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#get your nose out of that iPad for 30 seconds
amandamadeathing · 21 days
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Social media post about Tech and his terrible posture.
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xoxiu · 11 months
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twinkle - ot7 x reader
epilogue table of contents masterlist join the taglist discord
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summary: she had just wanted attention, that’s why she kept texting the strange number, updating him on everything in her life. little did she know how dangerous this relationship actually was. it had been jimin’s idea to kidnap the girl, but the ability to travel across the world to actually do it had been all hoseok’s doing. convenient how some things work, right? they knew that they were destined to have their baby with them, whether she wanted it or not.
tags/warnings: kidnapping, forced age regression, spanking, noncon, mafia au, drug use, stockholm syndrome, caregiver!bts, little!reader, nonsexual, diapers, panic attacks, fluff and angst, sickfic, referenced child abuse, unrequited love
taglist: @0funsite0, @frieschan
a/n: this chapter is more of a one-shot update i wrote 4-5 years after posting the first chapter
Ophelia was happy. All she knew was that she had her Daddies, and that she was finally safe. Those years of fending for herself were over, as she had seven caretaker tending to her every want and need. 
She recently developed a very nasty and long cold. Daddies moved a mattress down into the living room so they could keep an eye on her. At least two of them, usually Seokjin and Jimin, would sleep on the couches, and sometimes Namjoon or Hoseok would sleep on the mattress with her. 
Currently, Ophelia was laying down on the mattress, drinking a bottle full of juice and watching whatever anime Jungkook, Jimin, and Taehyung were watching. It was very rare that Ophelia ever got juice, and was savoring every second of the fruit punch taste. She played with the nipple of the bottle as she watched what appeared to be vampires on the TV fight with swords and magic. 
"How are you feeling, sweetheart?" Jin walked over to Ophelia, already hearing the wheezing sounds from her nose before he even got next to her. Ophelia didn't reply, only staring back at Jin with watery eyes. "Oh, honey."
"You might have to take her to Jackson-hyung," Jimin spoke up, "poor thing's been wiping her nose all day and coughing more than usual."
"That's what I had planned," Jin replied, taking the bottle away from Ophelia and replacing it with a pacifier. "He arranged to meet us at his office at noon today to see Ophelia."
It was already 10:30, and the drive into Seoul would be just over an hour, so Seokjin had to get Ophelia ready quick. It would be him and Namjoon taking her to the hospital to see Doctor Jackson and get her sinus issues checked out. 
Seokjin placed Ophelia on his hip, and she immediately buried her face in the crook of his neck.
"Bunny..." she mumbled, reaching a hand out towards Jungkook. Seokjin chuckled at how she was mimicking their nickname for Jungkook. She was just too adorable.
"No, no, baby. No bunny right now," Seokjin told the little, "We have to make sure you're healthy before you can have your bunny."
Ophelia pouted behind the pink pacifier in her mouth, and reached a hand out to Jungkook as Seokjin took her away. Jungkook playfully reached a hand out towards Ophelia in return, mimicking her sad pout as well. 
Throughout the years, Jungkook and Ophelia grew a special bond. Jungkook was the youngest Daddy, who did more play than discipline. Ophelia liked the he treated her as an equal almost, and loved that he always took her side whenever she was in trouble. 'She's just a baby,' he would say, 'She doesn't know any better.'
Seokjin took Ophelia out to the car, where Namjoon was already waiting in the passenger seat. Seokjin placed the little in her carseat and strapped her in snug. In the front seat, Namjoon reached into the center console for her iPad, unlocking it and turning on the YouTube Kids app.
"Here you go, Lia," Namjoon said. After a minuscule moment of silence, Seokjin looked at Ophelia in the rearview window.
"Ophelia," the girl in question shot her head up with wide eyes. She wasn't used to being called her legal name, unless she was in trouble. "Daddy just gave you that to play with. What do you say?"
"Thank you, Daddy." Ophelia said, but from behind the pacifier it sounded more like 'Tank chu 'addy'.
The car ride was mild at best. The only noise was from the cutesy songs coming from Ophelia's iPad (as well as the voices of Russian children, a weird and new part of YouTube that Ophelia has explored). Namjoon and Seokjin caught each other up on Ophelia's symptoms so they were on the same page at her appointment. The car came to a stop outside of Seoul National University Hospital, and Ophelia began to fuss and become distressed at the sight of the building. 
"Li li, it's okay," Namjoon said, turning around in his seat. "It's only for a few minutes, trust me."
Namjoon got out first and took Ophelia into his arms. He pulled her hood up as the breeze picked up, making the air slightly chilly. The three walked in through doors, and Lia was surprised to see very few people throughout the halls. She assumed the hospital would be filled with people and noise, but it was rather calming. 
They eventually entered a room where a man in a white coat was standing near a door on the opposite side of the room. 
"Jackson!" Seokjin smiled at the man, "It's so nice of you to do this for us."
"No problem at all," Jackson said, eventually locking eyes with Ophelia. She immediately turned to hide in Namjoon's shoulder, who only ran a hand through her hair in return.
"Oh my god, you guys. She is just the cutest thing," Jackson said in awe. He walked over to get a better look at Ophelia. "Hi, there. What's your name, sweetheart."
Ophelia attempted to nearly merge into Namjoon, wanting to get away from the stranger named Jackson. She didn't want to talk to him, see him, or let him touch her. He was scary. 
"Someone's just a little shy," Namjoon said, patting Ophelia's diapered bum. "This is Ophelia."
Ophelia was sat on a cold hospital bed as Namjoon and Seokjin sat in the chairs next to her. She immediately reached out to be held by them, but Namjoon wasn't sure if she would be allowed on his lap during her examination. He reached a hand out to hold Ophelia's, and that seemed to calm her nerves enough. 
"Okay, so I heard the little one has a bit of a sinus issue," Jackson said with a smile, "What exactly is she experiencing? A runny nose? Congestion?"
"She's had a constant runny nose, and every time she blows it there's blood and a lot of mucus. She also has been wheezing a lot, like she almost can't breathe through her nose with how congested she is." Seokjin looked over at the little, who was pulling her hoodie strings to hide her face in her hood. 
"Oh, and she's had a major headache and cough, too." Namjoon added on. 
Jackson hummed as he typed on his computer. "And how long has this been going on?"
"The runny nose? At least two months. The cough and headache just started recently." Namjoon replied as he reached out to pull the hood off from around Ophelia's face. She whined and kicked her feet in protest. Jackson seemed to pick up on her discomfort.
"How about you put her on your lap while I check her nose and such?"
Ophelia immediately reached out to be picked up by Namjoon. He held her on his lap while putting his hands over her's, forcing them to remain in her lap. Jackson approached them with a little black magnifying glass type device, and instructed Ophelia to stay 'extra super still' while he looked in her nose.
"Yup, it's definitely dry and inflamed. Nothing some nasal spray can't fix, thought." Jackson said, throwing away the tip of the tool.
Ophelia sat in her car seat sucking on the green apple lollipop Jackson had given her. She had a wide smile and giggled as they drove away. 
"Well, baby, how about we get you some McDonald's for being so good?" Seokjin asked, already knowing the answer. 
"MCDONALDS! MCDONALDS! MCDONALDS!" Namjoon chanted from the passenger side, causing Ophelia to giggle harder. 
"Can we get Bunny McDonald's, too?"
"Of course we can, honey."
Ophelia had the best Daddies.
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xhoneygirlxx · 11 months
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i just know for a fact Eddie doesn’t know any celebrity names but he knows the most random shit.
i’m just picturing husband or dad! Eddie, somewhere around 30s/40s in age.
you guys are in the car and maybe the basic radio is playing or you’re hooked up to the bluetooth, either way there’s music playing.
Dua Lipa’s ‘Dance the Night Away’ comes on and even though you’re paying more attention to the cars that pass by, a thought pops in your head.
“Baby,” you turn to him, “do you know who sings this?”
For a second he just listens and you can see the gears turning in his head like he’s trying hard to figure who’s voice is coming through the speakers.
“Yeah, it’s Jen Montana.” Eddie says it with so much confidence, smiling brightly that he could remember.
When you correct him and tell him the actual name, he proceeds to tell you that Jen Montana is a real person and she was a very famous popstar. He clearly meant Hannah Montana.
Another time you guys are in your living room sprawled out on the couch, lazing about. Deciding that you had enough phone time, you asks if he wants to watch a movie and he quickly agrees, saying there’s on he really wanted to watch.
Leaving your spot on the comfy sofa, you pad to the kitchen to make some popcorn. When you return Eddie’s got his Ipad in his hand, glasses sitting on the bridge of his nose, tapping away on the screen clearly looking for something.
“I thought we were watchin movie, baby.” You say and he turns his head up at you, tongue still poked out from when he was concentrating.
“We are! I just couldn’t remember the name of the movie I wanted to watch s’all.”
“Well just tell me the actor or actress and i’ll use the remote to look it up.” Sitting back down in your spot, you place the bowl on popcorn between the two of you.
“It’s that one with Sofia Mascara girl.” popping a handful of popcorn in his mouth, he stares straight ahead at the tv like a small child, excited and ready to watch something.
You’re lost, completely and 100% lost. Who the fuck was he talking about because that clearly wasn’t a person. You’re still staring at him like he has five heads, trying to work every part of your brain to understand who he meant. Turning his curly haired head back to you, his eyebrows furrow at your expression.
“What’s wrong?” It’s almost annoying how unaware he is sometimes.
“Eds, that’s not a person.” you try to say it calmly, not wanting to get upset over something this stupid.
“Yes it is, babe! She’s the girl in that one movie! Remember?” He rolls his eyes at you, like you’re the one who said something ridiculous.
“That narrows it down to like, a thousand people.” You deadpan and he huffs.
“The one movie when she’s like screaming and her boyfriend where a bear costume!”
“That’s fucking Florence Pugh, Edward! Not Sofia Mascara!” He laughs at how angry you get and it makes you even angrier.
“Yeah, yeah, same difference.”
It boggles your mind how he can’t remember a single celebrity’s name, but he can remember things that no one else does.
The two of you are laid out in bed, the darkness taking over the space. You’re eyes grow heavier, sleep about to take over your body.
“Do you ever think about what Aron Ralston is doing?” Eddie’s voice is thick with sleepiness.
“Who?” Your lips are smooshed against the cushion of your pillow, causing your words to sound muffled.
“The guy that chopped off his arm when he got stuck in the Grand Canyon! They made that movie with the Green Goblin’s son.” You don’t have to open your eyes to know he’s looking at you in a strange way for not knowing the man’s name.
Either way, you’re too tired to argue or even indulge in this conversation.
“No, I don’t think about what he’s doing during his day.”
“Maybe you should, dude almost died ya know.” He says to you and you almost want to stop talking.
“Okay, well I’ll send him an apology in the morning for not thinking about his daily routine. Can we go to sleep now?”
So yeah, Eddie doesn’t know mainstream artists and actors names but he can tell you any random fact you wanna know.
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animeweebart · 8 months
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Tattoo artist Kirishima x coffee barista Bakugou
Part 1 The beginning of a friendship
once again thank you YaLocalFanFicAddict for helping with my poor grammar and giving me ideas like having Bakugou be deaf. I hope you enjoy the fanfic and stay tuned for part 2 Get to know the family
Bakugou’s POV
It was a regular boring day at the shop. The loud sound of the coffee machine, names were called, every now and then there was yelling at Karen’s, and taking everyone’s detailed orders nearly made my head spin. The most recent order was a latte caramel frappe with a blueberry muffin. Every order was different, and the people just kept coming…and coming. Minutes felt like hours. 11:25, just five more minutes and I can go on break. The next customer that came in had tattoos covering his arms and trailing up his neck. His hair was dyed red, and he looked to be around my age. You could say his voice didn’t match his appearance, because it caught me off guard when he spoke.
“Can I have a caramel iced latte with a chocolate muffin?” His voice was so gentle and soft.
“A-And a name for that order?” I tried to stay focused. Why was I hoping that he would still be here when I went on break?
“Eijiro. E-I-J-I-R-O. Many people don’t know how to spell it right,” he laughed.
I was honestly glad he spelled it out, because I wouldn’t have got it right. He paid for his order and sat at one of the tables and pulled out his iPad and an electronic pen. It looked like he was drawing something. Maybe he was an artist. Maybe he was taking some notes. It didn’t matter, I had to continue my job. As it turned 11:30 I went in the back and grabbed my lunch that my mother made me. Even though I hated her, she always made me some nice lunches. I went back to the front to find Eijiro, still at the table eating his muffin while he continued to work on his iPad. I was scared to approach him. Why was I scared to approach him? We just met. I walked over to him still, scared that he might think I was being creepy.
“Can I sit with you?” I asked as he took out one of his earbuds.
“Huh? Sorry, I couldn’t hear you, what did you say?”
“Can I sit with you?” I repeat, understanding what it was like to struggle with hearing.
Eijiro looked at me for a few seconds and then nodded. I sat down and pulled out my lunch.
“What are you working on?” I asked as I took a bite of my sandwich.
“Oh. I work at the tattoo shop down the street. I’m just drawing some designs,” he answered, taking a sip of his drink.
“Did you do any of those?” I pointed at the tattoos displayed on his arm.
“Yeah, and some were from my friend Sero. We go to school together.”
Sero? Why is that name familiar? Wait, doesn't Denki talk about a guy named Sero from our school?
“Hanta Sero? Does he go to U.A.?” 
Did me and Eijiro go to the same school? Slowly, I realized Eijiro might be one of the extras in my class.
“Yeah, you know him?” Eijiro looked up at me, surprised.
“Uh-huh, I think he’s in my class. My friend, Denki, talks about him a lot. I honestly think the idiot’s got a crush on him.” 
Our conversation continued until he had to go back to his work. He gave me his number and told me to text him when I got off work. I was actually excited to get off work, for once. Soon enough my shift was over, I quickly got my stuff and texted Eijiro. He told me to meet him at the tattoo shop.
“Hey Bakugou, there you are,” he smiled as I approached him. His eyes matched his hair, and his teeth were sharp. It looked like he was waiting outside for a while, his nose and his cheeks were rosy. They reminded me of Round Face. “How long have you been out here?”
“I came out when I got your message.” He seemed almost embarrassed of his stupid answer. He has been waiting for seven minutes, and must be freezing.
“You idiot! Are you trying to get sick?!” I scoffed. “Whatever. Do you want to go to your place or m-”
“Can we go to yours?” His answer was quick and I could hear the fear in his voice. Maybe he was embarrassed of his house because it was a mess? I waved the thought away as we walked to my house. I noted that Mom’s car wasn’t in the driveway. She must have the night shift. I unlocked the front door and we stepped inside.
“You better take off your shoes, or you’ll be cleaning the floors before you leave,” I warned, taking off my shoes. He did the same and we went up to my room. My room was like any other teen room. It had things like LED lights, posters on the walls, and a desk with a dresser. He looked around at everything as I sat on my bed, taking his sweet time doing so.
“Am I going to need to guide you to the bed? Or can you find it yourself?” I clipped my words with a scowl.
“S-Sorry I just never get to see other people’s houses. My parents are really strict with me.” 
As he sat on the bed, he noticed the Cavetown poster taped to my wall. I couldn’t blame him for noticing it, it stood out next compared to the many heavy metal and dark-colored posters. 
“You like Cavetown too?!” His face lit up with excitement as he rambled on with question after question. “What’s your favorite song? Have you ever been to one of his concerts? What’s your favorite album?”
“Woah, slow down. I can’t answer your questions all at once. God, you're reminding me of Deku.” If this dumbass wanted to stay friends, he was going to need to understand that my hearing aids can’t pick up such quick sounds.
“Sorry, I just don’t get to talk about Cavetown, a lot. Sero says it’s not his genre of music.” He explained.
I tried my best to answer what Eijiro asked, at least the questions I could make out from his quick speaking. It was hard to be able to make out a few out of the probably hundreds of questions. “My favorite song from them would probably be Advice. I’ve been to one of their concerts with my ex. I don’t know what my favorite album is but I do like Animal Kingdom.” 
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We talked about the things we liked, what classes we took, and even some other silly little things. As we talked, it didn’t even surprise me when he said he took an art class. Before we knew it, it was almost midnight.
“Damn, it's getting late. You should probably get going—bet your— parents are getting worried about you.”
“It’s too dark, and they know I’m usually at Sero’s. You can just drop me off in the morning.”
He had that same anxious tone in his voice. Maybe he’s scared of something at home? I contemplated it and soon agreed to his request. I grabbed my pajamas and changed in the bathroom. When I came back, Eijiro was sprawled out on my bed.
“What the hell do you think you’re doing? You are not sleeping in my bed, nor are we sharing the bed. I’ll go get you my sleeping bag.” I went to the basement and grabbed my sleeping bag out of my camping bag. I went back up and threw it at him.
“Can I have a pillow and blanket too?” 
He asked right as I got comfortable in the bed. With a grunt, I threw a pillow at him and told him where the extra blankets were, telling him to get it himself.
Fanart of coffee barista Katsuki Bakugou
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And tattoo artist Eijiro Kirishima
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Hope you enjoyed part 1 I’m currently working on part 2. Have a blessed day and stay safe.
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jlawbenn · 3 months
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UPDATE: thank you for kind messages, comments etc
Haylee was rushed in via ambulance this morning in the wee hours because of a blood nose - she’d already had one last night when I got home from footy and dinner and it was a gusher - she has blonde hair that was stained red in seconds - it looked like a horror scene
However we managed to make it stop and she was tired so she went to bed - I told her younger sister to sleep on the fold out couch in her room too, just in case anything was to happen (Haylee doesn’t like sharing a room with me because I often can’t get to sleep and my phone is too bright)
I went to bed at 2am after watching a couple episodes of Malcolm in the Middle and my sister did too. Something woke me up at 2:30- 3, I wasn’t sure what it was so went back to sleep and then Rohan came bursting into my room, nearly breaking the sliding door down and yelled that haylee was dying
So I rushed in and her blood nose had returned - it was covering everything and when I got her out of bed she slightly knocked into the end of her bed - massive ass black bruise on her side. This is how I know we’re getting so much worse.
I wasn’t taking her to Sunshine because they’d probably kill her and I called an ambulance and Monash was out of the question, too far. I travelled in the ambulance too but the hospital barred my entry and wouldn’t let me in - I was resultant to sitting out the front of the hospital clinging to my phone desperately waiting for a call from any member of the hospital - I made my brother travel all the way to the hospital so she’d at least have something with her - I also called her paternal aunt and left messages etc.
I didn’t get an update for hours - it’s a concrete jungle in there so I guess my brother’s texts and calls weren’t getting through. Great. I kept trying to get back in and in the end they locked the front doors so I couldn’t physically enter the hospital - it was an awful feeling to be to badly punished for defending your daughter years prior when you yourself were just a teenager and had no idea what you were doing.
I went and slept in my brother’s car in the parking lot - but security had a problem with that and sent me back out the front. At that point I felt the hospital were more focused on keeping a worried and petrified mother out than actually caring about their patient.
Hours passed. I found little ways to kill time; I walked down to the Royal Melbourne for their cafeteria food. Said hi to people on the street and asked if they were okay and holding up. Sent my brother photos of Sam De Koning and Taylor Swift in hope he’d show Haylee (I’m on later authority that she had sneaken her iPad when I wasn’t looking so she had heaps of content anyway)
When she came out of the hospital a few hours ago, I nearly fell over because she was in a wheelchair, but had a wicked smile on her face. My brother explained the nosebleed was because of her blood condition and it was indeed getting worse - so I had to call the Monash and beg them to push her up the waiting list - and I asked what Haylee was so happy about and if they drugged her (for record, this kid is as emo as her emo idol SDK and never smiles) and she goes ‘the doctor said I’m not allowed to go to school for two weeks!!!’ (because of the heightened infection risk and how easily she’s started heavily bleeding at the slightest knocks recently)
So there you have it, the almost deathbed nosebleed that made my 9 year old so so happy because she gets two weeks longer of school holidays. Yes, thank you Haylee. We share your great sense of relief. That must mean no footy for two weeks either?!! (I’ll tell her later)
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hansolmates · 4 years
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jeongguk; a royal exchange (02)
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feat. the rom-com college!jeongguk x princess!reader au no one asked for
she’s the man!au where the princess impersonates her brother yoongi in order to finish his degree on time while yoongi is thrusted into princely duties. jeongguk is in the mess purely through room arrangement.
notes: p.2 is a straight up roll of pure crack and fluff. lil sexy for like .2 seconds. super self indulgent and inspired by the princess diaries. princess is stressed the whole time and we live to see her suffer
w.c: 7.1k 
01, 02
“I’m sure this is probably the hundredth time you’ve heard since you’ve landed, but welcome to Illyria! The palace welcomes you to your new home away from home.” 
“Ho-ly,” Jeongguk slaps a hand in front of Taehyung’s offending tongue, in case swearing is forbidden on royal territory. Wouldn’t want their scholarships taken away over Taehyung’s potty mouth. 
“Excuse me, Mr. Hoseok, sir?” an exchange student from a university in New Zealand (yet Korean-born, ironically) pipes up, “why does the infrastructure of the building look like that?” 
The student is referring to the ravines of gold metal that stream the walls of the palace. While the architecture is classic, the sheen of the metal definitely gives it an air of regality. 
“Good question, Namjoon. The castle is wired and designed after our main export, Illyrium. The element was discovered in the early 1850s in what is now the ruins of Oros,” Hoseok quips brightly, patting the stone affectionately. “It has a conductivity percentage of 106% percent, more than silver. It is also quite durable.” 
Namjoon’s deep laugh echoes throughout the pavilion, “I was just asking because it makes the castle so beautiful. Thank you.” 
Jeongguk takes the time to snap more pictures of the castle, switching between his Sony and his phone. He zooms in on a low balcony overlooking the terrace they landed from. A figure rolls into his shot, stumbling barefoot with a ruby silk robe swishing between steps. You’re tired, sleep-laden as you clutch a snow white mug between your two hands, leaning your elbows against the metal bearing. You’re staring at nothing and everything, glazed over your backyard that seems to stretch on for eons. 
“You’re right,” Jeongguk marvels at your visage between his lens, “absolutely beautiful.” 
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“Can I please get a better assignment, Jimin?” 
“Your highness,” Jimin frowns, following after you, “you love teaching the exchange students, what has changed?” 
“Exactly, Jimin,” you sigh, stopping in the middle of the hallway. Jimin’s nose nearly bumps into yours, “nothing has changed. I teach students every quarter, the same subjects every time. It’s not to say that I don’t love teaching,” you exhale, blowing into Jimin’s honeycomb bangs, “but can’t I have a more challenging assignment? Conversing with dignitaries, renovating the town square, I’ll even do culinary!” 
Your poor secretary squeaks, pushing up his rose gold iPad to carve some distance between you two. “You-you know those jobs aren’t suitable for a Princess,” Jimin cuts himself off once he sees your eyes soften in defeat, “b-but! I’ll see if Hoseok would be willing to take on another class? And maybe we could arrange a presentation to the King in regards to your proposals?” 
“Right,” you smile sadly, folding your arms and stretching the tight blazer your mother forced you in, “as if another Google Slideshow will impress him.” 
Jimin squeezes your shoulder, as if he could tell you all the things he could never say through body language. “Showtime’s in two minutes, your highness.” 
You nod, making haste to the large double doors that lead to the main living room. Normally, the scholarship program’s presentation is done in the throne room, a big show of bravado and an ego booster to your family. However, this particular class is entirely post-grad and under ten students, so you figure they were placed in a more intimate area for the sake of comfort. 
Jimin pulls a lint roller out of nowhere, careful to catch every bit of dust that dares meet your presence. You tug uncomfortably at your collar, and give the signal to the door bearer. You fight the urge to flinch at the usual bombastic announcement. 
“Introducing, the Princess of Illyria!” 
The students and staff are bowing when you enter, and you send a look to Yoongi, who only offers you a lazy smirk. It’s a look you’ve feared since childhood, an explicit tell that he knows something you don’t. Nevertheless, you tack on a smile, standing in front of the ten students who are still dutifully lowered. You have to hand it to them, the undergrads would already be turning heads to get a peek at the princess. 
“You may rise,” you voice floats. As mother always said, your voice must replicate a dandelion seed, bouncing in the wind. 
The student directly in front of you elevates, a pair of doe eyes taking his sweet time to appreciate the view. 
Jeon Jeongguk gives you a lazy smirk, mirroring your brother’s. The smile evaporates from your face, taking in the handsome man that you lived with for two months over two years ago. His eyes have certainly not lost their spark, but his hair is trimmed and showing off his forehead. A Sony camera wraps around his neck, held tightly by a strong pair of hands. He’s even dressed brightly, wearing a navy blazer over a plain white tee and a pair of dark jeans. Something twinges in your heart when you see that a familiar pair of black combat boots remain. 
Jeongguk is the first to break eye contact, deciding to at least pretend to care about Hoseok’s presentation on the flatscreen. An overplayed video about Illyria’s history drones on, while Hoseok and Jimin are exchanging schedules in between. You’re sure that Jimin is passing on your word about choosing not to teach this quarter, and now it’s personal. 
This urges the students to take seats on the couches, while staff floats around with various pastries and refreshments. 
Your family takes their respective seats, and you fight the urge to pinch Yoongi as you hiss, “You knew about this?” 
“Surprise,” Yoongi sing-songs, munching on a linzer cookie. “I handpicked all the students.”
“Couldn’t give your sister a heads up?” you snap hotly, making sure no one was looking as you pop a whole cream puff in your mouth. 
“Sorry,” Yoongi leans over the shell of your ear, “Your hot ex-roommate is here, just wanted to let you know before you eat the dessert table.” 
You mouth a fuck you, taking a stab at him under the table with your heeled foot. 
After Yoongi’s not-so-subtle reveal of each other’s identities in a crowded Chinese restaurant two years ago, you’ve since cut off all contact with Jeon Jeongguk as you resumed your life as Princess of Illyria. Simultaneously shocked, but not surprised due to the obvious hints of suspicion, Jeongguk had forgiven your lie and allowed you to leave in good spirits. You remember leaving him at the front door of your dorm, hugging you warmly and bidding you safe travels. 
It confused you, because it would've been easier to leave if Jeongguk had gotten angry at the complete breach of trust and kicked you out. 
Hoseok is now presenting a slideshow of the intended schedule and itinerary for all students. You’re now glaring at the back of Jeongguk’s head, trying your damn hardest not to shove three brownies in your mouth in the presence of guests. Your tiny dessert spoon picks pathetically at the measly crumbs, and Jimin is urging you to smile from his position opposite you. 
“And as always, our lovely princess will be conducting our class on Modern Illyrian Anthropology and will be organizing your field studies!” Hoseok practically shouts across the room, where you’re sitting wide-eyed with your family. You feel Yoongi reach over to dab the crumbs off your lips, enjoying your suffering. 
You shoot a look at Jimin who was supposed to take care of things, and he gives you a pained expression that reads don’t fire me.  
With a tight-lipped smile and feigning ignorance to Jeongguk’s interest in you teaching, you reply to the expectant students, “It’s always a pleasure to teach, I promise to not bore you with Illyrian history, that’s Hoseok’s job.” 
“Hey!” he scrunches his nose, then turns to the students who are hiding their giggles, “Better get on her good side if you want a nice field assignment.” he warns good-naturedly, giving you a mock glare. 
You suppose giving Jeongguk a field assignment far, far away from the castle. 
After the long-winded presentation and a handful of brochures, the royal family is escorted out to retire for the day. As the youngest in the family you're the last one to leave.
Out the doorway you hear Taehyung utter, "That's her? What a babe!" 
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As to not arouse suspicion, it takes longer than anticipated to get a private moment with Jeongguk. No one but Taehyung and Jimin know of your circumstances, and it is to remain that way due to the fact that you and Yoongi committed fraud, royal or not. 
Jeongguk is a quiet student, surprisingly. Choosing a seat by the window, he spends most of your classes doodling and looking out the pavilion. As stimulating as Namjoon and Irene’s questions are, you’re a little disheartened at the fact that Jeongguk has made little effort to talk to you, even if it’s as impersonal as classwork or office hours. 
Today Hoseok’s teaching, and that gives you ample time to work out where you want to assign the students for field study. You’ve shaken off Jimin for now, and you’re currently roaming the halls with your phone, checking off your schedule. 
Called the Museum of Modern Illyrian Art for Namjoon … check. 
Sent staff to the villa in prep for the kiddies’ weekend getaway … check. 
Sent e-vites and physicals to the Genovian royals … next.
Find a quiet corner to stress cry before 2:30—
A hand flies out of nowhere, grabbing your waist roughly and throwing you in a small room. The hand clasped over your mouth swallows your scream as the door shuts tight. 
The captor turns on the singular lightbulb, grinning at you like a madman. “Hey Princess—what the fuck!” 
You grimace, putting down your switchblade that was dangerously close to Jungkook’s jugular. “What the hell, Jeongguk! I could’ve killed you!” 
“Dang, princesses are something else nowadays. Where on your body are you hiding knives?” Jeongguk marvels as if he wasn’t ten seconds away from being dead!Guk, patting down your lavender pantsuit in a way that’s highly inappropriate. “What are you, Ty Lee?” 
“Self-defense secret,” and under your breath you add, “and Mai’s the one who hides knives. Ty Lee’s the acrobat.” 
The grin easily returns to the tall boy’s face, burnt eyes shining against the naked bulb. This is the most emotion you’ve got out of him since classes started, and it’s doing nothing to ease the butterflies in your stomach. “So, come here often?” 
“To the storage closet?” you snort, “not particularly.” 
“And where’s a place I can go that you do come often?” 
“My office hours,” you deadpan, “in which you haven’t visited, by the way. As a friend and as a teacher, I’m insulted.” 
A low whine erupts from his throat, and he leans against the shelves, long arms spread across the three-ply toilet paper. “But your little secretary’s always there. It’s awkward when we’re not alone. I don't know if I should act like a friend or a student. Speaking of, where is he?” 
“Ah, Jimin’s getting Starbucks.” 
“Lit, can you tell him to pick me up a pink drink?” 
“No,” but you send a text to Jimin anyway. “Shouldn’t you be in class?” 
“I’m supposed to be coming back from the bathroom,” he air-quotes, “AKA, running around the palace until I can corner you.” 
You sigh, fiddling with the hem of your blazer. 
“Are you annoyed at me?” and for a second, Jungkook’s eyes betray a hint of vulnerability. “Am I being too forward? Or do you not want to catch up? I don’t know, I figured you’d be excited to see me but you’ve just been so busy.” 
“Jeongguk,” you put a hand on his shoulder, ceasing the rambling. He opens his mouth to add more, but you squeeze his bicep. “I’m not annoyed at you. I’m annoyed at the situation. I’ve missed you,” you offer him a shy smile, and he returns a small, hopeful one in return, “but you’re right, it’s been really busy with the usual duties and I’ve been a little on edge with keeping things together without letting any secrets out.” 
You’re also confused as to why you’re still harboring feelings for him, but that’s another secret you keep to yourself. 
“Well, your duty is doo-dy.”  Jungkook huffs, but is placated by your confession. “Don’t worry Princess, I’ll think of something.” 
A knock startles the both of you, and Jeongguk squeaks, brandishing a plunger in defense. With a dainty finger, you push the plumbing tool back to the ground, as the knockings did not stop. 
“Ohmygod—am I going to be beheaded for kidnapping the Princess?” Jeongguk panics and checks his phone, realizing his bathroom break turned into a straight up game of hooky. “Do you guys still behead? I mean if you’re pulling out knives from who knows where—” 
“Guk, relax,” recognizing it immediately as a code between you and your brother, you swing the supply closet open. 
Yoongi looks between the two of you, gauging the situation. When he notices that no, you two did not just romp between the 3-ply and were in fact only talking, he huffs. “Losers,” he mutters under his breath, hiding a grin as he leaves you two to splutter. 
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It’s already well over twenty minutes past your class time, but Taehyung just wouldn’t shut up. 
You can’t blame him, he’s thrilled that you managed to snag him a field study with your personal couture designer. He’s lit up like a good boy on Christmas eve, getting his present early. He’s gushing about how excited he is to use authentic Swarovski crystals and rub noses with the fancy fabrics. 
“I’ll make you the perfect dress for the upcoming gala, Your Highness.” Taehyung’s vibrating in a manner you never imagined on a human before.
“Thank you,” you reply awkwardly, “I’m sorry, but what gala are you referring to?” 
He shrugs, “I’m sure there’s a gala you have to go to sometime. I’ve just always wanted to say that, makes me feel special.” 
“Tae,” Jeongguk is sitting on your desk, heels bumping into the mahogany. With a stiff jerk of his head, Tae’s lips morph into an ‘O’ and he finally gets the hint, bowing to you and scurrying off. 
“Y’know, his fashion’s kind of eccentric.” he nods over to the excessive fur lining on Taehyung’s slippers, “I’d make sure your designer keeps a close eye on him.” 
“And what do I owe the pleasure of your presence,” you click, “twenty minutes after class?” 
Jeongguk has the audacity to roll his eyes, rolling his head back to crack out the stiffness. “The chamber choir, really?” he exhales, dropping the itinerary you spent the better half of your nights preparing. 
You raise your eyebrows, “What? It pertains to your major.” 
“For the past six years all I've done is eat, sleep, and breathe music,” he says, and you’re suddenly reminded that you had a glimpse of that version of Jeongguk two years ago. A slave to the music, as much as he loved the subject, it sometimes felt like a tether that weaved far too deeply under his skin. “Can’t my field assignment be something different? More eclectic?” 
“Do you have anything in mind?” 
“In fact, I do.” Jeongguk lolls his head to the side, chestnut bangs falling softly. “For my field study, I want to shadow the Princess’ duties.” 
You slam your hands down, standing up so you’re nearly nose-to-nose with the young man. “Are you crazy? Do you want Yoongi and I to get caught?” 
“Listen, I’ve thought about it all throughout class—”
“—what? You didn’t listen to my lecture?—”
“—and today in class you mentioned that you graduated with a Master’s in Public Affairs, because in fact I always listen to you,” Jeongguk presses a finger to your lips when you try to cut him off, “and lo and behold, one of my minors was in public affairs! What better way to get more experience in the business when I have the master right in front of me?” 
“I don’t know, Guk,” you try, mulling through all the possible situations and horrors that could occur because of it. 
“Princess, we’re killing two birds with one stone!” Jeongguk pleads, giving you the puppy eyes, “not only do I get a far better field study assignment, but it’s far better because I get to spend more time with you!” 
You hate how absolutely weak you’ve become under his gaze. In the span of less than three weeks, Jeon Jeongguk has re-entered your life like he never left. He wanted to spend time with you. The selfish part of your brain says you wish the same. Who are you to deny such a simple desire? 
“Fine,” you spit out, putting up a front and pretending to be annoyed, “but you better not get all huffy around Jimin.” 
He shrugs, throwing his bag over his shoulder. “Worth it.” 
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“You’re different,” Jeongguk states bluntly, actively ignoring the way Jimin tries to push between you two. Jeongguk continues to press into your shoulder as you weave through the gardens. You’re picking flowers for a specific theme arrangement and pattern. A diplomat from Spain is coming and he is bringing her young daughter. You've heard that she’s recently taken in interest in constructing flower crowns. 
“Well, two years can do that to a person,” you reply airily, dropping a tiger lily in the wicker basket Jeongguk insisted on carrying. 
Having Jeongguk follow you around like a duckling is fun, to be frank. Jimin is no longer hyper-focused on you, forcing him to spread his attention between you and your overly-attentive  student. Jeongguk can’t attend every single one of your events because some of the information’s sensitive, but when he does it makes your job feel less of a job and more like a fun group project. 
Like when you and Jeongguk would stumble in the farmer’s market every Sunday morning, hungover but aching to fill your bellies. You two were walking zombies, forcing yourselves out of bed to feed yourselves. But it was always fun because you were together, whenever it was Jeongguk’s turn to pay, you’d sneak in more KitKats for yourself. Whenever it was your turn, Jeongguk would smuggle more cartons of banana milk. 
“No, no. It’s not that,” your friend admonishes instantly, “your personality’s still the same, even though it was Yoongi-fied. Your heart hasn’t changed,” you turn your head sharply towards a field of carnations, concealing your flush. “I mean, you’re more confident.” 
“In other words,” Jimin pipes, looking up from his iPad, “an air of regality.” 
You scoff, putting a hand on your hip and looking expectantly at the two boys. “You’ve changed too, Guk,” you reason, shaking your head. “Old Jeongguk wouldn’t be wearing white dress shirts and shoving princesses in closets.” 
“You shoved the princess in a closet—!” Jimin starts, having half a mind to cancel the field study all together.
“Well, Old Jeongguk didn’t have a chance to really get to know you,” Jeongguk twirls a baby’s breath between his fingers, tucking it in-between your ear. “That’s New Jeongguk’s job.” 
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“So, you’re the Princess’ head of security,” Jeongguk tilts his head to look up at the slightly taller man, his visage covered by a pair of shades. The bodyguard is never really present, only when citizens enter the castle or you’re out of town. “You know you’re inside, right?” 
The man only slightly inclines his head to acknowledge Jeongguk’s prodding. Hmph, he looks like a talker. 
“If you’re her head of security,” Jeongguk leans closer, trying to avoid any further attention to his conversation, “do you know where she hides her knives? Because sometimes she wears those tight pencil skirts and I can’t help but wonder—”
“That’s classified.” 
“Alright, where do you hide your knives—”
“Also classified.” 
“Jeongguk,” you relent, sliding your footrest next to your throne, “leave Seokjin alone and come here, please.” 
You can’t blame him. It’s always been a pastime of yours to ruffle Seokjin’s feathers, but you must admit that meeting with citizens is a long and frankly, boring process. The routine is fairly simple, the citizen bows and offers something for the table, and in return you lend your ear and offer assistance if possible. 
“For your table, Your Highness,” the next citizen bows, carrying a foil-lined tray filled with fresh baked bread. 
“Smells delicious, Bertrand.” you beam, ripping open the tin to snatch a hot slice off the top. Rosemary and thyme are egg washed atop the brown bread, and you proffer a piece to Jeongguk, as you could imagine the poor guy is as antsy as ever. “And may I introduce you to my student, Jeon Jeongguk? He’s studying my diplomacy for his field study.” 
Bertrand tips his head, “Lucky you, she’s a true leader.” 
Jeongguk nods shyly, nibbling on the crust. “Truly an honor.” 
Jeongguk offers to bring the gift to the table with the other offerings across the room, and you nod, conversing lightly with Bertrand. His worries are simple enough, he feels pressured by a catering request from an Illyrian Duke, and wishes to serve a party fit for a royal. In resolution, you offer to send a palace chocolatier and chef to help with the preparations. Jeongguk returns to his seat next to yours just as Bertrand leaves. He pulls up his iPad, feigning notes that he should be writing while observing you. 
The next citizen hobbles over, holding a large ivory wicker basket covered by a beige tarp. “For your table, Your Highness,” they bow, “I hope you like omelets.” 
If you weren’t on the throne with an audience of one-hundred, you’d be delivering a very confused expression, coupled with panic. “May I?” you inquire, forcing a smile as you lift open the tarp.
In the basket there are two small jars of marmalade, and one huge chicken sitting fat and proud that its skin overflows between the gaps of the wicker. Its head twitches in your direction, barely turning because its neck is hugely bulbous with excess weight. Its beady little eyes mock you. It smells fear. 
“Her name’s Dixie,” the citizen supplied helpfully. 
“Holy shit,” Jeongguk whispers next to you, but not soft enough for it to not echo in the throne room, “Dixie, you are a thick chick.” 
“Jeongguk!” you exclaim, which causes the whole room to reverb at your shrill cry. 
Of course the chicken has to freak out, flapping its wings and freeing itself from the confines of its package. The animal dives for you, and you press yourself as much as you can against the throne. Jeongguk knows no bounds, throwing himself in front of you to catch the large bird. Feathers weave unto his umber tresses as the bird meets gravity, Jeongguk unable to calm down Dixie. 
 It’s more or less a wild goose chase (chicken chase?) after that, Jeongguk follows Dixie down the platform and around the throne room. The citizens and staff are clutching their stomachs in laughter, endeared by the young man following the chicken. Jimin is laughing and slapping Seokjin’s shoulder, his face breaking in an unabashed smile. 
And you can’t help but laugh along with them, trying to smother your giggles by covering your face with a silk fan. You peek over the thin fabric to see Jeongguk looking especially concentrated on his mission. It wasn’t like the chicken was going to escape the throne room because the doors are closed, but surely it will be a workout as Dixie’s a trooper and isn’t going down without a fight. 
“Don’t worry Princess, I got this!” Jeongguk’s voice reassures you from the far edge of the throne room. He’s taken a break, but the glint in his eyes show he’s committed to catching Dixie as she scuttles in circles.
He flashes you a breathtaking smile, all gums and pearly whites as he runs a hand through his wavy locks. Your smile falls slightly, and you clutch your fan tighter at the realization. Oh, you are besotted. 
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“Hoseok’s had me on my back about teaching a full class before your weekend getaway but I’ve long decided,” you lift your chin haughtily in a way only princesses do, jutting out your lip in confirmation, “that you should enjoy the time you have here. Summer’s almost over. You all should get a headstart on your packing so you can get to the beach early.” 
Your class erupts into hoots and hollers, the Powerpoint presentation about the minerals of Illyria long abandoned. Two months have already passed, and in a couple weeks they’ll be saying their goodbyes. A twinge of sadness hits you as you relish in your students’ happy smiles. As each semester passes, each group leaves something behind you’ll never forget. This summer, as much as you taught them, you’ve learned a lot from them as well.
Students are already starting to pack up, but Namjoon’s butt is firmly planted in his seat, raising his hand. “Sorry, I have a question.” 
You smile goodnaturedly, already used to his usual spiel. “I can email you the Powerpoint and we can go over whatever you want on Monday.” 
“Ah, no. I was wondering if you were coming with us,” Namjoon mutters sheepishly. 
You’re surprised, even moreso when Irene and Yerin insist that you should go. “Yes, you have to go!” Yerin bounces in her seat.
“Oh,” you blush, “I can’t. I don’t normally go on these things, wouldn’t it be weird to have your teacher at your party?” 
“Hell no!” Yerin gasps shamelessly. It’s one thing you liked about this class, after class is over, they always managed to make you feel normal. Maybe it’s the closeness in age and education, but they remind you so often that you’re still young. After all, they weren’t Illyrian, and while outside of class they put on the whole shebang for you, it didn’t take long for them to get comfortable around you. “We can show you what real college life is like! We can roast barbeque on the beach and tell scary stories!” 
Taehyung snorts, already halfway out the door, “I’m sure the Princess doesn’t wanna see you shitfaced in the ocean.” 
You placate Yerin with a small smile, “I have to work after this, but I’ll see what I can do.” 
Namjoon walks up to your desk as the rest of the students file out. He runs the spine of his journal along your desk, “Prince Yoongi and Hoseok will be there too, if it makes you feel any better. Hope you can come.” 
The room is soon vacated, leaving you and your Star Student alone. 
“‘I’ll see what I can do’, really?” Jeongguk rolls his eyes, plopping himself atop your desk. Your eyes snap to the way the dark denim cords around his thighs, and you make a deal of slamming your laptop shut. “C’mon, of course you wanna come. I’m not taking no for an answer.” 
“Not really,” you admit. “I used to really like spending the weekend at the villa. I loved getting to know each class and know what it feels like to be like you guys,” you downplay yourself, stuffing books and electronics in your briefcase. “But ever since we roomed together two years ago, I can’t bring myself to go anymore. It’s not the same when you’ve actually had a taste of it.”
Jeongguk’s eyes soften at your confession. You could feel that he wasn’t prepared for your honesty, and you don’t blame him. He swallows, Adam’s apple bobbing. “I leave in two weeks, you know.” 
“I know.” 
“Can you at least try to come, for me?” 
You lift your head up to reach his eyes, looking equal parts nervous and vulnerable. You’re suddenly thrusted back to two years ago, cornered in your dorm room where Jeongguk was upset at the thought of hurting him, lying to him. You didn’t want to hurt him, or yourself. 
But as Jeongguk’s large hand reaches across the desk to your smaller one, you don’t think to pull away. 
“Your Highness!” Jimin interrupts the two of you, and Jeongguk snatches his hand back with a glare. Jimin ignores him, looking breathless as he leans against the door of your classroom. “Your 3 o’clock is ready. We have to hurry if we want to get through the crowd.” 
With one last look, Jeongguk excuses himself, brushing past Jimin with a gruff “Bye, Princess.” 
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“Today’s not your day to meet with citizens,” Yoongi mumbles next to you, looking disapprovingly at the way you wait for the next citizen to approach you. 
Seokjin holds the crowd off as you converse with your brother, who looks ready to leave to the villa. He’s dressed in a plain white t-shirt, foam slides and baggy slacks. If it wasn’t for the family crest proudly presented on his right breast pocket, he could easily be mistaken as the average citizen. “Mother insisted,” you reply shortly, growing more irritated by the second. 
“Really?” his brows disappear under his bangs, “because from the way she said it, you were looking for work.” 
Caught, you turn away from his watchful gaze. “I have a problem, okay?” you say stiffly, “I needed a distraction.” 
“Alright,” Yoongi shrugs, leaning close to your ear to murmur, “where’s the dead body?” 
You slap his arm, “Yoongi! I didn’t kill anybody!” 
“At this rate, it looks like you’re wasting yourself away.” Yoongi replies bluntly, stuffing his hands in his pockets. “C’mon, Loverboy was all pouty in my room not too long ago. Don’t disappoint him.” 
With that, Yoongi turns on his heel and walks off. Citizens bow at him like dominos as he exits, your break definitively over. 
Whatever is blooming between you and Jeongguk, is and never will be fair to the both of you. In your eyes Jeongguk isn’t the type to settle, not relationship-wise, but life-wise. He wanted to grow and cultivate his art, and taste freedom every step of the journey.
You weren’t freedom or growth, and you could only hope he realizes that before you become too selfish. 
“Your Highness?” you break out of your reverie when a young woman your age looks at you shyly, “My name is Wendy. I didn’t get anything for the table but, I got you a caramel macchiato.” 
She brandishes a venti iced caramel macchiato, condensation dripping from her fingers. Your face lights up, accepting the caffeinated drink. “I really needed this!” you perk up immediately, taking a sip and letting the cool flavor soothe your tastebuds. “Thank you, Wendy. What is it that you request?” 
“Advice,” she admits, a blush creeping from her neck. She looks down at her work boots, caked in grime. “I’m an engineer who works in manufacturing Illryian technology.”
“We are eternally grateful for your service to this country,” you reply evenly. Engineers are highly revered in your country, as your economy is dependent on their brilliant minds. 
“But I have fallen in love with a man who is under my station, and wishes to find work elsewhere,” she bites her lip, her eyes growing glassy. “I haven’t told him my feelings yet, however I’m also worried for my family who finds men like him to be unworthy of an engineer like myself.” 
“Ah, bound by duty and expectation.” you reply grimly, “a rock and a hard place, huh?” 
“Yes, forgive me for my crassness. I felt as if you would understand my predicament.” 
Putting your drink down, you reach for her hand. Oil and dirt cake her fingers, and she attempts to pull away as to not soil you, but you hold on tighter. “Tell him how you feel, Wendy.” you whisper, a conversation so intimate it’s only proper it be for her ears and her ears only. “Whether he leaves or not after you tell him is his decision. However, I assure you it will hurt far more if you don’t give yourself a chance.” 
Her voice cracks, “But what if it doesn’t work out?” 
You start to feel a little teary at her candor, and you run a thumb over her palm. “Then you’re one heartbreak closer to happiness. Nevertheless, you are a strong, intelligent, beautiful woman. Don’t let your fears reject that.” 
Wendy finds the strength to squeeze your hand, and you belatedly realize that if this piece of advice was personified, it’d be slapping the shit out of you. 
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“You came!” 
Hopped up on bitter caffeine and potential regrets, you stand in the living room well past midnight, party in full swing. Jimin trails behind you sans iPad, feeling lighter in a pair of trunks and a black tank. A playlist of Namjoon’s organizing is blasting from the surround sound, coupled with the flatscreen television projecting an intense lap of MarioKart. Irene and Taehyung are shoulder to shoulder, concentrating on getting that Mushroom Cup. The sliding doors that lead from your villa to the beach are cracked open, wide enough to hear the conversations the other students are exchanging. 
It was always nice to have your villa occupied like this. Less empty, more familial. 
Yerin is the first to greet you, throwing her arms around you and smelling like seasalt and vodka. She’s drenching your clothes, clad in a yellow polka-dot one-piece. “This weekend’s gonna be killer,” she whispers in your ear, causing the hairs on your neck to rise. For a petite thing, she really wastes no time cutting to the chase. 
You detach yourself, holding up a bag of pastries. “Snagged some munchies for your inevitable drunk crash,” you smirk, placing the container on the kitchen island. 
Yerin gapes, red tinted lips mouthing an ‘o’ at your language. “You’ve been hidin’ out on us, haven’t you Princess?” Yerin then brushes past you, ready to get her fingers on the confections. You’re over her shoulder, pointing out both Illrian delicacies and pastries she’s familiar with. 
After Irene snags the Mushroom Cup they’re joining you at the island, lips coated in powdered sugar and jam. The girls laugh when some powdered sugar gets into Taehyung’s hair, Irene patting him a little too hard on his bangs. 
“You’re here!” 
You whip around to see Jeongguk sliding the glass doors hurriedly, bare feet slapping across the tiled floor to reach you. He’s dripping wet, ocean water rivering around his body. Your eyes can’t help but follow the flow of the cool liquid, finding purchase between the planes of his chest and honeyed abs, glowing from the heat. 
Three years of your life were spent studying preparation and execution for war or nuclear threat. Unfortunately, at this very moment you feel way more prepared for war than Jeon Jeongguk standing in your villa, looking like that. 
Instead of the usual pleasantries, you hold up a leather wallet. “You left this in the classroom,” you chide. 
It’s a baldfaced lie. Somehow, Jeongguk’s wallet had conveniently ended up in your office between reams of paper. The bastard himself has the audacity to feign surprise, coral lips gaping in relief. “Wow, Princess. Totally not a ploy to get you to come here.” 
“Right.” 
“Give it here, I’ll drop it off in my room.” 
“Wait, wait!” you hold up both your hands, centimeters away from Jeongguk’s pecs. You’re nearly eye level with them, and you force yourself to look up at his smug face. “You’re dripping wet on the tile! Your feet still have sand you heathen! Do not get our carpets dirty!” you hold the wallet to your chest protectively, “where’s your room?” 
He tilts his head adorably, droplets flecking from his slicked back mane. “Third door on the right.” he doesn’t dare to argue with your sudden passion to keep your villa clean. 
You nod, “go enjoy the water. I’ll be right out.” You don’t give him a chance to reply, kicking off your sandals as you reach the cosier part of the villa. Soft carpet meets your toes as you pad off to the guest bedrooms. 
Jeongguk managed to snag the corner room, albeit smaller, it’s a single with a full mattress. You see his Superdry backpack open on the floor, its bottom worn with the white lining peeking through. Despite only arriving in the afternoon, his fresh scent is palpable. You drop the wallet on his desk, and you notice that his laptop’s still on. 
The Macbook Pro glows confidently, his screensaver revealing a photograph of you on your balcony. 
“Snooping around, Princess?” 
You whip around, seeing Jeongguk appear fully clothed, running a towel over his hair. He is no longer dripping water or sand, but he still smelled like salt and fire. He nonchalantly closes the door behind him, taking a seat at the foot of his bed. 
“You know it’s illegal to take unsolicited pictures of royalty, right?” 
“And who should I answer to, hm? The Princess?” he teases, face blooming from the fluffy white towel. 
You’re not upset about the picture, he knows that. But there you sit, slumped over his desk, looking forlornly at his picture of you. 
“I’ve locked the door,” Jeongguk pipes up, looking at you worriedly. “Yoongi mentioned that the room’s are soundproof. He said you looked upset today. Tell me what’s on your mind.” 
The room feels smaller, swallowing you whole. You’re tired from today’s events, both emotionally and physically. Jeongguk is having nothing of it, reaching between the two of you to pull the arms of the desk chair, wheeling you between his thighs. 
“Jeongguk,” you start, “why weren’t you mad at me when you were right? Right about me hiding something from you.” 
His brows furrow, “You made a sacrifice and protected your brother. Why would I be mad at that?” he says honestly, “sure, I was upset at first. Who wouldn’t be? But you did it out of love.” 
You smile wanly, knowing that there wasn’t going to be a chance that he’d be upset at you. It was out of your devices. “I wanted you to be mad,” you admit, wringing your fingers between your skirt, “it would’ve made it easier to leave.” 
“It would’ve, wouldn’t it?” he replies, his voice cotton soft. “After you left, Yoongi wouldn’t let me talk to you on the phone. Said you needed time. But I got him to tell me stories about you, stories that made me realize that I missed getting to know you.” 
It’s then you feel the weight of today express itself onto your cheeks, the wetness dampening your skin. You feel his thumb brush away the tears. 
“Tell me,” Jeongguk requests softly, “tell me what you really feel.” 
You let your head collapse in his hands, relishing the warmth and comfort it brings. “I feel hurt. And confined.” 
“More,” Jeongguk bids, his other hand squeezing your thigh, “let it out, Princess.” 
You are a strong, intelligent, beautiful woman. Don’t let your fears reject that.
“I miss acting like fools at the grocery store, falling on top of each other half-asleep.” Everything tumbles out shamelessly, like a waterfall. “I hate how frustrated I am when you call me Princess, because while it is my title, it turns me on in the most devastating way when you say it.” you drop your head in the crook of his neck, embarrassed to see his reaction. “I want to laugh with you, hold you, I want you, so badly. But I want you to be happy, to make music and art, and travel the world to find your muse,” you shake your head, pushing yourself away from him. “I feel so stuck here, I can’t hold you back when you’re free and—”
“That’s enough bullshit,” and he’s kissing you, a clashing of teeth that has you sensitive and reeling. His hands grasp your cheeks, and you’re stumbling in your chair as the wheels make moves on their own. You squeak against his lips before you’re wheeled back to the bed. Hot hands pull you forward to teeter your body onto the bed, keeping you in place. 
The man in question breaks apart, but close enough that his lips brush against yours when he speaks, “I’ve never kissed a princess before,” Jeongguk says wryly, cupping your cheek, “but if you make one more gripe about freedom and your stupid self-righteousness and I’ll stop.” 
A pure, unprepared whine escapes your lips, shame be damned. 
“You’re my muse,” he plants a kiss on your forehead, “I bothered Yoongi for weeks, working tooth and nail for that scholarship,” a kiss on both your nose, “you’re what it means to feel free.” 
And that’s all it takes for you to surge forward, toppling over him until he’s pushed against the headboard. Capturing your lips with his, you catch droplets of saltwater and a flavor that’s so distinctly Jeongguk, feeling high off the taste. 
Your skirt rides to your waist, your underwear damp from the ocean and arousal. You straddle him, feeling so unbounded and free as Jeongguk lets you do what you’ve both wanted to do. With a roll of your hips Jeongguk grunts, forehead pressed to yours. “Princess,” he rasps, meeting your thrusts, “we have until Christmas to do this, no need to rush.” 
Wait, Christmas? 
Jeongguk grins, kissing away your surprise. For now, you’ll ignore the burn between your thighs. “Before we left today, Yoongi and I asked the King, your father, if he would consider extending my scholarship for a full semester. I mentioned that Yoongi and I had some unfinished projects from undergrad,” he pecks your lips, “and he’s going to help me produce a full album for my final thesis.” 
“That’s amazing!” you cheer, pulling him into a hug. “I’m so proud of the two of you!”  
“Mhm,” he nuzzles your neck, pressing featherlight kisses to your skin, “can’t produce anything without my muse around, so I’d say Illyria is the perfect location.” 
Your fingers thread into his damp locks, and you feel your heart swell with happiness. Here, under the gaze of the beautiful boy who wanted to offer you his heart and his world, you felt free. 
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extra.
It takes the strength of both your hands to pull Jeongguk in the storage closet, but it isn’t like he’s putting up a fight anyhow. 
“Come here often?” you drawl, leaning forward to press a kiss to his cheek. 
“Impressive,” he chuckles, “usually it takes you an hour to shake Jimin off ya. It’s only been thirty-five minutes.” 
“I just wanted to show you something funny,” you pull up your Instagram, and play the featured video. While it was posted weeks ago, it started to pick up traction after Yoongi liked the post this morning. Jeongguk is dashing around the palace, sweating bullets and cooing “c’mon Dixie!” to the sprinting chicken in the throne room. 
“You’re viral!” you giggle, “you put Illyria on the social media map!” 
Under the lowlights, it’s still easy to see Jeongguk’s skin has gone placid. “If I ever hit it big, that shit better not haunt me,” he groans into your neck.  
“Please,” you roll your eyes, “every famous person has a backstory. Aubrey Graham had Degrassi and the Yodeling Wal-Mart boy–”
“Are you really gonna compare your boyfriend to the Yodeling Wal-Mart kid? Tell me what you really came here for,” And like a teenager, Jeongguk reels it back in, winding his hands around your waist. He gives you bedroom eyes like it's a session of Seven Minutes in Heaven, “so, we’re gonna make out or what?” 
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insomniac-dot-ink · 5 years
Text
Lost Time
It was half past eight on a Monday and I was running late. I was known for being late as well as scatter-minded and it was an image I had been trying to combat since I was a young girl.
However, that didn’t change the fact that I had already missed the 8:30 train and the 8:20 one before that. I stood on the platform with the usual suspects of businessmen in charcoal dark suits, middle-aged moms on their way to the market with overly large floral-print tote bags, and a few highschoolers who looked just as late I was with a bruised-eyed emptiness about them.
I bounced on my heels as I waited and checked my watch every few minutes. I had been given several warnings so far about tardiness at my office job and while I wasn’t exactly thrilled about quality control work I was less thrilled about the prospect of being fired.
I texted my workplace friend about covering for me and then I checked my watch again.
For not the first time I missed university and the ideal of sleeping through whatever classes I didn’t care for and sneaking in a few minutes late to any lectures I actually did. My older sister kept insisting I was lucky I had gotten a job right out of college at all, but there was no helping it. It all sort of sucked.
The monotony was almost as bad as the knowledge that monotony was my future: pure predictable, clockwork knowledge of what I might be doing a month from now. And then a year from now. And the year after that.
I bounced on my heels and checked my watch for the third time. It was a leather watch with a round handsome face and a worn strap- my father had given it to me right before the Alzheimer's set in when I was around seventeen.
We hadn’t “lost” him, but we did lose the man I grew up with.
That was how I remembered that morning: thinking about Monday and work and my father’s watch which kept ticking much slower than I would have liked it to.
Maybe things would have been different if my work friend had texted me back faster or if I had woken up earlier or if I hadn’t bothered to wake up and go to work at all that morning.
I bounced in place and just as I was about to look down at my watch again a hand shot out and grabbed my wrist. “Ah,” I jumped and swung around to start shouting at whoever it was or the very least pull away from the stranger manhandling me on a public platform.
I hesitated when an old woman looked back at me. She was small, and had neat grey hair swept back into a tidy bun and a hunched back with wide, heavyset shoulders. She was lined with deep wrinkles and had clear blue eyes that struck me as somehow attractive and open.
She smiled mildly at me and her cool hand was still wrapped around my wrist as I faced her. I wrinkled my nose slightly as the scent of something like chlorine hit me over the head. It was a saturated sharp kind of chemical smell.
“Excuse me,” the old woman spoke in the same tidy manner as her look. “May I borrow some of your time?” I frowned deeply as I suspected she was about to break out a bible and start a pitch for either Jesus Christ or some new age church of cardinals or weed or paying them money or whatever.
I drew back, “I’m sorry.” I tried to glance at my watch but it was still in her grip. “I gotta get to work.” “It won’t take long at all. No trouble for you, I promise.” She said and her voice was similarly friendly, high-pitched, and reminded me somewhat of a cricket.
The chemical smell funneled through my system and I tried to politely hold my breath. “Sorry. The train is about to come and I really can’t miss it.” “We have time.” She said slowly. “It will only be for a bit and won’t cost you a cent.” I sighed heavily and looked around to check if anyone there noticed me being accosted by the elderly, but no one even batted an eye in our direction. “Are you selling something?” “No.” She said suredly. “I know this sounds a little forward, but I’m trying to find someone and I could use some help.” “Huh.” I blinked a couple times and chewed on my bottom lip; I weighed my options carefully for just a moment more and then met her syrupy blue gaze. “Just looking for someone, yeah?” I exhaled slowly. “Alright. Sure.” Her smile grew wide and candied sweet. She released my wrist and I swore a popping sound erupted through the air and sent a shiver down my spine.
“But I really can’t do it right n-” I didn’t finish my sentence as the train whooshed onto the platform and I stumbled backward. When I turned to tell the old lady I would have to help her later, she was gone.
I sniffed loudly and rubbed at my wrist before hurrying aboard my morning train and trying not to get stuck on any of the details. It was Boston, sometimes weird people talked to you.
And you tried to forget them. At least, at the time I hoped to forget her and get to work without being noticed or reprimanded again.
--------------------
It was two months into December and I had a head cold like nobody's business. I hadn’t been able to breath out of my left nostril since the day before and I missed her dearly, as you would a best friend or lover.
Cold sheets of rain had been coming down in slushy torrents for days now and I had spent hours the week before helping move my roommate out. She had finally decided to go all the way with her questionable boyfriend and move in with him despite the old pizza crust smell and missing fire escapes in his neighborhood. But he had both a car and a netflix account.
I was happy for her up until I helped her move a couch in the pouring ice-rain and woke up the next day with the feeling of a balloon inflating in my sinuses. 
I went to work all the same in an effort to make management get off my back about the number of days I had missed. The world was a slow motion mess of dayquil and painkillers by the time I was finally able to head home in a daze. I produced kleenex after kleenex out of my purse as I traveled, like a magic trick where no one was impressed.
I was rocking gently back and forth in the train when my head pounded slightly and my nose cleared up for just a moment. I would have hit the air with my fist right then in victory if not for the sharp scent of chlorine that washed over me.
The uncomfortable sterile smell that reminded me of storms and sucking on copper pennies.
My eyes darted left and right to check if anyone had noticed, but the train was filled with pencil-skirt ladies on their phones typing away, school children with ipads out, and a homeless man softly snoring in one of the seats.
I massaged the bridge of my nose and hurried the rest of the way home with more kleenexes produced and thoughts of nyquil on my mind. I was surely too sick to be cogent I figured and becoming slightly delirious.
I slipped into my now one-person apartment, ate canned noodle soup, and tucked myself to sleep in my thickest sweatpants and sweater. It should have been over then, but it wasn’t.
I had dreams, and not the type of dreams I had ever had before. Dark shadows shifted and oozed under me, bright neon colors popped in my vision, stars exploded left and right and nonsense voices babbled in the distance.
It was like the confusing scene in Dumbo with the pink elephants singing except I didn’t even get to be drunk for it. And then the scent of chemicals came wafting through my head space and I exhaled from somewhere deep inside of me and everything went as blank as a canvas.
There was no proper way to describe it except the unclenching of every muscle in my body after a long day or letting go of a kite and watching it sail away with the wind. I let go of thousands of jumbled images and sounds and then I blinked again and I was staring at the night sky.
It was hard to process for a long hard second and harder to come to grips with the cold air against my flushed cheeks and the crevice moon up above. My muscles complained at me dully, but besides that my body was limber and I noticed I could breathe again.
I inhaled through both nostrils and when I sat up I realized I was in some sort of barren field. I gawked at the empty rows and dirt on my hands and the fact I could barely make out any city lights in the distance.
I hadn’t left Boston in months and I didn’t remember getting off my couch that night. Or driving. Or walking. Or bundling myself up in my heavy pink coat and lying down in a field.
I flexed slightly and noticed a tingling in my fingers and dirt on my knees and palms. I had been doing something as well.
I searched my person for a moment and was relieved to find no injuries, but also no clues. My coat pockets were completely empty and my only guiding source of information was that I was in a field and I wasn’t sick anymore.
I even sniffed the air for chlorine, but there was nothing but faint winter chill.
I took a deep breath and stood up after a few minutes and began to walk toward the city lights. It was a long walk and I went back and forth in my head on whether to take myself to the hospital and ask about sleep walking disorders.
On the other hand I remembered my father’s long struggle with in-patient care, his empty gaze as more nurses talked to him in gentle tones, and wheeled him around the blank white halls. I remembered the tears as he seemed to lose my face and then my mom’s face and birthdays and places and names like party balloons being popped. The hospital smell made me nauseous just thinking about and it had only been one night. 
Just one night didn’t mean anything.
I ended up finding change in the back pocket of my jeans and taking the 6am bus home from Northampton all the way to my apartment. I didn’t sleep well for days after that.
--------------------- I chalked the first time up to a weird combination of flu medicine, stress at work, and maybe even losing my roommate that week. And for awhile it seemed like a dream that someone else had.
For awhile.
It was February when the feeling crept back in. I couldn’t explain it, but I started checking hallways before I turned the corner and examining strangers faces twice if they sat next to me. I put bowls of water by my door so I might step in them and wake myself if I started sleep walking again.
Or perhaps someone else would step in them on their way in. I tried not to dwell on that last thought- no matter how many times it nagged at me.
There was a sensation of sickness in my gut and I couldn’t get rid of it. It was February and I was sitting on my couch watching some nothing TV show my mom recommended to me and just like before, something unclenched.
The kite was released and I blinked and there was an absolute nothingness so fine that I could have drowned in it. Been eaten by it, been destroyed by it.
And I blinked once and I was standing in the grocery store holding an egg carton and practically gagging on chlorine stench lodged in my mouth. “Ack.” I dropped the eggs to the floor and they splattered like firecrackers on the Fourth of July.
I started breathing heavily and clutching at my chest, several concerned shoppers stopped and looked my way as I leaned on my cart for support. The cart was completely filled with cartons of eggs.
I ran outside only to find I was just a few blocks from my apartment building. I sprinted home and when I tripped my way up my stairs, wheezing and eyes streaming, there was a single spilled bowl of water on the floor.
I melted into the carpet and shook slightly as I looked at it. Something had been in my apartment. Or else I had kicked it myself during the weird trance.
But it didn’t matter either way. I couldn’t remember.
---------------------
I finally went to the doctor with a complaint of memory problems and we met with a neurologist with iron-grey hair and a busy tie. He checked my pupil dilation and ability to track objects with my eyes. He tested my reflexes and had me remember colors and numbers in certain orders.
My mom came with me for the appointment and glanced at me every few minutes. She didn’t say anything, but I could read the thoughts on her face: it’s already got her too.
Maybe my mom thought she was cursed. But when all of my tests came back negative for any brain abnormalities she exhaled and I didn’t.
It got worse from there. I would wake up blocks from my house holding an umbrella I didn’t own, wake up with leaves and sticks in my hair, be walking down the street one second and then be in a completely different part of town on a park swing the next.
I started putting more bowls of water around my house and added bells and stacks of books and even a few stray mouse traps around the windows (one of which actually caught a mouse). Most nights there was nothing but gnawing silence and I waited and waited for the smell of ozone.
The smell of storms and pools and airplanes right when you get off. 
I blinked up at my dark ceiling and waited. It only happened once; I heard the bell: the chiming silver bell with all of my worst fears and highest anxieties pressed to it. I turned over in bed to grasp for my phone or a baseball bat or anything at all.
But then I unclenched. The world popped and the nothingness took hold with a profound sudden swallowing sensation.
And I blinked again and I was standing on the very top of a hotel building with cars honking down below and a fire exit open behind me. I looked down and I was holding a TV antenna in one hand and a spoon in the other.
“Goddammit!” I threw both of the items down on the ground and started pulling on my hair. “You can’t keep doing this to me!” I screamed at nothing, “I have a life! I never agreed to this.”
But somehow, I remembered I had.
---------------
I quit my job. I hated the endless spreadsheets and conference calls and management deadlines, so it wasn’t much of a loss. But everyone I knew asked “what’s next?” with big eager smiles and I stopped returning their calls after a while.
I stopped sleeping. I started prowling the streets like a cramped zoo animal with nowhere to go. It was late spring by then and the city was stinking with hot bodies and burning trash and my own simmering violent questions brewing under the surface.
What’s happening to me? I wanted to scream at someone, but didn’t want to have to return to the hospital. Why me?
There were no answers, only the endless strips of pavement and my red converse slapping against them. Fifth street: two young boys biking with matching helmets and noisily chewing gum that they blew into fat pink bubbles. Washington Street: cop pulling over a teacher with thick glasses and a hard look on her face as she got out of her vehicle.
South End: a busy farmers market with women in overalls selling backyard kimchi and a man with a beard almost down to his waist selling gourmet chocolates and homemade beer. Noisy, busy, yelling, laughing people that streamed past me and barely stopped to look at my blood-shot eyes and trembling hands.
I was well past the farmer’s market and on the seventh day of my trek when I heard it. A high, cricket voice that carried over the buzz of construction work nearby.
“No, no, not like that.” She spoke into a phone briskly. I turned on my heels and everything moved in slow motion and jerky fast images all at once. One second I was staring at an old woman with pleasing blue eyes and then I had her pinned up against the nearest wall with my forearm.
“Police!” She shouted without hesitation or even looking at me. “Police! Someone!”
I hissed through my clenched teeth. “Take it back.” I growled lowly. “Make it normal again.” Her lips peeled into a snarl and she leaned her head against the wall. “That’s not how it works.” And then the smell of chlorine slithered through me and I started to cough.
“No!” I held on with all my might- clenching and gripping and grasping for something I couldn’t name. “Not now! I need-” I gasped, “I need.” The old woman looked blankly at me, but with something that I might have classified as pity. Or despair. “Give it to someone else.” She said in a soft voice. “Pass it off.”
-----------------------
My hair was falling out in thin clumps and I kept wiggling one of my back teeth as it had seemed to have come loose. I had no idea what I had been doing for days by then and no matter how many traps I set it was always the same: crashing bowls and ringing bells and then nothing. Expansive, hungry nothing.
I stood at the train station platform and looked at my watch. I had forgotten to wind it and it had stopped ticking. I looked at it and I bounced on my heels and a young man in his very early twenties stood next to me.
He smelled strongly of aftershave and his suit seemed to swim around him despite being obviously tailored. He had coiffed golden hair and frantic eyes that darted back and forth over the platform.
He looked down at his watch.
I shot my hand out and took his wrist. “Excuse me,” I croaked and tried to get him to look me in the eye. “Can I borrow some of your time?”
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josiebelladonna · 3 years
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i live at the southern end of the sierra nevada mountains (400 miles south from tahoe and the thick of this blizzard we’re in right now), and the house i live in, which i had moved into in late 2015, has no insulation (brilliant i say), so not only did this past summer get so ungodly hot that i almost passed out from heat exhaustion - and left poor alex all alone on his live-stream that night - but also unbelievably cold. there is a heater, but it doesn’t work - and i imagine it being completely useless given the status of the house as well. so, the only source of heat in here is the wood stove and the past few times my mom and i have tried to make a fire, it’s always slow to go, so not good news for the humans in here.
i say this because it is so ungodly cold in here, that: my fingers hurt and it’s hard to type (i managed to write up a full chapter of one of my wips but it was a challenge, though), the tip of my nose is freezing, my ipad won’t even charge and it’s losing power, too: i won’t be using instagram or drawing or writing on it until this motherfucker passes - my brand new computer uses a lithium-ion battery which sustains at a cold temperature, and this thing rules, too, so it’s not all bad; it’s windows 11 and a new model, too, so push comes to shove, i’ll download ig on here and put it in tablet mode. but i put my tablet under my blankets to keep it warm. i also touch literally anything in this house and it sends a chill up my arm. i’m in flannel pajamas, i’ve got two pairs of socks on plus my slippers, and i’m wrapped up in my robe and i’m still freezing (i just think of that old simpsons bit with grandpa after he got set on fire: “i’m still cold!”)
as for outside? just twenty minutes ago, we had howling winds a la the most common of the santa anas (30 - 40 mile an hour winds). now it’s snowing, and there’s the winds on top of that. the snowflakes are huge, too! they’ve got to be the size of dimes. you ever sit inside your car during a car wash, and the water jets and the big brushes make that whirring noise on the roof and the windows? it literally sounds like that. the trees outside are literally coated in ice and i imagine the wind chill being near the zero mark, if not there already. i have experienced subzero temps all of twice in my life: the first time i was living in northern nevada, which, contrary to common belief, does get about this cold in the winter, and i was a kid living in a trailer, which did have heat, but it was still a trailer with no insulation and a piece of tin for the roof. the second time, i was 18 and living in the mountains of oregon which... i can’t even imagine how cold it must be up there right now. i have friends in seattle who were talking about the temp this morning being in the single digits: i’ve obviously experienced worse but it’s gotta be horrible for them, though, especially since the infrastructure up there isn’t made for horrific heat waves and crushing blizzards such as this. my dad and his fiancee live in reno, so do my brother and all my nieces and nephews, and my aunt and uncle live in sacramento.
say what you want about me, and really, i don’t care what you think of me, but this is crazy no matter what you think, though, especially since it’s not just me, it’s everyone over here on the pacific coast. i’m seeing time-lapses of the snowfall up at tahoe: 22 inches in an hour. at the water, no less. just... think about that for a bit. take as much time as you need, too.
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coppoladelrey · 5 years
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I Know What’s Best - Part 1
A/N: This is my first attempt of writing Dark!Steve, tell me what you think about it, I love feedback. :)
Summary: Being the only daughter of wealthy politicians, your life reeks of privilege. You would do anything to make your parents happy, and then you meet Captain America, how much is your life gonna change?
Dark!Steve Rogers x Innocent!Reader
Warnings: Extreme manipulation, stalking, dub con (non con) in next chapters.
Tags: @lostinthoughtsandfeelings​.
I Know What’s Best Masterlist.
Main Masterlist.
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This is your second year of college in NYU, you want to become a lawyer just like your parents, your whole you wanted to make them proud, and you have. Your parents are politicians, successful ones too, your mother was one of politicians that installed The Reproductive Health Act, she is an avid pro-choice woman, and your father is running for mayor of New York, and the polls are saying that he has great chance of winning. One of his biggest supporters is your brother, Ian. He is thirty-six years old and his lovely wife is seven months pregnant with their first son, and you couldn’t be happier for them and to be an aunt.
Your parents insisted that you didn't have a room in NYU, since they live so close to the university, and you agreed, it didn't make sense to spend money on a room when you were blessed enough to have your parents to guide you in this turbulent time that was college, your grades were near perfection, your relationship with your family was great, your sister-in-law, Kaia was a great friend to you, her parents moved from Norway when she was still a baby. You’ve been in her home country a few times, it was gorgeous, especially in the winter.
To be completely honest, you were quite introverted, you didn't had many friends since boarding school, you knew a few people in your classes, but you never interacted with them outside of classes, sometimes you felt lonely, but Kaia was always inviting you to buy things for the baby, so you weren’t as lonely, Kaia was your best friend, you told her everything. One boy in your class asked you on a date, but after discussing with Kaia, you refused. You were sad because of that, but Kaia said that he might be one of those frat boys that just wanted to take advantage of your sweet nature, that made you feel better, after all, your family always knows what’s best for you.
You never had a boyfriend before, your parents always encouraged you to find a nice boy from a good family, but honestly, you never felt so strongly about a boy to the point of open yourself up to someone that wasn’t your family, it felt wrong in your eyes. It always has been difficult for you to have friends, especially having a romantic relationship. Kaia was Ian’s first and only girlfriend, he met her in high school, you were just a child the first time you met Kaia.
Now it was summer, you were on a break from college. You were going with your parents to a lot of galas, meeting new people, other politicians that work with your mother and possible allies for your father’s campaign. It was mostly older men and women, no one even close to your age, the youngest ones were around Ian’s age. To be fair you didn't want to go to those tedious events, but your parents needed you, and your support, and you would do anything for them.
You and your parents were in the limousine, Ian and Kaia had to leave earlier because she wasn’t feeling very well. You were tired, the light pink dress that your mother choose for you was making you a bit uncomfortable, and being in high heels for hours, didn't help your situation. 
“It was a great event, I was able to get many supporters for my campaign. Did you enjoyed yourself, Y/N?” Your father cut the silence, he was now taking off his bow tie, your father had a real distaste for them.
“It was a great event, as you said. The food was incredible, father” Truth was that you hated those events, the galas, the dinners, and the people as well. But you did it for your family, they needed you, and you would rather die than disappoint them first.
“Tomorrow we don’t have any event to attend to, what do you think about you, me and Kaia to go out to buy some clothes for you, Martha reminded me that your clothes are getting quite old, we can pick new ones for you.” Your mother took a strand of your hair and put behind your ear, she was smiling sweetly at you.
“Yes, that’d be incredible, Mother.” You smiled back at her.
“It would be a perfect way for you ladies to spend the day, me and Ian have many things to discuss tomorrow.” Your father smiled and gave his credit card to your mother, and she gently put it in her tiny purse.
“I almost forgot to give your medicine, dear.” Your handed a small piece of cloth and a bottle of water that was on the limousine compartment, you have a very rare and genetic disease, your body doesn’t produce certain hormones, so you have to take the supplements that have those hormones that your body doesn’t produce, but other than that, you are completely healthy.
“Thank you, mother.” Another reason why your parents insisted of having you at home while you go to college, you often forget to take your pills, so your mother zealously reminds you, and she makes sure that you take it every single day at the same time, she even keeps the bottle in your parents’ room. 
“Of course, dear.” Your mother kissed your forehead, you don’t remember much of the ride back home since sleep came with full force.
************************
You woke up with the sun hitting your face, you looked at the watch and it was 7:30 AM, you looked at your body and you had your pj’s on, your mother must’ve changed you when you fell asleep. You remembered that you would spend the whole day with Kaia and your mother, you came down from your bedroom and went to the kitchen. The house was silent, your parents were still probably asleep, you liked the early mornings, it was always quite peaceful. The smell of pancakes hit your senses when you were on the stairs, you smiled to yourself, Pierre was already making breakfast. You entered the kitchen and it was, the small and happy frenchman, preparing breakfast for your family.
“Good morning, Pierre.” The chef turned around and gave you a smile, the man was on his forties, and cooking was his greatest passion. 
“Miss Y/N, breakfast will be ready in fifteen minutes, why don’t you sit and wait for it?” He gestured at the table.
“Thank you, but I’ll take a shower first.” You went back to your bedroom, you took a cold shower since it was already starting to get hot, you put on a summer dress that your mother bought for you, it was a light shade of yellow. You thought that the dress was lovely, and so did your mother.
You started reading one of the books that it was required for you to read for one of your classes, you looked at the watch again and twenty minutes has passed, you went back to the kitchen, your father was already sitting down, reading the news on his iPad. You went to him and gave him a kiss on the cheek.
“Good morning, father. How did you sleep?” You sat down on the left side of the table, you put the napkin on your lap, and one of the maids was bringing all the things for breakfast.
“Very well, Ian and Kaia will be here in a few minutes. And your mother is getting ready to out with you and Kaia, I’m sure you’re gonna have a lot of fun together.” He smiled and you smiled back, you wished that you could spend as much time with your father as Ian does, you love your mother, but most of the times, you miss spending more time with him. You heard the elevator open and Ian and a heavily pregnant Kaia came through the doors. 
“Hello, father, sister.” Ian gave you a kiss on the cheek, and helped Kaia sit down next to you on the table, she sat down next to you.
The breakfast was delicious, the conversation was nice, Ian and your father were discussing things about his campaign. Kaia was asking you what things you wanted to buy, and she told you that the baby was kicking her a lot, everything was ready for the baby to come, the only thing that Kaia and Ian haven’t figured it out yet, was his name. He was going to be born in the same hospital that you and Ian were born. 
“You’re still having difficulties to find a name, Ian?” Your mother asked, and Ian signed.
“Yes, we are trying. But there’s not a good name that caught our attention yet, we still have a few weeks.” Ian laughed, and looked at Kaia, who was laughing as well.
“Well, we must go now because is gonna get late.” Your mother looked at her watch and you and Kaia agreed, leaving your father and Ian. Your mother kissed your father and Kaia kissed your brother.
*********************************
After shopping for most of the day, your mother suggested that you stopped to have a late lunch. After all of you were satisfied with the restaurant, you entered, despite the time, it was quite busy. The hostess took you to a table in front of the window, the view was really nice.
“May I be excused? I need to use the restroom.” Both Kaia and your mother nodded, and quickly went back to their conversation.
You entered the bathroom, not realizing that you were being watched. After you finished peeing, you left the stall, only to be scared by a man looking at you, curiously.
“I didn't mean to scare you.” He declared, after seeing you jump.
“It’s quite alright, but this is the ladies restroom, sir.” The man took a hard deep breath, you had no idea the effect that calling him ‘sir’ had on the man.
“I know, I was after you, I saw you entering the restaurant, you are a gorgeous woman.” He came even closer to you, he was towering over your frame, you quickly looked at his deep blue eyes, but their intensity made you look away, he seemed familiar, but you couldn’t quite place it from where.
“Do we know each other, sir?” He put his hand on your chin, and made you look at him.
“No, but we will, doll.” He placed his nose on your neck and took a deep breath, your lips parted, no one has ever done that to you before, but you couldn’t deny the tingles all over your body. “You will be mine, Y/N.” He whispered in your ear, with a low voice, goosebumps erupted all over your skin. 
And the blonde and strange man left you in the restroom, what could he possibly mean with being his? You laughed, maybe he was just being silly, maybe he knows Ian and decided to pull a prank on his little sister, you decided. Maybe that’s the reason he looks so familiar, you went back to the table, after washing your hands, but you couldn’t see the man anywhere. It was definitely a prank, you laughed to yourself.
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Text
The Casualties of Croissants
Trigger Warnings -- also tagged: gore, gunshots, surgeries, hospitals, death in the family, ptsd symptoms
This is a standalone piece.
Word Count: 5176
“Shhhhhhhhh. It’s okay. I’m right here.” I wrap my arms around Dessi, avoiding the bloodstains on her grey and white raglan t-shirt. “I’ve called 911, EMS is on their way. You are going to be okay.”
Despite my efforts, Dessi seems to disagree. She moaned in pain and tugged at her shirt. I rotate her arm to examine the blood-spattered hole in her left sleeve beneath her elbow. I lift her arm up to check the bottom. There is no exit wound. As I return Dessi’s arm to a resting position, more blood oozes onto her grey sleeves and onto my hand. I help her lean against the brick wall of the bakery we were in not even five minutes ago. 
“I’ll be right back. Stay down,” I whisper, knowing full well that she couldn’t even move if she wanted to. 
I survey the surrounding area. No one else is hurt, and the bakery is still open. I burst through the bakery’s glass door, frantic. “Do you have scissors?” I ask. 
The front attending obviously notices the blood on my hands because he hesitates. I don’t have this kind of time. 
“Please,” I plead, “my friend was shot, and I need to cut her clothing away from the wound and create pressure on the wound.”
The attending turns around. I hear the rustling of assorted metal and plastic objects as he sorts through a tools drawer. He hands me a pair of kids’ scissors. “Have you called 911?”
“Yes. They’re about 5 to 10 minutes out. Thank you so much!” I dart back out the glass door I had burst through only 30 seconds ago and run back to Dessi. 
I take a quick look at the wound to double-check that her sleeve has not become entangled in any of her insides. The grey fabric of her sleeve is not caught on anything, just stained a dark crimson. “Okay, Dessi,” I say, trying to keep my voice as level as possible, “I’m going to cut your sleeve off. Let me know if anything hurts.”
“My arm,” she immediately moans back.
“I know,” I say, taking the scissors to the seam of her sleeve. I cut all the way around the seam before slicing the sleeve straight down the back. I carefully lift the blood-stained fabric away from the rich brown skin of her arm. “Dessi, I’m going to apply some pressure to your arm. This might hurt.”
“Hope, I -- ow!”
“All done,” I reassure her as I create a second, securing knot over the grey and crimson band on her arm. “Hey, Dessi, can you count out a minute for me?”
“I can try,” she manages.
I press my fingers into the warm skin of her forearm, searching for her radial pulse. I find it on the lower outside of her wrist. “Alright, Dessi, you can start counting,” I prompt. Each rapid beat of Dessi’s heart sends a powerful wave through her body. I am no doctor, but I can tell that her pulse is definitely elevated.
“Time,” Dessi mutters weakly. She bows her head in pain and exhaustion. 102 beats per minute. That heart rate is not going to help her at all.
I shift to be crouching right in front of her. “Dessi, look at me. We are going to take some deep breaths, okay?” I hear the faint screaming of sirens in the distance. “They’re almost here. For now, in through your nose--” I make an audible nasal inhalation. “Out through your mouth.” I let out a loud exhale.
Dessi does not move. I bring my hand up to her chin and tilt her so her brown eyes meet mine. “Hear that?” I ask her, referencing the growing din of ambulance sirens. 
The sirens come to a climax as the ambulance pulls up to the curb in front of us. 
Two EMTs jump out of the back of the ambulance. The one with short blonde-dyed-blue hair introduces himself, “Hi, I’m Frank, and this is my partner in anti-crime, Jocelyn.” He motions toward the ambulance, where Jocelyn’s bobbing ponytail emerges with a stretcher. 
“Alright, young lady,” Frank says to Dessi, “We are going to need to get you on that stretcher. We have two options: we can lift you up there, or we can lower the stretcher all the way down and you can climb onto it. Do you think you can stand?” Dessi shakes her head. Frank turns to me. “Jocelyn is going to help me get your friend here onto the stretcher so we can get her to the hospital. It’s your job to make her feel safe so this transition can be as quick and easy as possible. Got it?”
“Yeah.”
Jocelyn parks the stretcher right next to Dessi. She lowers it until the bed is at about knee level. Jocelyn and Frank crouch down beside Dessi and place their arms under her to support her knees and back. 
“Ready?” Jocelyn asks.
I nod. I lock eyes with Dessi. “It’s going to be okay,” I mouth.
“One, two, three,” Frank commands. He and Jocelyn stand up on three. Their feet trace rapidly across the pavement as they carry Dessi to the stretcher. 
“All done,” Jocelyn says after she and Frank have slid their arms out from under Dessi. Jocelyn leans over Dessi’s left arm and examines my makeshift bandage. “How long ago was the incident?” she asks.
“7 minutes-ish,” I respond. “I wasn’t able to find any exit wounds when I patched up Dessi’s arm.”
Jocelyn nods as if making a mental note of this new info. “Dessi?” she probes tentatively.
Dessi slowly lifts her head until her eyes meet Jocelyn’s.
“How are you feeling?” Jocelyn asks.
“Well, my arm hurts,” Dessi says flatly.
“Anything else bothering you?” Jocelyn presses. “Dizzy? Fatigued? Chest pain? Numbness anywhere?”
“Yes, yes, yes, no,” Dessi replies.
“Alright, let’s get her in,” Jocelyn commands as she uses her foot to unbrake the stretcher. She and Frank walk Dessi to the open back of the ambulance. 
“Can I come?” I call out.
Frank shoots Jocelyn a permissive look. “You’re both minors, right?” I nod my head. “Then come on in,” Frank shouts at me.
I dash over to the ambulance and step up on the metal ledge to climb in. Frank closes the door behind me. He runs around the outside of the ambulance and hops into the driver’s seat. 
I shift my gaze to Dessi. Jocelyn has already begun to measure Dessi’s vital signs. She swipes a thermometer across Dessi’s sweaty forehead. She slides a blue blood pressure cuff onto Dessi’s right arm. Jocelyn slips a pulse oximeter onto Dessi’s right index finger. 
A monitor hanging above Dessi comes to life. Large numbers display her blood pressure. A wave rises and falls across the screen as Dessi’s heart beats. Jocelyn enters some information into an iPad that is sitting on the bench beside her. She looks up and goes, “Alright, girls, I need full names and dates of birth. Dessi, do you want to go first?”
“Desdemona Freedman,” Dessi says weakly. “Born September 17, 2003.”
“Good job,” Jocelyn praises as she lightly grasps Dessi’s hand. “And you?”
“Cassiopea Murphy,” I say. “And I was born--” I pause, unsure of what to say. “Um, I don’t have a birth certificate.”
“What does that mean?” Jocelyn questioned.
“I was a safe haven baby. I was left in a box in June of 2003 and was estimated to be 1 week old. No local hospitals had any birth certificates that could match my situation. My adoptive parents have been searching for it for years. All we know is that I’m 17 now.”
Frank pipes up from the driver’s seat. “Alright, ladies, we are about two minutes out. How are you holding up, Dessi?”
“Absolutely fantastic,” says a faint sarcastic voice. At least Dessi still has her sense of ironic humor. 
Upon our arrival at the hospital, everything moves fast again. Frank jumps out of the front and races around back to open the doors. Meanwhile, Jocelyn unclips Dessi’s stretcher from the floor of the ambulance. Jocelyn wheels Dessi out the back, where Frank receives the stretcher and guides it to the ground. I leap out the back and tail the frantic parade.
Jocelyn and Frank shove through the swinging door entrance to the ER. They immediately start riling off info about Dessi.
“16-year-old female with a GSW in her lower left arm,” Frank announces to the room.
“BP holding steady at 89 over 54, pulse is at 120 and slowly rising,” Jocelyn adds.
An ER doctor rushes over to meet Dessi as she is moved towards the back of the room, where there is an empty bed. A blue hijab covers her hair and blends in with her faded scrubs. “How much blood has she lost?” the doctor inquires. 
“Less than a pint probably,” Jocelyn replies, “there wasn’t any blood on the ground when we picked her up, so it’s all in her clothes.” “Great. Let’s get some saline running and put her on a morphine drip.” The doctor orders. “Any exit wound?”
“Not that we could see,” Frank supplies.
The doctor sighs. “Get her up to imaging!”
A team of nurses wheels Dessi away. Frank turns around and notices me standing in the corner of the room. “Let me take you to the waiting area,” he says, extending his hand to me. “We should call your parents.”
I don’t budge.
“You can’t be back here,” he scolds. 
I reluctantly take his hand. “I’m not calling my parents.”
“Why?” “I’m not going to interrupt Dessi’s custody ruling. Today is the court’s only opening before Dessi turns 18.”
“Why is Dessi not at her own custody ruling?”
“She can’t stand courtrooms.”
“Okay, well isn’t this a pretty important reason to interrupt her own custody ruling?”
“I guess, but I can’t tell them about this.”
“Why?”
“I just— I just can’t,” I stammer. I take a deep breath. “When can I see Dessi?”
Frank sighs. His eyes briefly dance around the nearly empty ER waiting room before returning his gaze to me. “Dessi is up in imaging right now. I can take you back to get cleaned up and I can have a nurse call your parents. Sound good?” 
I nod. He leads me back through the swinging doors that lead to the ER. I can see where Dessi was placed when we first arrived. Frank leads me back there and ushers me to sit down in the chair placed next to the spot where a hospital bed would be. 
Frank walks to the nurses’ station in the center of the room and returns followed by a tall man in turquoise scrubs. “This is Jackson,” Frank says.
“Hey there,” Jackson says, brushing the brown hair of his bangs out of his eyes. “I’m Nurse Jackson, but you can call me anything you want as long as you tell me. Frank tells me that you’ve had a bit of a rough morning.”
“Yeah,” I sigh, looking down at my blood-stained plaid skirt. “Oh, I’m Cassiopea, but you can call me Hope.”
“So, Hope.” Jackson clears his throat. “Have you contacted your parents?”
I stare down at the white speckled tile beneath my shoes. “No,” I admit quietly, “I was hoping you could do that.”
“I can give your parents a call, okay? I think you should change,” Jackson tells me.
“Into what?”
“I just texted a buddy of mine. She’s bringing down some scrubs for you to change into. Dessi will be down soon. Sit tight. I’ll be back to check on you in a little, okay?”
I nod. Jackson walks back to the nurses’ station in the center of the room. He picks up a phone and dials a number.
Franks steps in front of me. “Alright, Hope, Jocelyn and I have some paperwork to fill out. The doctors and nurses here are awesome. If you need anything, just ask.” He, too, turns around and walks away from me. He exits into the ER waiting room. 
As soon as Frank is out of my sight, another person in scrubs comes my way. She is carrying a pile of maroon clothes, presumably for me. “Cassiopea?” she says, presenting me with the pile of clothes and a plastic bag.
“Thank you.” I take the scrubs out of her hands.
“You can close this curtain for privacy,” she tells me, pulling on the green fabric that hangs down from a metal bar that wraps around the ceiling above me. “Just open back up when you’ve changed so the nurses can get your friend back to you. Got it?”
I nod. She walks away. I pull the curtain around the monitors that surround a bed-shaped hole. I peel off my blood-stained middle school uniform that I don’t even know why I’m wearing today and place its pieces into the plastic bag. I pull on the scrubs and pull back the curtain. The poly-cotton fabric brushes against my skin, not too soft but not too itchy either. 
After a few minutes, Dessi’s bed reappears down the hallway. She is wheeled next to me by a team of nurses. These nurses close the same curtain that I used to change. “Hey,” I say. “How are you doing?”
“I’m not too good,” Dessi says flatly. “We’re waiting on a, ummmmmm, radiologist.”
“Okay. They’ve called Mom and Dad, who I assume talked to Jess. I don’t know if they’re coming.”
“I don’t want them to come.”
“Why not?”
Dessi looks away from me. Her eyes dance across the ceiling, avoiding me at all costs. “I just don’t,” she insists. I get the feeling that this is where she’d roll over, but she’d be rolling onto her injured arm, so I reckon she won’t.
Her arm is no longer covered by a grey band with crimson stains and jagged edges. It has been wrapped in a pristine white bandage that stands out against her skin. Her other arm has an IV line connected to it with a piece of tape. This protection is clear, but her attachment to the bags is another reminder of her current state.
The doctor from when we first arrive pulls back the curtain and walks in. “Hi, I’m Dr. Niani,” she says. “I have the results from your x-rays.”
“And?” I press. 
“Desdemona, you got very lucky,” Dr. Niani says.
“No, I didn’t,” Dessi retorts.
“Given your situation, you did,” Dr. Niani argues back. She takes a deep breath and starts again “Your forearm is broken in two places. The bullet is lodged between your radius and ulna below your elbow.”
Dessi is absolutely silent, so I press on. “What now?” I ask.
“We remove the bullet and realign her arm. She wears a cast for 8 weeks, and we go from there,” Dr. Niani states matter-of-factly. 
“How do we do that?” Dessi inquires, her voice shaky.
“We numb your arm using a local anesthetic, make an incision, extract the bullet, reset your bones, and stitch you up.”
“And I’m awake?” Dessi asks nervously.
“It’s too risky to have you under general anesthesia.” Dr. Niani looks down at the iPad in front of her. “Moving on. Jackson got a hold of Mr. and Mrs. Murphy. They will be here as soon as they can. In the meantime, they have given us verbal consent to treat your injuries. I’d like to get that bullet out of you as soon as possible.”
I shift my glance to Dessi, who is not fully on board with this decision. Sweat glistens on her forehead and her brown eyes gloss over with unshed tears. “Dessi, it’s gonna be okay,” I tell her.
“I can’t do this,” she says as a single tear leaks out of her red eyes. 
“Why not?” Dr. Niani asks softly.
“I’m scared. My mind is all over the place and I just can’t deal with this right now,” Dessi sobs.
Dr. Niani sighs. “Okay. I’ll give you some time to rest.” She walks away from us and closes the green curtain as she leaves. Her voice rings out in the distance, “Jackson, page psych.”
“Hope, why did you let them call your--our--parents?”
“They deserve to know, Dessi.” I grab Dessi’s left hand and give it a tight squeeze. Dessi picks her head and gives me a faint smile, her brown-pink lips slightly moving towards her ears. “I’ll be right here the whole time.”
Our moment is interrupted by yet another person opening our curtains. This time, it is a fair-skinned woman with long brown curly hair. “I’m Shayna Gold, and I’m a--”
“Psychiatrist,” Dessi finishes.
“Yes,” Shayna says. She pulls a stool out from under the table on the other side of Dessi’s bed and sits down. She scans her tablet before closing its cover and placing it under her clipboard. “I want to talk to both of you about what happened earlier.”
“What do you mean? How much earlier?” I ask.
“Anything that happened today,” Shayna replies.
I glance up at Dessi, but she has strategically averted her eyes to the ceiling. “Okay,” I sigh, “I’ll tell the story. This morning is Dessi’s custody ruling. Dessi isn’t too fond of courthouses, so I stayed home with her. After my parents left, I decided to take her out for croissants to take her mind off of it. As we left, a black SUV pulled into the alley next to the bakery. Someone wearing all black jumped out of the SUV and walked down the alley, where another hooded figure was standing. We only heard one round be fired, but it did not hit any intended target, as far as we could tell. Dessi caught that bullet in her lower arm.” I pause and take a deep breath. Until now, no one else knew about what had happened. My chest felt lighter, as if the story had been weighing me down, but my head also began to spin at the reality of what Dessi and I had experienced. “I called 911 and we were brought here,” I continue. “The bullet is stuck in Dessi’s arm bones and she needs to have a procedure to get it out, but she’s not being put to sleep and she’s scared.”
“You two have been through a lot today,” Shayna says, looking up from her clipboard, which is covered in scribbled-on notebook paper. “Let’s take a moment to appreciate how much you have already survived today.” A calm briefly fills the air, as our little nook becomes as quiet as an ER can be. 
“Let’s unpack this a little, Dessi,” Shayna says. “How do you feel about the procedure? I know that you are scared, but do you know what you are scared about? Are you worried that it will hurt.”
“I mean I am worried that it will hurt, but that’s not really what’s bothering me. I’ve been shot, so pain isn’t the worst thing imaginable right now,” Dessi responds. She’s coming back. Even if there is still a bullet in her arm, her mood has begun to heal.
“Okay,” Shayna says, processing this information, “is there anything else that fuels this hesitation?”
“It just doesn’t feel right,” Dessi says, “especially with my new parents coming over. I guess I’m more worried about something happening to me or what their reactions will be.”
Shayna nods as she internalizes this information, but I have now picked up on something that Dessi has left out that is quite important. “Dess, you should probably mention what happened to your birth parents.”
“I don’t want to,” she moans in response.
“If you tell her, I am going to tell her,” I fire back.
“Hey,” Shayna interrupts in a calming voice, “if she doesn’t want to talk about it, we shouldn’t make her.”
“But I know why she’s scared,” I argue. “Her father died while undergoing treatment for cancer, but it wasn’t the chemo that killed him. Her mother had a sudden heart attack from stress. Dessi’s mother died during her father’s malpractice hearing. It’s why she can’t stand courtrooms.”
Dessi closes her eyes and leans back against her bed. She lets out a huge exasperated and nervous sigh.
“Wow, that’s really something big,” Shayna says. “Dessi, how do you feel about her saying that?”
“She’s right,” Dessi admits. She swallows hard; a bulge travels down her neck. “How do I fix this?”
“There is no way to fix this. I know that it sounds unencouraging, but you cannot change the past. That is a fact. BUT, we can do something about you right now.” Shayna stands up and places her tablet and clipboard on her stool. She walks over to be beside Dessi, facing me. “Let’s make a plan to make this experience easier for both of you.”
“Okay,” Dessi says, shifting her gaze to Shayna.
“Dessi, what makes you feel safe? What do you like to do when you’re upset?”
“I like to listen to music and talk to Hope.” Dessi glances over at me and we exchange smiles.
“I can play Spotify off my phone,” I offer.
“That sounds like a good idea,” Shayna says. “Are you feeling any more confident, Dessi?”
“I guess so,” Dessi replies. “I’m scared. I’m in pain, but Hope is here.” I squeeze her hand in agreement. “I’m ready to get this bullet out of me.”
“I’m going to let Jackson and Dr. Niani know that you are ready.” Shayna picks up her tablet and clipboard. She rolls the stool back around Dessi’s bed to where it was safely stowed before. Shayna pulls back the green curtain as she leaves and closes to restore our privacy.
I pull my phone out of the plastic bag with my clothes. I locate a paper towel dispenser above Dessi’s bed and wipe the moisture off of it. “What are you thinking?” I ask, popping Spotify open.
“I’m not sure?”
“How does Mozart sound?” I jest.
“Not really in a classical music mood,” Dessi remarks.
“You never are.”
“Don’t judge my music taste!”
“Fine! How about Panic! At the Disco?”
“Sounds great.” 
I press play on my phone. The screen switches to an album cover. The notes ring out through our area, but I adjust the volume so as to not bother anyone else.
Jackson pulls back the curtain and steps toward Dessi’s bed. “I like the music. Whoever chose has good taste,” he says, and I smile up at Dessi. Jackson pulls out a small table from underneath the table upon which the monitors sit. He aligns it with Dessi’s left shoulder. He grabs a disinfecting wipe from a canister on the wall to wipe the surface down before placing a blue papery material down on the table. Jackson lightly grasps Dessi’s arm and lifts it to lie facing the ceiling on the table. “Ready?” he asks.
Dessi sighs. “I guess so.” He lifts up the white wrap that has been covering Dessi’s arm. The more material he peels off, the darker red of a stain is left on the white bandage. Jackson grabs a syringe off of the table with the monitor. “This is lidocaine,” he tells Dessi, “this might burn a bit, but it will help with the pain after.”
I reaffirm my grip on Dessi’s right hand. “Squeeze hard over here,” I say. “If you break my hand, we’re not in a bad spot.”
Dessi is definitely listening to me because her hand clamps down on mine, crushing my bones, but not breaking them, as she lets out a lingering, “Owwwwww.”
“All done,” Jackson says.
As if perfectly timed, Dr. Niani walks in as soon as Jackson pulls the lidocaine needle out of Dessi’s arm. She is carrying a metal tray with paper and plastic packages on it. When she sets down the tray, I get a look at what’s inside: surgical equipment. There’s a scalpel and some other things that I don’t recognize. Dr. Niani passes surgical masks out to me, Dessi, and Jackson before putting one on herself. She pulls on a pair of blue rubber gloves and teases open the paper packages. 
Jackson places his left hands on Dessi’s upper arm. “Dessi, I’m going to need to hold as still as possible. This should be quick and easy. Do you want us to go over what we are going to do?”
“Yeah,” Dessi musters. I can’t see her face through the mask, but her eyes tell the whole story. Her heavy, glossy, shaky eyes trace over to the surgical instruments on the opposite side of Jackson.
Jackson hands Dr. Niani the scalpel. “This is a scalpel,” Dr. Niani says, “I am going to use it to make a small incision above your wound so I can smoothly extract the bullet.” She hands the scalpel back to Jackson, who trades her a metal bar that is curved at the edges. “This is a retractor. I will use it to keep your muscles out of the way.” Dr. Niani makes another trade with Jackson. This time, she receives a tool that looks like larger tweezers. “These are forceps. Once I get in there, I will use these to take that bullet out of you.” She hands the forceps back to Jackson. 
“Dr. Niani,” Jackson says, “I’ve paged ortho. They’re sending Dr. Rochester down shortly.”
“Perfect,” Dr. Niani replies. “Right, that. We have an orthopedic surgeon coming down to realign your bones before we stitch you up. And that’s it!”
I squeeze Dessi’s hand. “You ready?” I ask.
“Ready as I’ll ever be,” Dessi replies. Jackson drapes another blue paper over Dessi’s arm. This one has a hole in it, which goes right over the hoel in Dessi’s arm.
“Scalpel?” Dr. Niani grabs the knife from Jackson’s right hand. She presses it against Dessi’s skin until some blood seeps out. To my surprise, I feel no response from Dessi, whose eyes are trained on the even larger hole in her arm.
“Jackson, retractor,” Dr. Niani commands. She pulls back Dessi’s dark skin and blood-covered internal tissue, exposing Dessi’s bones. This is not something I expected to see today. Locked in between the splintered edges of Dessi’s forearm bones is a bullet no larger than the size of my pinky. Jackson hands the forceps to Dr. Niani. She carefully probes into Dessi’s arm and grasps the offending bullet. She drops it in a plastic cup on the tray next to Jackson. “Do you want to keep it?” she offers.
“Um--” Dessi considers, but she is interrupted by a man I assume is Dr. Rochester. He pulls back the green curtain and peeks inside Dessi’s arm.
“That is quite the fracture,” he says. “Don’t worry, I can fix that pretty easily. Jackson, please apply more anchor pressure above her elbow.”
“Yes, sir,” Jackson replies as he sinks his hand deeper into Dessi’s upper arm.
Dr. Rochester looks up at Desdemona, hoping to make eye contact, but she is staring at me with tears in her eyes. “Okay, sweetheart,” he says, “this will hurt, but it will be over quickly. Okay?” He grasps Dessi’s wrist. “One, two, three.” On three, he pulls Dessi’s arm towards his abdomen. Dessi squeezes my hand harder than anyone has even squeezed it before.
Dessi lets out an ear-piercing scream, but it abruptly ends the moment she gazes down at her arm and realizes that her bones are now where they are supposed to be. 
Dr. Rochester takes a look at the same sight that Dessi is marveling at. “Looks like my work here is done,” he says and pulls back the curtain to leave.
“You should keep it,” I say excitedly.
“Hope, why should I keep it?” Dessi asks.
“It’s cool. We can put it in our room!”
Dessi rolls her eyes. Usually this gesture is accompanied by a strong smirk, but her mouth is covered by blue paper, so I just assume it’s there. “Fine.”
Dr. Niani begins to sew up Dessi when I hear a familiar distress voice. “I’m looking for Cassiopea Murphy and Desdemona Freedman.” It’s my mother.
“They are currently in the middle of something, so I am going to need you to take a seat and wait until they are ready,” a nurse argues back.
“But they’re my daughters!” My mom exclaims. My mom waits for no one, so she charges back into the ER. I assume that no one stopped her because thirty seconds later, she throws the green curtain open with tears in her eyes. These teary eyes lock with mine. “Cassiopea Francessca Murphy,” she scolds.
“What?” I fire back. “It’s not my fault.”
My dad comes up behind my mom. He gently strokes her back. “We know, honey,” my dad says in a tone that is much calmer than my mother’s. “All of this is shocking, but we are so happy that the two of you are okay.”
Dr. Niani ties off the sutures she has placed in Dessi’s arm. “All done,'' she says, taking one of her gloves off and placing her bare hand on Dessi’s knee. She motions to Jackson to clean up the area before turning to my parents. “I’m Dr. Niani,” she says, extending her ungloved hand. “Desdemona did really well. We are going to cover her sutures and put a cast on that arm. In two weeks, we’ll need you to come back to get the sutures out and recast that arm. We expect that she’ll be in the cast for about 8 weeks.”
My mom grasps Dr. Niani’s hand and produces a firm handshake, like the ones that she gives at business meetings or meetings with our lawyers. “Thank you,” my mom manges in a shaky voice.
Jess enters the ER and stops at the nurse’s station. She scans the room and locks eyes with me. Jess power walks over to Dessi’s bed holding a clipboard with a small white pile and a pen dangling from it. She smiles and sets it down on Dessi’s bed. “Desdemona Freedman, I have some paperwork for you to sign.”
Dessi drops my hand to pull her mask off. Her jaw drops as she breaks out into a huge smile. “Really?” she asks.
“Yeah,” Jess sighs. She pushes the clipboard closer to Dessi’s lap and hands Dessi the pen. Dessi frantically scribbles “Desdemona Freedman” on the bottom of the second page in the stack.
“Congratulations,” Jess says. She picks up the clipboard and leaves the ER.
With Jess gone, Frank and Jocelyn emerge from the waiting room. They pause at the nurses station and exchange black clipboards before making a beeline to our little crowding corner of the ER. “Congratulations!” they shout as Frank thrusts the new clipboard toward my mother.
My mom happily grabs the clipboard and sits down at the foot of Dessi’s bed. She doesn’t waste a minute before picking up the pen and filling out the larger pile of papers. She plants a kiss on Dessi’s forehead. “I have never been more excited to fill out paperwork in a hospital.”
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thatesqcrush · 5 years
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Mr. In Between, Ch. 2
Rafael Barba x Reader. Slight mentions of Rafael Barba x Olivia Benson. Prompt inspired by @sweetsummertime99: “ I was watching friends and it was the episode where Ross writes the pro/con list for Rachel and Emily. I’d like to see if someone would write the same kind of scenario not with a waitress but other attributes. Rafael Barba x Female Reader where Rafael writes the list and the reader finds it. Possibly comparing to Olivia?”
CW: all the angst. Language (lots of F-bombs!).
Tags: @madpanda75 @ottosuricato @delia26 @dreila03 @sass-and-suspenders @glimmerglittergirl @melsquared79 @mommakat32 @garturbo @southern-magnolia @niyashell @tropes-and-tales @imjustreallynosy @whyissvuruiningmylovelife @sweetsummertime99 @evee87 @scarletsoldierrr @kscarlett1 @cesarofangirl78 - anyone else just ask.
Rafael slowly trudged his way back into the apartment. After shutting the door with a soft click, he dropped himself onto his black leather couch. He slumped forward, his shoulders weighed with the guilt he felt. He replayed the earlier evening’s events over in his mind as he rubbed his now weary face with his hands.
You curled against Rafael’s chest, sweaty and out of breath from your amorous activities. Your bodies were a tangle of limbs intertwined in the deep aubergine sheets that covered Rafael’s bed.
Rafael pressed a kiss to the side of your forehead before he pulled away. “I am going to get a glass of water; do you want anything?”
“No,” you replied, sitting up fully, the sheets half covering you. Rafael made his way to the kitchen, getting a glass of ice water from the fridge dispenser.
“So,” Rafael called out, “There is an American Gothic exhibit at the Whitney opening this weekend. Want to go and grab brunch at Santina afterwards?”
You didn’t reply. Rafael furrowed his brow and made his way back into the bedroom, but you weren’t there. “Y/N?” he called out once more, half expecting you to call out from the master bathroom.
“What the fuck is this Rafi?”
Rafael almost jumped at the sound of your voice from behind. He turned around and saw you emerge from his study.
His eyes narrowed to the large white item in your hand.
“Why do you have my iPad?” Rafael questioned, his voice dangerously low.
“I wanted to get on your WiFi and you had given me you password last time but this time I forgot it,” you explained. “I’ll ask again, what the fuck is this?”
Before Rafael could even speak any further, you continued, your voice becoming more and more angry with each subsequent word. “Because it looks like a fucking pros and cons list about me and Olivia!”
Rafael felt his heart drop into his stomach and he swallowed hard. “It’s not what you think, I swear.”
“What I think, is that you’re an asshole,” you spat, before marching into the bedroom. You threw the iPad onto the bed and began gathering your clothes. You began to rattle the “cons” off of the list as you got dressed.
“Clingy/desperate; not always the best listener; a vapid narcissist when she drinks. My personal favorite: just a secretary. Shall I go on?”
You were so angry, Rafael could tell you were shaking; he had never seen you this angry before. You hooked your bra, and then slipped on your dress as you continued. “And then with Olivia? There was hardly anything! Oh, wait - just one: she makes me take on cases I shouldn’t - bleeding heart. Oh, poor Olivia!” you mocked with your hand over your heart.
Shoes in hand, you stormed past Rafael heading towards the living room but he reached over and stopped you. You jerked out of Rafael’s grasp, fat tears rolling down your cheeks, effectively ruining your eye makeup. “Imagine the worst things you think about yourself. How would you feel if the person you wanted to be with most in the world not only thinks them too, but actually uses them as reasons not to be with you?”
“You don’t understand... in spite of all of those things, I want to be with you. I -” Rafael stammered, flustered.
“Oh goody!” you continued to mock, clapping your hands. “I should be so damn flattered.”
“God fucking damnit Y/N, if you could just stop and sit down, we could talk about this like the adults we are,” Rafael snapped. He pinched the bridge of his nose. “Look, nobody’s perfect.”
“Don't you try your fucking platitudes with me, Rafael,” you spat back. “And you’ve made it very fucking clear that I am not perfect. But it seems that Olivia sure is. So go back to her.”
By this point you were openly sobbing in front of Rafael. Rafael felt awful. He had never had any intention for you to find that list; in fact, he had forgotten he had even written it at all. He had written it during a drunken bender when you first initially started dating.
“Please, lets just sit and talk. Let me go find some pants and I can explain,” Rafael sighed. You nodded and sat on the couch; a half beat later, you slipped on your shoes.
Rafael walked back into the bedroom and grabbed his pants. He walked back into the living room but you weren’t there.
“Y/N?” Rafael called out once more. He noticed the door was open. “Shit!”
He rushed to the open door and heard the ding the elevator down the hall announcing its arrival. You stepped in, and saw Rafael’s head poking out from his door. “Y/N!” Rafael shouted as you frantically pressed the button to close the door.
Rafael dashed back into his apartment looking for shoes to slip on before he dashed back out, and thundered down the stairwell. He wasn’t sure if he’d catch up with you but he knew he owed it to himself to try.
**
Rafael dialed your number repeatedly but your phone went straight to voicemail each time. He tried to text you but there was no response.
Despite being exhausted beyond measure, Rafael poured himself a scotch from bar cart. He swallowed the drink in one gulp, before pouring himself another. His emotions got the best of him and after finishing the second drink, he threw the glass at the wall in frustration.
The glass shattered upon impact, shards littered the hardwood floor. “Way to go,” Rafael grumbled to himself.
After cleaning up the literal mess he had created, Rafael collapsed into his bed. His stomach churned with unease. He had hoped he would be able to clean the other mess he had made.
**
You scrubbed the makeup off your face, your eyes swollen and red. You looked terrible; you felt even worse. Now dressed in sweats and an over-sized t-shirt, you made your way towards your bedroom.
You spotted the gown you had worn, and you tucked it into the Rent the Runway garment bag so that you could return it the following morning.
Your phone buzzed repeatedly on your nightstand and you could see it was Rafael calling.
You hit decline each time. A text message subsequently popped up.
{Rafael, 1:30 AM}: Talk to me, please.
Taking a deep breath, you decided to ignore Rafael for now and turned off your phone completely. Sobs wracked your body the second your head hit the pillow.
***
Rafael woke up the next morning, to the sound of his phone buzzing. He rubbed his eyes before grabbing his phone. His heart began to race as he saw that he had a message from you.
{Y/N, 6:30 AM}: Rafael, you can’t unthink a thought. It’s either there or it’s not. So, it doesn’t matter what you say, or what you do Rafael. I thought I had clear, open eyes on what we were. Everything has changed. Forever. Lose my number.
TBC...
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mytransvoice · 4 years
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5/15/20
Hello again, here’s an update on my voice evaluation with the speech language pathologist I was referred to.
Before I go into details, let me just say the whole trip was disappointing for me. It might not be how everyone else interprets it, but I personally was underwhelmed and hoped for more.
Let’s start with what factually happened, and then I’ll go over my feelings on everything later.
What happened:
- I boarded a flight to LAX from SEATAC around 7 AM. We got into LAX at about 10 AM.
- I took a shuttle from LAX to their ride app (Uber and Lyft) pick-up lot and took a Lyft to the Peter Morten building at the UCLA medical plaza in Los Angeles. This is the building where my surgeon and the SLP operate.
- My appointment was at 3:30 PM, so I had a lot of time to kill. I went into the building where they asked me if I had any symptoms of COVID-19 and then took my temperature. Then I found the office I needed to go to, speech therapy on the 5th floor. 
- I went to a City Target nearby and got lunch and then I walked back to the Peter Morten building and ate it on a bench outside. Then, I walked to a botanical garden nearby and spent an hour and a half there just waiting.
- I walked back to UCLA and checked in by calling from outside the office first. 
- When it was time, I met the speech pathologist and went back into her office. She showed me a powerpoint she made about trans voices and figured out what my vocal range was by having me try my best to sing “Ooo” to keys she played on a piano app on her iPad. We briefly went over what I should be doing to practice a deeper voice.
- The session was an hour long and for the evaluation cost me $137, I got a 40% discount for paying in person.
- I went back to LAX and flew home.
Now, my feelings about everything. I’ll speak only about the voice evaluation, since it’s already obvious that navigating airports and walking around LA trying to kill time was shitty because of the current pandemic.
- I didn’t learn anything new. I’ve done extensive research about my voice and trans voices and didn’t hear any new information from the SLP.
- The SLP didn't take the time to get to know me. She didn't ask about my transition, my voice dysphoria, nothing. She basically filled out a form for my name, preferred pronouns, and then a silly question about my hobbies which has nothing to do with my voice (except gaming, which gives me a lot of dysphoria because I can't use voice chat on multiplayer games without getting misgendered).
- She told me that if I increased my T dosage, my voice would get deeper. Yes, even after being on T for 5 years. Not to mention the fact that her telling me this is medically irresponsible. I’ll just tell you guys now that experiencing a natural drop, like the “T cold” ones that every trans man experiences 3-5 months to a year after starting T, is impossible for me now. It started to become an impossibility after my first year on T and became completely out of the realm of possibility after my second year. I know this, my endocrinologist knows this, the SLP does not know this. When I expressed my skepticism, she said “you really think your voice won’t get deeper even after this long?” like it was an issue of lack of hope on my part. No, I just know it can’t happen naturally anymore. Sure, voice deepening with age is a thing for everyone, cis or trans, but I’m not waiting until I’m 60 years-old to finally sound like a 27 year-old man.
- The SLP explained to me that cis males get deeper voices during puberty if their T is higher, which corresponds to the fact that trans males who start out on lower doses of T tend to not have as dramatic voice drops as trans males who start out at a higher dose. I started out at 0.2mg but have friends who immediately started out at 0.5mg and developed deeper voices than I have now just after 3-5 months of starting T. I already knew this before she told me, but I thought I’d include it here just to educate anyone reading this.
- The SLP included a slide about vocal surgery as a means of changing voice for trans women in her powerpoint, but not one for trans men. The only slide she made as a means of changing voice for trans men was hormones. So if your voice didn’t get deeper with hormones, I guess you’re shit out of luck? The only reason I’m working with her in the first place is because I’m pursuing voice surgery. With a surgeon who works in the same building as her. I’m asking myself why she’s blatantly ignoring a possible means to change trans male voices. I feel she may have a personal bias against it, which I know sounds odd
- When I asked her how she decides how many sessions patients have with her before surgery, she told me it depends on how happy I am with my results. But she also kept pushing that I should stay in LA for 3-5 days and have two sessions every day. If it really is up to me, I don’t want any voice therapy sessions. I’m extremely unhappy especially after this evaluation. I don’t want to fly down and stay in LA during a pandemic and risk my life. Also, each hour-long therapy session costs $480 and I'm not throwing $5000+ at something that isn't working for me. This is something I’ll be calling about on Monday, I want a clear answer on what is required of me before I can get a surgery date. I’m sure there is a required amount of voice therapy sessions before we can even think about a possible surgery date, but neither the surgeon nor the SLP will be clear with me about it.
- No one told the SLP that I was paying out of pocket. She assumed she would be billing insurance. When I told her about this, she assured me that she doesn’t get my money directly so she wasn’t pushing the 3-5 day bootcamp therapy session idea to me because of that.
- She had me doing this voice (produced by lowering my larynx as if I’m about to yawn, which she agreed was the correct technique): https://clyp.it/2iuioklb that I’ve already tried practicing with for a number of months which ended up not working for me. When I expressed to her that I feel like it sounds and feels fake, like I’m just doing a “macho man” impression and that it doesn’t sound like a natural male voice, she wasn’t having it. She wouldn’t stop pushing it until I finally agreed with her that I liked how it felt and sounded (I still don’t). She wouldn’t listen to me and didn’t want to adjust her techniques to fit my concerns.
- The only thing she said that made me feel a little relieved was she pointed out that it appears that my higher range has been cut off but my lower range didn’t budge. I’ve pointed this out to friends and family before and I guess it felt good for a professional to say it to me. 
- I felt the SLP was undereducated about the subject she was tackling with me. It was clear she wasn’t open to the idea of learning from me, and that she’s never worked with a patient like me before. I’m sure I’ve been on T longer and I’m older than her previous trans masc patients. She treated me like a child, like she was the only one who knew what I wanted. 
I’m sure she has helped other trans masc patients before, enough to where they ended up not pursuing voice surgery, but she didn’t help me and I will definitely keep pursuing surgery. I’m extremely disappointed and I don’t want to work with any of UCLA’s SLPs anymore. It kind of feels like I'm trying to get a nose job done and the surgeon wants me to hire a masseuse to massage my nose several times over the course of a week in the hopes it'll just get smaller on its own. Voice therapy isn't going to work for me and I want a surgery date.
I’ll be updating again after I make a call to the voice therapy department, and the SLP herself, to let them know I’m unhappy and want a clear answer on what is required of me to get a surgery date.
Until then, stay safe and keep your head up.
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splendidlyimperfect · 5 years
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It’s been thirteen years since Natsu and Gray met in a program for troubled youth - since they both fell apart and helped put each other back together. Now they’re married and happy, loving each other and the shared family they found.But the past doesn’t always stay past, and when the things that broke them come back into their lives, Natsu and Gray have difficult decisions to make - ones that could change their lives forever.
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Chapter Summary: Gray's worried about Natsu, and Natsu can't stop thinking about his dad.
Chapters (4/?): 1 | 2 | 3 | 4
Rating: Teen and Up Audiences Relationships: Natsu Dragneel/Gray Fullbuster, Rogue Cheney/Sting Eucliffe, Laxus Dreyar/Freed Justine Characters: Natsu Dragneel, Gray Fullbuster, Rogue Cheney, Sting Eucliffe, Freed Justine, Laxus Dreyar, Wendy Marvell, Chelia Blendy, Ultear Milkovich, Lyon Vastia Additional Tags: Alternate Universe - Modern Setting, Aged-Up Character(s), Hurt/Comfort, Angst, Fluff and Angst, Married Couple, Established Relationship, Emotional Hurt/Comfort, Past Child Abuse, Implied/Referenced Self-Harm, Drug Addiction, Mental Health Issues, Foster Care, Family Issues, Grief/Mourning, Childhood Trauma, it’s not as sad as it sounds, Bipolar Disorder, Adoption, Families of Choice, Nonbinary Character, Trans Character, Genderfluid Character, Forgiveness Series: Part 14 of the only hope for me is you, Part 2 of if you jump i’ll break your fall
-----
“Am I too much?”
Gray had almost fallen asleep when Natsu asked the question, and he blinked sleepily, rubbing his eyes. Natsu was curled up beside him on the bed, one arm under his head, staring blankly at the screen of his phone.
“What?” Gray frowned. After their anniversary date Natsu had seemed to be back to his regular self, although Gray had seen bits and pieces of sadness and uncertainty peeking through during the rest of their trip. When they’d arrived home earlier in the day, Natsu had immediately curled up on the couch with Happy and taken a nap.
“Too much,” Natsu repeated, voice small and quiet. “Am I... is that why...”
“Natsu,” Gray said gently as tears appeared in the corner of Natsu’s eyes. Natsu wiped at them angrily as Gray turned and reached out to pull Natsu into his arms. “What’s wrong?”
Natsu shook his head and Gray sighed, shifting until Natsu was resting on Gray’s chest.
“There's nothing wrong with you,” Gray murmured, running his hand up and down Natsu’s back. “I love you.”
“But what if you don’t, always?” Natsu asked, pressing his face against Gray’s shirt. “What if... I just, I’ve always been... they all said it was too much, and I d-don't want to be like that. I don’t want you to... to get sick of me and leave.”
“Never,” Gray whispered, an ache spreading in his chest under the damp patch on his shirt. “I love you, no matter what, and I’m always gonna be here, okay?”
Natsu took a shaky breath, then whispered, “my dad said that, too.” He wiped at his face again, curling up tighter against Gray. “He promised, but h-he left, and he never said why, and I don’t... maybe I was too much for him.”
Gray ran his fingers through Natsu’s hair, then tipped his head up until they were looking at each other. “It wasn’t your fault,” he said gently, stroking his thumb over Natsu’s damp cheek.
“You don’t know that,” Natsu argued, fingers bunching the fabric of Gray’s shirt into his fist. “It could...”
Gray hesitated, searching Natsu’s face. All he could find there was heartbreak and uncertainty, and he sighed, making up his mind.
“I know you don’t like talking about it,” he said, “but... it was probably drugs, or drinking. Most of what Ultear sees – when the parents can’t be parents, it’s because they’ve got addiction issues, right? And that’s not the kid’s fault.”
Something closed off in Natsu’s expression and he looked away, staring at his hand on Gray’s chest. He looked so young – a sad, lost little boy who didn’t know what he’d done wrong.
Continue reading on AO3
“I hate not knowing,” Natsu said eventually. “It still fucking hurts, it’s been twenty-two years and I can't... every time I think I’m over it, that I’m fine without him, it comes back again, and I want to know.”
Gray’s heart ached and he wanted to take it all away, to heal that sense of abandonment and confusion and hurt. “Even...” He paused, staring down at the freckles across Natsu’s nose. “Even if you did find him, you might not get answers. Or you might not like the answers he gives you.”
Natsu nodded, shoulders slumping as he lay back down against Gray’s chest, sliding his knee between Gray’s thighs and wrapping his arm around Gray’s waist.
“I know you want closure,” Gray said, reaching down and tugging the blanket up over both of them. “I just... I love you so much, and I’m scared that if you do find him, it’ll just make things worse.”
Natsu tensed, feeling for a second like he was going to pull back but changing his mind at the last minute.
There was a loud mrowl as Happy jumped up onto the bed, stalking across the covers and slipping between the two of them. Happy headbutted Natsu, then curled up on his stomach, purring happily when Natsu scratched behind his ears.
“I’m tired,” Natsu said quietly. “I gotta be at work early tomorrow.”
Gray looked over at the clock – it was only 9:30, hours before Natsu usually went to bed. An uneasy feeling settled into his stomach and he held Natsu close.
Please don’t get bad, he thought desperately. I love you.  
“You excited to see Noah tomorrow?” Gray asked, changing the subject as he reached over and turned off the bedside lamp. Natsu and Sting owned a garage together in downtown Magnolia, and Sting had been bringing Noah to work during the summer.
“Yeah,” Natsu said quietly, tipping his head up and pressing a kiss to Gray’s cheek. “I missed him.” Then he looked seriously at Gray, giving him a smile that Gray could tell was supposed to be reassuring. “Don’t worry about me, okay? I’m fine.”
Gray searched Natsu’s face, uneasiness spreading through him as he took in the lines on Natsu’s face. Part of him wanted to keep talking, to reassure Natsu, to tell him that it was okay to not be okay.
“If you want to—”
“Snowflake,” Natsu interrupted, kissing his cheek. “I don’t wanna talk about it anymore, okay? I wanna go to sleep.” His voice was gentle, but his expression was sad and uncertain.
“Okay,” Gray said softly as Natsu settled back against him and closed his eyes.
Natsu fell asleep quickly, hand spread out across Gray’s chest, face relaxed as he snored lightly. Gray stayed up for a long time, trying to push aside the unsettled feeling that everything was definitely not okay.
-----
As soon as Natsu opened the front door of the garage, there was a woof and the sound of claws clicking on the floor. An excited-looking chocolate lab careened around the corner and barked happily at Natsu, jumping up and down on the other side of the gate by the front counter.
“Hey, Chewie,” Natsu said, dropping his bag on the ground and opening up the gate. He crouched down and laughed as the dog began to lick his face. “I missed you too, buddy. Where’s Noah?”
“Back!” Natsu looked up to see Noah peeking out from behind the desk.  
Natsu settled down on the floor with his legs crossed, gesturing for Chewie to lay down next to him.
“You wanna come sit, Noah?” he asked, patting the ground next to him. “Or you want a fist bump?”
Noah shook his head, then ran forward and threw himself at Natsu, wrapping his arms around Natsu’s neck. Natsu sighed happily, pressing his face into Noah’s hair.
“I missed you, buddy,” Natsu said, hugging Noah tightly. “So, so much.”
“So much,” Noah replied, grinning and settling into Natsu’s lap. Natsu brushed Noah’s blond curls out of his face, then tapped the rim of his glasses.
“Are these new?” he asked.
Noah nodded, leaning against Natsu’s chest and playing with the strings of his hoodie. Chewie’s tail pounded against the floor and he tipped his head back onto Natsu’s leg, panting happily.
“Where’s dad?” Natsu asked. Noah didn’t reply and Natsu didn’t push it – getting a hug and cuddles out of Noah was enough of a win for the day. They sat in the beam of sunlight on the floor for a few minutes before the door at the back of the office opened and Sting appeared, wiping his dirty hands on a rag.
“Hey, monster,” he said to Noah, who grinned at his dad and tugged on Natsu’s hoodie strings. Sting stuck his tongue out at Noah, then turned to Natsu. “How was the trip?”
Natsu tipped his head back and forth uncertainly before answering, “pretty good.” Sting raised an eyebrow, setting the rag down on the counter and leaning over to type something into the computer.
“That’s not as enthusiastic as I was expecting,” he said. Natsu sighed, kissing the top of Noah’s head and then nudging him up. Natsu pushed himself to his feet and let Sting pull him into a hug. “What’s wrong?” Sting asked, leaning back and squeezing Natsu’s shoulder.
“Long story,” Natsu said, rubbing his face. “Not—the anniversary was great, Gray was amazing.”
“But?”
The four of them made their way into the back office. It was dark – Sting had covered the window with a blanket, and a pile of pillows sat in one corner of the room. Noah plopped himself down in them and Chewie curled up next to him, tail thumping happily.
Natsu leaned against the desk as Sting settled down next to Noah, passing him the iPad that had been sitting on the chair.
“I ran into one of my foster sisters,” Natsu said, rubbing his face with both hands. “And… I’m thinking about looking for my dad.”
“Dad!” Noah said, leaning against Sting and pointing to a picture on the iPad of him, Sting, Ryos and Chewie sitting by the tree in their backyard. Sting kissed the top of Noah’s head, and Noah looked up at Natsu. “Th-that, that, the… it…” He shook his head and tapped the picture. “Dad.”
“Yep, those are your dads, buddy,” Natsu said, settling into the chair. “I have a dad, too.”
Noah frowned, looking between Natsu and Sting. “You?” he asked Sting.
“Grampa is my dad, remember?” Sting said, reaching over and flipping to another photo of Noah building Lego with Wes. Noah still looked unconvinced but was quickly distracted by another picture and zoned out of the conversation.
Sting leaned back on his hands and looked up at Natsu. “You don’t talk about your dad much,” he said.
Natsu shrugged, tugging his hair out of its ponytail and running his fingers through it. He hadn’t had time to shower this morning, and it felt greasy. Even after falling asleep before ten, his seven-a.m. alarm had been almost unbearable, and he’d hit snooze over and over until he only had five minutes to get ready and run out the door.
“I’m not sure how I feel about him,” Natsu said. “And... Gray doesn’t want me to find him.” The irritated feeling that had flared up last night at Gray’s mention of drugs started to prickle under Natsu’s skin again.
Sting frowned. “Why not?”
“He thinks...” Natsu looked down at Noah, who appeared to be completely immersed in whatever game he was playing. “He says it was probably addiction.” A piece of Natsu’s nail was peeling away, and he picked at it, wincing when it tugged at the skin as well.
“Honestly,” Sting said after a minute, “he’s probably right.” He looked over at Noah and reached over, brushing his bangs out of his face. “I know that’s not what you wanna hear, but...”
Natsu sighed, settling down into the desk chair as he watched Noah show Sting something on the iPad. While Noah’s mom was now clean, his dad was in prison for several drug-related offenses, and Noah would likely never see him again.
Now Noah had a home with Sting and Rogue, who loved him and took care of him and were patient with his needs. They took him to appointments, cuddled him when he got scared, explained things to him when he didn’t understand. He had a family.
Natsu hadn’t had that. He’d been difficult too, but nobody had cared enough to see past it to the little boy who was lost and angry. Not until Gray, and that relationship had been born from trauma, too.
“I’m gonna go get set up,” Natsu said, pulling himself out of the memories and giving Sting a smile. He crouched down in front of Noah, poking at his knee. “We gonna go for ice cream after work?”
Noah grinned at him, not answering, but patting the back of Natsu’s hand. Even that touch was unusually affectionate for him, and Natsu had the feeling that Noah could tell that something was going on, even if he didn’t understand it.
Natsu smiled as he watched Noah turn back to the iPad and point out something to Sting. Even if Natsu never got answers from his dad, this family would always be here for him.  
-----
“I’m worried about Natsu.”
Freed looked up from where they were lying in the shade of the tree by the playground, tipping their sunglasses up and raising an eyebrow at Gray.
“Is he—”
“Yeah, he’s taking his meds.” Gray rubbed his face, leaning back against the tree trunk. His whole body felt heavy and worn out, and the worry in the pit of his stomach was uncoiling and spreading through his limbs. “Well,” Gray amended, “he says he is. I asked him this morning and he got mad at me.”
“Mad?” Freed frowned, rolling over and pushing themself up on their elbows.
Gray sighed. “No, not… mad isn’t the right word.” He reached out and picked a dandelion from the overgrown grass and started peeling the petals off. “Annoyed.”
Freed didn’t say anything, just grabbed another dandelion and handed it to Gray when the first one was torn to ribbons.
“He thinks I don’t trust him,” Gray said eventually. “And… I mean, I do, I know he’s an adult, but…” He ripped the flower in half, tossing it to the ground. “I don’t want it to get bad again.”
Gray tried not to think of last time – a little over a year ago, when Natsu’s meds had stopped working and he’d spiralled into depression again. It was an endless push and pull, an illness that would never get better.
“Maybe it’s not that,” Freed suggested. “You said he was thinking about his dad… it could just be situational. And it’s probably frustrating for him to not know if his feelings are his, or if they’re part of a chemical imbalance.”
Gray nodded. An ant crawled up the side of his iced coffee cup, pushing its way through the condensation, and he flicked it away.
“It sucks,” he said quietly. Guilt washed over him at the words, and he shook his head. “Not—I’m not upset with him, it’s not his fault—but it’s not fair. I just want him to be happy, and sometimes I feel so useless.”
“I know,” Freed said, reaching out and taking Gray’s hand. “You do everything you can, though.”
“It’s not enough,” Gray argued. “It’s never gonna be ‘better’ and… I know that, I’ve always known that. It’s not his fault, and I would never blame him. Never. It’s just…” He hesitated. “I’m worried that if he finds his dad, it’s gonna make things worse.”
Freed didn’t say anything, just ran their thumb over Gray’s knuckles. The silence made Gray’s skin itch, but he knew there was nothing Freed could say. Nothing could make it better – nothing could make Natsu well, nothing could cure him.
Thinking of Natsu like that made Gray want to cry. Natsu wasn’t a broken thing to be fixed, but if Gray could take away the things that made him hurt, he would do it in a heartbeat.
“I’m scared that he won’t find what he’s looking for,” Gray said after a minute. He pulled his knees up to his chest, resting his chin on them and staring out across the park. Amelia and Rebecca – Freed’s nieces – were running madly through the playground, playing an invented version of tag that involved a lot more tackling than what Gray was familiar with.
“What do you think he’s looking for?” Freed asked.
“A reason,” Gray said. “He wants to know why. But…”
Gray was caught off guard by the tears that suddenly caught in his throat and he tried his best to swallow them down.
“I just don’t understand,” he said. “His dad can’t possibly have a reason that’s gonna make Natsu feel better. How could he have abandoned his kid? What kind of…”
“My parents did,” Freed said softly. Their parents had kicked them out when they were sixteen, and after a disastrous attempt at a reunion eight years ago, Freed had cut ties with them completely. The only family they still spoke with were their brother, Gabriel, his wife Sarah, and their daughters.  
“Shit, I’m sorry,” Gray said. “I didn’t even think… “
“It’s okay,” Freed said, rolling over onto their back and looking up at the sky. “I just meant that there’s lots of reasons that parents can’t be parents anymore. I know you think it’s drugs.”
Gray tensed. “I just—”
“It makes sense,” Freed continued, tipping their head back to look at Gray. “That’s what Ultear sees most often, and what happened with you and Lyon.” Gray’s stomach twisted. “But my parents couldn’t accept who I was, and Laxus’ dad was… well, he’s just an awful person. Some people just can’t be parents. Or shouldn’t be.”
Gray dropped his forehead to his knees. “I know,” he said quietly. “I’m just angry.”
“You have every right to be,” Freed said.
“No, I don’t,” Gray argued. “This is Natsu’s choice, his dad, his trauma – not mine. I just…” He shook his head. “Even if Natsu found him and decided to forgive him, I don’t know if I could. If he hadn’t left, Don wouldn’t have hurt Natsu. He might not have hurt himself, have tried to…”
“But he might have,” Freed said. “You can’t go back in time and predict what would have happened.”
Gray grumbled, flopping down next to Freed and resting his head on their shoulder. A comfortable silence settled between them as they stared up through the leaves of the tree together, catching the patches of blue that were obscured with wisps of white cloud.
“You’re right,” Gray said after a while. “I just wish I could make it easier.”
“You do,” Freed said. “He loves you so much. Even if he’s annoyed – it’s not you, it probably just feels like he doesn’t have much control right now, and when you ask him about the meds, I can imagine it seems like you’re telling him that his feelings aren’t real. That it’s just his illness.”
Gray nodded. “I didn’t even think about that,” he said quietly. A little bit of the anxious tension slowly started to dissipate, and he exhaled, focusing on the feel of the grass beneath him and the sun on his face.  
“That’s why you’re friends with me,” Freed said, tipping his head against Gray’s. “I’m brilliant and give excellent advice.”
“Yeah,” Gray said, laughing. “You really do.”
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yaachtynoboat711 · 6 years
Text
The Duke’s Speech
A/N: This fic was suggested by @muse-of-mbaku . I’m still gushing over my baby’s HeForShe IMPACT Keynote speech weeks after the fact. This was fun to write and feel free HMU in the asks for questions and this and other fics.
Word Count: ~3k
Pairing: Winston Duke x Black! OC
Warnings: Language, Savage Yaa
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“This tie or this tie? C’mon, Pumpkin, I know you're not sleeping and I need your input.”, asked Winston as he looked in the mirror at you.
Winston was preparing to give the keynote address at the UN Women’s HeForShe IMPACT Summit in the morning. The two of you had been working to write and practice his speech for a few weeks now. This was also your first public outing as an engaged couple, so the pressure was on. It was closer to 10 p.m. and you, the professional night owl, were the first in bed, megabonnet and all. The only thing preventing you from finishing that bomb dream you’d been having for the past two nights was your worrisome ass fiancé. You sat up in the bed and crossed your arms.
“Chris, sweetie, bring yo Black ass to bed, please”, you huffed.
“Which on--”
“--ax me again and I’m staying with ya mama for the night.” A beat. “ Neither. The accessories you have don’t need a tie; you’d look stiff as hell with it. Plus…”, you crawled out of bed and walked behind Winston, “...the no-tie look is sexier. You look like that fine, young ass professor all the girls tryna holla at.”, you said rubbing his bare chest and kissing his back. You began mimicking a college girl, “Girl, I got that 2:30 gender studies class with that tall, THICC professor from the Caribbean. Who, girl? Girl, Professor Duke. WIT. HIS. FOOOOINE. ASS.  He ain’t got no wedding ring, so I know I gotta chance. I’ma slide through his office hours so he can slide more than a syllabus by me. EEEEEEOOOOWWWW!”, you said tongue out and with a little twerk. Winston’s deep, hearty laughter vibrated against your head, stirring a sudden surge of heat in your core.
“You play entirely too much. But you think so, Pumpkin? You sure it’s not too laxed?”
“I know so, Chris.”, you smacked his ass, “Now please, come to bed... for the last time. You ain’t finna text me up a wall all morning talm bout some ‘i’M sO tIrEd, BaBy’.”
Winston gave in and got in the bed with you. You rested your head on his chest and before you knew it, you were sound asleep.
You got up a couple of hours later, only to discover that you’d been shifted to your side of the bed and a super focused Winston looking at his iPad, glasses resting on the brim of his nose. It wasn’t until you said, “I know YOU fuckin’ lyin’”, that Winston realized you weren't sleeping. “What?”, he squeaked. “You know exactly what, Christopher. You’re supposed to be sle--nigga, is that a fucking durag on your head?!” You were so ready to snap on Winston, that you didn’t notice he had a  pink durag that matched your bonnet. You’d berate him about that later.
Without a word, you straddle your fiance’s lap. Once he got the hint, he sat his tablet down on his bedside table, grinning like an idiot. He tried to get a word in, but instead, you placed two fingers over his mouth. You kissed his soft lips sensually. He kneaded your ass in his hands. You took his glasses off and placed them on top of his iPad and turned off his lamp. You kissed him once more and nibbled on his ear. “Now take yo ass to sleep, Winston Christopher.”, you whispered through your teeth. You wiggled from his tight grasp and snuggled back into Winston’s arms.
He sat up in the bed with his arms folded like a spoiled child not getting his way. You too sat up, arms folded, and eyebrow cocked staring at the sight next to you. The unmitigated negrosity of this 31-year-old to sit up in the bed and pout--that was your job in the relationship.
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There was a pregnant pause in the semi-lit hotel bedroom. The only light in the room was coming from Binging With Babish playing on the flatscreen. The two of you stared at each other with such mutually disgusted faces.
He finally broke the silence. “Babe, I was making sure I had everything together before you got up. I’m nervous. What if I embarrass myself? All these heads of state, and the one guy from Black Panther is the keynote? I’m not terrified at all.”, he took his hand into yours; you noticed he was trembling like you did at the Sheinbloom ceremony.
“Chris, two things. One, if it wasn’t solidified by the time we left Atlanta, then there’s no point in trying add or taking away anything with less than 12 hours before you speak. Two, you’re not here by happenstance. This is the start of something new in your life. You’re gonna go out there and be the change of how society sees manhood. Remember when we used to talk about shit like this when you lived here? We would spend HOURS on the balcony just talking about feminism.” Winston smiled to himself recounting those fond memories. “ Reflect on those times and transfer that energy towards this speech. I’ll be there cheering you on wherever they seat us. Now... if you knock this speech out the park...you may get a lil somethin somethin tomorrow night.”
————————
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You two walked in hand in hand with Momma Cora beside you soaking up her surroundings. “I don’t know if I’ve told you at least three times this morning, but you look amazing, Pumpkin.”, Winston whispered in your ear. You were all smiles from your fiance’s compliment. “Thank you, dear.”, you replied innocently.  The three of you were escorted behind the scenes for a photo op. You insisted on your mother-in-law going before you. Seeing him with his family always warmed your soul. His mother was his hero and the reason he identified as a feminist. One of the reasons you and Momma Cora meshed so well was due to the fact that you both understood there was no competition for out-loving Winston. You revered her as much as he did—a little more tbh. You were forever grateful to her for raising the man that would soon be your husband and baby daddy(one of these days).
It was finally your turn to take pictures with the man of the hour. He held his hand out for your taking. You playfully hesitated before taking it. The small gathering of photographers captured every precious moment of you and your husband to be, including him hyping you up on the carpet. “I know I’m the keynote”, he began, “but my lady looks absolutely amazing. Am I even worthy of breathing the same air as you, Atty.Dr. Abdullah? Can you take your foot off of my neck?” You shook your head in embarrassment as he twirled you around. “Why are you like this?”, you asked barely above a whisper and fighting a smile . “Because you deserve it. Don’t you ever dress this fine and not expect to be exalted. You are my wife. We haven’t married legally, but you and I both know we’re tied spiritually. Now gimme a kiss, ma”, Winston said before he leaned down for a kiss. It was moments like these that turned you on. You loved when he took charge and put your bratty ass in your place.
Almost immediately after, you were barraged by media folk. Winston was pulled away for sound check, so it was just you and Momma Cora for the time being. Moments later, the two of you were escorted to the hospitality suite where all of the dignitaries and speakers were waiting, Winston included.
He welcomed you with open arms, toothy grin, and a peck on the temple. “Baby, I want you to meet Her Excellency Rania of Jordan. Your Excellency, this is my...fiancée, Dr. Khalida Abdullah.”
“Attorney Abdullah! We were just talking about you. Well...your handsome fiancé was talking and I listened. While she’s here, I have to say, Winston, that this suit is quite handsome on you”, the Queen said as she faked fixed you fiancé’s collar and lightly stroked his beard. You stared at Her Excellency like you would any other bitch that would openly flirt with your fiancé in front of you.
“Well, I hope he said good things, Your Excellency.”, you said doing an informal curtsy and shaking her hand, making sure to keep eye contact. She needed to know that she was treading dangerous waters.
“Oh, of course. You’ve been a busy woman with all of the obligations you have. How would you ever have time to please your future husband, let alone yourself?”
Oh, the audacity. Deep in your heart, you wanted to just read Rania for filth. That was at least what she expected and deserved. You re-adjusted your posture and got close to your man,his hand almost instinctively snaked to grip your waist.
“Are you asking me for tips because I think some of us were terribly shocked to shear about your husband’s...royal rendezvous a few months back. Funny how life works.”, you shrugged and winked. Rania may have been the Queen of Jordan, but Khalida Yaa Denae of New Orleans was the undisputed Queen of Petty. Before the Queen could say anything, everyone was escorted to their seats.
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The HeForShe IMPACT Summit was a fast-paced assembly. In 2.5 hours, nearly a dozen speakers spoke and not one but TWO full panel discussions took place. With every person that went up and spoke, Winston found himself getting more nervous. During the first panel discussion, you two tried sneaking looks at each other, only to make eye contact with another. You two chuckled and you lightly squeezed his hand.
“You ok, Winston?”, you asked.
“I would say yes but I’d be lying,K.”, he replied.
You looked in his eyes, and sure enough, he was a mix of nerves and adrenaline. There was a fire burning in his eyes that you’d only seen maybe a few times in the past. Now more than ever in the almost 5 years y’all knew each other, he needed you in this very moment. You were a little annoyed with him not saying anything around Queen Rania, but that would be addressed later on.
You squeezed his cheek. “I know. It’s ok to be. Just breathe. Can you do that for me, Wins?”, you pleaded.
“For you, always.”, he remarked kissing your hand.
After another round of speakers, a second panel discussion, and another speaker, it was finally time. There was a video playing in transition for his speech. There were butterflies in your stomach from the moment he got up from his seat and crouched in front of you. “I’m ready, K.”, he whispered in your ear. “You look the fuck good, Wins. Now go out there and think about the balcony raps. You got this.”, you replied. He shot up and walked on the stage. There were a few seconds left in the video, those he took to scan the audience. He looked to the furthest row and on up towards the front where his two of his favorite women were sitting towards the front. Now sitting next to Momma Cora, the two of you locked arms. “I am so proud of my son. Look at him looking so comfortable up there, and look at you--you appear to be more proud than I am.”, Momma Cora said.
“If we’re being honest, Ma, I probably am.”, you chuckled, “It’s his season, Ma, and I’m just happy to be riding along with him.”,you replied.
“You are so precious, my dear.”
The stage lights went back up and there was your Winston standing behind the podium with all the confidence and power in the world. He scanned his eyes towards you, where you greeted him with a cheesy and toothy smile, along with flashing two peace signs. He chuckled, giving you a thumbs up, which prompted the entire audience to lightly chuckle.
During the speechwriting process, you’d joked that his speech would be the first and probably the only thing you’d ever utilize your 5th and final degree, a Ph. D. in Gender Studies, for. He wrote about 75% of it by himself, the rest was through consulting and discussing with you. You never heard the speech in its entirety and you preferred it that way. But boy, nothing prepared you for the passion and power of his speech. He talked about how his upbringing helped shape him and his idea of manhood, especially with his hero, his mom. With utilizing feminism (a term that never ceased to make you roll your womanist eyes), men can use their positions of power and perceived dominance to help bridge the gender gap.
“A man’s responsibility is not to empower women”, he said, “but to be an ally in guaranteeing that women get the whole universe of freedom that [men] take for granted--freedom of expression, freedom of thought and freedom of possibility. There cannot be gender justice if men sit on the sidelines. There cannot be gender justice if men turn a blind eye to abuse. There cannot be gender justice if men have no skin in the game...”
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It took all of you and the strength of the ancestors to keep from yelling “PERIODT!” out loud during your fiance’s speech, but the thought of Khadijah Abdullah whooping your grown 28-year-old ass allowed you to resist that urge. Instead, you grinned hard than a Cheshire cat. Looking up at that stage, you saw a world leader with a fire and a passion for gender equality. He utilized his platform to bring about issues that needed to be brought to the forefront. You could sense the few jitters he had slide off of his back and he was debuting the Winston Christopher Duke you’d known for nearly 5 years. The Winston that you’d met at the Black Yale ball was definitely not the same one on the stage. He was more self-aware and self-confident. The energy that attracted you to him had gotten stronger as the years gone by. You saw a MAN. A man that could care less if people called him “soft” or “weak” for speaking out against toxic masculinity. Noticing all of this caused an unexpecting wave of tears to hit you. Even though you were actually sensitive, you hated crying in public. At this point, you could have cared less; you were getting married to goddamn Winston Duke, actor, and 2018 HeForShe IMPACT Summit keynote speaker, and you were there witnessing one of the greatest moments of your life.
You dabbed your face with your free hand to prevent new tears from forming, but to no avail. You were proud. Momma Cora saw your tears and quickly dabbed them with a tissue. “I know”, she simply stated.
As quickly as he time came for him to begin, so too, was it for his time to end. Those 12 minutes zipped by and more than one part of you was happy that it was coming to an end.
“In closing, I’d like to thank the United Nations for creating the HeForShe movement, and through which we men can show our support for gender equality. We have an ambitious goal of engaging 1 billion men and boys as advocates for gender equality and I’ll hope you join us. I’m calling on all men to join this movement. I’m calling on ALL MEN to join THIS movement.” The room erupted in applause. “Now, before I actually go, I’d be remiss if I didn’t brag on one more special woman in my life.” You gave an involuntary bitch face as Winston turned to look at you. You cursed as you quickly figured out what he was about to do. Winston locked eyes with you and bit his lip, “The woman in question is the co-writer of my address. Two of the five degrees she holds are in gender studies, so I knew I had to pick her brilliant brain for assistance in writing possibly the biggest speech of my life. She’s gonna kill me for bragging on her like this, but I had the privilege of meeting her nearly five years ago when she was just starting out with her practice. She was 23 and filled with passion for helping her brother and sisters in the struggle seek justice, no matter the costs. She’s a damn fine lawyer if I say so myself. This year, she was the youngest, first woman, and first person of African descent to be awarded the Richard T. Sheinbloom Award for Merit and Excellence in Law--the highest award for any attorney to receive in the world. She’s been there for me when I was just auditioning for the sake of auditioning, encouraging me along the way. We may have gotten separated on our journey, but when we got back together, we were stronger than ever. She’s one of the most powerful people I can say I know and saying that I love her makes the pleasure even sweeter. The woman in question is no doubt my best friend, my partner in crime, and for the first time in public, in front of all of you, I get to call her my fiancee--one Dr. Khalida Yaa Denae Abdullah. Khalida, I love you with all of my being. With all that being said, I’m HeForShe--are you? Thank you. ”
Everyone got up and clap and cheer, except for you. The wave of tears you thought you’d subdued returned stronger than before. The man of hour finally walked down to the front row, shaking all the speakers’ hands. After embracing his mother, you were the last to receive acknowledgment. Just like when the two of you first met, you stared at each other with smirks on your faces.
“You’ve been crying?”, Winston asked as he brought you in for a hug.
“Hell na--yeah. These are tears of joy. I’m proud of yo ugly ass and imma kill you when we get back.,” you said through a whimper.
“Thank you for everything,Denae.”, he whispered in your ear. There was only one reason he’d ever use just Denae and you were more than eager to get back to the room.
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barbaravalentino · 6 years
Text
“When a Man Loves a Woman...”
Story: The Royal Romance.
Pairing: Drake x MC (Barbara Valentino).
Some of the characters belong to choices, pixelberry. Just borrowing them for a bit.
Here you go @museofbooks hopefully you will like them. Btw, thanks for the ask.
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1. Which one picks the other up like lost puppy under the rain?
It was strange when rained poured in Valtoria. Drake and Barbara went on a shopping spree after finding out the gender of their first baby. On their way back from the mall to Valtoria it started to rain, slowly at first. But the time they reached Valtoria it was raining cats and dogs. They waited inside their car for 30 minutes for the rained to slow down, but it got worst.
- “Oh my god! Drake, how are we going to get inside?” Barbara asked with a shock expression.
- “Let’s just wait a few more minutes babe.” Drake said while looking through the sunroof.
- “Drake, we’ve been waiting for almost an hour... I need to pee.”
- “Oh, Valentino! It’s raining cats and dogs outside. You can’t run with your high heels.... by the way why are wearing high heels if you are 5 months pregnant? You know that’s dangerous Valentino.” Drake asked slightly annoyed.
- “I’ll take them off and run to the door, it’s not even that far. And I can use high heels as long as I am careful, so don’t even start.”
Drake shook his head and looked at her for several seconds in silence. “Okay... why don’t I take my jacket off and you cover us from the rain while I carry you to our home.” He asked.
- “Okay. Just be careful babe, the floor might be slippery.”
- “Don’t worry darling.” Drake took his jacket off and gave it to Barbara. He walked out of the car and run to her side. He opened the door and grabbed Barbara’s hand to help her stand up. He gently picked her up and carried her bridal style while Barbara covered them both with his jacket. They arrived to the door and Barbara opened the door for them, he gently set her down. Barbara smiled at him and said.
- “Thank you my handsome husband. What will I do without you?” Before kissing him tenderly.
2. Which one washes the other’s hair?
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Drake and Barbara had a long day. They barely saw each other today, the only time they were together was during Breakfast before they went on separate ways. It was 10:00pm when finally they were on their bedroom. Barbara was laying on the bed before Drake arrived tossing his clothes everywhere.
- “Hey Walker.” Barbara said.
- “Hey Valentino.” He replied before sitting on the edge of the bed to take his shoes off, his back towards Barbara. She crawled to him wrapping her arms around him, pressing her breast on his back, she moved her head to one of his shoulders, and kissed his shoulder neck and cheek, while rubbing her hands on his chest down to his abs. Drake closed his eyes and throw his head back to Barbara’s shoulder.
- “Long day?” Barbara asked him. He nodded and kissed her tenderly.
- “You have no idea babe.” He said before kissing her again “Yours?” He asked between kisses.
- “The worst, and our baby is making my days harder.” She said before resting her forehead on Drake’s.
- “I’m sorry darling, just a few months and our baby is going to be here with us. And you won’t be so tired anymore, because I’m going to be helping you.” Drake said before kissing her slowly. “Do you want to take a shower with me?” He asked between kisses.
Barbara nodded and Drake walked to the bathroom to turned on the shower. He walked back to the room and picked her up, and carried her to the bathroom. He pulled his jeans down and gently undress Barbara. He bend down and kissed her belly before whispering sweet nothings to their baby. He grabbed Barbara’s hand and walked her to the shower. They hugged each other and stay on each other’s embrace for a few minutes.
- “Let me take care of you baby.” Drake whispered on her ear. Barbara nodded and Drake picked up her shampoo gently washed her hair, after he grabbed her conditioner and smoothly applied it on her hair. He grabbed the body wash, grabbed the loofah and gently washed her body kissing her sweetly all over her body.
3. Which one does the other’s nails?
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It was a Sunday morning, both Drake and Barbara had a free schedule. They decided to stay on their bedroom all day. Barbara was reading and Drake was watching a movie on his iPad. He noticed Barbara looking at her toe nails.
- “Babe is something wrong with your toe nails?” He asked.
- “Yes, they looked horrible. I wish I could get them done, but look at me I look like a whale. I can’t even tie my own damn shoes.
Drake laughed and looked at her “Oh, Valentino! You don’t look like a whale.” He sat up and moved closer to her wrapping her on his arms. “You look gorgeous with your baby bump. The most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen, and more beautiful with your baby bump.” He pecked her lips.
- “... I just wish I could do more things. I don’t like when people do the things I can do. I feel useless.
- “Baby... you are pregnant, you have to be careful, especially now that our baby could be here any moment. And you are not useless at all. We like to spoil you, I love to spoil you and you know that. I don’t want you to hurt yourself or get more tired than you already are.” He kissed her tenderly. “Okay?” He said against her lips before kissing her again.
- “... okay. You just said those things to not get me mad. But I know I’m a burden... you did this to me Walker!” She said while pointing at her now 8 months baby bump.
Drake moved between her legs, facing her “Valentino you aren’t a burden to me. I love you so much, you will never be a burden darling. And yes, you are pregnant but we did it together.” He stopped and placed his hand on her belly “The baby it’s the product of our infinite love Mrs. Walker.” He leaned to kiss her, but she moved and Drake kissed her cheek. He laughed and said “I know...”
- “What?” Barbara asked before he could finished.
- “I’ll do your nails baby. Just tell me what color you want.”
Barbara looked at him fondly and asked “Are you sure?” Drake chuckled and said.
- “Yes I am sure. Now tell me the color.”
- “Uh.. red!” Barbara exclaimed and Drake nodded. Before he could moved she pulled him closer to her and kissed him lovingly. “I love you so much Drake Walker, you are the best husband ever!”
Drake chuckled against her lips and said “I love you too Barbara Walker, so much babe.”
4. Which one pulls the other one out of the bed with the blankets when they are late?
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Monday morning, Drake woke up earlier than Barbara. He stayed in bed for a couple more minutes before he sighed and got out of bed. He leaned to kiss Barbara’s forehead and let her sleep more. He walked to the closet and put on workout clothes, he went for his morning’s run, after an hour and a half, went back to his room. Barbara was still soundly sleeping, he chuckled to himself and walked to the bathroom, he took a long shower. He walked out of the shower and went to the closet to get dress for the day. As he got out of the closet he heard someone knocking on the door, he walked to the door and opened it and found Barbara’s assistant.
- “Good morning your Grace.”
- “Good morning Natalie.”
- “I just wanted to remind you and Duchess Barbara that you have a flight to catch to the capital for King Liam’s birthday ball that your attendance is required.”
- “Shit...” Drake murmured before asking “At what time is the flight again?”
- “The flight leaves in an hour, your Grace.”
- “Fuck...” he pinched the bridge of his nose “Natalie could you tell the driver to start the car, please?” Natalie nodded and quickly left.
Drake run to wake Barbara up. “Barbara, baby!” He said while sitting down next to her, lightly shaking her awake.
- “Mmmm?” Barbara asked still with her eyes close.
- “Babe, we have to leave for the Palace. We only have 20 minutes to get you ready.”
- Mhmm.” Barbara replied buring herself on the pillow.
- “Barbara! We have to leave now darling.” He got up and run to the closet. Grabbed their luggage and packed all the clothes close to him before running back to the room. He found Barbara still sleeping like a baby. “Fuck.” He said to himself. He walked to Barbara’s side and picked her up, he carried her like a child to the car that was already waiting for them.
- “Baby wrap your arms around my neck and your legs around my waist, because I can’t hold you with both hands.” He said to a half sleepy Barbara. She nodded and did what she was told, but what Drake didn’t know it was that Barbara was pretending to be asleep and was smiling happily as her husband carried her like a little girl.
5. Which one picks in the other’s plate without thinking?
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Barbara and Drake were visiting the palace for a few days. It was a Thursday night which meant date night for Barbara and Drake. This time it was Drake’a turned to pick the restaurant of his liking. Barbara’s father made a deal with King Liam to make restaurants and amusement places in Cordonia to bring more tourists. One of the restaurants was an American theme, which meant hamburgers, hot dogs, bbq ribs, fried chicken and all the things Drake loves. They took a shower together and got ready for their date. Drake drove themselves to the restaurant, as soon as they step inside a waitress welcomed them and took them to their table.
- “Hello your Graces. I’m Alicia and I’ll be your waitress tonight. Would you like something to drink?”
- “Yes, may I have a beer, please.” Drake said before smiling at the waitress.
- “I’ll like some natural orange juice, please.” Barbara said.
- “Absolutely. I’ll be right back with your drinks.”
The waitress left, Barbara and Drake looked through their menus. A few seconds later Alicia came back with their drinks “Would you like to order? Or should I give you more time?”
- “I’ll like a double burger with cheese, seasoned fries... a chilli-cheese hot dog, two corn dogs, and 10 hot wings... buffalo sauce.” Barbara said before adding “Please.” While smiling at Alicia.
Drake looked at his wife surprised after a few seconds he cleared his throat and said “I want the bbq beef ribs and the spicy baby pork ribs.” He looked at the waitress as she grabbed the menus.
- “I’ll be right back with your food.” Alicia said before leaving and Drake glanced at her as she walked away. Barbara was staring at him burning wholes on him.
- “Why are checking her out? I’m not enough for you? I’m not attractive to you anymore... is it my huge belly?”
- “Wha... what are you talking about Valentino?” He said surprise. Barbara rolled her eyes at him and crossed her arms in front of her chest.
- “I saw the way you smiled at her, and just a few seconds ago you were starring at her ass when she walked away.”
Drake rubbed his forehead and chuckled to himself “I wasn’t babe... I smiled at her because it’s the polite thing to do. And I wasn’t starring at her ass... it’s not even big.”
- “Oh! So you were starring at her ass Drake Walker?”
- “Nooo! I wasn’t. I was looking at... at the decorations.”
- “But you just said that her ass it’s not even big, and you are hesitating with your answers.”
- “Valentino please. Your ass is the only one I look at. You have the perfect ass ever, you know how much I love it.”
- “Don’t lie Walker!” She stopped shaking her head “So my ass is the only thing you like about me?”
- “WHAT? Nooo! Of course not Barbara, I like everything about you.”
Barbara kept quiet for a few minutes starring at Drake. “Now I know why you wanted to come to this restaurant.” Drake nervously chuckled and said.
- “Baby, you know that’s not true. You are the only one woman for me. I married you, and I promised to love you for the rest of my life.” While reaching for her hand.
Barbara looked at him and nodded. “I love you too baby. I’m sorry it’s just this hormones are driving me crazy. I didn’t mean to say those things.” While grabbing his hand.
- “Hey, it’s okay Valentino, I understand babe.” Drake said while tenderly rubbing her hand. “I love you so much.” He said while leaning to kiss her sweetly.
After a few more minutes their food arrived and Drake made sure to only starred at his wife the whole time. They eat while talking, laughing and stealing glances of each other. Barbara was halfway through her food when she reached to grabbed some of Drake’s ribs. He looked at her but remained silenced. A few minutes later she reached again and grabbed more of his food.
- “Is it good babe?” He asked.
- “Yes these ribs are delicious, I’m going to ask the chef for the recipe.” She said before taking a bite.
- “I’m glad you like them. How’s your food?” He asked.
- “It’s good.” She said while reaching for more ribs.
- “Valentino!” Drake exclaimed. “Finish your food first.” She looked at him and put his ribs back on his plate. They eat in silence and Drake knew Barbara was hurt. He looked at her and saw her whipping a tear away.
- “Babe... I’m sorry. I didn’t mean it, it came out the wrong way.” He looked at her but Barbara was avoiding his gaze. “Barbara Walker! Please baby.” Finally Barbara looked at him.
- “I’m sorry, I should’ve had asked you for some, instead of grabbing them. I know how much you love ribs.”
- “Hey, it’s fine. It’s just food, we can order more if you want.” Barbara nodded. He smiled at her.
- “Okay baby.” Drake said before calling a different waitress to order more ribs for his wife.
Tag: @kennaxval @mrsdrakewalkerblog @hopefulmoonobject @indiacater @mymandrake @larryssunflower @umccall71 @alesana45 @jared2612 @mrswalkerwrites @shairarhyslykel @shelivesinthewoods @confessionsofabrokegirl @3pawandme @journeytohomesworld @chrisuvans @walkerismychoice @drakewalker8 @drakewalkerstan @walkerisbae @thequeenchoices @andy-loves-corgis @flowerpowell @agent-bossypants @hopefulmoonobject
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p-artsypants · 6 years
Text
Arcadia or Bust (Part 2)
Thank you all for your sweet and kind reviews! They mean a lot to me! :)
I don’t know if this is quite a story with a plot…more like a series of odd circumstances that Jim and Claire get themselves in. And Jim getting used to being himself in general. So…might be a little bit of a rough ride. Hope you enjoy anyway!
( @avannak )
AO3 | FF.net
After sunset, Jim and Claire were both awakened by shaking.
“Rise and shine, Mr. and Mrs. reconnaissance!”
“Blinky?” Jim muttered, waking up.
“It’s dark enough out that you can go up and get supplies for us to use! Come on, come on! No time to waste!”
Claire moaned and stretched her arms out, though, one was still in Jim’s grasp.
“Jim?”
“Morning,” he smiled with his sharp teeth.
“What are we…?” She glanced at her surroundings, and then at him. “Where did your armor go?”
He tapped the amulet. “Where it’s supposed to go.”
She sat up. “Was I using you as a mattress?”
“Yeah, but I wanted you to.”
Claire’s eyes widened as she blushed.
“I mean—you’ve been sleeping on rocks for a while now. I thought I might be a little softer.”
She assessed him, feeling his chest and stomach, just like she had in her sleepy state. Then she rolled her shoulders and cracked her neck. “Well, I’m not as sore. So I think it worked.” She leaned in, and kissed his nose. Then she rolled off of him, and stood. “So what are we doing?”
Jim sat up, smacking his lips. “We have to go into town, and find supplies.”
“Oh yeah, we found the stone.” Then she frowned. “You mean, I’ll be going into town, while you watch from the rooftops.”
“Sadly to say.”
Claire glanced over his new found form, instantly noticing his poorly fit clothing.
It was hard dealing with Jim’s transformation. He had struggled tremendously, and still did, to an extent. But Claire had a hard time coping as well, though she never vocalized those thoughts to him. When she told Jim she loved him, she really meant it, not just to make him feel better. She was sixteen, the time when girls start to imagine all the fun things they’ll do in the future with their husbands. Having 2.5 kids, a dog, and a white picket fence. With her love becoming a permanent half-troll, things seemed bleak. She had decidedly given up the idea of a normal marriage.
She’d never admit to anyone, but the idea of never having sex with him, because of his armor, was a real bummer.
But she had just resolved changed her mind. An ideal future with Jim might mean sleeping in caves, and eating nutri-grain bars. But as long as she was with him, it was fine.
But now, seeing the almost human skin poking out from his ripped clothes, the hope of the picket fence began to return.
“Hello? Claire?” He waved.
“Oh! Sorry!” She laughed.
“You okay? Do you need more sleep?”
“No, I’m fine.” She grinned, “I was just admiring you.”
“Me?” He asked, bewildered. “Really?”
“Yeah, you look cute. And…hot.” She added, with a blush.
“Even with the teeth?”
“Even with the teeth.”
“And the horns?”
“Especially the horns.” She reached up and took hold of one, tugging him towards her. “They make it easier to do this.” Then she stood on her tip-toes and kissed him, just long enough to urge him to kiss back. When she pulled away, his lips were still puckered between his teeth.
Then he blinked, and looked at her. “That’s…that’s the first time we’ve kissed since I transformed.”
She shrugged, looking away. “We’ve been busy.”
“Are you two ready yet!?” Blinky shouted. “We’re burning darkness here!”
Jim took Claire’s hand and together, they made their way to the surface.
New Jersey was different from Arcadia. Cooler, for one thing. At least today. They had found a service tunnel that ran under the sidewalk, and using Jim’s strength, they forced open the grate and came out into the city. They had just enough time to close the door before a group of pedestrians came around the corner. But Jim didn’t have the chance to hide. So he acted casual, hoping to pull off a costume.
It was a couple of teenagers that saw them, and as they passed, they both seemed to study Jim for a second.
“Dude, sick costume!” One said.
It worked like a charm. “Thanks!” Jim sighed.
“Are you guys going to the horror convention?” The girl asked.  
Claire muttered over to Jim. “Horror convention?”
“Uhh...yeah! Well, we’re looking for a Walmart first.”
“Well you’re going the wrong way,” the guy stepped up. “I’m Henry, by the way. This is my dear, sweet Astrid.”
“Sup?”
Jim held out his human hand. “I’m Jim, and this is my girlfriend Claire.”
Henry smiled. “Nice to know you. We’re making our way to the convention center now. If you want to come?”
“Are you entering in the costume contest? First place is 5,000 dollars!” Astrid interjected. “I bet you could win!”
5,000 dollars could get a couple of hotel rooms and decent meals for Claire. Not to mention, they could get their cart for the Heartstone. “I’m in,” Jim agreed.
“Awesome!” Said Henry. “I made a costume too, but my dad accidentally trashed it. But there’s always next year!”
The group of four made their way through the city, chatting like normal teens. Passerby stopped them every once in a while to take pictures with Jim.
After several of these, Claire sided up to him, taking his hand. “Do you think that’s a good idea?” She whispered.
“I’m not a hundred percent sure, but we need to act casual. So if people think this is a costume, then so be it.”
“So Jim,” Henry called over, interrupting their conversation. “Those horns are super cool. What are they made of?”
“Oh, uh…real horns! From a ram!”
Claire held back a snort.
“Can I touch them?”
“Yeah, just…don’t yank on them.” Jim bowed his head as his new friends all rubbed his horns, ‘ooh’ing and ‘aww’ing all the while.
Finally, they reached the hotel where the convention was being held.
“Oh, you guys don’t have passes yet, right?” Henry asked. “I think you can still get them. They’re 30 bucks for a day pass.”
Jim winced. 30 bucks each? He had the money, but if he didn’t win the contest, they wouldn’t have much left over for a cart. Claire seemed to notice this too, and nudged him. “Hey, let’s go for it. Let’s be normal kids for a while, huh?”
Jim smiled at her, taking her hand. “Yeah, normal.”
At the ticket booth, the attendee nearly jumped to his feet. “Oh man! That is an awesome costume! What are you?”
“Uh…troll. Trollhunt—…Troll knight.”
“Wicked! Are you entered in the costume contest?”
“Not yet,” Jim smiled, baring his fangs.
“I can get you signed up here. Name?”
“Jim Lake.”
“And you said you’re a Troll knight?”
“That’s right.”
The man tapped away at his iPad. “And qualifying contestants for the contest get in for free.”
“What do I need to qualify?”
The man printed out a pass and put it in a lanyard. “I’m the preliminary judge. You qualify. It’s just to keep people from mediocre costumes from entering, like obviously half-assed costumes to get in for free. Y’know?”
“Gotcha.” Jim grinned, putting on the pass.
“But it is going to be 30 bucks for the lady.”
“If only I had worn my armor.” Claire whispered.
Jim took out his wallet and handed over his card. “No worries, at least I got in.”
“Alright, you both are all set, good luck in the contest! Judging is at midnight!”  
“Thank you!” They both called. Then they met up with their new friends.
“You in, man?” Asked Henry.
“Yep! All set!”
“Awesome!” Astrid took out her phone and checked the time. “Well, it’s nine now. We have some friends here, if you want to come with us to hang out.”
Jim looked at Claire, and she looked back at him. If her face said what he thought it said, he replied, “Uh, I think we’ll catch you guys later.”
“No prob! You guys still want to go to Walmart later, right? We’ll go with you.”
“And we have to see Jim win the competition.”
“We’ll see you later, then!” And off they went.
Jim spoke once they were alone. “That is what that look meant, right?”
“Yeah, as much as I’ve missed human interaction, I also feel really gross.”
“I think you look beautiful.”
She was wearing dirty clothes, her usual jeans and t-shirt. And she hadn’t washed her hair in days. She blushed. “Thanks, Jim.”
“I’m going to call Blinky and tell him what we’re up to. If I may borrow your phone?”
“Sure,” she handed it over. “And while you do that, I’m going to go freshen up in the bathroom.” She bid him adieu by standing on her tip-toes and kissing his cheek. “I’ll be back in a minute.”
“Take your time, we’re in no rush.”
He unlocked her phone, and found his own picture in her contacts. The line rang twice before Blinky’s cheerful voice picked up.
“Ah Master Jim! Have you and Claire located supplies? Or perhaps a vessel to help us carry our new Heartstone?”
“Um…not quite.”
Blinky paused on the other line, then his voice took on a dangerous tone. “What happened?”
“Okay, so like…we came to the surface, and immediately these teenagers saw us.”
“Don’t tell me you killed them!”
“No! Why would—?! Look, they thought I was in costume. There’s a Horror convention going on a few blocks away, and I entered the costume contest.”
“As what?”
“As myself. Well, a ‘Troll Knight’ is what I put on the application.”
“YOU WHAT?!” Blinky yelled, as Jim moved the phone away from his ear. “How could you ever think this was a good idea!?”
“First prize is 5,000 dollars, okay? I figured if I win, I could have enough money to put Claire and I up in a hotel over night and treat her to a nice meal. Okay? Plus, we could probably buy a really sturdy cart for the stone.”
Blinky was silent, supposedly thinking. “And no one suspects you?”
“Not a bit.”
“Hmm…alright. Just, try to lay low.”
“We will, I promise.”
Right after he hung up, Clair returned. The hair around the edge of her face was wet. “You know, you really stick out. I mean, in this crowd, you still fit really well, but…I’m worried about your clothes.” She hooked a finger in his waistband a gave a gentle tug. It had no give. “Aren’t you dying? Aren’t those pants like…super tight?”
He sighed. “Yeah. I am, actually. But I figured the ripped clothes would help with the costume.”
“But didn’t you say you were a troll knight?”
“Yeah?”
“Then put your armor on! That will win the contest!”
“You think?”
“Yeah! It’s super Tron!”
Jim glanced down at himself, thinking. Some of his clothes were just hanging on by a thread. It would only take a weird, sudden movement for there to be an awkward rip in his pants.
“Yeah, the last thing I want is a Spongebob moment up on stage. We just need to find a secluded place for me to suit up.”
“The bathrooms were pretty crowded.” Claire blanched.
“Wait,” Jim spoke, staring at the stage in the middle of the convention. “I have an idea, but I need you as a lookout.”
“Lead the way.”
The duo snuck their way over to the middle of the room and Jim slipped under the cloth covered stage.
From the outside, there was a brief glow of red that blended in with the other stage lights. Then, Jim emerged again, in his armor. “Ah, much better.”
Claire gazed up at him, a look of adoration on her face.
“What?”
“I love seeing you in your armor. My knight, my prince, my Romeo.”
“Your Trollmeo,” he corrected.  
She scoffed.
“Whoa! Dude, sick costume!” A guy in a realistic Freddy Krueger costume said. “What’s that made out of? Foam?”
The question took Jim off guard, as he touched his armor. He honestly didn’t know. Some kind of metal. “Uh, real steel.”
“What?! Can I touch?” Freddy reached his claws out.
“Yeah, but if you could…not scratch it…?”
“Oh sure!”
Another cosplayer, dressed as the Creature from the Black Lagoon, approached the group and looked in awe.
“Is that like, a medieval Beast from the X-men? No, you’ve got horns…”
Freddy felt the pauldron on Jim’s shoulder. “This is amazing craftsmanship. Did you make this yourself?”
“Ah, no. A…friend did. Custom, just for me. He’s somewhat of a wizard.”
“I’ll say!” Said the Fishman.
Yet another cosplayer came into the group, this one dressed in a black leotard with white and black face paint and a spiky black wig. “And, what…or who, are you supposed to be?” Asked he.
“I’m a troll knight,” answered Jim, becoming more confident in his story.
“A troll knight? There’s no such thing.” Said the newcomer. “Besides, trolls are supposed to be big and ugly with fat noses and beady eyes. In Lord of the Rings, they’re dumb, huge, and hairless. Or the Elder Scroll Trolls, they’re more like three eyed apes.” He narrowed his eyes. “Though, I suppose you got the ugly down.”
Jim’s nose flared and he nearly snarled.
“Dude, chill.” Freddy interrupted. “It’s a costume.”
“That’s why I’m being so picky!” The other kid said. “Last year, some slut painted her body green, glued some leaves on, and called herself Poison Ivy. She won 5,000 dollars.”
Freddy Kruger and the Fishman crossed their arms. “I saw her last year,” said Freddy. “There was a lot more to the costume than that. And who cares if he’s got a different interpretation of Trolls? Dreamworks made the film about the vintage troll dolls from the 80’s! They had long fuzzy hair!”
Jim wanted to speak up, but his knee jerk reaction in arguments now was to roar and snarl, not use his wits. He was not in practice for this.  
“But that’s an established franchise! This is…a bad homestuck OC! His horns aren’t even the right color for that!”
Claire gave Jim a look, and he returned it with a shrug.
“Well,” said the Fishman, “I think your costume is dope…uh…”
“Jim.”
“Jim. You are entered in the contest, right?”
“Yep! I was basically forced into it.” He laughed.
“We are too!”
“As am I,” the rude interloper stated. “It appears as though we are opponents.”
Jim smiled, trying to stay polite and fight back the urge to let his trollish instincts take control. “Fun! What are you supposed to be?”  
“Uh, hello?! I’m Ryuk, from Death Note!?”
Jim stared blankly. “Um, I don’t know who that is.”
“Seriously?! The main Shinigami of the series? The perfect character that crosses the border of both antagonist and protagonist?! The very god of death himself!?”
“It’s an anime,” Freddy added.
“Oh, right right. I see…” Jim lied.
“Anyways,” said Ryuk, “how about you and I make things interesting?”
Jim wasn’t much of a gambling man, but the amount of praise he had received inclined him to believe the odds were in his favor. “Go on…”
“If you win, I will pay for your hotel room and a dinner at a modest restaurant. If I win, I get to destroy your costume and take your friend out on a date.”
Jim’s restraint was reached as he let out an almost tiger-like snarl. “Not on your life!”
Ryuk backed away a step. “What, are you—afraid or something?”
“Claire isn’t a possession, damnit. I will never barter her life or her time. She’s mine, so back off!!”
Claire quickly put a hand on Jim’s chest and urged him to back down. “Jim, honey, you still have that injury. Don’t exert yourself.”
As if she summoned it, a painful throb hit Jim in the chest, and he winced.
“Whoa, you okay dude?” Asked Freddy, “you want some water?”
Jim shook his head. “No, I’m fine. Just a…minor injury.” He took some stabilizing breaths and willed his troll half into submission. Then he re-engaged the enemy. “I’ll pass on that bet.”
“Oh, so you are a chicken!”
“No, I’m just not a moron.”
The other boy crossed his arms, “And I’m not either. I’ve been to hundreds of cons, and seen and smelt every unbathed human you could imagine.”
“Ew…”
“But you two…You don’t have a hotel room, or any place to stay, do you? You look like you’ve been sleeping in the woods somewhere.”
Jim frowned hard, his teeth poking his cheeks. “So what if we have? That’s none of your business.”
“I’ll pay for your hotel room and food, if you drop out of the contest all together.” He challenged.
Claire took Jim’s hand. “Don’t. Even if you don’t win, we’ll still have money to get the cart. For once, Jim, you don’t need to be the hero and protect me. Just don’t let this punk walk all over you.”
She made a good point. Jim shrugged. “You know what? If you didn’t think I was a threat, you wouldn’t have made this bet. So forget it. We need that money.”
Freddy and the Creature from the Black Lagoon stepped up and put a hand each on Jim’s shoulder.
“If I win, I’ll pay for your guy’s stay.”
“Ditto!”
“Then may the best monster win!”  
Ryuk scoffed at the others and stormed off.
Jim snorted. “What a jerk.”
“There’s always guys like that at cons.” Said the Fishman. “Guys that are ‘purist fanboys’, guys that think that girls aren’t allowed to like pop-culture like comics and video games. Basically just asshats.”
“Well, we appreciate the support back there.” Jim grinned. “But you don’t have to pay for our room…”
“Con goers get a special price for rooms here. It’s only a 75 bucks a night. That’s a drop in the bucket for a 5,000 prize.”
“Then,” Jim decided. “If I win, I’ll pay for you!”
“Too bad! We already paid! Guess you just have to accept charity!”
The rest of the con went much smoother. The cosplayers went their separate ways, all enjoying the con at their own pace. Sometimes they’d bump into Henry and Astrid, or Freddy and Fishman.
And for just a few hours, Jim could pretend to be normal.
“You seem pretty chipper.” Claire noted, “don’t relax too much, or your armor is going to disappear.”
“It’s weird how much you forget in a month.” Jim replied. He was looking at Astrid and Henry as they gushed over dragon figurines on a booth. “I’ve spent the last few weeks in the darkness, in caves and sewers, protecting Trolls. I almost forgot that I protect the humans as well.”
“And you did, from Gunmar and Morgana.” Claire assured.
“I just…this is nice.”
Claire’s hand was in his, her thumb rubbed over his knuckles. “We should see what life is like in Arcadia. Maybe people remember the attack. Maybe you won’t have to hide.”
Jim didn’t answer initially, but then finally said. “Except from the sun.”
Finally, 11:45 rolled around. Claire caught up with Astrid and Henry, while Jim went up to the stage with Freddy and Fishman. Ryuk lurked in the background, glaring daggers at Jim.
“Wow! What a great turn out!” The announcer called on stage.
The hall was alive with cheers.
“And we have a lot of contestants in the cosplay contest this year! All competing for that sweet, sweet moola. 5,000 bucks! Cash!”
Somebody whistled.
“But you’re not all gathered here to hear me talk, so without further adieu…Jason McHaughtly as Jason Voorhees!”
There was about 20 contestants. Some had better costumes than others. Others…not so much.
“Ian Reese as Ryuk from Death Note.”
The kid that had harassed Jim earlier walked out on stage, standing ramrod straight. Whether it was stage fright or just an attempt to be creepy was unknown.
There was a polite round of applause.
“Jim Lake, as a ‘Troll Knight’.”
Jim could have simply walked out on stage, but he was in it to win it. So he ran out on stage, did a cartwheel, flipped in the air, landed in a crouch and unsheathed his sword, spinning it in a flurry of twirls. He ended in a fighting pose.
“That’s my man!” Claire shouted over the crowd.
With his advanced hearing, he could just barely hear her.
Jim sheathed his sword and began to walk off stage, when he was suddenly tackled from behind. For being kind of chubby, Ryuk was awfully nimble, as he clambered up on Jim’s back.
“This was my year! I was going to win!” He shouted, yanking on Jim’s horns.
Obviously, they weren’t going to come off, but it was still painful.
“Ouch! Dude! Get off!” Jim reached back and removed the pest with one hand, even as Ryuk held fast to his horns. Jim’s short fuse had reached it’s end as he tore the kid off and easily threw him into the crowd.
An animalistic roar tore from his throat, echoing in the hall.
The audience was silent, before they erupted in deafening cheers.
Jim took several panting breaths, before calming down and smiling awkwardly. Then he hustled off stage and out of the limelight.
“Wow, that’s going to be hard to beat!”
Jim peeked out from behind the curtain, trying to spy the kid he threw. He looked fine, but he was off to the side having a chat with the hotel security.
Jim hoped this wasn’t going to backfire on him.
He watched the rest of the competition from backstage. Everyone else was a lot calmer.
“Hey,” Freddy whispered. “That was awesome! How did you do that roar? Is it like, a speaker?”
“Uh…no, actually. I really am a troll.”
Freddy smiled. “Oh nice, this really isn’t a costume either. I really am a burn victim.”
After a pause, the two snickered.
“Alright, if we could have all the contestants come back out, please.”
Jim and Freddy stood next to each other.
“Good luck,” Jim whispered.
“Nah, you got this in the bag.”
The announcer looked at the card. “And third place, winning the 1,000 dollar prize is…Logan Garfield as Freddy Kruger!”
Jim gave him a friendly pat on the back as Logan gave him a thumbs up and accepted his reward.
“Second place, with the 2,000 dollar prize…Luna Nox as the Creature from the Black Lagoon!”
“Yes!” Jim heard his new friend cheer from the other end of the stage.
“And finally, our first place winner…”
Jim, Claire, and a small group of new friends walked down the sidewalk together. They had met up in the hotel lobby, and things quickly got weird once Freddy and Fishman showed up out of costume. Now Jim was the odd one out, though he had found a secluded place to get out of his armor.
“Even if you hadn’t won, I’m sure you easily could have sold that costume for 5,000 dollars.” Henry determined.
Jim had been handed a fat stack of hundreds, which was a good thing in the long run. He didn’t know what he would do if it had been a check. Once he and Claire had had their fun fanning themselves with the cash, he had stashed the money inside his breastplate for safe keeping. When he had dissolved his armor, the money went with it, only leaving 300 bucks for groceries and their room behind in his wallet.
“Yeah, but I don’t want to sell it, you dig?”
The group was making their way to a 24-hour pizza joint for a celebratory dinner, and then to Walmart. After, they’d return to the hotel, where Jim and Claire would spend the day.
Jim bumped his girl’s side. “You doing okay?”
“I’m wonderful,” she smiled at him. “Especially since we’re about to get pizza!”
“It’ll be nice to have a real meal, uh?”
“Yeah,” then she met his eyes. “But Jim, please don’t feel bad. I wanted to come with you, and I knew the circumstances.”
His hand rested on her waist as he gently pulled her to him. “I know…I just want to take care of you.”
They were getting away from downtown now. There were houses all closely gathered together, with wire fences.
Almost immediately, Jim halted.
“What is it?” Claire asked.
Everyone else stopped, wondering what the hold up was.
Jim’s gaze was locked on a ‘For Sale’ sign on a blue pick-up truck. One that looked like it had some lifting power. The price was 2,000 dollars.
“Claire.” He said, pointing at it. “How much weight do you think that truck can carry?”
A smiled stretched over her face. “Probably a boulder that weighs a metric ton.” She took out her phone and snapped a picture of the truck, and then the house it was in front of. “This would be better than a cart.”
“What are you guys carrying?” Henry asked.
“Uh…a rock.”
“A crystal, to be precise. We’re geo-nerds.”
“Like a quartz?”
“Yep! Exactly! A big ole quartz we found.” Despite finding strength in his new form, Jim was still an awkward teenage boy. Luckily, no one noticed.
“Well, if you guys need help loading it, just let us know.” Freddy offered.
“Oh, thanks! That’s so kind!” Claire smiled. They had plenty of help from the Trolls, but it was a nice gesture.
Dinner went well, as the kids chowed down on pizza, and Jim snuck a fork when no one was looking. After, Freddy and Fishman bid them adieu and returned to the hotel, while Jim, Claire, Astrid, and Henry went to Walmart.
“I’m surprised you didn’t take your costume off at the hotel,” Astrid noted. “It must be uncomfortable.”
“Well, actually…I can’t take it off yet.” Jim lied, “I used a super powerful glue, and it’s going to take a while before I can take my horns off. And my skin is just stained.”
It was obvious that they didn’t believe him, but they thankfully didn’t press it. “Don’t you have a change of clothes?”
“Nope! That’s why we’re going to Walmart!”
At the store, the group split. Astrid and Henry going for food, while Claire and Jim went to clothes.
“So I’m thinking long sleeves and long pants are going to be important. Maybe something with a hood. We’ll have to cut holes in it, though.” Said Claire, looking at a clearance rack.
“The more I’m protected from the sun, the better.”
“I don’t want you to get overheated though…”
“I won’t. Don’t worry.” He shrugged, flipping through the sweatshirts. “I don’t get cold or hot anymore.”
Claire half-smiled. “Must be convenient.” She pulled a pair of sweatpants off the rack. “Do you think these are big enough?” She held them up to his waist.
“It won’t hurt to try them on.”
Jim went up six sizes in pants, and he went from a medium to a XL in shirts. To say it was weird was an understatement.
Currently, he wore a black T with a skull on it that Claire had picked out, a red zip-up with thumb-holes, gray sweats, and cheap, size 13 wide sneakers. “I feel like an emo.”
Claire almost had stars in her eyes. “You look perfect.”  
He chuckled, “well, as long as I’m covered, I don’t care. Did you find a few things?”
“If we stop at the laundromat before we leave, I’ll be fine with just these.” She held up a pair of black sweatpants, something comfier to sleep in than jeans.
“Awesome. Snacks?”
“Snacks.”
The sun was just barely starting to poke over the corner when they returned to the hotel and got a room. Once inside, Claire dropped all the supplies on the floor as she resisted on leaping on the bed.
“I’m going to take a shower, immediately.” She stated. “I can’t wait to sleep in a nice warm bed.”
“Go for it, if I may use your phone?”
She handed it to him, then found her new pajamas in their bags.
As the bathroom door closed, Jim called Blinky and found the hidden bag of groceries he had purchased without telling Claire.
“Ah, Master Jim. We were beginning to wonder when you would call. What became of the costume contest?”
“I won! We got 5,000 bucks.”
“Wonderful! I assume at least. And what of the cart?”
Jim set the avocados, veggies, and spices on the counter. It had been a while since he had made anything, but the muscle memory was there. “We found something even better. There’s a truck for sale just down the road, and it’s in our price range.”
“Excellent! What is...a truck?”
“You’ve seen them. It’s like a car, but the back is like a cart, and people put stuff in them.”
“Oh yes! Now I understand. You think that will be strong enough? It is quite the hefty stone.”
“I think we can get it. The thing is, a truck is a lot faster than Trolls. So some of us will get back before the others. I’m the one who knows how to operate it, and I think Claire and Merlin should come as well, since they’re human and will need to sleep and eat.”
“I see.” Blinky paused. “We will discuss this among the group. For now, just secure the vehicle.”
“We will, later in the day. Talk to you later.” Jim hung up, and finished mixing the guacamole. He munched on the spoon idly as he set the bowl and tortilla chips on the table.
Then he poked through the items he bought, finding soap and shampoo, toothbrush and toothpaste, clean socks and underwear, and a wide hairbrush. He might have been a troll, but he wasn’t a wild animal.
The bathroom door opened in a billow of steam.
“Ahh…” said Claire. “I’ve never felt so clean in my life.”
Jim gathered his belongings. “Then it’s my turn.” He kissed her cheek as he passed. He got a whiff of her smell and almost went back to kiss her again.
“Jim!” She shouted.
“Hmm?”
“Did you make me guacamole!?”
He grinned. “Maybe.”
He could have sworn there were tears in her eyes. “Thank you, you’re so good to me.”
“I try.”
In the bathroom, Jim stripped and climbed into the shower. It was a weird moment remembering that the temperature of the water didn’t bother him. He felt it more on some of his more human parts, like his chest and his five fingered hand.
He lathered up well, using the loofa he bought as well.
It was like scrubbing a rock. He couldn’t exactly tell when he was clean, but he did his best. His horns got in the way as he shampooed his hair and scruff, but he made sure they got cleaned as well.
Finally, he decided he was done and dried off, rubbing the towel frantically through his hair. It fluffed up, and made him look wild. He brushed his teeth and then combed through his mane.
When he emerged, Claire was laying on her stomach on the bed, idly watching cartoons.
“There’s my fluffy boy.” She grinned, seeing him without his shirt.
“I tried to comb it out.”
“Come here,” she urged, sitting up.
Jim sat on the floor by her feet.
The brushing felt nice. Not so much the brush itself, but the way Claire’s hand ran over the hair after.
“So…” she began. “What are we?”
Jim was confused, and turned slightly to give her a look, but she forced him to sit straight. “I thought we were boyfriend and girlfriend?”
“Still?”
The question had hurt a little, honestly.
“You’ve…we’ve been kind of distant. I thought things…had changed.”
He curled in on himself a little. “I didn’t know if you would think it was weird…I’m not exactly human anymore.”
“No, no you’re not.” She agreed.
He looked at his hands. “I still love you, I’m just scared.”
She finished brushing out his hair and allowed him to move. He stayed on the ground, kneeling in front of her.
“You’ve never said you loved me before.”
Jim opened his mouth to speak, but then shut it, frowning hard.
“Are you scared of me?”
He didn’t say yes, but he didn’t say no either.
She reached out and held his face with her hands. “Jim, I told you before, whatever you are…I love you. Please, don’t pull away from me.”
She watched his adam’s apple bob as he swallowed hard.
She continued, “My life was…boring without you. I thought a play was important! But since I met you, my life has been nothing but adventure. Even our dullest days are exciting, because you’re here.”
He shook his head as his eyes started to water. “I tried my damnedest to impress you.” His voice broke, “I did the play because I was crushing on you. And I was so hoping to get the girl in the end…but…” A few tears escaped, as he sniffed. “I can’t.”
“You can, and you have.” She pulled him closer by the horns. “Because unless you tell me to leave, I will stay by your side.” She brushed his tears away with her thumbs. “So don’t cry, Trollhunter. Your sacrifices weren’t in vain.”
He nodded, rising to his feet. He scooped Claire up, holding her to him close as she wrapped her arms around his neck and her legs around his waist.
Finally, he laid her down on the bed, giving her a cute kiss to the forehead. He climbed up on the bed with her, and reclined on his side, looking at her.
And in the quiet moment of serenity, the two just looked at each other. With their souls this time, looking past outside appearances and just living in the moment. For words were not enough to convey what needed to be said.
Still, something nagged at Claire’s mind, and she sat up, crossing her legs.
“So, I…I actually meant something else when I asked what we were,” she began. “My parents kind of figured if I was leaving with you, that meant…well, when we came back…we’d be married.”
His eyebrows rose. “Oh.”
“Yeah…”
His lower lip stuck out, a quizzical look. “We’re kind of young, don’t you think?”
She leaned back on her arms. “Yeah, I suppose. But the thing is…I can’t see myself with anyone else. I’ve crushed on and dated a handful of guys…and none of them are like you.”
“As far as we know, I’m the only half-troll in the world.” He giggled.
Claire hit him with a pillow. “That’s not what I meant! You’re just putting words in my mouth!”
“That’s not the only thing I’m going to put in your mouth.” He wiggled his eyebrows.
Two could play at this game, “oh yeah, and what’s that? Hmm?”
He hadn’t expected her to call him on his bluff. “Uhh…my…tongue?”
She giggled. “Ooo, risky!”
His nostrils flared. “What were you saying about me being different?”
She sobered, and leaned closer to him. “No one, not a single man I’ve met in my life, was willing to sacrifice what you did. You risked not only your life, but everything else you had to save my baby brother from the Darklands. You came for me in the void…Then…you gave up your body…your freedom…to save us. You could have just risked it, but you made the extra decision to ensure we were safe.”
He looked up at her with his blue, blue eyes. “I had to Claire. I…I couldn’t just…”
She cupped his face. “You are fantastic, and lovely, and wonderful. I want to spend the rest of my life with you, my Romeo.”
Jim tugged on her, pulling her to him. He wrapped his arms around her, hugging her tightly. He nuzzled his nose in her hair, breathing in her shampoo. “And I want you, too.” Then he leaned in and kissed her tenderly. When he pulled away, he smiled at her warmly. “I want to make sure I can take care of you, though. I don’t want our married life to be remembered by sleeping on hard rocks and not bathing for weeks.”
“I mean…”
“I know you can handle it.” He interjected. “But I can’t. I can’t handle seeing you uncomfortable. You deserve the very best.” He ran his fingers through her hair. “So, when we return to Arcadia…I’m going to make us a home in Troll market. Then I will ask, officially. I’ll get permission and everything.”
Claire smiled, her cheeks hurting. “Thank you,” she whispered.
He kissed her, slow and deep, making her toes curl. She wrapped her arms around his neck, burying her fingers in his still damp hair as his hands ran over her body.
Claire’s heart thudded in her chest and Jim teased her with his tongue, and idly played with the waistband of her pants.
She tugged on his horn, pulling him even closer and returning his kiss with vigor.
They pulled apart, resting their foreheads together.
“I told you—“
“Yeah, yeah.” She giggled. “I liked it.”
“Yeah?”
“Yeah,” she pecked him gently.
“Even with the teeth?”
She snickered. “Even with the teeth.”
“And the horns?”
She tugged on them. “What do you think?”
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