose twitches, itches, and then--
Rose petals go flying everywhere and Marinette laughs, delighted. Kim nudges into him. “Sick show, bro! She loved that, how’d you time that sneeze??”
Felix doesn’t know. He’s confused. He wants to go home.
Two days after that, the PA system crackles through the classroom five minutes before the class is scheduled to end. Principal Damoclese clears his throat with a sharp peak in the audio and says in his most bored, reading-off-a-paper voice: “Marinette Dupain-Cheng to the courtyard, please, that’s Marinette Dupain-Cheng to the courtyard.” Bustier winks and ends class early, and everyone floods outside to see a teddy bear holding a cute little love-heart. Marinette makes a beeline to it and hugs it immediately, burying her face in its fur. It’s adorable, actually, and Felix tries very hard to not be jealous of a stuffed toy.
He does not succeed.
“OHMIGOSH, Felix!!!” Rose squeals, “That was so romantiiiiic, you’re sooooooo good at this!!! How are you being this sweeeeeeet??? <3 <3 <3” Felix can hear the hearts in her voice. Juleka mumbles something that he can only assume is agreement. Felix just sits down where he was standing and puts his head in his hands. Why did nothing make sense?
Felix leans his head against the window of the car, letting the bumps in the road thunk his forehead against the glass in a nice, soothing, repetitive dull pain, better than the constant headache he’s been living with for the last week. Their words spin about his head, hounding his thoughts. His chauffeur is silent for once
“Sick show, bro!”
“How are you being this sweet???”
And that’s when it hits him, making a hollow thunk off his empty skull.
Someone is getting her these gifts. And they think he did it.
OH NO, THEY KNOW HE LIKES HER! Wait. He likes her?! ...oh no. He DOES.
Staring out at the road speeding by far too fast, Felix clenches his hands into fists. He’d never expected to find himself here: head over heels crushing on a girl that everyone knew he liked before he ever worked it out on his own, a week late into a competition he doesn’t remember entering.
Well, no matter. There’s still time to enter, catch up, win.
The next day, Marinette finds another chocolate box on her desk, bigger, more expensive, and exactly the correct shade of green. Each one is handcrafted into increasingly more elaborate designs, laced with caramel and toffee and candied pecans. The spread takes over her desk and Alya’s, and Felix grins smugly.
“Wait. Didn’t you already do this?” Nino asks, but Felix is too busy. There is an entire wheelbarrow of flowers to deliver by lunch.
His competition moves quickly: by the end of the school day, the PA is playing a serenade for her in front of the whole school. As soon as the bell rings, he cancels his next order and places a rush on the biggest size they offer: clearly, he’s going to need to do better. He doesn’t bother to look at the sizing or the price. Nothing is too big or too expensive for Marinette.
The next day Marinette finds a third box, so big it doesn’t even fit on her desk and instead sits next to it like an awkwardly crouched gremlin. Felix glowers at it, not having realized exactly how big it was going to be, and becoming increasingly concerned as she shrieks with delight, yanking out the artistically crinkled tissue paper and tossing it gleefully behind her, climbing into the giant box as soon as she makes enough space for herself.
Terrified, Felix shuffles over and peeks over the edge. She’s curled up in the paws of his giant stuffed animal, half asleep, looking so cozy he can hardly bear it.
...oh, goodness, he’s getting jealous of a toy again. His own toy, even!
There’s nothing for a few days, and Felix relaxes, and then--
The entire classroom is covered in flowers of every kind come Thursday morning. Bustier cancels the first period and directs everyone coughing and sneezing to the nurse, and convinces everyone who can stand the pollen to help her move it out of the way.
It turns out the class has been talking about the secret admirers-- a lot more than Felix expected. Sometime after the impromptu courtyard concert by Jagged Stone and the last minute fashion walk between classes, and between the endless planning and scheming and glowering, Felix finds himself cornered by Nino, who’s lost his hat, glasses hanging half off his face in a way Felix could’ve sworn they didn’t used to bend, looking more feral than Felix had ever seen him.
“ENOUGH, FELIX.” And then Felix finds himself being dragged bodily to an empty classroom where at last he faces his opponent-- nay, his nemesis. He recognizes them at once, because of the way they, too, are being held prisoner, the only other put together person in the entire room.
Oh, he really should’ve known.
To Be Seen
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“The person who removes a mountain, begins by carrying away small stones.”
Sweet, bright, and floral – words that encapsulate the enticing smell wafting up from a beautifully carved tea tray, with the decanted water flowing down into its grooves to a catch basin underneath. Two pinming tea cups, already warmed and rinsed – painted in a beautiful array of geometric patterns – are a matched set with the tea pitcher currently pouring the first infusion.
“Your tea, Miss.” A large gloved hand – dark and unassuming, except for the dull shimmer of a large jade ring at its thumb, and a shining topaz gem cut in a sharp diamond at the wrist – pushed the filled drink with practiced ease near a seated figure, whose garbs of soft greens, subtle blues, and hints of black, signify a distant relation to the deceased.
“Thank you,” the figure said, her hand reaching for a cup, her head tilted to the unadorned wall. Though her arms seem relaxed, her shoulders were stiff, while her legs were tucked sideways, like a force of habit. She made a fine picture of poise and sophistication from afar, but perfectly humble in her mourning up close.
The host hummed graciously, savoring his first sip, noting the elegance in her figure despite the rather defensive posture. Hmm. If she remains unmoving, pain shall spread on her lower back.
“This drink is made from an evergreen shrub, which grows abundant at Jueyun Karst,” he began, calm dignity resonating in his voice. “It is said to be a place where the adepti enjoy their seclusion, hence the people's reluctance to disturb it's grounds. As such, these leaves are very rare. Only skilled herb gatherers that inherited the wisdom – and the courage – to traverse these lands are able to obtain them.”
“I see,” she replied, an empty cup waiting for a second infusion. He obliged and continued.
“Notice it's yellow hue? It is an accidental discovery. The color of dried tea leaves is normally green, with a taste that range from bittersweet to nutty, or from floral to oceanic. Some, on the other hand, would go so far as to liken it to simple vegetation. 'Grassy', they would say. Hmm. Tea may not be their beverage of choice.”
“Fascinating,” his guest replied, even tone barely hiding polite disinterest. He quirked a slight brow but remained undeterred - he's had encounters with people more ornery in years past.
As curious as her passively hostile behavior towards him has been for the past few days, he shall not stoop low to the level of the ignorant – like those at the marketplace, who circulate hearsays that leave much to be desired. He's only grateful young Mei is spared, for he may start questioning the integrity of his people.
He turned auric eyes down to his cup, watching the idle swirl of the liquid within.
He may only know just the surface of her troubles – like the vague taste of anguish from the void of her dreams – but he's determined to release the pressure through the cracks of her facade, like flushing steam from a smoking mount.
He knows beneath a calm mountain, lies a dissonance that could erupt, painfully and forcefully, at any given moment.
“But years ago, it is said a farmer had forgotten to dry out a batch of these leaves. And a cloth, flung free from a drying line, landed from above, sealing the warm moisture on them shut for a full summer's day. To the farmer's delight, the taste of the finished tea turned light and mellow, and the so-called grassy flavor gone without consequence. This procedure is now known as 'sealing yellow', the widely accepted finish for the tea we enjoy now.”
Hmm. Mayhaps the origins of tea may not be of interest?
Silence reigned heavily on the two tea companions, like too much burnt incense hanging in the air. A low cough from one tried to break through the discomfort, while the other remained resolutely silent.
“Would you prefer a different drink? We have other varieties that may be more palatable for your taste.”
The lady seem to snap out of thought, shaking her head insistently while eyeing the gloved hand that moved to remove her cup. “No. That's unnecessary. This will do. Thank you for your service,” she dismissed, gently but concisely, with an unconscious hand rubbing at her eyes.
“Is there nothing else I may assist in?” he asked, subdued, concern coloring his words. His uncharacteristically tilted head missed entirely by the lady's distraction.
“No,” came the tired reply, an undertone of exasperation escaping in the same breath.
“...nothing at all?”
She seem to take a deep breath, holding it for a minute, before letting it out in one, even sigh.
Not far from the one-sided conversation, peeking at the side of a privacy screen, the seventy-seventh director of Wangsheng looked on, a feline smile stretched across her face. She watched, with growing giddiness, at the most hilarious drama she'd ever witness in her waking years yet!
“Hu Tao-zhǔrèn? Should we not intervene?” Ferrylady whispered, glancing worriedly at the guest lounge herself. She wanted to help dispel such a morose atmosphere, as ironic as that is, for it is her duty for an honored guest, as well as to their noble consultant.
“Shhh~ Not now, Ferrylady. This is getting good.”
“But, madam, this has been going on for three days. Progress is no where to be found.”
“Exactly. This is the most exciting thing that's ever happened to this place!”
"Madam. 'Exciting' is counterproductive to what we strive for in this business."
Ferrylady knew her young boss would have squealed if not for their absolute need for discretion.
No good thing comes from eavesdropping such a private exchange after all.
Hu Tao just hushed her again, silently crawling forward to get a better view. The shadow of the large vase their dear consultant insisted they buy the other day made for a good hiding spot. Something about its story being a distraction for the distraught passed through her mind.
“Miss Ferrylady? H-Hu-zhǔrèn? Why are you crouching down there?”
The two snapped their attention to their new employee, who wore a very bemused expression while pulling at the collar of his stiff uniform.
“Shh! Meng, do you want the troubled souls in the parlor to catch your feet? Drop down behind us now and complete the formation. This is your first assignment~” Hu Tao murmured seriously, an unreadable twinkle reflecting in her eyes. Meng would have gasped out loud if he hadn't slapped his hands over his mouth.
He swiftly did as he was told, back brushing against the wall in the cramped space, before he swiveled worried eyes all around them. Ferrylady just sighed, familiar with their director's ways of keeping someone quiet.
“Now keep quiet for the next half hour you two. Act Two is about to begin~”
Stella mildly wondered if it would be child neglect to jump from the pier right outside the parlor, leaving Mei all alone. It's the only thing she could think of right now to prevent herself from strangling this, this – ugh! This persistent man!
She knows there is a custom of not speaking with customers, out of respect for old tradition – but this one seem to have missed the memo.
Before the day Mei's grandmother passed, the old woman had enough breath to tell her where she wished to have her wake, what she and Mei should wear, what their manners should be during mourning period, and other matters relating to Mei's future.
But despite her meticulous notetaking – her brushstrokes needed lots of work, she knows – Stella still felt unprepared for the kind of reception she received at the infamous Wangsheng ever since their return back at the Harbor.
After tucking in a sleepy Mei in her room, Stella went straight to the parlor, placing three of the Glaze Lilies in the simple pots she requested in advance, nestling them in between wreaths of white flowers surrounding the covered body.
When she finished burning the joss paper for a final offering, she jumped at the male voice directly from behind her. Whirling around, her heart skipped a beat, brows falling low at his short salutation.
The gentleman before her wore a suit that was subtle in opulence, and elegant in form – a large contrast to the uniform worn by the undertakers that assisted her and Mei before taking off to Qingce Village. She noted the thick rings that contrasted against his gloves – rings worn on the thumb, symbolizing the authority the wearer wields, as well as the arrogance boasting of wealth. Her brow had twitched.
“Good evening. May I ask why is the boss of Wangsheng seeing me?” she inquired, arms crossed. Its the only explanation for someone of importance to act like a host in the dark hall.
Despite the hammering beat in her chest, and the lost of color from her face, she stood tall with a firm stance – bracing herself in case this man mocks her for her ignorance. But when no sound of condescension came, she felt unsettled, and focused on his shining tie instead.
It's an unfortunate habit she has around these types she has yet to break, but a good enough technique to show they still have her attention. They usually have some sort of trinket on them – a silken pocket square, an heirloom brooch, or a collar clip – so its not difficult to direct her eye near their neck.
She could have glanced up to a point near their ear, to give the illusion of eye contact - but she didn’t want to remember their face, she has no interest to know of it, to know of them. She has no plans of interacting with this person ever, if she could manage it.
But she was brought out of her thoughts by a sudden chuckle, a smooth and sonorous sound, like rumbling thunder in the distance. It was not taunting or haughty, like she had expected. It sounds like a relief of tension – like heavy rainfall after a long dry spell. Stella took a step back, surprised at her passing thought that it sounded attractive. “I am not the boss of this hallowed hall, much to the confusion of most. You are not the only one who assume so. I am merely one of its consultants. Wangsheng caters to all needs, no matter the status, affiliation, or ethnicity. Hence its forthright pursuit for various advisors in order to fulfill any request – for the benefit of the living, and those that have passed.
I myself do my best to be of assistance to any of our customers, when present.”
“That's, uh, nice?” Stella stuttered, utterly speechless. Not because the explanation lacked clarity – it’s actually worded very eloquently – but because this man, this consultant, was still talking to her, despite the lack of eye contact – a discourtesy these types would easily recognize. It was practically beaten into her head that it was a shameful habit, growing up – that no man would want to be her husband if she does not get over it.
Which motivated her more to never want marriage.
She could feel his eyes roving over her face, the path of their focus mostly resting on her cheeks –surprisingly, never straying down. “Indeed. And if I may say so, you seem to need a boost of energy. Or perhaps a good rest. We offer drinks that could assist you with either. If you allow it, I will prepare it to your liking.”
She tucked her head down, not knowing what to say. Not because she felt flattered or embarrassed by the attention of such an attractive-sounding individual.
But... the thing is –
She hates men.
She really, really hates men.
Growing up in a household that treated her more like a prize than a living being, she had no real choice on how to live her life. Powerful men of elevated backgrounds would strut before her, fluttering their clothes made from rare threads to show off their affluence, leering in greed and unwanted desire at her place behind a special dais – layers of gauzy silks the only physical protection she has from their disgusting gazes. But they were never thick enough for her to block out the absolutely dark intentions in their eyes, nor the reverberating hunger in their sleazy words. It made her skin crawl badly every time – feeling phantom insect's feet trail up and down her arms, creeping sludge up her throat, until it claw up to the sensitive skin of her scalp. No matter how much she bathes in scorching hot water after every encounter, skin scrubbed raw and red, she never manages to erase the feeling right away. Only in sleep could she hope to find peace.
If she even could.
They tell her that her feelings were irrelevant. Her treatment – expected. After all, everyone is led to believe she inherited attributes that show she has the blood of those that dwell in the heavens – in the upper universe that human beings could only dream to reach. And thus her body is seen as a sacred vessel, a carrier for future generations to come – perfect beings that would never suffer from mortal wounds, or mortal illnesses. The mother that shall birth the perfect world. You are one being that can propagate, and produce the most flawless humans the world has ever seen. Humans that would become the paragon for everyone else to aspire to! –
Stella scoffed mutely, unfolding her arms, before stepping back into place. That was what her foolish cousin had thought. Had believed. Had obsessed.
He was a brilliant scholar. A specialist of the unknown. And a zealous believer of their family's history and sacred roots. His fixation with perfection is a flaw in and of itself. A selfish desire that eventually led to everyone's death – especially one she held most dear – Selene. Her sister by name, if not by direct blood. The only relative that actually cared for her, that loved her, that protected her when no one else would.
Selene was the one that taught her how to sing – how to hone the beauty in her voice. She taught her how to fight – with a weapon used by an ancestor who fought her fate until the last of her breath.
Selene taught a many great things, especially other skills that would have otherwise been useless if she was still in her own world – a world that pampered her like a sacred idol, with wings clipped short in a gilded cage.
The very memory of Selene dying in her arms serve as a reminder to never be selfish. To be mindful. To remember that even just one person's open hand is enough to live life for.
But, right now, with her muscles straining from holding her stiff position for so long, she is very much in a mindset to defy her own oath.
She really hates men.
But... she's trying not to. She has to not to – for Meilin's sake:
Most of the fishmongers at the harbor are men – Mei loves seafood.
Most of the chefs are men – Mei loves well-cooked food.
All of the guards are men – Mei trusts them to protect their house and harbor.
If not for Mei, Stella would have gone to live as a hermit by now, fishing or hunting for her own meals, cultivate her own harvests, or protect herself from foolish thieves.
For Mei, she will persevere. For Mei, she will try.
She really hates men.
Specifically, this type of man.
Those greedy monsters cloaked in beauty and money. That speak well of culture and knowledge – both useless, and worthless. For it is a mere show of having been educated on knowledge the masses could not afford to have.
Her heart had not skipped a beat because she finds him attractive – she still doesn’t know what he looks like. But from his clothes, his manners, his flowery words, she could only conclude one thing: this is the type of husband her family had wanted. The traditional type that wanted a traditional wife.
Out of all the typical traits that kind of wife should have: bearing many children, many perfect children, was the main goal. All the while she must always be silent, until spoken to. Be obedient without question. And wise enough to know her place – while being the perfect trophy her husband could boast about.
Stella took deep, silent breaths, controlling her thoughts from making her jump to conclusions.
She had to tread carefully with any man in this world. The people at the market were nice enough so far. Respectful of deals, and follows through with their word.
But, she's not blind to the staring – both the subtle, and the obvious.
Her face, unfortunately, is one of the attributes she inherited from their family's progenitor, their beloved ancestor, and it's been described as appealing at worse, and magnificent at best.
But she pays these no mind. Complements are empty words after all. Especially when they find out she can no longer produce children. That's alright. She has long accepted that any who show interest in her, will soon disregard it after they learn of her disability. Traditional men especially, will throw her away.
That's why – although she has her oath for Selene, and a promise for Gran-gran and Mei – she herself could never give an eternal vow to anyone. Not anymore.
Not after what she's done to herself.
But despite her cold aloofness day after day, night after night, this man remained persistent. Kept pestering to cater to her needs, when she made it perfectly clear the Ferrylady was doing a great job of taking care of her already. That he should focus on more important clientele than her.
Unfortunately, it's the sixth day now of Gran-gran's funeral, and she's still being served personally by the stubborn consultant with the alluring voice, who wouldn't stop inquiring if she was able to get a good night's sleep after clearly seeing she isn't. She knows the bags under her eyes are getting darker, and the whites of her eyes turning red with dryness.
It's times like this she misses those blissful sleep of white nothingness – the long morning nap, and the night she and Mei had to camp out before arriving at the harbor. The only explanation for them was the presence of that little guardian that wrapped around her snuggly like a giant tree in its branches – one made out of scales, and gems, and warmth.
Ah. But it isn't a tree, is it? It was a dragon – or so Mei said. A legendary creature that is normally large and serpentine in form and built – either something that brings about disorder and chaos, or something that protects with might and force.
“Good thing Mr. Guardian is the protector type!” Mei had added brightly, even though Stella knew the little girl was extremely disheartened to see it disappear in the distance after escorting them to the edge of Liyue Harbor, fluffy tail flickering in a silent wave.
She will admit to miss its strange, yet comforting presence. The soothing calm she can feel as she stares at its amber eyes – whether out of vexation or gratitude. It would wrap around her like a thick blanket, enveloping her in a warmth she could feel in her bones, and in her heart.
Ah, well. Maybe she'll look to tame one of the strays around the area. See which ones are easy to domesticate. Maybe, one of them would have eyes as gold as Mr. Guardian. Maybe then she'll be able to cuddle up to something and get some much needed sleep.
As the lady continued to fantasize of respite, a lost look entering her eyes, Morax thought now is the right time for a change. Where diplomacy fails, action may succeed.
When her hand moved to subtly rest at her waist, trying to reach her back, and a pained look briefly passed over her expression, he acted – for the first time – without a second thought.
“You have not slept well after I left, have you?”
Morax murmured low, well aware of their audience in the background, but reached out to her nonetheless, touching the tip of her nose, hoping his action would trigger a memory, their memory, together.
He patiently waited for her indignant squeals and sputters to subside, staring steadily at her face until her angry gaze focused back on his.
She turned silent immediately, a great confusion painted her features. Her hand hovered close to his face – no doubt to slap him for his boldness.
The quiet this time was not uncomfortable – it felt very nostalgic, like the thrum of water drops on stone, or the hum of rocks being mined from the earth.
The kind of silence that defined their first meeting, letting her tug him free from her pack, and staring at him with open bewilderment – with awe-filled curiosity set deep in her exquisite eyes.
“...Mr. Guardian?” she uttered, like a secret, both hopeful and afraid. She withdrew her hand to cover her mouth, while her body sagged heavily on her chair.
Sitting still was never a problem, but the want to comfort made his hand ache. He could only smile for now, to acknowledge the charming moniker, and to prevent from startling her further.
Blinking once, she took in his face. Blinking twice, she fisted her hand.
She suddenly covered her eyes, rubbing them incessantly, as if his image burned her physically and she's trying to find relief. He gave in and reached out, holding them still – something he could not do before lest he hurt her with his claws.
When she focused back on him, eyes turning anxious, Morax slowly lifted a third infused cup, carefully wrapped her fingers around it, before slowly letting go. He rested his arms at his sides and turned entirely to her – hoping his body language was open enough for her to let down her guard, just as she always was while he was Exuvia. He noticed her sitting up straight against her chair, eyes asking questions upon questions mutely in the air.
A dull thud from behind them went unnoticed.
“Please. Have a drink. Let it soothe your nerves.
The sea breeze outside will do much good for your head. Let me escort you to where the water meets the wall. And there, we might be afforded better privacy for your questions,” Morax softly besieged. He cut his gaze to the screen behind them, letting his focus rest on it for some time. Nearly silent sets of feet scurried away after a moment.
“Okay,” the lady consented, breaking through his concentration. When Morax gazed back, she took a long, slow sip, seeming to finally savor the tea he served, making him sit a little straighter in his seat. Her eyes softened slowly, and watered as recognition set in, which in turn made him tug at the corner of his lips in relief.
A knock was heard, before the slide of the door reached Meng's ears. “Yahooo. How is she? Have you revived Ferrylady yet?”
“Uhm, I'm afraid not, ma'am. Maybe this is a good thing? It's better if she has her rest for the night,” Meng whispered back, blowing the lantern light out as his co-worker rested heavily on her bed.
The director and undertaker silently went out, walking away from the sleeping quarters as both thought back on the circumstances of the Ferrylady's fainting. “Yeah. Might as well~ Zhongli-xiānsheng certainly put her in quite a shock. I almost saw her spirit escape from her! Too bad it happened before we got to see what our consultant did to make our guest putty in his hands. Looks like that hermit strikes again! At least this time the lady seems like his age – physically I mean – and totally not like his stuffy personality. I like her~” Hu Tao sang, thinking of giving the lady a small discount on the incense she'll need to use tomorrow.
“W-would it really be alright to leave them alone?” Meng asked, nervously pulling at his gloves.
“Hmm? Any concerns I should know about? Oh! Is she one of those pretending to play 'hard to get', but actually wants to snatch Zhongli-xiānsheng for herself~?” Hu Tao asked, fluttering her eyes exaggeratedly.
“No, Hu-zhǔrèn! You got it entirely wrong.”
Meng furrowed his brow, organizing his thoughts. “From what I heard, as well as my own experience in assisting her, she tends to avoid men. All men. Except maybe the kids and the grandpas. I saw her hand quake once when I accidentally brushed hands with her trying to move her potted plants for her.”
“I didn't think you had it in you. You sly dog~”
“No no no, Hu-zhǔrèn! You misunderstand again!” Meng waved his arms frantically in front on him. “I mean... yes! I'll admit she's very beautiful. A-and she seems considerate, and kind. But she's a little, uhh, too beautiful? Even I know I'm not a good match for her. But her skittish behavior makes me feel like, like scum – like the lowest of the low,” he said dejectedly, shoulders falling. “She makes me feel guilty for even breathing in her space.”
Hu Tao hummed, a finger on her lips, before her brows quirked up in surprise at Meng’s suddenly spirited stance. “A few of the guys at the wharf noticed too, and speculated something must have happened to her. It's really sad to think of the possibilities. But we all talked about it, and agreed to do our best to be gentle in our interactions with her. No touch. Keep a good distance. And watch our words. We don’t want her to feel like we’re boars on the prowl.”
“Wow. Well done, Meng,” whistled Hu Tao, smiling wide.
“E-erm. Thank you?” Meng scratched at his head, face turning red in embarrassment.
“That's the longest I've heard you speak. Ever! I'm so proud of you~ You're not such a pitiful scaredy cat aftercall,” Hu Tao hooted in glee.
“W-what? M-madam...” Meng groaned, head falling down on his chest in dismay.
Hu Tao giggled softly, and changed her carefree stance. She gently patted him on the shoulder to get his attention. “Just kidding~ You really have to lighten up.
But, I didn't lie. What you're doing is very honorable. And even if you're too common for someone like her, I'm sure in time she'll notice and appreciate what you all are doing.”
Was that supposed to be comforting? Ugh. I still don't understand the director. I have so much to learn.
“Besiiides. If you guys are honorable already as ordinary citizens, what more someone of Zhongli-xiānsheng's caliber?”
Meng nodded, smiling brightly. “You're absolutely right, ma'am. I should not have doubted his intentions.”
“Maybe by now, he's escorting her home. So let's have faith in our reliable consultant!”
[←Previous] | Chapter 6 | [ Next → ]
A/N: Just to clarify, Hu Tao meant Zhongli is such a devastating lady-killer. He just doesn’t know it. And yes, more eye-flirting with these two. Sighs. He has such pretty eyes. Updated again on 04/15/2021 because I’m my own biggest critic.
Gong fu style of serving tea is so mesmerizing to watch. I can see Zhongli do it every time.
Fun fact: In ancient China, yellow tea was indeed considered very rare. And since yellow is the traditional imperial color, only emperors are able to enjoy it. Unless they deem a guest fit to be served the tea - which is considered a high honor.
Zhongli’s rerun banner is coming up sooner than I thought. I should have known Genshin would have a mid-anniversary thing too. Or something like it. I panicked, caved in, and bought the Blessing of the Welkin. His mats are not readyyyy aiyaah
Follower Tag: @meladollsims
To be found
I stumble in a dark abandoned alley
Drunk on the sound of my breaking hearts
I sink down against a wall like petals withering down a thorned rose
Clutching my knees to my chest I hear it crumble
A tap on my shoulder makes me look up through teary eyes into a drunken smile
The weight on my chest feels lifted and my brain isn't foggy anymore
I see the outstretched hand of a stranger who will become much more once held
Is this what it feels like to be found?
To be seen
My gaze wanders over the mob of people
Looking around longing to be seen
My body feels cold in the winter breeze
Until my gaze land on yours
You look back with your fiery golden orbs and suddenly I'm not cold anymore
Feels like I'm standing bare against your gaze
My heart unravels as our eyes unravel each other
Is this what it feels like to be seen?
To be felt
Old burnt parchment and smudged ink lines
Left in a dusty forgotten libraries
Aching yearning longing to be held once again
I take a step in and lift the papers
Scanning over the smudged lines feeling the burning emotions of it all
The parchment shines under my touch
Smudged ink turns into golden words as I trace my fingers over them
Stroke by stroke the forgotten parchment comes back to life
Is this what it feels like to be felt?
To be lost
Blue skies and clouds of different shapes
I lay there under the sky looking at the shapes trying to find meaning them
Meaning to life as my mind races
I'm happy under the clouds but what am I when the clouds aren't around?
We all pretend, pretend to be ok, to be perfect
But when the cloud goes who am I truly?
What do I be and what do I want to become when I am my true self?
Thoughts blow past my mind like clouds in the infinite sky
Is this what it feels like to be lost?
To be forgotten
Clipped wings rot in my closet
Once flaring on my back as I soar through the wind
Feathers shredding as they rot
Lying forgotten in s closet like used clothed
Pearly white now black like coal
Bleeding bright red wanting to be remembered
To be out of the closet and not hidden away
Mighty as they were now equally daunting and coarse
Is this what it feels like to be forgotten?
Black envelopes and sealed letters
A piece of me hidden inside that paper
Letters unsent to keep me hidden behind seals
What does it feel like to let go off those letters?
To be yourself and not seal you under dried flowers
The hollow feeling of that part missing
Never whole because if the pieces tearing inside
Is this what it feels like to be?
To truly experience the joys of life, open yourself totally to the possibilities.
When the universe sees the true you, you see the truth of the universe.
Be vulnerable and accepting of whatever the universe has to offer.
If it's in your path, you are able to deal with it.
Spoopy! Spoopy! Spoopy!
OTP Challenge 10/01/2020
Pairing: daddy!Thor x Reader Word Count: 1,273
Warnings: fluff, lots of fluff, tooth rotting fluff
A/N: This is for @thefanficfaerie ‘s OTP Spooktacular Halloween Challenge. I’m gonna have so much fun coming back to this couple. They’re one of my favorites and I know some of you have asked for more of their day to day stuff so that’s what this will hopefully be. I’m going to seriously try and do this every day. Like Nanowrimo but for Halloween! Thanks for reading and if you happen to reblog, thanks so much for helping me spread my work! xoxo
Making decisions will be the death of you. Especially decisions this important.
Okay, maybe this isn’t vital in the grand scheme of things but for you, this is of the utmost importance because soon you’ll be sharing your very first Halloween with Thor.
Ben has not been able to stop talking about what he calls, spoopies.
A cute melding of spooky festivities that he created when you’d explained Halloween to him as he got bigger.
You want to make this year special. More special than it will already be with Thor here to celebrate with you.
“My love?” He calls you, voice deep and smooth like warm velvet.
Your heart stutters when your eyes find him, his hands wrapped around the handle of a bright red shopping cart laden with an array of spoopy decorations, as Ben would say.
He sits between Thor’s arms in the cart, swinging his little feet as he fidget with the smooth bleached plastic of a decorative skull. His brow furrowed as his five year old mind memorizes every dip and divot.
On his chest, harnessed to him so that she faces outward is your five-month-old little Roslyn. Heads and shoulders above her milestones, she sits confidently against Thor’s chest, her little legs kicking wildly as she spots you, her little lips puckered as she breathes in and out quickly. She’s hyperventilating it looks like with the excitement she feels at the sight of you.
She releases a fierce and high pitched battle cry to get your attention which she already mostly has save for the part of your brain that is highly focused on the irresistible image of Thor pushing a cart with your little girl strapped to his chest and your son relaxed between his protective hold.
Even though it looks normal, Thor is on alert. Always when the four of you are out and about. He’s been a wreck with worry since the two of you got married and the media got a hold of the photos.
Benny’s face had been plastered across every paper, magazine, and internet article along with your own and Thor had been livid.
It took the entirety of the Avengers to calm him and even then, Tony had Steve keep a pair of arc reactor powered handcuffs nearby. Just in case.
“Wanna borrow them later?” Tony had teased you, wiggling his eyebrows at you while Thor fumed at the other side of the common room in the compound.
So even if he’s learned to pretend that he’s relaxed in public, his defense is always up. His vigilance heightened. A feral daddy for his precious little ones who now everyone knows thanks to the nature of a media driven world.
“What’s that?” You frown, moving closer to him to reach for a spot on his shoulder. The strange shape of an oblong wet spot stains the soft fabric of his charcoal pea coat. Underneath, his white shirt stands bright in contrast.
“What?” He searches the spot you touch before sweeping his hand underneath yours to grab and pull to his lips where he presses a soft kiss to the base of your palm. “It’s a little bit of spittle.”
“That doesn’t look like drool, Thor.” You frown, looking to Rosie who grabs at your shirt now that you’re within reach.
“Rosie threw up a little. She’s alright.” He promises, pulling your hand up to his lips again.
There’s a flurry of gasps and murmurings from behind you and you make to pull your hand away to avoid getting caught on camera in a display of tooth-rotting affection but Thor holds on tighter, keeping his lips pressed to your hand.
With a sigh, you relent and let him do as he pleases, frowning at him instead because you know exactly what’s happening here.
“Thor, did you throw her up in the air again?”
Thor drops your hand and throws his arms out to the sides, a look of getting caught contorting his handsome features into the goof you’ve come to know and love.
“She likes it!” He explains.
With a growl you move back towards the shelf you’d been pondering.
“I won’t do it again.” Thor lies. “I promise.”
“Don’t make me promises you can’t keep Thor. Or I’ll start making you pay for them.” You threaten and you gasp as his head is beside you suddenly, lips close but not too close as he’s only slightly bent down towards you as he whispers.
“Punishment?” He whispers and the heat of his breath makes your skin pimple. “I like a good spanking.”
“Shut up!” You push his face away and he erupts into hearty chuckles as Rosie coos and giggles with her daddy.
“Why have you been standing here for hours on end?” Thor asks, his focus on Rosie however as she reaches towards the shelf to grab at a pair of cute light up pumpkins. Not exactly spooky but the color changes from yellow to green, purple, blue, red, orange, and back to yellow.
“I can’t decide what to get.” You confess, adjusting the baby bag on your shoulder.
Thor contemplates the decorations brow furrowed as he also blindly reaches for the bag on your shoulder, taking it from you to place on his own massive shoulders.
“Well, Rosie likes the pumpkins, get those.” He points at them, reaching with his other hand to take hold of Rosie’s little hand.
She wraps her fingers around his tightly, squeezing with surprising strength. Their Asgardian blood is strong and have clearly overtaken your own human genes.
“Daddy?” Ben’s voice interjects, thoughtful and low.
When the two of you turn to look at him, you find him pouting.
“Which ones shall we get, my son? Which would you prefer?” Thor wonders, looking down at his little boy.
“I wan’ the spoopy ones, daddy. Spoopy. Wike vampiewos o’ woofs, ‘o monstuss.” Ben explains, his speech still a little bit of a worry for you but Doctor Cho assures you he’s fine and will grow out of it.
“But then you’ll be up at night, sweet pea. I don’t want you to be scared.” You reach over to stroke his cheek and he shakes his head firmly.
“Nooo, mommy. I’m bwave!” He declares. “Get the spoopy ones.”
“Why not jus get both?” Thor suggest and reaches over you to grab a set of the light up pumpkins and adds them to the pile of other more homely decorations you’d picked out earlier. Pillows and throws with pumpkins and ghosts and witches. Garlands and lights, small mini pumpkins and brooms and candy buckets to put in your kitchen.
“Both?” You gasp, a little surprise but also because you didn’t think of it first.
“Yes.” Thor smiles amused by your shock but then grabs the set of scary faces in mirrors that disappear and reappear. “We can make both our children happy.”
“Yay!” Ben cheers, clapping his hands and abandoning the fake skull you’d picked out for the living room side table among the other decorations. “Spoopy! Spoopy! Spoopy!”
His chanting draws a chuckle from Thor, a fond caress from you, and giggles from the others watching from the end of the aisle made too scared by those videos of Thor threatening strangers who’d gotten too close to you or the babies to move closer.
The world loves Ben and Rosie, and though the exposure has made you wary of the possible threats that might come from being so out in the open about your lives together, you relish in the fact that they seem to love your sweet little peas just as much as you do.
doodled a line up of my asexual OCs from three different stories... because i love all of them and aces are cool and valid
maybe a part of amber’s infinite scarf really is coloured this way