#the next time someone asks me why i watch series like this instead of mainstream shows and movies anymore I'm just going to show them this
shadeswift99 · 1 year
"Redemption arcs are an overdone and badly executed trope" factoid is actually just statistical error. Redemption Arcs Mythicalsausage, who spent episodes after his Xornoth possession systematically apologizing to the people he hurt and working to regain their trust while also giving them ample space to forgive him or not forgive him in their own time, as well as setting up an accountability network to keep himself from falling into evil again, is an outlier adn SHOULD be counted because oh my god it is so refreshing to see someone actually make their redemption a real arc instead of just a tacked-on excuse and a guilt trip -
#Mythicalsausage#empires smp#the next time someone asks me why i watch series like this instead of mainstream shows and movies anymore I'm just going to show them this#because you have NO IDEA how good this feels#it's a redemption arc that doesn't make me feel bad!! it doesn't give me an inexplicable sinking feeling!!#it's not focused on guilt! it's not about Sausage feeling guilty and down on himself for the things he did#and it's not about guilting other people for not immediately accepting that he's cool now either!#and there's REALISTIC ON SCREEN HEALING TIME?? Both physically and emotionally? For everyone??#it's too good to be true#it's so so so good in so many ways#how the things he did have lasting repercussions that don't disappear when he decides to turn over a new leaf#but also the consequences don't isolate or punish him in a way that makes the viewer wonder why he bothered trying at all#the way he takes accountability for things and doesn't push away other people's pain#while ALSO having a clear boundary in terms of how much accusation he'll take before reminding people that he was in fact possessed#and he gave his tools to Gem#it's a tiny detail but i swear I'm going to cry about it#he gave his corrupted tools to Gem...for safekeeping...#and he can ask her for them back and use them for a bit if he needs to if she asks him a few questions to know why and that he's safe#but he gave them to her to keep because he didn't trust himself with them at that point and that's just... that's good. that's very good.#that's genuine very good coping right there#....yeah it's been a Day apparently I am in fact tearing up over this#but the arc is good okay! it's very good!!#sausage <3#this man can WRITE
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wellntruly · 2 years
Sense8, Season 2, Half the Second + the Finale
In retrospect I really should have listened to my instincts saying I should write up the back half of S2 before watching the film-length series finale, but the problem with that was: I just wanted to keep watching so bad. An error was made! Because there is much to discuss in 2x07-2x11, but it becomes difficult to parcel it out in light of how the conclusion of this show was a 2.5 hour euro-hopping Gotta Get Our Guy epic that was also 3x more of a comedy than the rest of the series—a move I, if you’ll pardon me, L😘VED.
So this is surely gonna be a whole mess to structure, but you know what we’ll try!
Alright, in my recollection, the latter half of Season 2 has three big showdown tentpoles, they are:
- Wolfgang v. Lila (Cluster v. Cluster) - Dani v. Hollywood - Sun v. Bro
There is other stuff going on too of course, like Capheus being swept into whole ass political warfare (again!), and the thing where Will is actual-pants circling a heroin addiction from his time evading Whispers. This rules honestly, I like outcomes. And also affords us a really great Will/Kala scene, honestly one of my favorite pair-ups for both of them. Kala has this very open and thoughtfully distracting way of being a damsel in distress, where it’s like she just arrives and goes I’m having a personal issue, and I am trying to deal with that, but you’re about to do something very stupid so I had to come over here, and now we both need to help each other. And of course on Officer Little Spoon, that’s basically all he’s ever wanted to hear. I can both help and be helped simultaneously, my dream!
The different things that come out of different cluster combinations is one of my favorite, favorite things about this show. I’m a nerd who loves thinking about the mechanics of storytelling, and a premise where we always have seven other people who could arrive to contextualize a character’s circumstances feels like I’ve been given the biggest writing snack box I've ever seen. Anything you want to have happen, there’s someone who can get that going for you. Anything you’re curious about with a character, there’s someone who can open that door. This is a truly, truly character-driven show, which I believe is why [behind the scenes clip] I have been struggling trying to write this post by plot instead of characters this time. It just doesn’t work that well with Sense8, that’s not how it’s built. I mean here I was trying to frame this around three main plot beats of the second half of S2, and in less than a paragraph I’m getting waylaid into talking about my favorite cluster pairs and how & why they work the way they do!
For instance, if you ask me one of the all-time combinations, for just the pure Sense8 vibes of them, is Riley/Sunnnn, Riley/Sun! I think it’s because they are able to just be tired with each other in a way neither of them fully are with anyone else. So although they’re a melancholy pair, they’re also one of the most relaxed, and it has a relaxing effect on us too—something of that base Zen I was trying to describe back at the beginning.
Some SUBLIME Sun/Lito material in the back half of S2 too. Both raucously and poignantly juxtaposing one another, sometimes all at the same time, the way they always are together ("and she's not crying the same way that I'm not SCREAMING!") I could quote whole swaths of their new crying scene here with Lito flung on her bed with the stuffed animals, but I will refrain!
But Sun is like salt: she brightens every other sensate she's paired with. That’s part of what makes her such an ideal focal point for another big cluster collab to center around this season. The other appeal is that Sun getting to fight at a gala means she’ll be doing so wearing something incredible. Did I know it would mostly be just silver metallic booty shorts and kicky ankle boots? Well I could never have dreamed.
Nor could I have dreamt up Detective Mun, one of the few times a character is introduced just to be a love interest where you’re like oh but TOTALLY babe. I was pretty on board with him from when he showed up at her teacher’s house, but when he next appears in his hoot of a graveyard groundskeeper disguise, then proceeds to spar with her all through the tombstones because he knows that will make her feel better, and then literally a single tear drops out of this man’s eye when he gets one kiss from her, uh. I shipped it. A lot. God get his handsome ass, Sun.
Speaking of handsome asses!!—I will be yelling “FROM QUEER TO ETERNITY!” for the rest of my goddamn life. Oh…my fucking god. Mexico City sure has a hell of a run here, but when is Mexico City NOT having a hell of a run, I ask you! Listen I had been waaaaaaiiting for Daniela to become Lito’s agent, oh howww had I been waiting. She needs a job and he needs someone to get him a job, and clearly she was going to be a NATURAL at it. DOUBLE FISTING HER & HERNANDO’S CELLPHONES LIKE THE LATINA MALCOLM TUCKER, I’m in love.
I do have a sliiiight question though. In this Mexico…did Y Tu Mamá También not come out like fifteen years earlier? Did not Gael García Bernal and Diego Luna go on to become huge stars, careers very not tarnished? Did not Gael García Bernal—whom we’ve confirmed canonically exists in this timeline!—then even make La Mala Educación with Pedro Almodóvar also?? Fuuuuck wait Lito needs to make an Almodóvar are you KIDDING me, that’s your new hugely emotional gay niche buddy!!!!! But really though, not to get side-tracked: is the Mexican film industry really that homophobic? I mean yes, Mexico is a very conservative country, but like, so is America. Yeah of course I can see a situation where say, none of the Marvel stars would be “allowed” to be out because for massive action movies you need to make massive profits in order to make back the production costs, and so you don’t want to risk ostracizing conservative America and conservative China, so sure, with the Latino machismo thing in play as well, can totally see why Lito coming out would mean he couldn’t keep making the kind of mainstream het-flicks that had been his bread & butter. But for his whole agency to drop him??? In the county that has produced three filmmakers who between them have won 50% of the Oscars for best directing of the past ten years?? That is where I’m starting to get the feeling this might have been a bit…much. But y’know, by the other hand we sure had São Paulo Pride, so it’s completely not that this show is acting like you just can’t be gay in public in Latin America. Perhaps, like most everything, it’s just a complex situation. Perhaps there’s some truth here, as well as some exaggeration, like a lot of TV and movies, from a lot of different countries.
Hey I got another question! But this one is a world-building thought experiment I’ve become rather fixated on. You see I’m really curious over how this whole other cluster of Lila’s seems to be evil, as they are all helping her with what she’s doing. How does that come about. Are clusters just naturally similarly morally oriented to one another pre-connection, or is it more that after rebirth they might start moving toward one another in a heightened kind of groupthink. What if one member of our cluster had been like I Want To Be Bad News, would the rest of them just be like aw lame, black sheep of the family, or could they have been swept into it too? Like could the tendency toward sensorium groupthink be really dangerous, something you’d need to be careful about, to guard your cluster against being infected by an Idea. I’m fascinated by this possibility.
I guess if our cluster were going to be pulled toward darker behavior, it would probably have to be by Wolfgang, but part of what’s fascinating about HIM, is that just simply is not going to be happening on his watch. His loyalty drive is so interesting. He just woke up one day connected to these people and was like okay yeah I’ll lay down my life for you weirdos. I mean the whole Lila thing even happens because Wolfgang wants to just take care of this for the group, make sure no harm or worry comes to them regardless of what might happen to himself. Meanwhile everyone in his actual life he’s like, we have nothing between us Actually, sorry. Associates, randos, family—all the same. The big blinking exception of course is single solitary Felix, who is basically the model for how he’ll treat his clustermates.
Yet all that said, I was fucking staggered by the turn of the S2 finale. I REALLY had not expected Wolfgang for a kidnapped role! This is honestly an avant-garde choice. I mean to quote Jerah Milligan talking about The Old Guard: “—first of all, I knew that white dude was getting kidnapped. I don’t know why. I was like, something about him seems too nice: they gon’ get him. [laughs]” Because that’s how it usually goes!! But Wolfgang ISN’T nice in that kidnappable way, at all. Though admittedly I guess by this point we’ve already strapped down every other available white person to a bed at some time. And, as discussed, Wolfgang is a dramatically interesting choice because his cluster safety prioritizing instincts mean he will have approximately one hair’s worth of resistance to overcome to the idea that he should just take himself out, like their mom, before the Cannibal can eat through him to them. Wolfgang comes with his own self-destruct timer, basically.
Anyway this plot really is at its core the very same shape as The Old Guard, which does make me wonder: what is it about queer, multi-racial, supernatural-inflected action projects and the plot driver of “they took one of our people for Torture and we are going to get them back.”
For that is the simple and spicy gambit that kicks off the events of S3! Or the condensed feature we got of it, at least. No matter, nosebleeds and pained panting for everyone! Highly effective measure to bring everyone together, and quickly. I acknowledge we needed to keep tumbling forward for that sense of urgency, so I’ll just imagine in my head the missed moments of them all reeling a bit at finally touching one another for real [tiny scream]. And, Lito finally telling Hernando and Dani!!!!! In the most traumatizing possible circumstances good job baby.
Perhaps odd that from all this angst the final few hours would turn out to be so funny, but oh my god were they, and oh my god Yes.
Where even to begin. Well here’s one: There’s no way I can prove this but I never believed Jonas was dead and guess what. Meanwhile I *had* believed he’d turn out to have always been the goodest of guys, but was absolutely exhilarated by his steady development into this mild-mannered enigma no one can make heads or tails of anymore. Schrödinger's ally. This conversational sensorium Fae where you truly don’t know if he’s here to help you or harm you at any given moment, but everyone has just accepted him as part of the ecosystem. He shows up and they’re just like, aw jeez. Literally Nomi when he first reappears: “I didn’t think I could be any more confused by you, but congratulations, you found a way.” Literally Will by Jonas’s last pop-up appearance in the finale: “OhPLEASE Jonas not now!” Incredible.
The thing is, Lana Wachowski can DO funny. She can direct these totally kick ass, cinematic, big ol heroics fight scenes one episode, and then the next an action sequence as perfectly human and hilarious as that disorganized scramble up and back down the rooftops of Paris, that had me wheezing. Oh my gOD. Nomi suddenly running back to save Amanita even though that’s SO stupid, Lito immediately haring after her yelling “Family we’re coming!!”, meanwhile Jonas just does a runner off the other edge and Will’s like ahhhfjafd, and slips trying to go after him. Overjoying. And that’s all before we got to the tour bus Trojan Horse scene, A G I F T. Me in my notes, visibly losing it: “Asian tourists Sun and Mun are MURDERING me, Lito looks EXACTLY LIKE SUFJAN STEVENS, Felix has a bandanna holding back his bangs and is cowering with Wolfie in pastel denims—help help help help”
There really seemed to be a deliberate choice to make the finale more comedic, which just to reiterate, I am aaaall about. Humor does not have to come at the expense of drama or stakes! Imo it often enhances them.
I also feel there were a couple character notes given out before the finale got underway. One, make Capheus a blast and a half—dang you did it! He is so fun in “Season 3.” Sort of a return to how happy-go-lucky he was in S1 before the weight of the world really started coming down on his shoulders, but also just a little bit of a reconfiguring as well. He became super effusive, basically, the kind of person who immediately upon meeting him is going to sweep Felix up in his arms for a big laughing bear hug. He’s basically become the cluster’s wise himbo, if that’s not a contradiction in terms, and it’s a welcome energy.
The second was the reboot of Rajan back to the absurdly sweet goober he was in S1, something that allowed for a HUGE development to unfold, which we are at last gonna get to.
Rare for a male character, I appreciate that Rajan has gone through three distinct styling looks over these three seasons, which I will call The Hair, The Cut, and The Beard. 1 and 3 are good! Interestingly, Rajan the character is bad in S2 too—connection?? But honestly somehow Rajan had slid from being the crushingly sincere dreamboat who planned a whole dance number to do for his wife at their wedding, to this distracted pharma husband whom I was pretty certain was involved in whole scale political racketeering. The reveal that he was actually helping uproot some political racketeering does work I guess, but what works the most is having him show up in Paris in a little scarf being baffled while cradling scientific equipment someone’s handed him to his chest with both arms. Well this man is back to being adorable, I thought, and I am SO supportive.
The thing is, The Hair was always great, and The Beard is him but more. He’s kind, he’s funny (the only utterance of “My wife!” I have ever burst out laughing at), he’s usefully loaded, and he almost always meets new circumstances with that combination of curiosity, factual reasoning, and open-mindedness that I think of as a marker of all good scientists. It is no wonder to me at all that Kala spent the finale realizing she really does love this dude, nor after processing it for 1.5 seconds, am I at all surprised that Wolfgang was like wait hang on, can I like him too? Wolfgang Brogdanow, who has been turning his mouth towards the mouths of other men since Orgy 1, was so imminently suited to be like hey, now that I’ve met him and he’s fucking cute, a Thought: do you guys wanna party. What if we’re over the love triangle, what if the threesome is what we do.
AND SO THAT’S JUST WHAT WE DID. I whole-heartedly approve, wow suddenly I'm invested in Kala/Wolfgang now that it's this!! Plus Lito & Hernando decided to have some sexy make-out fun with Dani, a very hot and adorable choice as well.
Because Sense8 said OBVIOUSLYYY we’re ending with another big queer sense-orgy come on, come on. The final shot will be a pan over the newlywed lesbians’ discarded strap-on then a cut to “for our fans,” fuck yes and good NIGHT.
And a final round of loose notes I’d jotted down:
wait Neets has THREE dads??? I just thought she had two!
the thing is by this point I look at Wolfgang and am like, I’d give you a kidney
OBSESSED with the Ikea glass of water next to the blockers in the abandoned church
Hernando and Dani are having strawberry margaritas and Lito just walked out in a onesie
man, I should just try to be the Amanita I want to see in the world
“I’m not saying it’s not natural—though, let us remember that cancer is natural, so naturalism itself should not be considered a virtue—” Kala I love you
~*Iberian Dreams*~
forever entranced with Sun’s teacher handing her a carpetbag and saying he packed her some clothes, and then literally every new scene of her for the rest of the series she is wearing the coolest high end fashion piece you have ever seen in your life. sir!?
y’know what Brian J. Smith is doing a good job here, the boy’s been a wreck since the moment he entered the hallway
god every golden hour shot in India, the colors…
their crowd scenes are so intense because they really get the CROWD, and it FEELS different
every time Will tries to say he’s a cop…shhh honey please, shh no please
I *love* them all piling up together behind the car, the choREOgraphy
Kala like excuse me, can I just, and reaching right into Sun’s bra: we love it
oh I was TRULY WONDERING if we were ever going to go back to how much Wolfgang loves singers but is afraid to sing! wow remember when it seemed like that was gonna be his thing.
Jonas would be reading Proust
me at a certified killer, armed: “Barefoot biscuit, this is never gonna work”
wait they’re finally speaking Hindi what the fuck!!
well at least it happened for a moment!
yeessss Dani
yeeeeeesssss Dani
fuck I love this show people are always saying shit like “I’m the Speaker of the Archipelago”
doing it at a club is delicious. Milton is literally leashed.
aww, I just realized our cluster is an orphan 😩
everything Max Mauff does with his body in this Wolfie reunion scene caused me to make a convulsive gesture with my hands. good show buddy, wow
my favorite Lila is no question Italy Endures Lila
Puck’s hair thing, is so weird, I’m obsESSED
honestly big ups to everyone’s boyfriends for their rapid up-take of this: Hernando, Rajan, Mun, Felix—this one’s for you, boys!
Wolfgang teaching Rajan through Kala and finding this oddly enjoyable…I don’t know if we skipped past the part where they’re all okay with it but I love the world where they’re all okay with it
I’m so glad we get to end this with a big gay wedding
a big gay wedding set to the Magnetic Fields??!? are you doing this to me right now!
the AMOUNT of poly threeways happening here!! I mean just two but that’s an astonishing number. out of six!! that’s a third!!
anyway everyone in this cluster is the guidance counselors from Caleb Gallo, but especially Lito and Hernando
Will: You guys are in like a three way…relationship? Lito: It’s called a throuple we’re in a throuple. Hernando: We’re in a gay-centric semi-nonsexual throuple with us and Daniela. Will: Will: What is— Hernando: It means we don’t have sex with her as often as we have sex with each other, but we do love her and she does live here and she’s in this relationship. Lito: She’s in this relationship.
(Kala, leaning forward from where Rajan and Wolfgang are nibbling each of her ears (they just cheerfully fall forward into the space she’s vacated to keep making out behind her): “Wait can you repeat this?”)
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jeannereames · 2 years
Hi, Dr. Reames!! I wanted to ask your help regarding character building. I really want to write a character people won’t love, but also won’t hate. I don’t want to write someone who is utterly detestable, or aim for people to hate them (I don’t mean to write a villain and I don’t want to have them do something unforgivable where even I draw the line, like s*exual ab*se, nor have them be so annoying they want to leave the story unfinished because they can’t stand them, like it happened to me with Bagoas while reading The Persian Boy), but also don’t want to write simply a good guy who does bad things. I also don’t want to write a character that is redeemed, nor a character that readers will find the way to save or love anyway, forgiving all the awful things they did, (like Lucien Carr in Kill Your Darlings, Draco Malfoy from Harry Potter, Oliver in CMBY, Who I freaking HATE, but for some reason everyone loves), even if I don’t have any control in what they will do to my characters once they are out there. I don't want my readers to put them in a pedestal just because they're funny, good-looking, have a tragic backstory, represent a minority or whatever (the last one might be controversial, I know). I want to make a character people will "like", without being able to ignore the shitty things they do. (In a nutshell, how to write the ultimate anti-tumblr character).
Anyway, I could go on and on about this, but I think you got my point XD
I appreciate any thoughts you could give me about this and I don't want to miss the chance to tell you how much I admire your work as a writer and historian. Thank you for giving this ask a chance!
I think what you’re asking for is how to write a truly 3D character. *grin*
Character complexity takes time to build, requiring focus and deliberation. Construct scenes that allow you to demonstrate different (good and bad) aspects of a character’s personality. In short, SHOW (in a scene or via conversation), don’t tell in the narrative. That’s authorial intrusion.
You will also want to consider genre. Mainstream fiction (by definition) lacks expectations, and some genres allow, even expect, character nuance. For instance, mysteries and its several sub-genres have a soft spot for imperfect protags. Similarly hard SF, space opera, and anthro SF do too: consider Greg Bear’s Blood Music or Vernor Vinge’s A Fire Upon the Deep. Epic fantasy, by contrast, has historically tended to simpler-drawn characters (following Tolkien)—although that’s changed a lot, especially since the ‘90s. Military fiction (historical or not) tolerates flawed characters well. Genre Romance does not; it requires heroic leads who have few flaws, or undergo redemption if they are flawed. Although again, in the hands of a truly good author complexity can be introduced (Alice Archer’s The Infinite Onion comes to mind). Romcoms, and (to a lesser degree) women’s fiction (sometimes called “Chick Lit”) can be a mixed bag.
My most important bit of advice involves two questions every author should consider for each of their primary and also (imo) major secondary characters:
1) What are that character’s goals, and their motives for those goals?
2) What will that character do (and not do) to achieve them?
When an author understands their characters, then a character’s actions and reactions make sense and are consistent. Consistency is super important for character creation.
It doesn’t really matter if you want a character to be an antagonist or an outright villain. Or you need that character to be your hero, or anti-hero. It all boils down to what the character wants, and what they will do to achieve it. Also how SERIOUS that ambition is: just a wish, a serious long-term desire, or life-and-death?
A character can have more than one driving ambition—even ambitions that conflict. And in that conflict can come some of the best drama! It also keeps characters from being mean just to be mean (which is boring).
Yet I want to point out that good, 3D character development means characters must change. You mentioned not wanting to write a character who’s redeemed, but that requires you to think about what sort of character arc you want your character to have—as they shouldhave one. Where is that character going? If they’re the same at the end as at the beginning, there’s no development and they’re at best 2D, maybe even 1D.
Tertiary characters don’t need to grow. They have a particular job to do in the story and it’s limited. But secondary characters can be more nuanced and may show development; it serves the author to think about their motives. And the main protagonists as well as significant secondaries really need to grow and change.
Let’s return to the need for motivations. Motives can lead a character to do unsympathetic things. A character’s developmental trajectory might cause a change in those motivations. If so, it could lead to a redemption for that character—and there’s nothing wrong with a good, complex redemption story. Yet there are some reasons it might not:
1) The character isn’t prominent enough to have a developmental arc. (E.g., a tertiary or lower secondary character.)
2) The character’s developmental arc is unrelated to whatever is the unsympathetic action or opinion.
3) The character’s developmental arc may be character descent instead of redemption.
Now, with all that theory, let me give two concrete examples. One comes from Dancing with the Lion: a character who does bad things without a redemption arc because it would conflict with her motivations. The second comes from my new series, Master of Battles: a character whose story does include a redemption arc because that’s the entire trajectory of that character.
First up: Myrtalē/Olympias in Dancing with the Lion, Alexandros’s mother. It’s key to note that she’s a non-point-of-view secondary character, so we’re never in her head to know what she’s thinking. As important as she is—and as much as I wanted to give her nuance—her impact is largely ON other characters. She is what I’d term a “second-tier” secondary character. “First-tier” secondaries would be Kleopatra, Aristoteles, Kampaspe, Ptolemaios, Amyntor and Philippos himself. E.g., all POV (point-of-view) characters. Not all have strong character arcs. Kleopatra does; she’s one of the principal secondaries. But Myrtalē’s role in the novel as a second-tier secondary character means she doesn’t necessarily need to have a developmental arc. I still wanted to present her as more than a simplistic trope.
In much Alexander fiction, Olympias (using that name on purpose) is portrayed as a femme fatale or crazy bitch or overpowering mother, based on whatever Freudian/misogynistic theory the author favored that week. But most ignore her motivations, or those motivations revolve around vengeance and sexual jealousy of Philip’s other wives (e.g., largely modern motives).
In Dancing with the Lion, Myrtalē /Olympias has one primary goal/ambition: get her son on the throne. It’s somewhat self-serving in that, if Alexandros doesn’t inherit, he’ll be killed—and so will she. Ergo, her motivation is literally life-and-death. The seriousness should be underscored.
What will she do to achieve her end? Pretty much anything, up to and including murder. The alternative is her son’s death, and probably her own. Nothing is more dangerous than a mother protecting her offspring.
Yet, because that is her goal, it eliminates a lot of “crazy bitch” behavior attributed to her. Why would she fight with Philip “just because” unless it furthers Alexandros’s position? Antagonizing the reigning king, who can name a preferred heir, is stupid. Similarly, why would she alienate other women in the women’s rooms, unless they have a competitive heir? Befriending and protecting other wives of Philippos (like the teen bride Meda) makes her allies, not enemies.
Very early in the novel, she’s concerned that Philippos is removing Alexandros from under her watchful (protective) eye by sending him to Mieza to study with Aristoteles. Then, a bit later, she advises Alexandros, on his trip to Epiros, to make an ally of his uncle, the (new) Epirote King—because he might need support later and they’re blood kin. These are examples of her concerns.
In both cases, Alexandros dismisses those concerns as he’s young and wants to trust his father, but her motives are not “anti-Philip” or witchy-bitchy Olympias jealous of Philippos’s other marriages. She is LASER focused on keeping Alexandros alive. That concern motivates everything she does. I also show her “kind” side, as with Meda (mentioned above), or in her concern for Kampaspē, Alexandros’s mistress. Mytalē take Kampaspē under her wing and worries about her well-being after the wedding feast catastrophe: the only one to actually think about her, not accidentally stumble over her (like Hephaistion).
Moving forward in the series, Myrtalē will do some pretty terrible things, but always in pursuit of her primary motivation: protect and elevate her son. She won’t ask for, expect, or even want “forgiveness” for those choices.
My next example comes from Master of Battles: the chief protagonist, Teo. “The bully” is a staple of high school/other stories. For a while, I’ve wanted to write about “the bully who grew up and realized he’d been a jerk.” Teo is that bully. It’s not a high school setting (MoB is epic fantasy), but Teo is handsome, smart, talented, and from an important family: typical bully tropes. Popular, arrogant, sure of his place, and dismissive of others—but also disliked for his meanness. All of it leads him to follow an evil sorcerer who appeals to his pride.
The first novel in the series (The Oriole) begins with his flight/separation from that sorcerer and his conscious rejection of his former, self-centered bully identity. He’ll meet up with a unique, kind-hearted prince who doesn’t suffer his faults. But a lot of the first three (of four) books deal with his conscious attempt to redeem himself from some terrible things. So “redemption” IS his character arc/road to maturity.
Yet along the way, he’s shown to retain vestiges of his old self. His arrogance has softened to self-confidence in his healing skills. Yet while he takes pride in being a healer, unlike the other lead character (the prince Ision), he doesn’t really like most people, who he often finds tiresome. His arrogance is still there. He’s a bit of a modern surgeon cliché…he’s really good and knows it. He’d rather heal you, but not deal with you as a human being. And when he dislikes someone (such as Ision’s mother for how she treated Ision), he can be downright mean in petty ways. Ergo, even as he seeks to be better, he retains echoes of his original faults. The difference is that he’s been humbled by his experience, and recognizes that these traits are defective.
Redemption arcs need to 1) have nuance, 2) not be instant, and 3) HAVE A MOTIVE. So we’re back to what is the character’s motivationfor change? In Teo’s case, he’s come to realize (via a pivotal event involving the sacrifice of a fox) the true horror of what he’s become. And it’s the memory of his parents’ unconditional love for him as a child that motivates him to be better (as well as, eventually, his love and admiration for Ision). Ergo, he has a reason for change.
Yet note that I begin the story after his choice. Because he’s one of the two chief protagonists, I need to TIME the introduction of his less-than-charming aspects, as I don’t want readers to hate him from the get-go. Also, that foregrounds redemption as his character arc. It doesn’t feel like a case of, “Oh, I really like and feel sorry for this smarmy character, so I’m going to make him better.” The plot direction for the character is, from the start, to become better.
Redemption arcs are tricky and, imo, need to be strongly intentional on the part of the author, not an afterthought. Otherwise, they feel either shoe-horned in, or like an apologia.
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cristalknife · 2 years
On Comments, feedback anxiety on both the writer and the reader’s side
 If one could look into  my WIP draw, or take a glance at the fics I’ve actually posted, it becomes clear misunderstandings based on miscommunication is something I seem have a thing for. In all honesty is more of a lifelong study and recurring theme I keep stumbling on or consciously walking into. Preface: I am only human and mistakes can happen, but usually I try to handle the detailed label (also referred as Read the Tin or as written on the tin) of major warning with my writings that is usually missing in any other aspect of life, sort of a lovely user manual/preview so one could know to walk away before getting invested or worse triggered. 
Or at least know exactly what they signed up for.
Is it perfect? No but at least it’s there, as a writer I did all I could to avoid unpleasantness, the rest it’s up to the reader’s discretion. Which leads me to the heart of this post: comments, feedbacks, criticism, politically correctness, manners and the anxiety they produce in both the writer and the reader. 
The picture is big so I’ll divide in sides, but remember that people are made of multiple sides, and sometimes those sides are at odds or outwardly warring against each other. That’s pretty average for any irrational human being with emotions.
From the POV of an overthinking anxious writer:
1)  Ao3′s Kudos are sort of like a watered down thumbs up, after about 4-5 fic posted (or ~15K words of stories out there to be consumed), they became the kind of anxiety triggers feeding thoughts of why so many people/guests left a kudo but the story wasn’t good enough to warrant the time of a comment/review 2) Comments are lovely reminder someone found something in your words that made them react so strongly they felt like sharing that reaction with you was worth their time. 
2.1) Comments are also the cause of anxiety about their content before you have the courage to read what they says...
3) Criticisms and feedbacks can be a wonderful tool to improve your writing for the next story. But not if they are laced with insult, personal attacks in that case they are the kind of black hole that pushes people to stop writing all together, or at least stop sharing what they write. 
4) single emoji (♥), 2 char long (<3) comments takes years of effort and a lot of conditioning to remember to slip in reader mode and appreciate the effort it took to stop and do even that, instead of allowing doubts to gnaw at the back of your head with waaaiiiiit that’s all? was it good? was it bad? arrrghhh what does it even mean??? 
5) Statistics and numbers, those are the evilest of the most buggering things and the most vile tempters that will push you to compare your stories against others (a futile exercise in frustration and pointless reason to shred one’s own self confidence to the tiniest of pieces for literally nothing)
5.1) Especially when you have two writing mind frames: 
 writing the stories you want to read (and usually it is either a niche where you’ve already consumed all you could find so you write it because duh, more content might ignite back the fire please, or you haven’t found yet someone to say it how you want to read it) vs what I simply call 
 exorcism writing (the kind of free therapy exercise when something is bugging the heck out you and not leaving your mind so you put it down to words and then let them fly free, instead of trapping them on a diary you’d just return to read and start the vicious cycle all over again)
5.1.1) and your exorcism stories become more popular than the stories you want to read, because at the end of your raw ranting exorcism you managed to write something that would end up falling within mainstream tropes. Which just makes you sad because those were not the result of love and planning and endless hours of writing and editing that you put in your other stories.
6) I’m not writing fan fiction to be an educator, it is possible that my day job is being an educator, but unless I’m there writing textbooks, as a writer it is not my responsibility to teach the reader something that has to be authentic, realistic and a good practice. I’m just here to tell a story.  Or are you really telling me that you watch superheros movies and series and expect them to appear outside your window? If you just laughed then why are you looking at fanfic smut with the expectation of finding a more interesting and alternative way to have a sex ed lesson? If you subscribe to the school that a story has has to make sense... Let me ask have you ever read some of the greatest literature works like Frankenstain, Moby Dick, The Hobbit, Journey to the center of the Earth, Alice through the looking glass, Aeneas, if you did and subscribe to “fiction as to make sense” then please please enlighten me I’m rady to sit back and hear all the points you can make how any of those are realistic representations of how things go. If you  says that those are just stories told oh so long ago... Lets pick more recent ones, the Harry Potters books, Goosebumps, Twilight, The Shadowhunters Chronicles, 50 shades of , all those are listed as fiction  which yes sadly too many used as a portrait of theme touched in there as realistic because the story was not set in a fantastical world and made the mistake of treating a work of fiction as a documentary... Sorry people I’m a writer, choosing the right words matters, words meanings and definitions matter please  learn to think critically, and learn your words, there is a difference between fiction and documentary  6.1) At the same time it might be that I am the kind of writer who loves to add factually authentic things in my writings, someone who actually had spent hours and hours on research to make sure that what they have been writing is not utter and complete made up rubbish, and that’s ok too. I do not expect readers to assume it is correct or that it is purely made up, and if someone is curious they could use the comment to ask a question, I’ve never turned out a curious question, even when it was difficult to answer it
7) Just because I am writing about something, it doesn’t mean I support it...  Again those are stories, not a scientific report on a lab experiment, I can write about abusive relationships, doesn’t mean I support them, I could write about self harm or depression, doesn’t mean I am encouraging those behaviors, in fact those usually come with a Trigger Warning, why? because a reader should have the option to walk away from what should be just a moment of pleasure and relax, not finding themselves triggered because I didn’t want to spoil the surprise of what was going to come in a story posted on the internet... 8) This far I’ve personally chosen to not push for comment, no beg necessary, I decided years ago to be the kind of self centered bad ass who writes for themselves, who’s not going to dangle the promises of more chapters in exchange for comments, I dislike the practice, and I find too exhausting shouting left and right hey hey I’ve written this read it read it... So I do get why my stories do not have such a large audience, it doesn’t help I’ve actually posted way less than what I’ve written over the years. I do welcome comments, though I have no clue on how to respond to short ones, or a single emoji/<3 to all chapters to those I end up answering only to the most recent one of that person and thank for their support. Longer comments are easier to answer because it gives me something to say back or comment/thanks for, though it becomes weird for me when someone speculate on future developments in what they wish to see, and since I’ve recently adopted the policy of posting only completed stories (even for the chaptered ones that will not be posted at the same time, the number of total chapter is not an estimation it is exactly the number of files I’ve divided the story into for reasons) because I do know whether something of that sort will happen or not, and I don’t want to put someone out of my story if they are too invested in see what they imagined happen... Though as I do write stories I’d like to read I’m quick to encourage aspiring writers to feel free to take that what if and work with it, just to please mention that my story inspired theirs and that I’d love to see what they come up with. Constructive criticisms, I do not have a beta for most of my works, I do not work too well depending on other people’s time, I confess even in the past I received criticisms that were not constructive if we push the boundaries and call those criticisms rather than just plain old complains, which is sort of the reason why I stopped explicitly encouraging communication. Because I do expect respect, you don’t know anything about me or what I believe in, you might make some guesses from my profile because I haven’t been shy and pretty open on them, but I won’t accept being personally attacked or talked to in a disrespectful manner just because you didn’t like what I wrote. I have no problem accepting criticisms, as long as they are criticisms and not just whining. You cannot come to me with “I hate your story” and leave it at that, you already took the time to express your opinion instead of simply walking away, the least you can do is explaining why... Otherwise I seriously don’t get why you wasted both of yours and more importantly my time and energies... From the POV of a spoonie reader who barely has the energy to read: 1)  Ao3′s Kudos are a life saver that allows you to show your appreciation (even if you are allowed only one as registered user) with only a click (and some times even that click takes so much out of you) instead of relegating you to invisible reader, barely visible number (*coughs*ff.net*coughs*)  or forcing you to make a story a favorite/followed 
2) Comments are the source of anxiety, because you might want to show support but would they get that or would it sound strange? will the author understand that a a ghsafdgsakdjfh (read: key smash) happened with excitement and love and you’ve no other words to express it? 2.1) also trying to put your support in words when you are in your pj cozily being a blanket burrito and reading from your phone in bed because there’re no more spoon left for the day it’s hard 
3) The author asked for R&R, or welcomes comments and constructive criticism. You loved the story enough to spend energies to
point out things that were plain plot hole or downright inconsistency or lose ends, pointing out botched translations from your own mother tongue and offering correction that were not google translated, in ao3 case pointing out lack of some appropriate tags, which would have 1 improved your story’s visibility and 2 allowed the reader to choose whether they wanted to read it or not both points that would have benefit you as author...
Only for the author to react: 
- badly with a why are you such a nitpick hadn’t anyone told you that you should just stay silent if you have nothing nice to tell me? - Excuse me you’re the one asking for my opinion not my adoration, I gave you exactly what you asked for, if you cannot handle your work being nitpicked or the holes in your plot being publicly poked then there’re fabulous people called Beta reader who will give you the needed dose of though love in private get one..
- badly with a don’t like don’t read -  legit reader’s counter point is  I wouldn’t have read it if you had given me a way to know then what I discovered now  [personal addendum, on a not that well low energy day it takes me less about 3 mins and half to read 1.5K words don’t came at me on your 1k long story and tell me I could have stopped reading when I noticed it wasn’t that good for me...I was done with it before I could get any warning]
- dismissively because a meet cute  clearly is an AU  - Bless your heart if you need me to point out to you that there is a difference between an Alternative Universe (AU) and a Canon Divergence and the fact that   meet cute is a trope  which in fandoms usually implies different circumstances within the fandom’s canon world  of the first meeting between the characters in the main relationship but doesn’t automatically include different premises for the character example: 
in canon: characters from a magical supernatural fandom one a wizard with magic, one a fighter with superhuman speed and holy weapons, in their first meeting the fighter saved the wizard’s life. 
in a meet cute:  a wizard and a fighter with superhuman speed and holy weapons meet in the middle of the forest where the fighter was hunting for food failing miserably and the wizard took pity on the fighter and offered to share their dinner, if the fighter dared to step inside the wizard’s home
in a No Power/Human AU meet cute: where there is no magic, one of the two is a barista who uses flirty coffee jokes lines to call the other’s person order, and finally discover they are an accountant so instead they start using math puns to get the accountant’s attention. 
Those are all valid stories but as an author don’t came at me believing that just because you mention a trope that is enough to distinguish between the 2° and 3° examples, or that having mentioned the trope gives you the standing to look down at me if I do have my own reasons that you do not know about  for wanting to read only stories like the second pitch and get upset but still tell you in a polite way that there are missing tags in your story, especially when you’ve falsely advertise your 3° like pitch as if it was a 2° one and I get upset and let you know about it and do so with the curtesy of signing it with my name rather than leave an guest/anonymous comment 
- shrugging off issues with the tags with a Oh but I’m bad at tagging  -
then I have 3 things to say to you buddy one) that’s not an excuse if you haven’t learnt how to do it yourself get a beta, get a friend, read more and compare what your story tells with a similar one and how that one is tagged, there’re ways Ignorance is not an excuse; 
two) you can’t claim you’re bad at tagging but then refuse to listen when someone is pointing out to you more tags for your story, dud learn how search engines work, searching by tag is basically having a filtered search, the more tags your fit your story the more venues your story can appear in reader’s search for something to read... which means visibility for your work, are you really telling me that you dislike to have that and would prefer less people reading what you post? then sorry but I think you’re doing it wrong and should get a diary instead, not post them on the internet.
addendum: still claiming to be bad at it after having posted over 40 stories and all posted in recent times in the span of a couple of months, just suggest you lack the intelligence to learn how to do things. Which only encourages me to never ever get close to your works, certainly to never promote or share them if not actively discouraging my friends from spending their time on them.
three) and guess what?  there is a frikking I'm Bad At Taggingtag for that too!!!
As a reader I might be ranting in this post, but the long effect of those is a growing apathy and increased unwillingness to spend my energies for commenting unless I’d really really really really liked or loved a story, or I have something more than a one liner to share, which while I intellectually know it might be unfair to let the whole pay for the disrespect of few, my own survival instinct is glad I’m not spreading myself even thinner...
truthful disclaimer: in all fairness it has been my experience, that those reactions usually come from authors with already quite few stories or a decent word count out there. 
New authors are still very much enthusiastic and happy about even the smallest crumbs of recognition or encouragement, which in return is lovely because it recognise that my own time and energy as reader are worthy, that it does take effort to share an opinion or encouragement or suggestion.
4) The author might never know how that day I posted that single emoji, or two character <3,  it was one of those bad days when even opening a small water bottle to swallow down the painkillers was too much, when using a finger to scroll down the page to reach the end of the story had wiped out more energies than I could really afford and yet I still pushed myself to leave a sign that I was there and appreciated their story
5) readers should be allowed to have the “if you thought writing was hard, try commenting other people words” tag...  because sometimes especially on older platforms (yes ff.net I’m looking at you) as a reader I can’t find the energies to wipe up something to say so I become a silent invisible reader. And sometimes it’s really that I am able to stand only stories with certain characteristics, personally for example I do not have the emotional fortitude to read more a certain amount of Work In Progress at the same time across multiple fandoms because my brain can’t recall all the details and I might not feel to rereading the story from the beginning every single time there is a new chapter... 6) Maybe it’s because I’m way out of my teens, maybe it’s because even in my teens and before stories were my safe place, my escape, I do not expect things to be factually correct in stories, but I am a logic driven person, I will see those plot holes and I might even poke through 'em if I find your story good enough that I feel it would be a pity not pointing those things out. You cannot tell a classic vampire story (not the twilight kind of sun sparkling vampires but the sun burn me to ashes kind) and have your group of vampires prancing about at noon of a clear summer day without some sort of reason for that to work. I promise you, I’m not picky, I will accept ridiculous reasons like they were standing under and umbrella covered from head to toes and none of their skin was exposed to the sunlight, but do put the effort to give me a reason why I should believe it was intentional, or do not cry and complain if I do decide to point out dude you’ve normal vampires that are sunbathing and did not become piles of ashes that’s not plausible... 7) Stories are just that, something to listen to, they don’t have to have a moral for them to be worthy of being shared, they don’t have to be a mirror  of your thoughts, or they could be a mirror of your beliefs, and if I am commenting on them I’m commenting on the story itself not your connection to it. And I do need you to advertise in advance if there’re things that might be triggerish, because what might be  just a mental exercise of stepping outside your shoes, if not done might result in me walking into a panic attack while maybe I was just recuperating for one and trying to find comfort or a distraction. While I as a reader cannot know you author and where you come from, unless you want to make an ass of u and me do not assume you know where I am or what path I’m walking in my life as a reader.  8) I despise people telling me what to do, especially if I didn’t ask for an opinion... If someone (who doesn’t have an economical or authorative position over me) demands me to do something the chances I’ll be do it, especially if I was going to do it before, become nil instantaneously. I’ve been running and lurking in writing circles and fanfictions for closer to three decades at the time this is being written, and from the very beginning I found disgusting and deplorable the practice some authors adopted of bargaining reaching certain numbers of comments/kudos in exchange for the next chapter. I can respect an author saying I don’t want to get this or that, but the final result is that most likely I would walk away without commenting even if it would have been a story I would have otherwise supported. There’re few authors I do know personally, at least superficially through other channels, that have this kind of disclaimers and I still comment. But that’s because I have an appreciation and will to support the person themselves who also happened to be authors. 
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Fandom Reviews: Reviews and the Rating System
So I figured if I do continue these anime reviews, I should probably explain my rating system.
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My system has a certain number of rankings I present to each title based on certain criteria. That criteria is:
Sound and Animation
Personal Enjoyment
Overall Content Warnings
Each of these things I analyze, and then decide on how much certain aspects of these five things could affect another’s enjoyment. Once I’m done, I form the review in an easy format, starting with personal anecdote with a content warning, and then moving on to Story, Characters, Sound and Animation, and ending on Final Thoughts with a rating and information on where you can currently legally access what I talked about. You can see examples of that here and here with my first two full reviews.
Now, as for the ratings, these are the ones I came up with. The five ratings are:
Certified Classic
Shelf Worthy
Stream it
Skip it
Certified Fuck It
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The Certified Classic Rating: a rating I reserve for only the best of the best, and series I believe need all the attention they can get.
This means that the series has either flown under the radar, or had a decent following at some point but that following has either massively declined in recent memory or vanished all together.
These are series that I feel need a bit of extra love and attention and that I know many people with either love themselves, or they know someone who would absolutely adore them as much as I have.
Essentially, this is my ‘Cult Classic’ tag. My smaller, more honest souls that should be cherished but have yet to be discovered by others.
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The Shelf Worthy Rating: a rating I reserve for only the best of the best, and those series that are worth the hype.
This means this series is incredibly good. As good as the Certified Classics.
However, unlike the Certified Classics, these series either have an incredibly large following currently, (like whatever new anime is currently airing in the season) or are considered an Anime Essential (in the same vein as the FMA franchise, Gundam Multiverse, DBZ, Sailor Moon, or Cowboy Bebop).
Essentially, this is the ranking reserved for those series who have made such a strong name for themselves based on their quality, that they’ve become part of the anime lexicon, are easily recognizable, and/or are currently receiving all the attention.
TL:DR: It’s mainstream and you know it, even if you’ve never seen it. And I agree with the majority that it’s worth the purchase.
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The Stream It Rating: a rating reserved for series that have a rather high level of ‘your millage may vary’ content, but is still worth giving a try.
This is essentially where I put series that I either do not see as highly as others may, or its got too much content that it makes me wary of recommending it to just about anyone.
It’s also where I put series that have not aged well in some aspect, be it in how it deals with certain topics or issues, dub quality if one is available, or overall animation.
Basically, if it gives me too many misgivings on any level, I’ll recommend you just try it before you buy it.
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The Skip It Rating: a rating reserved for series I feel do not live up to the hype, and are not worth the time.
This is for series that have either highly disappointed me in some way, shape, or form, or have been hyped up so much that upon seeing the content it makes me question why anyone would watch this.
These are the shows I dislike greatly, but may still have one or two redeeming qualities to them such as good animation or a fantastic soundtrack that makes it perfect AMV or writing fodder. Or perhaps is connected in some way to a better product that you can check out instead, such as if its based on a book or a video game.  
You and can friends can watch it, but you’ll only really be able to enjoy it with a damn good drinking game.
If you were to ask me if I’d recommend it, or if I enjoyed it, I’ll be blunt and tell you that you’re not missing much and can do without whatever gets this rating.
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The Certified Fuck It Rating: a rating reserved for only the worst of the worst, and those that I feel you should avoid at all cost.
Anything with this rating is something I will adamantly insist you do not come into contact with. There are no redeeming qualities to this product, and you’re better off chucking it into the garbage where it belongs, plain and simple. We’re talking Fallout 76 levels of what the fuckery.
These series aren’t even worth a hate watch. Not worth the drinking game.
Do not pass episode 1. Do not collect $200 in merch. Go straight to jail.
Please for the love of the old Otaku Legends, do not watch whatever gets the Certified Fuck It.
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And that’s how my reviews and ratings are going to be.
I hope this helps make sense of my thought process for anyone curious.
Thank you for taking the time to read, and hope you’re looking forward to the next review.
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chateautae · 2 years
maybe i do | kth. II
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➵ summary :  maybe you love each other, maybe you don’t. when a deal between your fathers leaves you forcefully wedding kim taehyung, arguably seoul’s most powerful CEO, you’re prepared for a loveless marriage of eternal regret and unhappiness. but maybe, it doesn’t turn out that way after all.
↳  part of the high-class series!
➵ pairing : taehyung x reader
➵ genre :  arranged marriage!au, ceo!tae, s2l!au, eventual smut, fluff, angst
➵ rating : 18+
➵ word count : 10k
➵ warnings : none really, swearing, mainly fluffy and funny interactions, some angst! :o 
➵ a/n: and i’m back with chapter two! i really wanted to say thank you for the love and support i received on the first part of maybe i do, it was astounding!! i’m so grateful so many people loved the story and asked to be tagged (all at the bottom <3), it made me feel so motivated to write. if you would also like to be tagged please message me. your feedback is always appreciated! 
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chapter two : “on my pillow, can’t get me tired” 
prev. ↞ || ↠ next  || masterlist
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Taehyung didn’t remember sleeping anywhere near you last night. 
He remembered that even though you willingly agreed to share the same bed, he still opted for caution and slept with the most space between you two as possible.
Though when his eyes fluttered open the next morning, eyeballs burning from the light that bled into the suite, the first thing he realized was that he was not on his side of the bed from last night. 
No, he had somehow gravitated towards the center, and as if almost on cue, your slight movement and the sound of your breathing alerted him of your nearby presence. 
Peering down at you, Taehyung caught sight of your sleepy head turned towards him and lying on his arm, his other thrown over your torso with you unsuspectingly nuzzled into his side.
Taehyung’s eyes shot open, acknowledging he had succumbed to his habit of hugging something to sleep during the course of the night and he internally panicked. He began retracting his arms slowly, just about drawing himself from you until alarms rang in his head at the sight of you stirring in your sleep. 
Taehyung took the golden opportunity to sit up in a flash, having to physically shake his head to rid the image of your tranquil, sleeping face from his brain, crushing the thought that it was kind of cute.
He found himself chanting the same denial from last night, he couldn’t be thinking of such complicated things concerning you when he knew the second he’d step foot inside his home, there’d be a mountain of paperwork ready for him; even more on his work desk.
He had to be thinking about his job, not you.  
Even if Taehyung was married now, it wouldn’t lessen the amount of work that plagued his life nor make it any less demanding. If anything, his life would be harder now considering the fact that he had another priority to add to his list, another aspect of his life he had to split his attention between. 
He didn’t necessarily hate the idea, just found himself needing to work harder than he already was. 
Taehyung sighed heavily at the thought and swung his legs off the bed, rubbing his tired eyes. He took a moment to look back at you, thinking if he observed you a second time he’d be able to piece together how the hell you two ended up in that position, that close. 
By evidence of the forgotten blanket half-thrown off you, he could see you were the tossing-and-turning type, maybe the only explanation for your proximity considering he was the same. 
He also noticed you slept all curled up, like you were cold and the only warmth you knew was snuggling yourself.
There it was again, cute. 
Why does that word even exist? 
Taehyung discarded the notion altogether and stood to his feet, stretching out his stiff muscles. He made for the bathroom eagerly to begin his day, though not without fixing at least some of the blanket back onto you. 
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“You don’t have a driver?” 
“Not for everywhere I go. I have two hands, I can drive myself.” Taehyung made it a statement to jazz hands at you, showcasing the perfectly capable limbs he was gifted with.
“That’s.. nice, actually. I always see asshole CEO’s getting other people to drive them around.” You relayed as you trailed behind Taehyung, letting him lead you towards the front of the hotel where dozens of expensive cars lined the curb side.
You had no clue which luxury vehicle belonged to Taehyung because quite frankly, he could probably afford every car your eyes caught sight of. It wasn’t until he approached a certain one and retrieved his keys from the valet that your jaw completely dropped, floored.
“This is your car?” You gawked, the sleek design, crispness of its shape and nearly sparkling gloss completely sweeping you off your feet.
“Yeah, think someone like me can’t get a car like this?” Taehyung cocked an eyebrow, gesturing towards himself.   
“It’s just-wow. Mercedes CLS?” You inquired without really looking at him, inspecting the car instead as you admired its every curve. Safe to say, you were beyond in love with it. Even if you were always more of a minimalist and preferred the average product, there was just something gorgeous about luxury cars that appealed to you.
“Yeah, actually it is.” Taehyung looked at you impressed, momentarily reminded of just how different you were compared to any other woman he’s chanced upon. 
How many of them knew car models?
Taehyung was intrigued by the fact before speaking with one of the hotel workers, confirming if they had loaded his car with both your luggage and some wedding sentiments your parents insisted you keep. 
Once receiving affirmation Taehyung made towards your side of the car and pulled the door open. He flashed you a tight-lipped smile as he gestured for you to hop in, drawing you out of your stupor. You thanked him warmly before sliding into your seat. 
He let you scramble in comfortably before shutting the door and walking to his side, positioning himself in and clicking on his seatbelt. He watched as your expression lit up once occupying the car, face beaming with excitement as you touched and drank in at the high-end features the vehicle had to offer. Taehyung found himself smiling before he licked his lips and straightened his face, igniting the engine and beginning the smooth drive. 
It was easy to settle the debate on where you both would be living. Taehyung was an enormously rich CEO who lived in an expensive, massive home while you lived in a measly apartment. You knew it was useless to live separately, even more useless to have him live with you. And so you agreed without protest to pack your things and relocate, begin your move into the house you’d share with him for a lifetime. 
The car ride remained quite silent, you mindlessly bopping your head to whatever mainstream song played on the radio, while Taehyung tapped his fingers against the steering wheel or his lap. 
You found your eyes wandering to his slender fingers wrapped around the wheel every so often, sometimes venturing to the other one he placed against his thigh. You began reprimanding yourself once you realized with all the staring, observing and ogling, you most certainly had a thing for his hands already. 
They were just so big, bigger than what you’ve seen of the average man and it didn’t help that they looked crafted to perfection. 
There was just something about the veins that decorated them, his palm large in size as his fingers seemed deft turning and working the steering wheel. His little accessories like a ring or two, bracelets and his watch did absolutely nothing to deter your interest either.
It only increased once you realized he looked good driving, really good. You knew men had this common attractiveness to them when they drove, watching them all focused and effortlessly working the car somehow sexy; but watching Taehyung drive was another experience entirely. 
He looked insanely hot, and you felt like throwing yourself out your window for even thinking such a thing. It was another case of you ogling him without realizing until his deep voice suddenly fished you out of your thoughts, questioning. “Did you like the wedding?” 
“The wedding, did you like it?” Taehyung repeated, glancing at you. 
“Does it really matter if I did?” You asked, this one phrase seeming to perfectly sum up the misfortune of your life, provoking an ironic laugh even. 
“I think it does. A bride should always enjoy her wedding.” 
“Well, I didn’t.” You deadpanned, your expression turning frustrated having to remember that one of, if not the most special night of your life had just been robbed of you, thrown to the wolves while you were only left to accept the sad fact. 
“C’mon, you didn’t enjoy a single thing?” Taehyung didn’t mean to flash back to the kiss you two shared, though found himself doing exactly so. 
You didn’t enjoy that? he questioned in his head. 
“Not really, I just imagined having more choice in the wedding.” You answered honestly, trying not to sulk so much. “It’s not you, I just... thought I’d be able to decide things at my own wedding. I’m grateful your parents did so much, but I didn’t really get to choose anything.” You grew more solemn as your gaze fixated on nothing, watching the world pass you by through the car window. 
“My favourite flowers weren’t even there.” You said only despondently to yourself, shoulders drooping, though Taehyung didn’t miss it. 
“You don’t like roses?”
Your eyes flashed towards him with furrowed eyebrows, surprised he heard your comment. You straightened up before shrugging back a response. “I like peonies.” 
Taehyung looked at your side profile as you turned away, finding the conversation turning more sorrowful than he liked. He allowed some silence to linger as you leaned your chin against your palm, boringly watching the bustling streets.  
He decided to change the subject.
“So you don’t think I’m an asshole, huh?” 
“You said you always see ‘asshole CEO’s’ getting people to drive them around. But I don’t, so I’m not an asshole to you?” Taehyung halved his attention between you and the road, glancing in your direction with one hand working the steering wheel.
You thought the question over, “No, you’re not an asshole.” You said simply, distracted by the thoughts that previously occupied your mind. 
“I see.” Taehyung pursed his lips. Another beat of silence passed through the downcast air before Taehyung perked up again.
“Is it just the driving? Or do you have other criteria?” Taehyung asked inquisitively, leaning back into his seat as he observed you. 
You could detect from the corner of your eyes the way his stance drew attention to his legs, thighs broad as he sat. “I guess there is.” 
“Like what?”
You didn’t really know why Taehyung was so curious. You thought it was common knowledge what the stereotypical asshole CEO was like; they were nearly all jerks with horrible one-percenter mentalities and treated people like gravel.  
You scoffed a bit. “They’re usually so full of themselves. They act like they own the place all the time, which makes sense at their own companies but not everywhere else. It’s like the position gets to their heads. Even the way they talk is condescending, belittling, or straight up rude to anyone not on their level. It wouldn’t kill to be nice.” You revealed almost too eagerly, avoiding eye contact with Taehyung as you viewed the traffic on the road ahead, remembering he was a CEO himself. 
Long story short, you’ve had your fair share of experiences meeting them as you grew up during the beginnings of your father’s company. They were quick to skew your opinion ever since you watched the way they treated your father all due to having a start-up, for simply being small in name or reputation. They acted like he was less than, some even daring to behave as though his company would simply never make it. 
It always boiled your blood, left an extremely distasteful image of CEOs and the business world in your head. 
And you were certain it all sucked after that. 
“Understandable.” Taehyung nodded agreeably. “But you think I don’t fit any of that?” He rested a hand against his thigh, sitting laxed as he spread his legs apart further. This time it was definitely hard to miss the way they appeared, all laid out and long as your eyes drank him in, following up his thighs all the way to his-
“You don’t. I thought maybe since you’re super successful you’d be full of yourself. But you’re not, really.” You snapped yourself out of whatever the hell you were doing, trying to refocus on the conversation.
“Ah, seems like a stepping stone.” 
“Stepping stone? Towards what?”
“Towards you not hating me.” His voice came out with a more solemn timbre than you expected, his jaw tightening for a mere second. 
Taehyung only thought such a thing because even if he decided you didn’t harbour negative feelings towards him, there was no way of him determining whether that was true or not without your real input. 
“I don’t hate you, Taehyung. I don’t.. think I can.” You claimed with poignancy, his statement causing you to reflect on your own feelings about him. 
You don’t hate Taehyung, you couldn’t because he did absolutely nothing wrong in this situation. He was dragged in just like you were. You only despised the unfairness of the arrangement, not him. 
There wasn’t much to hate about him.  
“So you’re saying you like me then, aren’t you?” Taehyung suddenly teased light-heartedly, all smug as his amused eyes flickered to you. 
“Shut up, I never said that.” You turned away, scandalized by his remark. 
“I’m kidding. But, why do you think you can’t hate me? I pretty much.. ruined your life.” Taehyung internally felt his chest tighten at the words, remembering the exact thoughts from where he stood no less than 24 hours ago, seconds from lawfully marrying you. 
“And I didn’t ruin yours?” This time you turned your gaze towards Taehyung, meaningfully. Your eyes instinctively communicated your emotions as they locked with his for a moment, Taehyung all attentive. 
“I took away from you just as much you took away from me. We both ruined each other’s lives, there’s no use in blaming each other. That’s why I can’t hate you.” You finalized, crossing your arms and opting to watch the passing buildings through your window again. 
Taehyung absorbed your sudden confession with reason, realizing that in a sense, you two were partners in this unfortunate case. Even if your matrimony constituted a forced partnership neither of you liked, there seemed to be a natural comradery in having to deal with the aftermath of that forced partnership. 
Trying to accept it. 
“I don’t think I can hate you, either.” Taehyung admitted, ending the more miserable part of the conversation as you fell silent. You thought he was done until he decided to bother you again. 
“I think you’re still saying you like me, though.” 
You turned to him half-appalled before pointing towards the road, eyes narrowed. “Just drive us home, will you?” 
Taehyung laughed at the moment and pressed down on the accelerator, internally grinning at the fact you never said no to his statement. 
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“This is your house?” You found yourself gawking again at something that belonged to Taehyung, stepping inside a luxury home you’ve only ever dreamed of living in. Sure, you lived with your parents until you were 18, though your father was still starting out with his company for most of those years, not exactly owning anything too luxurious until after you permanently moved out.
So as you stood trying to prop your heels off yourself, your jaw dropped at the sheer elegance and high-status look to the interior of Taehyung’s home. You had already done enough gawking at the exterior, but being inside and processing the fact that you were now to inhabit this home for the rest of your life sent another wave of shock. 
You immediately observed Taehyung was the type who decorated his home with only the finest, his taste easily identifiable. Aesthetic, lavish, charming. He seemed like a man of utter simplicity though his home said otherwise, showcasing an artistic, exquisite feel you never really expected from him. 
“When will you stop saying that?” He titled his head and smiled through a laugh, removing his shoes and slipping into his indoor slippers. 
“Right, sorry.” You were still struggling for normalcy, somehow forgetting almost every hour Taehyung’s wealth and only registering it once you saw something that indicated it. 
Taehyung sauntered inside and took a deep breath, enjoying the feel of his abode. He enjoyed nothing more than being home, in the comfort of his own space. Especially for someone who worked so busily, he found pleasure in doing the bare minimum at home. Relishing in the feeling right now, he pressed his lips together in a smile before glancing back at your struggling figure, catching sight of your size. 
His eyebrows shot up to the sky. “Woah, you’re short.” 
“I think I’ve only ever seen you in heels.” Taehyung informed. “Now that you’re not wearing them you’re a lot shorter than I thought. You’re tiny.” He pointed out as he eyed you from head to toe, processing the amount of height you lost simply from removing your shoes. 
“I mean, that’s kind of what heels do, you know, they add height.” You deadpanned, stating the obvious for him. 
“Sorry, it’s just..” Kind of cute, he thought, though fought for another response. “I could probably throw you.” 
Nice save. 
“Excuse me? It’s not my fault you’re so tall.” You scowled at him. “Besides, you’re all height and no muscle, you probably can’t even carry me.” 
“Wanna see me try?” Taehyung was already coming towards you with his arms held out and you sputtered immediately, “No, no, no.” you held your hands up defensively. “Let’s just start the house tour, yeah?” you offered a smile for compromise. 
“That’s what I thought.” Taehyung narrowed his eyes coyly and turned on his heel, signaling you to follow him. 
What you realized strolling through the home as Taehyung discussed its details was that it emphatically represented him like an open book. Even if Taehyung was predominantly unreadable and seemed to always hide a mystery behind his eyes, you could see nearly all of him reflected in his home. 
You often found valuable trinkets or sentiments scattered around the house. It seemed like he cherished a lot of things in his life, namely memories or people. It would also be hard to miss the exquisite selection of paintings and embellishments he draped the walls with, all harbouring their own charm and adding to the overall artistic feel of his home. 
There were famous works consisting of Vincent Van Gogh all the way to local Korean artists you’ve never heard of, though admired their work. 
It seemed as though he selected the paintings himself. 
Another large aspect you couldn’t miss were the many photos he kept, calling to question whether they were of his own work. 
“Did you take these?” You approached a shelf in one of his grand hallways on the second floor, hand brushing the wooden frame of a captured photo; six men including Taehyung himself posing comfortably, like they were extremely close, backdrop reflecting what seemed to be a trip.  
“I took all of them.” He stated casually, hands tucked into his pockets as he eyed the shelf along with you. 
He simply nodded and didn’t elaborate further as he watched you admire the photos, yourself impressed by his adeptness for photography. 
“You’re really good.” You complimented absentmindedly, enjoying the other photos of not only people but scenery, empty streets, candid shots from what looked to be his own little adventures. 
“Thanks.” Was all Taehyung could manage, trying to mask the sheer gratitude he felt hearing the first ever person to admire his work; something that wasn’t related to being a CEO or a businessman. 
He also felt slightly embarrassed you’d seen a small part of him he usually hid.
Taehyung continued walking down the hallway until he reached the end, revealing what you could tell was the largest room in the house. You were thrown off by just how unnecessarily large it was. It seriously reminded you of an extravagant hotel suite, more like the grandest one among them. 
“This is our room.” Taehyung introduced, gesturing towards its interior. 
Taehyung nodded “I should’ve told you earlier but I wanted us to sleep in the same room. If we slept apart our marriage wouldn’t look convincing to my two housekeepers. I trust them but I don’t want any information about us getting out to the public, not over my dead body.” Taehyung stated in earnest as he relayed the information, wandering further into the room. 
“You really care that much about publicity?” you genuinely questioned. 
Taehyung scoffed. “Not me, I couldn’t care less about what people think.” He denied instantly, almost laughably. “It’s my father. He hates bad press, especially concerning our family or the company.” 
“I thought bad press is still press, so it’s good.” You suggested as you followed him further into the room, admiring that though large, his room held a sense of comfort to it. Quite frankly, all of his home felt rather welcoming and cozy, surprising of a CEO who ran such a monstrously successful company.
“My father doesn’t think so. Kim Enterprises has always been generational, each of our CEO positions strictly kept within the family. Our name is our brand and pride, it alone accounts for at least half of our success. We’re extremely well-known for our high status, it’s just plain fact in the upper social circles of Korea. We can’t afford to taint our name with petty things like bad press or corruption, our reputation is too valuable.” Taehyung stated this all nonchalantly as he adjusted his suit jacket in his mirror, like it was something he’s grown accustomed to and has known all his life. 
You found your opinion impeding his words.  
“So you can never just, escape this life? As long as you’re a Kim you’re bound to this company?” You found the concept wildly restrictive, clearly shackling down any person that would run the business and you felt a disagreeing shiver shoot through your spine. 
“Of course, why would you want anything else?” Taehyung tiled his head to the side, eyeing you in genuine questioning and your entire being was trying to bite back the desire to correct him, tell him there’s so much more to life than just some company your family owns. Though you opted for changing the subject instead, unwilling to step on his toes and dictate his life when you knew next to nothing about it. 
It wasn’t your place. 
“Woah, you have a balcony?!” You exclaimed with a simper, eyes flickering towards the curtains that revealed two ajar French doors leading to an open space.
You made towards it excitedly and stopped just in the middle of the platform, enjoying the breeze of the fresh air.
“It’s my favourite part of the house.” You didn’t even realize Taehyung followed you until his towering figure stood directly behind you, feeling his proximity permeate through your body. 
You swallowed. 
“Why don’t you look at the view?” Taehyung cocked his head towards the railing of the balcony, though you didn’t move a step. 
You weren’t about to tell Taehyung you’re terribly afraid of heights.
“I-I can see from here. Wow, looks beautiful.” You perked up superficially, trying to throw him off and changing the subject again. “By the way, what’s our closet situation gonna look like?” 
“Ah, let me show you.” Taehyung strided back into the room towards the sliding double doors you spotted earlier. He almost theatrically glided both dark wooden panels open and your jaw dropped for the 47th time today. 
You were welcomed by a ridiculously large walk-in closet, enough to be renovated into its own bedroom. You simply couldn’t normalize its size, especially after registering every suit, tie, watch or accessory Taehyung stored in the gracious space. 
You couldn’t even begin to imagine how much money lied in here. 
“Oh my God.” Was all you could manage, meandering in sparingly as you viewed each and every expensive piece he owned in the room, no doubt of the highest quality designers, finest of men’s fashion. 
“You don’t have to worry about unpacking and moving in here, the housekeepers will do that for you.” Taehyung watched as you looked upon in awe, finding the way your eyes sparkled with emotion very similar to that of Bambi’s.  
“How will I fit-”
“I specifically made space for you, there’s enough.” Taehyung stated, leaning against the doorway with his arms crossed. He’d resolved a while ago he really would try to take this marriage seriously, victoriously achieve the work-life balance his father kept preaching. 
He saw giving up his closet space as the first step. 
It was indeed so because Taehyung thoroughly enjoyed fashion. He genuinely adored every suit, accessory and outfit in his collection, though if he wanted to reach this new goal of balance, successfully add you to his list of priorities, then he had to be willing to cut down. 
Even if that meant reallocating a third of his exorbitant wardrobe just for you, he’d try not to mind. 
“Are you sure? I could just use another room’s-” 
“I want to.” Taehyung finalized as his eyes turned unreadable from across the room, locking his gaze with yours and you were only left to look back impressed, his generosity unforeseen. 
“Thank you.” You voiced a little weak, still shy by the suffocating nature of his stare. 
“Don’t mention it.” He offered plainly, propping himself off the wall. He looked off to the side eyeing the empty pockets of space he left for you, until your voice called out to him.  
“Hm?” He snapped his vision back to you. 
You wanted to ask him something, more so a favour and you were unsure how to word the request. “Um.. I didn’t want to ask so openly, but..” You found yourself beating around the bush, timid of what his response would be. 
“Go on.” 
“Um, so it seemed like there were a lot of empty rooms in this house, and I was just wondering if I could maybe.. transform one of them into an art studio for myself?” You winced at your own request. 
“I’m sorry, it’s just I had one at my old place and it really grew on me. I would get most of my work done in that room and gained a lot of inspiration from it. I have a lot of art supplies and designed often in that studio, so I need a home for all my supplies and it would suck getting rid of it all. I’m sorry it means I would have to steal one of your rooms in the house, if you don’t want me to then-” 
Taehyung couldn’t help but break out into a small grin as he watched you ramble on, shyly fidget with your fingers, so apprehensive of asking him for something and it reminded him why he was so eager to provide you with anything you wanted. 
You spent too long trying to do everything on your own, achieve everything on your own, relying solely on yourself. Taehyung could see this all as plain as day, quite enjoying of how he’s never really met someone like you, and wanted you to know you didn’t always have to be so independent.  
Especially with him. 
“Y/N.” He called out to you with the same honey-coloured tone from last night, stopping you. Your eyes flickered to his, awaiting his next sentence and Taehyung already found himself having a thing for your doe-eyes. 
“Of course you can have a room. You can have anything in this house. It’s yours.” Taehyung stated with a degree of assurance, his eyes locking with yours in earnest. 
You both shared a look as your lips curved into a gracious smile, biting your lip to contain it. His stare wasn’t so much intimidating as it was merely.. calm. Gazing at you for the sole purpose of gazing, and you found some heat rushing to your face under his scrutiny. 
Taehyung seemed to realize he was staring and immediately cleared his throat, turning a little nervous as he began another conversation. “So um, I’m sorry to say this,” he began with unease, almost apprehensive and you didn’t know what he was so sorry about. “But I have work today.” 
You blinked. “What?” 
Taehyung internally winced at your reaction, hands finding his pockets. “I took some time off for the wedding, so now I have twice the amount of work left behind. I need to complete it.” He informed straightforwardly. 
“Our wedding was just yesterday, though, aren’t you tired?” You were only taken aback because you were slightly concerned for his wellbeing, wasn’t he tired from yesterday? You recalled him knocking out almost immediately upon hitting the pillow of your hotel bed last night, snoozing away. 
“Maybe, but I can’t afford to rest. I’ll only have more to complete if I do, so I won’t be spending anymore time with you today.” Taehyung relayed the information, readying himself for the even greater disappointing news he’d be passing on. 
“Actually, we won’t be able to go on our honeymoon, either.” Taehyung thought it was best to slip in all the bad news, growing more and more unrelaxed as he was unsure of how you’d react. 
Though what you said next had him nearly floored.
“Honeymoon? Taehyung, that’s the least of my concerns, you should at least rest a day before getting back to work. That’s not really healthy.” You chastised him as lightly as possible, still afraid to be stepping on his toes when you didn’t know his life. 
Taehyung was certain you’d hate having been stripped of a beautiful vacation where you could’ve relaxed in the sun and tropics of Cancun. Your father had mentioned to him you’ve always longed to visit the breath-taking city in Mexico, its clear waters and tropical air as a means to truly get away from your stifling life. 
So when he found you disregarding the trip altogether and instead focusing on him, more precisely his health, he was left damn well speechless. 
There you were again paying attention to the littlest things about him he didn’t care much for; he still had that bandage you offered him a month ago tucked into one of his pockets, not wanting to use the adhesive just yet. 
“I’ll be fine. I’m just sorry we can’t go on the vacation because of me, it would’ve been nice, you know?” Taehyung apologized, feeling genuinely guilty for having ruined the honeymoon. Even if you two weren’t going to travel as some lovey-dovey couple, you both simply could’ve enjoyed the time off.
“It’s okay, just, at least work from home today. Heading to the office would be too much.” You suggested for the sake of the fatigue you could discern on him. 
“Oh, don’t worry, I’m gonna be home for the next few days since everyone thinks we’ll be on our honeymoon.” 
“Oh. That’s.. good.” You nodded faintly, half at the idea you two were even faking your honeymoon and half at the blasphemous energy he had to work after yesterday. 
The sleep from last night was nearly not enough to recharge from the antics of the wedding, having drained your batteries for the next few days. You were certain his were drained too; he was half the damn couple. 
“I should get going. I’ll send Mrs. Choi and Seo up with your things. They’re probably finished with lunch too, you should eat.” Taehyung advised as he stepped out of the walk-in closet, running a hand through his gorgeous hair and you couldn’t help but ogle at the sexy way his strands fell back on him. 
“Okay.” You voiced as you followed him out, watching him near the room’s door and just about to vacate the premise before you spoke up. “Taehyung.” 
He stopped in his tracks, peering back at you. “Yes?” 
“You should eat something, too.”
Taehyung half-smiled at you with a nod “Sure”, before stepping out of the room, leaving you alone. 
And you couldn’t help but kind of like the way he smiles. 
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It was well into the evening now, bordering dinner time as you helped the last of your clothes into Taehyung’s closet, refusing to let the older housekeepers do all the work by themselves considering it was your own luggage. 
You also tried to occupy Taehyung’s room as scarcely as you could with your belongings, feeling odd about suddenly moving in with all your might and changing things around. It just didn’t feel appropriate, like you were invading his space and so you opted for scattering only your necessary items.
“That should be the last of it, Mrs. Choi.” You retrieved your last piece of clothing from the rather soft-spoken housekeeper, tucking the blazer away among the rest. You were satisfied to see not only your wardrobe neatly organized now, but fit just about right with Taehyung’s things. 
He was right about space, there was enough.
“Mrs. Kim, please rest. You didn't have to move a muscle at all for us.” Mrs. Choi remarked, genuinely concerned for you. 
“Yes, please, Mrs. Kim. We can finish up with the little things. I’ve just finished preparing dinner downstairs, you should eat.” Mrs. Seo chimed in as she entered the walk-in closet, gesturing towards the door. 
“Are you sure? I can-”
“Mrs. Kim, you’re very kind for offering your help, we’re very grateful you’ve done so. Though we are Mr. Kim’s housekeepers, we are meant to care for his home and his lovely wife. You need not worry about helping us.” Mrs. Choi stated with an earnest tone, speaking respectfully as she addressed you. 
You were going to protest again before you considered her words, registering that if you indeed helped them, it would technically negate the entire purpose of their work. 
You bit back your reply as a result, crafting a new one. 
“I see, I’m sorry, Mrs. Seo, Mrs. Choi. I’m just.. very used to doing things on my own,” you looked towards the ground. “I apologize.” You almost dipped for a bow until Mrs. Choi rapidly cautioned you, scrambling towards your figure. 
“Oh dear, Mrs. Kim! You do not need to bow to us, you’re Mr. Kim’s wife, you are the one who is bowed to.” 
“Yes, you do not need to apologize either, we appreciate your help, it was very sweet of you.” Mrs. Seo added with a warm smile, bowing to you instead. “Please go for dinner downstairs, I’ve also informed Mr. Kim for dinner, though I’m unsure if he has made his way down yet.” She added on, urging you towards the room's exit and you recognized it was probably better to listen to her. 
Even if all this high-class, status stuff had yet to sink in or make sense to you after being away for so long, you understood there was an eventual tolerance you had to build for it. Just as Mrs. Choi said, you’re Kim Taehyung’s wife now, and that came with a hell lot of status you hadn’t even scratched the surface of yet.
You could already tell it was going to be a pain in the ass. 
“I suppose I should. I’ll get going, then.” You smiled graciously at both women, appreciative of their kindness and began vacating the closet. You just about pulled the room door open before Mrs. Seo suddenly came to you.
“Oh! Mrs. Kim,” she halted you. “I was informed by Mr. Kim to provide this to you. He would have done so himself though he’s quite busy at the moment.” Mrs. Seo extended her hand and presented a pristine looking card, black and incredibly sleek in design. Your eyebrows furrowed until you noticed the telltale symbols, almost ominously minimal branding indicating a rare card only those with some of the highest networths in Korea could own. 
Your eyes widened in horror. 
The Black Card. 
“P-pardon?” You needed her to reiterate, there was no way Kim Taehyung was giving you a black card, the same card that was limitless on credit and only exclusively owned by the affluent one-percenters of society. 
“He’s informed me this belongs to you now, and that you’re to keep it in your possession.” Mrs. Seo elaborated, smiling through the mental whiplash you were currently experiencing.  
“Belongs to.. me? This is mine?” You were still having trouble processing, why would Taehyung be gifting you this? Who’s account was it even attached to? Was it yours and he’s decided to graciously pay all the expensive fees, or worse, was it joined with his own account? 
Don’t tell me it’s joined with his account.  
“Yes, Mrs. Kim. It’s yours.” Mrs. Seo held it out more outwardly, nudging it in your direction. 
Your mouth fell agape for another second before you mentally collected yourself, quickly grabbing the card and thanking her as you made your exit, marching through the house for Taehyung’s unbelievable ass. 
Taehyung could not be providing you with this card. It was irrational, simply had to have been a decision he made with at least two bottles of soju in him, right? You didn’t care what his reasoning would be, you were denying and returning this. There was no way in hell you’d accept this card, especially if he linked his own personal account to it. 
You tried loosely recalling where Taehyung mentioned his study, logically assuming he was working there. You inspected majority of the second floor, working your way through the halls until you finally caught sight of the familiar wooden doors with glass panels, slightly ajar, light bleeding through.
You made for the room quickly and stormed in without a care, attempting to steady your breathing from all the rushing around. You caught Taehyung completely off guard, having shredded his suit jacket to instead sport the rolled up sleeves of his dress shirt, adorning black-rimmed, designer glasses. 
He looked 100x hotter than he should’ve. 
Taehyung suddenly propped up from the leaned-back position he’d assumed on his chair, expression caught by surprise. “Y/N?” He questioned, eyebrows furrowing. 
You held up the card and addressed him immediately. “Taehyung, what’s this? Why are you giving this to me?” You huffed, looking at him incredulously. 
“The card? For you to use..?” Taehyung responded cooperatively, confused as to why you seemed so frazzled. 
“But why, Taehyung? This is a black card, the annual fees on this are insane and I can’t pay-” 
“You’re not paying for them, I am.” Taehyung cut in, shutting the binder he was holding and placing it on his desk. 
“What? No, no way. If it’s my account then I should be the one-”
“It’s not your account, either, it’s mine.” Taehyung brought his elbows to his desk, hands clasped together in front of his lips. It was now he gave you that same intimidating stare he did back when you first met him, calculative and devoid of expression. 
It seemed he did this when he got serious. 
“Your account? But-Taehyung, this is your money, I can’t just have it. Please, take this back.” You stepped towards his desk to return the card eagerly, but Taehyung’s firm tone stopped you. 
“No, it’s yours. I gave it to you to keep.” His words held this underlying sense of authority, scratch that, dominance when he spoke seriously, resolute. You could instantly tell he possessed a natural sense of alpha male characteristics, enough that even though he wasn’t being harsh or looming, his words and the tone he coated them with held more power than you could manifest. 
You almost cowered, but remained adamant on returning the card. It was worse with the card attached to his account, you couldn’t just keep Taehyung’s money like it was your own, it simply wasn’t. Your money sat ordinarily in a separate account on a separate card, which you were happy enough to use. You weren’t going to mooch off of him, it went against every principle that made up your very being. 
“This is your money, Taehyung. I have no right to use it.” 
“You’re my wife. You have every right in the world to use it.” Taehyung countered with no emotion, or at least any you could discern, uncertain what was running through his mind with only his eyes as a guide towards the answer. 
And you knew his eyes didn’t tell. 
“Taehyung, this doesn’t feel right to me. This isn’t my money and I can’t use it.” You emphasized more strongly, drawing closer to his desk though halting your actions once he spoke again. 
“My money is your money, you can always use it.” You knew he was relaxed, appearing practically unbothered as he leaned onto his desk and eyed you. Though with the intense look in his eyes, his aura screaming for anyone within the vicinity to submit to him, he could easily seem frustrated with the situation, namely you. 
And it made you want to crawl into a hole.
“No, it isn’t. I’ve already intruded your home, taken your closet, your room and even an extra one just for myself. I will not take your money either. Please, take this back.” You held out the card more prominently, desperate to have him understand you.
Taehyung wasn’t necessarily frustrated by you, no, he was slightly pissed you kept referring to everything as just his and not yours, that he was the only one considering you two as a married couple now while you still viewed each other separately.
Did you not see him as your husband yet?
He also disliked the fact that you seemed scared of him, or unable to trust him like last night. He could see you fighting back the urge to cower away, genuinely upsetting him you still held a degree of fear and unsureness in your eyes. 
Why are you so afraid of me? 
“Y/N, everything isn’t just mine anymore, it’s yours, too. We’re a married couple, husband and wife. What’s mine is yours.” Taehyung tried to reason, loosening himself up more to seem less intimidating, more approachable.
“But money, Taehyung-it’s different. I didn’t even want to take my own father’s money, there’s no way I’ll take yours, please.” Pleading leaked into your tone as you lips started doing that thing where they just about pout, emphasizing their plushiness and Taehyung couldn’t help but notice it again. 
He started growing frustrated as he removed his glasses, placing them on his desk and pinching the bridge of his nose. It seemed like he was digesting the situation, searching for the best approach.
“Y/N, look. I know the kind of situation you had with your father, but I’m not him. Didn’t you hear what Mrs. Choi and Seo addressed you as?” 
You thought it over, unknowing of where he was taking this. “They.. called me Mrs. Kim.”
“Exactly. Even my last name is yours, everything I have is yours. I’m your husband, I’m always going to provide you with things from now on. That card is just one of many.” Taehyung offered his best explanation, making sure his tone wasn’t as serious to sidetrack any fear you still had.
“I understand. But this is a black card, Taehyung, and it’s your hard-earned money, not mine. It feels wrong even just having it.” You couldn’t fight your inner turmoil, you genuinely believed this to be wrong. After spending almost a decade trying to work for yourself, pay for yourself, seldom seeking the help of another, this just left a disagreeing feeling to churn in your stomach.
Taehyung sighed heavily before pushing his chair back, rising from his seat. He made his way over to you where you grew unintentionally defensive, retracting from him slightly as he neared you. He noticed it and pursed his lips, reaching out for your upper arms and taking them warmly, tenderly, waiting for your eyes to meet his before he spoke to you.
“Y/N, do you remember what I said before I kissed you yesterday?”
Your eyes widened having been reminded of the intimate moment, nodding at him innocently. Taehyung witnessed you trying to avoid eye contact and found himself softening. 
“I didn’t say that without reason. I meant it when I said I would take care of you. Your father is a different story, if you don’t want to use his money, I respect that. But I’m your husband, and I want to be a good one. I want to give you things.. do things for you simply because I want to.” Taehyung reasoned, gripping you lightly. “I want you to use my money, you’re allowed to use it.” He tried voicing with sincerity, earnestly, hoping he could change your mind.
He saw you still hesitating to accept the offer, however, deciding on a compromise.
“Look, you don’t have to use it all the time. You can still use your own card, but you can use mine here and there. Seriously, Y/N, using it won’t even make a dent on me. I’m the CEO of a multi-billion dollar company, use it at your discretion.” Taehyung could practically see your gears shifting, searching for your eyes as he wished you’d understand him. 
He saw this as a second step towards work-life balance, only feeling the responsibility and genuine desire to be the good husband in spite of the unfortunate nature of your marriage. He didn’t want any doubt concerning his ability to be a good husband, either.
After all, when Taehyung did something, he always did the best he possibly could.
“Okay, I guess you’re right. But I do have my own money, and I’ll be using that 100x more often than yours.” You relaxed and oddly let him hold you, looking down at the black card that rested in your hand and clutching it to your palm.
Taehyung realized he was still holding you and let go, retiring to fluff his hair instead. You caught a glimpse of his bicep underneath his rolled up sleeve as he did so, and you truly hated you chose a time like this to find him stunningly attractive.
“You should come downstairs, Mrs. Seo prepared dinner.” You ignored your thoughts.
“You go first, I’ll be down in a second.”
You nodded agreeably and turned away, leaving his study. You took a second look at the card in your hand, then glanced around the house as you strolled through it, trying to embed what Taehyung said into the crevices of your resistant thinking.
Everything I have is yours, you reiterated, registering that Taehyung had in fact grown accustomed to the idea of you two as a couple already. He’s accepted it, embraced it, even enforced it now with his earlier declarations and this black card. You automatically felt behind, like you were the tortoise in the race and needed to pick up your pace.
If Taehyung had already come to terms with your marriage, it was only a matter of time before you did as well. Marriage is a two-way street, and if you wanted to make this easier on both yourself and Taehyung, you would compromise with him, accept the true sense of partnership that entailed your status as husband and wife.
Thus was the exact mantra that played in your head as you fiddled with the card, remembering the way his big hands held you.
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It was night. 
You could say it was like any other ordinary night, though that would be a gargantuan lie. 
This night was the first time Taehyung and yourself were going to sleep in the same bed.
In your own home. 
The hotel suite left you both with your own space and privacy since it was a random, public room with no personality or attachment to it whatsoever, making it easier and comfortable to sleep with him.
So when you emerged from your walk-in closet in a thin camisole, loose pajama shorts and without a bra, you were cursing yourself. God damn you for needing to sleep in minimal clothing for comfort. You’d slept in a loose t-shirt and bottoms at the suite last night since it was a public room, and long story short, it left you tossing and turning more than you liked. 
You had no clue prior to arriving here that you’d be sharing a room with Taehyung. You’d expected to sleep in a different one, in the privacy of your own room where you could prance around as you wished and as a result packed your usual sleepwear. 
But now that you were left having to slumber with Taehyung, clothes on the more revealing side, there was no turning back. 
And what there was truly no turning back from, was when you opened the closet door and your eyes landed on Taehyung’s shirtless, wet self drying his hair after a shower. 
You immediately malfunctioned.
Your eyes fell to his bare back, ruffling his wet hair as his plaid pajama pants hung loosely at his hips. You immediately exclaimed and clamped a hand over your mouth, trying to shut yourself up. 
You did not expect at all for Taehyung to have such honey-coloured skin. It was like it naturally glowed, a healthy tone that made him appear all the more delectable. It certainly didn’t help that his shoulders were broader than you first observed, sincerely an other-worldly experience when he wasn’t wearing clothes. 
You also got an all-access view of his trap muscles, adding to the width of his shoulders overall and when Taehyung turned around to the sound of the closet door opening, gaze locking with yours, you could confirm his neck, chest and collarbones were indeed crafted to perfection.
Taehyung’s eyes widened momentarily drinking you in, not expecting your light sleepwear when just last night he witnessed you in a full pajama set. Not to mention, and he hated that he could tell, but you weren't wearing a bra. 
And the camisole did nothing to hide that. 
Taehyung straightened himself up realizing you two were practically gawking at each other, resting the towel around his neck as he cleared his throat. “That’s what you sleep in?” 
“That’s what you sleep in?” You retorted, arms over your chest. 
“Guys usually sleep shirtless, this is normal.” Taehyung gestured towards his own body and you had half a mind to floor yourself. It’s like Taehyung knew but also didn’t know he was hot, knew the effect he had on people though never grew cocky or proud enough to purposefully parade it around. 
And it frustrated you even more; he was fairly humble about being a sexy Greek God. 
“Girls sleep like this too, this is normal.” You copied him, looking off to the side. 
“I was kidding, I only sleep shirtless sometimes. Just get in bed.” Taehyung narrowed his eyes as he gestured towards the sheets, returning to his palace of a bathroom to toss his towel in the hamper and pull a t-shirt over his head. 
You wanted to move, feet just about ready to carry you but you never abandoned your spot. Instead, you pressed your lips into a thin line contemplating that sharing a bed with Taehyung, in clothes like this and in such proximity, all held a degree of intimacy you didn’t know you two shared yet. 
It’s only been a day. 
So when Taehyung returned to your unmoving figure, arms holding your chest and avoiding eye contact with him, he was quick to get the message. 
“Um.. if you really don’t want to sleep here, I can give you another room.” Taehyung offered, figuring himself this may be too soon. 
“No, it’s okay, that’d be kind of a hassle.” You waved him off. “Besides, your bed looks comfy.”
You were honestly trying to live up to your acceptance that Taehyung was the man you’d spend your life with now, so you’d better start getting use to him. You’d sleep next to him for numerous nights, spend endless days together and share a multitude of things; this would simply just be a first of many first times. 
So you paddled over to the bed and removed the covers to snuggle yourself in, the bed’s coolness sending a shiver through you before you hugged the blanket to yourself. Taehyung stood with a smile before crawling in himself, adjusting the covers to his liking. 
He felt at peace in a matter of seconds, the feeling of his own bed lulling him into a state of slumber already. He reached his arm out to shut off the lamp on his bedside table, leaving the room pitch dark and only his digital clock and balcony as a light source. 
You began to cower a bit in the darkness, thankful for the sheer curtains that allowed the moonlight to spill into the room. 
You felt another shiver run through your body when you shifted, realizing you were cold even under the sheets. You tried warming up on your own by shimmying the blanket around more comfortably, but it didn't do much. 
You were left lying on the bed trying to think warm thoughts, unintentionally breathing in the constant scent of Taehyung from his bed; his cologne, his aftershave, his body wash all filling your nostrils.
It was intoxicating, absolutely distracting and sleep began to slip your mind. It didn’t help that you were still cold too, moving around and turning onto your side where you now faced Taehyung. 
He seemed to have already dozed off, face tranquil as he slept soundlessly on his back. You couldn't help but admire his side-profile, the sparse moonlight illuminating his features. It was hard to not stretch your hand out and nearly run a touch along his cheek, like he was a rare work of art that naturally called for admiration.
You realized turning towards him that he radiated a wave of warmth from his body, remembering boys were pretty much furnaces while girls usually froze.
How wonderful it is to be a woman. 
You desired some of that heat and shuffled just a little closer to Taehyung, nearing the center of the bed. You discerned he was indeed warm and maneuvered slightly closer, just about stopping at the center of the bed. You fought back the urge to shimmy any closer, leaving a mindful gap between you two. 
You were seconds from catching a peace of mind until Taehyung unexpectedly spoke in the silence of the night, startling you. 
“You can come closer, I don’t bite.” The smirk in his voice was obvious, making you scrunch your nose and snap back at him. 
“Shut up, I’m not getting closer to you.” 
“You should, I’m really warm, and I can tell you’re cold.” There he was again teasing, his tone coy as he kept his eyes shut, unbothered. 
“Over my dead body.” You mocked him from earlier, turning away from him abruptly and pulling the covers over your head. 
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Coffee was probably your favourite thing life had to offer. One of the couple things you’d fight someone over; coffee and your independence, if you wanted to be specific. 
So it made you genuinely happy Taehyung had such a wide selection of coffee to choose from, ranging from all kinds of beans to instant coffee, cappuccinos, lattes, mochas, you name it. It took no time for you to craft a cup to your liking, shuffle into a seat on the island and begin picking at the breakfast the housekeepers had whipped up earlier this morning. 
You’d woken up early today keeping in mind the day you had planned. You decided this to be another move-in day as part of your studio setup project you’ve entertained for the last week. The granted time off due to your odd honeymoon farce with Taehyung proved to actually come in handy, thankfully. 
It had been another peaceful morning for you, having woken up with sunlight gracing the walls, certain you could hear birds chirping as if you were in a Disney film and little mice would come out to start sewing the gown you’d wear as a princess. 
It had been a peaceful morning indeed, but when you stretched out to loosen your stiff muscles, the chaos that met you was anything but peaceful. Even if it’s occurred at least 5 times now, you kept forgetting that you shared a bed with someone else now, and that said someone had somehow always founds a way to gravitate towards you during the night, even daringly cast an arm over you sometimes. 
It left you in a state of panic registering that Taehyung’s, dare you say warm and cozy body would be just behind you, his chest mere centimeters from your back. You would stay still for some time, calculating the optimal way to remove yourself from his hold until he eventually stirred enough to loosen his grip, darting right out of bed. 
Other times, he’d wake earlier than you and you wondered what would cross his mind once he registered your oddly proximal bodies. 
Did it ever bother him?
Nonetheless, it brought a mischievous smile to your face thinking about the fact that Taehyung had such a perfectly human habit like cuddling. He was always so serious, so put together and a near machine at everything he did, seeming as though he wouldn’t give anything romantic the time of day. 
But it was hard to forget the fluffy feeling that blossomed in your chest when you would sense his proximity, maybe inviting a liking to it. You had always slept alone, only yourself and the darkness to keep you company in your lonely bed, in your lonely home. 
So sleeping next to someone, namely Kim Taehyung left an impression on you you couldn’t quite shake. It was difficult to erase the image of his calm, sleeping face after the handful of times witnessing it. Long eyelashes delicately pressed to the skin under his eyes, lips plush as he seemed to naturally pout in his sleep. The sunlight only accentuated his honey-coloured skin, adding a glow to his features that made him appear prettier than he already was. 
It was nice to think you’d wake up to that every morning. 
You found your mind still playing around with the idea until you snapped yourself out of it, questioning why the hell you always ventured off whenever you thought about him. 
You were scolding yourself until your eyes caught Taehyung strolling into the kitchen with his phone in is hand. He’d foregone a jacket today, black shirt sleeves folded to mid-forearm paired with black slacks.  
You were normal until you almost spat your coffee seeing he wasn’t wearing a tie but instead had the first few buttons of his shirt open, revealing a generous view of his neck and the beginnings of his chest. 
Fucking hell.
You were staring stupidly until Taehyung peeked up at you, smiling “Morning.” 
“M-morning.” you stuttered.
He seemed unsuspecting as he returned his attention to his phone, proceeding to the kitchen counter and retrieving a cup to fix himself a drink. He appeared to be reading something conscientiously on his device, never taking his eyes off and you quickly became bored, ready to use the weapon you’d acquired. 
“So.. you’re a cuddler, huh?”
Taehyung nearly dropped his cup.  
“I’m sorry, what?” 
“You’re a cuddler when you sleep. Cute.” You rested your chin in your palm, playful smile on your face. 
“I think you’re mistaken, I am not a cuddler. And I’m not cute.” Taehyung denied as he only focused on the cup, his back to you. You then watched him reach for his selection of tea and purposefully evade the coffee, your eyes lighting up with mischief.  
“Wait, you’re a cuddler and you drink tea instead of coffee? Very cute.” You pulled on his leg, chuckling as you brought your mug to your lips
This was going to be fun.
“Shut up, I don’t like the taste and tea is healthier.” Taehyung practically sneered back, harshly ripping the packet of his tea bag.
“Doesn’t take away from the fact that you’re a cuddler.” You sipped on your coffee, unbothered as you swung your legs back and fourth. 
“Doesn’t take away from the fact that you like it.” 
You nearly spat your drink. 
“I remember a certain someone that shuffles closer to me for warmth, no?” Taehyung snapped back as he returned to his phone and popped his tea into the microwave, his shoulders high to the sky. You could imagine his smug face proud of his remark while searching for your own, realizing that Taehyung was damn good at arguing and you’d really have to upgrade your comeback game to counter him. 
He was unfortunately your match.
“Even if I were one, which I’m not, It’s not like I’m committing a crime.” Taehyung suddenly finalized with a snippy tone, and you realized you may have hurt his ego. 
“I never said it was a bad thing.” You commented under your breath and looked away, popping a raspberry into your mouth. 
Taehyung bit back a smirk as he retrieved his cup of tea, taking a sip as he returned to his phone and took a seat across from you. He began compiling his plate of breakfast as he worked his device, typing away with one hand as if he was drafting the Magna Carta. 
You became bored again.
“Why do you have so much coffee if you don’t like it?” You genuinely felt like inquiring, if he didn’t like the taste why would he have so much? 
“For my housekeepers, they drink it.” He took a sip of his tea, all attention on his phone. 
You nodded understandingly. “Why do you have two housekeepers, by the way? Isn’t one enough?” 
“So they can keep each other company.” He answered absentmindedly, eyes still glued to his phone as he bit a piece of his toast. You really hated that he wasn’t actively interacting with you because it only left room to stare at him, and that was never any good.  
He looked illegally attractive with the unbuttoned part of his shirt, your mind profusely bugging out over the exposed bit of his chest. You were reminded of the full view from last night, and began pondering how long you’d survive having to see that for the rest of your life. 
“O-oh, that’s nice.” You stuttered back a reply, squashing your previous thought.
You were actually quite impressed by the kindness Taehyung showed behind that decision, noticing he had these small moments where he was caring, considerate, all hidden behind his unreadable face and seriousness when it came to business. 
It was quite interesting. 
You were mindlessly eating until Taehyung spoke up, eyes flickering towards you. “What are you going to do today?” 
You swallowed your fruit. “I was planning on moving more stuff in again, start finishing my studio setup. Thank you again for the room, by the way.” You expressed your gratitude once more, forking some eggs into your mouth. 
“Don’t mention it.” 
“What are you doing today?” you echoed his question, taking another swig of coffee.
“I’m working again. If you need anything I’ll be in my study.” Taehyung sent you a half-smile before snatching up his plate, bringing his phone to his ear as he stepped out of the kitchen. 
You sighed heavily only being left to think about your day, which would be majorly spent unpacking and arranging things. You had a plethora of art supplies, design tools and canvases to set up in your studio, leaving you constantly thinking of how to even begin. 
It would be a mission alone to sort through everything you had left, knowing you didn’t exactly label out of sheer laziness and would have to individually unbox and organize everything . 
It was this exact task that took up most of your day, time having slipped by in the blink of an eye. It wasn’t easy when you had to be rummaging through your belongings and situating them where you thought appropriate, also trying to envision a new look for your studio. 
You hadn’t realized 3 hours had passed until the ring of the front doorbell caused you to check your phone, curious as to who would be visiting your home in the middle of the day. You assumed it be one of the housekeepers and abandoned your work, cascading down the staircase and striding towards the grand entrance. 
You drew towards the monitor Taehyung had showed you just yesterday, explaining it to be your home security system. Taehyung detailed it had a camera for your front porch that detected movement and the doorbell alike, so you peered at the monitor to see the stranger outside your home. 
Your eyebrows furrowed registering a woman, her back turned towards the door as she fidgeted nervously with her purse in her hand. 
Sheer curiosity took you over and you paddled towards the door, unlocking it. You wore a smile on your face as you swung the door open, though it was immediately wiped off taking in the last person on earth you ever wanted to see. 
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tags : @thedarkwinterrose @ayujaded @couldbeyourlast @ladyarmanto @anpanman-sonyeondan @apollukee @blueevelvt @taesluttt @scalubera​ @laurynne5​ @dreamsindreamss​ @thequeen-kat​ @awsome-small-k​ @wrecklesssly​ @kweenhu​ @jalexad​ @staerify​ @bangforever​ @dyriddle​ @aianloveseven​ @waves-and-woods​ @hoefortaeshands​ @veronawrites​ @nightapple4jk​ @wataemelonz​ @aomi-nabi​
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thisbluewind · 2 years
fall between the cracks
Pairing: Azula & Katara, background Zutara
Wordcount: 1998
Summary: Azula has a nightmare, and calls Katara. Modern AU
Other notes: so, I wrote this for a gift exchange for a server i’m in, but my giftee asked not to be tagged if i posted it outside the server, so here it is!
AO3 link: https://archiveofourown.org/works/28480725
Azula shot upright, eyes wide and gasping for air. It was just a dream; you don’t need to get so upset over it, she berated herself, trying to steady her racing pulse. She could still see it in her mind, her father standing in front of her, the hateful lies he’d insisted were true echoing in her head.
You should have been better. You failed. You didn’t do your duty. And the worst of them all: You're just as bad as Zuko. For all her life, ‘Zuko’ had been Ozai’s synonym for disappointment, worthless, weak, and everything else she wasn’t supposed to be. She knew that her brother was none of those things, but the opinions she’d had drilled into her head for her entire childhood wouldn’t let go. You weren’t good enough. It hadn’t been her fault. If you had been better, this wouldn’t have happened. It wasn’t her fault. You could have stopped this. It couldn’t have been her fault-
She dove for her phone, and dialed the first number that came to mind.
“Azula?” Katara’s tired voice filled her ears. “It’s three in the morning.”
“I apologize for waking you. I wasn’t thinking.” Her voice sounded small and empty. Exactly the way she felt. “I will call back in the morning.” She moved to hang up, but Katara spoke first.
“Wait. What’s wrong?” the other girl asked.
“I… I had a nightmare.” It sounded foolish once she said it out loud, and Azula opened her mouth to take the words back, to lie and convince Katara it was nothing. But once again, her friend answered before she could.
“About your father?”
“Yes,” Azula admitted. “I understand it’s ridiculous to still be thinking about something that happened in college now, but-”
“I’ll be right over,” Katara promised, and the line went dead in Azula’s hand. She stared at it uncomprehendingly. Katara cares about you, she reminded herself. She cares.
In what seemed like forever and no time at all, a quiet knock sounded at her apartment door. Azula swung her legs over the edge of her bed, and stood up quickly- too quickly, it seemed, as the motion set her head spinning. She waited for the dizziness to pass, and walked to the front door. When she opened it, Katara gave her a quick hug. Azula stepped back awkwardly, wordlessly inviting her friend to come in.
Seeing her uncertainty, Katara took her arm, and led her to the kitchen. Once they were there, Azula moved with stiff and practiced efficiency, selecting ingredients and placing them on the countertop. In barely two minutes, there were two warm cups of tea on the table. Jasmine, Uncle and Zuko’s favorite.
Once they were both settled, and sipping at their tea, Katara looked at Azula expectantly.
“Do you want to talk about it?” she asked, obviously concerned.
“High school,” Azula said, bitterly. “Was a series of unrealistic and harmful expectations piled on top of me, one after another, with consequences when those impossibilities were not met. College was the result of those three years of buildup exploding in my father’s face, and by extension, mine.”
Katara nodded, clearly struggling to keep any signs of pity off her face.
“I was the envy of the entire school. Popular, intelligent, powerful. And then Iroh helped Zuko come forward about what had happened and when the news broke-” Azula snapped her fingers “-nobody wanted anything to do with the true failure, me. Just like that. Even Ty Lee and Mai abandoned me. I went from the most liked to most hated, in a matter of hours.” She grimaced. “I didn’t come to school for two weeks, but I heard the rumors. She was in on it, he hired someone to fake her success, and all the rest. I never stopped hearing it, not for the rest of my life. Every interview, I’m asked what my role was in what happened to Zuko. If I attempt to befriend someone, they inevitably demand to know what really happened. And if I don’t give the answer they want...” She stared at her feet. “I keep wondering if it’s worth trying again.”
“I didn’t know that it still affected your career.” Katara looked down at her feet. “If you want, I can pull some strings, get you a comfortable position in my company-”
“Thank you, but no.” Azula stopped her. “If I succeed, I have to do it on my own. Otherwise, I’ll just be proving what they all said about me. That my successes will always come from other people’s generosity. Not to mention what it would do to your reputation.”
“Alright,” Katara nodded, knowing exactly what Azula meant. After all, she had gone through the same thing rising to the top of her company, despite Pakku and the others on the Board of Executives doing their best to stop her. “But you need to know that having help doesn’t diminish your accomplishments. There is nothing wrong with needing help sometimes.”
“Why do I get the feeling you’re talking about more than jobs?”
Katara shifted in her seat. “I know you didn’t want to when Zuko first brought it up, but I was wondering if you were still so against going to therapy.” Azula flinched from the word, bringing her hands together to rest in her lap. She straightened her posture, feeling like she had to hide all signs of the emotional turmoil inside her.
“My answer remains the same as it did then.” Azula spoke slowly, her words measured and careful.
“Are you sure? I know it helped your brother,” Katara pressed. “Or if you’re uncomfortable with that, maybe you could try talking to Zuko instead-”
“What happened to Zuko and what happened to me are completely different things,” Azula snapped. “We may have both been hurt by our fathe- Ozai, but our experiences were fundamentally different on every other level. He was the hero, Katara. I was just something for my father to brag about. Zuko faded into slightly positive-tinged obscurity after he exposed Phoenix Industries, and I have been vilified by mainstream news reports and my past defines everything I do. He had help and support from Iroh, and I was left to fall through the cracks. Do not insinuate that we went through the same thing in the end.” Katara seemed surprised by the ruthlessness and efficiency with which Azula delivered her argument. And why shouldn’t she be? I’m sure Zuko doesn’t dwell on this as much as I do. But still, Katara had clearly been hurt by her harsh words. “I-I’m sorry.”
“I get it. You’re not thinking straight right now.”
“You’re right, I’m not.” Azula stared down at her hands, screaming at herself internally for testing Katara’s patience at- she checked her watch- three-thirty in the morning. She was a fool for bringing Katara into this, a fool for telling her everything, and a fool for never being strong enough to handle anything on her own. Pathetic. Weak. Worthless.  
Blinking back tears, she avoided Katara’s gaze. “I apologize for inconveniencing you. I will most likely be fine in the morning.” Most likely, you’ll be calling in sick to work and sobbing in bed for two hours in the morning. Bad enough that you’re lying again, you don’t even sound convincing.
“Azula, look me in the eyes and tell me that again.”  
She forced herself to maintain eye contact, and forced her voice to remain steady as she spoke. “I will be fine in the morning.” Liar. Liar. Liar. That’s all you do, isn’t it? All you can even do anymore.
“Do you even hear yourself right now?” Katara slammed her cup down on the table with surprising force. “Do you have any idea how unconvincing you sound?”
“I’m fin-”
“No! Don’t say you’re fine. You’re not fine, and anyone with a single brain cell can see that!” Katara waved her hands as if hitting the air would make Azula listen to her. “I’m completely sick of watching you run yourself into the ground again and again! You take extra shifts at both your jobs and stay up late trying to find a job where you can use what you learned at that fancy law school, and then you burn yourself out trying to be everything you’re supposed to be, while still holding fast to your nothing-to-do-with-Ozai policy! You take a day off to recover, and start the whole cycle again the next day! I hate watching you do this to yourself!” Katara continued her diatribe, but it blurred together in Azula’s ears. Burned out. That sounded about right. But what was the other part? Could it be that Katara couldn’t stand Azula’s method of being a functioning adult? Or perhaps that Katara felt responsible for her, as Azula’s closest (and only) friend? It didn’t seem that way, from the passionate tirade alone.
“Why are you doing this?”
Katara blinked, interrupted mid-rant. “You mean why am I trying to make you take care of yourself?”
“Yes. Why are you trying to make me take care of myself, and offering me assistance in life? The system I currently have is working fine, and doesn’t affect you in any way. I can’t make sense of it. The only possible explanation that I can think of is that Zuko or Ursa put you up to it.”
“Didn’t you say your mother wanted nothing to do with you?”
“You’re avoiding the question. Why?” Azula barely managed to disguise her wince at the mention of her mother. It was her own fault, she supposed, for bringing Ursa into it.
“Isn’t it obvious?” Katara blinked. “You’re my friend, and I want what’s best for you. What, did you think I hated you?”
“Well, at first, yes,” Azula confessed, shocked. “I assumed you were spending time around me for Zuko’s sake, and mistook your… forceful personality for hatred of me.”
Katara shook her head and started to laugh. “I’ve gotta say, between dating Zuko and having Sokka for a brother, I’ve heard a lot of things like that, but what you just said takes the cake.”
“Hmph.” Azula tried to frown, but wound up smiling instead
“It’s true,” Katara teased lightheartedly. “I don’t know how you got it into your head that my way of showing complete and utter contempt was showing up at your door with cupcakes on your birthday, or inviting you over for dinner, or coming to your house at three in the morning because you had a nightmare.” She grinned. “Of course, they could have been poisoned cupcakes.”
Azula laughed. “Oh yes, they were definitely poisoned, that’s why they probably had more sugar in them then most desserts.”
“Toph gave me the recipe, you know she has a sweet tooth.”
“Have Mai and Ty Lee finally realized that their pining isn’t one-sided yet?”
“Surprisingly, yes,” Katara gave a half-smile. “It seemed like they never would, but it finally happened.”
“I’m happy for them.” Azula smiled. “It’s unlikely that either of them will ever want to speak to me again, but I wish them the best.”
They both lapsed into comfortable silence, sipping their tea and relaxing in each others’ company. After a while, Katara had to leave, as she had work the next day.
“Be brave, okay?” She hugged Azula.
“I’ll try.” Azula hugged back.
The next morning, when her alarm went off, Azula rolled out of bed and stared at the next law firm in her notebook. She pulled up the website on her phone, and was immediately drawn to the sentence in the description that they specialized in dealing with corrupt employers and large megacorporations. In a perfect world, where she wasn’t Ozai’s daughter, it would have been an excellent fit for her. Azula typed the number into her phone, and hovered her finger over the call button. Would they turn her away upon finding out who she was? Be brave, Azula. Katara’s voice echoed in her head.
Azula made the call.
17 notes · View notes
kyuublu · 2 years
Ice cold
part 2 (Sakusa Kiyoomi x Reader | series)
Ice Skating AU
Song rec: Unhealthy - Bakar
I slowly opened my eyes, sun streaks painting the walls of my room. What time is it?
„Alright, alright.“ I mumbled as I tapped viciously at my phone screen to turn the horrendous sound off.
My limbs felt heavy as I dragged myself up out of bed.
„God damn it...“ I let out a huff when I realised I’ve been sleeping for way too long. My parents were going to kill me.
Suddenly my phone started ringing again but this time it wasn’t my alarm. Grabbing my phone again, I took a moment to look at the foreign number. Who the hell is calling me?
I brought the device to my ear and waited.
„It’s y/n, right?“
Sakusa?? My eyes widened. Where did he get my number from?
„Yes, but how-“
„Can you open up the rink for me?“
My brows furrowed at the request.
„Why are you asking me? I’m not working today.“
He sighed. I could practically see him rolling his eyes.
„I know that dumbass, the rink isn’t open on sundays. I asked Mr. Takahashi to open up for me today but he seems to be sick and told me to call you.“
Oh man, I just wanted a day for myself to do nothing and just lay in bed... Guess that’s how it’s like when you have a job.
Sakusa voice rang through the phone with more caution.
„Yeah yeah, I’m coming. It’ll take me a bit though.“
Suddenly the boy let out a dry chuckle.
„What, did I wake you up?“
I pouted at his stupid question.
„Shut up. Just wait for me.“
Before he could let out another comment, I hung up. He is such an ass.
I sighed as I remindef myself, I’m only doing this for Mr. Takahashi.
Walking out of the Bus I could immediately make out the curly head from the distance. As I came closer I noticed him wearing some big black headphones.
That was weird, he usually never really listened to music beside his CDs.
I approached him from behind and tapped his shoulder. He flinched and pulled one side of the headphone aside.
„Did you have to touch me?“
Sakusa glared at me. I chuckled as I walked towards the entrance.
„Jesus, I’ll remember to yell next time. Seriously though, there was no way you could’ve heard me with those on.“
I pointed at the device on his head. Sakusa only rolled his eyes and waited for me to open up the place.
„What are you listening to anyways?”
The boy took of the headphones completely and tapped on the screen.
“Don’t know the song.. I’m just searching for something new.”
He shrugged.
“What got you so interested in music all of a sudden?”
I turned the key and pushed myself against the door, opening it.
“I just need a song for my next program.”
Sakusa furrowed his brows in confusion.
“What got you so interested in what I’m interested in?”
I came to a halt, turning around to the boy that stood behind me.
“I don’t know. Just trying to make conversation s’ all.”
As Sakusa secured his skates, there was still a faint sound escaping his headphones. He seemed to be more annoyed than usual. This song thing really got to him, huh.
“I’m gonna stay here since I can’t give you the keys just like that.”
Sakusa gave me an amused smile and turned towards my form.
“I’ve been going here since I was a kid, do you really think Mr. Takahashi trusts me any less with this rink than you?”
His stupid questions began annoying me at this point. Why does he have to be so smug about everything?
“Which song is it gonna be? For the performance I mean?”
I looked at my feet as I tried to ignore his attempt to get rid of me.
“Like I said, I don’t know yet.”
He sighed frustrated with the situation. His hands were propped on his knees as he looked at the rink infront of him.
“I could-“
I stopped talking before I could embarrass myself even more. I don’t need him to think I am more of an idiot than he already does.
Sakusa groaned snapping his head back to me.
“If it was nothing you wouldn’t have tried to say anything. Just spit it out.”
I kept being quiet, contemplating if my idea was really worth it.
Done with my bullshit, the boy stood up and began walking towards the rink, his headphones still dangling around his neck.
“Maybe I could show you some songs!” I panicked before he could step on the ice. His head slowly turned to me.
Before he could say anything to degrade me again I spoke up.
“I’m not gonna show you some lame pop charts song. I’ll try to find something that can be meaningful.”
I quickly took out my phone and unlocked it.
“Just- just tell me what kind of concept you’re going for and I’ll help you.”
His quietness became a bit alarming, making me look up from the screen.
Sakusa was staring at me, he wasn’t glaring or rolling his eyes- no. There was something different that I couldn’t quite place.
“Just show me something different.”
What? I perked my brow in confusion as he put his headphones back on and turned away, sliding off onto the cold ice floor.
Different? Maybe he meant something unique?
I grumbled as I sat myself back down on one of the benches. Since he was wearing headphones I just began playing different songs.
Helping him wasn’t really going to make him like me or give me anything in return, but at least I wasn’t staying in my room allday.
Suddenly the constant scratching of the blades underneath the skaters feet were coming to a halt. I looked up at the rink for a moment.
He had one of his arms propped on his hip and the other on his phone, tapping away on the screen.
Then he looked up, catching my eyes. I quickly focused on the device in my hand.
I think I have some songs... But I’m not really sure if he’ll like them.
I’ve seen Sakusa so often that I knew he was a perfectionist, germaphobe and someone that didn’t wear much color, but that was it. I didn’t know what genre he liked, what food he likes or what his type is.
His type? What the hell am I even thinking about-
“Do you have something?”
My thoughts got interrupted by the devil himself. The curly head stood right infront of me with his arms crossed. I cleared my throat in an attempt to get myself back together.
“Yeah, I think so.”
I didn’t even dare to look at him as I went through the playlist that had only contained 3 songs, hoping he at least didnt hate one of them.
He suddenly came closer and sat down an arm length away from my seat.
“What’s this one called?”
My head snapped towards him. It was the third and last one.
“Still dont know my name by Labyrinth.” I read out loud as I fidgeted with my phone. I quickly stood up and walked towards Mr. Takahashis little office.
“The bass sounds even more intense if you have boxes like here just wait a second I’ll try to-“
I began rambling until I connected the device in the office to my phone.
Rewinding to the beginning, I pressed play and the song erupted from the boxes.
Sakusa was leaning against rink. I slowly approached him and continued my rambling. “It’s actually from a tv show so maybe it’s a little too mainstream I guess, but I just thought the sound was...unique?”
My body was situated right beside his now. His eyes met mine as he slowly nodded in approval.
“It’s unique, yes. I didn’t know it though.”
I gave him a quick smile.
Did he actually like it? He hasn’t made a single negative comment in the last couple of minutes, which is a good sign.
“I’ll think about it.”
The song stopped, making us simultaneously look towards the office.
“Should I play it another time?”
“No, it’s fine. I need to go anyways.”
“Oh, okay...” I scratched my head awkwardly.
Maybe I was a bit too enthusiastic there.
After I locked the entrance door I turned away to walk towards the bus station. Sakusa was already ahead of me, of course he didn’t care to say goodbye again. What an ass...
I shrugged and began trudging towards the station.
Why did I even bother helping him? He didn’t care either way.
I haven’t seen Sakusa for two days but I was pretty sure he didn’t pick the song. I don’t know why that got to me so much, I really couldn’t stop randomly thinking about this guy.
“Wow Ms. L/N, you’ve really outdone yourself today.”
Mr. Takahashi applauded as he approached me.
“It was nothing really.”
I smiled at him, putting away the mop in my hand. I’ve just finished mopping down the entrance hallway that had been getting dirty from all the people getting in and out.
It felt so good to finally see everything looking clean and fresh again.
“You know, Kiyoomis practice starts now. I’d be fine with you leaving the rest of the work to me.” The old man spoke with a small grin.
“Oh- Okay, sure. I mean we’ll see if I’ll watch his practice. Maybe I’ll jusg go home.”
I stuttered a bit. Damn it, did I look that desperate to see him?
“Do as you wish, kid.” He turned away and walked out of my sight.
Mr. Watanbe always looked the same. He had good posture, his hands behind his back carefully as he watched his student. The trainer seemed so invested in his movements, it was like he controlled him with his mind.
Quietly seating myself on one of the benches I began watching his student. Sakusa was doing some sort of spin, over and over again.
Suddenly he felt my gaze and looked back to me for a second.
Instead of turning away I gave him a smile and small wave. The boy only continued his practice without giving me any sort of acknowledgment.
Why the hell did I wave? What am I? A twelve year old girl that has a crush on the popular guy? God-
“He always seems a bit more secure when you watch.”
I flinched at the sound of his trainers voice beside me.
“What do you mean?” I asked unsure while looking at the tall man that still had his eyes glued to the boy on the ice.
“Sakusa is a perfectionist but when he’s alone or around people he doesn’t care about he’ll allow himself to mess up. He’ll shrug the mistake off and do it until he deems it as perfect for himself.”
The trainer suddenly took his eyes off of him and sat down next to me.
“He wants to imress you. You can see it clearly.”
Starstruck I tried forming words but I couldn’t. My eyes moved towards the body that was moving on the rink.
“Why would he want to impress someone who doesn’t know anything about the sport?”
That was the only thought I had.
The man next to me only laughed, crossing his arms. “You’ll need to ask him that yourself.”
We didn’t talk much after that, only watching Sakusas precise movements. I just couldn’t really get Mr. Watanabes statement out of my head. He wants to impress me.
“Mr. Watanabe, we need to start the choreography soon. I want as much tiem as I can to practice it before the competition.”
Sakusa was leaning against the rink as the Trainer approached him with a water bottle.
“Did you pick the music yet? We need a concept before we can start.”
Sakusa gave him a short nod, I catched him clancing my way for a second.
“I’ll put it on.”
Then the curly head strutted out of the rink and walked towards the office.
Suddenly I heard an all too familiar sound blaring out of the speakers above us.
He picked my song.
“Interesting choice. Not really the stuff we know from you Sakusa.”
The trainer let out a chuckle as he watched his student walk out of the office. A blush crept up on his face, he didn’t dare to look my way.
“You picked my song?” Excited I stood up from my seat and approached him.
“I gave it a chance. Thought I might need something new to shock the judges.”
His back was still turned to me but I couldn’t let loose. I walked up next to him, still making sure there was enough space between us to not ruin the moment.
“Thank you.”
I kinda wanted to hug him but I don’t think that would’ve ended well.
The dark haired boy gave me a quick side glance and mumbled something under his breathe.
“It’s nothing.”
A harsh pat on the back ripped us both out of the moment.
“Well aren’t you guys a great team. Maybe L/N can help us with the concept too, if she’d like?”
Mr. Watanabe had his hands on both of our backs and gave us a wholesome smile. Before I could panic about ideas Sakusa already began talking.
“The song seems to involve love and intimacy so maybe we’ll need to start there.”
His eyes finally catched mine. He really wanted me to help, I could feel it this time and I wasn’t wrong for once.
“Actually the lyrics go into putting someone you love on a pedestal. ‘I would die your slave but you still don’t know my name’ could mean that you’d see them as some sort of god but they don’t even acknowledge you.”
I explained more engagingly. Sakusa actually seemed interested as he listened. Watching me cautiously through his lashes without intervening.
“The question is if you want to present the yearning lover or the powerful reckless god?”
I asked a bit more sarcastic.
Sakusa looked down for a moment and seemed to be in thought. He was actually considering my ideas.
“I’ll do the lover.”
My eyes went wide and I couldn’t hold back a small laugh.
“It’ll make more sense since the lyrics are from that perspective.” The boy explained hastily to justify his sudden unexpected answer.
“Sure, thats why.”
The sarcasm was clear in his trainers voice as he stepped away from the both of us.
“Well then let’s get to work.”
The man clapped his hands together but quickly turned to me again.
“Oh and L/N why don’t you help us some more? I know you aren’t too familiar with the sport but it’s always good to have an outsiders perspective, am I right?”
He looked expectantly towards Sakusa.
“Sure, why not.”
After a few more training sessions and brainstorming, Sakusa and Mr. Watanbe created some of the first elements for his program.
I was still excited to be involved in the project, trying my best to include my ideas here and there, even learning new stuff about figure skating on the side.
“You know it wouldn’t be a bad idea to bring you with us to the competition next month. Maybe it’ll help Sakusa calm his nerves.”
Mr. Watanabe was munching on some Onigiris Mrs. Takahashi had made. He has really been getting more comfortable around the both us.
“You’d really think she would calm my nerves?”
Sakusas head snapped back to his trainer. I only pouted at the boy, mouth full of rice.
“Well?” His trainer quirked a brow and waited for a final answer.
“I don’t care.” His student shrugged before grabbing a Omigiri himself.
“Wait, where’s the competition?”
I asked nonchalant as I expected a couple of hours drive since it wouldn’t be held in a small town like this.
My eyes went wide as I almost choked on the food that eneyered my mouth.
“You’re kidding right?”
His trainer only shook his head with a grin plastered on his face.
“Sakusa is the real deal, L/N. I thought you knew that by now.”
I looked to the boy beside him, waiting for some sort of reaction.
Sakusa only carried on munching on his food without a sign of this being a joke.
How the hell am I going to explain this to my parents?
15 notes · View notes
seimeinotaka · 2 years
Movie Review (Vil x MC Fic)
(Cross-posted from AO3) 
His confidence shaking, Vil keeps pondering over himself and why he keeps losing to Neige. It somehow ends in a discussion with Ann about Type-casting, the role of an actor, and focusing on what is truly important.
Thanks to [email protected] for beta-reading this! 
The kitchen was empty, for everyone had gone to bed, having learned that crossing Vil and breaking the rules wasn’t something to take lightly. Twenty minutes before curfew, Vil was washing the cup he had just used. He needed water to clear his head. Beating Neige in the VDC, being the fairest of them all. He had these goals in mind, but no matter how hard he tried, it was never enough. The water from the faucet couldn’t flush his thoughts away, as it flowed down his hands, so cold but Vil hadn’t even noticed either.
Why couldn’t he beat Neige?
What did Neige have that he lacked?
The cute character he always showed? Was it just that? Something he couldn’t even work with?
The hero, the beautiful holder of the Legendary sword. That was Neige’s role.
The cold beautiful villain. That was Vil’s role.
The water stopped.
Vil suddenly realized someone was next to him, having been struck slightly by their elbow, as this person turned off the faucet.
“Schoenheit-senpai, are you alright?” It was Ann, who had taken him out of his trance.
“Manager…yes, I’m fine,” he replied, still in a daze. He hadn’t meant to get so carried away in his thoughts that anyone saw him like this.
He wasn’t as annoyed as before with her, since she seemingly didn’t insult him and had apologized for whatever she had meant to say, though he was far from being on friendly terms with her. She seemed to be treating him with a certain distance, since their discussion had ended abruptly when she stormed off. He was perfectly fine with this unspoken arrangement.
Ann didn’t reply to his calm reassurance, but her expression let him know she wasn’t buying his words. She could keep her worry to herself, channeling it to win the VDC instead.
“…There’s something I wanted to talk to you about…” she finally said, after taking a deep breath to break the awkward silence. “It’s not about Epel…it’s about you…”
For a second there, she seemed to hesitate. Actually, this expression was the same one she had been wearing ever since she apologized when they crossed paths. As if she had something to say but feared doing so. Vil had never intended to ask her anything, ignoring her gaze if she had nothing to add to their discussions or practice.
“…Go on.” He prepared himself mentally, he was going to end up annoyed, but if he didn’t pretend to hear her now, she would be nagging him later on. He could certainly do without that, so he would take the lesser of the two evils.
She took a deep breath, and somehow bluntly stated, “You are going to get angry at me, but I might have heard your conversation with that Adella woman. About a film where Neige Leblanche got the lead and they wanted you to play the villain.” And just as that, she looked at him, ready to face her punishment.
He would have actually punished her, if he hadn’t been taken by surprise.
He had been extremely careful in answering his calls, only twice had he been contacted, and she wasn’t around then. Had Rook told her something? Rook had fine ears and he might have heard the phone calls, but he doubted his vice dorm leader would betray him and tell that private information to her.
“The other day… at the end of practice. I forgot my tablet after we uhhhh…had a discussion.” She grimaced, and forced herself to look at him. “I left it there but you were talking on the phone and I couldn’t just enter.”
“So, you decided to eavesdrop instead,” he coldly replied.
“It was an accident, I didn’t mean to! By the time I had realized what was happening, you left the room and I didn’t know what to do,” she hurried to add, stepping back defensively. “I’ve been thinking hard if I should talk to you about it but… Whatever. You are angry anyway, so, before you kill me for eavesdropping, lemme ask the following: Is Neige really that good? Or was it because he looks like the good hero?”
She was extremely right in him wanting to kill her in that moment, though her second question took him by surprise. “What do you think, Manager?” He was not going to talk about Neige.
“So, it’s the second…. I had a gut feeling it was like that. I looked around the internet, he’s mentioned a lot, I guess, but he just looks cute to me. I honestly don’t see why everyone goes wild about him. But I guess he does have the appeal to play the good-natured hero, just as you do look like a good fit for a handsome villain.”
He certainly did not need to have her rub salt on his wound, it was bad enough that Rook would blab and praise Neige. Clenching his fist, he was wondering how to curse her to make her stop.
“That’s pretty disappointing and boring, actually,” she said flatly.
“What do you mean what?” She looked at him confused, unaware that she was the one not making any sense at all. “I looked up the Legendary Sword, it’s supposed to be a groundbreaking film series, right? But if they go for such basic casting, is it really groundbreaking?”
Vil stared at her for a moment, a mix of extreme annoyance and deep confusion because what did one thing have to do with another? Not to mention, it was a series he loved.
"Have you even watched the first one?!"
How dared she say that.
"....No, but that's not really my point."
He gave her a scornful smile, as he said, “Of course, Manager. Here you go again, please give me your opinion on things you don’t know the least about.”
"I don’t need to watch a film to get a sense of what they are going for. I can get the aesthetic they are going for, and usually that goes in hand with the setting.” She shrugged her shoulders. “From what I heard of your conversation, yeah I’m sorry, it won’t happen again, you didn’t get to audition, so they offered you the role. Probably the same happened with Neige, so it means they are basing the casting on your physical appearance.”
It wasn’t his physical appearance entirely, but she wasn’t that wrong actually. He was almost impressed she could have figured it out. And that meant he had to be more careful than he thought. Though he should have suspected something, if she managed to dupe Azul.
“That’s pretty disappointing, they aren't taking your acting skills into consideration. A true actor can make the audience believe in their character, no matter how they look. That's strength of their histrionics."
"Don't you realize you're being overly idealistic? You didn't strike me as the type," he interjected, arching an eyebrow. He wasn’t sure what she was trying to do, but he was almost curious to see how farfetched her ramble would go.
"But, am I wrong? Also, you got a point. The plot and allegiances, the roles of the characters shouldn't be spelled out from appearances. That actually lessens the strength of your acting. It kills the story when I can see someone and know exactly that he is the bad guy just because he wears purple and looks cold. That’s not creative, it’s extremely boring. I thought that as a fashion model and probably a trendsetter, you would prefer to break the rules."
He wouldn’t deign to give her an answer, but she didn’t look at him like she was expecting one.
"The fact that you said I didn't look the type, that's exactly my point. I prefer when my characters are deeper than what they only look. When they surprise me because someone looks cute but isn’t the cute type, that keeps me on my toes. To subvert the expectations of the audience, while showing them a story they can't predict, that's what I would call legendary. Surely, a movie like that should have a legendary casting too."
"I see you keep taking about things you do not know. You keep talking about a movie you haven't seen and the casting of a sequel you don't know."
"...You have a fair point, but I can tell that the casting is very safe. To cast the cute actor as the protagonist and the beautiful sexy one as the villain. They didn't really take any risks."
"Perhaps you weren't paying attention to what I said before,” he groaned. “You have to understand the visuals that suit the atmosphere. A group of elementary children singing metal will look off."
"I actually want to hear that."
"Forget it, your taste is too extreme to understand my point," he grimaced, giving up on trying to get through her thick skull.
“I guess… though I find it sad that for all the boldness you have, you’re stuck with mainstream ideals. Though it seems to come with the industry. They are the ones with the money.”
"Suppose you are in charge of casting, Manager. Do you mean you would have me as lead instead?"
"I wouldn't have a prince charming as the lead in the first place. But the role would go to the one who acts the part better. Not just looks."
Vil looked at her with a stony expression, somehow her words stung and he felt uncomfortable.
"Though, if we have a hero like that, to cast you as the prince charming, the good hero they are picking Neige for... I would honestly prefer that. It's a risky decision, and many would question your casting, but if you were to sweep everyone's minds with your performance, you would win even more than if you went with a typical casting. There's a higher risk, but an even higher reward."
"Fufu, you still have no idea what you're talking about. Unfortunately, as much as your ridiculous idea sounds compelling, the truth is, Neige was cast as the main character."
"If it makes you feel better, I can write you as a main character in a story I make."
He smiled mockingly at her. "Ara, should I be touched? That a mere potato acting as a manager makes me her main character in her story? Focus on your studies."
"I mean, we can’t change things now, but if you were the hero and people questioned it, it's your job as the actor to prove them wrong."
"You sound awfully confident in my abilities."
"Is there a reason I shouldn't be?"
Vil was taken back. That was the most unexpected way to compliment someone, though he couldn't say he hated it. That said, she was incredibly annoying.
"You do enjoy talking about things you have no clue about."
"What I don't have a clue about? If I look carefully at you, I can tell you've honed yourself a lot."
"It's the way you conduct yourself.  To be this knowledgeable about food and skin care, about music too. Dancing styles, dance moves. There's a limit to natural talent. You could understand things in theory but you call them by their names, that doesn't come from simple experience.  Your pose is always perfect, both when you're walking and when you're fighting. To be able to have that degree of grace, you can't always do it unless you've trained yourself to be graceful. I get the feeling you're always pushing yourself to be perfect in any way. No matter what. Like you could be wearing burning shoes and you wouldn't show your pain."
He looked at her, she liked saying the oddest things. Why was she focusing on that? Normally, people commented directly on his beauty. He wasn’t used to being told this, he was doing only the necessary things to achieve his goal. The obvious things that no one focused on. That no one praised.
You didn't praise the method, you praised the results. The finished product. It didn't matter if you did your best when you failed. The result was all that mattered.
Just as he couldn’t beat Neige.
However, her words made him uncomfortable. Was she offering a cheap clap on the back as his fate, and he hated that word, was to be the loser? Some cheap, meaningless sympathy as an equally miserable bandage to his mortally wounded pride?
"What is your game, Manager? Is this some attempt to get along with me to further your goals?"
She huffed, visibly frustrated and annoyed at him, when he should be the one groaning at her and her nonsensical questioning. "You know, you're really smart but you're horribly stubborn. I'm not dissing you. Damn this school. You're all a huge bunch of weirdos, you're always focusing on the oddest stuff."
"As if you can truly say that to me."
"Really? Riddle got so angry about breaking even the most ridiculous inconsequential rules that the Queen of Hearts made. I get things like ‘Don't run with scissors in the hall’, because you can actually get hurt, but the color of roses? The tea you serve after 6? That's just showing off your power in meaningless bullshit. It alienates people instead of making them like you. He is devoted and meticulous, except he's focusing on the stupid stuff.
“Leona is capable, he's actually smart and he could be an excellent student and magift player but he can't be bothered to do anything because he doesn't want to be compared to others. Well, duh, you're always going to be compared. Damned if you do it, damned if you don’t, it’s way better to be damned for doing your thing. The rest can go fuck off. It’s not like they are going to do things for you, and they won’t live your life.”
Was she trying to get on his good side by dissing everyone?
“Azul, for all the intelligence he has, is a big idiot. All the effort he made to hide his past, just to crumble because of a photo. Why would you want to alter it so much that you're no longer yourself? I don't understand. He could see how far he had come and how much he had improved himself, that the Azul in that picture, who was extremely cute mind you, would be just proud of who he had grown into. But no, he had to drag everyone with those shady contracts, trick everyone to profit off them, try to trick me instead of asking for help like a fucking normal person. I would have helped him without any of this idiot contract bullshit if he was just sincere and not an incredibly fucking shady yakuza.
“Jamil. Don't get me started on him, I'm still salty about it. It's a custom in his country, I understand that. His parents were in the wrong, I understand that but. Did he really have to try to fucking kill us? In the bloody desert?! Not to mention, he had Kalim, KALIM! Kalim wouldn't have minded that Jamil told him the truth about him having to play the incompetent servant when he's like a fucking genius. Getting average grades on purpose is really hard, you have to be super smart to do that! Hell, Kalim would have been the first one to support him if he knew the truth! Kalim trusted him, Jamil was his best friend. He even forgave him. With Kalim at his side, things would have been different. But no, Jamil had to fake this shady nice persona to get us to like him, then use everyone for his stupid nonsense and instead of talking! Like normal people! Attempted murder! Of course that is the right answer."
Her rant made him furious. It wasn’t her ranting about the others, as several of them, like Leona, were annoying in many degrees. It was because it showed how she saw the other students, and it made him wonder how she would later see him.
How would she casually dismiss all his struggles?
"I wish I had this much drive to care about stupid shit."
"You are exactly as Leona and Azul said you were,” he replied, wanting furiously to slap her, to make her shut up, “an obnoxious brat who talks as if she knows everything. Casually dissing everyone while supposedly praising them? I thought you were supposed to be a good quiet prefect. Your opinion doesn't matter."
"It does matter because when you die, you can't do anything of these things. You could fall off your broom next class, crack your skull and die, but all you worried about was an idiot meaningless thing, instead of doing what you really wanted."
Vil stared at her, shocked for a moment, her words a slap to his face. He didn't expect them nor the tone she used, a clear-headed but extremely heartfelt answer. It was rational, not spat out in the heat of the moment, almost a product of actual experience.
It was in that moment he realized she genuinely meant what she said before. She was genuinely praising his efforts, the things no one else even considered. And he wasn’t sure how he should feel. He was feeling annoyed, he could imagine her ranting about him next.  'You are an idiot, trying to best Neige in being the fairest.'
But what was the thing she would compliment him on as well?
The answer would have to haunt him, because he was not going to ask her about himself. He was scared of that answer. He was scared of being focused on something wrong, of being told his path was wrong from the start.
He had devoted himself to being the fairest of them all for so long, just to be told it was an impossible task from the start. The effort he put into it would be absolutely meaningless, as they weren’t in a fairy tale, and even if they were, they weren’t its main characters.
“Manager,” he said in a tone that he himself couldn’t discern. It was such, though, that Ann quickly cooled down from her rant, going from emboldened to suddenly stay silent, and hesitant. “I will not repeat myself. Stop talking as if you understand my feelings. You don’t know me, I don’t know you. All you need to know is that you have to devote yourself to the VDC.”
“But… I thought-”
“Yes, you always ‘thought’. Whatever you thought, you are wrong. Stop delving into others’ personal affairs.”
He saw her opening her mouth, but he wouldn’t entertain her any longer. She had damaged him enough, making him fear for a moment of his own goals, to let her destroy his shaking beliefs and crumbling confidence. With a fierce glare, hiding his inner turmoil as he had always done, the iron mask befitting a queen, he looked down on her once before leaving her alone, with only the wind to listen to whatever useless opinion she had to share.
This was a challenging fic to write given the limited information we’re given, at the time ofc, about Neige and the nature of the casting, as well as his personality. It was also interesting for me because it’s part of the culmination of the previous chapters. Vil is a very perceptive person and he would normally recognize when someone is genuinely praising him. However, in an overblotting state, where he is stressed and second-guessing himself, it wouldn’t be that hard to see that he finds it difficult to trust strangers, especially someone like Ann.
Ann herself is not entirely right either. She has good points about the others and about Vil, but she tends to see things from her own perspective and how she strongly feels, in particular to people like Azul due to her own personal reasons and past. Hence, she can’t sometimes really relate to things that oppose to what she believes and feels. Because she is also blunt, while well-intentioned, she can come off as obnoxious and intrusive, especially with how she words things. Basically both right now are not well emotionally and logically to reach an agreement and see each others’ points. But Vil wouldn’t be well right now because we’re in the middle of Pomefiore arc, F.
Thank you for reading!
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Blush Blush Wish List: New Boy edition.
If you read my wish lists from my previous posts, I did my first as random and a second one about clothing, which one of the clothing wish is coming true slowly, I decided to make a THIRD wish list, based on the Boy/Man bundle. We knew that there will be a new guy coming, plausibly the phone fling winner Poe, so here’s some dream ideas of mine that inspired me.
I will mark a disclaimer right here and now so please read it:
Any thing I write here is MY opinion, MY fantasy and JUST A THEORY. They are NON-canon, not project proof and they’re just fan fic/pic related to Blush Blush.
If you don’t like them or disagree, that’s OK! we can talk about it in the comments or ask box like big girls.
Without further ado, here are my Manimal ideas:
1. Racoon Thief!
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I’m staring off with what I already mention on my first and my personal favorite.
I used to read one of the first few books of Arsene Lupin by Maurice Leblanc a few years back and I also watched the old French TV series from the 70′s. I also used to own a film based of him from 2004? and I love it. There is also a 90′s animated series from YTV called Night Hood.
I also noticed that there was a PS2 game with a couple of sequels and a PSVita remake with all the games in one. If you ever played Sly Cooper, this would be a very nice compliment to a legendary Gentlemen Burglar.
I imagine about how the player was on a detective mission, like Cole’s, and he/she stumbles a burglary scene from a bakery store. Player noticed some crumbs leading to an alley and soon find a well dressed racoon... Speaking some French accent, the Gentlemen racoon would explained that since he’s somehow got in a situation that prevents him to go to his ‘job’ he had no choice but to ‘borrow’ until he’s back to normal. With past experiences, you’d tell him that you can help him revert back if he’d promised to pay all of the goodies he has taken from.
I can imagine a Persona 5 references or Lupin the 3rd Easter egg dialogs.
2. Beauty Guru BF!
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BEFORE anyone has to say about Jeffree, I’m gonna say HERE that I’ll understand if you don’t like or support him, this is just a reference and ideas.
Now, my second idea for a next Manimal, it would be a beauty guru BF.
Now I would go for someone between Jeffree Star and Kimora Blac. Someone’s that’s very influential, a bit controversial but not that serious and very honest.
So imagine a scenario when the player decided to take a break from streaming and just surfing on Youtube when they came across a makeup review tutorial with a face of an animal. Any animal. Player then clicked it and the animal said:
“Hello everybody and welcome back to my channel! Today, I woke up, got to a mirror... beyoch... The Panda Team, is crazy!!!”
Somehow the player texted on the comments and then sends some pictures that proves you can help him, so he flew from his private jet to meet you!
If this gets canon, let the team know about Jeffree Star and try not to copy him too much like they did with Markiplier.
3. Fashionista Drag Queen BF!
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Following from the previous, another LGBT representative would be the man with good fashion taste, RuPaul!
I thought about how the Player would one day be shopping for new clothes and then notice an animal giving out fashion advices. He does admit he’s sadden cause of his physical state, he can’t dress up whatever he’d normally wear.
He’d also would reference from high brands like Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Guicci, random Italian brands, ect... 
Imagine on his semi or full human form, he’d be wearing RuPaul inspired tuxedos or a dress option DLC. 
4. Royalty Prince charming!
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I know that on Phone Fling, we have the self proclaimed Arabian Prince Sascha, but think about an EUROPEAN prince!
Imagine Player was doing gardening and then all of a sudden they heard someone complaining.
“Why are they treating me like I am some pet?! I am a PRINCE!”
You notice the ‘Manimal’ and told them your ‘specialty’ after introducing. “So you’d help your prince from this curse? Should we do true love’s first kiss? Fairly well, but you must prove it!”
This could inspire Disney prince references. ;) You take your pick!
5. Native American Boy.
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Before I explain, I just want to say that I respect the Natives and they’re are one of the nicest people, I’m just saying as a character perspective.
If you remembered on my first wish list, I asked for more diversities so here’s one of them!
Player was walking in the nature park and decided to take a rest on a table park when they noticed some thrash that some human dumpster fire was too lazy to put it in the thrash so you did. All of a sudden you head someone said thank you. You turned to see the Manimal in question. “It is so nice of you to think conscious about our home environment when you knew you weren’t the one who done it. May the Great Spirits looks on you.”
I kinda lean towards the Eagle or a Bear cause the Wolf is already taken.
I think it would be a nice reminder for a dialog to us about the environment once in a while and also Disney’s Brother Bear.
6. Frank Sinatra the 2nd! Old school but cool!
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THIS is probably one of an interesting idea about an ‘old’ soul. It’s kinda like Myx but classier. Swag are for boys, Class are for men.
Remember the Old Looney Tune cartoons? Remember that character Tweety Bird? Yeah, I go with a canary or maybe a yellow-crested cockatoo with this number.
Imagine Player decided to play a mainstream music from their room, when after about a minute in, you hear someone screaming from next door.
At first you thought it was probably you neighbor, but come to find out, it was a talking bird in a cage. You asked him and he answered. “I just moved in from my relatives and now I’m stuck with feathers instead of a classic bow tie. You said you had experience with this?”
This Manimal would be one of those nerds with bowties and sweaters on shoulder prep boy. He’s more like Frank Sinatra (Pic 1 and 2 with Elvis), Dean Martin or Sammy David Jr. A bit more old fashioned but about the same age as college kids.
Imagine the dialogs would be more like Tweety birds whenever Cole is change in between and had comedy accidents like the cartoons to prevent being his next un-cook chicken nugget!
7. Ancient temple guardian!
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If anyone had played Crush Crush, you know about the Suzu bundle in the shop. She’s a white fox spirt that the player had accidentally broke the statue.
Now imagine the same thing, but this time you notice that one of these statues are not the same cause they don’t breathe.
8. Marine surfer/oceanic enthusiast!
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Remember when I said there’s no Marine Animals (Yet?) If they do, I hope to see a hot guy who was turned into one while I was just looking at the waves.
Imagine Little Mermaid in a gender swap perspective. He wants to learn about the ocean like Jacque Cousteau and sometimes collects sea shells or old object from the 18th centuries that was from sunken ships.
9. German Soccer coach!
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Remember when the German won the soccer tournament from Brazil by 7-1 a few years ago? Now imagine someone from that country that’s the new soccer/football coach for your team.
Player wanted to try a new sport so they go for it, but noticed the coach is a big German Shepperd. He’s Strict, Disciplined and very Passionate.
We need a good doggo for 2021!
10. Eastern Master Chef
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I think I saved a nice one for last, but my random card tells me that we need a chef in that game. CC have Bonnibel, we have a Michelin star chef!
I thought about an old school 90′s Iron Chef stars like Chef Hiroyuki Sakai and Chen Kenichi. But this one is from China, where they eat anything with four legs except tables and anything that flies except planes.
Honorary mentions of Gordon Ramsey in the dialogs but he’s too nice and... I want to see someone else besides him.
That’s all I have for Manimal ideas for now. Do you like any of them? Do you have any other ideas? Please tell me of what you think!
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eponymous-rose · 4 years
Talks Machina Highlights - Critical Role C2E71 (SDCC Edition!)
Tonight’s guests? EVERYONE. This is a recording of the SDCC panel from this past weekend!
There’s a table read of the first three pages of Vox Machina: Origins Volume 2, to be released August 14!
Ashley gets asked about the fate of an NPC from the first campaign. Ashley: “Uh. They all died.” Matt: “That’s your fault now.”
Lessons learned through the journey of CR? Liam: “It’s all about the people you travel with.” Matt: “If you can stick to making friendship a priority in your life, good things will come.” Their friendship has been the most important thing to maintain and check in with. Sam highlights how amazing it’s been to watch the community grow year after year.
Favorite RP moment that didn’t involve their own characters? Sam: “Well, that takes me out.” Travis: “I was such a fan of Vex popping out of the water in the bathtub.” Sam: “Anything Matt Mercer does is a pretty fantastic roleplaying moment.” Liam: “I think a certain pirate woman reaching the end of her line.” Laura: “I think Scanlan’s whole... (gestures) as much as I hated it personally.” Marisha: “There were some Percy-Vax standoffs that were pretty great.” Matt: “Percival and Grog having the fight underneath the Keep shortly after the Chroma fall.” Liam: “I really liked Percy and Vex in Syngorn.” Taliesin to Marisha: “I liked you at the Pirate King, busting out all that Cobalt Soul stuff. I wasn’t prepared.” Marisha: “Neither was I!”
Matt talks about how adapting the show to the animated series involves some creative truncation, but also involves holding his ground about what’s too important to change even if it doesn’t tie a perfect narrative bow. “This isn’t mainstream media, this is Critical Role! Some things should be messy. Some things are their own threads.” He’s enjoyed watching new people come up with new takes, and he’s excited to cast some of the NPCs.
The idea is floated of a full-day Sam Riegel DnD Beyond telethon. Sam: “Marisha, can we--” Marisha, glaring: “Uh-huh.”
What has Marisha taken away from Keyleth’s and Beau’s different experiences with leadership, in her leadership role IRL in the company? "I feel like Beau helps me be more assertive in my opinions.” Travis: “We don’t argue with Marisha very much, because she punches people in the face more now.”
Liam’s spell choices are a balancing act between trying to accomplish his own goals and trying to optimize the group’s performance. He’s taken Seeming for the party, but the opportunity to use it hasn’t arisen yet.
Taliesin gets asked “Is there X number of character deaths that would keep you from playing in this campaign?” Taliesin: “There’s really only one way to find out.” Matt: “Is it double digits?” Taliesin: “I at least have two more undeveloped ideas that hopefully will be used in the next campaign.” Liam: “Let’s get to that fourth character!” Taliesin: “I hate you all.”
Missed opportunities and plot threads? Matt can’t go much into it, because for both campaigns 1 and 2, there’s a chance they’ll wind up going back there. There’s a facet of campaign one’s story they got to continue with a one-shot that will be airing soon. He’d hoped there would be more delving into Thordak’s history, and there is another Horn of Orcus out there. Also the Clasp’s relationship with Emon. Ashley is still haunted by “that gosh-dang box”. Matt: “I answered that already.” Ashley: “I DON’T BELIEVE YOU. I DON’T BELIEVE YOUR ANSWER.”
Was Nott seriously considering leaving with her family? Sam, as Laura slowly reaches for his throat: “Yes, absolutely.” He’d been going back and forth with that for a while now. “Nott loves traveling with this gang, but she really wants to be home.” He called Matt about it to warn him that Nott might not be in the campaign anymore. “But I think what happened on Thursday was right for the moment, and we’ll see how it plays out.”
Matt gets asked about how to avoid min-maxing as an experienced DM when he gets the chance to play in someone else’s game. Matt notes that there’s nothing wrong with min-maxing if everyone’s on board with it, but that, the more that you play, the more you might enjoy trying something off-the-wall. There’s also the importance of respect when playing at the tables of less-experienced DMs, where you remind yourself that it is their table. Taliesin: “Part of the fun of the meta-game of D&D is that it’s changing all the time.” He points out that the Magnificent Mansion used to be considered a dump spell until Sam really showed what it could do. Taliesin highlights the challenge of experimenting in these less explored areas.
Sam gave Nott a kid in her backstory because he loves his own kids so much and wanted some of that feeling in the game.
Matt’s favorite Sorrowsworn? The Lonely, which is why he wanted to use them in the game the first chance he got.
Taliesin and Matt are asked if they might release Molly’s whole backstory at the end of the campaign. Matt: “When this campaign’s over, we’ll definitely do that.”
Caduceus is hoping some of his family’s at the Kiln, and potentially some of the other families. “He’s built of expectations. We’ll see how it plays out if those expectations aren’t met.”
“I feel that Yasha is obviously in the best hands with Matt. I, personally, I love the storyline. It’s so much to play with, and it goes with a lot of the backstory that I wrote, and a lot of what Matt prepared, and stuff that I don’t even know, and stuff I do know. I love it! I feel really good about it, but I can’t wait to come home and see what’s going to happen if Yasha comes back.” Matt: “Depending on when you come back, there’s a good chance you’ll have to make a new character.” (The general tone here is that it would be an in-the-meantime thing.)
Matt gets asked how he makes sure everyone in the party gets their time in the spotlight. “It doesn’t always work out, but trying to consider what aspects of the story can play to their individual strengths. You can offer opportunities for each of them to shine, hopefully.” He also highlights that a lot of it is the players respecting each other at the table and being comfortable with the expectation of equal time to shine. “Communication is the key to a good, healthy game group.” Laura also highlights that you as a player can engage other players’ characters if you notice they’re fading into the background a bit.
There’s a brief foray into Evanescence. As you do.
What advice would Matt give himself if he could go back to the first campaign? “Don’t stress so much about what people on the internet think about you. Guard this wonderful little lightning-in-a-bottle family and you’ll be fine.”
If Beau were a druid, what would her go-to wildshape be? Marisha: “I shouldn’t curse. A DAMN OWL. Take that, Thaddeus.”
Marisha: “I feel like the Mighty Nein has turned into fighting for the everyman.” Laura: “I feel like Vox Machina, though, we felt we knew who the good guys were. As the Mighty Nein, I feel like everything’s so gray, and it’s harder to make that choice, and therefore what steps up is everything around us and needing to protect the people who are victims of the bigger picture.”
Matt gets asked how to manage his DM-life balance in terms of parceling out prep time. “It can vary. Whenever I’m driving somewhere, if I have more than 20 minutes of a drive, that’s usually my brainstorming period.” He also tries to keep weekends free with no prep and instead reserves a couple evenings a week to prep, although it sometimes bleeds through to early Thursday morning. “I prepare more than I used to,” largely because of the Internet’s watchful eye in terms of continuity.
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House of Hades Read With Me
Hey everyone, I’m back with an update. If you haven’t been following this thread, I’ve been reading the Heroes of Olympus series by Rick Riordan. I read the first three books in this series back in 2012 and never finished. If you want to know my background with the PJO series and my thoughts on the Son of Neptune (I started my re-read with that book because Lost Hero is trash imo), you can find that here. My thoughts on Mark of Athena is here. So let’s get into the House of Hades 50% update that will include spoilers so you’ve been warned. 
Okay so I’m going to use two images to convey my thoughts on this book so far:
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Okay so let’s address the first image... um. I’m fucking terrified. I’m scared of Percy and I’m scared for him and Annabeth (She told him that she loves him ahhhhhh, I need him to say it back tho). My past read with me’s have been pretty harsh on the HoO series so far but I really like this book so far. Dear gods, please let the other half of the book be good! Rick you’re doing amazing sweetie (kind of-we’ll get into it). So far, I’ve cried at Percy and Annabeth thinking about each other and how tired and hungry they are. And when Percy and Annabeth were surrounded by Kelli and the other empousai and I really thought it was done for them (I know they don’t die but the fear I felt was real) then Bob came in and saved them. And when Percy was surrounded by the Arai and Annabeth was temporarily blinded by a curse. Like he literally says, if I’m going to die, I’m not going to let them hurt Annabeth and he went out fighting (out meaning unconscious in this case) ughh my heart. It was torn out of my chest!! 
Brief pause because the Arai said that Calypso cursed Annabeth because Percy left her and I just can’t really emotionally deal with that fact because Battle of Labyrinth is my favorite PJO book BECAUSE of Calypso’s appearance. I’ve held a torch for that girl to find happiness for years and to think she cursed Annabeth (Obvi she didn’t know it’d actually affect Annabeth years later), that shit kills me. But I remember thinking in the Last Olympian why Percy didn’t ask for some sort of amnesty for Calypso when he was telling the gods to claim their kids, etc. So I’m glad he realizes he f-ed up there but ugh why Calypso?? It’s okay, I know that her and Leo get together so she’ll be happy eventually. I just have to wait. 
But let’s also talk about the fact that I’m starting to feel bad for monsters? Annabeth and Percy have been reflecting on what it’s like to be sent to Tartarus by a demigod and slowly reforming. And all the curses the Arai gave Percy were manifestations of how he killed those monsters so he felt their deaths which seeing him in pain, put me in pain. Like Rick don’t do this to me. I don’t want to feel bad for monsters but I do. I’m curious to see how this experience will change Percy and Annabeth’s willingness to kill monsters in the future. I really like this presentation of the monster’s perspective, I think it’s very interesting. In relation, I’ve noticed HoO is a lot darker in theme (even before this book) just by the way they phrase things. Like the demigods will say ‘kill monsters’ or ‘kill’ very easily compared to PJO where I felt that death was sugar coated because it was a middle grade genre. Most deaths were off screen (off page?) like Beckendorf’s. Or not very grim. And this series is much more in your face about it, especially in House of Hades. It was hard to get used to at first but I think it shows maturity, it’s well within the realm of YA to kill off characters and explicitly say so it’s just strange going from PJO to this imo. 
Moving onto the next image, the slowly being seduced one. AHAHA Um can someone tell me why I was briefly seduced by Frank and Percy?? So Percy, I’m always seduced by, that’s not new. But him being scary makes him 100x more attractive. Like imagine if Percy had been on the titan’s side? The gods wouldn’t have had a chance. Here’s some quotes:
(This is after Percy kills Arachne, on pg 6) Percy kicked the dust on the rocks, his expression grim and dissatisfied. “She died too easily, considering how much torture she put you through. She deserved worse.” Annabeth couldn’t argue with that, but the hard edge in Percy’s voice made her unsettled. She’d never seen someone get so angry or vengeful on her behalf. It almost made her glad Arachne had died quickly. “How did you move so fast?”
Then when Percy convinces Bob to kill the reforming Hyperion, Annabeth thinks this: 
How was he keeping his cool? The way he talked to Bob left Annabeth awestruck…and maybe a little uneasy, too. If Percy had been serious about leaving the choice to Bob, then she didn’t like how much he trusted the Titan. If he’d been manipulating Bob into making that choice…well, then, Annabeth was stunned that Percy could be so calculating.
He met her eyes, but she couldn’t read his expression. That bothered her too (22). 
Like what?!?! Please come pick me up, Uncle Rick. I’m scared. What’s happening to Percy?? I need them to get out of there STAT! I have no theories as to why he’s acting like this (maybe it’s the energy of Tartarus) but I’m excited to see where it goes. But Scary Percy is also right up my alley so ugh, I’m conflicted. 
So next, Frank. Rick did something hella problematic here but before I get into that, here’s the line where I was slowly being seduced by him:  
Frank was faster. He lunged at Trip and slammed him into the wall, his fingers locked around the god’s throat.
“Think about your next words,” Frank warned, deadly calm. “Or instead of beating my sword into a plowshare, I will beat it into your head” (19). 
Like ngl, that choke thoo?? I’ve never been attracted to Frank but my god, the dangerous tone, the threat. I had to put my hair up and get a cold glass of water when I read that. Frank was the last person I thought would do something like this but I am not mad at all. Very Ares of him.
What I am mad about, however, is the fact that after this scene, Frank (or it’s Hazel that notices) notices that he’s becoming taller and better built. Because Mars/Ares gave him a little ‘grow spurt’. Now let me say this: I’m not one of those people who think that everything problematic was meant to be intentionally offensive/stereotyping/harmful. I know that Rick has had his fair share of controversies ever since he’s been incorporating diverse characters. That comes with the territory of writing marginalized character-I’m black and I still have watch myself in how I portray black characters. He has do the research and I don’t he did it. Sorry. 
And I’m sure I haven’t even caught half of the problematic things brought up in HoO (there’s times where Hazel’s hair or skin is described as cinnamon, like food when other non black characters don’t get that kind of description. Also the fact that her name is Hazel like Hazelnut has always bothered me but I digress). Back to Frank’s growth spurt. Prior to that, other characters have described him as a bit on the chubbier side, baby faced, ‘big guy’ (that bothers me tho but that might be an internalized societal mentality that any word like fat or big = bad. And that’s not always true but I personally don’t feel comfortable calling someone that), etc. And he’s of Asian (spec. Chinese) descent. For what it’s worth, I’m not Asian so this may be out of lane to talk about but from my personal life experiences, Asians tend to be on the smaller end of the scale when it comes to size. I am 5″7 ish, size 6 and I would be considered overweight in mainstream Asian stores but in Western stores, I’ve never had an issue fitting in something or finding my size. I also tend to have a lot of options fashion wise. I have an Asian friend (Lmao I feel like one of those yt people who are like I have a black friend so I can say this and that. sorry I’m trying to get a point across) and she is plus sized. She doesn’t fit into the straight sizes in America so by Asian standards, she’s considered anywhere from moderately to morbidly obese. And she faces a lot of judgement from her Asian relatives because of it in addition to the fatphobia that has infiltrated American society as well. 
My friend doesn’t see a lot of representation for Asians her size. If she does she sees Asians that isn’t as thin and small, it’s people with my size who are considered thin by Western standards but ‘big’ by Asian sizing. My problem with having Frank be given a growth ‘spurt’ is that it’s erasing that plus sized Asian representation. This wouldn’t have been a good thing to do to ANY character that was plus sized but do you see where it’s even more problematic to do because of his Asian ancestry? It would’ve been fine if at the end of the series, he got hella fit and happens to be more in shape because of all the fighting he’s done but to be given that growth spurt implies that there was something wrong with his size in the first place. And so far, the other demigods have been taking him more seriously (Frank notes that Leo has stopped teasing him as much) which is kind of thin privilege esque to me. Frank may not be my favorite character but he deserved respect, no matter his size. I think this growth spurt aspect was hella problematic and Rick shouldn’t have done it. It was also unnecessary as hell. He looked fine before and could do everything the other (thinner) demigods could do just as well.
This is getting long so let me get to my last couple of points: Nico and the many, unnecessary POVs.
As y’all know by now, I think Nico deserves rights. He deserves friends and place to call home where he belongs. Both Frank and Jason didn’t want to be alone with Nico because they thought he was creepy and I can see where this is a set up to eventually have him fit in but damn, he’s just a kid. Be nice to my son. I feel like one of those mom’s who just wants their kid to make a friend at school. Will Solace as his love interest please come sooner. Again, I’ve been spoiled to this. I’m interested to see how this pans out and if this relationship will be a kind of aside mention like the fact that Grover and Juniper are dating or will it be given the same focus as opposite sex couples like Percabeth and Jasper. And I already knew Nico liked Percy but I didn’t expect it to come out in the way it had. It makes his relationship with Percy make a lot more sense. And I see how Nico could view him in that sense after Percy saved him and Bianca in Titan’s Curse and how he was like the real life version of his Mythomagic games (also I totally forgot he played that, he’s not that excited little boy anymore ugh, his innocence left ever since Bianca died). Overall, I think Nico being gay was handled well-Jason’s reaction was very straight but supportive so he gets a pass there. My point is Nico deserves the world. That’s all. 
The POVs. Again, I don’t know if people who aren’t writers would have an issue with the POVs in this series but I do. So far, we’ve had Hazel, Leo, Frank, Annabeth, Percy, and Jason narrate. I said this before, Rick needs to stick to 3 or 4 POVs because this shit don’t make sense. Annabeth and Percy are in the same setting together, they can’t even go on side quests because they’re in Tartarus so like why do we need both of them to narrate?? If they separate at some point, maybe. Don’t get me wrong, I love their narration but it’s jarring as hell to keep bouncing from POV to POV. I also saw somewhere that they don’t get a narration POV in Blood of Olympus in which case, I sure as hell don’t want to be reading the POV in the HoO characters who I don’t really jive with except Leo. So Hazel is going to be important to the Mist thing whatever, it makes sense she gets a POV (and she hasn’t had one since tSoN/same with Jason but the Lost Hero instead) but Frank and Leo? And I really thought since it’s 5 demigods (Percabeth in Tartarus) they’re going to be able to do side quests with all 5 of them that we didn’t need so many POVs but guess I was wrong. Idk it’s driving me insane, Rick should’ve done third person omniscient (Think Harry Potter and it can still follow different people like Percabeth in Tartarus). 
Damn, if this is how much I have to say about the first half of HoH, I’m really excited to get back to reading the last half. I’m HELLA looking forward to have Reyna join the quest temporarily (where I left off, she is on her way to the 5 demigods). I want the Piper/Reyna/Jason thing to be resolved (a lil drama would be nice) so Piper can stop being annoying and insecure. I want to know who Coach Hedge has been talking to and is he a good guy? Oh and another thing that’s been bothering me is Gale, Hecate’s polecat? It just farts all the time. And I have to remember I’m 20 and this books isn’t targeted to me so juvenile humor isn’t funny to me anymore but it’s just kind of gross and unnecessary?? 
Anyway, I’m going to have to start a new post for the last half of my HoH read with me because this thing is long. But you guys, I am invested into this book. It is on par with my love for PJO books so far. I could give this book a 4.5 stars (despite some faults) if it keeps going this way. Thanks for reading! 
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ladywhaiyvern · 2 years
Musings of An Otaku #3: Otaku vs. Weebo?
As someone who has been into Japanese animation since 1997 and other aspects of Japanese culture longer before that with Americanized Super Sentai. I stumbled upon a little glorious movie playing on the Sci-Fi Channel’s Saturday Morning Anime block- “Tenchi in Love: the Movie,” due to my boredom of watching the same rerun of “Power Rangers” at the time. I fell in love with the detailed artwork of the characters, the intricate backgrounds, the music composed and the overall story. I had not seen anything like it in an American produced cartoon series or cartoon movie. I was around when Anime was basically non-existent on store shelves. Not a single manga issue could be found in a library or local book store. VHS titles were sold in very selective stores with 1 or 2 episodes per tape. And forget about wanting to change the language track. You either had to find the dubbed video tape or the subbed video tape. No easy button switching back then! And for television- no station openly aired Anime (outside of the Sci-fi channel). Some movies such as “Ninja Scroll” aired on pay-per-view movie channels late at night. No Toonami existed. 
Anime was obscure in America. Hell, I remember going to my local video store and asking if they had anymore titles of “Dirty Pair Flash” (as I had found the first vhs volume there). The look the store clerk gave me was priceless. Thought I was probably talking about a porno or something! Shit, I was into Anime and was made fun of by my fellow students in Middle School and High School because it was different. Now it’s main-stream and all over the place. One can walk into big box stores and find manga titles in the book section, dvd/blu-rays openly on the sales floor, merch like shirts and toys. Now you have dedicated sections on streaming services like Netflix and Hulu and not to mention streaming services from Chrunchyroll, Funimation and HiDive that focus on nothing but Anime. But what does all this reminiscing have to do with my title?! Simple.
During the birth of the Japanese Anime boom here in the United States, us select fans had gathered together and decided to call ourselves a name. Granted, the origins of this name were very negative in the Japanese culture. As “otaku” was viewed as a socially inept individual. A subculture of Japanese society that was viewed as being derogatory. A fan of any subgenre of entertainment (not just Anime). However, we adapted this word and started using it. We took away that negative stereotype. We started using it to represent a group of people who not only enjoyed Japanese Animation, but other forms of Japanese entertainment as well. It was an umbrella term for “fan.” It wasn’t meant as someone who lived and breathed anime and manga. They weren’t obsessed over it. They were just fans who enjoyed the art form. Now, I know in the early 2000’s- many Japanese still looked at the term as being negative and probably thought of us as being crazy for wanting to adapt such a term. But we were proud to be called otaku. We were not embarrassed by it at all. Even now, I know it has lost some of its derogatory meaning across the ocean but will still never be 100% accepted. Recent series of both anime and manga poke fun at the otaku subculture in a humorous way instead of negative. It is something that is no longer just pushed under a rug or tossed into a corner and forgotten about as it had in the past. Kinda like how some mental disorders are done here in the States today. That is something I do not wish to touch with a 10 ft pole though...so moving on.
Now, where the hell did this term “weebo” come from? Why the hell has it become such a thing? WHY?! JUST WHY?! According to the Urban Dictionary it is an overly obsessed individual who lives and breathes anime and manga (usually mainstream titles only). They do not branch off into the older titles or even bat an eye at the obscure titles (which I absolutely love). They only “love” what is currently airing. I am using the term “love” lightly. More like they only enjoy it as the current fad. Next mainstream series comes along and they move onto it like a leech. Sooooooooooo from my understanding they are wanna-be’s. They want to be an otaku but don’t want to deep dive into the full anime subculture. They only use Japanese terms and phrases picked up from mainstream shows. And use them periodically out of context. They show no interest in other aspects of the Japanese culture or learning how to correctly speak the language. They think it's the “cool” thing to do. OMG, look at me- I can speak a couple of words of Japanese thanks to this show that everyone else is watching. Look at me, look at me! They scream fake. I’m sure you know a couple. I know I do and they annoy the hell outta me. You try to have an intelligent conversation with them and it all circles around back to the one mainstream series that they are currently obsessed with. This is seriously the main reason I did not get along with some of my former coworkers. Oh well, let them be them and I will continue to enjoy the wide range wonders of all genre anime and manga (especially older titles). 
Now as an otaku of not only anime and manga but video games, Super Sentai, Asain Horror, Japanese music and the list goes on and on and on and on; as well as someone who has taken the basic Japanese language classes; and as someone who enjoys learning about different cultures (especially Asian history and culture) due to my cultural anthropologist background- this term offends the hell outta me. Why?! It’s just a word. Maybe I finally understand why some people find the word “moist” offensive as this is along those same lines. I still don’t understand why. It is a fun word to say. Moist! Mooooooooist! Moissssssssst! It’s like do not give yourself a label. Do not think this “weebo” thing is a cool thing to do. It is not. You're a fake, a fraud. Many of us otaku from the older generation can see right through it. Don’t obsess over something if you do not intend to appreciate and understand the full cultural context that it offers. Japanese animation and manga is something that should be appreciated as an art form because in reality that is what it boils down to. It is an art form. It should be enjoyed by all. But to only enjoy something because it is the cool thing to do and you want to impress people, no. Not cool. That is just a slap in the face to those that enjoy it as a whole. 
These are my musings, take them or leave them! Enjoy them or don’t! Have fun, don’t be a weebo!
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wordywarriorwrites · 3 years
Chapter 12: Sabotage
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Masterlist: The Boss of Brooklyn A03 Story Link Author: @wordywarriorwrites Summary: When it comes to being The Boss, James Buchanan “JB” Barnes rules with an iron fist. For him, there’s no room for sentiment, and certainly no time for distraction, even if it is in the form of an old flame. Steve Rogers had bowed out of the life a long time ago, but a twist of fate brings him right back into the fold, and face-to-face with a man he once loved. When a game of cat and mouse turns into a matter of life and death, both will be forced to decide whether they’ll be loyal to the business, or faithful to each other. A/N: Bucky Barnes Mob Boss AU. Stucky. For: @star-spangled-man-with-a-plan Star’s Multi-Fandom Follower Celebration & @sherrybaby14 Sherry’s Fall Into You Challenge. Warnings: Language, violence, drug use, alcohol, smoking, explicit sexual content, illegal activities. *Re-blogs are welcome. Plagiarism isn’t. *
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Steve left before dawn with nothing but the clothes on his back and his dogeared passport.
When he hit the lobby, he expected to find it deserted, but instead, it was teeming with pissed-off guests. It was way too early for check-ins, which meant there was only a skeleton crew on hand to receive them, and the sole desk clerk was struggling to appease the mob and contain the situation.  
The weary travelers were ripe for the picking and Steve took advantage of the chaos. By the time he stepped out of the hotel, he’d pilfered a suitcase, a backpack, and a dozen wallets. Given the situation, the doorman was overly polite and very Johnny-on-the-spot, and within seconds, he was in a taxi and on his way to the airport.
While the driver was focused on the road, Steve sorted through what he’d lifted; anything useful was put into the backpack or pocketed, and whatever remained was discarded in the suitcase. When the cabbie pulled up to the curb, Steve paid the fare, and disembarked. The airport’s entrance was bustling, and the throng of early-morning travelers were laden down with luggage, which made it all too easy for him to leave the stolen suitcase behind in the crowd.
Steve checked the departure schedule and found the first available flight out was destined for Mexico City. When he got to the ticket counter, the agent told him he was just in time, and that there was still plenty of seating available. By the time he paid, got checked in, and made his way through security, they’d announced final boarding.
It had only taken forty-five minutes to escape, but this time, Steve didn’t feel relieved when the plane took off. Instead, he felt nauseated, and the sensation stayed with him long after the flight ended.
A pit-stop at a tourist trap for toiletries, over-priced snacks, and new clothes. Then, it was on to a cash-only, no-names, non-descript motel. Four walls, a bed, and heavy, garishly patterned curtains. A bedside lamp that flickered incessantly, a television that didn’t work, and an air conditioning unit that puttered out lukewarm air in unsteady intervals. It wasn’t fancy by any means, but the place was clean, which was more than he could say for himself.
He undressed in front of the full-length mirror that hung on the back of the bathroom door, and the fluorescent light revealed everything that had been kept under wraps. Friction-burned knees; thighs smattered with fingertip-shaped bruises; hickey-covered throat; a bite mark on the crook of his neck; scratches on his torso; tenderness in the softest, most intimate of places.
It looked bad, but it felt so God-damn good.  
Half a fucking decade had passed. He should’ve been well and truly over it, but old habits were the hardest to break, and like an idiot, he did the one thing he’d promised himself he would never do again. Steve should’ve said no. He should’ve said no because he knew better. Damn it, he knew better, but he’d always wanted Bucky. He’d wanted him from the moment he understood what wanting someone actually meant, and he’d never stopped fucking wanting him…
The ache in his gut was compounded, because every time Steve took a breath, he could fucking smell him. Many things had changed, but Bucky had worn the same cologne since high school, and the all-too-familiar scent still clung to his own skin. Steve could still feel the voraciousness of their shared pleasure in his calves, at the small of his back, and in his arms. His groin and mouth and heart and conscience were still laden with everything they’d done, and all that blistering, bittersweetness was just too fucking much to carry.
A tiny shower stall, with a sheer curtain that kept clinging to his ass; travel-sized, off-brand soap and shampoo; a methodical cleansing that he knew would leave his skin pruned and bright red afterward. After Steve got out, he wrapped a towel around his waist, and brushed his teeth at the sink until his gums bled in protest.
The clothes he’d traveled in went into the trash, and though he was exhausted down to his marrow, he could find no rest. Detoxing meant avoiding temptation, so, instead of obsessing over Bucky, he turned his mind toward Fury, and tried to mentally untangle the web.
What Steve couldn’t understand – what didn’t make any sense at all – was why Nick had even bothered coming to the table if his ultimate goal was to take Brooklyn for himself. Fury was a man who didn’t like to share or compromise, but he would do it if it served his bottom line. He was also a man of patience and strategy, and he rarely, if ever, missed a target. It just didn’t make sense…
Steve knew there had to be more going on, but he couldn’t see the bigger picture yet. He may have lost a battle in Jamaica, but that didn’t mean the war was over, and leaving had been much more than a tactical retreat. He knew what he needed to do – what it would take to get it done and make it right – and for the sake of what remained of his sanity, he had to go it alone.
The journey began two days later on the shores of Table Bay in Cape Town, South Africa. The economic hub lured in real estate moguls and sightseers, but Steve hadn’t been interested in Clifton Beach, African penguins, or the architectural heritage. What he’d needed was information and he knew a guy who owed him a favor.
From there, it was on to Tristan da Cunha; an island completely isolated from civilization that required a seven-day boat trip to reach. There were no restaurants or hotels, credit cards weren’t accepted, and while most of the inhabitants made their living through trade and farming, he knew of one resident who wasn’t who she appeared to be.
After that, it was on to the Caymans, followed by Cuba. Then, Steve headed back to the States, and hoped to find the final piece of the puzzle at a swanky beach house in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
“I heard you were dead,” Phil Coulson declared by way of greeting.
Steve smirked and stepped over the threshold, “Disappointed?”
“Impressed,” he countered. “And relieved.”
Steve knew there was no point in asking Phil to elaborate on his assertions. The man had been doing the whole espionage thing since before it became mainstream, and though he’d been in retirement for nearly a decade, he still had his finger on the pulse, and really enjoyed the build-up before the show-and-tell. Phil was also the last person left who owed Steve a debt, but it took a tour of the house, lunch on the patio overlooking the ocean, and a lot of small-talk before he was able to bring up the reason for his visit.
“What can you tell me about the players in New York and in the West Indies?” Steve prompted.    
“I don’t participate,” Phil said as he tapped at a wireless keyboard that fired up the flatscreen on the wall. “But I do like to watch.”
A map of Brooklyn appeared and it displayed the hierarchy and territories of the Families over time. After that, it was the West Indies, which showcased how Fury had slowly taken it piece by piece. Next came the reports of all the backroom talks, underhanded deals, blood, death, and destruction. It wasn’t anything Steve didn’t already know, but what Phil brought up next made his blood run cold.
Steve had lied to Fury – said he’d tied up all loose ends – but he hadn’t. Since he knew the woman’s death would bring nothing but trouble, he’d let the dead Senator’s wife go free, and his act of mercy had been both a mistake and the catalyst. Sam’s flunky at the shop came up and he recognized the trademark lollipop. Subsequent pictures showed the two women had met dozens of times. After that, there was a video of Sam doing what he did best, which was very illegal, and they’d used the tape to blackmail him and force him to play along.  
The series of clips that followed showed Fury locked in a cell by himself, but eventually, another person had been thrown in with him. The man Steve saw was supposed to be in a graveyard back home, but the date and time stamp revealed Sam Wilson was above ground, and very much alive.
Bucky’s private security – all taken out by a lone bodyguard who had been bought off and tasked to kill his own Boss. The men who had ambushed Steve on the street, in his house, and who had also raided the Families homes -- they, too, had received similar instruction and payment. All in all, they’d had enough combined insider-knowledge to get it done, but someone who had both clout and cash had helped them execute their plans.  
Steve ran a hand over his beard and started to pace. He hadn’t been able to see clearly or think straight, but now, all the madness made sense. Keeping the peace meant Steve continued breathing and someone clearly hadn’t wanted that. When he’d gotten captured by the Families, Fury should’ve issued a kill order; instead, he’d sent an unknown emissary to negotiate for peace, which meant the accord had actually been a contingency plan.
The agreement between the Bosses had been Fury’s way of trying to ensure Steve’s back was covered. The man had struck the bargain of a lifetime, but if half of what he’d learned was true, Nick’s hands hadn’t been on the steering wheel since the paperwork had been signed. Whoever had done this had managed to get him out of the way and that person now had full control over both the business and crew. What little protection Steve had been given had also been taken away, and somehow, they’d managed to convince the Families to cut him off completely.
Given everything Phil had shared, Steve knew someone had to have put things in motion before he ever stepped foot in Brooklyn. Whoever it was had maneuvered the Senator and his wife into Fury’s orbit; ensured they got caught double-dipping with the Families; planned for the job he’d been sent to do to go sideways. The torture, the ousting, the rumors, the staging of Sam’s death – they’d been responsible for all of it.
Whoever was behind it hadn’t been trying to prevent a war, they’d been planning one all along…
“When all else fails, follow the money,” Steve bit out. “Who bankrolled this?”
Phil had saved the best for last, and when the picture and wire transfers were revealed, Steve put his fist through the screen. Everything inside him was screaming in protest, and he didn’t even realize Phil was still present until he’d been given a towel for his bloodied knuckles.
“Why? Why would she do this?”
Phil shrugged slightly, “Fury’s getting up there in age and has been looking for a successor. I have a feeling Nick intended to hand the crown to you after the job in Brooklyn was done.”
He cursed and wrapped his hand, “I wouldn’t have accepted.”
“She couldn’t be sure you’d decline,” Phil asserted.
“Then, why even bother to play nice at all?” Steve snapped. “Why didn’t she just kill me when she had the chance?”
“Money, anger, fear, envy – they’re all powerful motivators. Sabotage takes time, but it’s less risky, and much cleaner. Killing you would’ve been easier, but you’ve got friends in high places, and it would’ve drawn too much attention.”
“Is anyone else involved?”  
“No. None of them had a hand in it or benefitted from it.”
Steve let out a ragged breath and stared at the destroyed television, “I don’t have it on me now, but I will send you money to replace it.”
Phil grinned and retrieved both a manila envelope and a tablet from the coffee table, “I thought you’d say that. I also figured you’d show up here eventually, so, let’s settle up, shall we?”
A thumbprint was all it took to bring the screen to life, and when Steve realized what Phil had done, the tightness in his chest spread right on up to his throat. He hadn’t just provided coordinates to Sam and Fury’s location -- he’d also somehow managed to unfreeze Steve’s money and assets, and had put safeguards in place to ensure they would never be taken from him again. The envelope contained two stacks of cash, a burner phone, a plane ticket, and a set of car keys.
Phil told him his chariot and the arsenal in the trunk awaited him, and since his flight departed in an hour, his driver was on standby to take him to the airport. The debt Phil owed had been paid in full, and though Steve was floored and overwhelmed, he still managed to thank him and shake his hand.  
“Give ‘em hell, Rogers,” Phil advised. “And when you’re done, get out, and don’t ever look back.”
Chapter 13: Settled Scores
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Everything: @jennmurawski13​ @nerdy-bookworm-1998​
Steve Rogers: @patzammit @hearttoearth​ The Boss of Brooklyn: @star-spangled-man-with-a-plan @jamesbarnesappreciationsociety @captain-rogers-beard
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