The fallen Queen woke in a haze of smoke. Her room dark with the sun’s rays no longer shining brightly. Lifting herself from the floor, she remembered the ritual that took place just hours before. Slowly getting to her feet, she saw the two blades lying on the now cracked marble floors. “It worked…” She whispered. Lifting the blades from the floor, she slowly set out to leave the solidarity of her quarters. Upon leaving her room the last two of her Wraith’s that stayed behind followed behind.
“Veil, what happened? There’s no link.” They both asked in sync. Without stopping she continued her way to where her office sat. Each path she took left a line of decay in her wake. Finally moving to her office, she jarred the door open as it no longer opened freely. Making her way in, she placed the two blades into a glass container where they’d be safe away from the growing decay of the house.
The two Wraith’s followed standing at the doorway watching as she moved about. Mariana searched the desk for the leather-bound tome. Flipping it open to its first page. She glanced at all the names that were scrawled before her. The names that reached back into the thousands. Tears welled in her eyes as the hit of nostalgia crept over her. Reaching for a quill, going to her last page she quickly wrote in the middle of the page.
“As the acting Veil Queen for 178 years. I have given my rights, my powers and my solidarity to the likeness of Kane Mikael Dawnsorrow, son of Lylelan and Davina Dawntreader. The decadence instilled will now be taken over by the likeness of him. Long shall he reign, long shall he rule. If he so believes, then the powers bestowed on him shall become reborn.”
- Mariana Cross
The words burned into the paper that only the Veil’s eyes shall see. It was then the words before her slowly disappeared infusing into the books magic. Turning towards the front of the book. A line where her name should be had already appeared. Slowly inching her hand towards the line, she didn’t have to press the nib to the paper. It had already written her name and the years she’s been active. When her name was written down, it felt as if a huge part of her life had been ripped from her.
Her chest felt heavy as the tears rolled down her cheeks. Her hand gracefully slipped underneath the cover and closed it shut. The quill she held had fallen to the floor. The house creaked as the decay had already set in. Windows shattered around the house, the floorboards aging in a matter of minutes. Listlessly, she moved towards the door where the two former Wraith’s stood.
“My Queen…” They both bowed as she walked past them. “I am not your Queen…” She whispered as she slowly made her way towards the front of the home. They both followed suit, watching as the home decayed right before their eyes. “What will become of the Veiled Estate?” As they reached the foyer. The marble beneath their feet slowly discolored with cracks forming. “It will further decay… until the new Veil believes and takes residence.”
She replied curtly, moving more towards the front door. The windows around them shattered, cutting at her cheeks. But, she didn’t care. She whistled for her trusted steed to come to her. “Go… don’t follow me. I’m going to search for Aeritaesh. The copy of the tome will be delivered to the Demonic Butler. He’ll be under the impression that it will be I, but I’ll already be long gone. Go my lovelies, it’s time you both live your lives.”
Mounting her steed, she was quickly whisked away from the decaying estate. Looking back from whence she came, the Veiled Estate had already begun to look as if it were abandoned for decades. A grin curled over her lips as she nodded towards her former home. “The estate is now in your hands…” She whispered disappearing into the gardens of the estate to search for her first in command.
People were interested in me doing a thing like this, so here we go! I figured I’d do a short little blurb about each writer, including one or two of my favorite works by them. So, in no real order (like, I literally randomized the list) here are some of the most talented people* whose art I’ve had the pleasure of reading:
*Please note that some of these people haven’t written for bellarke in a while! That doesn’t mean you should pester them about it! Appreciate the heck out of what they have written instead. Cool? Cool.
Maria’s written a good variety of longer and shorter fics, and each of them is excellent. (She’s also an amazing human/friend, but that’s more of a side perk.) She’s currently writing Things We Shouldn’t Do which is what everyone wants out of a multi-chap, fake-dating, actors AU. Or for something shorter, check out T.O.P. S.E.C.R.E.T. for some friends-with-benefits/feelings-reveal goodness. And maybe if she loves me she’ll finish Let’s Go to the Mall but it’s nbd.
I read The Squire (multi-chap, medieval AU) when I was pretty new to the fandom, and I’m still completely in awe of it. Steph’s also written a million other amazing bellarke fics, like this fluffy-af youtubers AU (and, recently, some fucking amazing Jyn/Cassian stuff, if you’re into that) so make sure to check out all of her incredible writing.
Chash has written a million and one amazing fics, so obvs read everything she’s written, but one of my particular faves is Some Cheese With That Whine. It gives me all the best-friends-to-lovers feelings. Amazing. Plus she likes all my posts when I’m flailing about ffx <3
Lana’s another one of those writers where I know I’ll like everything she publishes. She’s like, the queen a soulmate AU’s. Her most recent one is here–a cool iteration where you feel whatever pain your soulmate feels. As with all the other authors here, don’t forget to check out all her other stories!
I discovered Kacka this summer, and her stories saved me from boredom on the countless train rides I was taking across Europe. By which I mean you should just read through everything on her AO3 page, like I did. Everyone loves a good coffee-shop AU, right? Check out Got to Find Those Extra Cups to Fill. She’s a fantastic, inspiring writer and an even lovelier human being.
Bri’s another one of the authors I first read when I joined the fandom! She doesn’t write much bellarke anymore, but it’s all still up on her AO3 along with a ton of quality Jyn/Cassian fics, if that’s your jam!
Kayla’s the first person I ever considered my “favorite fanfic author” and the title still fits, even if I do have about a million “favorite” authors now. Full Circle is an older, post s2, fic of hers, but it’s undeniably still one of my faves. A more recent fave is: this is your heart (can you feel it). These are both canonverse, but she writes amazing modern AUs as well. <3
Is it getting old for me to keep saying I like everything insert-name-here writes?? I’d stop, except that it’s TRUE. Mel is fantastic. Her last installment in Good Times Gonna Come is so cute I can’t actually stand it. Something In The Air (That Night) is also super good. (She also writes Sethkate and Jyn/Cassian!)
(Okay I’m running out of time for these last few–gotta get to class–so I’ll just do one fic rec from each writer, BUT they’re all such fucking talented authors. Everything they write is amazing.)
OKAY PHEW. I think that’s everything. As a last note, don’t forget to appreciate your favorite authors! A comment or reblog here and there goes a long way. Kudos and likes are lovely, but not quite as tangible as comments and tags.
Having just returned home from Star Wars Celebration: Orlando, I am filled with emotions, excitement and anticipation for the next installment of the Skywalker family saga. I was fortunately enough sit in the The Last Jedi panel, after 20 hours of sitting on a concrete floor, and an additional 10 hours before hand, queueing outside. However, that panel was worth every second of the wait time. And while most people will say the long anticipated teaser trailer stole the show, as an artist and illustrator, for me, the star of the show was the teaser poster, that was also revealed.
My jaw literally dropped as I stood in stunned silence as the crowd cheered around me. In fact, my line buddy, a member of the 501st by the name of Matt, repeatedly asked if I was okay as stood agape at the poster, amazed in it’s brilliant design as well as very clear and intentional use of visual story telling. I was flabbergasted at the bold choices made by Lucasfilm in this teaser poster, and I do believe that this is more of an indicator of the film’s story, rather than the trailer. This poster tells us, the viewer, everything we need to know about the direction of the upcoming movie, as well as helps dispel the rumors that The Last Jedi will be nothing more than a carbon clone of TheEmpire Strikes Back.
Before I go into detail I just want to say that it’s no secret that I ship reylo, however, for the purposes of this discussion, I am setting aside my implicit biases and talking about the facts stated in this poster, rather than fan speculation and conjecture.
First and foremost, what stood out to me is the simplicity in the poster’s design. We see only three characters, Rey, Luke and Kylo Ren. After doing extensive research, I found that this is the ONLY poster with just three characters. All previous Star Wars posters depict the main ensemble of cast members, as far back as 1979’s A New Hope. Never before has a Star Wars poster depicted only three members of the cast, and it is a clear statement that these three characters are the most important in relation to the story. There is also a not so subtle nod to Luke Skywalker in the original promotional theatrical poster for A New Hope. Both Rey and Luke are positioned in almost the same spacial area, in the same pose, with an ignited light saber raised up. For Luke, this symbolized his acceptance of his heroic journey, and the inherent power he possessed. For Rey, however, the meaning is vastly different. The sequel trilogy is very much about passing the torch from the old generation to the new, and unlike in The Force Awakens, Rey is present and accepting of that power, physically and metaphorically, in The Last Jedi, the second installment, rather than the first. Rey is our new hero, now heroine, embarking on her own heroine’s journey.
Now I know not many fans like Kylo Ren, and in fact they perceive him as a whiny emo cry baby, trying his best (and failing) to emulate Grandpa Vader, but his importance in the story cannot be overstated! He is the descendent of Darth Vader, and Leia Organa, and as much as most fans dislike him, that’s just simply a fact! The Star Wars trilogy movies are about the Skywalker family, and he is the new Skywalker of the trilogy. He is important to the cinematic universe as a whole, and characters from the The Force Awakens who easily had double the amount of screen time as him, such as Finn, were purposefully omitted from the poster in lieu of Kylo Ren. Regardless of how much fans like his character, he is going to play a very impactful role in the film to come. I know that he is not the most important character or the focal point of the poster, however, given the overly negative response he solicits from fans, I felt that it is important and necessary to make my position, and the poster’s narrative clear; even if you don’t like his character, Kylo Ren is a key player in the Skywalker family saga, and the cinematic universe as a whole.
When analyzing any piece of artwork, regardless of the the medium, the best jumping off point is the focal point. In The Last Jedi teaser poster, the viewer’s eye is immediately drawn to Rey, brought forth by the strong contrast of the blue halo of light emitting from her lightsaber. In terms of visual hierarchy and storytelling, she is the most important element to not only the poster, but in the movie it represents. Her position, in the lower center of the foreground suggests that she is the most grounded of the three characters, and thus the one that we, as the viewer, is meant to relate to the most. However, she is removed from both Luke and Kylo, positioned below them, which indicates that she was not a initially part of their conflict. And originally, she wasn’t. Rey was just a scavenger, abandoned by her parents on Jakku, struggling each day to survive. At that point, Rey didn’t know or care about the Force, Resistance or the First Order. Her primary goals and motivations were pure and simple, survival.
This coincides with the backstory indicated in not only The Force Awakens but also in Claudia Grey’s novel, Bloodline. There are no indication that either men knew who Rey was or her origins until she found BB-8 and became tangled in fight with the First Order. Luke and Kylo have a contentious and tumultuous past, filled with conflict and anger, as they stand on opposite sides of Rey’s light saber. This is a visual metaphor for the Force, and where Luke and Kylo represent the Light side, and Dark side respectively. Separating them is Rey, and the light of her saber. Although she is removed from their history, Rey has been flung into the foreground of the struggle between opposing sides of the Force. She is part of their present, and thus their future. In short, the resolution of Luke and Kylo’s conflict rests on Rey’s shoulders, both metaphorically and visually in the poster.
The struggle been Kylo Ren and Luke is an interesting and important to the story, but what is more important is what it represents! At its core, Star Wars is a fairy tail, and was intended to tell stories and teach children about the human condition and morality. Understanding every detail of Luke and Kylo’s past is less important as what their struggle represents. It is the timeless struggle of good vs. evil. If the timeline in Bloodline is to be trusted completely, and there are no extra twists and turns in the interum, Kylo Ren turned to the Dark side of the Force approximately six years prior, and has been unable to locate or confront Luke since his disappearance. What has changed in that time? Why will Kylo suddenly be able to locate his former master on Ahch-to? The answer is right in the poster, Rey!
This of course opens the doors to a whole new set of theories, such as a Force Bond, or Snoke obtains a copy of the map and so on. But there is practically no solid evidence to substantiate any of these claims, and at this point, they are pure conjecture.
I also find Rey’s placement in the middle quite interesting in the wider context of the history of the Force itself. One of the central themes Star Wars has always been finding balance. In the prequel trilogy we saw this through Anakin’s development from the heroic Jedi knight, to the Sith Lord, Darth Vader. And yes, Anakin is responsible for choosing his actions and must therefor accept the consequences of such actions, however, the biggest contributing factor to his descent into darkness was the Jedi Order and their absolute refusal to acquiesce to the basic human nature of love and attachment. In fact, one can argue that the Jedi Order is even more barbaric and cruel than the Sith. Companionship and attachment is one of the hallmarks of humanity, and by denying them, they are essentially denying being human. But the Jedi Order in both the prequel and and original trilogy was the personification of the Light side of the Force, while the Sith representing Darkness. Too much of either side’s influence causes the Force to spiral out of balance, and thus the galaxy is thrown into chaos again. This was demonstrated numerous times on both sides, such as Anakin’s betrayal, or the New Republic unknowingly creating the groundwork for the First Order.
In short, the brighter the light, the darker the shadow. Both light and dark must be present in order to achieve balance, and Rey’s placement, directly between the light and dark, makes her the fulcrum, or the point of equilibrium. In essence, it is Rey who is who is going to bring about that balance.
Another interesting observation I made was that all three characters, Luke, Rey and Kylo Ren are all colored in red. I cannot stress this enough, the psychology of color is important! Specific colors invoke particular and subconscious imagery and responses. Color theory and its use in marketing and illustration is a universal language. In fact, color tells just as much, if not more, of a story as the composition! There are two primary colors in the poster, red and blue. Red is the color of darkness, evil and passion. Blue on the other hand conveys serenity and tranquility. Why is Kylo’s lightsaber red? Not because he uses the Dark side of the Force, but because the color red has a strong visual impact and the human brain automatically associates red with darkness and power. It’s no coincidence that the color red is associated with the Sith, while blue is attributed to the Jedi! Everything you see on screen or in print was designed to create a specific response from the viewer and convey as much information as possible with no words.
Further more, in both The Force Awakens and the teaser trailer for The Last Jedi, it’s made quite clear that our heroes and villain are all experiencing a crisis of faith in the Force. Rey had her entire existence turned up on its head looking for guidance and training. Luke, it is suggested, fell into despair and solitude after the death of his acolytes because his teachings and philosophies failed to save his own nephew. Kylo, who just recently murdered his own father in hopes of committing himself entirely to the darkness, felt more weak and confused than ever before (this is said nearly word for work in The Force Awakens novelization). Because the color red is frequently associated with the dark side of the Force, and I find it quite compelling that all three figures are bathed in red. To me, this suggests that the trio are all going to be struggling with their inner demons, which often implies the temptation of the dark side. In fact, the only beacon of light and hope comes from Rey’s light saber. Some have argued that the light comes from Rey herself, but when you compare her upper body to her lower body, you can observe that just like the figures above her, Rey’s form is red, and the blue reflected in her face is emanating from the lightsaber, rather than Rey herself. This coincides with Rian Johnson’s choice to make the Episode VIII title font red, and maintains visual continuity. The most logical conclusion one can extrapolate is in The Last Jedi is going to delve into much deeper and darker overtones and story lines than it’s predecessors.
The positioning of Luke and Kylo in relation to each other is another aspect to this poster that I find intriguing. Luke and Kylo’s heads are above Rey; in this poster they are literally watching over her, and her choice to accept the Skywalker lightsaber. However, they are on opposing sides of the saber, as described above, representing the light and the dark. As a viewer, this design illustrates a sense of tension and conflict in both Luke and Kylo, but also in how they view Rey, and her choices. This image is clearly setting up the overtone that Rey has to struggle between choosing accepting either Luke or Kylo. In other words, it’s another iteration of the never ending struggle between the light and the dark.
Looking back in The Force Awakens for a moment, we remember that Kylo Ren extended the offer to teach Rey, “You need a teacher. I can show you the ways of the Force!” We all know the choice Rey makes at the end of the movie, but what about Luke? Will Luke even want to teach Rey after his previous failings at reviving the old Jedi Order? The following does begin to tread into the territory of conjecture and theorizing, however I do believe there is solid evidence to back up what I am about to speculate, or else I would have omitted it form this analysis. At The Last Jedi panel, Daisy Ridley, under the watchful eye and ear of Kathleen Kennedy, did reveal some very interesting information. We, as the audience were MEANT to know this information prior to viewing the poster, or else the CEO of Lucasfilm would never have permitted that information be divulged (like the Rogue One mishap at Celebration Europe 2016). Summarized, Daisy stated that Rey indeed does meet her hero, Luke Skywalker, and like in real life, how we (Rey) envision our heroes does not always coincide with the reality of our heroes. This very clearly sets up the idea that Rey and Luke are going to have a less than harmonious relationship in The Last Jedi. This is also backed up by some previous leaks and spoilers from MakingStarWars.net, however until we know the veracity of those rumors, I do not treat them as fact, like I do the things said directly from the people at Lucasfilm. The statements from Daisy Ridley at the panel, however, were purposeful in sparking ideas and igniting the flame of this idea that Luke and Rey will not have a peaceful mentor/mentee relationship in the same light as Yoda and Luke’s relationship.
Mentorship has always been another key themes throughout the Star Wars saga, from Anakin’s tutelage under Obi-Wan Kenobi and Qui-Gon Jinn, to Luke studying with Yoda. There is every indication that those reoccurring themes will continue, but in a different fashion. It’s been made pretty clear that Rey is going to struggle with Luke’s training, and we already know of Kylo Ren’s unrelenting conflict within himself, stemming from the teachings of Supreme Leader Snoke. Snoke ordered Kylo to kill his own father, an act that he did follow through with, but the novelization has proven that that act made him more conflicted than ever before. Where it should have brought him strength, instead he found weakness and doubt.
And all of this ties back to Kylo Ren’s original offer to Rey to teach her. It is my belief, based on the evidence above, that Rey is going to struggle between the teachings of Kylo Ren and Luke. You may ask “how will Rey learn from Kylo? They aren’t on the same planet?” Well even that is partially answered in Episode VII, and confirmed in tweets made by Pablo Hidalgo. Pablo definitively said that Rey learned so much so quickly at Starkiller Base because she extracted the information from Kylo Ren’s mind during the infamous interrogation scene. So in a way, Kylo has already become her first mentor.
Both the Light and the Dark are justified in their beliefs and teachings. Adam Driver previously stated in an interview that Kylo Ren vehemently believes he is and was justified in his actions, and it’s quite clear that Luke fully intended to disappear into the galaxy as a frizzled old hermit. What will happen if Luke does not agree to initially train Rey? She has all of these newly awakens powers, and no way to control them. Just like Kylo stated, she really does need a teacher. But which teacher? The Light or the Dark? Or, at what this poster suggests, something in the middle!
By placing both of Rey’s mentors above her, two Force users who are much more skilled and honed than she is, it indicates that both mentors are going to be fighting within Rey’s psyche. Luke will be teaching her one method, while Kylo and his Dark side influence will be pulling Rey in the opposite direction. This is wiring and character growth done right! The setting and characters have been established in the first film of the sequel trilogy, while the second installment places challenges and obstacles in their path. Without those challenges, characters will not grow or develop. Even more evidence for this is Rian Johnson’s prior statements that the characters in The Last Jedi are going to be tested and pushed beyond their limits. What would challenge Rey more than knowing she is can identify and relate to the person she hates the most, Kylo Ren? That would force the characters into a position where they have no choice but to adapt and evolve into something that spans beyond the juxtaposition of the Light and Dark side of the Force.
In other words, Grey Jedi!
Most likely it won’t be in so many words, but the concept behind it will remain the same. A world of Force users that are not bound by the narrow dogmatic codes of the Jedi or Sith! And while I do find both of their ideologies absolutely fascinating an an integral part of the Star Wars canonical universe, by constricting Force sensitives to Jedi/Sith, Good/Evil, Light/Dark is extremely limiting and grossly inhibits the idea of character depth, subtlety, progression and nuance. Maz Kanata and Ahsoka Tano are prime examples of Force sensitive individuals in the Star Wars universe who are canon and are Force sensitive, but do not fall into the dichotomy of Jedi and Sith. There has never been a main hero character in the films (which are the primary story telling means in the entire franchise that reaches the most viewers and has the biggest impact on mainstream pop culture). Luke Skywalker was seen as universal good, the epitome of the Joseph Campbell’s hero, who embarks on heroic journey on behalf of goodness and justice. The passing of the torch from Luke to Rey indicates a paradigm shift in the understanding of the Force for not only the characters but the viewers and fans as well.
The light saber in the poster is another piece of evidence for this! There is no partition between red (Darkness) and blue (Light). Instead there is a gradient emanating from both ends of the lightsaber, further emphasizing that this story will not be so simply as “kill the monster, save the world” but instead of dimensionality and gradation. There is middle ground to be found in the Force between the Light and the Dark, and Rey is the key to unlocking it. Or as Rey quite simply puts it in the trailer “balance.”
On a personal side note, I do believe this teaser poster does further add fuel to the Reylo fire, and it makes be believe even more fervently that Reylo will eventually become canon in some iteration, but I wanted to keep my personal biases and theories out of this analysis. If anyone enjoyed reading this and would like to read my views on The Last Jedi teaser trailer and how it relates to Reylo, I’d be more than happy to comply. But I wanted and needed to get this poster off my chest first. My mind has been boiling over, wanted to put these thoughts down in some sort of organized fashion because as someone who is fluent in the language of illustrations as a medium for visual story telling, this poster blew my mind. I stood just flabbergasted at how blatantly the story implications were, but when I asked people about their thoughts they all came to different conclusions. And yes, that is the point of this poster, to get people talking and theorizing about what it all means, however visual story telling generally complies with a set of rules that are universally, albeit often subconsciously, understood by the viewer.
Whew! I wrote this entire analysis in a single sitting. I apologize if there are any immediate grammatical errors, but I proof read this a number of times, so I am pretty sure that it’s correct.
EDIT: Thank you to @sleemo who helped me fix the grammatical errors in this!
soulmate au where if you draw on your skin, the other can see
I dedicate this to everyone who has loved the soulmate au :)
Adrien is fifteen when he finds his soulmate, a girl with blue eyes like the sky and hair darker than the night. Two things that are total opposites, but they frame her face perfectly as she stares down at him from where sits at her desk.
Characters: Kim Yugyeom (GOT7) X You (OC/Reader) X GOT7
Warning/s: Dom!Yugyeom, Lots of hair pulling (just
because hahaha), thigh and butt smacking (hmmm), choking (mild), Bondage
(light), Thigh Riding (because I love Yugyeom’s slender thighs they scream
sex), Actual riding hahaha sorry about that, Dry humping???, what
else?? Idk anymore jfc just read it
Length: 5,768 words
A/N: OK!!! So this is the 7th and last installment
of my GOT7 Smut Series, 7 Days of Heaven!
It took me centuries to finally complete this hahaha and it’s been more
than 5 months since I posted the teasers (can you believe it omg). I wanted to thank each and every one of you
who had consistently shown love and support for this series! I didn’t really expect to receive this much
love and appreciation so I really, really am thankful!!!
By the way
here is the final installment, I hope it is good? And things got a bit out of hand, as always,
so I hope this makes up for the weeks rather months of waiting!
make sure to read until the end :)))))))))))))))) That’s it, enjoooooooooy!
At this point, Mark and Jaebum are already downing the rest of the
soju and beers that you guys had left behind while waiting for Jinyoung to come
back. They cannot make you stop talking
about their younger members and your sexual desires towards them, making them
more awkward by the second, hoping that you just finish rambling and mumbling
so that they can put you to bed and they can all either go home or sleep on
your guest room or living room.
“_____, let’s tak-“
“WAAAAIIIIT, M’ not yet done, k?”
Your voice is turning slurry and Mark just slumped on the couch and Jaebum
just let out a sigh.
“Just let her finish, then we can tuck her to bed once she’s
done.” Jaebum pats Mark’s thigh and the
“So, we’re down to the maknae of GOT7, ______, Yugyeom, what can
you say about him?” Mark asks before
downing the rest of his beer.
“OH OH OH, that maknae, Yugyeom, damn! He is so sexy when he dances. Have you seen Hit the Stage? Hot damn! It is the first time that I envied a fucking
floor. Can he hump on me like that
too? Huh??? What do you think? That will be great, right? Damn…”
You giggled loudly and Jinyoung already came back.
“OK OK, so I guess we are all done, oppa’s gonna tuck you to bed,
okay? ______?” You nodded and you barely had your eyes open
when Jinyoung asks you to jump on his back, carrying you upstairs towards your
room. Jaebum and Mark just sighed before
cleaning the mess in the living room as they waited for Jinyoung to come back
so that they can all go home and call this a night.
Three Generations Of Wheeler And Byers (Part III): Just Cut It, Dammit!
“What are you doing?”
Her voice rang out, through the thin grey trees, over the orange, dead mulch. Jonathan, an armful of sticks pulled against his chest, rounded at the sound.
Nancy Wheeler was standing at the top of the slope from which he himself had descended not an hour before, hands on her hips and hair in pigtails. He felt his heart stop at the sight of her.
She raised her eyebrows. “Jonathan?”
“I’m building something,” he said. Then he kept walking. Nancy ran to catch up.
“Building what? Can I help?”
Jonathan bit his lip. “I don’t know if you’d really want to—”
“Jonathan, I promised I would be your friend, remember? And over a bottle of coke, too.”
“That I paid for,” he said.
Nancy grinned. She loved the banter between them; it came so naturally it was almost second nature. “True. So, what are you building?”
Jonathan looked down at the edges of his torn up Nikes, which could barely be seen. “A fort.”
“A what now?”
“A fort,” he repeated, louder this time (Stop your damn mumbling, Jonny, and bring me a fucking beer!). Nancy pursed her lips. “See? I told you, you wouldn’t wanna help.”
“You’re so stunned,” she scoffed, rolling her eyes, and then grabbed half of the sticks from him. “Now, where are we building this thing?”
Jon couldn’t help the grin that spread across his face, but he did his best to hide it. “Through there,” he said, pointing with a now free hand to a break in the bushes (which led to a rather empty area—not nearly big enough to be considered a clearing, but enough for their fort).
Nancy nodded in a business like manner which reminded him eerily of his mother, and then forged straight ahead.
When they cut through, he heard her gasp. For a moment he thought that she’d seen something frightening, but then he realised it was awe in her tone. “It’s beautiful.”
“It’s a pile of wood,” Jon said.
She glared at him. “Not that,” she said. “This!”
The wood flew as she gestured toward the tiny flatland. Jonathan supposed it was pretty cool; the way the light cut through the trees, almost spilling from between the leaves. The wildflowers nearby that rustled in the breeze.
In that instant—in that one little second—Jonathan Byers (who had seen the world not through his own eyes but through his father’s cloudy, close-minded gaze), realised that there was more to life than fetching things for his dad, pleasing his dad, and getting beat up by his dad when things didn’t go so well. Every child has a moment like this in their lives, when they realise that the world just might be open to them. This was Jonathan’s, and it was breathtaking.
“Yeah,” he said (a photographer was born). “I guess it is.”
They paused where they were. Nancy leaned her head on his shoulder just briefly (her hair smelt of lemons and lavender, and something else; something like freedom).
“Okay,” she said. “Let’s get to work.”
They carried the sticks over to the already existing stack—which was as tall as Jon’s waist. Then they went out in search of heavier logs, which they dragged instead.
Jon was sweating a little by the time he was satisfied they had enough.
“I already drew out the plan,” he told Nancy, gesturing at the little stack of supplies he’d nestled under a birch (which included twine, a bit of paint, scissors, and a pocket knife). “You can look at it if you like.”
“Don’t need to,” she said, voice bright, and went to work sorting through their timber; little sticks went in one pile, then medium length, and then the thickest were sorted into two stacks—long and short.
Jon got down on his hands and knees, pushing the mulch up into a square frame as high as his mid-calf. Then they did the real work.
It took hours. By the time they were done with the first wall (and half of the second) the sun was setting.
Nancy called it.
“I should probably be going home,” she said.
Jonathan looked up from the twine he was tying around two sticks. He nodded. “Yeah.”
“But first, we need to do something.” She walked over to the can of coke they’d shared and then back over to him. “Pocket knife, please?”
He caught on right then. “Nancy, you can’t—”
“Why, because I’m a girl?”
“No! That’s not what I—” frustrated and blushing furiously, he looked away. “I mean cutting our hands with a can isn’t safe at all.”
Nancy shrugged. “Who’s bacteria is on it? Yours and mine, right? And we shared it anyway. Besides, you can go home and clean it out with that disinfectant stuff—you do have some, right? The stuff your mom puts on cuts?”
Jonathan nodded, wincing at how many times his mother had dabbed the clear liquid onto his scraped knees and blistered hands. “Okay,” he relented, and passed over the knife.
With surprising ease she sheared the can in two, then cut out a sharp triangular piece. “Right,” she said. “So we take a vow. You and me, friends forever. Repeat after me, okay?”
He nodded, and held out his open palm (which was dirty—god, this definitely wasn’t safe—he sure hoped they weren’t out of disinfectant), which she cleanly sliced. But it was only a small cut, across the heart line. He hissed.
“I do promise thee,” she spoke (he thought she might be crazy), “Nancy Jean Wheeler,”
“I do promise thee,” he repeated. “Nancy Jean Wheeler,”
“That I will be your friend until I’m just bones in the ground.”
He swallowed, feeling a heaviness weigh down on his heart (as though the promise were a real, tangible thing). “That I will be your friend until I’m just bones in the ground.”
Nancy grinned. “Awesome. Do me.”
Jonathan took the little can shard in his shaking, bloody hand, and hovered the edge over her skin. It looked pristine, and soft, and unscarred (if a little grubby).
Nancy huffed. “Just cut it, dammit!”
He sliced. She winced, but that was all. “Right. So, I do promise thee Jonathan Leo Byers,”
“I do promise thee Jonathan Leo Byers,” she repeated, beaming.
“That I will… protect and defend the name of our friendship, until I’m dust in the wind.”
She repeated the last, final line. Then they shook hands, faces fixed determinedly. “We should bury it,” Nancy suggested.
Jon nodded. He crouched down in the centre of the fort, dug a little hole (careful to use his uncut hand), and placed the shard inside. “You’ll come back and help until it’s finished, right?”
“Right!” (she wouldn’t, but that was for a reason beyond their control).
Nancy helped him to his feet, and right then and there, at eight years old, Jonathan thought that he might kiss her—though he wasn’t entirely sure just what kissing was. Even so, he thought he’d quite like to do it. Maybe not on the lips. Maybe just her cheek. But still. She was cooler than any girl he’d ever met.
“Castle Byers is in your debt,” he said, instead.
Nancy grinned. She held his hand—the bloody one—in her own, and they walked back to his house together.
This is the last installment save for the Epilogue. I hope you all have enjoyed the ride. - Mod Lenny
Ian insisted Jamie ride out with him to look over the fields and give his opinions.
“Ian, I ken ye know what ye’re about wi’ runnin’ the estate,” Jamie finally interrupted as they sat on their horses looking out over a field of flourishing barley. “And it doesna matter that ye brought me out here away from the house and Jenny––I’m no tellin’ ye about what happened. I said I didna want to talk about it and I’m no goin’ to. It doesna matter anymore anyway. Murtagh will be back today or the next and then I’ll be off again.”
“And will ye be sending us as little word of where ye are or what ye’re about as ye did before?” Ian asked with a scolding edge that would have left Jamie feeling ashamed if he weren’t still so numb. “Whatever it is that’s happened to ye this last… it doesna excuse yer silence the last four years.”
“I told ye what Dougal told me about Jenny,” Jamie objected.
“That explains it; it doesna excuse it,” Ian clarified. “Jenny and I will take care of Lallybroch as if it were our own and ye ken that well; it’s been her home longer than it’s been yers. But I think we both deserve a bit of honesty from ye, aye? A bit more respect than what ye’ve shown.”
“Ye’re startin’ to sound like Jenny,” Jamie remarked, the corner of his mouth ticking up a fraction.
“No, Jenny would have called ye a stubborn and ungrateful arse.”
“She already did. Ye were off dealin’ wi’ Ross the smith, gettin’ him to reshoe my horse.” Jamie reached down to pat Dóchas’ neck and the horse stamped her foot and raised her head, shaking it like a nod.
Ian sat straighter in his saddle, squinting in the direction of the house. “Ye said Murtagh ought to be back today?” Ian asked, settling down again.
“Aye.” Jamie peered in the direction Ian had been looking, raising his hand to shield his eyes from the sun.
“Was he off to fetch someone for ye?”
There were two riders slowing on the road as they approached Lallybroch’s main yard in the distance.
“Claire?” Jamie breathed, his heart breaking into an excited gallop as he turned Dóchas back the way they’d come and spurred her forward.
As soon as they entered the yard, Claire began calling for Jamie.
Murtagh dismounted and walked over to help Claire down from her horse while her eyes scanned the windows of the large stone building––Lallybroch.
“Jamie!” Claire called heading for the door.
A young boy darted out from it in front of her soon followed by a woman about Claire’s own age, shorter and her hair darker and sleeker.
“Get back inside ye wee––” Jenny scolded her son before spotting Claire and stopping abruptly in her pursuit. “Oh… And… who might you be?” Suspicion lay heavy in her voice and she crossed her arms over her chest.
“I’m looking for Jamie,” Claire said quickly, her attention flitting from Jenny to the child to Murtagh where he had already unpacked her medicine box and had the horses by the reins, leading them toward the stables. “My name is Claire… Claire Fraser.”
“Fraser?” Jenny’s suspicion visibly turned to bewilderment and her focus shifted from Claire to Murtagh.
“Are you Jenny? You are. You’re his sister, aren’t you?” Claire said desperately and with relief as she stepped forward. “Where is he? Where’s Jamie?”
“And you, Murtagh,” Jenny said loudly, ignoring Claire and getting Murtagh to stop and face her. “Where do ye think ye’re sneakin’ off to? Is this lass… is she sayin’ she’s Jamie’s wife?”
From the other side of the yard came the sounds of two horses approaching and Jamie’s loud cries of, “Claire!”
“Jamie?!” Claire screamed trying not to trip over her skirts as she ran towards the noise.
“Claire!” Jamie cried as he was off Dóchas before the horse had come to a safe stop.
As Claire threw herself into Jamie’s arms, the rest of the world fell away. Tears of joy and relief streamed down her cheeks and soaked into his coat where she buried her face. She could feel him murmuring her name in disbelief into her hair as they took a few moments to just soak each other in.
“Why, Claire?” Jamie finally asked pulling back from her to look at her face. She could see the wetness in his eyes, the confusion and the relief. “Why did ye no go?”
“I couldn’t,” she said simply, raising a hand to cup his cheek. His eyes fluttered shut as he leaned into her touch.
“I’m sorry, lass,” he whispered.
“What? No, I didn’t mean… I meant I couldn’t leave you––I didn’t want to. I was there with Frank at the stones but when the moment came… I couldn’t make myself do it. I chose to stay here… I choose you,” she murmured, her hand slipping back into his hair, taking a firm hold.
“Me? Ye mean…”
She swallowed hard against the butterflies crawling their way up from her stomach. “I love you,” she whispered.
There was a flicker in Jamie’s glistening eyes that might have been surprise before he bent his forehead to hers. “And I… love you,” he whispered back, then rubbed the tip of his nose down the length of hers before kissing her in a way that made every hair on her body stand on end as it shivered through her down to her toes.
They gradually became aware of Murtagh clearing his throat loudly. He gave Jamie a nod towards Jenny and Ian before turning to continue bringing the horses to the stables, his beard barely concealing his satisfied smile.
“Would ye care to introduce us?” Jenny suggested with unveiled impatience. Ian made a noise of embarrassment or rebuke beside her.
“Right,” Jamie started out of his reverie. He gently slipped his hand into Claire’s, twining their fingers together tightly as he led her over to his family. “Jenny… Ian… This is Claire… my wife. I told ye about Jenny, Sassenach; Ian is her husband. We were lads together––and fought in France just after my Da passed.”
Claire reached a hand towards Ian who glanced briefly at Jamie before shaking it and nodding a welcome to Claire.
“And you’re expecting,” Claire nodded down to Jenny’s belly where the subtle swell could still easily be overlooked. It quickly became apparent that Jamie hadn’t noticed. “When are you due?”
“No till after the harvest comes in,” Jenny admitted, flushing under Jamie’s stunned gaze. “Come inside wi’ ye then. Ye’ve been on the road some time, I can see. Will do ye good to be able to wash and get something warm in yer belly. When ye’ve had a chance to settle, perhaps you can tell us a bit about where ye come from and just how ye come to be married to Jamie here.”
Jamie showed Claire up to his rooms and stayed with her while she tidied herself and they devised a story that would hopefully satisfy Jenny and Ian. Over an early supper and with Murtagh contributing through nods and grunts of confirmation, Jamie and Claire fumbled their way through as much of the truth as they dared share. The circumstances of Claire’s arrival at Leoch and surrounding their wedding remained intact.
“We stumbled on some Red Coats––likely those searching for the deserters I’d… disposed of,” Jamie explained, looking to Claire for support. “It was chance as much as anything that Captain Randall wasna among them when we met them but we figured it was likely just a matter of time before word reached him of meeting us and the bodies of the deserters were discovered.”
“We were afraid that the Captain would see it as an opportunity to be seized––pin more crimes on Jamie and take me in as well as some sort of accomplice,” Claire said, her nerves making her talk faster than usual.
“I told her she go to her late husband’s family, that they’d likely be better able to protect her than I could if the price on my head grew… So I left her behind wi’ Murtagh to see her off. I thought it would be safer should I go and perhaps draw the Red Coats after me.”
“But when it came down to it… I don’t know them to trust them and… Jamie’s my husband now. Where he goes, I go,” Claire explained, her focus rooted in Jamie’s eyes.
They were too absorbed in each other to notice the looks Jenny and Ian exchanged across the table. From the set of Jenny’s mouth, it was obvious that she didn’t believe a fraction of the tale they told. But glancing back from the Laird and his Lady to her own husband, Jenny’s expression softened to match Ian’s.
Jamie was an entirely different man from the one he’d been that morning. The cloud that had hung about him since he’d reappeared was gone; there was a light in his eyes and she couldn’t recall the last time she’d seen him smile so much––possibly not since their brother had been alive. There was a similar light in this woman’s––Claire’s––face when she looked at Jamie. Whatever they were hiding, Jenny decided it didn’t matter; what mattered to her was that her brother was home and happy, even if he would be leaving again soon.
Jamie and Claire retired to their room shortly after supper, pleading Claire’s need to rest and recover from her journey––returning from Craigh na Dun had taken half as long in Claire’s eagerness to be with Jamie again.
The door had only just closed behind them before they were in each other’s arms again, tugging at clothes and moving naturally toward the bed. The mattress was suddenly there pressing against the backs of Claire’s legs. She sat and hitched one leg up on the frame so that her skirts started falling away as she reached for Jamie’s belt. His arousal was already prominent beneath the soft, worn wool of his kilt. He took hold of her wrists and stalled her.
“No, Claire.” His voice was low and rough. “No like this. I’ll have ye naked.” Letting her wrists go, he set to work loosening the knot at the top of her bodice. She leaned back on the bed and succumbed to the feel of his hands working over her as he slowly stripped away each layer she wore.
As her last petticoat fell, she moved to stand reaching for the clasp of his belt once more. “Now you,” she told him. From the belt she moved to the buttons of his waistcoat, smoothing the fabric down his torso with her hands first.
At last, Jamie raised Claire’s shift up and over her head then reached up and pulled the pins and ties from her hair until he could bury his fingers in it. She caught his wrist as he traced the curl of one thick tendril from root to tip. Turning his wrist around, her thumb found the freshly healed scar from where Dougal’s blade had sliced the skin. The line it made was clean compared to the rough scabs of the scratches and scrapes from his accident in the woods.
“Blood of my blood,” Claire said quietly, tracing the fine line.
Jamie brought that same hand to her chin, his thumb running along the line of her jaw as her fingers continued to massage the flesh of his wrist and hand.
“Bone of my bone,” he whispered in response before bending to kiss her.
His hands were eager as they ran down the soft curves of her body before tightening around her waist and lifting her off the ground. She clung tight to his back as he bore her down on the bed, settling between her legs but keeping his weight on his forearms on either side of her.
She trailed her fingers up and down his spine, delighting as he shivered. The heat from his body––balanced so carefully above hers but barely skimming her surface––enveloped her and penetrated her, warming her bones as she was aware of the solid heaviness of him between her legs.
“I give you my body,” she whispered, spreading her legs wider and arching towards him, gasping as he pressed back against her and filled her. “That we two may be one,” she finished, her voice fainter than before.
Jamie caressed her cheek while staying still as long as he could within her. “I give ye my spirit,” he whispered, his eyes locked on hers while tracing the shape of her ear and then from her earlobe down along her neck, “till our life shall be done.”
He started to move as he bent his head to kiss her again, capturing her sigh before it could leave her lips.
“Ye’re mine,” he told her, punctuating the statement with a deep rock into her. “Mine alone… mine forever.”
“Yes,” Claire panted in agreement, her fingers digging into the firm, tight flesh of his lower back, her legs twining with his.
“My wife… my Sassenach,” Jamie grunted, his pace increasing as he drove himself harder and Claire’s hands drifted lower to the flexing muscles of his buttocks, her fingernails digging hard enough to leave marks.
“Yes,” she panted again.
“Mo nighean donn… mo chridhe… mo graidh,” he continued in Gaelic.
“Yes… And what about… you?” she sighed. “Who… do you… belong to?”
“You, Sassenach,” Jamie said, pressing his forehead to hers as he bit his lip and changed his rhythm yet again, slowing himself to stave off his release until he could bring her with him. “I’m yers… for always.”
Claire cried out as her thighs suddenly clenched around his hips, trapping him deep within her as her self shattered and scattered, leaving her trembling next to the exposed rawness of Jamie’s shattered self. She saw only him looking deep into the very soul of her as the throbbing pulse of their bodies synchronized from the blood in their veins to the breath in their lungs.
The sweat began to cool on her breasts and stomach sending a shuddering chill through her flesh.
This was why she couldn’t go, what she needed so desperately it was worth sacrificing everything and everyone she’d known in her time. It couldn’t be explained, it could only be experienced, and she’d only ever experienced it with Jamie. The recognition in his eyes, the understanding…
Claire raised her head without taking her eyes off of him until her lips met his, tender and warm, a little wet as his tongue darted out to taste her.