Have you ever had to get through a day, smiling at people, talking, as if everything were normal and okay, while all the the time you felt like you were carrying a leaden weight of unhappiness inside you?
I’m yet to come across something that can make you feel worse than the destruction of love can. That whole heartened, chest sinking feeling stuck around like a bad smell. It just lingered on and on until I couldn’t remember what it was like to feel normal. To feel okay. But then suddenly, the days don’t drag on anymore and somehow I was wishing for more hours and not less. My feet didn’t feel like leaden weights and with each step I took, I felt like running now. Not running the way that I wanted to before, to clear my mind of all the horrible thoughts that I had. This time I was running towards something and it was bright.
“Would you jus’ shut up, kid? It ain’t your fault.” The words slipped from his mouth without so much as a single stutter, the familiar gravel of his tone cutting through the bitter northern wind as sharp as a steel blade. Your nerves were set alight with such a harsh inflection, and you bit down on your bluing lower lip, trying to stop your teeth from chattering long enough to respond.
“Please, Logan, just one more try. We might get a signal n-now.” A growl tore from his throat before you could even attempt to grab for the mangled plastic phone he had stashed in his pocket. It was clear that the man’s patience with you was already wearing thin, and he was absolutely oblivious to your desperation.
“It’s a sat’ phone, I already told you that. If we ain’t gettin’ a signal, it’s broken. I’m surprised it’s even still in one piece,” he said, his voice dropping a bit out of what seemed to be sheer irritation with the circumstances. His arm went to cover the pocket that held the crushed remains of the satellite phone, as thought it would deter you from another attempt to make a call.
Finding no need to respond, you dropped your head, staring blankly down at your boots. One footstep after another they sunk into the snow, a line of indentations trailing behind you and the rugged mutant that you had been walking alongside. Clouds of white steam drifted from your nose and up towards the hollow emptiness where a canopy had once stood. The ghosts of shaking breaths dissipated between the bony branches of the expansive forest, as though they were trying to escape from the dire situation had befallen you. Similar specters of white seeped from the toothy grimace that marred Logan’s face, entwining with your own exhalations as they clawed their way to the deep indigo sky.
Dread settled in your stomach as you stared at the final shreds of sunset, streaks of blood red on the horizon that seemed to taunt you with the promise of nothing but a frigid night ahead. The snow that brushed against your legs had already turned your feet numb, and each step felt like leaden weights had been tied to your ankles. The boots and jacket you donned were far from adequate protection from the elements and terrain, but after being stranded in the middle of an unknown forest, they were all that you could turn to for comfort. The cold was so intense that your fingers felt like they were nothing but a memory, and your teeth had begun an incessant stream of involuntary chattering. Despite all efforts to clench your jaw, the rattling still reverberated in your skull, the muscles in your cheeks aching from the motion.
“Wha’ did I tell ya? Shut up,” he snarled, the typical cold indifference replaced by undisputable hostility. Such a biting comment was enough to make you flinch back, screwing your eyes shut for just a brief moment as you let the scalding words wound your heart before they rolled off your back. You knew that the situation was far from ideal, but it was never your intention to allow the weapons to get so close to the off-road vehicle, and it was definitely never your intention to be so incompetent in fighting that the vehicle would overturn. It had taken all of your willpower not to sob upon completion of the conflict, knowing that although the enemies had been subdued, you had just cost the both of you the only map you had to get out of the forest, and a cold night awaited after what had been a mild day.
The tears threatened to spill again, but you swallowed them back, knowing that they would only freeze upon your face as it got colder and colder. Despite your best efforts, Logan must have heard your meager attempt to shield your emotions, and after a few more moments of silence, he spoke up again.
“I’m not going to say it again; that wasn’t your fault. We didn’t know they’d be so hostile. I’m just trying to get a message to Charles to let him know we’re in trouble. The bird should be here as soon as he knows we’re stranded out here. I just dunno when he’ll start to suspect that something went wrong and start tuning in,” Logan muttered, gesturing to his skull. Shame coursed through your veins once more; of course Logan was working on his own solution to your predicament, and his efforts to silence you had been for your mutual benefit.
You admired his strength and willpower, but your own was waning by the second. Waves of exhaustion crashed over you like an endless sea, and each step seemed to sap your energy more and more. The cold was calling for you to succumb, and although you had soldiered on for miles up until now, the weight of the cold and of the daunting night ahead made blackness crowd out your vision.
“L-Logan,” you stutter again, trying to ignore the sharp pain and effort it took to even get a single word out. “Please, please can we stop for just a minute? I-I’m cold, I need to take a break.” Before he could even agree to your plea, your shaking knees forced you to stand still in an attempt to recover some strength. Darkness still clouding the edges of your periphery, you watched as Logan took a few more steps before stopping and turning back to look at you, your knees bending as you threatened to crash to the ground.
“Oh, no ya don’t,” he growled, striding through the snow to arrive back at your side. “You can’t stop moving now. If you stop, you’re going to be hurtin’ real bad. If you take a break in weather like this, that’s when the cold gets dangerous. You won’t be able to feel your limbs, and you’ll want to take a nice, long nap. There’s no guarantee you’d wake up from that lil’ nap, and even if you did, you might lose a few odd fingers along the way.”
“How do you know that?” You questioned weakly, staring up at him through squinted eyes, realizing just how quickly night was falling as his figure appeared before you as nothing more than an angered shadow. A grimace worked its way across his face, etching wrinkles into his forehead from the expression he had exhausted many times before.
“I’ve been stuck out in enough Canadian winters to know hypothermia when I see it. I’ve also seen enough men plenty bigger and tougher ‘an you die from it.” The critical glare he still bore sent a shiver up your spine, and despite the cold, it felt as though his judgement were searing your soul with its intensity. In an attempt to lighten the mood, and for him to allow you to stand still just a few moments longer, you forced more words through your off-color lips.
“Is th-that why this weather d-doesn’t bother you?” You watched as he quirked his head to the side, eyebrow raising slightly. Crossing his arms, he answered your question a bit more gently than he had previous ones.
“What, me being a Canadian? I ‘spose so. But I think you’re forgetting I pretty much can’t die. I’ve had worse.” He fell silent, and seemed to look you over with a harsh, cold, judgmental gaze. You closed your eyes, somewhat ashamed that you were feeling so weak in the presence of someone who was so clearly so strong and resilient. He grunted, and with the gruff sound you found enough strength to open your eyes again, trying to ignore how numb your legs were beginning to feel now that you stopped moving. After a short sigh, more words fell from his lips, these too gentle in nature.
“Damn, I’m sorry,” he muttered. The apology was enough to keep your attention focused forward, your pain taking the back burner as you strained to hear some of the first caring words from a man that was known as nothing more than a brutal killing machine. “I didn’t even think that you’d be this cold. You don’t look too good, kid.”
“Th-thanks,” you tried to joke, but the comment fell flat as embarrassment burned in your cheeks. A heavy arm dropped across your shoulder, and Logan suddenly engulfed you from the side with his massive form.
“Listen, I was wrong. We’re going to take a break. I don’t want you losin’ any toes out here. That jacket just ain’t enough for the kind of cold we’re getting tonight. I’ll see what I can do to warm you up,” he spoke into your ear, his feet beginning to move in slow deliberate steps, a speed that you still struggled to keep up with. But the thought of taking a true break was enough to motivate you to take just a few more steps, knowing that you would be settling down in a matter of moments.
The weathered X-Man led you to the base of a sturdy pine tree, its branches weighted and drooping with the hefty white snow. The deep green brushed at your hair as you stumbled beneath it, and Logan lowered you gently to the ground, letting your body fall to a small patch of dirt and pine needles. Reluctantly pulling your hands from your pockets, you used your purple fingers to help yourself sit up with your back to the rough bark, panting from the cold and from the exhaustion.
In the next moment, Logan lowered himself next to you, his back sharing the tree as bodily support. While you found yourself closing your eyes in the bliss of momentary respite, you could feel Logan’s sharp gaze running over you one more time. The next sound that came to your ears was one of shuffling cloth, and before you knew it, the heavy biker’s jacket that Logan had been wearing was draped over your body like a thick blanket.
The weight of the garment provided immediate comfort, and the warmth followed soon afterward. The residual heat from Logan’s burly body was enough to strike you through your frosted layers, and in that moment, you swore that there was nothing closer to heaven on earth. Being enveloped in something so luxurious was enough to give you the strength to open your eyes and look over at the man who had been partnered with you, his bare arms now exposed to the frigid cold.
“Are… are you cold? T-take your jacket back, Logan. I don’t need it.”
“You do, kid, so shove it. ‘Sides, I’ve been colder.” The sharp reply was enough to silence you, but you couldn’t help but stare at Logan’s arms, the skin open to the harsh elements that had been causing your flesh to sting and burn for the last hour or more. The evidence of snow and freezing air would support the notion that Logan was just as cold as you were, but his skin was still full of color, and he was incredibly still, as opposed to the quivering leaf that your entire frame had become. Had you not felt so frigid or exhausted, you would have continued to insist that he take his jacket back, but for the time being, you were merely grateful to have an additional layer of protection against the coming night.
A sneeze suddenly tore free from your mouth, a shallow coughing sound that was lost in the empty woods, a mere byproduct of your current miserable state. Embarrassed from yet another display of weakness, you weren’t even able to stutter an apology before a heavy arm fell over your shoulder, and Logan’s sizeable arms yanked your body tight against his barrel chest.
“Christ, runt, don’t die on me.”
“I told you to shut up, didn’t I? Looks like we’ll be in this one for the long haul. It’s only gettin’ darker, and Charles hasn’t said a word, so this might be where we’re spending the night.” It was clear by the tone of his voice that he was less than thrilled at the prospect of an overnight stay in the middle of nowhere, but his inflection was one of the last thoughts on your mind. Rather, you were focused on how incredibly warm the muscular body was, the sculpted figure that you were now pressed against with considerable strength.
“Sure you’re okay?” You asked this out of concern, but the compassionate effect was lost. In comparison to his, your voice was weak, but it seemed that Logan had no problem hearing you. After a moment’s pause, his arm squeezing around you as though to assure you that he was still there, he responded.
“Jus’ worried about you, that’s all. You’re cold as a block of ice, and let me tell you, Charles’ll have my head if you get real hurt from all this bullshit.” You could tell that the words were supposed to have some sort of bite to them, but as the night crept up on the both of you, they fell incredibly flat. It was suddenly clear that both of you now understood what had not been spoken aloud; in this moment, Logan cared for you. His gruff exterior, his scarred skin, the façade that he kept up easily with a grimace and a growl, it was forced to melt away. As the darkness closed in, he had been forced to show his concern, even compassion, for your sake.
You swallowed, clenching your chattering teeth to accomplish the feat, and realized that there was no better time to take advantage of the closeness you had gained. Despite the cold, you did your best to relax and push your body as deep into Logan as you could, gaining as much contact as possible. You felt as though if you could meld your form with his, you would without a moment of hesitation. Compared to the bitter cold of the night air, he was as warm as the top of a radiator, a small beacon of light in the desolate forest in which you were lost.
A few moments later, you felt his chin come to rest on top of your head, effectively burying your face in the crook of his neck. The gruff bristles of his facial hair tickled your scalp for just a few moments, and the weight of his gesture brought on a new wave of comfort. For a few seconds longer, there was silence. His deep voice seemed to run through your entire body when he spoke, warming you from the inside out.
“You relax, ‘aight? I’ve got you. We’ll get through this. I’ll keep you warm. We’re gonna make it, I promise.”
And even though you were so cold it was painful, and you felt so helpless it made your chest seize, you knew that you had to believe him. So you allowed yourself a moment of bliss, listening to his thunderous heartbeat echoing in your ears, and trusted that he would hold you close until help arrived.
There is a moment toward the end of Sense8’s eighth episode that is unlike literally anything I have ever seen.
Nomi, a political activist who suddenly finds herself stalked by a mysterious organization bent on wiping her out because she possesses psychic powers, learns from one of the friends with whom she shares a psychic link that the bad guys are on their way.
With the help of her girlfriend, Nomi escapes the house where the couple has holed up, but she’s soon surrounded by cops working for the evil organization. She sends out a call for help, and in a thrilling, kinetic sequence that’s hard to describe, several of the other people with whom she’s psychically linked swap into her body to share their skills of, say, martial arts fighting, so that she can make her way to freedom. The show is at its best during moments like this one, when it leaves behind the leaden weight of exposition and simply showcases its loopy, high-concept in action. (x)
Sunday Respite - A Repository of Resourceful Rare Armaments
From the surface, such a primitive activity lacks a certain stimulation for players. Many would say that it simply cannot evoke the same emotion as such complex scenarios as political intrigue or the puzzling challenges of wit and strategy. Yet, as a DM, as I narrate the scene to the players, flavour it with the deft splashes of mechanical alteration, and present an obstacle that they must overcome, I do so with the sole intention of inciting excitement. When dice hit the table, hit point tallies stack, and lead scratches across paper, I want it to be fun.
Everything I put before them is just another ass to kick, no matter the dress or flavouring.
And so, here I present for you one under a half-dozen pieces of weaponry, each more fit for the palm of a king than the last. Silver, gold, iron, and brass - the metals of men are our ink with which to pen the stories we wish to tell. Legacies made reality - hopes cast from purest steel. If but any one of these fineries lays a wicked man low, then my entire life has purpose and meaning.
Banshee’s Blade [A Quick Death]
Questions chase the lonely Duke in blue like flies would find a carcass. They flutter about his peers with a dithering intrigue, passing from one pair of scandalising, rumour and wine stained lips to another looking for somewhere ideal to lay the eggs of doubt. Questions of his obscure colouring of clothe, his cocksure attitude and swagger about the palaces, or his empty scabbard swinging at his hip. The gentlemen of the court have grown to fear and hate the lonesome Duke and his seawater coat like a passing rain cloud upon otherwise summery noons. He has a habit of tickling the hearts of any who he would set his favourably dashing gaze upon, lord or lady. After stealing them away for a momentary passion, the Duke may find himself challenged to a traditional duel for the honour of the wrong-done-by. He would stand apart from his challenger, the palm of the hollow sheath near to his waiting hand, back to back. Perhaps the lack of blade horrifies the opposition, maybe it encourages them. With certainty, the sound of an utterly unperceivable rapier singing its withdraw is one that could shatter the confidence of any doomed to face it.
This stiff length of wound, crimson leather straps is frayed at the head into a half-dozen fanged strands. The body of this weapon is flexible and can coil around itself, much akin to a red-scaled snake. If this whip is used against another person, the wielder will find it grasps out at the target like a groping hand. If the reach catches to, then the two involved instantly disappear from view without a scream or puff of smoke. They will immediately find themselves upon an eternal plateau of reddened sand under a bloodshot sky of bloated clouds, heaving with black. Only once one has been slain will both return to whence they came.
‘Heavy crossbow’ would be a term of underestimation for this glorious contraption of steel and oak, edges smoothed away by age and the frequent use of careful hands. This crossbow-like device stands at five foot tall when stood with pommel flat against the earth, and bolt aimed at the sky. However, this does not release mere featherless arrows or simple projectiles - no. The Polebow is designed to shoot forth pole arms; javelins, spears, lances. It is akin to a portable ballistae, barely even maneuverable to the common man of untrained background. The unskilled are just as likely to fire forwards as they are back, especially with all of the cranks, ropes, and levers required to reload ammunition. But when a shot is loosened with accuracy, the recipient is as likely to walk away alive as they are to have a guardian angel. At that point, the two things are one and the same.
The Earthreaper is a black-painted axe intended to be held in two hands for combat. It is heavy, almost leaden, and weighted for maximal impact upon hostile combatants. It always persists a strange texture of dusty earth to its shaft, no matter how much it is cleaned. When it is lain against the natural soil, it sinks into the dirt like a corpse under the waves - slowly, but with no doubt for its destination. If the wielder wishes, they can spend a short amount of time tracing the axe across the soil in some shape of their desire. When the sides have conjoined, the ground trapped within will fall away into a thirty foot deep pit with spikes at the bottom, dropping anything caught into its depths. These pits last for one day, and then they return to as they were before.
This small blade, short and light, is a grotesque and horrifying oddity. The pommel, grip, and guard are a gaudy blend of ivory and silver melded into a gothic design, reminiscent of cathedral windows and embroidered cloths, stitched with a gleaming weave. The blade itself is quite another thing. From the guard, all the way to the tip, the sword is a squirming mass of yellow-green slime with a disembodied collection of facial features scattered throughout. The mouths screech, the eyes dart and wander, and the entire thing breaths like it were alive. Somehow, the most confusing thing is that the blade is still, somehow, sharp enough to cleave and cut despite its organic appearance. Sometimes, the ‘creature’ extends a tendrilous limb out from its form when used in combat and attempts to scratch even further at the recipient of its blows and cuts.
Shiro’s known the Force for as long as he can remember.
Even if this isn’t the first first, it’s certainly one of the most defining.
“It is too late,” the Pashoni leader says. Her face is ashen but firm, her beetle-like eyes and the green markings of her crown of office stoic and unyielding. “I am sorry, young Jedi. There is no way we will reach them in time.”
“But my Master’s down there,” Shiro cries.
The training bond in the back of his mind has been silent for six terrifying minutes, stretching on to seven. Eight. Shiro’s tried again and again, but there’s no response. There’s nothing, nothing but the horrified whispers from the Pashonians gathering with Shiro at the top of the hill and the dust rising from the rockslide at the bottom.
Stay here, Master Ulaz had said. The cart down into the mines had only been big enough for one person to join the workers heading below.
Stay here, Master Ulaz had said, laying his large hand on top of Shiro’s head, thumb pressing gently against the center of Shiro’s forehead. It is a calming gesture for the Galra people, with their sagittal crest; Shiro’s used to it. At the tender age of thirteen he still barely comes up to Master Ulaz’s waist.
Here, staring down at the settling remnants of the rockslide neatly blocking the only access to the caves.
Roethke referred to getting old as wearing the leaden weight of what I did not do. Just as your youth is not a prize for your efforts, my agedness is not a penalty for my faults. Eungyo is like sweet rain upon a dry land. It will be hard to write a story more beautiful, more truthful, or more replete.
Fourth installment of the Demetri Volturi “Seeker” series (“Seeker” - “Decisions, Decisions” - “Forced Hand”) requested by quite a few of you, structure provided by anon. “Hi! can you please continue the “seeker” series with demetri? maybe after he bites her aro has to figure out what to do with them and slight angst but then fluff in the end? thank you! your writing is so great!” Hope you like it!
You were submerged in a sea of molten tar, your skin burning from the inside, your muscles flayed and exposed to the liquid fire surrounding your body. Arms like ice were wrapped around your body as you floated, the simple breeze of movement against your hair scalding like an iron pressed to your cheeks. You were aware of very little outside of your personal Hell, save the hand pressed firmly to your mouth to muffle your shrieks of agony as the inferno blazed around you. The last tangible memory you could recollect, a feat that required a great conscious effort, was of Demetri’s teeth slicing evenly, cleanly, easily through the skin of your throat, his lips feather-light against your neck, his arms wound around your body to catch you as you collapsed. Then, in an instant, you were separated from him, watching through a milky film of hazy crimson as a trio of heavily-muscled Volturi guards forced him through a great mahogany doorway, his arms bound to his sides by iron hands, his eyes numb to their violence, watching you as you burned. You couldn’t focus on much else after that moment, but you assumed it had been Felix that had collected the ashes that remained of your body and carted you away from the throne room; he had been closest to you when you were bitten, and his friendship with Demetri would have him inclined to rescue you. You were unsure of how or where or even when you were, but you must have been reaching the end of your transformation; the flames that licked and crackled against the sensitive soles of your feet were beginning to die down in multitude if not in intensity. Your fingertips were the first to recover, though the rest of your body continued to broil as your lover’s venom coursed through your veins like acid. There was a cooling sensation, as if the pads of your fingers had been extinguished, then a warmth not unlike the heat of your human self. You were not naive; this new warmth would be anything but.
The coolness extended up through the palms of your hands, your wrists, flowing along the length of your bones until it had reached your shoulders. Your toes, feet, ankles, and shins began the same transformation, inching with a painful patience towards your heart. It was at this point that you found yourself able to open your eyes and witness the world, watching as the scarlet taint to your vision slowly faded towards the corners of your sight, your view becoming clearer, crisper, then shockingly acute. The pain had not yet subsided, but you were in control of your mind once more; the ceiling bore the same terracotta hue as the rest of the villa; you had not been removed from Volterra, though you were sure the procedure would have varied some if Demetri had not decided, in that so pivotal instant, to change you within the walls of the city. Your breath was rushing from your lungs, burning with tangible frost as you struggled to arrange your thoughts. Demetri had changed you within the walls of the city, a city flooded with vampires and… and humans. Your throat burst forth to the front of your mind, aching with dryness and yearning passionately for the seduction of blood. You sat upright, then, your muscles still aflame, only to find your shoulders pinned beneath the steely weight of a pair of hands. Your vision focused on a familiar face, though now you could see so much more of him. His brow was knitted with concentration, his ruby irises glowing dully in the light of a barred window. His lips were pursed with professionalism, though his concern was obvious. You spoke, though your jaw was clenched from the seemingly endless onslaught of pain, your teeth clamped together like a vice.
“Felix,” you spat, your breath short, your voice tinged with a trillion differences, with only a handful due to your painful discomfort. Your voice was hardly your own anymore, though it rang with a sense of self you could easily recognize. You spoke with a sultry, savory sweetness that all but burst with flavour as it rolled from your tongue, the vampire’s name tantalizing the air between your face and his. His eyes shut tight with borrowed agony; it must have been very difficult for him not only to restrain you but to witness you roast alive. You gathered your breath, hot air billowing through your lungs as your hips and abdomen began to cool. “Felix, where is he?” Your heart leapt in your chest as the chill that shrouded your body began to descend, your vision becoming sharper with every frantic beat within your chest. The vampire did not reply, his eyes averting to stare delicately from the window, his hands never once leaving your shoulders. Surprising yourself, you watched as your hand met his cheek, clawed fingers holding tight to his jaw as you wrenched his focus back to your face. He had your hand pinned by your head before you could move again, the fissures in his marble flesh mending almost instantly from the unrecognizable force you had exerted. Your lips curled back on themselves, and you could almost feel the rage burning in your cheeks, though you knew yourself incapable of flushing in your transitioning state. “Felix,” you hissed, your voice shrill and leaden with the weight of your fury. The vampire’s eyes locked on yours, his expression sturdy and unfazed.
“We will discuss this when you’re finished. I need you alert and focused. It would hurt our cause if I have to dismember you so early on.” You writhed beneath him, struggling for an escape from his hold… but it was an impossibility you had to recognize. Felix’s expertise in the art of violent newborns created an impenetrable cage under which you were captive. He forced himself into your line of sight once your hands fell limply from his chest, his eyes burning intently on yours. “This will be much easier if you focus, Y/n. It’s almost over. I need you to focus.” You hissed angrily, your hands balling into fists so tight you were afraid your fingers would meld to your palms, breathing steadily through the stampede within your chest. You listened intently, aware that Felix was doing the same, to the last minutes of your human life as they hammered against your rib cage. The fire condensed, your eyes widening as the inferno grew brighter once more, more intense than even the beginning. Felix crushed his weight against you as your limbs locked, your muscles spasming as the pain became agony once more, continuing to an excruciating height you had never experienced. His hand clapped over your mouth as you cried out in pain, your body collapsing in defeat as your heart stuttered one final beat. Then, silence.
Felix lifted himself off of your torso, his hands moving with near-surgical precision as he lifted you from your pyre, your eyes following his every movement as it happened. He pulled you from the marble slab you had been laying on, ushering you briskly to the corner of the chamber you had been imprisoned in, the rough stone of the wall whispering against your back like silk.
“Listen to me, Y/n. We don’t have much time. They’ll already know you’ve turned. Yours was one of the only beating hearts in the villa, at least until the next wave of turisti come in. They’ll be here in five minutes. I need you to understand me, Y/n. We have five minutes to find Demetri and lead you away from the city. We can’t have you near spilling blood. It is a trap they’ve constructed around your transformation, it was decided this morning. Aro will have a reason to have you killed if you lose control within the city. I’d rather help you escape than have to kill you. Hey, focus on me,” he instructed, pulling your gaze back to his face after it had wandered toward the gleaming metal door that separated your chamber from the villa. Something was calling you… “Y/n, on me.” You focused, intent on Felix’s face. “Aro had Demetri placed under guard. He’s somewhere in the villa, somewhere deep below the ground, and I can’t smell him anymore.” Your mouth opened in horror as you began to realize what Felix was suggesting.
“I’m not going to leave him here,” you whispered, your voice tingling through the air like sand beneath a roiling wave. “How could you even suggest- I can’t leave him!” Felix’s eyes closed tightly, painfully, as he formulated his words.
“We might not have to. I can’t find him, Y/n… but you might be able to.” His hands smoothed over your shoulders, his eyes alight on your face. “Demetri is the best tracker in the guard, and it was his venom that changed you.” Your eyes shifted to the door once again, that same urge calling you forward tugging like a tether around your heart. “If you can help me get to him, I can help you out of the city.” Your eyes snapped to his face, witnessing for the first time the weight of his commitment.
“Felix-” you began, his lips pursed firmly in a strict line, his head shaking sternly to dislocate your oncoming argument before you could voice it.
“It doesn’t matter about me. Tell me you can find him.” You closed your eyes, inhaled deeply the scent of the stagnant air around you, and began to move, pushing past obstacles with the ease of turning a page. The wind your pace created blew your hair back, your clothing strained against your skin, the sound of Felix’s feet following closely behind you. You flew down a stairwell, your heart directing you as easily as if you were navigating a childhood home, each passageway familiar in an incredibly strange way. You ducked around corners, avoiding the scents you knew to be vampires, your feet moving as soon as you thought to take another step. You found yourself traveling deeper and deeper into the earth, the stench of moist soil seeping through the stones that surrounded you. It was becoming more and more difficult to avoid members of the guard, and Felix was disappearing from your shadow more frequently as he tore his comrades to pieces in your wake. You fought against your thoughts, pointedly ignoring the consequences he would face, your mind harrowed by one thought alone; Demetri. He was close, you could feel it; it was as if the rope around your heart was constricting tighter with each step you took, each staircase you leaped, every corridor you rounded. You raced down a long hallway, turning a corner to find yourself across from a trio of familiar guards. Within a second, you had your target set on the door they guarded, a furious growl erupting from your throat as you rushed toward them. They moved swiftly, surrounding you in an instant, their arms tugging and pulling at your limbs as you fought to slip their hold, your heart full to bursting in your chest at the proximity of your lover. You bashed the back of your fist against a chest, blindly, knocking one of the guards into the vault door that held Demetri, crumpling the metal that separated him from you. A second body shot through the empty doorway, Demetri’s hand on the stranger’s throat, separating the guard’s head from his shoulders without hesitation. His eyes found yours for the briefest of moments before he was spinning you around him, tearing the arms from the guard who had you in a headlock, ready to sever your neck. You used his momentum to squarely kick the guard you had thrown through the door in he stomach, your hands grasping either side of his head firmly just as Felix came barreling down the hallway, pulling the body of your victim as he went. You tossed the head into Demetri’s cell, clawing at the cheeks of the guard that dared to grapple with Demetri. You made quick work of him, tossing the chunks of his marble corpse into a pile in the cell. Felix was finishing the last guard when the final heap of stony flesh had left your hands, your face turning in Demetri’s direction and throwing yourself into his waiting embrace.
“Y/n,” he breathed, his hand holding your face to his chest, smoothing over your hair, your arms crushing him to you, cautious of your intensity. His hand lifted your face from the muscle of his chest, his crimson eyes brighter than you could remember, gleaming with relief as he guided your lips to his, his kiss painfully passionate and seeping with adoration. You returned the intensity of his kiss, your hands tangling in his hair, memorizing the contour of his jawline with the softness of your lips. Felix’s hand was on your back far too soon for your liking, guiding you into an easy sprint, your hand in Demetri’s as you raced upwards toward the surface. As you ran, you passed the piles of robes and dismembered bodies of the guards Felix had decimated, your heart screaming in your chest as you absorbed the full extent of Felix’s mutiny. You ran, without much thought, knocking bodies back when your route was obstructed by a member of the guard. Demetri, one step ahead of you, lead the way out of the villa, passing through tunnels now tinged with sunlight, pulling you along after him until you had made your way to an outside archway, completely clear of passerby. Now that you were outside, you were thankful the wind wasn’t present to intensify the scent of blood that tore at your resolve. If it wasn’t for Demetri’s hands on your waist, you were sure you would be off in an instant. Felix draped a cloak around your shoulders, tying it deftly around your neck and raising the hood to conceal your face. You pushed yourself into his arms, conscious of the need for contact to keep you in line, thanking him deeply for the sacrifice he was making on your behalf. He returned your embrace, pressing a quick kiss to your hairline before locking hands with Demetri, who pulled him to his chest. You ground your teeth, holding your breath as you fought against the fire that crawled from your throat. “Felix, please. Come with us.” Demetri begged, his eyes sincere in their concern for the man who had saved your lives. Felix shook his head solemnly, backing away from his friend’s embrace.
“I’ll throw them off your track. Steer clear of Scandinavia, that’s where I’ll be.” He patted your shoulder, turning his torso as if to leave, your hand on his wrist stopping him in his tracks.
“We’ll find you, Felix. Stay in one piece until then,” he dropped his gaze, unwilling to make promises he wasn’t sure he would be able to keep. “Hey, focus,” you joked, watching the bittersweet smile that grew on his lips. “We’ll see you in a few years. Take care of yourself, Felix.” He nodded then, and with a parting clap on Demetri’s back, he was gone. Demetri turned his attention to you, his eyes sparkling serenely despite the panic that gripped you both. His hands found your face, cradling you in his palms as gently as if you were still a fragile human. Your hands secured themselves around his waist, holding his body to yours.
“Follow me, do not look back, do not let go of my hand. Keep holding your breath, darling, and do not, for the world, stop running.” He inhaled slowly, his thumbs stroking over your cheekbones. When he exhaled, his breath blowing over your face, his eyes had hardened into the steely gaze of professionalism you had seen in Felix earlier that day, only minutes ago. “Are you ready?” You squeezed his hand, nodding your head in confirmation.
“I’m right behind you.” He pressed his lips to yours, sweetly, briefly, before turning to run, your hand finding his in the fraction of a second before you, too, broke into a sprint, leaving the sun-kissed stones of Volterra in the breeze of your wake.
Code Name:Silver Universe: MCU Rating: General Audiences A/N: A ficlet written for Round 1 of @capim-tinybang’s Tiny Reverse Bang 2017. I loved @massivespacewren‘s art and decided to try and write something to accompany it.
Hi, I don't know if you remember but a few months ago i sent you an ask about john's preception of paul's supposed indifference in the media in the early 70s, and i was wondering if your still planning to respond? I mean if not thats totally cool, i just would be really interested if you have even incomplete fragments that you haven't posted (cause you posted a few in the past, i think?) Anyway, i really love what youre doing with this blog, have a great day!
Oh, I remember very well, my dear long-suffering anon, and at this appallingly ponderous rate I’ll probably have a response written up to my own fathomless standards within the next two years or so. 😞😓😩😖 I’m so very sorry; I’ve said so before, but it befits me to say it again. My overall productivity where @amoralto is concerned has ground to a halt this past couple of weeks for colourless personal reasons of depression and malaise, so I’m feeling awful about that as well. More fragments I can provide, though - they’re mostly just Thoughts From Several Years Ago, me looking up old notes I made when I was working on this response to your ask, but I hope it provides at least a modicum of entertainment:
I don’t prescribe to the idea of attributing someone’s entire
personality to a specific, singular event, but the childhood experience of finding himself in the position of effectively having to choose, symbolically, between the love (and affection,
guidance, trust, loyalty, presence) of his father and his mother, would
have significantly impacted his ideological makeup and ingrained within young
John Lennon a predisposition to see love as a zero-sum game where going with one means
abandoning the other forever, and having it both ways is an impossible
lie, because you’ve never had it both ways, and in fact, you will see to it personally that you won’t have it both ways, because you’d rather fuck it up yourself than let them fuck it up for you, because they will always leave you anyway. So I’d
imagine that as a young John Lennon growing up in schism, comparing your
household to others’ and painfully aware of what you don’t have that
they do and vice versa and all else, you’d both justify the notion and
rebel violently against it. Fulfill your own prophecies. Hence the impulsive, headlong infatuations
with gurus, and the incensed, guillotined fallout afterwards. Hence the inveterate need
for a parental figure, alternately resenting their authority and desiring
their attention and coddling.
Why these systemic issues with love, family, and abandonment seemed to pronounced themselves so profoundly in relation to Paul
in particular is probably for all those indefinable symbiotic reasons
that have been waxed lyrical about. Just as it was a magical buoy for their partnership in its naive and romantic beginning, this indefinable and ineffable quality to their relationship was also an obscure leaden weight to their
partnership in its latter-day disillusionment. It’s not so much the fact of its ambiguity itself that
was an issue, but that it was conditional, and neither was
consciously aware of it until, well, the conditions arose. I mean, this
isn’t at all meant to be a summative Where Did Our Love Go? précis, but just in terms of their communication with each other as emotionally hedging Northern lads, their relationship, from John’s perspective, seemed to depend on an implicit awareness
and understanding of each other, on the reading of each other’s minds, on recognising each other’s unspoken thoughts and desires and enacting upon them, which he eventually realised was unrealistic and unsustainable (even if he never necessarily stopped longing for it). But they couldn’t have grown as a
partnership without expecting and accepting each other to grow as
individuals apart from each other, and they couldn’t have gone on continuing to looking to each other
and expecting to see their own reflection without depleting themselves.
But, uh, rather than go into histrionic ramblings
about ego and identity and projection and fear, I think what I mean is:
knowing what you don’t want isn’t the same as knowing what you do, and in such immovable contention there was only going to be disappointment and despair. Not knowing what you want but expecting the other to know and give it to you, and not get it? Hurt, rage, betrayal, you
never loved me if you did you would have known I was in pain you
moon-eyed fucking Engelbert Humperdinck I bet you knew and you just got off on seeing me suffer.
2. How can you be happy and working when I’m sad and idle?
3. If you really cared about me being sad and idle you couldn’t possibly be happy and working.
4. Maybe I’m sad and idle because you don’t really care about me.
5. Maybe you’re happy and working because I’m sad and idle.
miserable, and if we’re as close as I think we are, you should be able
2. If you’re not able to tell, it must mean we’re not as close
as I thought we were, which makes me even more miserable.
3. Maybe the
reason why I’m miserable is because we’re not as close as I believe we were, and I can’t tell
how close you believe we are.
4. I can’t ask you about it, of course, because I shouldn’t have to, and it’s your fault anyway, you should be the one asking me first, it’s not like you’re the one who’s miserable.
5. … Maybe you’re making me miserable. On purpose.
John: Sometimes I don’t even want to be
in this fucking band anymore. I can’t stand being Beatle John, it’s
going to suffocate me, but in the situation we’re in I don’t even know who else I can be. We’re in this together, Paul. You understand. We need to break away from all this.
Hey, I’ve got an idea! Let’s make a record where we all
pretend we’re in a made-up band! Then we won’t have to be in this
band, not really, because we’ll be other people playing other people’s
music! It’ll be liberating!
John: … Remember when we just canceled all our engagements and went to Paris?
Paul: Sure I do. You know what, you should come out to London with me some time, it’s an amazing scene! All the
music and plays and films and happenings…
John: Hey, why spoil it when you’re already having so much
fun without me around? What’s so good about all that, anyway? Pretentious tossers, the whole lot of them. Not that I care.
Paul: They’re not so bad. Have you written any new songs?
John: I haven’t written anything in weeks. Bothered.
Well, bother yourself, then! And get something done by Friday. We have
an album to make, you know. I’ve already written about four new songs -
nothing much, just some melodies I whipped up in between this and that, but we can work with them.
John: You’ve just come here to gloat, haven’t you.
Paul: Are you having trouble writing? I can help you out! What are partners
for? Not today, though, today I’ve got a gallery
to set up and two articles for the International Times to write and
then dinner with Groovy Bob and a lot of artsy mingling to do with my
new queer friends you’re so intimidated by for some reason. Want to
No, because I’m in pain and you don’t care and I hate you for not loving me enough. Run along, I’ve got my own lysergic
to get to. This ego of mine’s not going to destroy itself, you know.
Paul: Alright, alright, I’ll leave you to it. See you on Friday!
John: … Please don’t leave me.
And some waffle on Paul’s manner of Dealing With Things By Not Acknowledging Them (which, when aligned with John’s Desperate Need For Verbal And Explicit Acknowledgment, would hurtle them both towards a terrible ending):
As an affect of his stubbornly persistent optimism, to put it glibly, one could see how Paul’s
need and inclination to focus on the enactive and positive side of
things would also preclude an avoidance of anything he thinks he can’t
achieve, help, or deal with, because direct confrontation of the problem
would entail the risk of him losing control in that situation, which would render him vulnerable, or worse,
being seen to be vulnerable. The avoidance thus manifests as both a defense and a coping
mechanism for uncomfortable situations or unsavoury trains of thought -
remember, this is someone who isn’t inclined toward navel-gazing, who doesn’t at all like to examine his own
thoughts or emotions, because it would hang him up. He has to
deal with them in some way, though, so what can he do? Diffuse (project
onto someone else), deflect (be hostile and passive-aggressive), or
dive behind a piano, essentially.
So if Paul’s
way of handling things (during the Beatles years at least) was to avoid
the Negative, redirect attentions and efforts to something Positive and
hopefully in the process overwhelm the Negative entirely by all that is
Positive, then you can see how the avoidance played out in, say, the
case of Brian’s death (Let’s all travel far
far away from this smog both figuratively and literally and make a new
film about us going on a mad bus trip and make a new album to go along
with it and be together
all the time as a band again because we can totally manage ourselves
and this will prove it and everything will be fine!),
or the latter-day disintegration of the band (Let’s plough through
because things have to get good before they get better and it’ll be a
good album because we’re us and at the end of it we’ll all be proud of
ourselves because it’ll prove
we can still do it and maybe just maybe we’ll stay together and make
more good albums
and everything will be fine!). He couldn’t ignore the plaguing tensions at
hand, and knew he couldn’t address it directly without
inviting confrontation or contributing to the existing tensions, but he knew
what he could do, practically - make music, and involve others with
making music. As long he was actively doing something, then he was actively moving himself and everyone else
forward, and if they kept moving forward for long enough the
problem would recede into the distance until it ceased to be a problem entirely. And so he did,
until they were far along enough to move onto the next phase, or until they couldn’t possibly be moved anymore.
au where mc is a down-on-her-luck street-rat who meets the talented and beautiful yet undervalued princess hana and helps hana realise her inherent worth as a person - and that hana should be free to live the way she wants to, not the way her parents want her to…
…also known as the mc/hana aladdin au ;D
please just take a moment to imagine mc taking hana on a magic carpet ride and showing all the beautiful sights & what it feels like to be free to go wherever you want, to be free from the leaden weight of sky-high expectations and heavy responsibilities
19. Kisses because I don’t want you to go and maybe I can convince you to stay just a few minutes longer for Alistair/f!Warden
Denerim is burning.
Denerim is burning, and the stone spires of Fort Drakon rumble with the ear-splitting roars of the Archdemon and the thunder of the Darkspawn horde, yet she can’t part her lips from his, because the space between their mouths is the only place left in the world that’s not tainted by this nightmare, because otherwise he will speak and she doesn’t want to hear another word.
He kisses her, hard, in a mess of clanging metal and snagging leather, his embrace tight around her until his fingers curl around her shoulders and hold her back. She tries to rise up on tiptoes again but he’s too strong for her, keeping her in place without effort. All that strength, and yet he’s never hurt her, except—
Except now. “I should be the one to kill it,” Alistair says, and all the arrows, all the spells, all the cuts and swipes and blows of the past year are nothing compared to those few words.
Her hands fumble for a grip on the polished steel of King Cailan’s armour. She realises, idly, that she is crying, hot tears searing their way down her face. “No,” she says, and it comes out a sob, “no,” and it’s all she can say, because one year out of the Circle was too short a time to taste freedom, to smell the crisp, cold air of the Frostbacks and feel frosted grass crunch underfoot in the morning, to find love and friendship over mugs of ale and too-strong tea by the campfire and lose it all to a curse that came millennia before her, to the corruption blackening her blood.
“I can’t let you die,” he continues, barely above a whisper, “not if I can do something about it.”
Her throat is knotted too tight for even a simple “no” to make it past her lips now, so she presses them to his, again and again, until at last she finds her voice again, stretched thin under the leaden weight of her heart. “Alistair, this is madness,” she says, the words thick and tear-wrung. It should be her. It should be her, because what’s another mage next to the only living scion of the great Calenhad’s bloodline?
(Because how is she meant to go on after this?)
He curls one finger under her chin, parts their mouths so that she has to look at him. He looks old beyond his years all of a sudden, sorrow tugging at the corner of his brown eyes, but there’s no fear in them: just tempered-steel determination, steadfast and hard, and she knows she will be powerless to change his mind. “Sanest thing I’ve ever done,” he says, threading one hand through her hair as he kisses her again. Then he grins, the same offhand, easy grin that’s been sending warmth flooding her belly since those early days at Ostagar.
Alistair adjusts his grip on the leather straps of his shield, takes his sword, then starts up the stairs leading to the rooftop of Fort Drakon.
Maybe for a bbrae idea: raven drives bb out of town for the night. Beast boy instantly thanks it's so she can break up with him privately but really she took him there to make out, you can make it lemony :))
Beast Boy stared blankly at the ceiling. He lay outstretched on his bed, his mind numb as he gazed upward.
This week had sucked.
If anyone had asked, and almost everyone had, he was simply tired. It wasn’t a lie per-say; they had just finished a rather busy week, full of late night patrols and constant prison escapes. But it wasn’t exactly the truth either.
No, what really had his mind in a vice grip was a certain empath, who had seemed far more aloof and withdrawn from him than she had in a very, very long time.
Beast Boy ran his hand over his face, stifling a groan. What if she was tired of him? It wasn’t that hard to imagine, after all, she was Raven. Pretty. Smart. Powerful.
And he? Well, he could turn into animals. Not exactly the most interesting thing in the world, especially compared to the impressive array of magic and knowledge Raven possessed. Whatever she’d seen in him, Beast Boy knew not, and he feared her interest had finally run its course. Why else would she be so…distant from him?
A soft rap caught his attention, and Beast Boy rolled off the bed and stumbled to the door. It slid open with a whoosh, revealing a rather empty hallway. He blinked. Huh? Beast Boy leaned out to glance about, only to find nothing. He shrugged, turning to return to the comfort of his room, when something on the floor caught his gaze.
“Have you ever had to get through a day, smiling at people, talking, as if everything were normal and okay, while all the the time you felt like you were carrying a leaden weight of unhappiness inside you?”
Written for @rollertoasteroflife <3 I know it’s not your birthday where you live anymore, but I’m still counting it as such. Happy Birthday!!!
1. When Viktor turns six, everything changes.
He receives his first pair of skates, leather soft and blades slightly dull from their previous owner, but they are magical and lovely and unequivocally his.
There, while sliding on the rink, fumbling for hand rails and tending to bruises, the ice seems to caress him like an old friend, welcoming him with each turn and and flick of his blades, simply overjoyed at his arrival.
Where have you been, it seems to say. I’ve been waiting for you for so long. Viktor breathes in the cool air and lets it’s icy presence settle deep into his lungs.
It spreads into his soul, settling a dissonance he wasn’t even aware of.
The ice, his first and most formative friend, provides him a path to a new life.
Falling in love, Bog thinks, is even more awful the second time around, because this time he knows how hopeless it is. The fact that he’s actually married to Marianne only makes the whole thing more cruelly ironic.
That day in the library, the day they began the arduous business of going through the legal codes together, she’d asked him to come to her rooms that night, and for a moment, he thought she meant—
But reality had set in immediately; of course she was only wanting to spar again.
Not that sparring with Marianne isn’t incredibly enjoyable. Going through tedious legal codes for hours with Marianne is incredibly enjoyable. Everything with Marianne is incredibly enjoyable. That’s the problem.
I noted down this really nice quote from one of Sarah Kay and Phil Kaye's Spoken Word performances ("An Origin Story"): "When you are old and cannot remember my face, I will meet you for the first time again and again." So I was thinking... maybe a Saeran fic where MC has amnesia and can't remember him anymore? PILE ON THE ANGST 😍 It would be really cool to have the quote incorporated, but if you can't or don't even want to write this prompt, that's fine too! Have a great day x
A/N: Omg I watched the performance on Youtube and wowwww it’s so good! :)
Okay so I’m only posting Part 1 of this because I foresee this turning into 4K-5K word fic later and since it’s a Guardian Angel AU I’m going to post the full one for RFA AU week (see this post) to give myself more time to write. :)
Head’s up, this is gonna be a super angst-y fic. Don’t say i didn’t warn you.
Title (tentative): Again [A Saeran x Reader One-shot]
Guardian angels. Known to be peaceful,
gentle and kind creatures. Supposedly, anyway.
Well, Saeran, for one, isn’t. Not right
now, at least.
Without much effort he picks up a chair in
one hand and hurls it hard against the white wall. There’s a crack that
resounds through the house as the chair comes apart, two of its legs snapping
upon impact. Little splinters of wood chip away onto the floor while the maimed
chair comes crashing back down onto the ground.
It’s not enough to douse the flames of
anger that he’s feeling right now. Not even close. He doubts even destroying
the entire house will suffice.
Right now, he can barely keep still. His
clenched fists are shaking, his teeth gritted and sinking into his bottom lip
hard enough that the metallic taste of blood fills his mouth. His furious gaze
sweeps over the items in his home, looking for something — anything — that he
and destroy. That’s all he wants to do.
Because he just wants to take it off his
mind for a bit. Imagine that his life isn’t the one being broken and destroyed
at this very moment. Ignore the fact that everything he holds dear to him
hasn’t just slipped through the crevices of his fingers for good.
He tries to take deep breaths. That’s what
Saeyoung always tell shim to do. Claims it helps the nerves.
Except it isn’t working now. It isn’t
helping to remove the heavy leaden weight that his heart has turned into in his
chest, and it isn’t making it easier to breathe.
He needs air.
He needs her.
He can still sense her. Somewhat. He can
still feel an erratic pulse drumming against his back, feel his body stiffen
with each wave of fear that he senses washing over her.
It’s not real. Of course it isn’t. He
already gave up his wings. He shouldn’t — doesn’t
— have a connection to her any longer.
But… a part of him just knows. He knows that she’s scared. He can almost taste her fear on his
tongue, smell it in his nose, feel it in the goose bumps rising on his skin.
He paces around the room, his feet taking
larger strides and making him go in circles because there isn’t enough room for
him to move. Gods, the homes of humans are so fucking small it’s driving him nuts.
He feels his back muscles twitch
feverishly as he fights the urge to jump out the window and fly to wherever she
is, — that is, if he still had his wings — to hold her tight in his arms and to
make her feel safe again. To whisper sweet nothings in her ear, to kiss away her
tears and to rest her head against his chest, let her feel the steady drum of
Because he promised her once that he would
protect her. Always.
that you failed at doing even that, you pathetic bastard,’ a voice in his
head spits at him. ‘And now you’re paying
Saeran lets out a feral growl that could
almost pass for a demon’s war cry, and in the next moment he’s punching the
wall, creating indents with each fist, relishing in the pain enveloping his
knuckles and hands. A distraction from the cruel ache in his chest.
In his anger, he fails to notice the
figure bursting through the front door to his apartment. It’s only when he
feels someone grab his arms from behind, forcibly stopping him from decorating the
wall with more holes that he lets out another snarl, his eyes narrowing at the
shadow of the intruder cast on the floor and his feathers bristling in
He doesn’t need to see the intruder to
know who he is. It’s plain from the way he’s holding his wrists down. Strong
and firm, but not hard enough to bruise. Saeran doesn’t know if it should be
annoyed or relieved that he’s here
But then, as he struggles and fights back,
he supposes it’s not so bad having someone to spar with now. The wall can’t
take his punches much longer, and he needs something — or someone, who can withstand his blows.
In the next instant, with a startling show
of strength and power, he throws the other angel’s hands off of him, and he
bends down, shooting his twin brother a brief, desperate, pained glare before
landing the first blow.
Harold doesn’t even register the click of the disconnected phone call. The part of his brain that is still somewhat functioning logically is torn between terror at how he has forgotten to take out his earpiece, and awe at how John has kept the connection going, even as Harold has fallen asleep at his table in front of his computers in the library. The part of his brain that’s still functioning clearly knows that this is his coping mechanism; he drives himself to exhaustion in order to forget the things he doesn’t want to think about, the things that are prohibiting him from doing what’s truly needed from him, especially when innocent lives are at stake.
The part of his brain, however, that’s still suffering from PTSD (he’s self-aware enough to acknowledge it) doesn’t let him forget. Root has invaded his dreams, and in them he has died a thousand deaths and has suffered a million tortures and has watched the varying degrees of disappointment in John’s face as it’s happening, and he hasn’t even realised that he has woken up screaming until John’s urgent voice in his ear pulls him harshly back to reality.
He isn’t sure what he said to John or what John said to him in the throes of his nightmare. He isn’t even sure he hasn’t imagined the steel in John’s voice as he declares he’s coming for him, because Harold isn’t sure that it isn’t his brain succumbing to wishful thinking all over again, the way it had when Root took him and—and—
A warm, wet nudge at his hand makes him look down, grinding his screeching thoughts to a halt, and the small smile that pulls at the corners of his mouth is genuine when he sees Bear whimpering in sympathy as he places his chin on Harold’s lap. He reaches out to thread his fingers through the dog’s soft fur; dimly he realises his hands are shaking. Bear seems to have felt it too, and whimpers louder.
He hears footsteps echoing from a short distance away—slow, deliberate, making themselves known—and Bear perks up, ears straight and tail wagging joyfully. A painful, tightly-wound knot in Harold’s chest eases despite himself, coupled with a leaden weight in his stomach that fills Harold with shame.
Harold looks up just in time to see a figure step out of the shadows, familiar and dear, and instantly the monsters in his head are quieted.
“Good evening, Mr. Reese,” he greets softly.
Bear leaps toward John happily, front paws clawing at John’s pants, and Harold feels the tension drain out of his limbs at the instant calm that washes over him, the sight before him suffusing him with warmth and fondness. He sees the rare moment John’s features soften as he ruffles Bear’s ears, before he looks up and catches Harold’s gaze, making Harold inhale sharply.
Something in John’s eyes seems to harden again, and he bends down to whisper something to Bear and pats the dog’s rear twice. Bear seems to understand, and instantly he is padding toward Harold again. Harold blinks as Bear settles himself by Harold’s feet, looking up at him with rapt attention, and Harold feels himself flushing as he realises the implications of John’s quiet command.
Bear is on guard duty—and it seems like he isn’t the only one.
Feeling his pulse quicken for an entirely different reason now, Harold watches John’s movements, almost feline in its quality: slow, graceful, quiet. John settles himself on the couch by the far end of the wall from across Harold, giving him a wide berth the way one would give a scared, helpless, wounded animal, and Harold doesn’t know whether to be relieved, thankful, or ashamed.
Bear must have sensed his distress because he noses tentatively at Harold’s shoes, and it gives him the courage to pull himself together.
“I’m sorry to have frightened you, Mr. Reese,” he says sincerely, and he is horrified to hear his voice tremble; he feels even the tips of his ears flush at the shame that courses through him. He takes a deep breath as he struggles to continue. “I’m perfectly safe, as you can see for yourself.” He looks down at Bear and manages a small smile as he pats the dog’s head; Bear closes his eyes as his tail thumps against the floor, relishing the praise and gratitude. “Bear here has been a very efficient guard dog.”
Bear woofs in agreement, and the warmth that fills the inside of Harold’s chest at the proud little smile that spreads across John’s features has nothing to do with shame anymore. When John’s eyes flicker from their dog (their dog? Harold thinks in alarm) to gaze at him, Harold has to force himself to not look away.
John’s expression is deliberately, carefully neutral, but there is a simmering heat in his gaze that even the shadows of the library can’t mask. Harold has always felt it directed at him, but more so recently, as John doesn’t seem to anymore notice nor care if Harold sees.
In fact, it seems like John… wants Harold to see him. To see… the way he looks at him.
He swallows. “Mr. Reese?” Harold inquires hesitantly when the silence stretches.
John tilts his head thoughtfully, starkly reminiscent of Bear, before he finally speaks.
“What were you apologising for, Finch?”
Harold blinks. There is no judgement in John’s tone, just mere curiosity, and for a moment, Harold has no idea what John’s talking about. He looks down at Bear, whose head is cocked similarly but in the opposite direction, and he has a moment of comical amusement before it all comes crashing back.
Root’s bland smile, the syringe in her hand transforming into various torture devices; sometimes a blade, sometimes a gun, sometimes something much, much worse.
The screaming, so much screaming. So much blood. So many dead faces, so many people he failed to save, the images tacked to his wall transforming into cold, lifeless corpses in front of him, their blank eyes staring accusingly at him.
(In one of the dreams, Root used a branding iron to mark him with the word: “MURDERER”)
Pain. So much pain. None of it hurting as much as… the look on John’s face.
“I’m sorry, John. I’m so, so sorry.”
A shudder wracks his frame violently, and he feels more than sees the way both of his devoted guardians suddenly tense. He shakily raises a hand, a wordless indication to just let him be, and he senses both his guards force themselves back, Bear nudging at his legs, John sitting slowly back down.
So that’s what John heard over the phone, Harold realises, and the shame washes over him tenfold. He removes his glasses and wipes a clammy hand over his face, and isn’t surprised to feel the cold sweat breaking out of him.
He takes several, deep, calming breaths. He once promised that he would never lie to John. He isn’t going to do so now. Not when John deserves to know this from him.
“I’m sorry,” Harold says quietly, mournfully, “for disappointing you, John.”
He can’t quite meet John’s eyes—he’s terrified of what he’ll see—so he looks at Bear instead even as it’s John he’s addressing. “There are things…” he hesitates for a moment, swallowing against a suddenly dry throat, “there are things I know about you, Mr. Reese, that I know you’d rather not let anyone else know.” He reaches out to scratch Bear’s chin; the dog’s ears flatten in obvious distress over him. He smiles in sincere apology—both to the dog, and to the man who deserves it most from him.
“I know about the things the CIA made you do. The things they made you go through. The things they made you—” he stumbles over using the word ‘suffer’ and quickly thinks better of it, “—endure.”
Bear is quiet and still as Harold gently strokes the top of his head. “Do you know… exactly what it is that leaves me in awe of you, Mr. Reese?” he says softly as he finally, finally forces himself to face the man he deeply admires the most—and the one to whom he now owes his life.
There is so much pain in John’s eyes that Harold can’t help but be struck breathless from it. And yet at the same time, there is so much wonder in them too, as John seems to be holding his breath along with Harold, waiting for him to continue.
“John,” Harold breathes, and he doesn’t anymore care how vulnerable he sounds, because this is John, and he knows, without a doubt, that with him, he’s safe. “I want you to know… that I am humbled by your strength despite it all.”
John’s eyes widen.
Harold lets out a harsh, watery laugh. “And yet here you are, working for… for such a weakling like me, who can’t even… function, after just one measly kidnapping, and—”
Harold stares at him helplessly. “I’m sorry, Mr. Reese… for failing you, for disappointing you, for not being strong enough to—”
“I said stop it, Harold.”
“Why?” Harold cries, slamming his palm flat on the table and making Bear jump in surprise; he is suddenly, inexplicably angry. “Why won’t you just let me admit how weak I am?”
“Because I won’t let you continue to insult the best man I know.”
Harold pulls back as if he’s been struck. John’s hands are curled into fists, the tension obvious in the hard set of his shoulders, and Harold knows that whatever anger he’s feeling at the moment is nothing compared to how John is vibrating with repressed fury.
Harold slumps in his chair, defeated; below him, Bear lets out a woeful whine. “How can you say that, still?” Harold whispers tiredly, feeling all the fight bleed out of him.
John swiftly stands and approaches him, a fierce intensity burning in his eyes like a predator on the prowl, and for a moment, Harold is reminded of how formidable a presence John Reese is. He straightens and braces himself when John reaches out, and is overwhelmingly startled when John touches his computer instead.
“… Mr. Reese?” Harold says timidly, feeling strangely off-kilter.
And just like that, the fire in John’s gaze fizzles into something softer, gentler.
“You know, Harold,” he murmurs as his fingers trail over the monitor, his gaze following the movement. “For a genius, you can be utterly obtuse.”
Bear woofs and pants in enthusiastic agreement. Wounded, Harold glares at the dog in utter betrayal. Bristling, he begins to protest. “Mr. Reese—”
“Compared to a genius like you,” John speaks over him deliberately, and Harold doesn’t know whether to be relieved or insulted at the lightness of John’s tone and at the playfulness that’s back in his gaze. “What I know doesn’t even touch the tip of the iceberg compared to what you know.”
His arm drops to his side as his gaze takes on a faraway look. “I know that a genius like you knows how the world works,” he murmurs. “And I know you know that it’s… merciless.” This time, John levels his piercing gaze straight at him. “You created the Machine. You know that more than anyone.”
Unbidden, Harold thinks of Nathan, and then of Jessica, and remembers their lifeless faces in his dreams, sometimes blurring into one. He swallows, but doesn’t speak. John regards him a moment longer, pinning him with his gaze, and Harold allows himself to be held still like a butterfly under a microscope, ready for whatever judgement John will give him.
He knows he deserves it, whatever it will be.
Bear is looking back and forth between them, unsure of which master is in more need of his comfort and support. Harold holds his breath at their tense stalemate, his heart thumping against his ribs like a trapped bird flapping its wings against the cage—and feels it leap to his throat when John suddenly speaks.
“Do you know… exactly what it is that leaves me in awe of you, Finch?”
Harold opens his mouth soundlessly, too stunned at the way John meaningfully throws his own words back at him. There is an equal softness to John’s smile and his gaze, and Harold finally realises… he has been utterly obtuse indeed.
“Why?” he whispers, feeling something akin to hope bloom in his chest.
John steps closer. “Because despite it all… you are still a good man.”
John kneels before him, and by some unspoken communication, Bear shuffles back to make room. This way, he and John are finally level, seeing each other eye-to-eye, equal in every way.
Slowly, John reaches out to take Harold’s injured hand. He turns it over and runs his forefinger lightly over the bandage, and Harold shivers, feeling the tingling sensation all the way down his spine.
“You’re not weak, Harold,” John whispers. He bends down and presses a lingering kiss to Harold’s knuckles, and Harold feels the way they both tremble. “But without you… I am.”
Harold’s eyes widen as John guides his hand to press against John’s chest. Beneath his fingers, he could feel John’s heart beating in sync with his own: rapid-fire like a rain of bullets, just as dangerous… and just as thrilling.
“So do me the courtesy,” John’s other hand reaches out to cup Harold’s cheek, and Harold can’t help but lean into the touch, so comforting and warm, “of not leaving me behind.”
His half-lidded gaze finds John smiling serenely at him, like he is something precious, something to be treasured, to be protected at all cost.
Harold’s heart skips a beat as he realises that the sentiment is completely reciprocal.
“And don’t insult me,” John says, the threat of the words gentled by his tone, low and soft, as he leans forward and touches his forehead to Harold’s, the gust of his breath warm against Harold’s face, “by thinking I would just easily let you go.”
Harold finds himself smiling back as he steadily cups the back of John’s head, gently urging him closer. “I’m sorry,” he says, heartfelt, and this time—for all the right reasons.
Harold looks at the way John’s eyes shine for him, because of him, and allows the light in them to obliterate the lingering shadows of his dreams.
John mimics him, sliding his hand to clutch at Harold’s nape, and in their mirror image, Harold realises that they are one and the same: two men who finally found something worth fighting for, in each other.