coral toes

Imagine Pepper and Tony just adopting Nebula after Avengers 4. She becomes fiercely protective of her new baby sister Morgan. The Potts-Stark family vacations are a big affair - quite literally. Tony books an entire island in the Maldives and drags along Rhodey, Carol, Happy, Happy’s new gf, ol’ grandpa Fury, May Parker, Peter and Ned. While the adults are at the resort gossiping, and Peter and Ned are off doing their own thing, Nebula and bb!Morgan are on the beach building sandcastles, collecting sea shells and corals, and dipping their toes in the water. And finally, after years of suffering at the hands of Thanos, Nebula feels like she has found peace. She only wishes Gamora was here and then, it’d really be a perfect happily ever after.

Beyond

coral like pretty toes
poking up,

Ocean eyeless, indulgent
mother

swimming, more than fathomed all
hearts drawn, beating in rhythm
pull me, gasping, under aches

flipping feet like a mermaid
arms out, hair trailing back
shedding more, denude of cares
so much i never see!

pretty fish shuffle past me
i but tall sea grass waving

i join as they please, swaying
back and forth in waves, like
everything disappeared
and love is not a thing beyond
to chase, but clear, collected
pressed to blue, packaged with fish,
baubles biting ribboned hair

@katrinnac

She’d let him drag her off somewhere cold and dark and wet. Caroline had argued that what he needed was some warm sunshine, but he needed to stew so she went along with it, being the best friend that she was.

And so they spent a month as far north as his car would take them. A remote cabin. Hours of solitary ice fishing for him. Curling up in front of a warm fire with a variety of romance novels for her. She complained when he came in and cooked the smelly fish he caught. He made it up to her with expensive wine and freshly baked cinnamon desserts.

They ate and drank and talked all night in their warm sweaters in their overstuffed chairs by the roaring fire, as they did. About Elena. About Tyler. About his long life and her brief one. They laughed and it felt so good he almost forgot to be sad. He carried her to bed when she fell asleep. She smelled like fire and sweet spices. He brushed her blonde curls away from her pink cheeks, warmed from drink and fire. His bed was cold and empty but his soul was warming.

The next month she suggested they go somewhere a little warmer, a little more populated. He reluctantly agreed. They got as far as Portland. Caroline gleefully decorated their rented apartment with elegant antiques, bought farm fresh organic produce from which Stefan was to cook them dinner. Stefan happily cooked whatever she wanted, and read quietly with Caroline in whatever cozy corner cafe she found for them. Watched whatever indie film in whatever tiny, dark theater she pulled him into. They shared their popcorn and soda. He laughed at her dark framed glasses because she didn’t need them, but his heart skipped a beat at how cute she looked in them. They fell asleep watching TV. “Like an old married couple.” She had been joking but the thought burrowed its way strangely into the back of Stefan’s mind, poking at him when he least expected it.

He realized he’d stopped mentioning Elena. And that his stomach clenched strangely when she mentioned Tyler. “Play with my hair.” Her new request. He didn’t hesitate at first. Not until he realized how silky the stands were between his fingers, how fragrant, how beautifully tempting she sounded as she sighed in utterly relaxed bliss. He resisted the urge to pull away, even though it felt like playing with fire.

“Some warm sunshine.” To repay her for his summer of dark and cold, he’d agreed to warm sunshine for the final leg of their trip. So she drove his car and she drove south until she stopped. And she bloomed immediately. From the tips of her coral reef orange painted toes to the top of her wind blown golden waves, she’d bloomed into a sea goddess. He sort of wished he’d have let her bring him here to begin with.

Long days on the beach, hot and bright. Not his environment of choice. The sun exhausted him. Caroline packed him plenty of books and beer to keep him happy. But she was enough. He tried not to steal glances at her while she sunbathed in nothing more than a few scraps of fabric. But since when had that become a problem for him? She laughed from behind huge black sunglasses, under a huge black hat. She sipped Mexican beer and fresh sangria. He became familiar with the way her skin looked glistening in the sun after a dip in the ocean. Stefan ignored the way her thighs felt around his hips as she playfully jumped on him in the choppy waves.

He became familiar with the way her freckles shined on her bare, sunkissed face but ignored the way she danced against him when she drank too much. He memorized her tipsy giggles but refused to notice how she naturally snuggled into the crook of his neck when she got sleepy after a late night of dancing.

If they were tipsy during their days on the hot sand and in the cool waves, with too much skin exposed, too much skin touching… then in the cool darkness of the night, they were completely trashed. And it seemed like she couldn’t get close enough to him. And he hated how good it felt. Some combination of fear and guilt and self loathing haunting him, but not enough to untangle her soft elegant fingers from his own when she sought them out.

Her smell burned itself into his memory. The coconut, warmed skin, tequila and lime that she breathed into his ear when she leaned over onto him, laughing happily. He tried to remember what Elena smelled like and came up blank. He tried to remember Elena, expecting pain but coming up empty. Caroline wrapped him up in her arms, in her happiness, in her positivity until he was dazed and confused and wondering who it was he was trying not to be in love with.

It was the same day that he realized she hadn’t mentioned Tyler in weeks that she kissed him. Too much sun, too much tequila, too much dancing. He buried his fingers greedily in her wind dried curls as they danced lazily to tropical music on a sparsely populated dance floor during the last few songs of the night. The warm salty breeze caressed them almost as much as they caressed each other. Her fingertips were soft and torturously heavenly as they dragged themselves up and down his back.

She was humming absently to the tune as they swayed lightly just to excuse the fact that they were holding each other as dancing. Their hearts beat in unison beneath their chests, pressed together so close. When she lifted her head from his shoulder, he knew he was in trouble. Her heavy lidded eyes were sparkling blue from the lights strung onto the bar. Her cheeks pink like they were by the fire in their cabin but not from the heat. She tugged her lip between her teeth and Stefan found himself returning her shy smile.

The air was alive with danger and warning. But in that moment, nothing could have made him stop the gentle brush of her lips against his. Nothing had ever felt more right than her silky little tongue pushing against his. Her fingers gripping the back of his shirt, his tangling impossibly in her hair as if holding on desperately to their sanity. Him, monster that he was could easily have drowned in her. The sugary yellow perfection. The strangely comforting fire of her kiss. This was good for him. But for her…

He wasn’t monster enough to do this to her, his best friend. Who had a life. A love. A chance. So he fought, hard, against the tempting current of her lustful kisses, that were made even more dangerous by the sheer volume of how much he cared about her. Layered, weighty, meaningful kisses that were now being peppered down his neck. He shuddered and squeezed his eyes shut, pushing her gently back.

She looked at him, hurt and confused. Her lips rosy and swollen from their kisses, enticing him to taste them again, taste them forever.

“It’s time,” he said, watching as the lights on the bar flicked off.

She watched the bar begin to close, but he knew that she knew what he meant. She dragged her hands across her face, gingerly touching her lips, either in an attempt to remember or forget.

“I know, ” she agreed, somewhat sadly, nodding.

Time for home. Time for reality. Time for this to end. Time that he’d stolen anyway. It was never his but she’d graciously shared it. She was always doing that. Sharing with him. He wondered why he’d risk something so good. But the flutter in his chest when he caught her eye answered that. What wouldn’t he do to be with her? Only one thing… ruin her life.

Stefan watched as Caroline tore her eyes away, turned her body away, began the long walk back to their room, away from him, to pack up their new life and, in doing so, end it. He wouldn’t stop her. It was time.

He dropped his head, the entire dance floor darkening around him. Not surprised that she took the light with her. Where was he supposed to go now? Somewhere cold and dark, he thought.