#top tips to consider before buying gaming laptop
prompt | anonymous asked: Could I get some general relationship headcanons (with some fluff please!) for Chishiya, Arisu, and Kuina 🥺👉👈 let me know if you need a more specific ask! :)
warnings | written with the intention of female pronouns but can be read as gender neutral, very minor suggestive implications, mentions of alcohol, nicotine and eating habits, might be considered kinda cheesy oops, the use of the pet name ‘bunny’.
word count | 1.4K
author’s note | ‘m loving this request. this is written with the intention of it being pre-borderlands.
- Frequenting local cafes for routinely study dates. He helps you with topics that you may struggle on and you buy him the bizarre flavored ‘treat of the week’ as a thank you. He jokes around that you’re probably using him as a test subject, because who would order sweet potato brownies with the premise that they would taste good. Much to his surprise, they actually do.
- Visiting a cat cafe once, but not getting around to completing any work. The image of Chishiya cradling a fluffy kitten close to his chest and holding softened eye contact with it is now your permanent lock screen. He has a matching lock screen of you holding a kitten from under the armpits and touching noses with it.
- Learning new skills together. Chishiya is pretty much down for anything that he considers interesting enough. That’s how you ended up frustratingly trying to follow along to a complex origami cat tutorial at 2 in the morning as Chishiya worked quietly with his earbuds in, listening to a different tutorial. Only once he presented you with a perfect paper flower did you smile for the first time in the past hour, the frustration dissipating. That very flower has claimed its indefinite place on your bedside table, something that didn’t go unnoticed by him.
- Doing escape rooms together every so often. It baffles you to some degree how he figures things out so easily, but then again, you’ve known how smart your boyfriend was since the day you met so it shouldn’t really come as a surprise. You just can’t help but admire him, and voice these admirations out loud. Your compliments being the only ones which truly affect him.
- Despite how genius your boyfriend is, you remain concerned about the mental toll college might have on him. If he is stressed, he barely gives it away, but you’ve grown to read through his indifference and pick up when something is wrong - even if he’s attempting to hide it for your disburden. You allow him to de-stress in your arms, playing with the tips of his hair and speaking through what has got him so troubled.
- Late night dates that consist of trips to the corner store where you buy your favourite snacks and walk down to the beach together. It’s a relaxing way to wind down after a stressful week filled with work and college. If it’s not too cold that night, you substitute sitting on your usual bench for a stroll along the sand. If he finds a pretty seashell, Chishiya will give it to you wordlessly.
- He buys you a lot of small things that reminds him of you. A cute keychain he found by chance while buying groceries, splurging his money on a random claw machine because he spotted a plushie character from that show you really like, buying your favourite snacks to calm you down before a big exam that you’ve been studying really hard for. It’s the little things that show how much he really loves you.
- Offering him a place to stay for a few days if he needs a break from his family, Arisu will pack up his gaming laptop along with him and you two will game with each other side by side. He anticipates the moment you rest your head on his shoulder and once you do, he rests his own head upon yours with a small: “you tired, bunny?”
- Being extremely supporting and non-judgemental on the topic of him getting a job. You search listings almost daily and send any promising ones through to him, leaving an encouraging message afterwards in hopes he gets the right intention. You care for him deeply and don’t want to see his father eventually kicking him out the house for being unemployed and making the situation ten times more difficult for him.
- Helping him get out more and introducing him to places he quickly grows to love. A quaint coffee shop with a grassy roof hidden deep within the cracks that he never would have found if it weren’t for you. It’s become your usual spot for dates, and Arisu enjoys the tranquility of it all.
- Going on trips to the game store together, even though Arisu usually just buys all his games online, and he’s pretty sure you do too. Regardless, it’s an excuse to meet up and hang out for a few hours after, something he’s found has become more enthralling than gaming.
- Staying up on video call into the late hours of the night as you both battle it out on some mmorpg. You’re confused when you see his idle avatar and look over at your phone screen to find him staring at you in a trance. It catches you off guard at first, but seeing him snap back to reality upon getting caught and getting all flustered left you replaying the scene over in your head for days later.
- Dates to the arcade, because of course. You two definitely hog a specific game with a line of pouting children waiting impatiently to get their chance. Arisu only agrees to move on when you mention a new game you spotted earlier. There is no new game, you just feel bad for the kids. Once he’s caught on, you merely give his lips a quick peck and you’re instantly forgiven.
- Playing in one of those immersive game machines with the curtains on both sides, only for Arisu to stare at you dumbly, leaving you a flustered and confused mess. This usually leads to a one-sided lean in and a small make out, only for an innocent kid to pull back the curtain and run away mortified. Their screams are the highlight of your boyfriend’s day, and you swear he’s holding some mental record of how many kids he traumatize through doing this.
- Working at the same clothing store and having Kuina intervene whenever you’re faced with a rude customer. She might not be all too friendly if they insulted you, and if getting fired is the cost of standing up for you, then so be it. You’d quit alongside her and find some place new to work.
- Helping tend to her sickly mother in hospital, whom you had made speechless upon your first visit. She was delightfully thrilled upon finally being introduced to her daughter’s significant other, Kuina sharing to you afterwards that she hadn’t seen her mother smiling so brightly in a long time. You always present her mother with gifts upon each visit, whether it be flowers or a small cake. She’s become like your own mother, and so you help pay towards hospital bills as well.
- Comforting Kuina if she ever gets upset about her past (especially her relationship with her father) or her mother’s current poor health. You make her feel so valid; it leaves her a sobbing mess in your arms as you comfort her with soothing strokes and affectionate mumbles. Once her wailing has calmed, you offer to make her favourite - hot chocolate topped with cream.
- Constant sleepovers, which include wearing face masks, ordering takeout, watching some sappy romance before switching it over to an action movie and sipping on some cheap beer. The buzz of the alcohol always makes you more daring as you suggest showering together, and you’re never turned down by your equally audacious girlfriend.
- Helping her overcome her nicotine addiction and being the initial person to suggest chewing on a dummy cigarette whenever she felt the urge to smoke. Her mother couldn’t thank you enough for getting her into this, expressing her hidden fear of having to watch Kuina smoke herself into ill health or worse, a premature grave.
- In return, she looks out for your own well-being: reaching out to hold your hand before you both cross the street, showing up with lunch the next day at work if she thinks you haven’t been eating as much lately, keeping headache pills in her bag ever since you complained about a migraine that one time, keeping an extra umbrella in the break room just in case it rains later that day and you’ll need one.
- It’s never a dull moment dating Kuina, always planning fun and exciting dates like getting drunk in a private karaoke room only for it to lead to sloppy make outs. The one time she was so insistent on riding the kiddies train at the amusement park, only for the both of you to fall off once you reached the sharp bend in the tracks. It left you both a giggling mess, but the pain afterwards definitely made the whole situation regrettable.
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Never too late - 1-3
There were so many things Regulus wanted to do as child that his parents wouldn’t allow, but Leo is adamant that it is never too late to do those things. They make a list of ten things Regulus wants to do before he decides what his next step in life was going to be, because he refuses to grow up before he even got a chance to be young.
Disclaimer: Of course you don’t have to have do any of things to have a happy and fulfilled childhood, but Regulus didn’t not get to do them because he had other interests or because he didn’t have the means (and usually, if that is the case, parents will ensure their child have other fun memories). It was a case of having controlling parents, who thought the only important things were school and hockey and there was no reason to have fun outside of those things. He watched his friends having experiences and he didn’t get choose in whether he wanted to participate or not.
CW: mentions of toxic parenting and frequent mentions of food.
Please message me if you feel anything needs to be added to the content warnings.
Credit for the sweater universe and the characters within it go to @lumosinlove. What a hero.
P.S. I was getting increasingly inebriated as I wrote this and I haven’t read it over so sorry for any errors. I will probably edit tomorrow!
“What do you mean you’ve never had a sleepover?” Leo exclaimed, tea sloshing over the side of his mug with the force that he set it down on the table. “Not even with your cousins?”
“Not even with our cousins,” Regulus shrugged. “Maybe when I was really small? Mother and Father weren’t keen on letting us out of their sight much.”
“Yeah, that's fucked up,” Leo said resolutely. Sometimes he forgot how lucky he was to have his parents, and conversations with Regulus often made him want to call and tell them how much he loved them.
“I’m starting to recognise that now,” Regulus hummed quietly, giving Leo a shy look. “Guess I should be grateful to Uncle Alphard for the trust fund. At least I’ll be able to pay for the lifetime of therapy I’m going to require.”
“You and Sirius should milk the media by doing increasingly ridiculous interviews for exorbitant fees,” Leo laughed, looking around the kitchen. “Do you have any cookies in this house?”
“Merde, your stomach is bottomless. We just had lunch!” Regulus rolled his eyes, but waved in the direction of one of the cupboards.
“I’m a growing boy,” Leo defended, pushing his chair back to source the cookies. “Besides, I’m going to need the energy if we’re going to plan your ‘Regulus had a sucky childhood and this must be rectified list’,” he said, his words muffled due to the fact his head was half-way into the cupboard as he rummaged around for a worthy snack. Moments later, Leo emerged with a triumphant smile and his fingers clasped around a packet of Nutter Butter cookies.
“First of all, what the fuck?” Regulus scoffed, taking a long sip of his coffee. “Secondly, really?” he raised an eyebrow.
“Admittedly, the name is a work in progress,” Leo sat back down, schooling his features into something he hoped looked indignant. “And, I have a brand to maintain,” he continued, biting into the cookie with an overly loud crunch.
And that was how Leo and Regulus ended up spending an entire afternoon curating the perfect list of things Regulus wanted to experience before he decided his next step in life.
1) Have a sleepover! Build a fort, play video games, eat all the snacks, stay up all night and have a pillow fight!
“Babe, sleepovers are supposed to be fun, not meticulously planned military operations,” Finn teased, peering over Leo’s shoulder to look at the schedule on the laptop screen.
“There is a lot of enjoyment to be found in structure!” Leo argued, tilting his head back to pout at Finn. “I don’t want to forget anything. I just want Reg to have a good time,” he sighed.
“Sweetheart it’s gonna be fine,” Finn reassured, pecking a kiss on Leo’s lips. “You’ve got pizza, you’ve got Mario Kart, you’ve got -” Finn leaned forward to squint at the screen, “building a blanket fort. Hey, I wanna come to this sleepover! You’re gonna have a great time.”
Leo smiled up at Finn, his boyfriend had a seemingly infinite ability to make him feel better.
“Bye! Have fun!” Finn yelled.
“Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do!” Logan added, and then the door slammed.
Leo reached out to grab his cell off the coffee table before wriggling excitedly in his seat, “Okay! Let the sleepover begin. What pizza do you want?”
Regulus rolled his eyes, but his reply betrayed his enthusiasm, “I’ll have an extra large half and half please. One side with ham and pineapple and the other with pepperoni, green peppers, grilled onions, black olives, mushrooms, sausage and extra mozzarella. Oh, and a side of wedges, please.”
Leo spluttered, “Reg!”
“Hey, don’t judge. Your order will be just as big,” Regulus frowned.
“Please,” Leo scoffed. “I live with Finn and Logan. You could order five pizzas and I wouldn’t be phased. No, I am scandalised by your topping choices. Pineapple!” Leo gesticulated his arms widely, “I thought you were better than that. I am seriously re-considering this friendship.”
“Wow, you really are picking up on Finn’s dramatics,” Regulus laughed.
Leo huffed as he tapped at his phone, “Pineapple on pizza is a very serious matter, thank you very much. Since this is your sleepover, I have ordered the abomination. Consider this a one time pass.”
“I am honoured.” Regulus drawled, playing up the posh notes of his accents.
“So you should be,” Leo said, grabbing the cushion from behind him and throwing it at Regulus.
“Oh, that’s how you want to play it.” Regulus smirked, grasping the cushion that had been thrown at him, as well as the one stuffed behind him.
“Noooooo!” Leo shrieked. “Pillow fights are not on the plan until -” his words interrupted by a cushion hitting him square in the face. “- 9pm.”
“Oh dear, we can’t mess with your painstakingly designed plan.” Regulus teased, leaning forward to pick up the printed schedule that Leo had shown him earlier. “I believe we are at, 19.30 - play Mario Kart whilst waiting for pizza.”
“So, did you boys have fun?” Sirius asked, as he placed a cup of coffee in front of Regulus, and then Leo. He sounded exactly like Leo’s mother and it was creeping him out.
“Why are you here?” Regulus grumbled, resting his head against his arms. He titled it to the side and cracked one eye open.
“Thank you for the coffee, Sirius. You’re the best big brother, Sirius,” Sirius did an uncanny imitation of Regulus’ voice. “We were in the neighbourhood and figured we’d pick you up instead of you getting a taxi back.”
Regulus made another noise that sounded somewhat like a thank you.
“Did you guys sleep at all last night?” Remus laughed.
“A little bit,” Leo mumbled, staring into his coffee. He wanted it to magically make its way into his stomach without him having to make the effort of lifting it.
“An hour maybe?” Regulus added.
Logan snorted as he wandered into the kitchen, “We came in at 3am and they were fast asleep on the couch. We have photo evidence.”
“And Leo was doing his “I’m having sweet dreams’ snore so I doubt they had only just fallen asleep,” Finn added, following behind Logan.
“I do not have a ‘I’m having sweet dreams’ snore,” Leo said, the tips of his cheeks turning pink.
Regulus laughed, sitting up-right and swallowing a huge gulp of coffee.
“I wouldn’t laugh if I were you,” Logan began, pouring coffee beans into the espresso machine. “You were drooling.”
2) Master that chore list! Learn to cook! It’s a bore, but you’ll thank me later.
“This is an excellent idea,” Remus said, “Perhaps now I will stop being woken up by the sound of the fire alarm.”
“That was one time!” Regulus protested, shoving Remus in the shoulder. “Leave. I have lessons to learn.”
“Try not to burn the kitchen down!” Sirius sang, as he left the kitchen, his arms piled with snacks.
“You cannot talk, Sirius Black,” Remus laughed. “And don’t you think that is a bit excessive. We’re going to order take-out in two hours anyway.”
“Regulus! Your hand,” Leo shouted when he saw the flames.
“What?” Regulus asked, but then he looked down and saw the edge of the oven mitt he was wearing were alight. He must have had them too close to hob. Leo noticed the panic in eyes and grabbed the end of the mitt that wasn’t on fire and chucked it into the sink, turning the tap on to smother the flames.
“Okay,” Leo said, “Maybe we should start with something easier. Let’s try the washing machine.”
Regulus whined, “The washing machine scares me.”
“How does the washing machine scare you?” Leo asked, trying his best to hold in the laugh.
“It’s scary!” Regulus reiterated. “You put stuff in there and they come out tiny or pink or covered in tissue.”
Leo blinked multiple times, registering the words and then he couldn’t hold in the laughter any longer. “Well, those things should only happen if you do it wrong. Pro tip, number one, don’t put tissues in the washing machine,” he said once he had recovered. “Come on, I’ll show you. It’s really not that scary and I’ll teach you how to sort things properly but really I chuck stuff in together all the time and nothing ever turns pink.”
“Regulus. Leo,” Remus called, leaning in the doorway to the lounge. Leo paused the movie they were watching before turning to look at him. “Is there a reason that all our bedding is pink?”
Leo and Regulus shared a sheepish look.
“No idea, sorry,” Leo said.
“It was Leo’s fault! He said nothing ever turned pink,” Regulus blurted out, shoving his hand over his mouth as soon as the words left it.
“Never take up a career in espionage,” Leo scoffed, throwing the skittle he conveniently had in his hand at Regulus.
“And I suppose you had something to do with the glove in the kitchen sink?” Remus chuckled.
“Oh fuck, I forgot about that,” Leo said, giving Remus his most charming smile. “I’ll buy a new pair.”
3) Go to your first concert, it’ll be a night to remember
Leo had managed to drag half the team into his mission to get tickets to see Fall Out Boy in a couple of months time. It was a band both he and Regulus loved, and Leo had always wanted to see them when he was younger but it never seemed to work out.
Between them they had twelve laptops that they were constantly refreshing, waiting for the box office to open.
“Yes! I’m in,” Thomas shouted, wiggling around in a celebratory dance. “Waiting time is 27 minutes.” A few seconds later, James was chanting about his access.
“No suh! My wait time is 35 minutes. How is that possible, I was only a few seconds behind Talker,” James griped.
“It’s a cruel cruel game,” Ollie nodded solemnly.
In the end, they did manage to get tickets for everybody that wanted them, even if Leo had lost the will to live by the time he had kicked everybody out of their apartment.
Leo noticed that Regulus was sticking pretty close to him as they walked through the halls of the arena, a sign that he was nervous. “Hey, you doing okay?” Leo asked, bumping his shoulder against Regulus’.
“Yeah,” Regulus breathed. “It’s just...a lot,” he gestured to the crowds of people around him. They had tried to get there early to ease Regulus into things, but between Talker and Noelle running later, and Finn having an absolute meltdown because he couldn’t find his old tour t-shirt, it was already starting to get quite busy.
“We can always go if it gets too much,” Leo reassured, smiling softly at Regulus.
“You just paid all that money for the tickets, we can’t just leave,” Regulus argued.
Leo slung his arm around Regulus, hugging him close. “Your comfort is worth far more than the price of a concert ticket, Reggie.”
“Don’t call me that,” Regulus moaned, but Leo felt him sink into the hug. Their tranquil moment was ruined by Finn who decided it was the perfect moment to burst into a rendition of Dance, Dance, and James immediately joined in.
“I’m sad,” Regulus sighed, wearing one of the t-shirts he had brought at the concert. He’d been deliberating over a few when Leo had told the cashier that they’d take one of all of them. Thankfully, Regulus had learnt that to argue with Leo when he was trying to show love was futile. “Why am I sad? I just had the best night.”
“Post concert blues,” Leo commiserated, sliding a plate of pancakes across the table to Regulus.
Logan hummed his agreement, drowning his pancakes in maple syrup, “You’ve got to spend the whole day watching the videos you took. Try and get some of the endorphins back. But really, the only thing that cures it, is booking a new concert. You’re gonna be hooked forever.”
“Is it also normal to still be able to hear the music?” Regulus said, rubbing at his left ear, before cutting into his pancake.
“Sure, the music is loud,” Finn answered with a chortle.“ You two blasting music until 2am in the morning probably didn’t help. It’s a good job this apartment is soundproof.”
“Sorry,” Regulus said, looking guilty, “Did we keep you up?” Leo didn’t even remember falling asleep. The last thing he could recall was dancing around his bedroom screaming along to My songs know what you did in the dark, and then was waking up sprawled across Regulus.
“Don’t worry about,” Finn mumbled around a mouthful of food. “It was nice to see you letting go like that.”
“It would be nice if you could learn some table manners,” Logan chirped.
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metro card // MGG - chapter 12
summary: Ophelia doesn't know what to expect after Matthew Gray Gubler hires her as his new assistant. on top of grad school and trying to get ahead in the film industry, things get more complicated between the two.
word count: 4.4k
Christmas Eve Eve should be considered its own holiday, I think. Matthew gave me the week off, thinking I'd be back home, but now I'm just sitting in bed with my laptop open and an episode of Seinfeld playing. I didn't think it was possible for me to turn my brain off so completely as I have within the past twenty-four hours.
no editing, no schoolwork, no running errands or driving way out of town for Christmas trees. not that I minded too much, but the break is much needed.
I miss Ren. she hasn't texted or called since she left to go home, and I'm starting to feel guilty. more than anything, I want to take back some of it. how could I have said that I didn't want her in my life? she's been there since freshman year of undergrad-- not having her now feels inconceivably wrong.
as much as I'm glad I didn't go home with her over the holidays, the apartment is lonely. I don't even have my own Orion to lessen the blow. the shutting of doors, my own sighs, feel louder without her.
I remember the first time we spent the holidays here, junior year. I didn't want to go home and Ren was recovering from the flu, so she canceled her travel plans. we spent Christmas Eve Eve wandering the streets and making our way around the boroughs. somehow, neither of us had seen all of the city-- most of our time was spent between Manhattan and Brooklyn, with a singular trip to Long Island to visit a friend of ours in her vacation home.
we gorged on Korean BBQ and saw some Christmas movies at a theater in Dumbo, laughed and talked about our future plans. up until recently, Ren has never made me feel lesser. sure, there was the occasional poke to join her at parties, but it was never deep and I was never difficult to sway.
maybe it's just a build-up of little things. those are the real undercutting parts.
part of me wants to call Matthew. whenever I don't want to think about things, I call him. and I know I can't. he's probably painting or spending time with friends or doing something completely non-pathetic, unlike me. that's embarrassing.
instead of succumbing to the urge, I pull myself out of bed and take a shower. if I can take a walk around the neighborhood, maybe do some (very) last-minute Christmas shopping, then I'll feel better.
an hour of window-shopping later, my bank account is sacked. I've gotten things for Matthew and a couple of my other friends, including Ren. a hollowed-out Webster's dictionary to store her weed practically screamed out to me while I was in a corner store.
I walk down the street, passing by families and friends out for festivities. a woman clings to her boyfriend's arm. both of them are smiling about something as they go. it wrenches something inside of me for no reason at all.
I hear the woman burst into laughter at the end of the street, and it strikes a chord. fuck it; I'm lonely and I miss Matthew. not even romantically-- I just miss his jokes. ducking into the space between apartment stoops and pulling out my phone, I send him a quick text.
do you want to do something today?
does that sound desperate? kind of. I retype the message about five times, re-wording and restoring it to its original form. and then I press send.
there's nothing more for me to do than wait, so I stop to get myself a coffee and warm up. my fingers have started to go numb and my nose hurts from the cold. I sit by the window and watch the way the daylight spreads a grayish white tone over the city. even with all the red and green decorations that stores have put up, it'll be prettier at night. when the windows fill up with aureate tones and the street lamps paint the sidewalks gold... that's much more romantic. except I'm a woman in a major urban area with nobody to walk with, so that's not really a safe option at this point.
my coffee is so hot, it burns my tongue. I wrap my hands around the cup and wait until my phone buzzes beside me.
I thought you were back in Minneapolis.
fuck me. I forgot that I told him that. oh my god.
how am I supposed to claw my way out of this? lie more? that feels so wrong. but what else can I tell him?
plans changed. stuck in nyc :/
not as big a lie as it could have been. my heart somehow both thuds in my chest and sinks into my shoes. the tone of his response seemed cold. if he asks why they changed, I'll slip out of the conversation. he won't make me answer if I don't want to.
I watch the three typing bubbles appear on the screen, vanish, then reappear. regret tugs at my chest as an emptiness begins to fill me. I already know that I've messed up, that he's going to be busy.
that's too bad. anything in particular you wanna do?
I wrack my mind for activities that we would enjoy, come up empty. my limbs are too tired for me to go shopping and a museum doesn't sound fun, either. I want to talk in a relaxed way, to talk about nothing for hours and not feel the weight of things.
when he sends me another text, my eyebrows raise.
ice-skating at the Rockefeller?
that's a perfect idea. I respond within a few seconds and walk briskly to the subway to drop my presents at home first. it's going to be insanely busy, but part of me is excited just to meet him there. in the past few days, I've felt drawn-out and bored.
he's already standing in line to rent skates when I get there. it's impossible to miss him: knit cap, bright orange scarf tucked into a fashionable black coat, enormous glasses that make him look comically erudite.
instead of calling out, I tug on his sleeve. the person behind him in line huffs at my cutting.
"hey, you!" he beams when he turns to see me. my pulse leaps at the high pitch of his voice that indicates excitement.
"hi." I bite back a smile.
"you're just in time. I was gonna text and ask what size you are." he gestures to the booth that we're standing in line for. I shake my head.
"I can rent my own."
"no, no," he frowns. "I suggested this place. it's only fair."
"really, it's fine." I give him wide eyes. there must be a little pleading in them, too, because he gives me a funny look.
"why...?" then he starts to get a mischievous grin on his face and it's over for me. "you have huge feet, don't you?"
"no!" I cross my arms and look away.
"what size are you, Ophelia?" his voice is lower and I know he's about to tease me.
"nine." I mutter quietly. he lets out a little giggle.
"yes, women's, you bully." I frown. the person in front of us moves forward and we follow. I look around the area: as predicted, it's packed with people. there's enough room on the rink to get around fine, but it's definitely going to be tight. my heart sinks a little at the knowledge.
"I hope I didn't spoil your plans." I tell him. he's been observing the area in silence, too. when I speak, he seems to be broken out of a daydream.
"not at all. I was just sewing."
"sewing?" I clarify. since when does he sew?
"making stuffed animals." he says this in the same way one would say they were making coffee.
"stuffed-- wait. elaborate, please."
"you didn't know I do that?" he quirks an eyebrow. I shake my head and then he finally expands on the subject. "I make stuffed animals for my friends. I was working on one for my niece when you texted. but sometimes it's good to have a distraction."
"well, I'm always good at distracting," I smile, repeating the line he fed me a week ago. he notices and shakes his head slowly. now I'm interested. "so, what kind of stuffed animals are we talking? like, Webkinz or UglyDolls?"
"I don't know either of those." he tells me. my jaw drops and I'm hit once again by the age gap. the things I grew up with are completely different than those that he did.
"okay, hold on." I pull out my phone and Google images. "Webkinz were linked to this online site, so you could feed them and play games and buy clothes for them." I show him.
"that's so cool." he takes my phone and starts to scroll through the pictures. "I wish I had something like this as a kid."
"it was addictive, but definitely super fun. UglyDolls didn't have an online world, at least when I had them-- they're supposed to be kind of misshapen and weird. I had at least twenty." I find more pictures and he seems to find these especially intriguing.
"this is the kind of stuff I make, a little." he points to a green monster with one eye and two sharp teeth. I laugh.
"yeah, it's really fun. and I'm prone to mistakes, so the fact that they're supposed to be strange-looking makes it less intimidating." he self-deprecates and part of my heart squeezes. who even is he? he's too good.
the person in front of us walks out of line and I realize that it's our turn to order our skates. part of me doesn't know where we stand on the ordering situation, since I changed the subject after being ridiculed for my foot size. but the way he steps forward and immediately rattles off two sizes at the booth answers my question.
I find myself looking at him again, studying his side profile. some of his curls peek out from under his beanie, unruly and begging to be tugged. he's so much taller than me, I'd have to get up on my tip-toes just to kiss him. but I shouldn't even be thinking about kissing him.
suddenly, he turns to me with two pairs of skates in hand. when he raises his eyebrows, it breaks my train of thought. right. I grab my pair.
"come on, then, Sasquatch." he mumbles with a small smile on his face. I turn bright red and gently hit his shoulder with my free hand.
"leave me alone, you freak." I strut ahead to hide the grin on my face and to snag a free spot to lace up my skates before someone else beats me to it.
for all of his height and well-structured frame, Matthew is not built for the ice. the second we step out onto the rink, he makes a clumsy movement and almost goes down. I snort, grab onto his arm, as he balances himself on the railing.
"this is so much harder than it looks." he widens his eyes.
"have you never done it before?" my hands leave his coat once he's stable.
"no, I have. not in a long time, though." he exhales quickly and, given the slightly teasing glance I'm throwing him, he defends himself. "I'm from Vegas!"
"mm, then you're entirely lucky," I feel a smile spread over my face as I pivot to stand in front of him. "because it snows like crazy where I'm from."
"you skated a lot?" he makes a surprised expression at me. I reach out and take his hand, pull him along with me as I start to skate slowly along the perimeter of the rink.
"yep. every winter, my friends and I went to the lake and did it." I reply with a smile. "I would show off for you, but it's a bit too crowded."
"uh huh." he nods disbelievingly.
"you're in no position to be doubting me." I glance up and down over his frame to indicate the situation we're in. he's doing just fine, but his arms are out a bit to steady himself. "also, why would you suggest this if you don't do it well?"
"I told you that I decide most things in the moment." he smiles. I roll my eyes playfully.
"you and I are very different people." it's mostly to myself, although he catches it anyway. we're about halfway around the ice at this point, and I notice that he straightens up just a bit. sometimes it takes a little re-acquainting.
"I like to think of it as a good thing." he shrugs. even though I'm technically in front of him, my head snaps to glance back at his face.
"yeah?" I urge him to go on.
"well, I'm putting you in charge of my schedule, so I'd hope you're more organized than I am." he chuckles. oh. yeah. I snort and speed up a bit, hoping he doesn't realize the change.
"right." I turn back around.
soon enough, I draw us away from the rail. we move at a leisurely pace, which isn't exactly familiar to me, but I find that it actually isn't that bad. even as we weave around other people, he moves so that we're side-by-side. and he doesn't drop my hand.
I'm exceedingly grateful for the gloves we're wearing, because otherwise my palms would have been clammy and the sensation of his skin against mine might very well have given me heart palpitations.
"so..." he trails off and I know he's about to ask me something important. "why did your plans change?"
"oh." I swallow as I roll the idea of honesty around in my head. I can't lie to him anymore. I know it'll weigh on my conscience. all he wants is to be helpful and I'm being a complete mess. "well-- okay, I'm gonna say something, but you have to promise not to feel bad for me."
"why would I feel bad for you?" he glances down at me. we glide past a younger kid clinging to his mother.
"just tell me you won't feel bad for me." I wince. after a second, he notices my discomfort.
"yeah, of course." the tenderness in his voice makes me feel worse for lying in the first place.
"I made up that whole 'going home to see my parents' thing and I'm staying here for Christmas and I only made it up because I didn't want you to feel bad or obligated to hang out with me because I was gonna be here and I'm really sorry." I rush out the words. there's a moment of silence where I think he's going to be annoyed.
"you're gonna be alone on Christmas?" he asks softly.
"yes, but it was my choice so it's not sad. tons of people spend Christmas alone and are totally and completely fine with their life situations. it's really not a big deal." of course I start to defend myself. I think it's more for myself than for him. nevertheless, he looks down at me with a concerned expression. all the light-hearted energy from earlier has dissipated into the crowd.
"you love Christmas, though." he sounds sad.
"you promised not to feel bad for me!" I shake my head and focus my gaze on the enormous statue in front of the Rockefeller Center. it's so polished and pretty under the light of early evening.
"I don't feel bad for you," he shrugs, pauses. "you think I feel obligated to spend time with you?"
the disappointment in his words makes me want to burrow a hole into the ice and never see the light of day again.
"no, not like that-- I just mean on Christmas. that's supposed to be a family holiday and I didn't want to put you in that position." I correct myself.
"Ophelia," he sighs. "I wouldn't feel obligated. I like spending time with you. you know that."
deep down, I know he's right. he's initiated hanging out before; there's something deeper that keeps eating away at me that I have yet to identify.
"I... okay." I swallow down about fifty different things that I would like to say. mountains of words, rivers and streams of things that I've been thinking ever since he hired me. they pile up behind my tongue and I know that they're going to spill over someday. but never to him, and certainly not today.
"you're my friend. Christmas is about family and friends." he corrects with a slight smile. ouch.
"it's fine. I'm not lonely or anything." I lead us around a couple who's going way too slow. Matthew follows easily this time, slipping behind then next to me.
"how about this?" he surprises me by pulling in front, leading us. "we can do something fun tomorrow night and then, come Christmas Day... you can decide if you're feeling not-lonely enough to spend the holiday alone." he turns his head to smile at me.
"fine." I try not to grin when he squeezes my hand.
we spend the rest of the evening circling the Rockefeller rink, talking about things that don't matter. now that some of the energy between us has cleared, I feel much better. he even twirls me around once on the ice, just to surprise me. we talk about roller-skating and the sins of decaf coffee and the different pins we've purchased in the Strawberry Fields section of Central Park. and when it's time to go, he buys me a hot chocolate.
all of it, though absolutely thoughtful and sweet, makes me sad. I don't know how to explain it-- a lingering feeling that sits in the pit of my stomach like a stone, reminding me of what I never had.
I start to wonder if Matthew can only make me feel this way because nobody else really did before. I've never had somebody take care of me like this. for all of his eccentric, funny tendencies, he's beyond perceptive. it's like he knows all the little things that I need.
inevitably, things will end. I can't be his assistant forever and he won't need me as his assistant forever. he'll want someone more organized, or I'll start working an actual job. it's bittersweet: I know I'm meant for bigger things than this. I'm just not ready for them.
of course, this is enormously presumptuous; I don't have any other job offers and he has no intention of getting rid of me. regardless, I feel an insatiable need to savor every moment, to keep them all stored inside my head for future days.
"are you too cold?" Matthew breaks my thoughts as we walk back out onto 5th Ave. the storefronts are glittering with festive displays, pouring out that golden light that I had so imagined. taxis honk and the sounds of people talking fill whatever silence there was. it's loud and beautiful.
"no, not really." I shrug. with my gloves and coat and hat, only my face is chilled.
"I can take you home if you are." he's concerned. I let out a gentle laugh.
"I should get back, but is it okay if we stop at Trader Joe's first? I'm really craving bread right now." I frown.
"sure." he starts to descend into the subway, amused by my request. we head in the direction of my neighborhood, my stomach twisting up again. I don't even want to leave him right now. in fact, I would do a number of things just to keep him around. I'm too far gone.
I get a baguette for myself at Trader Joe's and then we walk back to my apartment. there's a residential silence over my neighborhood, the only sounds those of our feet crunching over the snow. someone's polka music plays loudly through their window.
we pause in front of the building.
"I guess I'll see you tomorrow night--" he starts at the exact same time that I say, "do you want to come up for a bit?"
there's a moment of silence. I scramble to right myself, stumbling over my words as I glance down at my shoes.
"sorry, you can head home if you want--"
"no, no. if you want to hang out--" he cuts me off. then we're both hanging on by fragments, looking at each other. the nearest streetlight is at the end of the sidewalk, leaving only a dim glow over our faces.
I laugh. "come on." I unlock the front door and we make the trek up the stairwell, my breath caught in my throat. we can watch TV or something, have some snacks. when I let him into the apartment, I silently thank myself for tidying up yesterday. the sink is empty of dirty dishes and a couple candles sit unlit around the kitchen.
dimples in his cheeks pop out when he smiles at me.
"here, I'll take your coat and stuff." I offer.
"I feel like I'm at a five-star restaurant." he grins, shrugging off the layers. after taking care of all of it, he takes off his hat. the curls that have been hidden from me all afternoon stick up at crazy angles, some of it falling over his forehead.
"you called me Sasquatch?" I shake my head and walk over to the counter to cut up the bread.
"oh, is my hair crazy?" he peeks in the mirror by the front door, starts to mess with it a bit.
"yes." the serrated knife slices through the baguette easily, cutting it into springy bites. "do you like butter, jam, anything on it?"
"either of those sounds amazing." he sits at the kitchen table. I hear the chair scrape against the floor but avoid meeting his eyes before rummaging through the fridge.
after a few moments, I set down the baguette, butter, and a jar of strawberry jam that I've yet to open, followed by some knives to spread all of it.
"this is beautiful presentation," he notes as he plucks a hunk of bread off the plate. "really outstanding customer service."
"you're so weird." I giggle, sitting down across from him. within a second, I pop back up to plug in the Christmas lights and turn off the horrifying fluorescents that make my skin look pallid.
"I'm weird?" his eyes bug out. pretty hazel brown irises dare me to defend myself, to melt into our habit of teasing each other. I turn away and plug in the multi-colored lights.
the room is bathed in a rainbow of colors, warming up the space and reminding me of Christmas Eve: the excitement of everything happening the next day; the bubbling over as I tore open whatever gifts I had. all of it fills my heart with a sweet melancholia that I both crave more of and wish I could never feel again.
"we did a good job on these." he notes as I sit back down.
"Ren did the kitchen ones." I laugh. he shrugs.
"well, we did a good job on the ones in the hallway."
"we did." I take a bite of the bread. it's fresh, and the flavor of the butter and jam creates a mix of textures that blend seamlessly together. how can something so simple be so delicious?
"are you okay?" he asks through his own bite of food, chuckling. when I give him a perplexed expression, he wipes his mouth. "you moaned."
"oh, sorry." I cover my face. "it's just so good. you have no idea how much I've wanted bread today."
"no judgement." he agrees with a nod. we stuff our faces for a couple of minutes, not really talking as we spread the toppings. I think about how when people say, "do you wanna come up?" it generally entails sex; with us, it just means we fill up on bread and jam, like Victorian orphans. the idea makes me laugh.
"what?" he smiles through his bite, emphasizing the sheer sharpness of his cheekbones. I dismiss the question.
"nothing." I'm not sharing those thoughts. "do you wanna watch TV or something?"
"sure." he shrugs. I get up, set the now-empty plate in the sink, and put away the butter and jam before leading us into my room. there's no sexy energy in the way I do it or the way he reacts; he simply plops onto the love seat and waits for me to set up my laptop.
we watch Seinfeld because that's what I was watching this morning, our legs crossed and our bodies a safe distance apart. I realize that there's really no reason for us to still be hanging out this late. we just want to be in the same room.
I'm all too aware of the way his arm is draped unsuspectingly over the back of the couch. my fingers twist the old skull ring on my index. there's so much happening in my head, it's hard to believe the weight of the silence around us.
George berates Jerry on my laptop screen but I have no idea what he's saying. all I can think about is the pleasant scent of Matthew's cologne and the way the neckline of his shirt falls just low enough over his chest for me to see the smooth skin there. his other hand rests below his chin, one finger running thoughtfully over the stubble on his face.
I wonder what he would do if I closed the gap. we're alone constantly. Ren isn't here; we're not working. there's nobody to hold us accountable but us. how easy it would be to kiss him, to feel the cut of his jaw beneath my fingertips and settle my weight on top of his. how easy it would be for him to flip us over and do unspeakable things to me on this couch.
I want to know how he feels. constantly. it's like this deep-rooted desire to seek his emotions and draw them out of him, to take them and make them entirely mine. maybe that's dangerous, especially right now. and even kissing him could jeopardize this job, these opportunities, my film. there's too much at stake.
I bite my lip and keep my thoughts to myself.
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hey, what's the league +stains ideal date?
~LOV/Stain’s ideal dates~
-Spinner: Making a janky little blanket fort in the living room of your shared apartment together. He hangs up some fairy lights, and you situate the laptop underneath so it sits perfectly on all the pillows on the ground. Once the pizza is delivered, you two watch movies underneath fort and pig out together.
-Stain: The fact you even got him into a relationship is amazing (I feel like I always bring this up lol). Anyway, he’s not the most romantic man and you can tell. His ideal date is just sitting around with each other on the couch and watching TV. It’s not over the top, but quality time is his love language that he speaks
-Muscular: Gym dates. Nasty smelly and sweaty gym dates. He pushes you to your limit every time. Just when you’re sore and ready to go home, he tries to ambush you with shower sex. It works almost every time with this stupid asshole, but I suppose you can’t resist this man lol
-Moonfish: Dating and Moonfish in the same sentence? Now that’s amazing! Anyway, he’s not good at dates but he’s probably the type to try and cook for you as a romantic gesture. Eating dinner together is a big deal to him so he considers that a legit date.
-Twice: Nervous bean wants to take you to the movies and do the classic deli afterwards. Then one of those movie-moment walk in the park under the full moon before he leans in for a passionate kiss. Such a cliché but it works for you!
-Magne: She’s probably into more active dates. Parties, clubs, Amusement parks, Laser Tag, you name it. She’s super big on the amusement park date because she loves when you two can watch the fireworks together at the end, and munch on your cotton candy while holding hands tenderly.
-Kurogiri: Gentleman takes you to a tea place where you two can read together and discuss your days as your drink a wide variety of tea (or coffee). It’s a bit mature, and maybe boring depending on how you feel. Nonetheless, he’s eager to have these dates with you because they hold a certain calm atmosphere of love
-Mustard: This boy absolutely enjoys any and all forms of either bumper cars, go-kart, or paintball. They’re kind of intense types of date so you have to bring your A-game and energy for these types of things. Now he may be a bit annoying, but he’s not a horrible person. If he sees you getting worn out then you two can stop for an ice cream snack and break.
-Compress: He’s totally the type to reserve a restaurant table for the two of you weeks ahead of the date as he saves up any and all money to take you to this expensive place. He’s laying on alllll of his goofy charm, flirting with you as if you two had just met or something. He definitely keeps the romance alive, so dates with her are never boring.
-Dabi: Asshole isn’t down for all the romantic stupid dates, but when you spend a lot of time with him you begin to grow on him. Suddenly his dates go from booty calls at 3 a.m to bringing you to a lake in the middle of the night to have a picnic under the full moon with candles lit and soft rock ballads or R&B playing
-Toga: She’s into the whole ‘going all over the mall’ into cute stores when it comes to dating. She’s the type to buy you guys matching bracelets/necklaces/shirts, etc. She’s going to drag you into the cutesy toy stores, and the candy stores as well. Then you two are going to have to take those photo’s in the booths before having Boba at the food court and taking a dozen selfies together
-Shigaraki: Gaming with each other in a dimly lit room with a TON of snacks scattered about. This or watching IGN youtube videos together, cuddled up under the thick blankets of his bedroom. He purposefully turns the air as cold as possible to make sure you have a legit reason to get close to him under the covers. Catch him on the right day and he might surprise you with a few gropes here and there. You decide whether or not it goes in a different direction ;)
TIp Jar: https://cash.app/$YuTakeyama
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(part of Head is Spinning)
Roles: graduate student!Zhengting x female reader
Word Count: 2k
Warnings: explicit language, public sexual encounters, derogatory terms (but you shut that shit down)
Zhengting was a graduate student. He had been a TA for one of your art history classes last year. You didn’t sleep with him at the time--you have some principles--but the two of you eye fucked each other all semester long. You hooked up a few times in the spring when he wasn’t in charge of your grades anymore, and once over the summer, too. You aren't surprised to find him in the library on a Tuesday night. Well, it would be more accurate to say he finds you. He came looking for a book for his thesis when he saw you typing away on your laptop. There were rarely people in this section of the stacks because there weren’t many art majors who spent a whole lot of time in the library, and it was a pretty remote corner. Zhengting continues on his way to find his book after he sees you, but he circles back around after, like it’s a coincidence.
“Hey, Y/n,” you hear muffled over the sound of the instrumental music coming from your ear buds. He’s standing in front of you, across the table and your eyes follow all the way up from his hips to his thin, angular face, his light brown hair curls over his forehead. You pull one earbud out.
“Oh, hey, Zhengting,” you smile.
"Did that kid Justin get it touch with you?" he asks, standing with the book he picked up in one hand and his other hand in his pocket.
"Yeah," you say with a laugh.
He catches the look in your eye when you think about Justin on your couch. "Oh, no, you didn't ruin him did you?" he asks, his head turning to the side.
"No! I didn't. We just...made out a little bit," you admit.
"Y/n!" he says loudly in mock indignation.
"Shh! Zhengting!” you hiss, wanting him to not yell your name in the library. “It was just a little bit." You blush.
"You're such a whore for artists." He shakes his head at you.
“Oh, please. Centuries of male artists having their way with as many women as they wanted, but I’m not allowed to love men. To admire and appreciate their bodies?” you scoff.
He chuckles and rolls his eyes. "Whatever. You mind if I sit?"
"Sure,” you shrug.
There’s plenty of room at this table for both of you, but you’re surprised when, of the three empty chairs, he chooses to sit in the one to your left. You slide some of your stuff over a few inches to give him some space. He settles and opens his book like he’s going to read it, but he has no such intention. He pretends for long enough for you to go back to writing your paper. It takes you a minute to get your train of thought back and refocus on impressionism, but you get there.
After you’ve written a couple of sentences, you feel Zhengting’s warm hand on your thigh just above your knee. You look down at it, his pale broad hand sitting in stark contrast to the thin black leggings you’re wearing under a red cotton dress. You’re not quite sure what you should do. Zhengting likes to play. It’s like that game you used to play in high school where someone would put their hand on your thigh and slowly inched upward to test you until you said it was too much. That’s exactly what Zhengting is doing now. He wants to see if you’ll tell him to stop and when. You should definitely tell him to stop, but you don’t want to. You want to see just how far he’ll take it. Is he bluffing? Would he really try to touch you in the library? Will you let him?
He hasn’t moved his hand yet, not up, down or away. It’s just sitting there and after looking at his long fingers for a second you look back up at your computer screen without looking in his direction, playing along with his little sexual game of chicken. You hear him huff a laugh through the smile that must be plastered across his face, and now you’re pretending to read, too. He slides his hand a couple of inches up your leg, and your eyes involuntarily flick downward before coming up again without acknowledging him in any other way, but you know he’s looking at your face. Since he hasn’t been able to get to you yet he continues his journey toward the top of your thigh, pushing your dress up. He’s moving very slowly and gives your flesh a squeeze when he reaches your thickest part. His strong fingers knead into you, causing your heat to clench around nothing.
You clear your throat and look at him finally. “Can I help you?” you snark.
“I’m just wondering if I can help you,” he responds.
“How would you help me?” You’re dying to know.
“Well, you said you and Justin only made out last night. Knowing you, I’d guess that got you all high and tense. I bet you could use a little release.” His eyes have grown dark and his fingers have slipped from your inner thigh to your core, giving you just enough pressure to let you know he’s there.
“What makes you think I didn’t take care of myself?” you smirk.
He shrugs. “I was just checking,” he says, pulling his hand away.
You grab his wrist and look him in the eyes. “Don’t start something you aren’t going to finish, Zhu.”
His eyebrow twitches as his smile grows. He leans closer to you and returns his hand to cup your mound.
“Get back to work,” he says, jerking his chin toward your laptop. You twist your face up in a smile as you turn your face forward again, returning your hands to a typing position. He places his fingers flat over your covered opening, having to make some space for his hand between your closed thighs. You hear him gasp quietly when he bends his middle finger to graze your slit.
“You aren’t wearing underwear, are you?” he asks in a quiet, sultry voice.
You giggle. “Nope.” You desperately need to do laundry, but you’ve been too lazy and not had the time.
“You slut,” he teases.
You turn to him seriously. “Don’t call me a slut.”
“Oh, honey. I love it,” he assures you, but you’re not kidding. You can’t stand that word. You stare him down. “Fine, got it. You are a very naughty girl, though. Coming to the library with no panties, like you wanted me to touch you,” he smirks.
You turn back to your screen, as if you’re no longer interested in the firm strokes he’s giving you, but you’re not telling him to stop and you both know you don’t want him to. He can feel your heat and as he works over you he can feel your slick leaking out to wet your crotch.
“Oh, honey. I am going to ruin these leggings,” he mutters. You say nothing as he rubs circles around your most sensitive part. You’d been doing a pretty good job of acting unbothered up until that point, but now your hips jump in your seat. He feels the pulse of your clenching and drives his fingers down again, pushing your leggings into your folds as he goes. He’s enjoying the way you’re drenching your pants for him and he pushes harder, pressing into your yearning entrance. Your mouth falls open and your tongue sneaks out to wet your lips. Your leggings are old, getting threadbare, and Zhengting has just discovered the beginning of a hole in your crotch. He can feel your juice on his finger tip and he stops his movement for a moment before he digs his finger into the small hole, widening it.
“Oh my god,” he breaths, and you’re both a little lost in the headiness of this sudden turn. Zhengting’s finger is against your swollen flesh and all you can think of is having more. He seems to be thinking the same thing as he scoots his chair an inch or two closer to you. He pushes his finger deeper inside the hole, feeling your folds now. He dips his finger into your essence and sighs. Zhengting remembers loving the taste of you, and he’s wishing you weren’t in the library anymore. He’s considering throwing you on the table in front of him and making a meal of you.
“I’ll buy you new leggings,” he says just before he tears the hole wider, making your mouth drop open. He probes his finger inside of you, but can’t get very far with the angle you're sitting at. Without a word you slump in your chair a little, pushing your hips forward, and spread your knees apart so he can squeeze his finger inside of you, both of you sighing.
“Fuck. Have I ever told you how much I like your pussy?” he breathes in your ear, causing you to let your head fall back. He has actually, every time you two are together like this, but you’re not tired of hearing it.
“So fucking tight and wet,” he moans softly as he pushes another finger inside of you all the way up to your sweet spot and dragging the pads of his fingers back down against your wall. There are no words in your head to respond. You’re trying so hard not to make any sound at all as you grip your chair. He pulls his fingers back out to rub firm circles over your clit.
“Fuck, Zhengting,” you hiss, surprised how fast you’re rocketing toward your peak.
“You’re loving this aren’t you?” he laughs, as if he’s not. “You love me getting you off in the library, you dirty girl,” he breathes.
You bite your lips between your teeth trying desperately to hold in your cries of pleasure as the tension builds in your stomach. You hear the ding of the elevator behind you and freeze, but he doesn’t stop.
Zhengting’s lips are against your ear. “You better come before they do,” he commands while he moves his fingers harder and faster against you. You hear footsteps coming in your direction and close your eyes tight.
“Fuck,” you gasp when you hit your climax.
Normally Zhengting would tease you through your shudders, driving you crazy, but he doesn’t wait to withdraw his fingers. You fall forward, burying your head in your arms on the table while he licks you off his fingers. He wipes his saliva on your leggings and you can only laugh because he already promised to replace them. The person who got off the elevator walks by you none the wiser.
“Oh my god,” you sigh happily, leaning back in your chair. You wipe the back of your hand across your forehead for the thin layer of sweat.
Zhengting laughs, too. “Can I drive you home?” he offers.
“Can you? You’d better. I’m not walking across campus to my apartment with my leggings ripped open,” you tell him quietly.
He shrugs. “The breeze might be refreshing.” You both laugh again. You gather your things and wait impatiently, squeezing your legs together, while he checks out his book at the circulation desk. Your dress is definitely covering you, but you still feel vulnerable.
He walks you out to his car and opens the door for you, which would seem gentlemanly if you didn’t know that it was because the automatic locks on his old beat up car don’t work, and if he hadn’t just fingered you in public.
“Your place or mine?” he asks as he starts the car.
You scoff. “Oh, so you think you should get off now, too?” you say in a tone that makes it clear he won’t.
“Can’t blame me for trying,” he laughs. He navigates easily to your apartment from memory. “Well, that was fun,” he says as he parks in front of your building.
“Yeah, let’s do it again sometime,” you grin and wink, knowing you will. You open the door and step out, holding down the back of your dress with your hand. “Oh, and don’t forget you owe me leggings!” you turn back to say before closing the door on his laughter.
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Best Part of Me -Chapter 56
Tagging: @innerpaperexpertcloud, @c-a-v-a-l-r-y, @alievans007
An hour before the initial team meeting, Tyler gathers privately with Anil; a chance to discuss the ‘rules and guidelines’ they’d drafted up when agreeing to run the mission together. While normally not one to hand over even partial control of a situation, it had been an easy decision to make. Anil a seasoned businessman with years in special forces; extensive working knowledge of weapons and hand to hand combat, unlimited resources and trustworthy informants with their ears to the ground. He never would have been able to pull off all the organizing and delegating on his own; his military days and his time as a merc seeing him as the one who followed plans and orders and got his hands dirty. Even with his years in the game, it’s still a lot to learn; going from simply part of the team to running the entire show. When it comes to the job, the only way to truly learn is to be thrown into the deep end. Whether it’s running things behind the scenes or being dropped into the middle of an already volatile and unpredictable situation. You’re never fully ready; no real way of preparing yourself when no two missions are ever the same.
While the feeling of emptiness remains, it isn’t nearly as profound as it had been the night before; the ache in his chest still there, but not as painful. It’s a classic case of homesickness. Something he’d experienced every time he left for a job, but not to such an enormous extent. It isn’t just about missing what he left behind; from his wife and his kids to the view off the back deck and the sound and smell of the ocean. It isn’t just a longing to kiss her and hold his baby girl and hear his kids’ laughter and voices and see their smiles. With every other job he’d been able to handle whatever was thrown at him; to just roll with the punches -literally, at times- and think quick on his feet and improvise if need be. But this is different; far more complex and dangerous. With the bounty on his head, it was hostile territory before he even stepped foot on it. And it isn’t just his life hanging in the balance. His entire world...his entire existence...is being threatened. The stakes have never been higher, and even one simple mistake, at his hand or someone else’s, could destroy everything.
Both hearing her voice and Koen’s tough love -along with a hearty meal- had done wonders to ease some of the emotional suffering; sleeping surprisingly well, waking only to take some pain meds and then immediately drifting off again. Waking had been another story; disoriented at first, hand blindly reaching for that warm, soft body that’s normally beside him, only for his fingers to encounter cold, vacant sheets. It had taken his brain several minutes to get over its confusion. Not even remembering he was even in Mumbai; initially questioning if she’d gone ahead without him when it came to the kids’ morning routines, then wondering why the hell it was so quiet. That’s when the fear and the panic kicked in; the feeling of absolute dread that something horrible had happened to his entire family. And if it hadn't been for the cautious hand Koen had put on his shoulder and his voice -surprisingly and uncharacteristically soft and soothing- saying “Easy, mate. Easy”, he’s pretty certain he would have had a full out panic attack.
Three hours later and his nerves have finally calmed. The reality of the situation finally settling in; his focus and determination to get the job started taking precedence over all other feelings. The homesickness lingering yet not threatening to devour him; able to concentrate on the conversation at hand and the very detailed and concise report on the screen of the laptop open in front of him. He’s had little to say; silence enabling him to take in the information and plan around it. Organizing things in his mind; already designating the harder tasks to those he knows can handle them. With Rata in town now -having arrived from Cairns only two hours early- it makes four (including himself) with extensive military backgrounds; him and Nathan with time already served as mercs. Ovi, as eager as he is, is their weak link. He has no actual experience and this isn’t the ideal job for someone to be learning on. If the stakes weren’t so high, Tyler wouldn’t mind the kid tagging along and shadowing him. But he simply doesn’t have the time to babysit; his focus needing to be on getting shit done and keeping himself alive.
“You’ve said very little,” Anil comments, and moves to fill both their now empty coffee cups from a carafe in the middle of the table. They’ve sought privacy in the hotel’s private conference room that had been promised to the team upon arrival; sitting down before the briefing to ensure they’re on the same page.
“I’m not much of a talker.”
“A man of action and very few words.”
Tyler nods in agreement.
“You miss home.” It's a statement, not a question.
“That obvious, huh?”
Anil gives a small, sympathetic smile. “More than a little. But to be honest, it would concern me if you didn’t miss home. You take great pride in being a family man.”
“Only thing I’ve done with my life that I AM proud of,” Tyler admits.
“Not your military service or the people you’ve helped as a mercenary? They don’t fit in your vision of things to be proud of?”
“Not really. I wouldn’t say killing people for money is something to be proud of. Or boast about but my kids are. For the most, I know I’m doing right by them; that I’m not screwing them up too much at least. I’m giving them a good life and a pretty stable home and they’re growing up seeing me love and respect their mother. When I’m old and gray and they’re good people and they’re treating others right and loving with everything they have, THAT’S something I can go to my grave being proud of.”
Anil nods slowly, considering Tyler’s words.
“I was something I never thought I’d have again,” he says. “A wife. Kids.”
“You were married before? Had children?”
“You can’t tell me you didn’t see THAT in my file. I read it; I know it’s all in there.”
“To be quite honest, all I was concerned with was your track record as a mercenary. Your success rate.”
“My kill sheet, you mean.”
“That was one of your major selling points, I must admit.”
“My first marriage didn’t end well. There were a lot of things to blame, but my own issues and bad decisions played the biggest role. And I didn’t think I’d get that chance again; that I’d fucked up so bad I didn’t deserve to have it. And then I met Esme and things happened pretty quick between us and now…” he shrugs. “...now it’s almost seven years and five kids later.”
“You felt you weren’t worthy of a normal life?”
“I guess. I guess I felt my mistakes were too big to be forgiven and that I didn’t deserve to be happy. Then I got into the job and I figured no one would want to get with some guy that kills people for a living. And then came the drinking and the meds.”
“You were in a bad place,” Anil concludes.
“Yeah, it was pretty bad. It GOT pretty bad. I started taking the most dangerous I could, hoping someone would put me out of misery because I was too much of a coward to do it myself.”
“You were meant to live Or a bullet WOULD have found you. Whether someone put it in you, or you did it yourself.”
“Someone DID do it for me. A fucking teenager. A street thug. Shot me from behind and left me with this…” he rubs the tips of his index and middle fingers over the scar on the side of his neck. “...I came so close. So fucking close. And the worst part of it? I came that close to right when I decided I didn’t want to die anymore. Because someone had come along and made me feel alive again after years of feeling like a goddamn zombie. She gave me a reason to stick around and keep going. This hope that her and I would make something out of nothing. And maybe that sounds crazy seeing as we only knew each other for a really short time, but it’s the way it went. I came close to losing everything but it really became anything.”
“She saved you,” Anil says “On that bridge.”
“She saved me in every way a person CAN be saved. And sometimes she still does. It hasn’t been easy; being with me. We've had a lot of hard, shitty times. But she’s been the one constant; the one thing I know I can count on. The one person that always has my back no matter what. She hangs in there. I don’t know why half the time, but I’m glad she does.”
“You should be grateful,” Anil gestures at him with his coffee cup. “For what you have. Especially for someone in your line of work.”
“Believe me, I am. No one else could do it. It takes a strong fucking person, and she’s the strongest I know. And there’s nothing I wouldn’t do for her. Or my kids.”
“Which is why you’re here.”
“I don’t care how many lives I have to take. Or how I have to take them. No one fucks with my family. I don’t care how much money or power they have. Because I’ll stop at nothing to keep my family safe. Even if that means I have to give up my life to do it. As long they survive. That’s all that matters to me.”
“They will be safe,” Anil assures him. “At my home. I’ll have only my best men working. Around the clock. Nothing will happen to them under my roof, that I can promise. The best people on top of the best security system money can buy. No one is getting close to them.”
“And I want to believe you, mate. And I want to have all the faith in the world with your people and your money. But I want to put someone there, too. Someone I know I can trust. We haven’t always seen eye to eye, but I know they’d get the job done if it came down to it.”
“What is your man’s name? I'll do my own background check. I’ll…”
“Nik. Nik Khan. I know that you know who she is. That you have a ‘working relationship’, whatever the hell that means. She’s the one I want. I worked for her for years and I know how good she is. I know the things she’s capable of. That’s who I want.”
“And you’re certain that she’ll do this for you? Put all the differences aside to do you this one favor?”
“She was the one that offered all the help in the first place. I never went to her. I think it’s safe to say she’ll do it.”
“And Ovi? What do we do with him? It would be dangerous for him...and us...if we allowed him out onto the streets. He’s had no formal training, no real experience with weapons…”
“Use him as a translator. Bring him along when we need to get information out of someone. And he can drop his last name. That’ll make people cooperate.”
“It’s risky,” Anil sighs. “Playing that kind of game.”
“Mate, this whole fucking thing is risky. We don’t even know where most of these guys on the list are. He drops the old man’s name and people will come to him.”
“Lure them? Ambush them?”
“You got a better idea? Because I sure as hell don’t. We’re going into this shit blind. More than the half the addresses on that list you gave don’t even exist. So either you made a mistake, someone gave you bad information, or you’re fucking with me. And you better hope it’s not the last one.”
“It’s the information I was given. From my people. Truly you don’t think I would go into business with you, offer my own home to your wife and children, give you access to all my resources, if I was planning on double crossing you.”
“Six months ago, I had a guy jump through some pretty big hoops to get to me. So yeah, I think you just might.”
“I am in this for my brother,” Anil insists. “To avenge him. His life was torn apart by Mahajan and Amir Asif. Neysa lost her husband; Aarav lost his father.And for what? A battle between drug lords who deserved nothing more than being put down in the street like rabid dogs. I’m a man of action, myself. I don’t play games. If I wanted you dead, it would have happened already.”
A smirk tugs at the corner of Tyler’s mouth. “Kind of bold of you to assume you’d be able to get it done and not wind up in a body bag yourself.”
“And that...that confidence...that edge…that’s exactly why I wanted to go into business with you. You and I are a lot alike, you know. Our backgrounds, our experiences, our trust and faith in our skills and our abilities. Alone, we’re dangerous. Together, even more so. Your family is safe; nothing will happen to them. I will make sure of that. And I’ll do whatever I have to make sure you return to them. We’re going to have many years of working together, and I very much look forward to it. We’ll be very successful. As long YOU don’t cross ME.”
“I don’t intimidate easily, mate. I’m not in this to fuck you over. I’m in this to protect my family. That’s all that matters to me. I’ll do what I need to go, you just make sure you get shit done. Mahajan can’t still be breathing when all of this is over.”
“Oh believe me,” Anil says. “He won’t be.”
While the others gather in the conference room prior to the team meeting, Tyler retreats to the front lobby. Finding a small alcove that exists of nothing more than a simple wooden bench; tucked away from the foot traffic and the noise. And he’s slightly annoyed when one of Anil’s men move closer in an effort to keep both an eye on him, and ward off any potential threats. There’s no way anyone could close without Tyler seeing them coming, and all the protection he needs sits in the holster on his right hip.
He uses his personal cell to call home; both grinning and having to to hold it away from his ear when Millie answers with a shriek that even the ‘bodyguard’ can hear from ten feet away.
“Daddy! Mommy said you’d call before bed and you did! I knew you would! I knew that the bad guys wouldn’t stop you from calling us.”
“Nothing can stop me from talking to you guys.” The mere sound of her voice and the thought of that unruly hair, those huge blue eyes and that bright smile with its missing teeth, returns the tears to his eyes and the tightness to his chest. This is wrong. All so fucking wrong. Having to be apart from them in the first place. And that’s what makes the rage and the need for revenge begin to simmer yet again. That fact that someone ever put him...them...into this situation.
“I miss you,” Millie says. “I miss you doing my hair before school. Mommy’s good, but she’s not as good as you at it. And I miss how you tuck me in. Like a Millie burrito. The monsters can’t get me when I’m a Millie burrito. Do we get to see you soon?”
“I don’t know,” he admits. “It depends.”
“How busy things get. There’s a lot going on and I can’t see you guys until some of it is taken care of. But Auntie Nik will be there; when you arrive. I asked her to go and stay with you guys. Is that okay?”
“I guess. It’s not her fault that you have to leave. Not this time, anyway. But when will you get to see us? Soon?”
“I hope so. Are you okay?”
“I’m a bit sad,” she admits. “Because you’re not here. And ‘cause I don’t get to see you for a bit. And mommy’s sad too. She won’t admit it, but I know she is. Her eyes don’t look the same when you’re gone. When you’re here, her eyes are really sparkly and she smiles a lot. But now her eyes aren’t sparkly and she isn’t smiling much. And that hurts my heart; to see mommy sad. Why is she like that? We’re going on a trip. That should make her a little bit happy, right?”
He clears his throat noisily, then runs a hand over his face. Placing it against his forehead, eyes closed, elbow perched upon his knee. “She’s probably just tired. You guys are being good, I hope. You’re not giving her a hard time, are you? Eating all your dinner? Cleaning your rooms?”
“We’ve been good. We haven’t been fighting or arguing. I haven’t punched anyone in the face. Yet.”
“How about you not punch them in the face EVER.”
“Can I KICK them in the face?”
“No kicking, no punching, no head butts. No nothing. You can’t go through life beating people up because they make you mad.”
“But isn't’ that what you do?” Millie inquires. “People make you mad and you get to beat them up. That’s your job.”
“There’s a little more to it than that.”
“Sometimes you get to kill them?”
Tyler sighs. “Sometimes.”
“But they deserve it because they try to kill you first. So you have to kill them. That makes it okay ‘cause you don’t want to die. And you don’t want mommy or any of us to die either.”
He frowns. “What…?”
“I heard you, daddy. I heard you talking to mommy. I was pretending to be asleep, but I heard you guys talking. About why we’re really leaving. Because the bad guys said they were going to hurt us. So you wanted us to be closer so you could protect us if you had to.”
He has to bite down on his bottom lip to keep a string of expletives from tumbling from his mouth. This is NOT what he wanted. It’s the last goddamn thing he wanted.
“Daddy, it’s okay,” Millie says. “I’m not scared. The bad guys don’t scare me anymore because I know you can beat them up and you won’t let them anywhere near us. You always protect us. Always. You’re not gonna stop now.”
“I’ll never stop protecting you. Not even when you’re married and have kids of your own.”
She giggles. “I don’t think my husband would like my dad around all the time.”
“He doesn’t have a choice. And he won’t protect you like I do. No one can do that. Do me a favor, yeah? Don’t tell your brothers what you know. Keep it to yourself, okay? And don’t tell your mother either; she’s worried enough. She doesn’t need to be worried about that too. Hear me?”
“I hear you. I’ll keep my mouth shut, I promise. If the bad guys DO find us, will you come and see us then?”
“Of course I will. In a heartbeat.”
“But they won’t, right? Find us?”
“You’ll be safe,” Tyler assures her, then looks up as Nik hovers two feet away, hands shoved in the pockets of her well tailored slacks; concern in her eyes and furrowing her brow. And he gives her a small, almost weary smile before adding, “Auntie Nik will make sure you’re safe. You can trust her. I trust her. With you and your brothers and your sister. And your mom. No one else I trust to watch over your guys. I gotta go. I got some things I have to take care of. I love you.”
“I love you too, daddy. I miss you.”
“I miss you too. Tell your mom I’ll call her a bit later. Give her a huge hug and a kiss from me.’”
“I will. Are you still wearing your bracelet?”
“I am,” he confirms. “I’m never going to take it off. And you’re right; I DO think of you when I look at it.”
“I’m going to make a matching one for me. So that when I look at mine, I’ll think of you and smile. Because I really miss you. I miss you reading me bedtime stories and taking me surfing and fishing and all that fun stuff. It hurts my heart and my tummy when you’re not here. I don’t like it when you’re gone and I can’t hug you.”
“I don’t like being gone either.” His voice wavers with emotion. “It hurts my heart too. I’ll see you soon, though. I promise.”
“Not soon enough though.”
“No. Definitely not soon enough.”
“I love you, daddy. We’ll talk soon, yeah?”
“Very soon,” he assures her. “I love you, Amelia. Remember that, okay?”
“I will,” she promises, and then disconnects the call.
He presses end on his cell, then sits staring at the blank screen for several minutes. Thankful that Nik doesn’t speak or make a move to approach him. Simply giving him the space he needs to cope with all the emotions surging through him; loneliness, heartache. Rage that Mahajan has even threatened his family and put him in such a position. Guilt because he’d even gotten his kids dragged into such a huge, shitty mess. Had he just pushed her away seven years ago...if he just hadn’t been so fucking selfish...none of this would be happening.
“You okay?” Nik finally asks, when he shoves the phone into the side pocket on his cargo pants and then lays his palms against his forehead; thumb rubbing at one temple, index finger working on the other.
“Do I look okay? Do I honestly look okay?”
“I’m sorry; that was a stupid question to ask. Mind if I sit?”
“I don’t give a shit. There’s not much I give a shit about anymore.”
“I know this is hard,” she says, as she sinks onto the bench beside him. “I know what this is doing to you; being away from them.”
“No. I don’t think you do. And if this is where you lecture me about getting my shit together and how I need to put my personal life aside and not get emotionally involved or some other bullshit you’re going to spew, save it. I know what I have to do. And when it’s time to do it, I’ll do it. Just right now…”
“All I was going to say is that I understand. I get how hard it is for you; leaving home. And how difficult it is this time around, considering the circumstances.”
“You’re not going to tell me that is all my fault? That I’m a selfish bastard for ever getting married and having kids? For bringing this shitty fucking life in the first place?”
“Nope. I’m not. Because you’re already busy saying all of that about yourself. I will tell you it’s bullshit. That you deserve a normal life. That out of all the people who tried this while still doing the job, you’re the one who deserved it the most. That you’re pretty much the envy of everyone who's tried to have that kind of life but have failed miserably. No one hates you the way you hate yourself, Tyler. And I’ve been telling you that for years.”
“So is that why you’re out here?” He asks. “You think I need to be talked down off some ledge? I’m fine, Nik. I miss home. I miss my wife and my kids and I’m fucking pissed that all of this is even happening. But once this gets going, once I get back into it and that first name is crossed off that list? All that is going to matter is crossing off the rest.”
“It won’t be that easy. You know that. Because Mahajan will know it’s you. IF he doesn’t already know you’re here. Only takes one rat to sink a ship.”
Tyler scowls. “You think we have a rat? That we have something to worry about?”
“I think there’s people around you that you shouldn’t trust. That you’re relying on a little too much. That you should step back and rely on yourself, not them. I’ve known you a long time, Tyler. I know how you work. And you work best on your own. Don’t put too much into other people. That’s all I’m saying.”
“What do you know?”
“Nothing for certain yet. Just things I’m looking into. You’ll be the first one I come to if I get the answers I want. And I’m sorry; for the way things ended between us.”
“Nik...not now...there was never an us…”
“I don’t in that way. I mean work wise. Friendship wise. You left for a reason; a very good reason. And I should have accepted that.”
“You also should have accepted that I was married and just left me the fuck alone. Instead of trying to screw up my life. Over and over again.”
“I’ve apologized for that. A million times. And if I could take it all back, I would. I was hurt. That you chose her over me.”
“I didn’t want you in that way,” Tyler argues. “There was no choice to make. It was never between you and her. It was just her. That’s it. And I’ve told you this how many times? Even if Esme hadn’t come along, there still wouldn’t have been an us. But she DID come along. And she’s my wife and the mother of my kid and if you’ve got some ulterior motive behind being here or you’re gonna start your shit again…”
“No ulterior motive. I want to put everything behind us. Leave the past where it should be. Can we do that? Or least TRY to do that? I know it won’t be an overnight fix. It’s going to take a while to get over everything. But isn’t it worth a try?”
Tyler nods. “I guess. But I’m serious, Nik. I’m not letting you screw up my marriage. Because I love her. More than I ever thought I could love someone. And I’m not leaving her, or my kids, for you or anyone else.”
“I know. And I hear you. Loud and clear. And speaking of kids, Addie is gorgeous. Esme let me hold her at the party. All that dark hair and those huge dark eyes? She’s definitely the odd duck out of the five. A very beautiful odd duck, mind you. And so tiny!”
“Yeah, she’s a wee one. So much like her mom. Looks just like her. And Esme deserved that; having at least one just like her.”
“I hear you even have a pet name for her.”
He grins. “You did, did you. Who told you that?”
“Don’t be shy about it. Or embarrassed. I think it’s cute; daddy’s little peanut. A guy like you turning into a big softie when it comes to his kids. Especially with his little girls. There’s something very compelling about you as a girl dad. It’s so easy to picture you boys; not so much with daughters. This big, tough guy with all his tattoos and his edginess and his ability to kick ass at the drop of a hat, getting all weak over his little girls.”
“I’m not weak.”
“I don’t mean like THAT, and you know it. I mean it in a good way. There was always that compassion and that humanity lingering inside of you, and it just took Millie and Addie to get it out of you. Not that the boys didn’t help. I’m just saying that you, with girls? There’s something pretty special about that.”
Tyler grins. “I thought you were going to say it’s karma considering some of the not so wise choices I’d made when it came to where I stuck my dick,”
“Your taste in women often had me both bewildered AND concerned. But there’s no karma involved. You were given those girls because you’re damn good at taking care of them. Of ALL of them. Never thought I’d see you braiding hair and playing Barbies and having tea parties.”
“Fuck, don’t say it so loud, I have a reputation to uphold.”
“Trust me, nothing takes away from the fact that you do the job as well as you do. And it’s good to see you back at it. A bit of a surprise, mind you. And I really do wish you’d have given me a heads up. About the business thing.”
“I should have,” Tyler admits. “I realize that now. But it was never about fucking you over. Or about revenge. It was about needing something to do. I wanted back in the job without being right in it. And starting a business made all the sense in the world. I wouldn’t have to leave home as much. It’s not fair that Esme’s been practically raising those kids on her own. This way, I can do the job, take care of my family, and provide them. That’s all it was ever about. And I’m sorry. That I didn’t reach out to you and let you know. I didn’t mean to hurt you.”
She smiles, then leans her shoulder into his. “That means a lot. Especially coming from you. I know it’s not easy for you to say the ‘s word’.”
He chuckles. “No. It’s not.”
“And I’m sorry too, For reacting the way I did.”
“Nerves were already pretty raw after New Zealand,” Tyler reasons. “I guess we both could have handled things different. And thank you; for offering to help. Coming here yourself, bringing your people, your resources. I appreciate it.”
“You’d do the same thing for me if I needed the help.”
“Yeah,” he agrees. “I would. In a heartbeat.”
“I spoke to Anil. He told me what you want. Me at the house.”
“I understand if you don’t want to do it. I know you probably came here wanting to get your hands dirty. So if you don’t want to do it…”
“I DO want to do it. And thank you. For trusting me with that. With THEM. I know that’s not easy for you; trusting people with your family.”
“If there’s anyone I DO trust with them, it’s you. Because I know what you’re like when you’re on a job. How focused and committed you are. I know you won’t let anything happen to them. I also know it’s probably going to be really weird with Kyle there.”
“I’m going into this with no emotional ties. I’m going into this like I would any other job. I’m all in. Nothing will happen to Esme or the kids. Not on my watch.”
“Thanks, I mean, I’d rather be there myself, but…”
“You need to do what you have planned. That’s where your focus needs to be. Trust yourself, Tyler. Your skills, your instincts. Trust yourself first and foremost. Promise me that.”
“Promise me. The things I’m looking into...the people I’m looking...I’ll tell you all about them when...and if...I get answers. For right now, trust yourself out there. Only yourself. Got it?”
“Keep your friends close and your enemies closer,” she says, then stands up and smooths down the back of her slacks. “You do that, you’ll live through this.”
“The plan is to have most of you working in pairs,” Yaz says, as he stands at the head of the conference table, casting images from his laptop to the hotel provided smart board. “We’ve partnered Koen and Rata together given their extensive military service alongside each other, and Anil and Nathan together until things move to the prison at a later date. Then, Anil will work with Ovi to gain access to Mahajan. The prison, as rundown and overcrowded as it is, has extremely tight security and an army of heavily armed guards. It won’t be just as easy as going in there, carrying out the job, and getting out. More time and effort will be needed for that, and we may end up needing more people. We’ve got Nik going to head security at Anil’s private residence, and Tyler working on his own. For now.”
“Why on his own?” Koen speaks up. “Why isn’t he with anyone?”
‘Because he has the experience the rest of you don’t have,” Yaz explains. “And he works better by himself. This isn’t about large scale take downs, so if any of you were thinking that kind of thing would happen and this would all be over with quick? I’ve got some bad news for you. We are going after two or three at a time. And given what Tyler was able to do in Dhaka when he took down an entire apartment on his own…”
“That was even years ago,” Koen interjects. “A lot’s changed in seven years.”
“I work better alone,” Tyler speaks up. “You heard what Yaz said. I don’t need to be babysitting. I’ve got shit to do and I don't need to be worrying about whoever’s tagging along.”
“It’s not safe for anyone to be working alone, never mind you,” Koen argues. “Aren’t you the one with the bounty on his head? Wouldn’t it make sense if you’re the one with a sidekick watching YOUR ass?”
“I don’t need anyone watching my ass. I’m not a rookie. Worry about yourself, for fuck sakes.”
“Tyler has been doing this for years,” Nik says. “His record speaks for itself. He knows what he’s doing and if he needs help, he’ll ask for it.”
“Like hell he will,” Koen grumbles. “This reeks of you,” he addresses Tyler. “Always thinking you can handle shit on your own.”
“When it comes to the job, I can. So why don’t you just sit there, shut up, and let Yaz continue. Anil and I are running this and this is what we came up with. Deal with it.”
“How come I don’t get to go with anyone?” Ovi inquires. “What am I supposed to do? Just sit around and wait until I’m needed?”
“That’s exactly what you’re supposed to do,” Tyler replies. “You’re here to translate. And when we need you to translate, we’ll let you know.”
“I didn’t come all this way just to translate. That’s not what we talked about. I should be going with you.”
“Because that worked out so well the last time?” Tyler asks. “Last time we were in a job together, mate, I ended with me getting shot in the throat. I don’t want a repeat of that.”
“I was a kid then! I was fourteen. I’m almost twenty one. And I’m a merc now so…”
“Whoa...whoa…” Yaz holds up his hands. “...you are not a merc. You’re not even close to being a merc. That and that…” he nods at Nik, then Nathan, “...those are mercs. That…” he gestures towards Tyler. “...that’s a merc. You’re a baby merc.”
“He’s not even out of the womb yet,” Nathan chuckles. “Fetus merc.”
“Fuck you,” Ovi snarls. “Tyler’s been training me. On weapons, hand to hand combat…”
“And you’re nowhere ready to be out there,” Tyler says. “You think a few hours of training and you’re done? Do you know how long it takes to get used to doing this? To be confident doing it? You just don’t walk about knowing the ropes. You got a long way to go.”
“I know how to shoot a gun.”
Rata scoffs. “Even I know it’s not as easy as just knowing how to shoot a gun. Do you have any experience? Any military background? Time at a shooting range? Anything that suggests you can properly deal with the weapons we’re handling?”
“I shot Gaspar,” Ovi points out.
Rata frowns, then turns to Koen. “Who the fuck is Gaspar?”
“That was a handgun,” Tyler reminds Ovi. “And it won’t do shit for you when you’ve got an automatic rifle being fired at you. You’ll be dead before you even get one shot off. You’re not going out there. You’re going to stay here and help where you’re needed.”
“I’m needed out there!” Ovi argues. “You shouldn’t be out there alone!”
“Now the kid and I are agreeing on something.” Koen says. “You shouldn’t be out there alone.”
“You shit the fuck up,” Tyler orders. “I’m YOUR boss, remember? This is what’s going to happen. Either you fucking deal with it or leave. I don’t have time for your shit. Or…” he glares at Ovi “...your shit. Do I need to remind you whose family these people are going after? I don’t need anyone’s fuck ups destrying my entire life. So if either of you have an issues with how things are going to go, there’s the fucking door.”
Nik pushes her chair closer to the table and lays her hand on his shoulder, effectively calming him. “The plan that Anil and Tyler have come up with is sound,” she says. “It makes the most logical sense. He does work better on his and that’s the way he prefers it. Until either of you have the experience he does and it's either of your entire lives on the line, keep your opinions to yourself. No one needs to hear them.”
“As I was saying,” Yaz continues. “These are the teams you’ll be working with. At least to start out. Things are subject to change as they go on and become increasingly difficult. Once Mahajan realizes Tyler is in Mumbai and behind the killings of his men, things will heat up and then the game plan will have to change. Now you’ll all be fitted with radios and earwigs. State of the art. Wireless. So if you have to go into a place where your mark is, they won’t make you the second you walk through the door. Communicating with each other is to be done only through the SAT phones you were given yesterday. They can’t be bright by any outside source; I’ve made sure of it. From here on out, the marks will only be referred to by number. One to twenty five; no names. Just faces and locations. The list will be split between teams and you’ll go from there.
So far, only we’ve only been able to verify the locations of one to four. One and two will be handled tomorrow,” he brings two black and white photographs up on the smart screen. “There are our first two marks. One and two. Tyler will be in charge of taking them out and I think it’s only fair he gets the first shot. Every morning at nine am, one and two exit their respective residences on the twelfth floor of the Grand Hyatt. Tyler will enter the elevator on the fourteen floor. I’ll have my own eyes inside the elevator, but I will take out the hotel’s security cameras in the elevator and on floors eight to fourteen. The only problem is that I can only have them down for three minutes before the hotel backups kick in. So Tyler has those three minutes to enter the elevator, wait for one and two to board, carry out the job, and then get off somewhere before the eighth floor. He’ll exit the hotel down the south stairwell, which doesn’t have security cameras.. Once he’s on the stairs, he’s safe to move at his own speed. But between the time he gets on the elevator and gets off it, he has three minutes. That’s it.”
“Three minutes is not a lot of time,” Koen remarks.
“About two minutes more than I need,” Tyler says. “Why are you sorry about what I’m doing?”
“Well someone has to worry about you. You obviously don’t give a shit about yourself. And neither do any of these people enabling you and your bullshit. Makes no sense that you’re the one working alone.”
“Wish I was working alone.” Nathan speaks up. “No offence, Anil. But I’ve been working alone since Nik hired me and all of a sudden I have to team up with someone? Gonna be a hard adjustment.”
“I am more than capable of being out there by myself,” Tyler informs Koen. “It’s how I’ve always done it.”
“Didn’t work so well for you in Bangladesh, did it.”
Tyler scowls. “We are NOT bringing Dhaka into this. Up until Mahajan fucked me and Saju killed almost my entire team and tried to kill me to get Ovi off me, everything was fine. Everything went fucking great. And had I not been played, Dhaka wouldn’t have ended the way it did.”
“But it DID end that way,” Koen argues. “And it almost ended permanently for you. And Esme. If you’d had someone with you…”
“I didn’t need someone with me. Were you there?”
“I’m just saying…”
“Were you there? Were you in the apartment when I took out all those hostels? Were you in the forest? Or on the streets? Were you on the bridge? Were you?”
“No. I wasn’t. But…”
“Well I was. I was there. And I did what I had to do. With the resources I had. So don’t fucking sit there and act like you know how things went. You have no goddamn idea. So get off my ass and worry about what you need to do. This isn’t up for debate. This is the way it’s going to be. Don’t like it, leave.”
“You’re not invincible you know,” Koen informs him. “You think you are. You may think ‘cause you survived that bullet that you can survive anything. But I’m here to tell you that you’re wrong. That your way of thinking is fucked and you need to stop just thinking about yourself and think about your wife and your kids.”
“I’m done,” Tyler pushes his chair away from the table and stands. “I’m not sitting here and listening to your shit. You weren’t there seven years ago. You weren’t the one who took a bullet to your neck. Don’t sit there like you’re a fucking expert on Dhaka. And don’t you EVER preach to me about how I treat my wife and my kids. Everything I do is for them. Every fucking decision I make is about them and what’s best for them.”
“It’s alright.” Nik attempts to diffuse the situation, wrapping her fingers around Tyler’s wrist and tugging on his arm. “Just sit down and let Yaz finish. There’s no reason to…”
“I don’t need to be there. I know what I’m doing. The rest of you need to figure your shit out. And if any of you don’t like what Anil and I are doing, just leave. I don’t need your shit. I’ve got enough crap on my plate as it is. The last thing I need is to sit here and listen to people bitch and moan.”
“Let’s just get through this,” Nik suggests. “Let’s just sit down and let Yaz finish and…”
“Let him go,” Koen says. “It’s what he does. He runs. When he doesn’t get his way or he doesn’t like what he’s hearing. He’s good at that. Running.”
“What the fuck did you just say?”
“Alright...alright…” Yaz steps in front of Tyler before he can advance in Koen. “...everyone’s on edge and everyone’s getting a little heated. Take it easy. Let’s walk.” He drapes his arm across Tyler’s shoulders, leading him out into the hall and letting the door click shut behind them.
“I don’t need to be in there,” Tyler fumes.
“I agree. You know what’s up. You know what you’re doing. Why don’t you go and get something to eat. Or go work out. Go beat the shit out of the heavy bag for an hour or two. Just get your head on straight, that’s all I ask. We need you focused. Head in the game. Got it?”
“I know what the fuck I’m doing, Yaz. I’ve done this before.”
“I know. So go and calm down and do whatever you gotta do to get a handle on this. Because you’re not going to be any good to anyone if you don’t get your shit together.. And your wife and your kids are depending on you to get this done and to get it done right. That’s all that matters. THEY’RE all that matters. Right?”
Tyler sighs heavily, then nods in agreement.
“Go cool down,” Yaz says. “Call home. You and I can sit down and talk about this later. Go on…” he jerks a thumb over his shoulder in the direction of the elevator. “...before I drag you away myself.”
Tyler smirks. “I’d like to see you try.”
“It’s us smaller guys you gotta watch out for. We’re sketchy. Cagey. Haven’t you learned anything from being married to Esme for so long? The little ones are the most dangerous. Now go. Call home. Talk to your wife. Tell your kids a bedtime. They gotta be missing you. And I know you’re missing them.”
“I’m a fucking weak bastard, aren’t I.”
“Because you love your family? There’s nothing weak about that. It’s being a goddamn human being, Tyler. Or somewhere along the line did you forget that that’s what you are? You’re not a fucking robot. You FEEL things. If you didn’t, THEN I’d be worried. You’re not the guy you were back in Dhaka. You’re not even the guy you were six months ago in New Zealand. So go and be human. Call home. Tell your wife you miss her and you love her. Say the same thing to your kids. Because you’re going to damn well regret NOT saying those things if this all goes to shit. And you don’t want that on your conscience.. If something happens them…to any of them...and there’s shit left unsaid, that will fuck with your head. You’ll never survive that.”
A grin plays on his lips. “When did you get all wise and all knowing? Knock one girl up and suddenly you’ve got all the answers to life’s biggest questions?”
“Believe it or not, most of this I learned from watching you. How you are when you’re away from all of this. The way you are with Esme and the kids. You’re totally different with them. You’ve found this separation between job you and husband and dad you and that’s fucking admirable. And you can bitch all you want about it makes you soft or that it makes you look weak or pathetic or whatever horseshit you tell yourself, but nothing can be further from the truth. And if a guy like you can find that..that balance...that kind of peace...it gives the rest of us hope that we can too. And fuck anyone who thinks differently.”
“You’re good for my ego, Yaz.”
“Your ego needs to hear this shit sometimes. Because whether you want to believe it or not, you’re the horrible person you think you are. You think you don’t deserve the life you have. And I get it. WHY you think that. But you’ve got six people at home that love you and need you and want you around. And you do deserve that. So go and get your shit together. Clear your head. Talk to your family. Say the things you need to say. It’ll do you some good.”
Tyler nods in agreement.
“You don’t want regrets, man. If shit does go wrong and something happens to you, don’t go out of this world with things left unsaid. Because that’ll be on Esme’s mind for the rest of her life. And that’s not fair to her.”
“This whole life isn’t fair to her.”
“But she chose it. When she stuck around for you. That’s what you keep forgetting. It was her choice to be with you. And nothing you could have done or said, would have changed her mind. You got a great life, Tyler. You gotta hang onto it. No matter what .”
“That’s why I’m here. So I don’t lose that life. So I don’t lose her. Or any of my kids.”
“Take that into tomorrow. That rage you’re feeling. That need for revenge. You take that into tomorrow and the day after and the day after that? You’re walking away from here. You’re going home. You don’t get your head sorted out, you’ll be going home in a body bag. And that’s not what your family needs. Get your shit together. Go do whatever you have to do to get your head in the game, alright?” Yaz claps him on the shoulder. “Wanna go grab something to eat later? You can give me some daddy advice.”
“Yeah,” Tyler gives a small smile. “I can do that.”
“Although I don’t know if I should take advice from you; you were stupid enough to do it FIVE times.”
“Might be six. Never know.”
“You really are a crazy bastard,” Yaz chuckles, and then playfully shoves him in the direction of the elevator.
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What Lingers Within: Six
A Supernatural Fan-fiction Mini Series
Featuring: Past Dean Winchester x Female Reader
Written for: @thisismysecrethappyplace
Word Count: 2396
Beta’d by the amazing @itmighthavebeenintentional
Aesthetic by @thoughtslikeaminefield
A/N: Set in season 11. Flashbacks are still in italics. No new warnings for this chapter.
The neighborhood Dean found a motel in did little to settle your raw nerves. The sleek car earned a few stares and a solitary whistle when it pulled into the crumbling parking lot well into the dark of night. You noticed both Dean and Sam flashed their weapons, which were kept at the smalls of their backs, before Dean headed into the office to set you all up for the night. Those loitering in the stairwell and among the other cars had eyes on you and Michelle all the while, until he returned for you and their bags.
Lord knew what you looked like as Dean and Sam escorted you and Michelle into the pay-by-the-hour room. You didn’t know why you were so bothered by it, being a murderer was worse than being a prostitute.
That damning truth had barely registered before you caught on that Dean had been waiting for your answer to an unheard question.
“I’m sorry, what?” You scrunched your eyes closed in an attempt to focus.
Your vision slowly unclouded around Dean’s insistent face. “You okay? Here, have some water.”
Suddenly a cold plastic bottle was slipped into your hand; they kept a cooler at the ready in the backseat you had noticed when they took you for breakfast. Always prepared, like boy scouts or doomsday preppers.
You took the water and realized all three of them were watching you.
“What?” You wiped a trickle from your chin and waited for the conversation to resume.
“First thing, you need a change of clothes and we all could stand to eat,” Dean went from looking at you to pointing at Sam.
“Why don’t I take Michelle to Y/N’s place? Grab her a few things?” Sam offered, and you couldn’t help notice the blush on your cousin’s face.
“But I still need to grab my truck. Drop me off and I’ll handle Y/N’s essentials. That way you can grab food and we can all meet back here,” Michelle smiled brightly. If you weren’t still in some state of shock you would have groaned at her.
“You sure? They might expect her home, tried it there the first time,” Dean bowed his head, but stopped just short of pursing his lips at Michelle.
“I’ll be fine, in and out. No one will know what I am up to until I am already out the door,” she reassured him, her stare held enough tenacity to choke a pitbull.
Dean smirked and rolled his eyes in jest. “Fine! Stubbornness runs in your family too?”
“You could say that,” Michelle sighed before pulling you in, hip-to-hip. “Just keep an eye on her while I’m gone?”
It was your turn to roll your eyes, but the warm strength in her grip was sorely needed. You squeezed her waist and tipped your head onto her shoulder for the briefest moment of reprieve.
“I got her,” Dean promised, pulling you into his arms by way of your drooping water bottle. You fell forward against him, awkwardly bumbling until he locked his arm over your shoulder, pulling you to stand, almost mirroring the position you and Michelle had shared.
“Right,” Sam sighed. “Ready?”
“Lead the way, handsome,” Michelle giggled as she waggled her fingers over her shoulder.
Once the door latched behind them, your stance became increasingly unnecessary and you broke away from Dean’s sturdy side to guzzle more water. It was impossibly hot in the dingy room.
“Why don’t you take a shower? I’ll check and see if the police have anything, or at least anything we need to worry about.” Dean dropped eye contact to the laptop on the small breakfast table. He seemed almost apologetic.
“Can I get a shirt? I don’t think Michelle is gonna make it back with my stuff before I’m out,” you clarified.
“Let me guess, not just any shirt, you want a flannel?” Dean raised his eyebrows.
“T-shirts just show off all the wet patches,” you mumbled as Dean went to dig through his duffle. He sniffed a navy one before balling it up and tossing it to you. You caught it, high on your chest.
“Thanks,” you grew quiet as you turned to the yellow light of the small bathroom, slipping your fingertips over the downy fabric.
“Anytime,” Dean murmured to your back, too low for you to catch.
“Hey, anything?” Sam asked, walking in with two bags of burgers and a six pack.
“Nothing, so far. Michelle make it to Y/N’s place okay?” Dean asked, knowing Sam wouldn’t just drop her off. He made room at the table, but didn’t take his eyes from the screen long.
“Yeah, seemed to, I clocked her until I reached the turn off,” Sam rushed out before taking a big bite from his burger.
“Oh man, that smells amazing,” Dean whined, digging into the bag for his own. The men ate in silence, possibilities weighing on both their minds.
“You think she’ll be good to go once Michelle gets back?” Sam asked, testing the waters.
“Don’t have much of a choice, our cover’s blown and she’s got blood on her hands. I don’t trust these cops to follow innocent until proven guilty; she doesn’t have the pockets Katelyn does. Did.” Dean breathed deeply, trying to focus back on the momentary indulgence of his food.
“So, we take her with us? Set her up at the bunker?” Sam considered aloud.
Dean coughed, nearly spitting out his food. Sam let his brother work through his dramatics with a pointed mouth.
“She’s not cut out for this, Sam. She shouldn’t have to live under the radar,” Dean muttered, the guilt and regret lacing every word.
“No one should have to live like this, but we do it. And she can too.” Sam cocked his head.
Dean shook his head, his tired eyes begging his brother to stop pushing. “We’ll, uh, we’ll get a hold of Jody, see if she has room.”
“Who’s Jody?” Her voice broke into their conversation, the steam wafted from the bathroom bringing with it the scent of generic soap which mixed awkwardly with the grease of their dinner.
She stunned Dean into silence, between her bare legs and his shirt hugging her, and the hole he was digging himself into, he was frozen. Sam simply sighed before he dove into explanations.
Cedar and chamomile merged with lemon oil and teak, the dark wood floors of the house they were being shown seemed to expand in all directions. Dean had no idea how long this process would take, but as a car guy, he knew to check the guts of the house first and move outward. New furnace, updated electrical, refurbished crown molding, original floors and only five years on the roof, it seemed too good to be true.
But then he thought about mortgage payments and realized that was the dose of reality he was expecting to find in the plumbing or an air duct.
She had the realtor wrapped around her finger, which he appreciated because his bullshitting skills had staled a bit over the months out of the game. He wandered as they discussed the window sills or the light fixtures or the backsplash for the thirteenth time since arriving. Private showings were easiest, less pressure than an open house and more wiggle room. Dean liked the freedom to roam and to peak in the hidden corners for rot or signs of spirits.
Buying a house was a big step, Bobby had warned him, like Dean needed it. But the look she gave him as he eyed the first hot water heater had sold him on the idea. They weren’t just looking for a house in a buyer’s market, they were building a life together.
With a real home to start out in.
Was this the one? Would he ever be certain? He knew he wanted to keep her happy and safe, but could any house be the end all?
He’d never thought one woman would be, maybe he’d just keep going through the motions and see what stuck.
The enormity of what had happened seeped into every thought; each moment held a new revelation or decision.
You were a fugitive; your life would no longer be simple, boring or safe.
Somehow, you were now dependent on an ex you didn’t know and his brother. Who were monster hunters that lived off of fake credit cards. You were waiting to wake up, because this nightmare just wouldn’t end.
Michelle had been gone for two hours and even Sam had become rattled by her delay.
“She should have at least called by now,” you had been insisting on looking for Michelle for nearly an hour. If not one of the brothers, you’d threatened to go yourself.
“No, something doesn’t feel right. It could be a trap.” Dean was firm, but the exhaustion was fraying his patience all the same.
“It’s still ringing through to voicemail,” Sam sighed, as you watched him take the phone from his ear once again. He gave you a grim, tight lipped smile and you flopped down on the bed by Dean’s feet.
You tugged the bottom of the flannel down so you didn’t flash your underwear, neither of their pants could fit over your hips so you waited for your once grimy pair of leggings to drip dry.
This was all your fault and if something happened to Michelle on top of it, you wouldn’t be able to live with yourself. Just as another info-mercial started playing on the outdated television set, a hurried knocking ricocheted through the room.
Dean and Sam were up and armed in the blink of an eye, Dean stood himself between you and the door as Sam slinked to the entryway, ducked to the peep hole before he tossed the door wide open. Michelle burst in, terrified, face drawn and hands freezing as she pulled you into a tight squeeze.
“What happened?!” Dean broke the confused silence.
“The cops are looking for you, or at least they are camped outside your apartment. I got stopped on my way in. Told them I was expecting you soon. They warned me to be careful, to let them know if I see you, because they had some follow up questions. Questions, my ass. After twenty minutes, I snuck out by the alley. I walked, that’s why it took me so long. Sorry.” Michelle explained.
“No, that’s good.” Sam gave Michelle his best reassuring face before grimacing over her head to Dean.
“Were you followed? And why didn’t you call?” Dean nearly barked and you and Michelle both recoiled at his tone.
“I left my phone in my truck. I wasn’t expecting to have to dodge the cops,” Michelle snapped back as she pulled the canvas bag off her shoulder and shoved it at you. “This is a week’s worth of clothes, go get some pants on.”
You didn’t miss the challenging glare she shot Dean and Sam. Sam had the common sense to look sheepish. You got redressed in a rush, keeping the flannel as an outer layer over a faded concert tshirt and your favorite pair of jeans. By the time you got your hair to cooperate; you were almost feeling like yourself again. You needed to be ready for whatever came next.
Michelle was okay, but this was far from over.
When you exited the bathroom, three pairs of eyes zoned in on you, the tension in the air was palpable.
“What?” You shifted and dropped the bag by the table, Sam had already repacked his laptop.
“Ready to go?” Dean asked you while looking at Sam.
“Go? Go where?” Your gaze locked on to the space between the brothers.
“Don’t know yet, but Michelle is gonna file a missing persons for you. When she does that, we should be at least a state away,” Sam patted your cousin’s back, but quickly removed his hand. She was not happy they were taking you away. You couldn’t blame her, but at the same time, you had no choice. Prison was the last place you wanted to figure your life out.
“You okay with this?” You asked Michelle, ignoring Dean’s impatience as he grabbed your bag in one hand and the rest of the burgers in the other.
“Are you certain that you are safe with them?” Michelle pressed.
“Yes, I don’t know how to explain it, but they aren’t going to hurt me. They get nothing by helping me with this, Chelle. They’re just doing it because they can.” You shrugged, looking at Sam as he eased his stuff off the table beside you and followed Dean to the car.
“You call me as soon as you stop. Then again at the next place,” Michelle warned.
“I’ll call, but I can’t leave messages. They’ll be tracking your calls.” You explained apologetically.
“Right, God, I don’t know how you know to think of all this stuff,” Michelle nodded in agreement.
“Same way you knew to haul ass across town on foot, too many crime shows and sheer gut instinct.” You teased before opening your arms for one last hug.
She smelled like the city at nighttime, crisp and gritty at the same time.
“Be safe,” Michelle warned as you headed out the door.
“You too.” You stopped. “Thanks, for everything.”
“Don’t worry about it, go, before they leave you behind.” Michelle insisted and in that moment you knew without a doubt, that would be a fate worse than prison after all.
You crawled into the backseat of the massive black car and settled yourself in the dead center of the backseat. Dean cocked his eyebrows at you in the rearview and you exhaled.
“So, where we headin’?” You asked whoever would answer.
“South Dakota,” Dean answered.
“Kansas,” Sam corrected.
“Okay, I’ll let you figure it out, but I gotta pass out. Sam, remind me to call and hang up on Michelle when we stop,” you bunched up Dean’s flannel and curled up on the cold leather seat.
“Can do,” Sam tossed back at you. They grumbled between themselves, but you didn’t bother trying to listen in. You had made your bed, the least you could do was actually get some rest before you had to lie in it.
Series tags: @tiggytaylor @vicmc624 @kalesrebellion
General SPN tags: @flamencodiva @dolphincliffs @dontshootmespence @thoughtslikeaminefield @fangirlxwritesx67 @dawnie1988 @cosicas-cuquis @foxyjwls007 @tumbler-tidbits @defenderrosetyler @ericaprice2008 @princessofthefandomrealm @wingedcatninja @mrswhozeewhatsis
Read On: Chapter Seven
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TITLE: Stubborn Independence
CHAPTER NO./ONE SHOT: 5/10
Imagine Loki struggling to adjust to someone who is independent and insists on paying for themselves all the time, even if it is a struggle sometimes. They need to do everything on their own. They never ask for help and refuse help. Just imagine Loki really wanting to spoil this person. Imagine how creative he would get to make life easier on this person who has captivated him.
Imagine being a talented singer at your local club. Loki comes in one night with Thor and the others (he’d rather be anywhere else but who turns down free drinks?) and gets ensnared in the voice of the beautiful singer on stage. Suddenly, his interest (and arousal) are more than piqued.
Imagine getting into a petty fight with Loki, so in retaliation, he puts everything on the top shelf where you can’t reach?
AUTHOR’S NOTES: College AU. Loki is determined to take over Odin’s company. He works hard and has a strict schedule for success. However, with the interference of Thor and the other four, Loki’s plans are often interrupted so they can play matchmaker.
My Ao3: brightsun_and_darkmidnight
~ ~ ENJOY ~ ~
Loki let Sirena drive her own car while she talked excitedly about how well she was doing at Whispering Waters. Apparently the manager was considering having her perform every friday night, waitress the other times, and was going to pay her a small amount and let her keep the tips.
“How cool is that though? I mean I would be able to get my name out there.”
Loki could not stop the smile pulling his lips. “You are very gifted.”
“Thanks. It’s not… I guess it isn’t so much of getting my name known, I just like to see when people hear music. Music is proven to change or elevate moods. Its why I am in the musical therapy major.”
“When do your mock classes start?”
“Next week. Frigga stated there are some people really interested in the little class.”
Loki watched as Sirena parked in front of a grocery store.
She gave Loki a big smile. “Object of this game is to get snacks to eat in the car. Now go. Gogogog!"
Sirena hurried out of the car and Loki felt rushed to do it too.
She started laughing as the car locked and ran to the entrance.
Loki easily caught up to her then opened the door. At Sirena’s look he walked in and shut the door so she had to open it herself.
"What the hell?” She laughed as she tried to be the intimidating fireball she was.
Loki smirked, “Everyone keeps telling me to let you do stuff yourself.”
“Well yeah. But did you need to make sure the door shut?”
“It would have been considered helping.”
Sirena tapped Loki’s arm with a small smile then pulled him along towards the snack isle.
Sirena was picking granola bars and some chips. “So get anything you can easily eat in the car.”
“Where are we going to go?”
Sirena snickered. “Depends on when you have your next scheduled alarm.”
Loki grumbled, “touche.”
Loki picked out a few things but were mostly candy. After purchasing their own things they went to the car.
“With all those sweets you are going to get a cavity. Clint would yell at me all the time about what I would eat because he knows I want to loose weight and be more healthy. He watches out for me.” Sirena took a bite of her granola bar.
“He does seem a bit…” Loki hesitated for the right word.
“Intimidating? Yeah he got the whole older brother thing about him.”
Loki immediately asked, “Brother? So you two aren’t dating?”
Sirena forced a gag and muttered “ew” several times. “No we aren’t dating. We knew each other from high school. He looked out for me because I would always get myself in trouble with people. I was too nice and people took advantage of me. He would scare people away from me.”
“He was trying to scare me away then?”
Sirena shrugged her shoulders. “Clint is an ass but yeah. He is a great guy. He is just pushing your buttons to see if you are good for me to…talk to.”
Loki had to be cheeky. “Am i good company?”
Sirena teased. “I think so.”
Loki laughed at his own question. “Was this planned out?”
Sirena pouted, “Probably. Clint is good at seeing things from way outside the picture so he is good at placing things where they are supposed to be.”
Loki fiddled with a piece of candy. “Where does he want us?”
“Beside each other.”
“You are being vague.”
“Vague? Why is there more information you are searching for?” Sirena teased.
“Just wondering if there is more to this… How did you put it..? Beside each other, Like this, in this car discussing his master painting over snacks…”
“maybe this is part of his plans..” Sirena glances at Loki’s lips as she leans slightly.
Loki starts to lean in as well.
The kiss was short, sweet, and it made Loki happy to see her smile once the short kiss was over.
Loki smirked with a tilt of his head, “so do I ask you out or do you want to ask me?”
Sirena grinned, “I initiated the kiss, so I asked.”
Loki shrugged. “Fair enough. So do I get to take you out for dinner?”
Sirena seemed hesitant. “We can do our Q and A right here.”
“Do you actually have insurance on your phone?” It was the first question Loki came up with.
Sirena laughed, “that question is what you open up with?”
Loki nodded with a smirk.
She sighed before answering. “Yes I do. They won’t send me a new one because I dropped the phone. Something stupid about it not being the device that stopped working and it was my fault.. But it still works and I am not worried about it.”
“Alright. But everytime you show me pictures on your phone I really want to get you a new one so I can see your pictures better.”
“You are not the first person to complain about my phone for that reason.”
“Why not get a new phone?”
“I am worried about losing my pictures.”
Loki beamed. “I could help with that. Its very easy to do that. I move files all the time for work.”
“Maybe. Enthusiastic helper.”
Loki thought for a second. “I could teach you how to save stuff and put it all on a micro SD card or back everything up to the cloud.”
Sirena looked confused. “That was all over my head. I have no idea how electronics work. I can text, call, and set alarms.”
Loki tried not to laugh but a few chuckles escaped.
“Oh come on dont laugh at me!”
Loki couldn’t help but laugh at her pout and the embarrassment inside her voice.
“I didn’t mean to offend.”
“Whatever. So there is an intersection coming up… left, right, or straight?”
Loki asked. “Really? Okay straight.”
And that was the game for the night until they needed to get back to campus.
Loki and Sirena spent more time together and Clint seemed to be warming up to Loki more. There were still threats of bodily harm if Loki “ever hurt her and I will make sure you suffer too."
Loki genuinely promised Clint he would never hurt Sirena.
Loki found himself on a new schedule and Sirena didn’t mind much of his alarms because she saw how anxious he was without some daily structure. However she convinced him into a deal; he could pay for one meal a week, and on certain days she had control of what they would do with their free time. Loki had to admit he enjoyed new experiences -especially with Sirena because she is always pleasant to be around.
Sirena never let Loki pay for anything and if he did it was an ear full and she would go buy him something if he wouldn’t take the money.
He tried to get creative by leaving a little money where she would find it, but she gave it away.
Loki went so far as to order things online, have them shipped to her mailbox as an "accidental delivery.” Despite the company saying to keep it she would send it back or find someone else who would use it.
Then Sirena got assigned a paper to write and was stressed out about getting it done because it was on a book she just didn’t understand. She found school just as important as Loki did, so homework would carve into their time together. Loki offered his help and she actually accepted it. Loki’s skills at analytical reading were useful and Sirena would get Loki his favorite drink and snacks as thanks for each study session.
They would work on homework together; at first they were alone and then they had a study group with the rest of their friends. Loki invested in a personal laptop so he could program while others worked and it didn’t take long to make some friends in the computer programming department too. Friends such as, Tony and Bruce.
During a study group Sirena announced she would be in a few of the art classes soon.
Fandral teased, “I am sure Loki is going to love it.”
Sirena glared at Fandral. “It is very professional. There will be no suggestive atmosphere.”
A few days later, Loki was in his art class and felt a little nervous as Sirena came in. Sirena discussed with Loki alone about how the class would go and how if anyone steps out of line the teacher would handle it.
It still did nothing to comfort him once she was on the podium in the plain undergarments she once explained. Everyone was on best behavior in the class which made it easier that way, but Loki’s hands sweat so much he had to keep readjusting the drawing utensils. They were never intimate other than kisses, hugs, and hand holding but now he saw the curves of her body and was memorizing them onto paper.
Not at all troubling.
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As the world reels from the coronavirus pandemic, everyone is advised to shelter in his/her own home. And because most people nowadays are working from home, kids are attending classes remotely, and there is a rising need for streamed entertainment, it is likely to see an increase in your monthly energy usage.
For sure, you’ve been trying to find out different ways to reduce your household energy consumption for months now. However, you still haven’t cracked the code. Is it getting more and more frustrating to open your electricity bill? Well, if it is, then maybe you need to try these energy-saving tips advised by Bell Electrical's Cheltenham electricians to reduce your power consumption.
Tip #1: Conduct a comprehensive energy audit.
Are you wondering why your electricity bills are costing you a lot? Understand what's driving up the price of electricity, and how your lifestyle affects your bill by conducting a full energy audit.
Start by investigating the trends of household’s energy to see the biggest contributors to your electricity bills. Make sure to assess your appliances’ power usage. You can also consider installing smart meters on your appliances and using more energy-efficient devices. More importantly, you can ask help and advice by calling the expert Cheltenham electricians.
Tip #2: Turn off the lights.
This sounds like an obvious tip, but how often do you consciously turn off the lights? Look around you, and check the lights. Are there lights that are turned on while no one is using them? If so, turn them off.
Turning off the lights when they aren’t in use can significantly decrease electricity use. To save even more, you can try opening your windows and use natural light instead. Before you go to bed, make sure all your lights are turned off at night.
What’s more? You can also change your old light bulbs for new ones. If you’re planning to go to the grocery, check if you can buy LED light bulbs. Quality LED light bulbs only use 75 per cent less energy than traditional incandescent bulbs. They can even last 25 times longer as well.
Tip #3: Do not overindulge in the shower.
Let’s be frank, nobody wants to take a cold shower. However, showers do not only use a lot of water, but it consumes energy as well. Heating the water into that just-right temperature is costing you. Why not shorten your hot shower by a few minutes? This way, you can save both in terms of water and energy usage.
Tip #4: Unplug appliances on standby.
Unplugging devices on standby is recommended by professional
. It is one of the easiest ways to reduce your energy consumption and lower your electricity bill.
Most of your electronics remain on standby when not in use. Appliances like your game console, TV, and TV boxes continue to consume energy even when they are off, and these can all add up. That is why you must practise unplugging your appliances.
By unplugging and properly switching off your appliances and electronics, you can save around $100 to $200 annually.
Tip #5: Switch to energy-efficient appliances.
You’ve conducted your energy audit. Now, what have you noticed? Do you have energy-efficient appliances? You don’t have one, do you? The devices and equipment you currently own may be the most significant factor in having a high energy consumption.
It’s time to replace your old bulbs and TV sets to energy-efficient ones. Check online shops and purchase more energy-efficient appliances. Let professional Bayside electricians install your new appliances for you.
More Energy-Saving Tricks According to Your Bentleigh Electricians
Want to learn more tricks and techniques to save on energy? Sure, you do. Here’s a list of all the things you can do in every room of your home according to Bell Electrical’s Cheltenham electricians.
Try lowering the brightness on all TV screens.
If your entertainment sets have energy-saving features, use them.
Practice plugging all electronics to a power strip, and don’t forget to turn off or unplug your power strip when devices are not in use.
Minimise streaming content. When streaming, do not use gaming consoles since they use ten times more power than streaming through a tablet or laptop.
Once you leave the room, check whether lights, fans, and other electronics are switched off.
Always dust off the exterior coils and top of your refrigerator clean to keep it running efficiently.
Avoid opening the oven door while food is cooking. By opening the oven door, you waste energy and lose up to 50 degrees in temperature.
Cook several meals at the same time.
Use the dishwasher when you have enough dirty dishes for a full load.
Turn off your dishwasher’s dry cycle and let your dishes air dry.
Most newer washers are designed for cold water. So, use cold water in washing your clothes in the washer.
If the dryer has an auto-dry feature, use that instead of timed dry. However, know that you can save more energy by air drying your laundry.
Do your laundry once you have accumulated a full load.
Are you looking for more tips and tricks on how to reduce your energy consumption? Do you have any electrical problems that require professional Cheltenham electricians? Planning to shift to solar energy? Contact Bell Electrical today!
Bell Electrical consists of a team of professional and reliable Melbourne electricians who are experts in performing all aspects of electrical and solar work.
For more details and enquiries, call us at 0411471922. You can also send us an email at
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All You Required To Learn About The Intel Processors
The i9 Intellium Cpu from Intel is an interesting item that deals with laptop pros in addition to customers who are simply seeking a multimedia-centric device. The Intel i9 is among the most recent processors available to customers, and also it comes with lots of features that assist computer fanatics enjoy multimedia material on their laptop computer. As innovation modifications at a rapid speed, it is easy to fail to remember which cpu was the previous generation's champ for multimedia use. While the i7 may have been the first choice for audio card and video clip card, the i9 trades areas with the latest products like the HD or 4K qualified note pads. In terms of multimedia capacities, however, there really isn't much of a distinction in between the two generations. Rather than focus on this small distinction, however, I like to highlight several of the brand-new technologies that the i9 packs right into its plan.
The i9 Intel cpu is very light-weight. It considers concerning as much as 4 pounds, that makes it an excellent addition to those wanting to lug a laptop around but that aren't all that heavy. It is additionally very easy to set up; much of the parts can be changed out or added to one CPU component without requiring to replace whole laptop computers. With a portable body and also conventional specifications, the i9 is a fantastic alternative for those who desire a powerful laptop, yet who don't want to spend much cash on the maker.
Basically, the i9 Intel laptop processor delivers a high degree of efficiency for those who utilize a laptop a lot, yet who don't need high-end graphic cards as well as other features that would drive the price of an entry level laptop too high. Even if you do not require the highest graphical capabilities on your laptop, the i9 needs to suffice to provide you smooth, rapid efficiency. For those aiming to save some cash on a laptop computer, yet who still want a powerful tool, the i9 is a great option.
Laptop computer With i9 Cpu - Tips For Purchasing a Refurbished Note pad With an i9
You will certainly find that it is capable of running extra rapidly as well as successfully than ever previously when you have a laptop with i9 processor. This write-up has all the details that you require on that if you have been looking for means to speed up your laptop. Since they classement processeur intel pentium are so hassle-free to utilize, one of the reasons why laptop computers have become such a preferred acquisition for customers is. Because they are so mobile, this type of laptop can be carried around with you anywhere and also they additionally permit you to obtain a very versatile computer experience.
If you have constantly wanted a laptop computer with i9 processor but never ever had the cash to manage one, you might be in good luck. Just recently, business have started selling pricey and also extremely powerful laptop cpus with extremely affordable price. What this suggests to the consumer is that you can obtain the very same kind of laptop computer experience that you would certainly from an expensive top of the line laptop without having to pay a horrendous cost. And also because there are so many laptop computer brand names out there today, you are bound to locate a laptop computer with i9 processor someplace in the cost array that you are trying to find.
Whether you are seeking a laptop with i9 cpu since you intend to have the ability to browse the internet swiftly or you just want something that can run numerous programs simultaneously, you will be able to find the laptop that you are trying to find online. The most effective point to do is to visit an online contrast website that will permit you to contrast different laptop computers and also their specs side-by-side. When you shop, this is a much better way to make a decision than to merely take the specifications of one laptop with you.
Laptop computer With i9 Processor - What Makes a Good Pc Gaming Laptop?
It is essential that when you go out and get a laptop with i9 cpu, you are acquiring a high quality item that will certainly last you a very long time. If you are mosting likely to utilize your laptop computer for work after that you will certainly need something that is mosting likely to be really trustworthy and also aid you do the job swiftly and successfully. Most is currently come with a standard RAM of just 16 GB but if you require to utilize your cpu to the full after that you ought to go for 32 GB or even more. Having enough memory to run a high-definition video clip editing and enhancing program smoothly as well as quickly, are the major reasons that people buy a laptop computer with i9 processing power. Naturally if you are going to use your laptop computer for gaming after that it is more vital that you obtain a laptop with an i9x cpu that has more than two times the quantity of memory that the typical laptop features. If your main factor for getting a laptop is for job, then you do not actually need the top of the array i9 processor in the very first place so look for one that has more than that.
One more way of finding out if you require a laptop computer with i9 cpu is to examine it out yourself. All laptop computer with i9 cpu came with a demo version of the os that you can utilize to see just how well it runs. Although it is very easy to discover the very best places to get the processor's online, it is additionally very easy to see whether or not you actually require all the extra memory and if so, how much added it will certainly make when you utilize it. There is truly no factor in investing a great deal of cash on a processor if you will certainly not be using all of it - after all you might as well purchase 2.
When it concerns installing the ram and the additional processors, all you have to do is connect them in and allow the laptop to look after the remainder. Usually you will certainly find that when you have actually installed all the needed components that it will certainly do far better than ever before. Due to the fact that it uses more efficient low voltage cpus than regular laptops, the factor that laptop computer with i9 cpu carry out so well is. The efficiency boost is not significant, it will most definitely give you a great boost in the rate with which your applications run. This extra speed makes running applications a lot easier and also it uses the laptop computer much quicker too - something most of us like.
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You know, I re-read today Seven Minutes, your College AU with the 'spin the bottle' prompt, and I gotta say, I love it! It's great, it's so much fun, and it'd be amazing if it gets any kind of continuation. Maybe you'll consider it sometime? -F221
I hope this suits, my friend!
SIGMA PHI DELTA
After eight months of working here, Jane no longer hears the clank of coffee mugs, the burble and hiss of the espresso machine. The Grind is a couple of blocks off campus, a hole-in-the-wall shop that attracts a mellow, studious crowd with mismatched overstuffed chairs and couches. The dark wood paneling, rusty brick walls, pendant lighting with deep orange and yellow globes gives off a comfortable, languid vibe. This isn’t the kind of place to rattle off a three paragraph order and then dash off to class.
Jane lucked out landing a job here. They don’t normally hire freshmen—not that she’s a true freshman, not with two years of college credits under her belt by the time she finished high school—but one of her TA’s, Betty, put a good word in for her.
“So, there’s a rager tonight over at Sigma Phi Delta. A couple of guys are in the frat,” Darcy says as she wipes down the counter by the register. It’s late afternoon, and there are only a few customers in the shop, spread out in the corners, either behind the glow of a laptop or curled up with a book. “That’s next one for you.”
Jane grimaces. “We already crossed ‘party’ off.” She doesn’t mention the other item that was check-marked that night on Darcy’s “Things Jane Must Do in Order to Become a Normal Human” list.
Darcy imitates a loud game show buzzer. “Wrong. Try again,” she says, tossing the rag toward the small hamper by the back wall. The wet thing lands half on the lid and slips down to the floor. Jane raises an eyebrow, but Darcy is already focused on laying out her mission. “That was like an awkward tween get-together. I mean, yeah, there was some alcohol and some pot—though you refused to partake in the latter.”
“I drank something!” Jane didn’t love it, though—especially when it made her stupid enough to play tonsil hockey with her arch nemesis.
“Yeah, I know.” Darcy rolls her eyes. “And it’s not like I’m saying you have to smoke or vape a little something-something so you can join the ranks of the initiated. If it’s not your thing, it’s not your thing. I can respect that. But a frat party is another animal.”
“What? More alcohol and drugs and random hook-ups?” Jane levels a flat look at her friend.
“No!” Darcy argues, but then seems to think better of it. “Well, yeah. Kinda. But it depends on the frat. Sigma Phi Delta isn’t like ‘Animal House.’ Come on, Jane. You have to—just so you can say you did.”
“Why?” Jane asks, though she’s pretty sure it’s another one of those “you only live once” things. Yeah, no thanks. She’s more of the seatbelt-wearing, drive-the-speed-limit kind of YOLO girl. (Unless science is involved, then all bets are off. Because science .)
“Why? Why?” Darcy says, sounding flabbergasted that Jane would even ask. “Because, dude, these are the formative experiences that you’ve been denied. You’re emotionally and socially stunted.”
“Really?” Jane crosses her arms. She may not be a social butterfly, but she’s not Wednesday Addams either.
“Okay, you’re not that bad,” Darcy relents. “But—and I say this from a place of love—I think maybe you never learned how to have fun. All work and no play leads to you ending up in the psych ward because you stripped naked in the Commons and wrote warp theory all over your body.”
“Oh my god, Darcy!” Jane hisses, cutting a glance around the small shop in the hope that no one overheard that gem.
Darcy spreads her hands. “Man, I’m just calling it like I see it,” she says. “Come to the party tonight. The whole gang is going to be there.”
The whole gang? Does that mean Loki, too? Jane ducks her head to hide the sudden warmth creeping across her face. She spent a couple of days doing her best to avoid him outside of class, but it turned out to be a wasted effort. Apparently, he’s content to act as if nothing happened last Sunday. And that’s fine. Just fine.
Because she’d rather chew her arm off than be forced to see him again socially.
She picked up an empty tray and rag. “Sorry, gonna have to take a raincheck,” she says with fake disappointment. “Study group tonight.” It’s not a complete lie; she is going to study.
Darcy’s expression falls in obvious disbelief. “On a Saturday night?”
“Yep.” Jane shrugs.
“Dude, finals are, like, a month away.” Darcy crosses her arms. She’s clearly not buying it.
“Well, you know—nerds are like that.” Jane flashes a smile and steps around the counter. A couple of people have left, and cleaning up after them seems like a better idea than continuing this conversation.
“We’re not done talking about this!” Darcy calls after her.
“Yes, we are!”
There’s a corner in the library that Jane has claimed as her own. It’s hidden on the third floor behind some stacks that get sporadic traffic. A row of partitioned desks are pressed up against the wall, ending with a small table. That table is hers.
The smooth wooden surface is currently strewn with a half-dozen open books, spiral-bound notebooks, and her laptop. She’s sporting earbuds, but they’re soundless. Wearing them seems to ward off anyone looking to strike up a conversation. (Seriously, who chats in a library? Apparently a lot of people.)
This, she loves. She’s heard of artists talking about the creative process as a compulsion, as necessary and desperate as taking a next breath. Academia is that for her. She doesn’t know how to turn off her passion for learning, for making new connections. Others look at the vast night sky twinkling with stars and see simple beauty. She sees possibilities. A million of them so far beyond reach, and yet beckoning to her like sirens in a dark sea. It lights her up inside.
That’s the high she chases. There’s nothing better. Definitely not a party. Definitely not a make-out session with—
Her cheeks burn before she can finish that dishonest thought. She doesn’t want to admit that jerk had managed to light her up in an entirely different way. It had to have been an anomaly. She blames the alcohol, the contact high—that and it was the first time she’d been kissed properly. It wasn’t about him, specifically.
Granted, that’s just a theory. The scientific method demands more data, more proof. She’d have to repeat the encounter, this time without the mood altering substances.
No. No. She is not thinking about locking lips with the devil of Experimental Physics. Never, ever again.
She redoubles her focus on the assignment that isn’t due for another two weeks, reaching for her copy of Experiments in Modern Physics, but she’s startled when it’s yanked out of her hand. She glances up, face simultaneously falling and catching on fire when her gaze lands on the man in question settling opposite her. Loki casually props his booted feet on the table, tips the chair back and leafs through the pages of her book.
Jane grits her teeth. He’s so rude. And worse: after that moment in the closet six days ago, she’s having a hard time not being aware of how attractive he is—physically. (Like she could ever find his personality attractive. No. Gross.) Somehow his emo look has morphed in her mind into an alluring goth-vampire-rockstar thing. His raven hair is half-tied back, the top hidden beneath a beanie. He wears a threadbare Metallica t-shirt, a dark plaid button-down tied around his waist, and black jeans tucked into a pair of Doc Martens. A few bracelets, leather and hemp, ring loosely around his wrists, and she’s mildly surprised none of them have metal studs. And the black nail polish and that British accent—
Stop staring at him! It was just one kiss, for crying out loud! And because of her limited experience, she can’t even say definitively that it was that great.
She clears her throat—more to snap herself out of this ridiculous lapse than to get his attention, but he looks up all the same. She narrows her eyes to a glower. “What are you doing here?” she asks too loudly.
He presses a finger to his lips, then mimes taking out an earbud. She forgot she had them in, and it’s a tense beat before she decides to pop them out.
“What are you doing here?” she asks again, this time in a whisper.
“Don’t tell me you haven’t gotten this one yet,” he replies with a nod toward the book he’s stolen. “Didn’t you do the pre-reads?”
She rises, reaching across the table to grab it from him. “Of course, I’ve read it! I’m just using it as a reference for our assignment.” Why is she bothering to explain herself to him?
He makes a derisive sound. “Experimental Physics: Modern Methods is better.”
“Oh, really?” She glares at him as she retrieves her copy of that book beneath a pile of others, and holds it up. “Weird how I already knew that.” She lets both books fall on the table with a soft thump. “You can go away now. Or do I have to fling Holy Water at you to banish you from this realm of innocents.”
He huffs a soft, rasping laugh but annoyingly doesn’t move an inch. “I like you, Foster.”
Liar, she wants to say. If he liked her, he would have made an effort to be a friend. At the very least, he wouldn’t have ignored her all week. Not that she cares. She doesn’t. “That’s too bad,” she returns coolly, “because I don’t like you.” She hates that he brings out the worst in her. She’s normally a nice person. Maybe a little—okay, a lot—awkward and excitable, but nice.
“Are you sure about that?” He raises a brow, tongue grazing his bottom lip as his eyes dip briefly in acute perusal. “You seemed to like me very much last weekend.”
She tramps down the memory of his hands gripping the back of her thighs, his mouth against hers, rough and wet. “You wish.” The words come out breathless, and she wants to bang her forehead against the table.
He smirks and swings his legs down, leaning forward on his elbows. “What else is on the list?”
“The list of things you missed out on from you sheltered upbringing.”
“How do you know about that?” The stunned question rolls off her tongue without thinking, and his mouth stretches in a wide grin.
“I’m to drag you—kicking and screaming if necessary—to the party tonight,” he says, fishing his phone out of his pocket. “Because, and I quote, ‘Jane’s gotta check that off of her list.’” He unlocks it and holds the screen toward Jane.
She blinks at it, the words bleeding together. Group text? That she’s not a part of, but apparently they’re talking about her? Great. So he’s only here because Darcy made him come to get her. That’s cool. Whatever.
Loki flips the phone back toward himself, glances down at it. “According to your friend, this is essential for your social development.”
Jane is going to kill Darcy. Kill her dead. She sent that to the entire group! “Actually, there have been numerous studies that have shown homeschooled kids are just as capable socially as their public school peers,” Jane replies. “And we tend to do better academically, by the way.” She means that one as a thinly veiled insult of his education, though for all she knows, he could have gone to some stuffy school like Eton. (She doesn’t even know how old he is.)
“If you say so.” He shrugs as if he doesn’t give a damn about her assertions. “Are you coming, or shall we see about checking off something else on your list?”
She snorts. “We? As in you and me?”
“Well, yes,” he says in a somber tone. “I’m always available to help a friend in need.”
She snorts again. “We’re not friends.”
His mouth twists in a grin that makes her think of movie villains. “We’ve certainly been friendly, though.”
“Oh, god.” She rolls her eyes, willing away the blush inching up her neck. “Get over it already.”
He tilts his head and studies her with that unsettling smile. “Why? You haven’t.”
She gives serious consideration to hurling one of her textbooks at him. Instead, she stands up and starts gathering her things. “You know what? I’m going to let you off the hook. You can tell Darcy that you couldn’t find me,” she says as she snaps her laptop shut and shoves it in her bag.
He leans back in his seat and cocks a brow. “Where are you going?”
“Wherever you’re not.” She gives him a plastic smile.
“Hm. That’s going to be a problem.”
“Because I plan to be wherever you are tonight.” He stands up, snatching one of her notebooks from the table before she can.
“That’s called stalking.” She makes a swipe for the notebook, but he easily holds it out of her reach. Vertically gifted bastard. “Give it back.”
He doesn’t, of course. Because he isn’t nice. He never has been. “What’s on the list?”
“I don’t have a list,” she says quickly, but her eyes betray her. They jump to the notebook he’s holding hostage, and he doesn’t miss the movement either. Dammit.
“You don’t? Shall we confirm that?” He opens it, flips through the pages as he deftly steps back when she makes another attempt to take it from him. He stops halfway through, and her body blazes from her head to her toes. He clucks his tongue in exaggerated disapproval. “Why Jane Foster, you dirty little liar.”
But she hadn’t lied, not really. Yes, there’s a list, but it’s one that Darcy scribbled in her notebook. None of those ideas were Jane’s. “Give it to me,” she warns through gritted teeth to hide her growing desperation.
“TP-ing a house, sneaking out in the middle of the night,” he reads aloud. “Frat party. What do you know? It is on the list.” He winks at her.
“Give. It. Back.” Please, please.
“Skinny dipping—oh, I like that one,” he continues on. “Sloppy make-out in the stacks. There’s an idea. We could cross that one off right now.”
“And—oh, Foster.” He looks up at her with a feigned mix of shock and pity. “I had no idea you were that inexperienced. You really do need my help.”
Mortification turns to rage, awakening something feral inside of Jane. She lets out an inhuman screech and launches herself at him, slamming them both into the row of partitioned desks. She wrestles the stupid notebook from him, scrambles away from him. He laughs as she tears the page out and shreds it.
“There. Is. No. List,” she growls, and then throws the notebook in her bag. “Go back to whatever hole you crawled out of and leave me alone—just like you’ve been doing all week.”
Loki straightens, adjusting the t-shirt twisted around his torso. She’s angry with herself that she actually glanced at the flash of a muscular V-line near the waistband of his jeans. God, why can’t people’s looks be directly related to their personality? “Is that why you’re surly?” he asks. “Your feelings were hurt that I didn’t chase after you and beg you for another round?”
She scoffs. “I just told you to keep ignoring me. I’m surly because you won’t!”
He’s quiet for a beat, studies her with a shrewd look, and she tips her chin up in defiance. Because he’s wrong about her being disappointed by his apathy towards her. If anything, she was relieved. Absolutely. One hundred percent.
“Cross one item off your list with me,” he says. When she opens her mouth to argue, he amends, “Your nonexistent list.”
She shakes her head. “No.”
“Come on, Foster.” He takes a step toward her, the corners of his mouth tipping up in a ghost of a smile. There’s a whisper of a dimple in his cheek. She’s determined to hate dimples from now on. And unfairly symmetrical, angular features. And pale eyes that seem to see everything. All of it. “It’s just a bit of fun—harmless, really. I’ll even let you choose which one we do.”
“Let me?” She glares at him.
He steps another few inches closer, and she has to crane her neck to keep her gaze on his. “Too chicken?”
The dare hangs in the air between them. Why? Why is he being so stubborn about this? She wants to tell him to do unmentionable things to himself and stalk away, but he’s boxed her into a “damned if she does, damned if she doesn’t” no-win scenario again.
“Fine,” she grinds out. She’s going with the safest bet, the one where she doesn’t actually have to do anything with him. “Take me to that damn party.”
He gives her a radiant smile—a disturbingly genuine one—as he tugs the strap of her heavy bag out of her hand and slings it over his shoulder. “Let’s go, then.”
Darcy was right. This is very different from the basement gathering she dragged Jane to last weekend, but at the same time, it’s not nearly as wild as film and television have made frat parties out to be. The house isn’t the opulent mansion with marble pillars that Jane imagined. It’s big, but pretty nondescript otherwise. She wouldn’t have guessed it was the home of Sigma Phi Delta if it weren’t for the sign over the door—and its location.
There are a few scattered groups on the front lawn, holding plastic cups and chatting casually. A few heads turn in their direction as Loki leads her to the entrance, but their gazes slide over her as if she’s invisible. Oh, yeah. This is super fun.
It’s more crowded inside, louder with music and conversation. Loki grasps her hand, drags her through rooms so quickly that she almost has to jog to keep up with his ridiculously long legs. They pass a room where the furniture’s been pushed against the walls to make room for dancing. She’s surprised to catch a glimpse of a live band set up in the corner before Loki tugs her into the kitchen. Someone tries to hand her a cup of something, but she begs off. There’s no way in hell that she’s going to drink when she’s anywhere near Loki.
He swings the back door open and barely has her across the threshold when he collides with a couple headed indoors.
“Shit, man. Watch where you’re going,” mutters the guy brushing away the drink that spilled on his button-down. He looks familiar—average height but handsome, exuding a presence like a neutron star that pulls everyone into his orbit—but Jane can’t place him. His companion is a leggy brunette who could be a Victoria’s Secret model.
The guy’s expression turns sour when his gaze lands on Loki. “Great. My Chemical Romance has come out of his lair and it’s not even a full moon.” He gives Jane a cursory glance, eyes pausing briefly on her hand in Loki’s. “Where’s Lorelei? Or did you trade her in for a newer model?” He glances at Jane again. “No offense snack-size, I’m sure you’re a great gal.”
Jane’s stomach churns at the mention of another girl associated with Loki. Probably because the idea of anyone wanting to put up with the egotistical bully is rank. Yeah. That’s it.
Loki’s fingers curl painfully tight around hers, though he huffs a soft laugh. “How’s Pepper?” he asks the other guy. “Still keeping the poor girl on ice while you sleep your way through Greek row?”
That wipes the smug look from the other guy’s face. (Where does Jane know him from?) “You know what? You don’t get to talk about her,” he warns in a low voice. “Screw you, Laufeyson.”
Loki gives him an answering smile that borders on psychotic. “Only in your wildest dreams, Stark.”
That’s right! He’s Tony Stark. The genius playboy who has more money than the gross national product of most small countries. And he’s very obviously not a Loki fan. Shocker.
Loki doesn’t wait for a comeback from Tony, but yanks Jane away as he makes a beeline for the hot tub at the far end of the pool.
“You should write a book on how to win friends and influence people,” she says sarcastically. “You’ve got a special gift.”
He rolls his eyes. “Stark is a spoiled, narcissistic arsehole.”
“Takes one to know one.”
He glances at her, and she prepares herself for a biting retort. But he laughs instead, an authentic, full-body thing without a contemptuous edge to it, and it’s weird. “Maybe, Foster. Maybe.”
Before she can ask why he’s acting not-mean, she hears her name being called. Darcy waves at her from the hot tub. The girl is squeezed between some of the gang from last week’s get-together, and Jane’s not entirely sure that’s a bikini she’s wearing. There’s way too much lace on that red top.
“You’re here!” Darcy exclaims. “Look, Jane’s here!”
The rest of the group gives Jane the same kind of “yeah, cool, whatever” greetings they gave her last time. She returns it with a perfunctory wave and a smile that doesn’t quite make it to her eyes.
“I knew he’d convince you to come.” Darcy glances to the handsome blond next to her. What was his name again? Mandy? Randy? Fandy—Fandral. “Didn’t I tell you he would? You owe me a raunchy strip-tease.”
Fandral laughs. “I do. I should have known better than to bet against you,” he says. “Will you be wanting that right now or…” He stands up and hooks his fingers into his—yep, those are definitely boxer briefs.
The others jeer and splash water at him until he laughs again and settles back down next to Darcy, draping an arm across her shoulders. Jane lets out the breath that was trapped in her chest in apprehension. It’s becoming painfully obvious that she’s not chill enough to hang with these people.
“Get in here!” Darcy says to Jane, gesturing toward the tub. The movement is a little sloppy, and by the cups littered on the concrete nearby, the girl has probably had more than a few.
“That’s okay.” Jane takes a step back. She is not going to strip down to her underwear—a sensible plain white bra and a pair of boy shorts, striped with grey and teal—in front of these people, least of all Loki. “It’s already full.”
“No, it’s not,” Darcy argues. “I can sit on Fandy’s lap.” She scoots over with Fandral’s help.
“And Gamora can sit on mine,” one of the big guys says—Peter, if Jane remembers right.
Gamora rolls her eyes and stays exactly where she’s at on the opposite side, elbows bent back over the lip of the tub.
“There’s room on my lap,” Thor says with a wink, and it takes a second for Jane to realize his offer is for her rather than the gorgeous cool girl that Peter is clearly ga-ga over.
Loki’s hand nearly crushes Jane’s; she’s forgotten that he was still holding it. “I think she’d rather have mine.”
A wave of heat swells over Jane. She hates that her body so readily agrees with his statement. She needs to get away from him, from them and their boundary pushing shenanigans.
“Actually,” Jane says, disentangling her fingers from Loki’s. “Where’s the bathroom?”
A couple of people rattle off conflicting directions, and Darcy starts to rise up from her perch on Fandral’s lap. “If you wait just a second, I’ll come with you.”
Jane shakes her head. “Stay. I can find it, thanks.”
She heads back toward the house without making any promises to return. She’s not. She’s going to find a safe place to hole-up until she can get an Uber or whatever. She’ll send Darcy a text, and that will be that. Frat party checked off.
Someone tries to hand her a drink again when she crosses through the kitchen, and for a heartbeat, she’s seriously tempted. As much as she wants to pretend that she’s unaffected by recent events, that walking away from Loki meant leaving behind the unwelcome flutters he inspires in her middle, her stupid brain won’t stop reminding her of spearmint flavor of his tongue, his searing breath as he came in for more.
Stop. Stop. It.
She does grab a drink—one that she watched poured from the keg before it was passed to her. Because as naive as she is about many things, she knows about stranger danger, especially when alcohol is involved.
But god. Why do people drink this stuff? It tastes so bad. She makes a face, but downs the rest, tosses the cup in the garbage bag hanging from a nearby doorknob. The buzz starting to prickle under her skin is weaker than the one she had last weekend. It softens the tension in her muscles, but doesn’t take her to a place of rubbery complacency. That’s probably a good thing. Because the latter got her into more trouble than she can handle.
“Jane? Jane Foster, right?”
She turns, searching for the source of the question. The room is loud, the band in full swing with an enthusiastic audience. When her gaze passes over a guy sitting on one of the couches pushed against the wall, he lifts a hand and stands. She blinks, and then she recognizes him. She steps closer to him.
“Bruce.” She practically has to shout over the music. “From Plasma Waves.” He’s always quiet in class, but they often tie for top grades. Sometimes he even beats her, but she’s not bothered when it happens. Not much, anyway. Not like she is in Experimental Physics when—nope. Not going there.
Bruce smiles, and it’s nice. Not smug, not suggestive like some else that she is absolutely not thinking about.
“This doesn’t seem like your kind of thing.” Bruce nods toward the writhing, gyrating mass on the makeshift dance floor.
She raises her brows. Does she give off a “I’d rather stay home and catch up on the latest from the Hubble telescope while listening to the Star Trek soundtrack” vibe? “I was coerced into coming,” she admits.
“Me too,” he says with a soft laugh that she can’t hear. “But they kinda ditched me.”
She opens her mouth to confess that she’s the one doing the ditching, but the words get stuck in her throat when she catches a glimpse of Loki in her periphery. He stands several feet away, his expression hard, almost predatory. She has to actively fight the gravitational force that draws her toward him—and the unnatural thrill skittering beneath her skin. If magic were an actual thing, she’d think this was some kind of sorcery. She’s starting to regret having that drink now.
“You wanna dance?” Jane says to Bruce. “We should dance.” She grabs his hand and pulls him to the middle of the room.
“Oh, okay,” he says with another laugh.
Bruce is a terrible dancer, but he’s a good sport, grinning as he shuffles from side to side offbeat. He doesn’t seem to know what to do with his arms. It’s adorable. This is the kind of guy Jane’s always imagined herself falling for: cute, nerdy like her, endearingly awkward. She wants to like him that way, but she doesn’t have to lock lips with him to know that it’d be like kissing a cousin. She can have fun anyway, right? Darcy would be proud. Jane closes her eyes and lets the music wash over her.
She opens them again sometime later when a pair of hands curl at her side and yank her backward. She yelps when her butt meets her partner’s groin. She spins to tell Bruce that she’s not interested bumping and grinding with him, but it isn’t Bruce. It’s Loki. She whips her head around to search for her new acquaintance, and he’s backing away with an apology written on his face.
She whirls back around. “Are you serious? What did I say about leaving me alone?” She needs him to, to save her from another episode of pure insanity.
Loki stares down at her, and it’s so fiery that she could melt into a puddle on the spot. A month ago, she believed that “chemistry” between people was a farce dreamed up by romance novelists. There was no such thing in her world. But now… This? This is Berthollet’s salt and red phosphorus. This is combustion.
“With me,” he says, and she knows he’s referencing the agreement they made earlier in the library.
“And then you go back to ignoring me?” she asks. Her airy voice barely carries over the din, and a part of her hopes he won’t hear her.
He does, though. His mouth curves up in a smile that’s nowhere near nice. It does things to her. She hates those things. No, wrong. She loves those things like an addict loves the high. She hates that it’s him doing them.
She has to get out of here before she loses her mind, before she climbs his tall frame and attacks his face with her lips. She pushes through the crowd, not caring about direction—any will do as long as it’s away from him.
There is a wrong direction, though, and Jane curses when she realizes that she’s somehow gone deeper into the house instead of toward one of the exits. She curses again when she glances over her shoulder to find Loki hot on her heels.
He catches her hand, but instead of pulling her back to him, he steps around her, tugs her behind him as he climbs a staircase. She tries to wrench her hand out of his, but his grip is too strong.
“Hey!” she demands. “Let go!”
It’s quieter, empty up here, and she should be nervous, terrified even. Especially when he opens one of the doors in the hallway with a key and nudges her inside. Her heart is pounding against her ribcage, but it’s not fear making it unsteady. Not when he locks the door behind them, and leans on the frame, facing away from her. Not when the flick of a light switch reveals a room that she knows instinctively is his.
Bookshelves, bursting with a hodge-podge of paperbacks and hardcovers, span one of the walls and half of another. More books are stacked on the nightstand, on the desk by the window. The rest of the decor is simple, a neatly made bed that doesn’t look quite big enough to be queen-sized, a guitar sitting in a stand in the corner, a couple of posters tacked on the wall—one of a band she’s never heard of, another of the Sombrero galaxy, the same one she hung up in her dorm room at the beginning of the year. She has an irrational urge to tear it down as soon as she gets home.
The room is so normal, uncomfortably familiar. She doesn’t know what she expected his place to look like, something more diabolical. Like the Phantom of the Opera’s lair.
“I broke up with my girlfriend,” Loki murmurs, drawing her attention back to him. He’s turned around, back against the door, looking haggard as if he’s been in a battle and lost.
She frowns, remembering the snide comment Tony made at Loki downstairs. What was that name? “Lorelei.”
Loki hums an acknowledgement. “Last night.”
“Why are you telling me this?” She thinks she knows, but she’s hoping that he’ll disprove her theory. He has to. She doesn’t want to feel this for him. She doesn’t want to want him.
“You’re right, you know. I was ignoring you,” he says, pushing off the door and moving toward her in slow footfalls. He breathes a quiet laugh, an oddly rueful one. “I was trying to ignore you. Then I realized that I don’t want to.”
Everything comes alive inside of her with his confession, and it’s too much. The heat, the frenetic anticipation spinning in her middle in a violent whirlpool of desire—desire that she didn’t know she was capable of feeling. She’s almost nauseated by the intensity of it. When his eyes slide from hers, stopping at her mouth, instinct tells her there’s only one cure for this madness.
She grabs a fistful of his shirt and drags him down to her level. He comes as willingly as last time, maybe even eagerly, and then it’s a clash of lips, brutal and devouring. There is relief from that want eating her alive, but it’s fleeting, overrun by another blazing tide. This one more demanding as he growls against her mouth, as he picks her up again, fitting her legs around his hips. She tangles her fingers in his hair, tugs on it in an attempt to draw him somehow closer, kiss him harder, deeper.
Reality comes crashing back to her when her back touches the cool comforter on his bed, when his lips and tongue make a trail from her mouth to her neck. And oh god, she almost gives into the fire in her veins, almost lets this encounter take its natural course.
No. Not like this. Not with him. She’s not some doe-eyed girl waiting for a fairytale prince before she crosses this milestone, but she wants it to be more than some random frat party hook-up. “Stop.” She grasps his shoulders. “I can’t.”
He props himself up, searches her face before his head dips in a brief nod. He gets it. He’s seen the list, and something bubbly and warm bursts in her chest as he steps down from the bed and helps her up. She’s going to call it gratitude.
He takes her face in his hands and gives her a lingering kiss before pressing his forehead to hers, exhaling a deep sigh. “You’d better go.” He retreats from her, cracks the door open.
She runs her hand through her hair, straightens her shirt and walks toward the exit he’s giving her. She pauses at the threshold, looks back at him feeling like she’s supposed to say something. What, though? Thank you for that steamy make-out? Thank you for not trying to talk me into doing something I’m not ready for yet? Is he going to pretend this never happened when they run into each other in class on Monday? (Does she want him to?)
He speaks before she can cobble together some kind of response. “This isn’t over,” he says, and against all reason, she likes the promise written between his words. “That list is mine.”
She scoffs, but her heart isn’t in it, not really. “There’s no list.”
He bares his teeth in a slow grin. “Oh, yes there is. You’re going to cross off every item with me.”
The air between them is too thick to breathe, and she has to force out a retort. “You wish.”
He places a finger under her chin, tips it up and brushes his lips over hers. The kiss is almost tender, comfortable like they belong. She’s unsettled by it. She wants more of it.
“Good night, Jane,” he murmurs.
Outside in the vacant hallway, after his door latches shut, she runs a hand over her face with a groan. What was she thinking?
This is bad—so, so bad.
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How to Save Money on big data & analytics
Many people prefer desktop computers over laptops, and for good reason. They tend to be more reliable and can do things laptops are unable to. However, in order to really take advantage of all that a desktop has to offer, there are some things you ought to know. You will get that information in this piece.
If you want to save money when purchasing a desktop computer, consider buying a refurbished model. You can look at the websites of major computer manufacturers such as HP or Dell, where you will find great deals on computers that have been returned to the company, fixed and sold at a discount rate.
When purchasing a desktop, don't only think of your needs today, think about your future needs too. You'll likely have this desktop for multiple years, so if you're thinking about getting into photography or video work, you'll want to get a computer that'll handle your future work. It's more of an investment up front, but it will save you from buying another computer too soon after this purchase.
If you are going to be doing some upgrades to your desktop computer be sure to ground yourself before you begin working on your computer. A simple jolt of static electricity can be more than enough to fry your motherboard. If you do not ground yourself, you will be putting your whole system at risk.
If you are buying a desktop computer online, be sure to see it in person if you can. For example, if you are going to buy a Dell computer online, attempt to see it at a store near you before you buy it. You may find that the keys are too close together for comfort, or that the screen is not as big as you thought. If you're able to see a physical model, it will help make your decision easier.
Which processor you need depends on what you want to do with your computer. If you aren't sure, then you are likely better off with something cheaper and less powerful, such as an i3 or i5. If you are playing video games, go for something bigger like an i7 instead.
Though you may be intimidated by the prospect, it really does pay to verify that you have actually received the equipment for which you bargained. It is not uncommon for unscrupulous sellers to fudge the statistics on a computer's processor or memory. Therefore, it is important to perform a real inspection yourself.
When you are looking to get a new desktop computer, make sure whatever software that comes with your computer is legal. The software should come with a data security CD and the CD key. This ensures you'll be able to update the software and stay out of legal trouble.
What you pay for a computer is going to have much to do with the timing of your purchase. You should definitely be taking advantage of the best sales and special deals. If it were something you buy all the time, it might be hard to make that happen. However, a computer is a less frequent purchase, so you should be able to time your purchase to finding an offer you can't refuse.
Don't buy a desktop computer that is overly cheap. Many times, you really get what you pay for. Stick with top names and respectable vendors. If a price seems to good to be true, it may be. Independent dealers are going to have price tags that delight you, but the computers are not likely to be exactly what is advertised and then break down on you.
Consider how you want to use the computer. Do you need it for working at home, or is it going to be a family computer? If you are buying the computer for family use, consider what the needs of your other family members are. You will need to know these things when shopping for your computer.
A cheap sub $300 desktop may sound great, but do your homework before buying. Are the specs good enough for your needs? Often these entry-level machines are underpowered. Is the case made to be durable? You'll often see cheaper desktops with poor quality plastics and hinges. The $300 may sound nice, but really you are buying something that may only last a year.
Go into buying a desktop with a budget in mind. As with any large purchase, there are a lot of ways that you can be nickeled and dimed well above your money comfort level. So you need to have a set limit that you won't go over. If a computer will likely take you over that amount, walk away. There are lots of options out there that'll fit your price.
After having read this article you should know quite a bit more about the world of desktop computers. They are comparable in cost and pack a punch often times far greater than a laptop. Use the tips contained in this article and you should enjoy your desktop more than you imagined.
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