will add more in future chapters

andreil happy fics! ♥

basically, I’ve spent the previous week going through the AFTG tag (yes, I went through all the 1250 works) on ao3, because I needed more content, official or not. and since it was so freaking hard to find some quality happy content™ (bc apparently y'all like to suffer that much —which, to be fair, I should have expected and I can #relate), I thought I could make it easier for anyone else seeking it and share it here! 🎉

so this is a recommendation list with my favorites ones so far; they’re all from ao3, and if you find any of your works there and want me to remove them from this list, just message me and I’ll remove it. if you have any recommendations for me to add here, message me too! ♥ I haven’t read anything from ff.net or tumblr just yet, but I plan on doing that later this week.

they’re not all entirely happy and they’re not that happy either, but then again that’d be hard considering the amount of trauma and tragedy the authors have to work with (thanks nora). but!!! they’re happy enough to make it to this post, so yeah! you’ll probably gonna enjoy them.

right now there are more oneshots, canon-ish, mostly set right after TKM or a few years in the future. I might add an AU and multi-chapter category later, so keep checking for updates! and don’t forget to show appreciation for the authors by leaving comments and kudos! ♥

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Fairy tail 60 afterwords

In this volume, the significant mystery about Dragon Slayers was revealed, did you enjoy it? Right after the reveal, some people were saying: “That’s great setup!”, the others “He came up with this plot recently, it’s not fair” and others just “Hmph!”. As for “coming up with plot recently” - if you by that mean, that some development wasn’t decided even before 1st chapter, then almost every plot may be clasified as “recent made-up”. One editor was saying “The story is a living thing”. Different factors are included in it and it grows. There’s no way, that full story can be decided from the very beginning, so with the story flows I will complement it little by little.

Irene being mother of Dragonslayers was decided before she appeared in manga. On the other hand, her connection with Erza wasn’t set at all. That’s why she and Acnologia couldn’t talk about Dragon Slaying Magic during their confrontation, it because “her connection with Erza wasn’t set yet”. I should’ve been more careful with this one.

Speaking about “recent made-up”, I remember I wrote it before, but almost everything related to Erza is recent made-up. When I introduced her into the story, her magic, relationships with Jellal and Natsu weren’t decided yet. It was like starting the bus before all passengers are on board, but as if she was a proof of “The story is living thing”, she showed her growth and became one of the most popular FT characters.

I’ll definitely add some “recent made-ups” in the future chapters. Well, not showing it too much is also professionals’ job.

From Mangahelpers

At the Edge of the Ocean (Olicity AU fic Part 1)

Hey guys, I’d been toying for weeks with the idea of doing a unique Olicity AU one-shot. I very rarely write fics with mystical elements but once this idea popped into my head, I couldn’t get it out. I also blame @agentsassydirewolf​ for letting me rant about it and adding fuel to the fire in my creative brain! Thank you, and I hate you (just kidding…kinda sorta)! ;)

Anyway, I’ve always loved mermaids. They are by far my favorite mythical creature. I recently re-watched Splash (a big, glorious mistake) and felt compelled to finally bring my Olicity mermaid AU obsession to life. This was originally going to be a one-shot but while writing yesterday, I realized there was too much to cram into a single post. I also wanted to have this posted in time for Valentine’s Day, so I’m splitting it up into two parts (I’m still working on the second one right now).  

I haven’t yet decided if this might turn into a short, mutli-chapter ficlet. But let me know if you guys want to read more, and I might add it to my list of future fics to work on. I’m not sure how the visual aspects and edits will format on AO3, so I’m posting strictly to Tumblr for now.

Thanks in advance for reading, everyone, and Happy Valentine’s Day!

Originally posted by beautyisworthagif

Pairing: Oliver Queen and Felicity Smoak

Rating: T

Summary: AU. Oliver almost drowns when the Queen’s Gambit sinks and is saved by a mysterious creature. When he learns that his savior is actually a beautiful mermaid named Felicity, Oliver can’t decided if he’s more shocked by her existence or the fact that he feels such a strong connection to her. Coming from two different worlds, Oliver and Felicity must decided if their love is true and what they’re willing to sacrifice to make it work.

Disclaimer: I don’t own Arrow or any of its characters. Except for the Olicity edits, the rest of the images and gifs aren’t mine.

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One Hell of a Lucky Guy

Steroline (sort of?) AU future fic - prompt what if Caroline meet one of Stefan’s doppelgangers in the future. Chapters: 1 | 2 | 3

Chapter 4

Caroline was busy in the greenhouse cutting the fully grown vervain flowers ready to make more bracelets as well as starting the extraction process for the liquid she need to add to the school’s water supply of the dorms now that all her students had returned. She knew most of her students were witches and therefore un-compellable anyway but she felt it was always better to be safe than sorry especially when it came to her students safety.

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Screenshots from BENDY AND FRIENDS | Bendy And The Ink Machine Chapter 2! :D

OH MY GOD I AM SO INTO THIS GAME NOW! xD This was so much better then chapter 1 was and now I’m very interested in the lure, what’s going on and where the whole game is gonna go. Plus the new ink enemies in this chapter really made me jump because they just blend in with the surroundings and the ink on the floor extremely well and they just jump out and attack you and you just don’t expect them to be there when you first encounter them. Plus I just love the style of this game and I love the idea of there being an old-fashioned styled Disney like character coming to life and constantly trying to kill you and keep you from escaping the studio. There’s very good attention to detail in this game and to me it just makes the world feel more authentic. I’m excited to see what else this game will add and throw at us in the future chapters. :) 
I am SO into this now! :D 

Some information before the Lost Princess of Merope really begins:

-The seven kingdoms are based on the seven Pleiades from Greek mythology. The actual princesses are all original characters. Brief intros to each princess will be posted this weekend and they will be explored more in the story.

-This is the first time I’ve ever done anything interactive like this! There will most likely be hiccups and confusion. This is a fairly short story, probably around ten chapters plus some extra little material. I know where the story will end, but how it is shaped will be decided by choices you guys make. 

-This is sort of a practice run for more interactive storytelling in the future. I will learn about what you guys like/dislike about the formula and take it on into the future! I will also examine the level of interactivity and the difficulty of clues/riddles for you guys to solve. Consider this a pilot study. I’ve got some future ideas in the works! 

-I will continue to add photo credit to my posts. The links may initially appear broken, as they may link back to my Pinterest boards for each character, which are currently private. They will be made public as the story goes on, and the links will go live!

-I will continue regular graphic posts as usual. The fairy tale book club will continue this month- be sure to check out our books for April!

wanderingsorceress27  asked:

31 and 13 with Sigrunn and Ivar and I want to add what perverted things do they do when drunk :D

The answers are set in a possible future of Watch Me Drown, so don’t read if you don’t want to get hints about where the story could be going. ;) Also this ended up being over 1000 words so we’ll do a cut.

From this ship meme - feel free to suggest me some more numbers this was fun

31 - Do they sing together

Sigrunn was surprised at the sweet tenor of Ivar’s voice threading through the tones of the warriors’ drinking song as it filled the air of the hall. She was just stepping back into the room when someone had started it up, and she approached Ivar’s back softly, afraid he might stop if he noticed her return. She stood behind his chair, one hand softly on its frame, and just listened. He wasn’t loud, wasn’t trying to catch anyone’s attention, but he knew all the words and his tone was rich and true.

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anonymous asked:

The way Ishida draws Touka's hair in :re is so... Inconsistent??? In some chapters I'm like "aww, it looks so soft, I want to pat her head!" but in others it looks really weird... Idk

I think it’s bc she does something to her hair, and she changes the hairstyle constantly. She maybe adds more volume some days and other days she just leaves it like that and it looks flat and straight like her hair back in the first TG. I like to see her with different hairstyles, it looks realistic. I just hope Kaneki can go back to the fluffy hair again someday in the future 😭  haise’s hair was the glory 

Seijou Fic Rec

Since I requested fics recently I thought I’d do a fic rec of my own. I am currently deep in the Seijou fandom feels so I will rec Seijou fics. Mostly made up of fluff and humor because that’s the stuff I love~
(Also mostly Matsuhana just because they’re my favorite Seijou couple ^^; )

“Something that could work” by slushyNinja: http://archiveofourown.org/works/4843058
“Tell us next time, stupid” by booksaremyreality: http://archiveofourown.org/works/4801787
“Live it up, drink it up” by puny: http://archiveofourown.org/works/4781153
“Not like the movies” by commovente: http://archiveofourown.org/works/4607490
“Down for you” by whatisitkirschtein: http://archiveofourown.org/works/3979069
(Sequel of “Down for you”) “Face the sun” by whatisitkirschtein: http://archiveofourown.org/works/4373069
“But then(I met you)” by whatisitkirschtein: http://archiveofourown.org/works/4914826 (p.s. I really love all of whatisitkirschtein’s fics so you should really check out the others too!)
“You Meme a Lot to Me” by greyaise: http://archiveofourown.org/works/6007327
“Love Letter” by ghostedMinds: http://archiveofourown.org/works/6105094
“"I love you” is the New “Hello”“ by toxicPatronus: http://archiveofourown.org/works/5287841
"Surprise, surprise” by airblends: http://archiveofourown.org/works/5849713
“You’re My Favorite Loser” by soliskai: http://archiveofourown.org/works/6003232
“Love Letter” by ghostedMinds: http://archiveofourown.org/works/6105094

“Creatures of Logic” by ectoBisexual: http://archiveofourown.org/works/5335175
“Quake my foundation” by knightswatch: http://archiveofourown.org/works/6146296?view_adult=true

“Close to the Chest” by darkmagicalgirl: http://archiveofourown.org/works/3898771/chapters/8721568
Kyouhaba Week - Soulmates Universe series by MapacheLuna: http://archiveofourown.org/series/322232
“Colour Marks” by kiyala: http://archiveofourown.org/works/6117813
“Putting the dog to sleep” by fortyfiveangrycats: http://archiveofourown.org/works/6123838

“Treasure” by Forestfish: http://archiveofourown.org/works/4637235

Seijou General
“Inalienable Champs” by stilinskisbitch: http://archiveofourown.org/works/4823879 (I highly recommend checking out the entire “Texts of the Trash Heap” series because all the fics are incredibly funny)
“It’s tradition.” by hicsvntdracones: http://archiveofourown.org/works/3645597
“The strangest and gayest secret santa exchange” by XaverianQueenChrissy: http://archiveofourown.org/works/5406809

Honorable Mention Multi-Ship Fic:
“Karasuno Coffee -Drabbles” by nacibecca: http://archiveofourown.org/works/2317820/chapters/5102390

(I feel like I’m still missing a bunch here so I’ll probably edit this and add more in the future)

creativexdreamer  asked:

Also, just to add really quickly, (my last ask ran out of room lol) I love the little scene with Sam and the main character at the end too. It was so sweet! And I love that he now has a love interest. Hope we get to see more of them together in future chapters. :)

Originally posted by romanogers4ever

Sam is bae, forever and always. If I can find a way to sneak him into another part, I definitely will 😊

A Lesson in Love (The Aftermath)

Good Girl (Chapter 2)

Summary: Negan decides to bring you back to the sanctuary when you decide to disobey his rules.

WARNINGS: Smut will be a thing soon lol, Negan’s horrid language, 

NOTE: I know the first 2 chapters have been short. Which is why I updated them so closely together. In the future the chapters will be longer and better (I promise). Also, I know making the two characters live together is stereotypical and cringey in a way but I noticed most of the fanfics I’ve read about Negan have neglected to do that so I thought I would change it up a bit, just to add more drama in the future. ENJOY!!

Originally posted by thewalkingdead

Negan walked you over to his truck, he glanced down at you as he opened the passenger’s door.

“Any time you want to leave just say the word. I’ll never make a woman do something she doesn’t want to do”.

You knew going with him was a bad decision, but you were always one for bad decisions. Honestly, you just needed a change. You had quickly faded into the background at Alexandria and you definitely weren’t that kind of person. Oddly enough, sitting around peacefully almost made you feel guilty knowing there was an entire “war” going on outside of Alexandria’s walls. So you decided to change your fate, even if it meant voluntarily leaving with the most evil man you have met in your lifetime.

He drove towards the sanctuary as you laid your head against the passenger’s door. He made no attempt to avoid the holes in the road. The car jumped around causing you to bang your head against the hard surface. He smirked to himself as you glared at him.

“Shit sweetheart, if looks could kill, I’d be fucking dead.” He glanced towards you as he spoke.

“If only.” You spoke under your breath rolling your eyes. He slammed on the breaks and you would have broke through the windshield if your hands had not flown out to catch yourself in time.

“What the fu-” you started. He grabbed your face with his leather glove, turning you towards him.

“You’ve got one fiery attitude darlin’, but you might want to choose your fucking battles.” A smile spread across his face as he stared at you. You squirmed under his hold before he finally let you go.

“I was just joking.” You spoke as you started to pout in your seat. Negan emerged to drive again. He ignored your comment, but you weren’t done with him yet.

“If I wanted to kill you don’t you think I would have done it already?”

He nearly bursted out laughing. “Is that so darlin’? How the fuck do you think a little lady like you can take ME on?”

“You’d be surprised.” you smiled to yourself. He shook his head still chuckling.

“We’ll see about that.” he responded winking at you.

As the sanctuary came into view you began to wonder what you were actually going to do here.

“So what exactly am I doing here?” you asked staring at him.

“I was thinking about making you one of my wives.” he responded

You began to laugh “Sorry, but no, you’re not going to add me to your group of ‘wives’. I’m not that type.” You laughed.

“So what, you think you’re better than them?” his voice grew more serious.

“No, I never said that. I’m just not that type.”

“That type huh? We’ll figure out what the fuck that means since we’re going to be spending a lot of time together.” He said smirking

“And why is that?”

“Well we’re running out of bedrooms, so instead of squeezing you in with a roommate, I thought I’d take it upon myself to let you stay with me”.

Your jaw nearly dropped to the floor, and you could tell Negan was pleased with his reaction as he smiled to himself.

Day 324: Camp Nano (15)

Okay. I did a lot today (sort of), but I have even more to do tomorrow. Wish me luck. 

Current Work in Progress: Raven and the White Marked Revolution

Music: Thy Will by Hillary Scott, Journey OST, LOK soundtrack

Production Progress: I posted my first marketing thing and I want to thank everyone for your responses. I’m so glad I was able to help and there will be plenty more posts in the future!!!

I also re-wrote six pages in chapter nineteen (finally). But I still need to get on chapter 11. I only have to fix two lines of dialogue. I don’t know why it’s this hard.

Oh yeah. Because it’s politics.

Goals for Tomorrow: Add things to my queue on my second blog, try and finish chapter 11 (please, future glori, i’m begging you). And re-write the next scene in chapter 19 

Originally posted by samidac

anonymous asked:

Nice blog! I just wanted to see if I'm the only one who thinks it's about time Ciel underwent some character development, hasn't he been the same since the beginning of the manga? Thanks :-)

Aww, thanks Anon! :)

Nah, you’re not the only one. I think that’s one of the things that many fans are missing. Ciel hasn’t changed that much from the beginning. I think it would add to the tragedy of the contract if Ciel’s character would develop, like if he accepted the friends around him and if he would start to care for his future. So it would be interesting to see that. I’ve written more about Ciel’s character development here so you might be interested in that, too. ;)

Maybe things that are currently happening in this arc might lead to some character development for Ciel. There’s his relationship with Lizzy for example. Or also his friendship to Soma (especially after the spoilers for this chapter…). So maybe this can trigger some changes in Ciel. But that remains to be seen.

ok so I was giving @naggyfriend an enormous list of my fave YGO fics from my ff.net and a03 collections, and I guess I should probably make my own version of the giant list

KEEP IN MIND THOUGH that you’ll have to look for the fics on my favourites lists yourself (which I am linking however) - there’s just too many for me to link individually, but I’ve included the name and author of them so yeah

[Last updated April of 2016, I need to update it!]

Read more for my fave puzzleshipping fics!! 

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yayhamletnonstop  asked:

Beyond the Sunrise is so good! Please can I be tagged in future chapters? Seeing Lin get knocked back was crushing but I can't wait for more!

Trust me Sab was like “YOU CAN WRITE THIS, REN” and I replied with “I CAN’T IT’S TOO CRUSHING I FEEL LIKE I’M KICKING A PUPPY” it was wild chapter to write that’s for sure, hahaha (and we’ll add you to the tag list, no problem <3) - Ren

yOU KNOW WHAT. FUCK IT. i’m gonna write a bixlu feels song list. prepare for bixlu feels (i hope) (although tbh most of these are just songs i really love and can probably get in a bixlu mood to) 

  • dance with me - short stack
  • don’t threaten me with a good time - panic! at the disco
  • crazy=genius - p!atd
  • the good, the bad and the dirty - p!atd (i have a chapter fic named after this song on my future fic list hehe) 
  • stay the night - green day
  • planetary (go!) - my chemical romance
  • ordinary world - green day
  • gold - imagine dragons
  • polaroid - imagine dragons 
  • dream - imagine dragons
  • run boy run - woodkid
  • who we are - imagine dragons
  • fireworks from the mother fucking order of the phoenix soundtrack

i would totally add links if i wasn’t a lazy piece of shit lol

Learning How to Love Chapter Three, Day Eight: Stay with Me

Hello everyone! To all those who read the first two chapters of this fanfiction, here is the newest chapter! Thank you so much to all who read/liked/reblogged/replied to my original posts. I am beyond grateful for all the wonderful reactions and excitement that followed my previous chapters. I hope you all enjoy the latest chapter!

I just wanted to add that this chapter is a bit of a doozy at about 9,000 words, so I thought I’d give fair warning that it may take a while to get through. (Sorry for the long post, I’m not even sure how I got here… *facepalm*) Also, please don’t hesitate to let me know if you’d like me to tag you in future chapter posts, as I am more than happy to do so!

To those of you who haven’t read the first chapters and would like to, here are links to each: 

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Note: As always, MC will be referred to as MC in this story in the third person instead of blanks or Y/N. In addition, this story contains minor spoilers for Jumin’s route.

Now, buckle up for some feels, fellow Jumin-lovers.

Chapter Three, Day Eight, Part Two: Stay with Me

For a long time MC simply sat at the end of the bed, staring at the door as silence fell upon the apartment. She still couldn’t believe that Elizabeth the Third had run away after a lifetime of heartfelt care, regardless of Jumin’s extreme measures to ensure her safety as of late. Furthermore, the cat hadn’t seemed frustrated or irate so much as melancholy, as if she missed her owner and his frequent affections. Had she read the cat all wrong? And how could she vanish into thin air in a matter of seconds? Surely a housecat wasn’t that fast or stealthy, even Jumin had been puzzled by such an anomaly. Though she hadn’t witnessed the exact moment of her disappearance, MC was sure that there was more to this disaster than first appeared. Somebody must have facilitated her escape. But who would do this? And how could they infiltrate the penthouse while it was under perpetual lockdown? Her mind was reeling, full of questions as she tried to make sense of what happened in the space of minutes.

But more importantly, she was worried about Jumin. She had a feeling he was going to blame himself for the cat’s postulated escape, and it was abundantly clear that he was in a precarious mental state right now. He had undergone severe emotional trauma in the short span of three days, and she knew that with each support system he lost his feelings would only build until he reached a breaking point. There was no possible way she could leave him like this, not when he had begged her so earnestly to remain. He thought he was being unreasonable asking her to stay, but MC felt it less a product of obligation and more a product of care. She couldn’t stand to see somebody so important to her in so much anguish and at such a loss as to what to do. She knew it must have been especially unnerving for Jumin, who had always been so self-assured and relied on his ability to control his environment to protect himself. Despite every precaution, that which he feared most had still occurred, and he was struggling with the profundity of the loss. Every single individual he was comfortable being vulnerable with was now gone, without any guarantee as to when or if they would re-enter his life.

Though she wasn’t sure what was the best way to help him, MC was determined to listen and stay with him, invariable in her support. Because she knew that sometimes, all a person really needed was somebody to be there. People weren’t as simple as stitching their wounds, like a cherished, age-worn stuffed animal whose velveteen coating had ripped and was in need of a steady hand, needle, and thread. People were infinitely more complex than that. She felt it supremely unfair that everybody, even the members of the RFA, were expecting him to handle such extreme circumstances and unprecedented hardships with a maturity that had never been properly cultivated within him. And more importantly, without the proper succour anyone would need while coming to terms with one shattering loss after another and the subsequent, newfound emotions that were jarring him with every second. He needed more time, and he needed the security of somebody who cared for him beyond personal gain that accepted every part of who he was, gently guiding him on the tumultuous path to understanding himself. And she wanted to be the one to help him feel safe, both to repay him for taking her into his home and protecting her, but also because she felt compelled to help him beyond rational thought. Perhaps it was too soon to think that she loved him, but she certainly felt wondrous, fluttering things for the altruistic, quirky man. There was nothing she wanted more than his happiness, the one thing that seemed to elude him his entire life no matter the resources or wealth at his disposal.

With renewed fortitude, she began to wrack her brain for ways to help search for Elizabeth the Third when her phone vibrated, a tiny gray flash winking at her as she opened the messenger. Zen had awoken in a perceptibly positive mood, revelling in his own beauty as she realized she could help by spreading the word in the messenger while Jumin was otherwise preoccupied. Before she could think to send a greeting, she underscored Elizabeth’s current disappearance as quickly as possible. If her sudden, uncharacteristic lack of decorum and inability to humor him didn’t communicate the seriousness of the situation, Jumin’s sudden interjection and subsequent inability to focus on correcting Zen’s unflattering nickname for the cat certainly did. Jumin went on to explain that her escape was a result of hatred for him, which MC refuted immediately as Zen helped bolster her claim.

Even though she had anticipated his reaction, it didn’t hurt any less to hear him think he deserved to be hated. Before they could prove it to him further, he changed the subject, as if he didn’t think he deserved to be absolved from the blame he placed on himself and sought to thwart their good-natured attempts. Instead he asked her to stay at the penthouse again, clearly plagued by the thought of her disappearing too even as he searched for Elizabeth. After reassuring him that she would continue to stay and that he would find the cat, he agreed and begged her to stay again, all the while apologizing for his incessant fear of being left alone. Her heart ached that he felt guilty for asking for help, especially when his requests were always genuine and humble. All he wanted was solace.

Before she could assuage his concerns further he asked the RFA to contact him should they see Elizabeth or encounter further information regarding her whereabouts, so distraught that he left the chat without another word. If there was one thing she had learned about Jumin in the past few days, it was that his decision to be silent spoke volumes regarding how he was feeling. He became so overwhelmed by the intensity of his own emotions and his desire to conserve his energy to supercede the problem that he couldn’t bear any form of social interaction, lest others use his momentary, susceptible confusion for their own gain or mock him as they had in the past. He was so accustomed to solving every problem he had ever encountered alone, it wasn’t surprising that he considered input from others an invasion, a cacophony, of sorts.

After expressing further concerns to Zen and hoping that his strange dream days ago wasn’t a harbinger of what was to come, she listened as he returned the conversation to his career. She was relieved to find that, though Zen was busy and meeting a famous director they could invite to the party, he was being much more considerate and sensitive about Jumin’s situation unlike a few days ago. She wondered if Jumin’s demeanor toward her had finally proved to Zen that he was more than capable of caring about others and deserved to be cared for in return. With a final, short reassurance that he would do his best to aid the search, he left the messenger.

Restless and unable to think of a way she could help that Jumin hadn’t either already thought of in his systematic approach or had greater resources to accomplish, she settled for continuing her preparations for the party. Since she made the decision to stay and look after him as well as host the party, she used the time to get ahead so that she could help him address the problems he was facing without distraction when he returned. Furthermore, he wouldn’t need to feel guilty about her inability to return to Rika’s apartment if she completed everything in the penthouse anyway. She spent an hour or two answering emails, updating the guest list, and organizing possible caterers and venues when her phone vibrated and flashed gold. Jaehee…?

After saving her progress and any lingering thoughts she wanted to remember for later, she opened the messenger to encounter a distraught Jaehee alone at work. Upon request, MC explained Elizabeth’s escape and Jaehee responded with clear exasperation. The situation had only escalated despite her hope that MC would relieve Jumin’s dysfunctional reaction to his father’s unreasonable demands. When MC apologized for being unable to help more, Jaehee reassured her that there was no way to anticipate Elizabeth the Third’s disappearance and thanked her instead. In accordance with everyone else’s concerns, Jaehee expressed a wariness about her staying with Jumin while he was in such a volatile state, and the hacker that remained an unyielding threat. But MC knew that if anything, she was safer and more comfortable in the penthouse. Not only was she no longer forced to be alone all day long, she also wasn’t afraid to leave to retrieve something beyond the walls of her new home. Whenever she wished to leave, she was accompanied by Jumin’s genial and patient bodyguards, always following at a respectful distance and keeping her safe.

She remembered when she was in Rika’s apartment and always retained a lingering wariness, wondering when the hacker would return to the place where only they could find her. Seven and V’s secrecy hadn’t helped either, they increased her suspicion that the apartment was hiding more secrets than they let on, making it hard to sleep or relax as soon as she remembered that fact. Not unlike Zen’s uneasy feeling after the dream he had regarding Elizabeth the Third, she too felt a nagging disquiet that something had not been quite right about Rika or her apartment, even if she wasn’t quite sure why. Furthermore, she wasn’t afraid of Jumin at all, regardless of everyone else’s overabundant distress. She wanted to stay until he felt well enough be on his own with no negative repercussions to his mental health. She knew that the party was important to the members of the RFA, but nothing could be worth the cost of his well-being.

With a few more errant musings regarding Elizabeth’s perpetually elusive motive for running away, Jaehee returned to her looming mountain of work after promising to contact MC if Jumin eventually decided to appear.

As soon as she closed the messenger and began to review her notes, she heard the sound of the elevator opening and collective footsteps moving towards the suite. She strained to make out the muffled sound of a conversation occurring outside the door, about to rise from her position to walk closer when an acute tone sounded and the door handle twisted. His familiar, lofty form crossed the threshold with slow movements, as if he was reluctant to face MC and reveal his inability to find Elizabeth. Adjusting his cufflinks, he walked over to where she sat with a sigh. She observed with surprise that there wasn’t a single hair or thread out of place since he left earlier that morning. The only evidence of his dismay and exhaustion the constant fidgeting of his fingers and downcast blankness of his eyes.

“I’m sorry for coming home so late…” He managed after taking her in, methodically scanning every inch of her with his penetrating gaze for any hint of possible danger or discomfort since his absence. “You were safe.” He added, his voice softer, and so heavy with relief that it wasn’t a reminder that was meant for her.

“What about Elizabeth?” MC asked tentatively as she sat up, scooching closer to the side of the bed where he stood. She wanted to get a chair for him to sit in, but the lingering tension in his shoulders made her wonder if he preferred to stand.

“I couldn’t find her.” He admitted. “I can’t believe this…I can’t believe that I still haven’t found her…” Considering the remarkable lengths he had gone to, she couldn’t either. Her brows furrowed at how hopeless he appeared as he stared at the ground, aching to comfort him but not knowing how. “She could have left the building.” Well, it did seem like the only possible explanation at this point. “Cats can get around places that people can’t see, so she must have found a way. She even avoided the thermal cameras. Do you think she ran that fast? I honestly have never seen her run so fast.” He said with dazed surprise. He was confirming her suspicions with every anxious word flowing from him, as baffled as she had been until she had considered the possibility of a facilitating party. “She always used to stretch leisurely at home.” He remarked, distracted as he looked over to the other side of the room, as if saying it out loud could make it a reality again. “Over there…on the center of that sofa, she’d meow every morning looking towards my bed.” He shook his head as the memory lingered, at odds with his cruel reality. “I can’t believe that she’s not here…I wish this were a dream.” His left hand rose to massage the space above his eyes with a restless fervor, as if to assuage a merciless, oncoming headache.

“Jumin… don’t be so sad.”  MC entreated, “We’ll find her.”

“Yes, we will. Alive or not…we’ll find her.” He agreed, somewhat pacified. “But, more than that…I can’t accept the fact that she tried to run away from me. I feel like all the love I’ve given her for years has gone to waste. How do I express how I’m feeling right now…?” He paused as he struggled to encompass a sensation she knew couldn’t entirely be captured by words. A wound so deep that some, including her, couldn’t escape from its effects. “I feel as if I’ve been betrayed…this bitter sadness that eats away a part of my heart.” His hand rose to clench the fabric above his chest until his knuckles blanched, as if ripping it out meant he could return to normal. “Why am I like this? It’s very unlike me.” He looked down at the way his arm had moved of its own accord like he couldn’t recognize himself, shaken as he hastened to lower it.

There was a brief moment of silence as she waited, watching him close his eyes and take a deep breath to steady himself with marginal success.

“MC,” The hoarse word made her eyes flash to his, surprised by the sudden sound. She was met with a creased expression torn between shame and desideratum, his captivating eyes dull and indistinct like an overcast sky trying to decide if it will rain. “can’t you stay a bit longer with me?”

She reached for his hand without thinking and squeezed his fingers lightly, smiling. “I’ll be here until you feel better, Jumin. You can trust me.” She promised, gazing at him without judgement or discontent, only unwavering patience and tranquility.

His eyes widened at the cold contact of her hand before he tightened his fingers in return as soon as he understood the gesture, a weak smile surfacing. “Thank you, MC….” His other hand moved to cover the top of hers to warm her extremities, reverent and full of regret as he continued. “It hasn’t been long since we’ve met, I don’t want to burden you…Damn…” He cursed uncharacteristically, the word laden with helpless frustration as his brows furrowed. “It’s hard to control my emotions.”

“I’m sorry that I can’t be peaceful.” He let go of her hand, his gaze on the floor, too ashamed to meet her eyes. When he spoke again, his voice was just low enough for her to hear, her chest tightening with every word. “I hate myself like this.” He admitted, “It’s the first time I feel like I’m hitting rock bottom.” With his shoulders curled inward and his head lowered, hands limp at his sides, he was a mere shadow of the man everybody envied.

Unable to watch him berate himself, she stood from the bed and wrapped her arms around his torso, laying her head against his chest. “It’ll be okay,” She murmured, “I promise.”

He stiffened, staring at her form with surprise before he cautiously placed an arm around her waist, the other falling across her shoulder blades. He revelled in her placating warmth, both of body and spirit, calmed by the scent of the lavender shampoo he had provided the night before. With each passing minute he grew more and more at ease, the orientation of his limbs less forced and formal with the unfamiliar act, melting into her embrace and stroking her long hair.

They were reluctant to part until two abrupt raps at the door made them recoil simultaneously, both apologetic as they pulled away. If she didn’t know any better she could have sworn a sullen pout crossed his face before it vanished as quickly as it came, his gaze landing on the door with a sigh. She noticed with relief that he appeared much more relaxed, his movements fluid and unhurried.

“It must be my bodyguard. Maybe they have some news?” He walked to the door, opening it expectantly to reveal a young man in a similar suit and a briefing earbud, grimacing.

“Mr. Han, Miss Sarah has come for you.”

She watched as the hand he had used to open the door whitened, a dangerous silence settling in the room as the air charged with palpable hostility. “The worst woman at the worst timing,” Was all Jumin said at first. He didn’t sound cross so much as annoyed, like she was a pesky, buzzing fly he couldn’t be rid of.

“Sarah says she knows something about Elizabeth the Third.” The guard continued with clear reluctance.

She could almost feel Jumin’s impatience. Why didn’t you tell me that in the first place? Was all she heard as he crossed his arms, tapping a forefinger at his left elbow. “What does she know?”

“Er… she says that she must tell you face to face.” The man admitted. Jumin nodded, giving him clearance and turned to MC as the door shut behind him, walking over to where she stood.

His lips were pursed into a thin line. “…I don’t want to let that woman in and I’m sure what she has to say is a lie…but should I let her in?” He deliberated, repulsed to the core of his being before he sought her counsel. “What do you think, MC?”

She thought about it carefully before replying, worried about Sarah’s intentions but knowing that they needed all the help they could get to find Elizabeth.  “Nothing bad will come out of hearing some information. You can judge whether or not what she says is helpful.”

“Thank you for believing in me.” He was relieved by her faith in his ability to remain rational despite everything that had happened, bolstering his resolve to handle the coming minutes with a level-head.

“It’s highly likely that she thinks of this situation as an opportunity…” He noted dispassionately. He was so accustomed to people trying to use him that she knew it was part of the reason he had chosen not to feel for so long. After all, if people were only going to hurt and disappoint you, what was the use in letting them?

“If I think that the information she provides is useless, then that will give me all the more reason to never see her face again…I wish that woman would just say ‘I have Elizabeth the Third. Give me your money.’ Like a villain.” He brooded with a frown, “Let’s hope for it…”

As soon as there was another knock and he opened the door, his mouth became a reticent and indifferent line, revealing nothing as the red-head chirped from the threshold.

“Jumin! Oh my~! You look so tired! But no need to worry. I, Sarah, am here so everything will be solved!” She cooed, each word oozing with feigned compassion. “Can I come in?” She asked demurely, undressing him with her eyes. MC hands clenched into fists at the sight.

Jumin’s arms folded over his chest, uncompromising. “First, let me hear what you have to say.”

Her expression hardened and her hand landed on her hip, her elbow jutting out as her smile morphed into an indignant pout. “You’re just going to keep me here standing? That’s mean even with the depressing situation. All the security guards are watching~ I want to talk to you alone~!” She winked. “And! If someone has taken the trouble to visit you, shouldn’t you at least say hello? I’m about to feel quite upset.” She warned with a petulant sniff.

“Hello. I highly admire your tenacity.” He replied dryly with no inflection. MC stifled a giggle at the underlying edge to his compliment, one that Sarah clearly didn’t register as her face scrunched in bewilderment.

“Tenacity?” She said the word blankly, as if it were an alien insult, deterred by his unwavering lack of expression. “An–anyways, loosen up that face! After I found out that you lost your cat, I’ve been calling everywhere to tell me if they’ve seen a cat like Elizabeth.” She brightened again, fishing for praise.

Like hell Jumin was going to give it to her. “And?” MC watched as his finger lifted and fell at his elbow, impatience befalling him again. So much time and not a single bit of useless information. Get to the point.

“And then, not even ten minutes later, I got a call saying they found the cat! How lucky don’t you think?” She said with a smirk as she sashayed a step closer to where Jumin stood, despite a guard’s barked warning behind her in response. MC watched the hand Jumin had on his elbow sink into his flesh for a minute before he forced his fingers to relax, his forefinger returning to its rhythmic tapping. Had he been…frightened…by her advance? “See, you and I are meant to be with each other. You lost something and I found it. What would you do without me~? Haha.” She continued, enjoying every minute in which she had such a powerful, unresponsive man at her mercy.

MC looked on with disgust and a desire to soothe him, but she knew her presence would only make things escalate further and potentially eradicate an essential new lead.

“Where is that cat?” He waited, unperturbed.

“It’s not with me yet~ There is a photo…” She enticed with building suspense, “do you want to see it?”

Jumin was as apathetic as ever. “Yes, I do.”

“But you are still going to keep me here outside?” Her despair was laced with venom, “I’ll show it to you when I get in, okay?” She insisted.

Jumin would not budge. “I will see the photo first.”

“I’ll show you when I get in!” She shrieked like a harpy, furious that she was unable to sway him to her will as Jumin’s bodyguard restrained her before she could trespass.

“Don’t force your way in!” The man commanded. “Mr. Han…are you okay, sir?” He asked, his face flashing with concern.

Jumin nodded. “I’m fine.” Then looked to Sarah with a bored expression, like a tired parent would a tantruming child. “God…if you want to come in so desperately, then I suppose I have no choice.”

The security guard’s expression hardened, looking to Sarah with mistrust. “Call me if anything happens.”

“I will.” Jumin assured.

The guard closed the door behind her as she stepped inside a few feet from the threshold.

“I’m not a stranger you know! I just want to enter my fiance’s house! What’s the fuss all about!?” Sarah returned to her beaming and affectionate countenance as soon as she entered, acting as though their reaction to her behavior was completely unwarranted.

As soon as she caught sight of MC, however, her expression darkened. “What? But who is that woman?” Unalterably saccharine as she narrowed her eyes at MC standing beside the bed.

Jumin immediately stepped closer to MC, standing in front of her to obscure her from Sarah’s view. “Show me the photo.”

“Your hidden lover?” She accused, sneering at them both.

MC stifled her belligerence, mimicking Jumin’s approach instead to ensure that she didn’t say or do anything rash. Even if MC wanted to claw Sarah’s eyes out, she didn’t want to give her more ammunition to pressure Jumin into marriage. “It’s nothing like that…First show us the photo of Elizabeth.”

“Oh my, look at that girl lying through her teeth! What the hell are you doing in my fiance’s house in the middle of the day?” Sarah stormed, leaning over Jumin to glower at her as MC remained unimpressed.

Jumin’s eyebrow rose, his response wry as he stepped in front of her line of vision again. “…Who’s whose fiance?”

“Jumin, no need to be shy. I know everything~I’m sure she’s just a hook up. I’m not a woman who makes fusses about these things.” She looked to her elongated crimson nails, manicured to perfection, unabashedly to display her superiority. “You work in the big league. I’m sure this is nothing. Marriage is a much more sacred bond than meaningless desire. I’m old enough to know everything.” His answering glare was so ferocious that the woman began to shrink back, her haughty confidence waning. “Alright, alright. Don’t look at me like that~!” She said with a nervous laugh, backing down immediately to try to compensate for her mistake. “You’ll feel much better if I show you the photo.” She rummaged through her designer bag until she pulled out the image with triumph.

“Now, here!” She said as she thrust it before Jumin’s eyes. “It’s her, right?”

“…” Jumin rubbed one of his temples after a few seconds.

She pretended to be perplexed by his lack of response. “It’s Elizabeth.”

His hand fell back to his forearm. “Unfortunately, it’s not.” The following sharp exhale was a testament to his exasperation, as if he felt foolish for believing her in the first place. I don’t know what I was expecting.

“What? Look closer! All cats kind of look alike. White fur and blue eyes! It’s her. What do you mean it’s not her? Maybe…the photo didn’t come out as well? It be Elizabeth if you actually see her. Do you want to go see her with me?” Sarah rambled, frantic to ensnare him.

“I must refuse.” The words were like the harsh slam of a gavel in a hushed courtroom.

Her hand lowered as she boomeranged to the wounded victim persona, hoping guilt would compel him. “You have no idea how hard it was for me to find a similar looking cat in such a short time. Jumin, are you really going to be this rude?”

“I’m afraid I cannot see you off…I will call someone to escort you.” He replied, cordial and nonplussed.

“You should at least offer to make your fiance a cup of tea~!” Her cheerful laughter was stunted and dissonant as it collapsed into itself.

“That will not happen.” He said firmly, “And I hope we do not have to see each other ever again. I will tell father about what happened today.” he continued, as casually as one would about tomorrow’s weather forecast.

“E-ever again…?” She was so horrified by her complete inability to manipulate him to her owns whims that all she could do was mimic him until she could think of another way to retaliate. MC shouldn’t have been surprised to find it would only take her a minute to recover.

“What!? Are you breaking up with me?” She accused, clutching her chest as though she were heartbroken.

His retort was so matter-of-fact it became caustic. “Break up? How strange of you to say that when we have never been together. If you thought that exchanging a few words was being together, then you are delusional.” MC looked on, mouth agape. Damn, she was going to need a fire extinguisher if the conversation continued at this rate. “In addition, that photo of the cat can easily be found online. You must be very confident in my father’s support to shamelessly walk into my house with such a photo.” He finished with no shortage of acerbic scorn.

“I…I must have been tricked…!” She cried lamely.

He remained unreservedly candid. “Will you please leave? I do not wish to further waste my time, as I must find my cat. I will tell father that you brought a fake photo of my cat to win over my affections. If my father has any sense left in him at all, he will stop talking about marriage.”

“Wait, Jumin, don’t try to call off the marriage on your own!” She hastened to stop him. “Is it because of that woman?” She thrust a belligerent finger toward MC, “I’m going to tell Mr. Han first!! That you have another woman!” She informed him triumphantly, determined to make him the villain in every scenario she conjured regardless of the truth.

“…” Despite Jumin’s resolution to remain stoic throughout the conversation, a thunderous scowl appeared on his face at the mention of besmirching MC, the weight of his mercury glower heavy and toxic.

MC watched as Sarah’s eyes widened and she stumbled a step back, recoiling and stuttering. “What, you two are in love or something? That assistant didn’t mention anything like this!”

“Hey!” She shouted at MC, too afraid to lash out at Jumin while he was ostensibly seething. “If you think that you’re going to get a Frada bag by being with him, make sure I don’t catch you! I don’t know where you came from, but rich families have a reputation to keep up! So don’t even think about doing something funny!” She threatened as Jumin bristled further, his ire only cooling when it was clear MC was unaffected by Sarah’s empty malice.

“Sarah, I’m Jumin’s friend.” MC clarified her intentions, “Please watch what you say.” She cautioned further.

“Friend…? Friend when you are alone with him at his house?! And it looks like you spent the night here.” She gestured to the unmade bed where MC had been working on the RFA party preparations. “And what are those pancakes!? It’s so obvious!” She ranted at the sight of breakfast’s remnants on the dining room table.

“Oh, I forgot to clean the plates this morning.” Jumin remarked in a low murmur to himself, shocked at his own forgetfulness. She wondered if he had ever been shaken enough about something in his entire life to make him overlook even the most menial task. “I should have called a maid…” He trailed off, distracted. MC made a note to do them later that night, since there was no reason to leave them sullied when she was more than capable of washing them.

Sarah, of course, was dismayed by how quickly she lost his attention. “Are you pretending you can’t see me now? Jumin! How could you do this to me!? Mr. Han loves you so much… How could you be so rude to me when he picked me! I can’t just leave like this!” She screeched, reverting to her tactic of plaguing him with guilt at the slightest mention of Jumin’s father and his wishes.

“…You’re hurting my ears. Seriously, why did my father bring this woman?” He muttered to himself, pressing an ear to his hand and gazing at it as if he were expecting to find blood.

“I’m hurting your ears? Then listen to me!” She screamed even louder as both he and MC cringed at the extreme sound.

Jumin sighed, bereft of all hope of ending Sarah’s attempts to coerce him into marriage in some kind of a civil manner. “I wanted to end this quickly because MC is watching…” There was a transient, underlying ruefulness in his voice, disappearing as soon as the subject matter changed, “but this reminds me of an episode in a soap opera.”

She gawked at him, bewildered. “Wh-what? What are you saying?”

To some extent, MC was just as confused. Soap opera? Where was he going with this? And he watched soap operas? He was proving to be an even more adorable mystery than she ever could have expected. The thought of him reclining on the bed to watch a soap opera late at night beside a curled up Elizabeth the Third was endearing.

“This has just become unnecessarily troublesome, but I’ll do it for my father. Your fake tears…your timid threats…It’s all so cliche that I can’t help but laugh.” He said, for the first time with a tone that was legitimately robotic. Was he…reciting lines from an actual show?

“I mean it! I’m really going to tell Mr. Han. No use stopping me now.” Sarah warned with immense self-satisfaction, convinced she had finally cornered him beyond any means of escape. She should have known Jumin wasn’t one to yield so easily, especially when it came to things that were important to him, like the rest of his own life.

“I can guarantee that your threats are pointless to me. I’ve gone through this multiple times in the past. You should just use your energy on something else in life…Giving you advice will only be a waste of time so let’s stop it at that…” His recitation simply resumed, unbeknownst to Sarah who was unable to distinguish the difference.

Sarah laughed nervously at his sudden, eerie tranquility, unable to pinpoint his temperament. “Wh–what are you talking about? Anyways, you’re mad at me right now, right? Just be honest!”

“Not yet. I do not get angry very often. But you’ve annoyed me enough to make me talk. I know very well from experience that people like you will do whatever it takes to get what you want. You will have the right skills and even the spontaneity it takes to do it…But people like you easily fall into nihilism once you’ve acquired that wealth you so coveted. I…feel pity. A life filled with pointlessness. But I suppose that’s the life you want?” He inquired, still speaking with that strange, lilting cadence as he mimicked the actor he had seen. How had he managed to memorize so many lines? Had he ever needed them to ward off relentless, materialistic women before? Or had he been so struck by the scene that it had ingrained itself in his memory?

“Wh–what!?” Sarah, meanwhile, was lost.

Perceptive as ever, Jumin simplified his approach. “I’ve been obscenely wealthy ever since I was born. Do you want that for yourself? A couple million, is that what you want?”

“!?” Sarah froze, as if he had hurled the truth like a lance straight through her chest.

“Tell me.” He insisted with a sweep of his arms. “If you ask for it, I might give it to you. You need money, right? It’s nothing to me.” He shrugged, so devilish and insouciant that MC had to look up to make sure it was still Jumin speaking despite the familiarity of his voice.

She was starting to grow concerned. Was he really in control? Sarah had thrown a lot at him in the space of twenty minutes without any intention of backing down, and Elizabeth’s disappearance still weighed on him. “Jumin… I think you’re too emotional right now. Are you okay…!?” She asked anxiously.

His entire body turned at the sound of her voice, a brief smile curving his lips. “I’m fine, MC.” He assured with the utmost patience and gratitude, his gaze imploring her to trust him. The immediate return to his normal behavior made it clear that he was indeed in control, and was only trying to prove a point with this sudden deviation. So she simply nodded and let him continue, communicating that she understood and believed him.

“You–you’re being too harsh! Can you write me a check now?” She teased with a wounded pout, as if to test the waters of his current sincerity to her benefit and retain her status as neglected fiance should she need it again.

“I do not like talking about impossible things.” He said breezily, and MC had to stifle laughter at his devil-may-care attitude. Sarah was really in over her head if she couldn’t even recognize when he was deliberately acting the part she wanted him to play.

Sorrow followed MC’s recognition of his acting finesse though. How long had he pretended to be what people wanted him to be to protect himself or deter their designs to manipulate him?

“So you mean it?” Jumin nodded as he waited. “Th–then…about three million. Then I’ll say no to the marriage.” Her hesitation ebbed as he listened to her terms, her confidence returning. “With the condition that I’ll put it nicely to Mr. Han.” She hastened to add as an afterthought, making sure to keep this agreement from backfiring. “This will be better, I suppose. It’s a win-win then.” She said victoriously as she crossed her arms over her chest, smirking with a superior grin. As if her unerring persistence to coerce somebody into marriage to pocket his hard-earned money for the sake of her own self-indulgence was something to be proud of.

“…Got you.” Jumin grinned as soon as he knew she was finished, sly amusement creeping into his expression.

“Why are you smiling?” She asked, her haughtiness waning.

“I just repeated some lines from a soap opera I watched.” He with a shrug. “It’s funny that you’re almost replaying that scene for me. Apparently it’s a very popular TV show these days.” He mused, his voice flat and glacial once again.

“What?!” She all but thundered, at her wit’s end with his lack of response and overt mockery. “You were messing with me?!” Like his very life depended on it sweetheart, and to some degree, it did.

“Yes.” He said without preamble or an ounce of pity. MC suddenly wished she had a microphone to drop. But then, judging by his responses in the messenger, there would be a lot of broken microphones to replace and dispose of by the end of the day.

Sarah was inconsolable. “God…! Who the hell do you think you are?” Apparently it was time for the shouting game again. Somehow, Sarah just kept winning.

“Unfortunately, I will be charged with embezzlement if I use company assets for personal means. I’m not keen on being behind iron bars.” Jumin explained coolly.

“Are you out of your mind?” Sarah gazed at him with unconcealed trepidation, as if she truly believed he was mad.

“Yes.” Jumin agreed with vehemence, his impassive demeanor harboring a new edge, each hardened word like stones he was hurling at her. “You’ve managed to come here with a fake photo of my cat you found online and insult my dear MC. My joke is only fair, don’t you think?” The words were saturated with a dangerous brand of curiosity.

Sarah scrambled as she tried to grasp at the shards of what she perceived to be a shattered opportunity. “I’ve never insulted her! And the cat photo…! I… I was tricked too!” She hurriedly changed the subject, trying to displace the blame. “And isn’t it rude that you let another woman in your house when you’re engaged?! And at that, such an average looking girl…!!” She scowled at MC like a woman scorned.

But Jumin cut her off before she could continue, livid. “MC is not an average girl. What you see isn’t everything. You won’t understand even if I explain it to you.” He said with a harsh sigh, forcing the air from his lungs as if each molecule could assist him in flushing her out of his home and reign in his displeasure. “It seems we have nothing more to talk about. Why don’t you leave?” He tried to persuade her calmly again to no avail.

Sarah wouldn’t accept her thorough annihilation as an option, screaming like a tantruming child again, incoherent and insistent. “No! I can’t leave like this! This isn’t fair! No!!”

Jumin was unmoved and rational. “I don’t know what is not fair,” He began,“but if you do not wish to leave, I will use you to do what I want.” Despite his lackluster inflection, anticipation charged his words.

“What are you talking about!?” MC shared her confusion. This was the first time she had ever seen Jumin be so impetuous. And even in his unpredictable state, it was clear that his every last word and parry were meticulously calculated. It seemed less like he was behaving with impulsive disregard, and more like he was choosing to do what he wanted instead of hiding behind rigid formality.

“There was something I wanted to do…” He fiddled with his cufflinks for a moment, as if the prospect made him uneasy and uncertain, “but I just couldn’t come up with a proper excuse.” His brows furrowed, as if he were trying to solve a very long-winded, complex math equation before he simply gave up, satisfied with whatever answer he had conjured to solve the problem. “But this seemed to happen often in soap operas.” He relented with a shrug.

“What’s with the whole soap opera thing?! God, so childish!” Was all Sarah could think to snap, but to MC it made sense to some extent. He probably just considered it easier to use the fitting words other people had fashioned for an occasion he didn’t want to expend any energy on. And it wasn’t like any measure of his own sincerity had been getting through to Sarah. He had gotten the most information regarding her true intentions using this roundabout method, and MC sensed that he was gleaning some measure of entertainment as he watched her entangle herself further into her own web after everything she had done.

Absorbed as the two women were in trying to understand him, MC hadn’t noticed Jumin approach the spot where she stood with even, unhurried strides. When he stopped a foot away from her, she raised her head to meet his unapologetic gaze, incandescent and luminous as a shard of silver reflecting brilliant sunlight. “MC, I’m sorry. It seems you’ll have to excuse me. I had no other way to get her to leave…Yes let’s put it like that.” He deliberated as his eyes landed on the floor and he stroked his chin, satisfied with the motive he had crafted. But as soon as he refocused his attention on MC, desire blazed anew in his eyes, all intensity as he pinned her with  single stare. “And…I was going to do it soon anyways.” He smiled, a hint of bashfulness hiding behind the sheepish curve of his lips.

With a sure step forward, his right hand curled beneath her chin and beckoned her face to his, catching a bit of her hair between his fingers as he did, leisurely admiring the silky texture of the tawny strands. His other hand rose to grip the length of her arm just above her elbow, coaxing her even closer and altering her position. MC was frozen by the shock of his sudden proximity, flushing as she was surrounded by the familiar scent of aftershave and tasteful, smoky cologne. The underlying traces of sweet pancake batter, clinging to his skin, were a bittersweet reminder of their placid morning together. Warmth radiated from his body and she found herself mesmerized, leaning into his gentle pull as he leaned down and pressed velvet lips to hers.

“Aahh!!!!” Sarah screamed, taken aback. “Wh–what, what are you…!!”

When Jumin finally pulled away after a long moment, yielding to their mutual need to breathe with evident reluctance, MC pried her dazed eyes open. “Ju–Jumin!?” She asked breathlessly, so many questions arising with his split-second decision. Was this really what he wanted? Was she terrible at kissing? Why was she so upset that he had stopped?

“Shh…” His low voice was a languid murmur against her lips, equally drugged by the kiss. “You’re blushing.” He sighed blissfully as he leaned his forehead against hers for a moment, a smile like none other she had ever seen lighting his face before he leaned forward again.

“You’d better close your eyes. Focus on your senses.” He breathed, his silvery voice entrancing as he slanted and molded his mouth to hers again, MC’s hands landed and fisted at his chest as she melted into his embrace and responded in kind. His heady eyes opened mid-way through the lip-lock, intent and watchful as they took in her reactions with burgeoning self-satisfaction and amazement, thrilled that he could make her feel that way.

“Ugh…I’m going to tell Ms. Choi!!” Sarah kept trying to distract him, hoping the threats would compel him to stop.

He pretended Sarah didn’t exist as he continued until he was forced to pull away again, their breathing uneven. “Yes, having an audience for our first kiss takes off the tension.” He mused with contented approval before his half-lidded gaze fell to her mouth swollen with kisses, more than ready to further exacerbate their reddened condition. “Your lips are so warm and soft.” He said with no shortage of wonder, his thumb rising to trace the length of her lower lip. “And…I think I smell a bit of pancake? You’re cute, MC.” She wondered if she had ever seen him so delighted since the moment she arrived, blushing at his indulgent smile as he gazed at her as if she were the only person in the room.

At the sight of his immersion to the point of complete disregard for anything not MC-related, Sarah reached her limit. “How…! I’ve never been so insulted!” She gasped, an even darker shade of red than MC from humiliation as she stomped to the door, yanking her designer handbag over her shoulder.

“God…Finally she’s leaving.” Jumin muttered, sagging with relief before he straightened, returning to his usual demeanor before Sarah could turn around and notice the change.

Jumin…She wanted to ask him about that. She knew he tried to pretend he didn’t care, but something about the way he reacted whenever those women came within a few feet of him nagged at her. It made wonder if there was something more than their flagrantly shallow, materialistic, and clingy tendencies that overwhelmed him.

The door crashed shut with a slam that shook the penthouse, a veritable earthquake as Jumin looked on with a single eyebrow raised and MC jumped in his arms.

“…” He stared at the tiled floor as she looked to him curiously, his ears pink as if he was waiting for an outraged rebuff. He looked more like a child who stole a cookie from the cookie jar than the grown man who had stolen her first kiss. She forced herself not to laugh despite how cute it was, worried he might take it the wrong way. Focus MC, what on Earth just happened.

“Jumin…can we really do this?” She asked, wanting to make sure he considered what he was doing thoroughly. She knew he tended to think most things through to excess, but even he was susceptible to rebounding after losing Elizabeth in less than twenty-four hours. She didn’t want them both to get hurt by being careless.

“To be honest…” He began as his downcast eyes met hers, “I wanted to kiss you from the first moment I saw you.” Was that why he had stared at her so intently the evening before? “I’m sorry if that was so sudden. I wanted you to be comfortable here…Perhaps I’ve bothered you.” He frowned, genuine remorse coloring his expression. “But I don’t regret what I did.”

“Is this appropriate…when Elizabeth is missing?” She asked tentatively, trying to understand the spectrum on which she and his cat stood. Hadn’t he always thought that Elizabeth was the most important individual in his life?

He looked truly hurt by the insinuation, his eyebrows furrowing as he clarified. “This has nothing to do with that. It’s my emotions. And Elizabeth isn’t here, but you are.” He underscored.

“Oh…and I realized something after the kiss. You are indeed different from Elizabeth the Third. The special person who can truly understand me…” He looked to her with lingering astonishment as he explained, since he had always scoffed at others who had tried to convince him of the same truth. “who I can touch and kiss and understand what I’m saying.”

“I’ve known this for a while now.” He acknowledged, as if he was admitting it to himself for the first time just as much as he was to MC. “That I need someone like you, not a cat. And seeing you right in front of my eyes…I feel like I’ve finally gotten what I wanted.” His expression eased, fulfillment and the elusive solace that he had sought for so long relaxing his features. MC watched as he smiled until it reached his eyes for the first time, falling in love with the sight of his unadulterated adoration and contentment.

But it only lasted until a new thought occurred to him, his gaze becoming clear and resolute, losing its bemused quality as he continued. “I don’t want to be a fool who loses what he needs. Elizabeth the Third…Even if I can’t find her again, she is just a cat.” He moved to take her face in his hands, the same enchantment that had surfaced while they had kissed returning and setting his slate eyes aglow despite his seriousness. “But you’re different. You can soak in all of my emotions. You can be mine. That makes me so happy.”

“Jumin…first, calm down. You were worried about Elizabeth a minute ago…” MC cautioned as soon as she remembered how uncharacteristic it was for him to speak about Elizabeth that way. She was afraid she would simply agree with his wishes because it was a reflection of what she wanted, not necessarily as a result of what she knew he needed.

But he shook his head vehemently. “I’ve never been so sure of my feelings. Now that Elizabeth the Third isn’t here….it must be ironic that I’m so happy. But I’ve realized what I truly wanted thanks to my cat going missing.” His thumb traced a reverent line across MC’s cheek without a single trace of uncertainty. “I want you. And I want you to want me too. I mean this.” He finished before MC could question the strength of his conviction again.

MC, though touched by his sentiments, was reminded that they hadn’t known each other long. She knew that they needed to take it slow if they wanted to build a healthy relationship while he was still trying resolve his emotional instability and fear of abandonment. “I think any relationship needs time…Let’s think about it some more.”  She suggested, not opposed to the idea so much as worried he may need more time to accurately process everything that had happened. “First, let’s find Elizabeth.” One step at a time, dear.

“I can understand if you need time. Just don’t leave my side right now.” He agreed despite the following plea, so dejected by her hesitance that his expression visibly creased with worry as he tried to understand what he had done wrong. “I’ll try to be the man who can do anything for you. That’s…that’s what everyone expected from me ever since I was little.” He subsequently promised, as if it was the only way he knew how to keep her beside him. “MC…I won’t say much. Even if it takes time. I want to have everything you are. So just stay here with me.” He said as his hands fell to his sides and he took a step back, his expression carefully blank, petrified that he had offended her or made her feel obligated to comfort him.

Before he could retreat further she wrapped her arms around his neck and pulled him close, unable to think of a better way to reassure him that he didn’t need to do anything to be worthy of her care, and that she was there entirely of her own volition, laying her head on his shoulder as he froze. Less than a minute later, trembling arms wrapped around her waist and he buried his face in her hair, holding her tight as if the more the distance between them shrank, the more he could believe her unconditional pledge to stay.

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