this is from their moscow live back in

“It wasn’t an official marriage. We didn’t register. But we had a plan. I was earning good money even though I was young. I was already a specialist at the age of nineteen. She was very beautiful. We’d been together for four years. She was a good person and very easy to talk to. She’d met my family and everyone loved her. At the time I was helping to construct a new subway line in Moscow. I came home from work one day and she was gone. There were no cell phones back then. Nobody knew where she was. She’d last been seen getting into a private taxi with her friend Natalya. A lot of people were disappearing during that time. The police stopped searching after a few months. She wasn’t seen again. There’s a line from a Russian poem. It says: ‘We love just once in a lifetime. And spend the rest of our lives looking for something similar.’ I’ve had other girlfriends after Oksana. But I don’t remember their birthday. Oksana’s birthday was July 9th. She was a Leo.”

(St. Petersburg, Russia)

The Bear and the Nightingale

4 out of 5 stars

This book was like nothing I’ve ever read before, and I love it for that. I mostly read Young Adult, and while the main character is a teenager for most of the book, I’m fairly certain this book will be marketed as adult fiction (I read an ARC of the book).

It’s part historical fiction, part fantasy, and part magical realism. It takes place in Russia (or Rus’, as the territory was known back then) in the 1300s. Vasilisa (or Vasya for short) lives with her family in northern Rus’ a few weeks’ travel from Moscow, and though Rus’ has been a Christian nation for hundreds of years, many people still keep the old fairy tales alive and even leave gifts for the chyerti (little spirits or demons that are tied to households, animals, nature, etc.).

Vasya’s mother dies in childbirth at the beginning of book, and years later, Vasya’s father decides to remarry so that his young, wild daughter will have a mother figure in the house. However, he ends up with a very strict and very religious wife and she forbids the family from honoring the chyerti anymore. To make matters worse, an overzealous (yet charismatic) young priest comes from Moscow to be the new priest of the estate when the old one dies. He preaches to the congregation about hellfire and damnation and demons, putting the fear of a Christian God in them. As the chyerti lose the support of Vasya’s people, they grow weaker, and there are dire consequences to losing their powers and protection. Vasya tries to help them covertly whenever she can, but there’s only so much she can do…

I loved how unique the book felt, helped in part by the fact that old Russian mythology is not widely known in American culture. All of the chyerti and other fairy tale characters were new to me, so it felt very fresh. Also, the writing is gorgeous. Get ready to want to snuggle underneath warm covers as you read about the harsh winters of northern Rus’. Really, the descriptions of weather in this book are incredible, and when I say that the weather in the book is like a character in and of itself, I mean that both figuratively and literally (by way of the frost demon character, Morozko).

Vasya is a fantastic heroine–very strong and stubborn, but still respectful of her family, and always kind. I loved her bond with each of her siblings and the different chyerti. The book feels epic, too, with the book covering almost 20 years and the characters traveling between multiple locations, but it is fairly short for its scope. I know that it’s going to be the first of a trilogy, and I do enjoy succinctness, but the first half of the book is told almost in screenshots, and I would have enjoyed getting more of them. I also sometimes felt a little disconnected from what was happening at various times, and I’m not sure why? I don’t think it’s through any fault of the narration, but I didn’t feel as emotionally invested in some scenes as I probably should have. That’s probably just me, though.

Seriously, though, the book is beautiful and unlike anything I’ve ever read before. I highly, highly recommend giving the book a try, and like I said, it’s not even very long (just over 300 pages), so it’ll probably be a quick read, too. The book will be on sale on January 17, 2017, so go check out its Amazon page and Goodreads page in the meantime!

Celebrity Crush - Part Two

Part One | Part Two | Part Three

Note: I know it’s late, but enjoy anyway. :)

Word Count: 1969

Pairing: Daveed Diggs x Reader

Warning: None. Language probably.

“Y/N, think about it. This is great for publicity! Two talented, attractive artists admit that they’re attracted to each other? This is perfect. You’re new album is almost finished and you’re on the Hamilton Mixtape; could you imagine getting even more traction if you were to collab on a song with him?”

You were eating lunch outside a cafe in the sunny California weather with your manager and she was trying to convince you to do a song with Daveed to make yourself gain popularity..

“I don’t care about publicity, Diane.” You told her. “I’m fine where I’m at now.”

“But think about how much that song itself will sell!” She continued. “This could raise–”

“Look, I want to do a song with Daveed, don’t get me wrong, but I think your approach on it is for all the wrong reasons.” You said, looking over at her. “I don’t agree with using it solely for publicity. I really like him, Diane. He’s sweet and a nice guy, so if I do a song with him, it’s going to be because I want to write with him, not because my manager is making me do it for publicity.”

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The Sun and The Stars {8}

Previous parts:  Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7 |

Word count: 3388

Warnings: swearing, abuse/violence, a lot of angst in this one

A/N: This is it!! The end of The Sun and The Stars but there will be a sequel fic after this one so let me know if you want to be tagged in this new fic xx

Originally posted by pxggycxrters

You open your eyes to absolute, unforgiving darkness. There’s a chill in the room that sends your body into a nervous reaction, sweat beading on your forehead as you recognize your surroundings. It’s a HYDRA holding cell, one you’re intimately familiar with. This was where you’d lived when you’d been imprisoned by HYDRA. Your head pounds painfully and you touch your temple, blood immediately coating your fingers as you groan in pain.

What the hell happened? You think. Then it all comes rushing back. You’d arrived in Moscow and headed straight to the building that had been bombed by HYDRA; it was still smoking and people were still being rescued and almost immediately, you’d felt that horrible, icy weight on your shoulders. Sokolov’s power. In that moment, you knew you’d messed up because suddenly, HYDRA agents poured from random places; it was easier to take you than taking candy from a baby and you realized how stupid you were to go so unprepared and alone. All you wished for until they knocked you out was that Bucky was there with you, protecting you.

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minutes to midnight | 1

Originally posted by sugutie

pairing: reader x jungkook

themes: angst, science fiction, smut (later on), semi-apocalyptic

warnings: swearing, possible squeamishness

summary: nothing in the world is clear anymore. literally. with no hope and unanswered questions, you have no idea what to hold onto anymore. that is, until jeon jungkook comes into your life. jungkook is the silver lining you needed, however, he too raises more questions than answers.

a/n: have a good things planned for this, thanks for reading and hope you enjoy it !! xx sorry had to repost to editing errors !! oops go me 



“Hurry up [y/n]!”

“I’m trying Namjoon, shut up,” you hiss at your older brother whose tone was rushed but slightly hesitant.

“We have to get going soon,” he says impatiently from across the hallway of your room.

You decide not to take the time to answer him as you continue to shove items into the large backpack you were going to wield. Your hands were shaking and you felt like you were going to uncontrollably vomit everywhere. Namjoon was better at hiding his emotions than you so he seemed calm and collective, however you knew deep down, he was freaking out.

“Where are we meeting them?” you ask, zipping up the bag quickly hoping that you got enough stuff for now.

“Tae said the train station, hopefully the way there is clear,” he says.

“I doubt that,” you mumble, “Nothing is clear anymore,” you add giving your brother a glance who looked in return with the same worry, hesitation, and fear as you.

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anonymous asked:

Hello, I enjoy your writing and was wondering if you are still taking prompts? I was wondering about an AU where Sidney runs into a lost and barely English speaking Geno who lost his tour group?

This one’s been almost done for about a month and I haven’t gotten to post it til now, oop. (crossposted here on AO3

Zhenya was going to die in this cruel, cold wasteland.

Or, not die, maybe. He’d probably just wander around and stress eat his way through most of his spending money until Sasha found him- but, he was cold, and it was very, very cruel of Sasha to ditch him like this when this whole trip had been his idea in the first place.

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anonymous asked:

I just saw your reply for the Soviet Russia ask, and I was wondering if you would wright a scenario for after America's girlfriend had been brought to him? Thank you!

(that was a long ass while ago but sounds like fun)(cold war america vs russia is best america vs russia)

You’re tossed onto a hard floor, the two “kind” women you’d previously thought of as nothing more than maids snicker and slam the door behind you. You stumble to your feet and brush yourself off, frantically scanning for a way out. You’d actually prepared (somewhat) for this, as your boyfriend was more than a little paranoid about the Soviet Union. That was understandable, though, given that he was the literal flesh-and-blood representation of a country that was (more or less?) at war with the USSR. The room you were ungracefully thrown into was simple, yet the whole place had a very important and regal feel… in the worst way possible. Auras that could only be described as demonic and sinister dripped from the ceiling and oozed from the walls, coating the room in a shell of anxiety and horror. one one end were a pair of doors, on the other was a massive desk, topped with neatly stacked papers, a telephone,… and pictures of you. Now thoroughly panicked and violated, the frantic-ness of your search increased ten fold. The door you came in from was much too unsafe, god only knows what’s waiting out there for you. You look up and a vent catches your eye. Ah, a classic. You grab the arms of the large chair behind the desk and push it towards the wall.

“A-are you leaving?! Please don’t leave! He’ll kill me!” you whip around, a man now stood at the door, and he looked terrified.

“Who are you?!” you growl. The man takes a few steps back, like a startled animal.

“I am Toris, pretty much a slave of Ivan’s. I was sent to watch you. He had originally asked his sisters- the maids who captured you- to watch you. But then Natalya said she would rather die than protect the person who stole her brother’s love, which made Katya back down too and so- I’m rambling I’m sorry I should stop.” He turns slightly away from you, bowing his head and averting his eyes, obviously uncomfortable.

“Nonono, please, explain more,” your mind was racing, if you could wring enough out of him, he seemed unhappy as well so, maybe you could get him out too? “Who’s Ivan? What position does he hold? Where am I?Who ae you specifically?” You shoot, he appears a bit overwhelmed, but none the less responds with a short sigh.

“Ivan is my boss, and he holds no -official- position, you are in his home just north of Moscow. And since I know you were with America, I know you can believe me when I tell you that I am Lithuania, the country. So that would make Ivan the… You know.” He didn’t have to finish, you know exactly what he was going to say. Your heart plummets down to your stomach, and you feel like you may just throw it right back up.

“So Ivan is the USSR.” He nods solemnly, raising his head again and changing the subject.

“Do you want anything to eat? Drink, perhaps? you gently shake your head, looking him in the face, and you see a spark light. “Do you want to call America then?” His demeanor takes a surprising turn, one you would think is more fitting for a country.

“you’d help me do that?”

“Ivan’s phone is pretty much the only one in this whole damn country that isn’t tapped, so he wouldn’t know a thing. I hate Ivan as much as, hell probably even more, than you do, but if I do help you, you have to promise me something.”

“To help you get freedom?”

“Not necessarily, first of all promise me you’ll tell America I said hello, but also promise me that he’ll pound Ivan so far into the ground that the bastard will be the first man to the center of the Earth.” He finishes with a grin of shining courage, taking your hands in his. It seems to drop just as soon as it came and twists into a look of horror. “Ivan’s back.” he whispers breathlessly. He leaps away from you and back to the door. “You don’t know me, my name,you’ve never talked to me or barely even looked at me, I was just standing here the whole time, ok?” He spews, the second he finishes the door is thrown open.

“You’re dismissed.” A tall figure growls and Toris scurries out of the room like a frightened little mouse.

The man approaches you, and about three feet away from you starts circling, inspecting, his face stoic and inexpressive. He stalks back around to your front, leaning down so his piercing violet eyes burn directly into yours. And finally his face begins changing, it morphs into a… smile?

“I’ve been waiting for you, (name). Do you have any idea how painful it was to watch you prance around like an idiot with my sworn enemy? He grabs your wrists, taking one up to his mouth and placing a kiss on your knuckles. You try to pull away, and his grip immediately hardens into a bruising one. “Don’t pull away from me, darling, I won’t hurt you.” A distant smile replaces the frown he bore seconds earlier. “Unless you betray me or try to leave me.” The smile deepens to one that haunted your soul, “Or if I feel like it~” He drags you behind the desk, glancing toward the offset chair. Looking up, he spots the vent and your breath hitches. A child-like giggle resounds from his throat. “Looks like you’ve already tried to escape, naughty girl~” He kicks the chair back in front of the desk, sitting himself down and pulling you onto his lap. You squirm and try to fight his grip, but it only tightens more, you start losing feeling in the tips of your fingers.

“Don’t make me want to punish you now, it’ll only end up worse than it would be because I’ll punish you because you made me angry and then you’ll get blood on this chair which will only make me more angry which will make me punish you harder so how about you stop?” It phrased as a suggestion, but there was no room for rebuttal, he was dead serious. The slightly broken or confusing english making shivers run the length of your spine and then some. You shift uncomfortably, avoiding those knife-sharp eyes that will cut open your soul if you stare at them too long. His gaze still trained on you, he begins to speak again, his grip loosening, your fingers screaming hallelujah as fresh blood revives them.

“You’re so beautiful, do you know that? He asks, taking one hand up to grip your jaw, the other resting on your waist. He turns your head to the side, you flinch as he starts to gently kiss up your jawline, then drags his lips down onto your neck, you didn’t know what was wrong with this dude, but you weren’t sure how long you could last with these moodswings. He nips a bit and you feel betrayed by your own body as things start to -heat up- down there. Luckily for your morals, the phone rings, Ivan sighs and lets go of your jaw, picking it up and grumbling unenthused into the phone.

“Ivan.” You listen very closely, maybe there was something you could understand? A place? a name?


“But will you really?” Ivan smirks, cutting Alfred off. “You know exactly what will happen then, and you couldn’t even bomb Moscow, since that’s where your precious little (name) is. Say hello (name)~) He puts the phone up to your ear and you waste no time.


“(NAME) oh my god (name) I’m so happy you’re alive. Listen, don’t let that son of a bitch touch you ok? I’m coming!” The phone is promptly ripped from your ear, Ivan now looking annoyed.

“No, you’re not, and if you try I’ll blow you to bits. Also did you not find those maids at all suspicious? I mean, I know for a fact you’re at least somewhat familiar with Natalia, so if you’re going to be that pathetically ignorant and dumb maybe I won the right to (name).” He slams the phone down and you jump, he was now pissed. One of his thick arms wraps around your shoulders, pulling you into his unexpectedly solid chest. He leans down and whispers into your ear.

“You’re going to stay with me forever, whether you want to or not, your bastard american is not coming for you. In fact, he’ll move on in a few months and forget you, deeming you a “casualty of war” But me? I’d never forget you, and I’ll always stay with you, so I expect you to do the same to me, ok? I love you, don’t you love me too?”

Reblog with how you got introduced to Newsies!

Like what was the first time you saw Newsies (any of them) or first heard of Newsies? I’m curious!

Mine was when I was 11 years old. I was in fifth grade and it was at the end of the school year when we kinda learned everything we needed to know and our teachers didn’t have any more lessons planned so we would watch movies in class to pass the time. So our English/history teacher put on Newsies (1992), which was one of her favorite movies.

I know I REALLY liked it, especially “World Will Know,” and from what I remember, everyone else really liked it too! Which was impressive, bc we all thought we were way too cool for school. But I do have two distinct memories. One was the scene where the newsies were getting beat up bad by the bulls and things looked really bad, but then all these kids started popping up behind buildings with slingshots and Spot Conlon swings in and says “Never fear, Brooklyn’s here!” And we all CHEERED because we all knew how important Brooklyn was to the strike.

The second was the very end when ALL the working kids of New York show up to the strike and I got goosebumps, because that was the moment that the strike became something so much more than getting the newspaper price back down. It gave me chills.

Watching newsies is probably my favorite memory from grade school.

Title: Moscow

Request: I think I made it in time. Anyway, would you be willing to write a Nikita Zaitsev one where he takes you home to Moscow to meet his family? Thank you so much!

Author’s Note: I hope you enjoy it!

Links: My Master List  and My Current Requests

“They’ve already met you, babe. You’ll be fine.” he assured you, pressing down on your thigh, still your leg which was bouncing up and down on the bench beside him.

It was true, you had met his parents before. Once, briefly, before the two of you were even dating, so did that really count? And not only were you meeting his parents, you were meeting his entire family. Aunts, uncles, cousins, the whole shebang. You gave him a weak smile, trying not to be nervous.

“It’ll be okay.” he told you, gently grasping your chin between his thumb and forefinger, pulling your lips to his. “You’ll have a good time.” he guaranteed you, pressing another sweet kiss to your lips.

A car horn sounded and you pulled away from Nikita; your face flushing when you realized it was his parents who were picking you up from the train station. Nikita seemed to think nothing of it, rising quickly to his feet and greeting his parents before grabbing both of your suitcases and tossing them in the trunk. He pulled his mother in for a hug, then his father, turning and grabbing your hand he pulled you towards them.

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anonymous asked:

TELL US WEIRD STORIES ABOUT THE CAST, please, if you feel like it :p <3

Disclamir most of these are from friends of friends the post where I talk about metting different Skam actors I will reblog in a moment.

So, my cousin’s friend worked at the revy eith Tarjei at Nissen and she was at Nissen at rehersal one afternoon. And she hears a lot of knocking outside one of the doors and hse is like “wtf??? everyone who is suppose to be here is here already”. The knocking doesn’t stuff so she goes down to open up the door. An a russian dude is standing there just saying “tarjei, tarjei” and ske asks him what he is doing there. And he tells her he is a gay Russian guy who has flown from Moscow to Oslo to meet Tarjei. According to her the kid was almost in tears with the idea of meeting Tarjei. So she goes back up and is all “ummm. Tarjei? A Russian dude wants to meet you?” and Tarjei went down with a friend and talked to the guy.

A friend of mine lives in Bærum and she was on a party with Thomas Hayes and he was really silent for most of the party. And by the end of the party he had gotten slightly more outgoing and he talked about being cast in a NRK series and my friend was like a NRK series okay now I know he is lame. ANd then she lost her shit when she watched Skam and relized that Thomas was in it.

My aunt who drank coffee at Frogner everyday and talked about this very charming guy who worked there and then relized it was Henrik Holm.

And then it is a rumor that the reason Thomas Hayes quit the show was because the royal family told the NRK to fire him. Thomas Hayes was on the same russbuss as the son of the crownprincess and the story goes that the police found weed in their buss, but the royal family didn’t want a scandal and kept it low. So to handle damage control they told NrK whay had happened and the NrK has a strict policy agaist their actors using illegal drugs so that was why he was fired, but to not make a big deal about him being fired their official story was that he was quitting.

“It wasn’t an official marriage. We didn’t register. But we had a plan. I was earning good money even though I was young. I was already a specialist at the age of nineteen. She was very beautiful. We’d been together for four years. She was a good person and very easy to talk to. She’d met my family and everyone loved her. At the time I was helping to construct a new subway line in Moscow. I came home from work one day and she was gone. There were no cell phones back then. Nobody knew where she was. She’d last been seen getting into a private taxi with her friend Natalya. A lot of people were disappearing during that time. The police stopped searching after a few months. She wasn’t seen again. There’s a line from a Russian poem. It says: ‘We love just once in a lifetime. And spend the rest of our lives looking for something similar.’ I’ve had other girlfriends after Oksana. But I don’t remember their birthday. Oksana’s birthday was July 9th. She was a Leo.”

(St. Petersburg, Russia)

Dance with Me (ao3) 6.5k

3 times Yuuri Katsuki stumbles when dancing with Viktor and 1 time he gets it right.

55. ‘I don’t mind.’ in the 100 ways to say ‘I love you’ series.


Yuuri is eight when he enters the wooden camp house for the first time, clutching to Minako-sensei’s hand. He shouldn’t really be here, he was supposed to join the skating camp Yuuko went to but the organisers decided at the very last minute that they couldn’t take boys with them. Minako-sensei was the last hope for him to spend two weeks of his summer vacation out of his house. This year, she was asked to provide ballet classes at the famous Mr. Feltsman’s Dance Camp; Yuuri was allowed to come only because of that, he was sure.

He doesn’t know Russian. He barely knows English, too, only the words and phrases Minako-sensei managed to teach him before arriving at the place. Nerves eat at his insides, making his stomach clench painfully. He shouldn’t be here, he doesn’t even know how to dance!

Minako-sensei talks to another instructor in a language that doesn’t make any sense to Yuuri, nodding at him at one point and wrapping her arm around his shoulder. He recognises his own name falling from her lips, immediately repeated by the man she is talking to.

She kneels down in front of him and puts her hands on his shoulders. “You will learn how to dance here,” she tells him, making sure he’s focusing on her words. “Just follow what the teacher and other children are doing and you’ll be fine.”

Yuuri breathes shakily. “Will you stay here?”

She shakes her head. “I have to teach another class. But I’ll come get you when it’s over and we’ll eat lunch together. Alright?”

Yuuri wants to say that it’s not alright, especially when his ears catch the sound of unfamiliar languages spoken all around him. Minako-sensei and him are the only Japanese people in the room and his stomach doesn’t like it.

The teacher next to them claps his hands to attract the students’ attention then, and Yuuri instinctively nods his head.

Minako-sensei smiles at him and gives his shoulders a gentle squeeze. “Good luck, Yuuri,” she tells him. With that, she’s gone to teach her own class.

Yuuri timidly looks around the room and quickly walks to the back of it, keeping close to the walls just so he’ll notice immediately if they start to close in on him.

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Born in Moscow, not in St. Petersburg, to an optician father and a mother who stayed home to raise two kids, Kondaurova progressed through gymnastics, piano and little kids’ dance before applying to the Bolshoi Ballet School.  But they didn’t take her.  At that time the Soviet Union was falling apart, and entrance to the Bolshoi School required a bribe.  A Bolshoi teacher told Kondaurova’s mother they should try the ballet academy in the other city – St. Petersburg.  The historic Vaganova Academy took the young girl.  Her mother moved there with her and stayed until Kondaurova was old enough to live in the dormitory.

“I never wanted to go back – even if I was known at first as ‘that girl from Moscow,’ ” she says in Russian. “There’s this girl and this girl” – she imitates a teacher’s imperious glance – “and over there, ‘that girl from Moscow.’ ”
—  Elizabeth Kendall on Yekaterina Kondaurova (Mariinsky Ballet, 2009)

It is commonly believed that Steve cannot lie. Much like Washington, he has this weird reputation for being totally honest all the time.

Like with Washington, this is a total myth.

Steve is actually a very good liar, provided he knows he’s going to lie and has his lie down before he tells it.

No one knows Steve’s ability to lie better than Bucky, though there was a time when he was as blissfully unaware as everyone else. There was a time when Steve was able to successfully hide health issues and emotional problems, insecurities and fears. That ability shattered the day Bucky came home to him collapsed on the floor, barely able to breathe and utterly incoherent from fever.

there was a moment where bucky thought steve was dead and he never forgave steve for that

After that, Bucky was more aware. He was able to figure out Steve’s tells, or just know when things didn’t add up. He knew when Steve needed him to wrap an arm around his shoulder and when Steve needed him to stay home. Steve never stopped lying, but Bucky lied too. Now they were on even ground, since Steve was rarely fooled. There were days where Steve felt worthless, pointless, like a burden. Those were the days where Bucky held him close and ran his fingers through Steve’s hair and talked about all the ways Steve was good and how much better Bucky’s life was because of him, until Steve was sobbing into Bucky’s shoulder but they were good tears.

Years later, Steve is still lying. Nat says he’s not a good liar, but that’s not true. He’s lied successfully for ages, pretending that he was okay. Sam was the first to see through it. Nat saw that he was lonely, but not that he woke up screaming more often than not. Not that he still dreamed about Bucky falling, or about being so cold he couldn’t move. Not that the better nightmares were the ones where he jumped off and followed Bucky into oblivion.

Bucky’s there, but he’s not Bucky anymore. Not really. Bucky wasn’t that quiet, or that serious. Bucky didn’t keep so much distance from everyone. Bucky didn’t look at Steve like Steve was a stranger.

It hurts to look at Bucky these days. Things pile up. Ugly missions that stick with him. Failures he can’t forgive himself for. Smile. Keep calm and carry on, as the queen used to say.

One night, after a mission, he’s sitting quietly in his living room. It’s something he does, and it never helps. Usually it just ends with him feeling utterly worthless, because thinking turns into an ugly cycle of guilt.

Bucky is too quiet. Steve doesn’t even realize he’s in the room until he sits down next to Steve on the couch.

“I’m fine.” Steve says automatically, because he’s been saying it to almost everyone since they got back from Moscow. Bucky’s expression doesn’t change, it’s a blank mask. Maybe his eyes narrow just a little, but Steve looks away. “I’m fine.” He says again.

Bucky reaches out slowly, like he’s not sure of what he’s doing or thinks Steve will want him to stop. Steve’s too startled to protest as Bucky starts running his fingers through Steve’s hair.

“I’m fine.” Steve protests weakly. Bucky keeps up his movements, and they’re so careful and gentle that they break Steve’s heart. Bucky doesn’t say anything, and Steve doesn’t think his expression, or lack thereof, changes.

“I’m not going to be fine if you keep this up.” Steve tries to joke, but it’s more broken than he means it to be. Bucky pauses, and for a second, Steve’s sorry he said anything because it was so nice to be fussed over, even that little tiny bit.

Then Bucky’s fingers start carding through his hair again, and Bucky seems a bit more confident in that movement.

“It’s okay,” he says, very quietly. “To not be fine." 

Steve finds himself curled up in Bucky’s lap, sobbing, his arms wrapped around him with Bucky still petting his hair. He feels stupid, but also lighter, better. Bucky could always tell when he was lying.

Batting on your Team

Request: Can you please write a fic Natxfemalereader (black reader) she’s an avenger and the minute she walked into the avengers facility the guys all had a crush on her,but she actually likes Nat and one day she walks in on all of the avengers talking about how pretty she is and wants to date her and she confirms that only Natasha could get her attention and Nat takes her on date ❤️❤️❤️❤️    

The Avengers sat around the conference table waiting on Director Fury to come in and inform them why they had all been summoned here. They didn’t meet up often, not all of them lived in New York anymore. Sam and Steve stayed in D.C., Tony had been in LA, Wanda drifted between D.C. and L.A., Natasha had just came back from a mission in Moscow and I guess no one really knew where Vision resided.

    The door to the room opened, and Director Fury walked in with a woman tailing him. Everyone stopped and looked at the woman entering. She was beautiful in her own right, meaning she took the concept of beauty and made it her own, to the point where it seemed somehow unfitting to use the adjective on her. No one, save Wanda and Vision, could look away. She looked like art. Her brown skin stretch over her form like the finest silk, and her uniform clung to her curves like the fabric itself was in love with her. As Fury stood at the head of the conference room, she stood slightly behind and to the side of him.

    Wanda looked around at everyone, bewildered by how awe stricken they all looked. Steve’s jaw looked like it had unhinged. She gave a confused look to Vision, who only shrugged. Sure, Wanda acknowledge that the woman was gorgeous, like really gorgeous, but jeez did they have to gawk at her?

    “Avengers, this is Y/N. She was a SHIELD spy before it fell. She’s been helping me eliminate the rest of HYDRA. I believe she would be a valuable asset to the Avengers Initiative.”

    “Well I agree,” Tony smirked, leaning back in his chair. Y/N spared him a glance, and he winked as they made eye contact. She immediately looked away.

    “Y/N, would you like you introduce yourself?” Fury asked looking back at her.

    “Well you already said all the fun stuff,” she laughed, “I’m Y/N, and I think it will be a pleasure to be a part of the team.”

    “Are you free for lunch?” Tony asked.

    She laughed a little, “I am not, I have paperwork to fill out.”

    Fury gave Tony a withering look, then shook his head, “That’s all. You can get back to whatever it is you were doing,” he left the room, and Y/N began tailing him. The eye of every man followed her out, noticing her round backside.

    Wanda was the first to get up. She figured it would be good to get to know the new member of the team. She followed her out and set upon striking up a conversation.

    “Hi, Y/N, I’m Wanda,” she greeted, with a kind smile.

    “Hello. Nice to meet you.”

    “Seems like you’re really good at your job. I’ve never heard Fury praise anyone.”

    “He’s a family friend, my god father actually. He’s a little biased.”

    “You don’t really have paperwork do you?” Wanda gave a knowing smile. Y/N laughed lightly and shook her head. There was no way she’d have anything to do, she just joined the team and the Avengers didn’t really do paperwork. Wanda nodded.

    “I could show you around HQ. Maybe keep the boys off of you,” Wanda offered.

    “You are an angel,” Y/N let Wanda lead the way.

    Back in the conference room, the gossip was at its peak. Natasha sat listening to the men around her as they talked about the new recruit. To her, they seemed a bit presumptuous. Tony was already making dinner plans, for christ’s sake.

“Tony, no offense, but I’m pretty sure you’re too old for her.” Sam jabbed.

“Well so is Cap.”

“Well Cap is too old for everyone,” Sam shrugged.

“I was 23 when I was frozen. Physically I’m still 23,” Steve argued back. Natasha just

watched them. She had the sneaking suspicion there was a better explanation as to why Y/N had turned down Tony. Sure Tony was known to be a playboy, so maybe that was the reason, but it could be because she was batting on his team. Natasha silently analyzed the past interaction, reevaluating Y/N’s rueful laugh at the proposal. If her gaydar was correct, and it usually was, then it would seem that she should probably ask Y/N out. Just like that a smug smile had settled on Natasha’s face.

    “What the hell are you smiling at?” Tony exclaimed.

    Natasha only shrugged, “You guys just seem so sure she’d want any of you in the first place,” with that Natasha stood up and left the room. The men looked between each other, confused by her coy remark.

    “I think, Natasha means to say that Y/N is homosexual.” Vision clarified, in a bored tone.

    “Bullshit!” Sam stood up to follow after Natasha, the others did the same, leaving Vision in the conference room by himself.

    “I… uh, well I’m not really into mean,” Y/N said with a sheepish smile.

    Wanda nodded, “I figured,” she pushed the pasta on her plate around with her fork, “You didn’t seem particularly taken to any of the guys, and borderline disgusted by Tony’s advance.”

    “Who’s the red head, though?” Y/N asked thoughtfully.

    “Natasha. You’ve got a chance with her,” Wanda smirked.

    “I think we’re gonna be good friends, Wanda.”

    “Oh I hope so, I need to know all of your makeup secrets.”

    “She is too pretty to be gay,” Tony argued.

    “Well what the hell is that supposed to mean?” Natasha demanded. She shifted her weight onto one hip, and glared at the man. He shrunk back at her anger.

    “Nat’s right. Beauty has nothing to do with sexual orientation,” Steve, ever the peacemaker, asserted, “either way we can all agree that she’s very beautiful. I think it’s her choice who she goes out with.”

    “Guys,” Y/N said, as she and Wanda walked into the common area. Y/N had been listening to their little discussion for a little while and figured it was probably for the best that she intervened now.

    “Natasha is the only one who would have a chance with me,” Y/N smiled, “Sorry, we’re batting for the same team boys.”

    Tony and Sam groaned like children and Y/N only shook her head. This wasn’t the first time she’d been through this. Natasha gave her a small smirk, then turned her gaze to the men around them. They seemed so hopelessly devastated.

    “Would you like to have dinner?” Natasha questioned.

    “Yeah, I would.”

~Mod Lillian

My little brother came back today from school trip to Moscow and brought me this!! It looks sooo good! I really loove snacks like this but its very hard to find them (impossible actually) in town that I live, because.. it’s a very small town -3-

Duncan Keith’s parents always knew he was highly motivated, but there is this indelible snapshot that stands out from his childhood.

“We looked out at our backyard one day, and Duncan had two or three tires strapped to his waist, climbing uphill,” his mother, Jean, said. “And he was only about 15. He had this bent for fitness and nutrition.”

“In Grade 4, he had a teacher, Mr. Ron Grabowski,” his father, Dave, said. “Duncan wanted to become a hockey player, and Mr. Grabowski talked to Duncan about what he would do if that didn’t happen. You know, did Duncan have a plan B? Well, Duncan was devastated. Cried for two days because he thought Mr. Grabowski meant he wasn’t going to be a hockey player. Mr. Grabowski was just doing his job, but Duncan didn’t want to hear it. I once suggested he find a summer job. He informed me that would interfere with his training. Duncan was driven.”

Selected by the Chicago Blackhawks in the second round (No. 54) of the 2002 NHL draft, Duncan Keith joined them in 2005 and never looked back. The franchise was struggling then, but Keith matured into a fixture on defense with a young roster that forged a modern dynasty, winning the Stanley Cup in 2010, 2013 and 2015. Along the way, Keith earned the Norris Trophy in 2010 and 2014, plus the Conn Smythe Trophy as most valuable player in the 2015 playoffs.

When he wasn’t the quarterback on Chicago’s blue line, Keith’s two-way excellence and zeal for a heavy workload served his country well. He won a gold medal with Canada at both the 2010 Vancouver Olympics and the 2014 Sochi Olympics. But only those who surmised that Keith was too small to realize his dream were surprised. He decided when he was 8 or 9 where he was headed. Take the piece of paper Dave and Jean discovered one day, a fearless forecast their son authored in a felt-tip pen: “Duncan Keith will make it to the NHL.”

Among the early believers, count Rob McLaughlin, who was coaching bantams in Penticton, British Columbia, when the Keith family moved there from Fort Frances, Ontario.

“We heard about this big new defenseman coming to town,” McLaughlin said. “Then this tiny kid shows up. He was 5-foot-4, 117 pounds. Skinny, short. Then, I watched him play and was blown away. A fabulous skater with a tremendous hockey IQ. Duncan not only controlled the game, but his work ethic rubbed off on other kids. He was a quiet leader. [When] practice or the game ended, he would be out shooting pucks like crazy. He had been told he was too small. And he was going to prove everybody wrong.”

Keith attended Michigan State University, then as a sophomore switched to Kelowna of the Western Hockey League. Upon signing with the Blackhawks, he played two seasons with their American Hockey League farm club, Norfolk, from 2003-05. There, Keith credited coach Trent Yawney, a former NHL defenseman, with mentoring him on the ways of a professional. Yawney fantasized that, one day, Keith might actually want to play an entire game, 60 minutes. When Keith showed up at Chicago’s training camp in 2005, a year after his trajectory was delayed by a canceled NHL season, hockey’s profile in one of its Original Six cities had dipped precipitously.

“The team was down and so were the crowds,” Keith said. “If I wasn’t dressed for an exhibition game, I could sit in the stands and have a whole area to myself. It’s great to see how things changed.”

Indeed, the revival of the Blackhawks was seismic. Although still in his mid-20s, Keith soon stood as a tenured leader beside such prodigies as Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane. Keith and his customary partner, Brent Seabrook, emerged as one of the league’s most effective and durable tandems. Keith in particular thrived under coach Joel Quenneville, who took over early in the 2008-09 season and espoused an upbeat, puck-possession style. Keith finished the season with 44 points and a plus-33 rating.

The Blackhawks were poised to take the next step. It has been posited that had Keith been a mailman, he’s the one who would have taken a walk on his day off. When he’s on the treadmill, it’s the treadmill that wears out first; on the grueling VO2 max test, Keith scores off the charts. But besides his superior conditioning, there is passion and grit.

In Game 4 of the 2010 Western Conference Final, a puck careened off the stick of San Jose Sharks forward Patrick Marleau. Keith took the brunt of the blow in the mouth, losing seven teeth – three on the top, four on the bottom. He adjourned for repairs and returned to play 12 minutes in the third period and a game-high 29:02. He blocked five shots, and the Blackhawks swept the series and went on to win the Cup for the first time since 1961. Keith capped his season by becoming the fourth Blackhawks player to win the Norris as the League’s best defenseman (Pierre Pilote 1963-65; Doug Wilson 1982; Chris Chelios 1993, ‘96). Keith won the Norris Trophy for the second time in 2014.

Keith starred on all three of his championship teams with the Blackhawks, but his performance throughout the 23-game postseason run in 2015 stood apart. He averaged 31:07 of ice time per game during a two-month marathon that included five overtime games. One of them – Game 2 of the Western Conference Final against the Anaheim Ducks, a 3-2 Chicago victory – became the longest in franchise history at 116:12, of which Keith played 49:51.

In that year’s playoff opener on the road against the Nashville Predators, Keith scored the winning goal in a 4-3 double-overtime victory after the Blackhawks had fallen behind 3-0 in the first period. Then in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final, Keith fired a drive on Ben Bishop, the towering goalie for the Tampa Bay Lightning. Bishop shunted it with his pad, but because he is forever in motion, Keith followed his shot, gathered the rebound and deposited the puck into the net, breaking a 0-0 tie. That goal was the winner in a 2-0 victory that brought the Blackhawks their third Stanley Cup championship in six seasons. It was Keith’s third goal of that postseason, all of them game-winners.

“You want to keep being a part of these things, because they never get old,” Keith said upon receiving the Conn Smythe Trophy. “You don’t get awards like this without being on great teams with great players.”

Well after Keith’s bravura postseason performance, it was revealed that he had played with a torn meniscus in his right knee. Keith said that he sustained the injury during the Final against Tampa Bay – he wasn’t certain whether it was in Game 3 or 4, but who was counting? One thing was for sure: Keith would not seek a doctor’s note or sympathy until he finished his hockey business. He had all summer to heal.

As it turned out, Keith still ailed when the 2015-16 season began. At first, he ascribed the problem to the usual “nicks and bruises and pains” one incurs during a career. When the knee still bothered him in training camp, he took a few weeks off starting in October, and would have surgery that month. By then, Keith had received yet more championship jewelry. Quenneville said he was unaware of Keith’s wound. Is there any wonder why Quenneville, and many of Keith’s teammates, often and fondly refer to the defenseman as a freak?

Keith, a humble man who speaks up sparingly but effectively, established Keith Relief, a charitable foundation assisting families and individuals encountering medical crises. Every year, Keith oversees a benefit concert in Chicago, where he evolved into one of the city’s most admired athletes. As Dave Keith said, his son once had other plans about where to settle down.

“Way back when we were still living in Fort Frances, we went to Minneapolis for a squirt tournament,” Dave Keith said. “Kids from all over the world, including Russia. Ilya Kovalchuk played for the Moscow Selects and scored four goals. Duncan’s team lost 7-3, and he was crushed. So he said to me, ‘We have to move to Russia, so I can get better.’ I told him, 'Son, we are not moving to Russia.’

“It all worked out, didn’t it?”

—  Duncan Keith: 100 Greatest NHL Players
(Workhorse defenseman has won Stanley Cup three times, Norris Trophy twice, Conn Smythe Trophy with Blackhawks)

A Life Revealed

Along Afghanistan’s War-torn Frontier
National Geographic magazine, June 1985

By Debra Denker
Photographs by Steve McCurry

I WILL NEVER KNOW THIS WOMAN’S NAME. Among Afghan villagers it is the custom for women not to tell their names to strangers. On this cold November night she is busily preparing food for the six mujahidin, Afghan freedom fighters, who have escorted me across the Pakistani border to Afghanistan’s embattled Paktia Province and into this small village in the Jaji region.

But in the darkness and snows of December, sometime around the fifth anniversary of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, she will give birth to her tenth child. If the child comes in the safety of the night, it will be born here, in this earthen house warmed by an iron stove. If her baby comes in the day, she is likely to be in the damp bomb shelter hewn into the ground under the fields outside the village, her birth pangs accompanied, perhaps, by the roar of jets and bombs.

She pauses to pour me a glass of steaming black tea. “When the planes come, I can’t run very fast to the bomb shelter any more,” she says. “I am too big and heavy. What can I do?” She speaks in a lilting accent, the rhythms of her native Pashtu carrying over into the Dari, or Afghan Persian, that she learned in Kabul before the war.

Few families remain in this region, where frequent bombings have destroyed both villages and crops as the Russians attempt to close this important route to the interior. Most of those who remain share food and shelter with the mujahidin (“holy warriors”) who pass through, many from across the frontier in Pakistan.

When an April 1978 coup brought a Marxist regime to power in Kabul, armed resistance began within months. The conflict was both nationalistic and religious, but devout Muslims regarded it as a jihad, or holy war. By December 1979 the central government was in danger of collapse, and in a three-day operation beginning on Christmas Eve, thousands of Soviet troops invaded the country, claiming to have been invited under the terms of a 1978 friendship treaty. While the invasion was still in press, President Hafizullah Amin was executed and replaced by Babrak Karmal, a political rival Moscow summoned back from Czechoslovakia, where he had been sent as Afghan ambassador.

Soviet troops, estimated at about 80,000 in 1980, now number more than 100,000. They have mounted frequent offensives to stamp out resistance, at great cost in lives to Afghan civilians. The economy has also been damaged. The 1984 harvest in eastern Afghanistan was less than half that of 1978, and prices of many staple foods have tripled.

BUT THE MOST VISIBLE effect of the war has been the flight of the Afghan people, a multilingual population of mixed tribes and ethnic groups, from their homeland. One-quarter of Afghanistan’s prewar population of about 15 million has been forced into exile in neighboring Pakistan and Iran. At least another million are “internal refugees,” driven from their homes by bombing and other military action. An unknown number have been killed or wounded.

After more than five years the war remains in a violent stalemate. The mujahidin claim to control as much as 80 percent of the countryside, while Soviet troops and an army of Afghan conscripts defend parts of major cities, a few main roads, and fortified posts in some rural areas.

Abdul Wahed (not his real name), husband of the pregnant woman in this Jaji village, comes in out of the cold and darkness, letting in a gust of icy wind. The light of his lantern reveals the graceful geometric designs his children have daubed on the walls with the red earth of the mountains.

“This house we have built new in the past two years, after our other house was bombed,” Abdul Wahed explains. “This area is free as far as the Communist post at Ali Khel, but the planes come and bomb the villages nearly every day. They are trying to drive us all to Pakistan, so no one is left to feed the mujahidin.” Rolling up the sleeve of his long shirt, he shows me a deep puckered scar on his upper arm: “I was wounded two years ago and was three months in a hospital in Pakistan. By the grace of God I recovered, and now my brother and I take turns going out to fight.”

After dinner Abdul Wahed’s wife sits down next to me, adjusts her veil over her shiny dark braids, and pours me another glass of tea. She is happy to talk to me, as it has been a long time since the family has had a female guest. Around me the children prepare for the night. A fluffy gray kitten slumbers under the stove, and for a moment I forget that we are in a land at war.

JUST AFTER DAWN the rumble of distant artillery fire shatters the frosted crystal morning. To my surprise, no one reacts. They have grown used to the sounds of war. But Abdul Wahed’s eldest son, a handsome quick-minded boy of about 12, begins drawing on the side of the black metal stove with apiece of chalk: a jet, looking rather like a paper plane, and short dashes representing the bombs it drops.

My escorts take a chance, and we cross the open valley by day. Walking through the wide, flat valley is like walking in a bad dream of a deserted land. At this time of year the land is all gray and brown, except where odd patches of snow lie, and the trees are bare but for a few limp yellow leaves. Large bomb craters pock fields that this year bore no harvest. In deserted villages a few houses stand among heaps of rubble.

I walk with the two men who have been specially detailed to accompany me by Syed Ishaq Gailani, a mujahidin commander who has for several years been a close friend of my family. One of the fighters, Bahram Jan, is perhaps 40, a big man with a commanding voice who used to buy cars in Kabul and sell them in Jaji. He is a font of war stories: These ruins were an Afghan government post till the mujahidin took it last year. Over there, in the field, are three tanks the mujahidin destroyed. And don’t step back for that photograph, the area is mined!

His friend Mustafa’s manner is quieter, though at 29 he has been a fighter for six years. He is a Tajik from Jalalabad, a city on the road from Kabul to Pakistan. Until he joined the mujahidin, he was a clerk in a government ministry in Kabul.

On this dusty dirt road, one of the main supply routes of the mujahidin, we pass several parties of men coming from distant fronts. They exchange greetings with my companions and stop for a few moments to tell news of Kabul, or Kunduz in the north. Near the battlefields the mujahidin seem relaxed, unconcerned with the rivalries and disunity that plague Afghan parties in exile in Pakistan. Later Bahram Jan will tell me the story of Commander Mohammed Naim, from the nearby village of Ali Khel, who one week before had been severely wounded while leading an attack that had resulted in the capture of 50 Afghan government soldiers. Naim belongs to a different party, but, says Bahram Jan, everyone loves the legendary young hero who began fighting when he did not yet have a beard.

Outside a village, near a bomb crater, we talk to a group of battle-weary men from Kabul. The bombing is on the other side of Ali Khel today, one says stoically, but just two days ago this area was heavily bombed. Round a bend in the middle of the road are the fly-encrusted remains of a camel. “See, they are killing even the animals,” says Mustafa angrily, “everything that they see, everything that can feed the mujahidin or carry supplies for us.”

In the refugee camps of Pakistan I had heard reports of destruction of food supplies, and of fears of a famine in the spring. Refugees from the Panjsher Valley, a center of resistance, told me how their walnut and mulberry trees were systematically cut down by the enemy during Soviet offensives. Here in the unplanted fields of Jaji I see the confirmation of these stories.

Farther on, in another village, a gray and-white cat prowls delicately along the top of a ruined wall. In a roofless room a carved wooden chest lies askew on a tilted floor. Under our feet are bedposts, scattered grain, and a single shoe, very small.

The mujahidin climb up a rickety ladder to the upper floor of the ruined mosque. Though the back wall gapes and half the floor is missing, the mosque is still sacred, and someone has strewn fresh straw on the floor. In the shadow of carved wooden columns, the men turn away from the destruction behind them, face the niche that marks the direction of Mecca, and pray.

Later, in a field of grass stubble under an opalescent autumn sky, we find shattered pieces of dull green plastic, one with a detonator still attached. These are the remains of small mines shaped like butterflies, which can take off the hand or foot of an unwary person or injure livestock. Designed to maim, they are scattered from helicopters on inhabited areas and important routes. Many Afghans have learned to explode the mines, usually by throwing stones from a safe distance. But two weeks later, in a Pakistani border town, I will watch a doctor bandage the mangled hand of a scarlet-veiled woman from Jaji who had been unwary enough to pick up the strange green plastic object.

THE SUN is nearly on the edge of the sharp, snow-covered peaks and ridges that mark the far limits of the valley when Mustafa stops and points to a cluster of nondescript mud buildings on a hilltop about a kilometer away. The fort at Ali Khel appears deserted, but inside are Afghan government soldiers and some Soviet officers. Mustafa tells me to stay behind the wall, out of direct line of sight and fire. “Every night the mujahidin attack the post,” he says. “We will be in a rain of bullets. Do you want to go with us?”

After dark we make our way to the house of a man loyal to my friends’ party. Mustafa is relieved that the man’s family has not yet left for exile in Pakistan. At night, he says only half-jokingly, mujahidin factions are less trustful of one another.

A couple of hours later the attack on the government post begins, and Bahram Jan leads me up the stairs to the square tower with a picture-window view of fiery parabolas of tracer bullets arcing from the mountainsides toward the mud fort. The fighting goes on for hours in the frosty night, the mujahidin firing Kalashnikov automatic rifles and a heavy machine gun or two at the solid walls of the fort, the enemy post answering with machine guns, mortar fire, and occasional flares. The 120 rounds issued to each of my escorts will not last the night, and some must be conserved for the journey back to Pakistan. They cannot aim for victory, only for harassment.

Over the past five years 325 million dollars in covert U.S. aid has reportedly been channeled to the mujahidin, mostly in the form of smuggled Soviet-made small arms, along with a few antitank missiles and SAM-7 antiaircraft missiles. But there are questions as to how much of this aid has actually arrived inside Afghanistan. Commander Abdullah of Helmand Province said with more passion than realism: “We fight tanks with Kalashnikovs. Nowhere else in the world do they do this. Send us antiaircraft guns, and the mujahidin, with the help of God, would get the Russians out within one year.” Certainly there are few effective antiaircraft weapons. The surface-to-air missiles are notoriously unreliable. When asked about the SAM-7, Ishaq Gailani grimaced. He and other mujahidin representatives would prefer portable, lightweight British or Swedish missiles.

At 3 a.m. we leave the battle behind and by the light of a crescent moon file silently up a riverbed that cleaves the rugged mountains. At dawn the Muslim call to prayer sounds from the village, now well behind us. The gunfire, which had continued unabated, stops. The mujahidin, and perhaps the government soldiers inside the walls of the fort, are now at prayer.

In this narrow, uncultivated valley some of Afghanistan’s internal refugees have built crude houses of earth, wood, and stone. They live on what they have salvaged from their fields or imported from nearby Pakistan. It is still early when the roar of the first jet fills the sky. Though it is high overhead, we scatter, hiding under scrawny pine trees, covering our heads and bodies with pattu, camel-colored blankets that blend with the earth tones of the land. The noise of bombing echoes through the brown and snow-whitened hills. Beside me, Mustafa’s face is grim and set.

IN THE LATE AFTERNOON we reach a house high in the mountains. I am invited to sit with the men, and I join them in the nightly ritual of listening to the BBC World Service for news of the outside world and news of their own war. Entering the separate women’s world when it is time to sleep, I read, in Persian, a poem called “Autumn of Blood,” by Afghanistan’s Ustad Khalilullah Khalili:

Each red leaf in the meadow
Reminds me of those killed for
the homeland…

When I return to Pakistan, I learn that the United Nations General Assembly has passed yet another resolution calling for the withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan. The Soviet Union has ignored five previous resolutions, claiming that they constitute interference in Afghanistan’s internal affairs.

In a refugee camp at Sateen, not far from the Afghan border, I find some of the last people to flee from Ali Sangi, the village where the gray-and-white cat walked along the ruined wall. Against the counterpoint of a nearby wedding, where women chant and bang hand drums, the survivors recount their stories.

Hazrat Bibi is probably in her 40s, but her face is thin and worn with grief and the trauma of her journey with six children into exile. She breaks into tears at the memory of her husband, killed only a month before.

As the men gather, she turns away toward the wall, hiding her face from them but always watching me. Akbar Khan, a middle-aged man who used to be a farmer and a driver in Kabul, speaks for himself and his village. “We came here about a month ago. Now there is not a single family living in Ali Sangi. Everything was destroyed, everything inside the houses, our clothes and possessions buried under the earth, our children buried under the earth.”

PESHAWAR, capital of Pakistan’s North-West Frontier Province, homeland of the Pashtun, or Pathan, tribes that inhabit the border areas of both Afghanistan and Pakistan, has two faces. The old face is that of an exotic crossroads, a wild frontier town near the foot of the Khyber Pass. The modern face is that of a noisy, congested, polluted city that is estimated to have doubled in size in five years since the Soviet invasion.

Some say that Peshawar is now the largest Afghan city outside Kabul. Most of Pakistan’s refugee population of about three million is concentrated in this province, though refugees are settled in a long crescent from Chitral in the rugged Hindu Kush range of northern Pakistan to the deserts of Baluchistan Province.

In August 1984 all mujahidin party offices were ordered out of Peshawar because of an escalating climate of violence, including bombings of the offices and attempted assassinations of prominent Afghans. Mujahidin and Pakistani intelligence sources blame much of the violence on the Afghan government intelligence service, but it is also true that there are ongoing feuds between mujahidin factions, some of which occasionally spill over onto the battlefield. Now based just outside the city limits are a number of political parties regarded by Western observers as moderate. Its leaders, though seeking an Islamic government for Afghanistan, have closer ties to the West than the opposing group of fundamentalist parties.

Many disillusioned mujahidin say that the parties fail either to supply arms or to achieve political unity. “I will join whatever party gives me arms,” said one fighter in Baluchistan. “I am here in this refugee camp only because no party will give me arms.” Some mujahidin look hopefully toward leadership evolving inside Afghanistan, such as the loose “internal alliance” of young regional commanders who communicate and coordinate by courier.

Beyond the refugee camps that fringe Peshawar is the Khyber Pass, the historic passage between the uplands of Central Asia and the plains of the Indo-Pakistani subcontinent. Today the Khyber, except for a strip 50 feet (15 meters) wide on either side of the road administered by the Pakistani government, remains under the control of local Pashtun tribes. Tribal areas are generally off-limits to foreigners, but photographer Steve McCurry and I get special permission from the governor. We are accompanied by two local officials and an escort of 15 khassadars, members of a tribal militia. The officials grow increasingly nervous as the afternoon wanes. They inform us that if we do not reach the settled districts by dusk, the government cannot answer for our safety.

On the way through the pass, on a winding dirt road beyond the limits of government control, a pickup truck bounces along in a cloud of dust, while a train of camels lopes on unconcerned. They may be smuggling cloth, untaxed cigarettes, whiskey, or raw opium to be processed into heroin. Pakistan, despite government efforts to reduce poppy growing, is among the world’s major exporters of heroin. Much of the opium, 400 metric tons in 1983, comes from beyond the border in Afghanistan, where it is the most profitable remaining cash crop. Before the Islamic revolution in Iran, most opium was exported to Iran. With that market restricted, growers have set up labs in Pakistan, and more recently inside Afghanistan, to make more profitable heroin for export to the West. According to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, most of it passes by the town of Landi Kotal, near the head of the Khyber Pass.

Poppy cultivation is a tradition in certain families, and a source of income tribesmen are reluctant to give up. In previous years, both in Afghanistan and in Pakistani tribal areas, I saw fields of poppies, which many here referred to jokingly as “tulips.”

THERE IS A CHANGE in the air in Peshawar this year, and I sense a turning point. Pakistan is saturated with refugees, and compassion is drying up. Pakistanis, who opened their country in the name of Muslim hospitality and the Pashtun tradition of panah, or asylum, are now faced with the largest refugee population in the world.

Despite the number of refugees and their length of stay, there has been little tension between refugees and locals. These refugees are the freest in the world. They are allowed to come and go, even to work and trade, as long as they own no immovable property. Nonetheless, there are anxieties about the long-term effect of so many refugees on the culture, economy, and security of Pakistan. The administration of 2.4 million registered refugees, at a cost of a million dollars a day, is an enormous undertaking. The Pakistani government says it pays nearly half the cost of refugee assistance, with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and other countries and international agencies absorbing the rest. The United States is the largest contributor to the UNHCR program in Pakistan (some 20 million dollars in 1984).

Each refugee is supposed to receive a daily ration of 500 grams of wheat, 30 grams of edible oil, 30 grams of dried skim milk, 20 grams of sugar, and 3 grams of tea. Each family is allotted 20 liters of kerosene monthly. In theory, a cash allowance of 50 rupees (about four U.S. dollars) per person per month is also provided, though in fact it is rarely received.

Most who arrived before 1984 have been officially registered and receive close to their allotted rations. Older camps have become sprawling villages as refugees have built houses out of earth, as in their native villages. Though idleness still plagues the camps, where there are many farmers without land, shepherds without flocks, and shopkeepers without shops, some men have found work on the roads, in refugee-camp bazaars, or driving three-wheeled taxis leased from Pakistanis or buses and trucks brought from Afghanistan.

At the time of my visit, in late 1984, new arrivals typically faced delays of as long as four months in registration and issue of rations. The reason for the delay, according to Pakistani refugee officials, was the process of recounting previously registered refugees. For example, on the theory that children are too guileless to exaggerate the number of family members, teams of checkers questioned children from each family. They uncovered cases of double registration and instances in which more family members were claimed than actually exist.

New arrivals, hungry and dazed from their long and dangerous journey across the border, often could not comprehend the reason for the delay. A group of 150 families from Baghlan, in Afghanistan’s north, had walked for more than a month. Now they camped by the huge Kachaghari refugee camp outside Peshawar under makeshift tents made of blankets. For another month they waited until the provincial Commissionerate for Afghan Refugees sent them to a camp for newcomers. In Munda camp, about 25 miles (40 kilometers) from Peshawar, 380 families from Baghlan and Kunduz shared 180 tents. At Khapianga, on a desert hillside in Kurram Agency, 700 families from Jaji camped in borrowed tents or bought ragged ones, their only water source a tiny spring that was in danger of drying up.

Poverty does not diminish Afghan hospitality. In Munda, refugees offered to kill and roast a sheep for us; in Khapianga, I ate flat wheat bread and tasteless spinach with an impoverished woman, who then offered to cook me an egg; outside Peshawar, I drank weak, sugarless black tea with a group of women who had arrived from Kabul the night before and were camped on the bare ground among the mattresses, blankets, and pots that were their only remaining possessions.

THE GREAT MAJORITY of Afghan refugees in the North-West Frontier Province are Pashtuns, a robust, handsome people. In the camps of the north, near Chitral, are light-skinned Tajiks from Panjsher Valley, Badakhshis from the high Hindu Kush, and rugged, sharp-faced Nuristanis. In Baluchistan are more Pashtuns, the Baluch, and the Mongol-featured Hazara. In many camps one encounters Turkic-speaking Uzbeks and Turkomans from the north. One of the best places to see the variety of Afghans is Peshawar’s famous Qissa Khawani Bazaar, the “storytellers bazaar.” Here the tales were once of caravans and trade, of wandering saints, poets, and holy men, but now all the stories, among Afghans at least, are of war and survival.

Near Qissa Khawani, down the narrow lane of the gold bazaar and across from the delicate mosque of Mahabat Khan, is an even narrower lane that leads to Murad Market, the heart of the refugee bazaar. Perhaps half the shops here are rented by Afghans, mostly carpet sellers, silversmiths, and dealers in antique goods. Here young Syed Sher Agha sells antique silver jewelry from his tiny shop. On the wall is a small, framed, formal black-and-white portrait of a young man in a turban—Sher’s eldest brother, a mujahidin commander killed in battle near Jalalabad in 1982, at the age of 20.

One day I accompany Sher and his younger brother to their camp, where I am welcomed by their mother and two young aunts. They have lived here for three years but have been unable to build a mud house because the camp lies on sand. Unable to satisfy the Afghan urge to build, they have satisfied the twin urge to beautify by planting gardens; tall reeds create an illusion of privacy, and marigolds and sweet basil color and scent the refugees’ small plot.

While his young wife cooks outside the tent, pulling her yellow-embroidered black veil over her face modestly, Sher tells me of his wedding, only three months ago, to this girl who lived in the tent next door. “There was no music,” says Sher, “because we are still in mourning for my brother.” Sher’s mother brings out a tattered copy of a mujahidin magazine and shows me a picture of her fallen son. I remember Sher’s words: “There is not one family that has not eaten the bitterness of this war.”

Abdul Ali, 12 went out to play one morning, stepped on a mine, and lost both his legs at the thigh. He sits in his wheelchair at the orthopedic center of the International Committee of the Red Cross in Peshawar, laughing and badgering me for a picture. Later I hear that he has learned to walk on the two small artificial limbs the center made for him and has returned to Afghanistan.

Simeen Musharaf, widowed mother of four children, is a teacher at a girls school in Nasir Bagh camp. When she was fleeing Afghanistan, she stepped on a mine and lost one leg. She was refused admission to Afghan hospitals on grounds that her husband, then in prison and later executed, was a “terrorist.”

Five teachers teach 350 girls, crowded under a large tent. The mud roof of the school building has fallen in because of heavy rain one night several months before. The colorful maps of Afghanistan and the world, which someone has carefully painted on the walls, are sadly mud-streaked.

AT THE NEARBY widows camp I visit with Noor Jehan, whom I had met the year before. On the orders of the provincial refugee commission, several men are busy building a high mud wall around the camp to screen the widows from the eyes of men. I ask the officials why these workmen are not rebuilding the roof of the girls school instead of a purdah wall, but my question is left unanswered.

Noor Jehan, a sprightly widow with bright eyes, expressive face, and hennaed gray hair, runs to embrace me. “Life is much more difficult this year,” she tells me. “Now my daughter is also a widow, and all her children are here. We are 16 people living on seven people’s rations.” She leads me to her tent and introduces me to Noor Taj, her eldest daughter. Eagerly the women make sweet milk tea for me and insist that I drink several cups. I know this is a sacrifice, using up their precious rations of dried skim milk and sugar, but in courtesy I may not refuse.

Noor Taj has her mother’s strong face and forthright manner: “What could we bring, coming on foot? Nothing but a few things we could carry on our heads. We were forced to come, because the unbelievers come into our houses to take away the boys, and open our cupboards, and take away little girls by the hair. How could we live like that?”

IN A HOSPITAL BED in Lahore, far, from the Afghan border, lies Commander Mohammed Naim, age 22. It is not hot on this late November day, but Naim is sweating with the effort of his body to fight off the effects of its injuries, and his voice is weak and halting. One side of his face is wounded by the artillery shell that took away his left leg and broke his right leg and left arm during an attack on the fort at Ali Khel. He was carried on horseback to Pakistan. “By the grace of God, I had no pain at all during the journey,” he tells me. “Everything I have done, I have done for our faith.”

A few days later I deliver a letter to Naim’s father, Khan Mohammed, who lives in a camp in Kohat District. We listen to a cassette of my interview with Naim, while men and children gather in the small oblong guesthouse. Someone brings in a pot of green tea and a bowl of walnuts. When it is time to go, Khan Mohammed insists I take a sackful of walnuts. “These are from our own trees, in the homeland.” Not long before Naim was wounded, he explains, his two mujahidin sons had gone to their home village and picked as many walnuts as they could, practically under the eyes of the Soviet and Afghan soldiers in the fort at Ali Khel. “When we taste these,” Khan Mohammed says, “we remember our home.”

In a mujahidin training camp near the border I meet two Soviet defectors. Like most of their mujahidin counterparts, Garik Moradovich Dzhamalbekov and Nikolai Vasilovich Balabanov are young, in their early- to mid-20s.

I do not at first recognize them as Russians, as they wear Afghan dress. A mujahidin commander orders them to come closer. I look into their wary faces and sense that they do not want this interview; they have seen too many journalists. They speak Persian but tell me they prefer to speak Russian through a mujahidin interpreter.

Both men were born in Soviet Central Asia. Garik, a light-complexioned, bearded man, is a Tajik from Dushanbe, the capital of the Tajik Soviet Socialist Republic; broad-featured Nikolai, half Kazakh and half Russian, is from Alma Ata, capital of the Kazakh S.S.R. Eyes downcast, they chain-smoke as they narrate their story. “They said we would fight Americans, Chinese, and Pakistanis,” says Nikolai.

After some months they began supplying weapons to the mujahidin, because it was “a bad war, a dirty war,” according to Garik. They were caught and jailed, but escaped and deserted to the mujahidin.

Under some willow trees by a stream, former enemies sit side by side with me, sharing an incongruous picnic lunch of unleavened bread and a tomato omelet. The two defectors, who speak to me in Persian when we are left alone, have heard that several Soviet soldiers have gone to England and the United States, and they are hoping Canada or the United States will accept them. They have made a cruel and difficult choice, from which there is no turning back. “We were happy as children,” Garik says, “but then we grew up.”

MOST OF THE TRAINEES in this camp are little more than boys. Enthusiastically they run through the dusty obstacle course, climb swinging ladders, rappel down cliffs, scale sheer walls, and run through fire, their plastic shoes falling off as they leap. They are laughing, enjoying this game, but in a moment of quiet they gather round to talk and become serious, speaking of families left behind in Afghanistan and of their commitment to the jihad.

On another occasion, I visit this rugged spot with Ishaq Gailani. At 32, this charismatic young leader is revered by his followers as much for his reputation for honesty and bravery in battle as for his membership in a family of hereditary religious leaders.

Ishaq Gailani has spent much time at many fronts and tells me he hopes to go back again soon. As we watch the men receiving instruction on captured Soviet weapons, I ask him the meaning of the black flag that flies over the camp.

“When the Prophet and his companions used to go to jihad, they carried black flags, because war is not a good thing,” he explains. “When we go to jihad today, it’s not because we want to fight, but because we are compelled to fight for the sake of Islam, and for the freedom of Afghanistan.”

As a heavy dusk deepens over the craggy hills, a muezzin’s voice calls the men to prayer, and once again the mujahidin put aside their study of war. The holy warriors, Ishaq among them, spread their pattu on the ground, their weapons before them, and stand and bow and stand again. In the silence I feel their strong and quiet faith, and wish only for a swift and happy end to the struggle forced upon them.

So Many Stars (Ch. 25)

Pairing: Phan
Genre: Chaptered, English teachers in Japan AU
Word Count: 5,901 words
Warnings: Slight angst, food mentions, implied sexy times
Description: There, but for the grace of you, go I

Read Ch. 1 | Ch. 2 | Ch. 3 | Ch. 4 | Ch. 5 | Ch. 6 | Ch. 7 | Ch. 8 | Ch. 9 | Ch. 10 | Ch. 11 | Ch. 12 | Ch. 13 | Ch. 14 | Ch. 15 | Ch. 16 | Ch. 17 | Ch. 18 | Ch. 19 | Ch. 20 | Ch. 21 | Ch. 22 | Ch. 23 | Ch. 24

A/N: i am eternally grateful to everyone who has read and loved this story. writing it has been such an incredible experience. thank you all!


He woke up some time later to the buzzing of his phone by his ear.

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