quiet woman

10

2017 book releases I’m most looking forward to

2

[ The Wait ]

Testing out a new process for extra dreamy and soft illustrations, quite pleased with how it turned out. Can’t really decide which version I like best, so here have them both! <3

(~short story under the cut for those interested in things like that~)

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Night Walks - Part 1

Summary: You like to take late night walks to de-stress, you meeet a stranger named Bucky who does the same.

Prompt(s): Okay I’m combining two: pandarosita: 93 and 94… but Reader being upset rather than Bucky? and an anon request for 64.

93.“I’m telling you. I’m haunted.”
94. “I had a bad dream again.”
Bonus: 64 “Here, take my blanket.”

Warnings: angsty reader

Word Count: 3093

Author’s Note: Ah fuck. I sort of hate this but I just need to post it to get it out of my head, so here you go. Enjoy the angst. I’ll post part 2 tonight when I get to my next hotel. 

Side note, please do not interpret this as me advising taking careless late night walks. Be safe, know your surroundings if you must.

Originally posted by sssmcdlove


You’d always been a night owl, preferring the quiet dark when everyone was asleep over the busy days in too small a home with too many people. You liked the calm stillness that fell at night when everything finally just… stopped.

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One day, the wise woman of the village called all the children to her house.

She sat with them in a circle, and they ate and sang together until the moon was high in the sky. The children had never been allowed to stay up as late. They were excited. Their tongues prickled with the spicy soup that the wise woman had given them.

When the fire was just a low glimmer of ash and wood anymore, the woman lifted her hand.

The children that had been laughing and chattering fell quiet.

The woman said: “Show me the palm of your hand, and tell me only the truth. Swear on it.”

“I swear,” said the children. Some whispered it, some barely got out the words, but all of them were shivering because they felt something old and large reach for their hearts. They didn’t know if it was the soup, the woman’s power, the moon, or just their own awe before the world and the night that made them speak truthfully.

The wise woman lowered her hand. She looked at one after the other. Her eyes were warm as the fire, dark as the moon’s shawl above.

“Speak what you wish to raise in your life.”

Everyone was silent for a long time.

The woman turned her head towards the first boy.

“Family,” the boy mumbled. Then, a bit louder, clutching his empty soup bowl, he looked at everyone with honey golden eyes, wide with kindness. “Mine and others.”

The old woman said nothing. Only her head moved from then on, and it pointed to the next, the next, one after the other.

And the children spoke.

“Health.”

“Knowledge.”

“Happiness.”

“Imagination.”

“Adventure.”

“Fun.”

“Strength.”

“Animals.”

While the children said their words, the old woman drank them in. She let then settle into her memory, anchored them where they were safe.

One day, when the children were of age, she would ask them again.

Some would have changed. If they had lost their path, she would remind them of their old words, of the dreams their hearts had forgotten about. That there was a way forward, in whatever direction it may run. If they had found another way for themselves, she would gift them their once-adored word still, so that they had something to always return to and would know that once feeling something did not mean that you wouldn’t ever feel something else.

And if the children still chose the same way, then it would be their time to raise something.

So the children spoke their words. Only two were left now and before the woman could turn her head, they spoke at the same time.

“Hell.”

“Myself.”

The other children shivered. For a long time, nothing moved. Even the fire seemed frozen in the moment. Finally, the woman tilted her head.

“What do you mean?” she asked the two. She hadn’t asked anyone else.

The first child stood up, hands curled into fists, eyes burning. “If anyone gets in my way, I’ll bring all of the world down on them!”

“I’m scared,” whispered one of the children.

The woman looked at the other child, whose eyes were calm as the dark sky above. “And you?”

“Myself,” said the child once more. “Nothing more and nothing less.”

The first child laughed. “That’s stupid. Just yourself? What can you do with that! When I’m older, the world won’t stand a chance against me.”

Before the second child could speak, the old woman stirred. She reached out for the child’s fingers and took them into her own. The other children watched, wary and confused.

“Before you raise any of your dreams,” said the old woman, a smile on her fire-warmed lips, “I want all of you to remember this.” And when the child who stood glared at her, she took its hand as well until it sat and put its head against her shoulder.

“Raise yourself, children, and you will stand against anything. Raise yourself, and the whole world will rise with you. Hell and heaven and every fear will fall if you hold yourself upright and look to the stars. And if you cannot rise anymore, stand. Stand. The horizon has been born for thousands of years, every morning and every night. Admire its strength, when you are weak, but do not forget:

You are the dawn. You are the dusk.

The world will follow. Raise all that you are, before anything else.”

MariChat May: The Oracle’s Gift

Special thanks to @toukabunni33 for playing Beta for me!

Love Square

Rated: T

The Oracle’s Gift

MariChat May Prompts:

Aged Up! Chat

Aged Up! Marinette

Identity Reveal

One Shot

Adrien, in the guise of Chat Noir, had been enjoying one of his few moments of leisure at Marientte’s, laying down on her chaise, eyes watching as the girl fussed over a new design that she was making.

This moment, this was one of his favorite moments of time. Where he was able to spend time with Marinette without her stuttering. He adored watching her work, playing video games with her. Everything seemed platonic between them. Adrien quickly and easily called her his best friend after all the time he spent with her as Chat.

Sadly, he wouldn’t tell her his identity. Not until he showed Ladybug. Marinette had an ever-growing spot in his heart, but Ladybug was there first, and her grasp was still firm. He hoped one day she’d have it completely as his partner, friend… and hopefully his girlfriend, maybe more one day.

He had few days like this. When he meant days, he meant daylight hours. It took much pleading and bribing, but he had convinced Nathalie to give him a couple days off just to hang out with friends and get his energy back. Between school, modeling, and all of his extra lessons—not to mention his time as Chat Noir—he was completely burnt out energy wise.

It was when his Baton sounded off with an Akuma Alert from the Ladyblog that he hissed in annoyance.

He heard a lighter hiss, Marinette shaking her hand, the sound having startled her enough that she stabbed herself in the finger with a needle.

“I’m okay! Just got my finger.” She moved the digit between her lips, looking towards him. “Go. Go save people, Chat. I’ll be here when you get back.” She said, pulling the digit away once the bleeding had stopped.

A small smile was tossed her way as he moved to go out the hatch that lead to her balcony.

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3

I’ve been thinking about Lyanna a lot, specifically her side as a warrior, as speculated with her being the knight of the laughing tree, so of course, I have gone AU!

Linearts so far! These two are of the same universe adult Lyanna (30-35) where Robert’s Rebellion is aborted when Aerys dies before killing Rickard and Brandon. Lyanna rises Jon on her own and never marries due these events, following a path that makes her Ned’s right hand, and a vicious fighter. Known to the smallfolk as the Wandering She-Wolf, Lyanna and her forces patrol the edges of the Wall for wildling incursions. After years of rumours and blame set her way after her “kidnapping”, Lyanna has grown into a quiet and stern woman within the walls of Winterfell, but living for the thrill of the hunt and her pack outside. Loving her son Jon fiercely, she will do anything to keep him safe and away from King Rhaegar.

On fantasy terms, I wanted this Lyanna to be more of a “rogue” agile and lethal; using one dagger (Fang) and a shortsword/dirk (Frostbite).Cutting her teeth fighting against wildlings, she knows how to move to close quarters and dispatch them quickly with precise lethality.

Also working on another AU Lyanna, one that survived childbirth but couldn’t bear with everything that happened, leaving Jon to be raised by Ned at Winterfell while Lyanna was only saved from despair by an altogether darker path. EDIT: Added that lineart! 

one of the best things about wonder woman was the fact that she wasn’t fighting a female villain/another woman but damn i didn’t realize how little needs to be done to impress me

Lost and Found Part 1

Newt Scamander x Reader

Request: pleaseee write more newt imagines! Your existing ones are amazing!

Summary: Reader accompanies Newt to New York and makes new friends along the way, while also getting caught in the middle of a dangerous mess.

Warnings: None

A/N: Hey everyone! Just thought I would drop in and say hi. Also, hope you enjoy this fic!!

I do not own anything!!!

Originally posted by booksandteaaaa

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Like an Angel ~ An Oh Sehun Series

An Oh Sehun We Got Married series

Not Requested

Genre: Romance // Angst // Smut (later on)

Summary: (of this series) Two idols, one show, one marriage. Can you and Sehun fake your marriage for the fans? Or will that fake marriage start something between the two of you?

Word Count: 3,500 words

A/N: Yay you guys correctly guessed the member! Like an Angel takes place in the same universe as Strangers, but Yixing’s version does not. Yixing’s version (which is coming soon) is in its own universe.

{Chapter one} {Chapter two} {Chapter three} {Chapter four, coming soon}



You look down at the very first mission card.

Your husband’s favorite colors are white and black. Make sure to dress in those colors!

Your eyes move to look at your choice of wardrobe. Everything they gave to you was either black, white, or both. Not caring about what you wear, you settle on a pure white blouse with black leggings. Looking at the shoes, you randomly pick up a pair of mary jane heels.

It was time. It was finally the time you got to find out who your husband was going to be for the next few months of filming. Well, fake husband. You had wondered about this show long enough. Was the hand holding real? Were the hugs real? Was the affection itself real? People had different opinions, yet you yourself had never really had one. Some people said everything was scripted, and others said everything was real. But what if it was in the middle? What if it was both scripted and real? You wanted to find out for yourself. So, after pestering your agent and manager begging them to get you a part in this show, they finally caved.

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anonymous asked:

Can you so a scenario where the S and M brothers lay their head down on their S/O lap and she smiles a bit and strokes their and tells them that they remind her of a little kid when they do that

Sakamaki:

Shu - Besides the fact that he’s practically purring at your touch… “Quiet lewd woman you started this.”

Reiji - It’s not often that you can get Reiji to relax and let his guard down around you like this are you sure you want to say that? “How rude, to demean me to child just for resting… I don’t want to have to punish you.”

Ayato - Ayato’s face would go red at your comment, he’d even pout a little. “Shut it Pancake, you belong to Your’s Truly and I’ll do as I please, no matter if you do see me as a child!”

Kanato - Kanato would be so quiet that it’d be disturbing if you said it, he almost looked like he was asleep. “Hey, just don’t mess up my hair…”

Laito - Laito is not really one to have his hair played with, it’s not that he hates it more so that he’s indifferent. “How about you play with something else, ehh Little Bitch? Maybe then you can’t compare me to a child.”

Subaru - His hair is so fluffy and soft, how can you now play with it? That is if he’d let you, he’s not one to lay in your lap so saying something like that would definitely set him off to leave. “Hey, idiot what are you doing?! Ahh, alright j-just don’t mess it up… And don’t say that.”

Mukami:

Ruki - Ruki’s weak glare at your words says it all while he was reading a book. “Don’t make me have to punish you livestock, I’m just getting to the good part of this novel.”

Kou - Kou does not like for his hair to be played with but he can tolerate it, just don’t compare him to a child. “Hey Masokitty it’s best to not underestimate a pretty face.”

Yuma - Yuma would grunt at your words but would not move, his weak threats were still a little unnerving. “Don’t test me Sow, now move a little to front.”

Azusa - Azusa does not care about your words, he was in heaven as soon as your fingers started to comb through his locks.

Ten Paces Fire! (G.Wash x Reader)

a/n: i was trying to think of a prompt for this gwash request and this idea just popped into my head and??? i couldn’t stop laughing lmao hope u guys enjoy! (ps if u want more all u have to do is ask ;)

request: Please please please write George Washington x reader fluff. I’m begging.

word count: 1011 words

“Burr, get a medic for the general.” Washington growled.

“Yes, Sir.” He stated as Lee was carried away.

After a talk with Hamilton, General Washington decided to check on Charles Lee.  Although Lee said some very rude things, it was his duty to make sure his men were ok.

“Lee, since you are unfit to serve here any longer I am afraid to tell you that you will be discharged.  Is there anyone we can contact to assist you on your way back home?” He asked formerly.

Lee hissed as he moved upright on the cot to look at the other general. “My sister, Sir.  She shouldn’t live too far away from here, although she might not be very pleasant when she arrives.” He shivered.

Washington furrowed his eyebrows and marched to his tent to write a letter to Ms. Lee about her brother’s current state and the situation that brought them to this conclusion.  After he was finished, he asked one of his men to deliver it.  Now all he had to do was wait.
~
“Where is he?!” Washington heard a women’s voice shriek as he was drafting plans for the next battle.  He heard Hamilton’s voice trying to calm her down but to no avail she kept demanding to see whomever “he” was.

His tent was flung open and saw Alexander walk in with a red face after being told off by said woman.

“Ms. Lee has arrived, Sir.”

George’s eyes widen as he put the pieces together and realized that it was Charles Lee the woman was searching for.

“Shall I escort her to him?” Hamilton asked.

Washington shook his head and stated he can do it as he grabbed his hat.  He opened the flap to his tent and held his hand to his face as the sun’s beams showered upon him. It took his eyes a bit to adjust to the new lighting and looked to see the most beautiful woman he had ever set eyes on.  

She had a simple navy blue dress, gorgeous (E/C) eyes, and hair that looked slightly messy from the journey to the camp.  Her lips, however, were knitted in a tight frown as she looked angrily at him.  Washington gulped as he made his way over to the furious but beautiful woman.

“I assume your-”

He barely got a few words out before she interrupted him.

“The sister of that idiot who got himself shot in a stupid duel over something stupid he said?” The woman spat.

The general moved slightly back, afraid if he said anything wrong she might release more of her wrath onto him.  He opened his mouth but was cut off yet again by the woman.

“I am so terribly sorry,” She said as she dragged her hand across her face. “It’s just that my brother is…not the brightest.”

Washington chuckled and shook his head. “It’s quite alright, Miss.  It’s completely understandable that you would be upset.” He smiled at her.

She smiled back. “I’m (Y/N) Lee.”

Washington bowed and took her hand to kiss her knuckles, “George Washington at your service, Ms. Lee.”

The lady blushed as she realized that she lashed out on the general and because he kissed her hand.

“Can I escort you to that ‘idiot brother’ of yours?” He asked as he looped an arm around hers.

Ms. Lee’s face flushed an even darker pink and nodded.  The general chuckled at her silence since it was very hard to keep the woman quiet almost moments ago.  

On their short walk to the medical tent, he asked about her life. She told him of her hobbies but the thing he was intrigued about her the most was that she was an assistant to a professor in the nearby college.

“You must be a brilliant woman then.” He told her.

She grinned at him, “I wouldn’t say brilliant but I would like to think I’m more educated than I should be.” She added with a wink.

The general laughed again, “You have quite the sense of humor, Ms. Lee!”

“Please call me (Y/N), General.” She told him.

“If you call me George I think we can arrange that.” He grinned at her.

When they arrived at the nurse’s station, the two were still chatting and giggling with one another and the men stationed at the tent stopped to gawk at the scene.  They have never seen the general so…happy, so carefree.  And to be completely honest George couldn’t remember the last time he felt this comfortable with someone else.  

“Don’t you boys have somewhere to be?” The general demanded.

The three soldiers’ eyes widened and stammered an apology while scurrying off.

Washington opened the tent and allowed (Y/N) to enter first.  She was about to walk in before she turned around to look at George.

“Could I have a moment alone with him?” She asked with her big (E/C) eyes.

George blushed and simply nodded his head so he didn’t say anything stupid. He watched her walk in and find her brother on his cot, dead asleep.  He smiled and turned around to walk back to his tent but before he could leave he felt a soft hand clutch his.  

The beautiful woman he was taken with stood up slightly on her tippy toes and whispered, “Write to me.” and kissed his cheek.

She smiled softly at him while closing the tent.

George stood outside in shock.  He simply stared at the opening while reaching up to gently touch the cheek she brushed her lips against.  Afterwards, he grinned and walked towards his tent to finish some business with a slight spring in his step.  He was only a little ways down before he heard a yell.

“YOU IDIOT!!!”

George’s grin widened and set down to already write a letter to the woman he was so suddenly infatuated with.

Heroism

Heroism means to totally devote oneself to a great idea, to consume oneself like a torch in the flame of a mighty ideal, to see only one great ideal in sight and in mind and in marching step. Heroism is being stirred, obsessed, fulfilled with a very great task.

His own personality no longer plays a role for the hero. Desire and suffering, life and death, step back for him behind the tremendous obligation toward the work for which Providence has called him. Heroic deeds are done not out of ambition and egoism, rather out of ultimate selflessness, unselfishness and personal devotion. Infinite faith in work, calling and idea fill and give wings to the deeds and the bearing of the hero.

Heroism differentiates Itself from insanity, fantasy and senseless self-sacrifice.

In every age there have been people who, misled by false doctrines or driven by a hysterical disposition, were devoted to senseless and ineffective idols and fantasies and became pitiful, poor martyrs of life-alien religious teachings.

And there have been people who, above all, under the influence of the most diverse religions, viewed self-mutilation, unnatural castigations of the body and deadening of all natural forces as heroism.  

Genuine heroism lives in reality and reckons with reality. Genuine heroism is supported by the natural laws of life and grows from the infinitely deep soil of folk, homeland and family. Only in the framework of this divine order of creation can a genuine heroism exist. Only in the service of real life - created and wanted by God - can a person become a hero. And only this earthly reality connects the hero to the divine.

Man’s heroic, ultimate effort for life often takes place in a brand framework visible from afar.

But often heroism grows in all quietness and seclusion. Heroic women and mothers, heroic soldiers and heroic workers are at work by the thousands in large cities and small villages, on all life’s battlegrounds and in all the folk’s workplaces.

The great heroes often awaken hundreds of thousands, yes, millions of people within a folk and pull them along to victorious charges and ultimate effort. Like shining torches, they often being life, movement and glow into a dark night. Fortune is the folk for whom in every age, but above all in difficult hours, heroes arise.

Not everyone is selected by Providence for this radiant heroism.

But everyone can brighten and encourage his small surroundings as a quiet hero of daily life, save them from exhaustion numbness, and lead them to a victorious life.

In a folk’s hours of decision and in the peaceful periods of confirmation, these quiet heroes are no less important than the great heroic figures. These quiet heroes hold the front together, always give new strength, again and again bring light and joy. They create calm where agitation threatens to cause damage and bring motion where a stoppage could mean danger. Hundreds of thousands of people owe it to the silent working of an unknown hero that they have preserved their faith and their idealism, that they have remained decent people or become ones again, that they hold their position soldierly at the place where Providence has put them.

If among a thousand people one quiet hero, man or woman, walks and works, then this heroic example will radiate onto them all, then our whole folk will grow together into a great, eternal front.

Each of us can be this quiet hero, at whom others looks, to whom they turn, even if no command calls for it.

But there can also come hours in life in which we face the choice either to be heroes or cowards, either to be men or traitors.

There are events in which a middle line between heroism and baseness is not longer possible.

Whoever proves heroic bearing in the quiet life struggle, will in these fateful hours all by himself grow to great heroism.

Heroism is the dream of all youth.

Heroes are the shapers of all events.

God is with the heroes.

by Anton Holzner, Eternal Front

Mac Ruaidh - Part Three

Part One, Part Two


It was too hot for Jamie to sleep. It had been years since Jamie slept in a proper bed in a proper room and it would take some time to get used to being close enough to a fire to keep properly warm. But he didn’t dare cross to open the window. Much as he would appreciate the relief of a bit of the January chill creeping in the room to counteract the effects of a hearth larger than the dimensions of the room required it to be, Jamie was terrified of what it might do to William sleeping nestled wrapped in blankets in the basket he’d arrived in earlier.

As his mind spiraled from William developing a cold to taking fever because of the open window, Jamie could feel the memory of Claire rolling her eyes before launching into a lecture about her germs and how it wasn’t cold temperatures that caused colds before finally conceding that yes, it would still probably be safer for him to keep the window shut.

There was another person who might object to such measures––the wet nurse Lady Dunsany had summoned, a young widow named Sabrina who had lost first her husband and then her three-month-old child to fever between Christmas and the New Year. The quiet woman had a cot of her own in an adjoining room she was sharing with one of the housemaids.

Lying awake and unmoving on the bed so as not to generate further heat, Jamie listened to the once familiar sounds of a house in the night. The logs in the hearth crackled quietly with occasional louder pops; the glass panes in the small window rattled whenever the wind picked up; the creaking floorboards in the hall and the cramped servants’ quarters beyond signaled other household staff moving about as they finally came to bed for the night or waking, made use of the chamber pot before resuming their unconscious states.

But the most prominent sound and the one that kept Jamie awake even as it calmed his nerves was the steady breathing and occasional groans of William beside him. Jamie would find some way to fashion a proper cradle for the baby before long but until then he refused to leave William’s basket on the floor while they both slept and instead had nestled the basket among the blankets on the bed. There was just enough space for the basket when Jamie lay on his back with one arm draped around the woven curve but he felt most reassured when he curled his body protectively around it; the fear of knocking the basket and its bairn out of the bed lessened significantly. But lying on his back was the easiest way to feel that it wasn’t just the bairn in the bed beside him. The sounds of the house weren’t dissimilar to those of Lallybroch and Sabrina’s snoring in the next room brought a smile to his lips and memories of Claire––and her insistence that it was he who snored and not her––to his tired mind.

There was a hitch in the baby’s breathing and Jamie snapped up to peer inside. William’s fist was in his mouth but he needed something that offered sustenance rather than succor. Jamie reached in and swept him up and cradled him to his chest before he could begin to truly fuss. The warmth of his father against his cheek lulled William long enough for Jamie to slip out of bed, ease open the door between his room and the women’s, and gently rouse Sabrina for William’s feeding.

He tended the fire while she sat in a stupor, William latched to her breast but her arms holding him stiffly and she wouldn’t look at him.

“Did you wake him to feed?” she asked as the need to switch William from one breast to the other temporarily roused her from her stupor.

Jamie glanced over, his gaze falling on the back of his son’s head as it turned in search of the rest of his meal. Grinning when the boy found it, Jamie suddenly realized he’d been essentially gawking at the poor woman’s exposed breast and looked away again, grateful that the resultant flush could be blamed on the heat of the fire before him.

“No,” he muttered, finally answering her question. “No, I didna wake him. I was restless myself and heard him rouse. I’m… I’m no used to sleepin’ in the house,” he confessed.

“Me either. Not a house this grand. Thank you, by the way, for catching him before he could cry.” Surprised, Jamie looked over to see her eyes fastened unblinking on the flames in the hearth, shining with sorrow. “If he’d cried… If I’d heard him cry like that I wouldn’t have realized it wasn’t…”

“What was yer bairn’s name? The one ye lost,” Jamie asked quietly, gently.

The reply came in a whisper. “Carina… her name was Carina.”

Jamie nodded and swallowed before telling her, “Faith. My wife and I lost a lass at birth… years ago now. She was called Faith.”

“When did you lose your wife?”

There were times Jamie could feel the shape and weight of every minute he’d spent without Claire; that he could stack them in piles reaching the ceiling and group them into the days, weeks, months, and years they’d been apart. And other times it was a distinctly unquantifiable mass that he couldn’t escape––would never escape… not until death.

“Years ago now,” he repeated knowing this young widow still enveloped in her own grief would be able to understand the struggle to find a way to carry on and live within grief’s muffling embrace.

“Thank ye,” he added a moment later. “For helpin’ wi’ my wee lad.”

Sabrina nodded and finally looked down at the infant suckling her breast. “He seems to be a strong one.” Her voice was hollow but she shifted her arms and her hold of William softened.

Whether the movement unsettled him or he had simply consumed his fill, William disengaged from Sabrina and promptly began to writhe and fuss.

Jamie was there in an instant and had him away from the wet nurse.

“He ate too fast,” she suggested, readjusting her shift and rising from the chair to return to bed. “Rub his back a bit and walk him about the room. He should settle back down.” The door between the rooms closed quietly and Jamie was left to calm his son on his own.

It still amazed him just how small and light the lad was, how fragile. And yet there was growing strength and coordination as Jamie felt William’s tiny arms pushing back against his collarbone and fighting to raise his head. The efforts exhausted him, however, and had failed to alleviate his discomfort. The stiff fingers of Jamie’s right hand held William’s small torso in place while his thumb swept back and forth across the back in a steady rhythm that reduced William’s cries to a weak whimper. Jamie felt the tension leak out of William as the bubble of gas worked its way up and out of his belly. Though the smell was faintly sour, there was no dampness on his shoulder so William’s meal had successfully stayed put.

Jamie grinned and rested his cheek lightly against the small head.

An eruption from his own stomach startled him and made him laugh.

“Now yer belly’s full, mine seems to want a bite too,” he murmured. In the confusion of arranging the room and bringing his things in from the loft, Jamie had only had a few quick bites of supper in passing and hadn’t been able to take an extra bit of bread or cheese to have later as was his habit. “What say we take a short walk down to the kitchens, eh?” he told William, laying the baby on the bed long enough to pull on a pair of breeks.

William stretched, his body arching briefly and the blanket that had wrapped him slid off his legs so that his feet were exposed to the cold. The toes curled and he reflexively drew the limbs back closer to his body and the warmth of his core. Jamie pounced at the opportunity and quickly swaddled the baby as tightly as he dared, grateful to escape having to pin William’s arms and legs in place himself.

“Now, ye must be quiet as a wee mouse looking for scraps left by the kitchen maids,” Jamie whispered as he eased his way into the corridor with William tucked into the crook of one arm. William squirmed and emitted a small mouse-like squeak that made Jamie smile broadly.

The fires in the kitchen were never allowed to go out for the sake of practicality so the large room was invitingly warm even as Jamie’s bare feet slipped from the wooden steps of the servants’ back stair to the cool flat stones that lined the kitchen floor’s outer edges; as he moved closer to the main preparations table and the fire, they grew warmer to the touch.

“Is everything all right?” a voice inquired from a seat near the window.

Jamie spun to see Lord John with a fork in one hand and a plate in the other, a half-finished piece of mincemeat pie resting neatly upon it.

Jamie rolled his eyes as he closed them before looking down to check William hadn’t been disturbed by the abrupt movement. “Aye,” he said in a low even tone. “We’re fine.” The calm that had been on him as he made his way down to the kitchen––the peace of a household at rest––had fallen away. The surprise of Grey’s presence and the anticipation of a conversation he did not wish to have had sent a jolt through his system so that the pangs of his hunger were forgotten as a rush of other information flooded his senses. There were three ways out of the kitchen, the nearest being the stairs at his back, but those would only lead him deeper into the house as would the door in the far left corner; the door to the far right corner would lead to the yard and open air but Grey was still closer to both than he was and Lord John held nothing more dear than stale pie left from an elaborate dinner; it being a kitchen though, there were plenty of implements that could be used as weapons. None of which should matter because there was no real threat to either himself or the baby and yet as he stepped closer to the table––Grey having risen and carried his plate back with a gesture inviting Jamie to join him in his midnight snack––Jamie was able to do so with the steady sureness of someone prepared for anything.

Grey cut a second piece of pie from the leftovers and set the plate near the fire for a few moments to heat up. Jamie busied himself by tending to William, readjusting his blankets and settling him more firmly in the crook of his right arm.

Grey set the plate and a fork in front of Jamie. “Do you need me to hold him while you eat?”

Jamie took the fork up easily in his left hand and shook his head. “I’ll be fine.” He took care not to smile as Grey blinked with amazement at Jamie’s ability to eat left-handed.

They ate in a silence that grew increasingly tense as each waited the other out to see who would broach the subject first.

“Why in God’s name did you agree to this arrangement?” Grey finally asked, setting his own fork down forcefully. “Did you hope to buy favor with Lord Dunsany and his wife by volunteering a solution that would allow them to see their grandson? Because if you hoped this would win their support in petitioning on your behalf for being released from your parole, I’m afraid you’ll find it will actually have the opposite effect. They’ll want you here indefinitely if your leaving means you’ll take that boy with you. And if you simply wanted better treatment you need only have brought any mistreatment to my attention and I would have had a word with Lord Dunsany on the matter.”

“Are ye through?” Jamie asked when it appeared Grey was losing steam.

Grey let out a frustrated huff and picked up his fork again but only poked at the cooling piece of mince meat pie, the crust flaking off and making a mess in the pooling grease on the plate.

“I dinna expect ye to understand why I did it,” Jamie told him. “It doesna matter to me if ye do or no.”

“What do you expect you can offer this boy in your circumstances? It’s noble to offer to be a father to an orphaned child but––”

“I was a father long before this wee lad here,” Jamie interrupted firmly. “I became a father the day my wife told me she was with child. I didna stop being a father simply because the child was lost… no more than I stopped bein’ my father’s son the day he died. Ye dinna stop bein’ what ye were when circumstances change––ye can become more than what ye were before but ye dinna become less except by choice… except by how ye choose to see yerself.”

“That’s a noble philosophy but it doesn’t address the question of how you’ll provide for the boy––and I don’t just mean physically or monetarily,” Grey added. “The Dunsanys will see to both your needs as much as they can for the boy’s sake––with plenty of strings involved, I’m sure––but what do you plan to tell him? About his mother? About yourself? Christ, Jamie, I’m the only one here who even knows your true name.”

“I’ll tell him as much of the truth as I can but I’ll no lie to him,” Jamie informed Grey. “When he’s older and I’m able to take him far enough from Helwater for it to make no difference, I’ll tell him everything.”

Grey was shaking his head, still unconvinced.

“I hope you know what you’re doing,” Grey finally said, rising from the table and dumping the last few bites of his pie into the fire. It flared up as the flames ignited the grease.

Jamie chuckled and Grey’s head spun to watch him in confusion. “Of course I dinna ken what I’m doing––no father does. It’s something ye learn as ye go, same as most things. But this lad is mine and I’ll do what it takes to keep him safe and raise him well… even askin’ for help if and when I need it.” Grey’s eyes narrowed. “I ken that Lord and Lady Dunsany will no want to see the lad go from them and it willna matter what his age or what rumors follow him. But I also ken it wasna their influence that saw me paroled here rather than transported.”

Jamie let the weight of his observation and the as yet unasked favor underlying it to settle.

Grey’s mouth dropped slightly open for a moment before he shut it again. He nodded his understanding and reminded Jamie, “You will let me know of any concerns that arise during my quarterly visits.”