being distracted in elysium by ur boyfriend <3
Auntie ‘Soka and Little Leia (and Rex)
The counterpart to Uncle Ben and Little Luke (Original Post, Chrono)
Listen. You all knew this was coming.
This got... very long and detailed and I’m going to have to clean it up and post to AO3. As in, this was supposed to be 2-3k and is literally ten times that long. It crossed 25k. And the initial section actually glosses over a bunch, actual fic-style writing starts at “That, of course, is when things get interesting.”
Warnings: discussion of various canon traumas (most relating to being child soldiers), general PTSD, several scenes featuring dissociation or panic attacks upon being triggered, and canon-typical violence.
Rated T, gen.
I still want there to be de-aging nonsense involved so Ahsoka is physically a late teenager despite having a solid two decades of field experience behind her (we’re pulling her from Malachor).
Leia, much like Luke, is now six. She just came from being a rebellion general. She is not happy about being a child. She was already short, this is just mean. She’s a human espresso.
UNLIKE BEN, Ahsoka is not happy about this turn of events. Being seventeen-ish is not helpful in the outer rim. She’s a female togruta, young and healthy, and in the Outer Rim, caring for a small human child. Sure, she has her lightsabers and plenty of combat experience, and she can keep them safe, but she’s just one person, and a major target for those looking to make some quick cash. It doesn’t matter how good she is; she needs sleep at some point.
It makes my heart happy to treat Ahsoka and Rex as two halves of the same black ops specialist so you know what, he’s there too! He’s physically like... 10-12 in natborn, maybe. They’re not sure, because clones age weird. He’s moderately more useful than Leia (who is very competent but also physically six, and short for that age), but he’s still... very small.
Reminder that none of them have been born yet.
Ahsoka has a harder time explaining WHY she has children with her, since she's barely more than a kid herself, and clearly unrelated by species. She sometimes just says “Oh, my adoptive brother’s kids” since it’s kind of the truth for Leia and she’s not touching the actual truth about Rex with a ten foot pole.
Ahsoka definitely knows about Leia being a Skywalker, or at least has suspicions that Bail never outright confirmed but was conspicuously quiet about. She does tell Leia about it, but it’s not like that means anything, right? Just, you know, your dad was my teacher! I don’t have to tell you he became Va--oh shit, you already knew that part. Well, fuck. What do you mean he had a son? OH SHIT, PADME HAD TWINS.
Alt take for explaining why she’s got kids: She’s my foundling, I know her name as my child (Leia shut up!!!)
(Ahsoka can fake Mandalore. Sometimes.)
That said, there is... significantly less gambling and significantly more theft to get to Coruscant.
As previously stated, Ahsoka is a black ops kinda gal, and more importantly, she looks like a fairly attractive young woman in the Outer Rim, with two children in good health. She’s a target, and also not the kind of person one generally gambles with. If she does gamble, people get upset when she doesn’t lose, in ways they don’t get upset about Ben doing the same, because she’s, again, a cute teenage girl. It’s exhausting.
As things go, she largely ends up stealing from people who deserve it and/or smuggling herself and her charges into someone else’s ship. They’re small, they can hide. Sometimes she can get them all passage by working as a mechanic, she’s good at that.
Once they’ve got a handle on when they are, they have to decide on Names. None of them have been born yet, so technically they could use their own names without anyone Knowing. Rex and Leia might not even be born, depending on how successful they are at, you know, stopping the war and everything. Ahsoka, though, she’s going be born in two years, and there’s no reason to prevent it, so... she doesn’t want to steal baby-her’s name. That would be mean.
Leia is already calling her “Auntie ‘Soka” when she can for reasons like “selling the bit” and “manipulating adults” and “making us both feel better after we had a mutual breakdown about Anakin being Vader.” Ergo, she decides that whatever new name she picks better include that in some way, and decides on “Sokari” because it sounds pretty.
Overall, they don’t... they don’t actually make it very far before there’s an Incident. Again, teenager with small children. They spend a lot of time hiding out in space ports looking for an opportunity.
That, of course, is when things get interesting.
Specifically, Ahsoka spots a Mandalorian.
She doesn’t recognize the armor. She does recognize the sigil, and thinks ‘well, they’re more likely to help than some,’ because from what she’s heard, the Haat Mando’ade are Decent People Overall. Her view is a little biased, mostly on account of the sheer level of grudge she has against Kyr’tsad. It’s fine! The True Mandalorians have the same grudge, right? And Mandalorians like kids and Ahsoka hasn’t slept in five days and it’s fine. It’s fine! IT’S FINE.
“Oh shit,” Rex whispers, before she can suggest anything. “Oh fuck.”
“Stop cursing,” Leia hisses, elbowing him. “People are going to notice.”
“That’s the Prime,” Rex panics, mostly quiet. Ahsoka’s heart drops, because fuck is right. “That’s Fett.”
Leia isn’t impressed. Ahsoka just angles herself between Fett and Rex and hopes that he doesn’t see them. That’s just asking for trouble.
Unfortunately, Ahsoka is in fact running on none sleep with left trauma, and doesn’t notice Fett walking up and dropping into a seat across from them until he’s actually done so, removing his helmet to glare a little more efficiently.
“Wanna explain why your kid has my face?”
Ahsoka later tells herself that he’s killed Jedi and that’s why he can sneak up on her, and that she can be forgiven some slip-ups with the exhaustion being what it is, and that she’s obviously going to be dealing with some emotional instability in light of the sudden return of teenage hormones and new forms of anxiety that are markedly different from those she was dealing with a few weeks ago.
What Ahsoka wants to say is “that’s kind of a long story,” or “maybe he’s a cousin,” or “kriff off, I don’t know you,” or maybe even “he’s a clone.”
What Ahsoka actually does is burst into tears, which is embarrassing for her, for Fett, for the kids, and for the entire rest of the bar.
It really is the straw that broke the eopie’s back. Even when she was actually this age, she didn’t exactly cry much. Objectively, Fett quasi-aggressively asking a valid question shouldn’t send her into a panic. She’s been through torture and worse. She shouldn’t be crying.
But she is, sobbing her eyes out with no control, and he’s just sitting across from her and looking uncomfortable while Rex wraps his little arms--oh Force he’s so small--around her, and both ‘children’ glare at Fett.
“So, I’m going to take it she didn’t kidnap you from a loving family or do something illicit with a blood sample,” Fett says, after it becomes obvious that Ahsoka’s not going to be ready to talk any time soon.
“She didn’t,” Rex says stiffly, with just the right emphasis for Fett to catch what’s implied. Ahsoka just keeps her head down, eyes pressed against the heels of her palms, trying to get her body to stop rebelling against her.
Fett’s eyes dart to Leia, who folds her arms and draws herself up, every bit the unimpressed princess. “My father claimed her as a sister, so she’s my Auntie ‘Soka.”
The man dithers a bit, the conversation clearly not going where he’d expected. “Right,” he says. “You--you’re all kids. I thought she was a little older, at least, but I didn’t have a good look at her face before.”
She is older, but actually admitting that is only going to make this worse, both for her pride and for her chances of making it out alive.
“Where are you staying?”
“What?” Leia bites out.
“You’re kids, you’re alone, and you’re clearly not okay if you were trying to hide the one with my face as blatantly as you did, and then... whatever this is, when I confronted you,” Fett explains. Ahsoka lifts her head to glare at him, but it’s probably not doing much with the way her eyes are rimmed with red and still wet. “Don’t give me that look, ad’ika, your kids looked as confused and horrified by that as the bartender did. They obviously didn’t think it was normal either.”
Well, kriff you too, Ahsoka thinks.
“And what do you mean by ‘blatantly,’ here?” Leia challenges. It’s adorable, but Ahsoka watched this tiny girl shoot a man last week, and wonders when people are going to start taking that seriously.
“There’s a lot of people in this galaxy, and I don’t exactly have the clearest memory of what I looked like at that age,” Fett says, slow and careful like he thinks they’re dumb. Ahsoka decides to chalk it up as being because Leia’s visibly six. “I would have thought it was just a coincidence if you hadn’t put in effort to hide him.”
Leia huffs, and Rex glares harder. Fett just sighs, like they’re all going to give him grey hairs.
“You can explain whatever the hell’s going on,” Fett says. “I’ll let you stay on my ship, there’s a spare bunk and you’re small.”
“For free?” Rex demands.
“A night on a bunk in exchange for information,” Fett clarifies. “We can negotiate from there.”
Ahsoka takes a few moments, notes that both of the others are waiting on her for the decision, and cringes. She doesn’t feel steady enough to carry that. She has to anyway.
“Rex?” she asks, voice rasping after the breakdown of the past few minutes.
He looks up at her, eyes calculating, and grimaces. “We don’t want Order 66. A warning is better, even if we... share information.”
She nods, and turns to Leia. “Any premonitions, princess?”
Leia glowers, cute and furious. “No.”
“No, don’t tell, or no, you aren’t getting any vibes about sharing info one way or the other?”
“The latter,” Leia clarifies, huffy to the last.
“Right,” Ahsoka says, and then just... hesitates. “Fett...”
“You’ve got conditions,” he guesses.
She bares her teeth in what could have, through a squint and perhaps a few drinks, been called an apologetic smile. “Just one, really.”
“No hurting, killing, or turning us in for bounties,” she says. “Any of us.”
“You’re children, I wouldn’t.”
She blinks at him, slow and careful. She hesitates. She reaches down, out of sight, sees him stiffen.
She unclips her sabers from her belt and puts them on the table.
His eyes are fixed on the weapons the second they enter his line of sight, and don’t move as he clearly realizes why she made the condition she did.
“I left years ago, because I couldn’t stay without it ruining me,” she says. Still slow. Still careful. She’s so tired. “But if I want to keep Leia safe, I have to get back to Coruscant.”
His eyes finally lift from the sabers, expression blank. “Just her?”
“Rex doesn’t have the same monsters coming after him,” she says. “If it were just me and him, I’d worry less. Leia’s a different kind of target.”
“You’re putting a lot of faith on the table by telling me that,” Fett says, voice flat and toneless. “Considering my occupation.”
“She’s a child,” Ahsoka says, feeling heavy and boneless. “Even with what I was and will be, even with what money you would get from the right buyer, you wouldn’t.”
“There are other risks.”
They stare at each other for too long, probably, and then Fett jerks as Rex kicks him under the table. The boys glare for a moment, and then Rex says, “If she weren’t good, I’d still be a slave to those who grew me.”
Fett blinks, and then nearly growls the word, “What?”
“She freed me,” Rex reiterates. “While I was trying to shoot her.”
Ahsoka lifts a hand and puts it on his far shoulder, pulling him into her side. She doesn’t meet Fett’s eyes again, because part of her is back on Mandalore, dodging her own soldiers and crying out as her family dies across the galaxy.
Fett breathes in. Breathes out. He puts a hand to his head, visibly frustrated. “Fine. A good Jedi kid, and two smaller kids, one of which is apparently in some way mine.”
Rex makes a face, which is fair, but also not helping.
“To the ship,” Ahsoka says, putting her sabers back on her belt and sliding out of the seat. “I’m... I’m Sokari.”
“You already know my name.”
Fett watches her like she’s a predator, which has the benefit of being accurate and slightly flattering. She lets other two take care of most of talking, and then Fett tells her to sleep first, and talk in the morning.
“You’re dead on your feet, jetii,” he snorts. “And that crying jag didn’t do you any favors. Sleep.”
So she does, and Fett doesn’t even wake her. He just lets her sleep. He watches her in the way of a guard. She sees him when she gets up to use the ‘fresher in the middle of the night, but he doesn’t even comment when she collapses right back into the mediocre cot she’s borrowed for the cycle.
Rex and Leia are safe, her hindbrain tells her, even in the depths of sleep. Her mind curls around theirs in the Force, and she trusts that they are here. They are not happy, but they are alive and unharmed, and that has to be enough.
When she stumbles her way to true wakefulness, groggy and loose-limbed, Fett greets her with caf.
“The kids wouldn’t let me near you,” he tells her.
“They’re good,” she says, cupping her hands around the mug. She feels wobbly, in every sense. Her body, her mind, her emotions, her connection to the Force. Nothing is on-kilter right now. “Did they tell you anything?”
“They waited for you,” he says. “But the little miss needed a nap of her own. They’re down in the other bunk.”
“I didn’t notice,” she admits. She should have. She’s Fulcrum. She’s a veteran of the Clone Wars. She’s... she’s supposed to be better than this.
“How long?” he asks, and then when she squints up at him, he clarifies. “How long did you fight?”
“My last fight--”
“No, whatever war you came out of,” he says. Her chest twists cold. “I don’t know if the Jedi sent you into it or if you waded in yourself once you left, but you move like a soldier.”
“I was,” she confirms. “But... but I don’t want to talk about the details. Not until the other two are here.”
He frowns at her. “Is there anything you can talk about?”
She shrugs and looks away, trying to take solace in the warmth of the caff she holds above the table, as if it can hide her, guard her, from the disgraced Mand’alor across the table.
“I’m not officially a Jedi,” she says, voice quiet. “Not anymore.”
“Then what do I call you?” he asks. “We’re not exactly close enough for names.”
“Torrent,” she says. “It’s not--I can’t claim my family name anymore. But I can claim Torrent, so I will. And if you want a title, I was a commander.”
“Bit young for that.”
“I got the rank when I was fourteen,” she says, and watches his face do something complicated and unpleasant. “Don’t. I know your own culture puts children on the field that young.”
“Not in command.”
She shrugs. “Yeah, well... the soldiers were technically younger. Adults, but...”
Ahsoka can see the way he casts about to figure out what species grows at that rate. He guesses a few, and she shoots all of it down.
She won’t tell him. Not until Rex is awake.
This part of the story is his.
When Leia tries to sit alone, a foot away on the bench like a proper adult, Ahsoka refuses to let it happen. She pulls the younger girl to her side and quells protests with a glance. It’s a decent skill, but she’s not sure how long it’s going to work on her niece-in-spirit.
“Your body needs the chemical release of skinship,” she says, and Leia glares at her. “I spent way too much time with the boys to not know about this. Deal.”
Rex sits close enough to knock their knees together under the table, and his warmth is the old comfort she needs.
“Do you want the story you’ll believe, or the truth?” Ahsoka asks.
“What’s the difference?”
“One of them involves something so impossible that even most Jedi wouldn’t believe it,” she tells him.
Fett folds his arms and leans forward to rest them on the table, challenging but oddly open. “Try me.”
He blinks, just once, fully controlled. “That’s a tough one.”
“There were only three Jedi left alive when I died,” she says. “Or... whatever it is that happened to me. I think I died. All I know is that one moment, I was thirty-two and dying, and the next, I was... seventeen again, and had these two with me. All of us younger than we were. None of us have even been born yet.”
She refuses to look him in the eye. “They both outlived me by... six years, maybe. Got caught up while traveling instead of dying. Leia was twenty-two. Rex was thirty-five. I’m not technically the oldest anymore. I mean, physically I am, but that doesn’t mean anything, and it’s not exactly doing us any good, and--”
Rex bumps his shoulder to her arm. “I dunno, Commander. I’ve spent a long time looking older than I should. Nice to look younger for once.”
She shoots him a small, pained grin. “Could be worse, yeah.”
“Let’s say I believe you.”
Her attention snaps back to Fett, who’s looking damnably blank, and is showing even less in the Force.
He waits a second for her to relax back into her seat.
“Let’s say I believe you,” he repeats. “How’s ‘Rex’ connected to me? What’s so special about Leia there? And what war did you fight in that has you acting like a veteran?”
“Three years in the clone wars,” she whispers, glancing to Rex and forcing herself to not go for her sabers to defend against an attack that her paranoia says is coming and the Force says is not. “Then almost all the Jedi were wiped out at once, and I spent a year... drifting. Then black ops for the next fifteen.”
“Black ops,” he repeats, still damnably flat.
“There was a Sith Empire,” she says, and she can hear her own tone growing somehow emptier. “Glassing planets. Enslaving entire species. Committing genocides all over. Of course, there was a rebellion, and of course I joined it. I was one of the only people left with Jedi training. For all that I’d left the Order, I still had a duty to the universe.”
His eyes flit to Leia, who shrugs and tries to look prim. “I was adopted and raised by one of the founders of the rebellion, a movement built on the desire to instate freedom and democracy in a galaxy that had lost even the pretense.”
“That why you’re special?”
Leia smiles, thin and patronizing. It doesn’t fit on her little face. “I’m special because my biological father was one of the most powerful Force users in history, and his Fall to the dark side and choice to become a Sith is why the Emperor’s rise was nearly uncontested. I do not like power, but it’s in my veins and I can’t change that. Force users are... a lucrative trade, and I’m still the size of a child, so I can’t fight back. I’ll be safer in the Jedi Temple, even if I don’t want to be a Jedi.”
Fett looks to Ahsoka, makes to ask a question, and then shakes his head. Not the time, maybe.
“So, that’s all... very complicated and I don’t know how much of it I believe, but it doesn’t explain...” he trails off, and sighs. “My kid, or whatever you are. I heard you mention clones.”
Rex grins. It is not a kind expression.
“Let me tell you about Kamino.”
Ahsoka has no idea if Fett believes them. Either he thinks they’re telling the truth, or he thinks their delusional kids. Whatever the case, he offers to take them closer to the Core. Ahsoka quietly offers to take a look at his engine in return, and then pretends not to notice when Fett awkwardly drifts to and away from Rex.
“They put chips in our brains to make us kill the Jedi we respected, cared for, even loved. I tried to shoot ‘Soka, Fett. She was seventeen and risked her life to get that chip out of my head while I was trying to kill her. I have never hated myself more than when I woke up and realized what I’d almost done, and I was one of the few that were able to fight it. I heard the stories of dozens of brothers who woke with their chips having degraded and chose to eat their blaster rather than live with the guilt of the orders they’d followed without question because of a thrice-damned Sith slave chip in their head.”
“So no, I won’t call you father or acknowledge you as clan until you do something to prove you’re worth it, shared blood or not.”
What Ahsoka does get out of the arrangement, for all that Fett’s route mostly takes them on a meandering path that isn’t faster than their previous system, is sleep. She gets to rest. She gets to trust that Fett won’t kill Rex, out of guilt for something he hasn’t done, that he won’t kill Leia out of a worry that she’s just a delusional child, a real child, that he won’t kill ‘Sokari’ because it would ruin any chance of gaining Rex’s favor, ever.
She’s not safe, won’t believe she can be until she’s in the Temple and Sidious is dead dead dead, but she’s safer than she’s been in a long time.
Every night, Ahsoka wakes up and stumbles to the little galley, deaths and torture sparkling behind her eyes with the energy of a thousand lost Jedi, ten thousand mourned brothers and sisters.
She is not the only one of their little group to be a survivor of a near-total genocide, but Rex could not feel his brothers die in the Force, even if his nightmares featured what they heard of suicide missions by the emperor’s favored shock troopers, and Leia had... Alderaan had more off-world survivors than there had been Jedi at all.
It’s not worth comparing their pain. It’s stupid to even think it. Part of her can’t help but do it anyway.
She feels a lek twitch in response to the voice of the only other person on board who can reach the top shelf. “I probably shouldn’t.”
“That’s a definitely shouldn’t.”
She doesn’t lift her head from her arms until the mug clicks down in front of her, ceramic on plastisteel.
“Do I ask what it was this time?”
She shrugs. “It’s hard to explain to non-sensitives.”
“Try me anyway.”
Ahsoka twists the Hoth chocolate in her hands, takes a sip as she thinks. “The Force isn’t just one thing. It’s... energy and philosophy and spirit, a sense of being that ties the entire universe together. Sentient and inanimate and living and dead, empty space and lush forests and stifled cities. For those of us who are sensitive to it, it’s possible to feel the life of everyone around you, theoretically possible to feel entire systems. If you have a Force bond, like a master and padawan, that can stretch across planets, even systems if one or both are particularly powerful.
“So just... just imagine, for a moment, what it’s like to feel the screaming of all those Jedi in the Force as their trusted men shot them down.
“Some of them were close enough that I could feel them die,” she manages. “I... it’s horrible. It’s horrific. It’s not something I can ever forget, and I want to. I want to forget what that moment was like. Not that it happened, but...”
She can feel the tears. Fuck..
“You want to dull the edges.”
“Don’t we all?” she asks, scrubbing the back of her hand across her eyes. “Leia lost her entire planet, billions of people, and she was forced to watch. Rex... Force, I can barely imagine, and I was there for most of it.”
Fett watches her, measuring. “From what he said, they were as much your brothers as his, by the end.”
“No,” she immediately denies. “They could have been, maybe, but the ones I was closest to died earlier, and then I left, and by the time the Empire rose, all but a handful were... no. Rex, I will claim as a brother in all the ways that matter, but I don’t get to do that with the rest. I don’t have the right.”
“You’re hard on yourself.”
“Fate of the galaxy, my good bitch. Guess who’s got it on her shoulders.”
He snorts at her, and nods at the mug. “Drink your Hoth chocolate. We’re landing in eight hours, and you’ve got kids to look out for.”
There’s a twitch in the Force when they land, something pulling at her in a way she barely feels. She’s had her shields up so fully for so long that it’s natural to hide away what she is to the point where she can hardly tell what anyone else is, either. It takes more than a moment to remember how to let herself spread out across the world.
“Auntie ‘Soka? Why’d you stop?”
She doesn’t have an answer to Leia’s prodding question. “I don’t know.”
It’s almost familiar. Old and half-forgotten, not the same as what she remembers, but--
“This way,” she says, and wanders off into the crowd. Leia and Rex follow without question. Fett curses and rushes through the rest of his transaction with the docking attendant. The sound of him jogging after them is almost funny, with the armor, but she can’t focus on that.
Ahsoka slips between people with the ease of a career built on such a habit, children trailing like ducklings. She knows this feeling, she knows this person, what is she missi--
“Oh,” she breathes, going stock still. She knows that face. She knows those braids. She even knows the presence.
Younger than Ahsoka had ever seen her, but unmistakably Master Billaba.
“Torrent, what the hell?” Fett demands, finally catching up. “You can’t just run off like that!”
“It’s Depa,” she says, eyes still fixed on the woman parsing through a datapad with an irritated vendor. She has a padawan braid. It doesn’t feel like Master Windu is on-planet, so this might be a solo mission, a... oh. Senior Padawan, Knight Elect. This is the kind of mission taken to test if she’s ready to be promoted.
Ahsoka feels light-headed.
Fett waits for her to elaborate, but she can’t. This was Kanan’s master. This was a member of the High Council. This was a woman who died and--
“You need to sit down,” Fett says, not a touch gruff. He puts a hand on her shoulder and guides her off the main walkway. “I’m... going to talk to the woman in the Jedi robes. You three just stay there and don’t get kidnapped.”
Ahsoka nods, feeling like she’s not quite inhabiting her own body.
Her eyes track Fett without conscious control, and her montrals pick up the sound.
Depa looks up when the armor comes close enough, free hand tensed in a way that says she’s preventing herself from reaching for a saber in reaction to the heavily-armored individual standing several feet away.
“Mando,” the woman says. “May I help you?”
“Are you Depa?”
Depa doesn’t do anything so dramatic as gape or step back, but she does blink rapidly for a moment. She then folds her hands down in front of her, drawing her spine up ramrod straight. “I am Jedi Padawan Depa Billaba, yes. May I ask why it is that you need to know?”
Ahsoka imagines Fett grimacing, or rolling his eyes, or maybe dithering. She can’t tell from this angle, and he has a helmet on besides. It turns his awkward silences into judgmental ones.
“I’ve had some Jedi kids on my ship, hitching a ride,” he says at length. “One of them recognized you and then just... froze.”
“You have our younglings in your care,” Depa says, carefully not accusatory, but close enough to be a warning.
“Not quite,” he says. “The one that actually came from the temple is seventeen. One of ‘em isn’t Force Sensitive, and the last one is but hasn’t been to Coruscant before. They’re trying to get the little one to the Temple for her own safety.”
Depa considers that, and then passes the datapad to the vendor. “Lead on.”
It’s surprisingly simple, really. Fett did all the talking.
And then Depa is standing right in front of her.
“Like I said,” Fett sighs. “She froze up.”
“Hello,” Depa says, hands laced together inside her sleeves. “I don’t believe we’ve met.”
Ahsoka shakes her head. “I know of you. I’ve seen you spar. You’ve never spoken to me.”
All true. A little misleading, but it’s fine, it’s all fine.
Depa waits a moment, and then says, “You seem to have me at a disadvantage. You know my name, but I don’t know yours.”
“Sokari T-Torrent,” she manages. The words feel clunky in her mouth, the sound abrasive for all that it’s just her own voice, no different from usual. A little shaky, maybe. She can feel a cool breeze on her upper arms. Shouldn’t she have armor? She should have armor. “It... it’s been a long time since I’ve seen another Jedi. I’m having a hard time believing you’re real.”
“I see,” Depa says. “Perhaps we should take this somewhere more private? You seem a little unsteady.”
Ahsoka lets herself be led back to the ship, in the company of Mand’alor Jango Fett, Jedi Padawan Depa Billaba, Princess-General Leia Organa, and good old Captain Rex.
It’s like the start of a sick joke.
Fett and Depa talk where she can hear, but they rarely address her directly. Both seem to realize that she’s not particularly useful right now. Leia and Rex are pressing up against her at the little table in the galley, and Ahsoka lets them.
This is real. She can feel Depa in the Force, recognizes her energy even if it’s not quite what it will-was-could-have-been. This is happening.
It’s a textbook Traumatic Stress Response case, one of them says.
Fett has his helmet off. Ahsoka’s sure that’s wrong for some reason. She thinks he might already be on wanted lists. Should she worry about Depa trying to arrest him?
Depa asks about Rex at one point. Fett tells her that someone cloned him without his knowing, but the kid is more comfortable with Ahsoka so they’re still working on what that means for him.
It’s more or less true. Rex squeezes her hand the one time someone suggests separating them. She’s not letting that happen unless Rex wants to leave for whatever reason. They’ve worked apart before. They can do it again.
“Auntie Soka? You’re shivering.”
Leia cuddles in closer, and Ahsoka runs a hand over her hair. It’s an absentminded motion, and for all that she knows Leia’s hair is fine as silk, it feels like plastic in the moment.
“I don’t think I’m okay,” Ahsoka announces. The words hang in the air like lead balloons, and she can feel Depa staring at her. “I haven’t been for a very long time.”
“Yeah, we noticed,” Fett says. “Do you need to lay down, Torrent?”
“No,” she says. “I... I don’t know what I need.”
“The spicy drink,” Rex tells them. “It’s grounding.”
Fett goes to grab it, and Depa continues to watch.
“How long ago did you leave your master?” Depa asks. “Or... did he die?”
Ahsoka closes her eyes and shakes her head. She can feel the shivers now, tremors in her biceps and a shudder she can’t control in the height of her ribcage. Her teeth grind together, jaw like stone.
“You don’t have to answer that,” Depa assures her. “I’m... going to recommend you see a mind healer on Coruscant.”
That was a forgone conclusion.
A cup clinks onto the table. Fett’s back. “Drink.”
Depa and Fett continue discussing it as “the adults” at the table. She’s older than both of them. Rex is older than all of them. Ahsoka follows about half of what they say. She agrees with most of it. Rex bullies his way into speaking when she doesn’t, without her even asking, because he knows her mind as well as she does. Fett rolls with it. Depa lets him.
She’s going to reach out to the Temple and see about getting them a ride back to Imperial Center Coruscant.
Fett makes Soka go to bed, taking Leia with her.
She feels more like a person come morning.
Depa’s sitting at the table, datapad in her hands and caff on the table in front of her.
“Good morning,” Ahsoka says, rough and croaking, and Depa’s eyes flick up to meet hers. She nods a shallow hello.
“Much,” Ahsoka says, and goes about gathering a breakfast. There’s definitely some dried meat in here. She can get something fresh when they stop by the market later.
“I was hoping to speak with you about your options,” Depa tells her, once she’s sat at the table. “Fett and your friend Rex took care of most of the negotiation, and I feel like I have an idea of what would work best for you.”
Ahsoka nods slowly. “Okay.”
“There is a Master-Padawan pair a few planets away,” Depa says. “The Council informed me when I spoke with them about you and your wards. They’d be headed back to the Temple in a few days anyway, and the Council has agreed to extend an offer to Fett to handle the transportation. The presence of a Jedi Master on board will allow for him to get in and out of the Core unmolested, and we’d like for you and yours to have a Jedi escort, given what happened yesterday afternoon.”
Her complete spiral into nonbeing?
“I understand,” she says instead. “I suppose Fett agreed because he’s still trying to get Rex to like him?”
Depa shrugs. “That part isn’t my business.”
Of course it isn’t.
“Rex can stay with me for a while, right?” Ahsoka finally asks. “I know it’s not exactly protocol, but I’m...”
“In need of a support system until you’ve seen a mind healer, and against all odds, the child is part of it,” Depa summarizes. “Yes, I recognized as much. I think the Council will be able to allow some leeway there. I don’t know if he’ll enjoy it, given that all the others his age are Initiates, but we can adjust as necessary. On that note... Do you know Leia’s midichlorian count?”
“No,” Ahsoka says, and hesitantly adds, “But her biological father was my Jedi Master, and I’m told his count broke records even as a child. Given what Leia’s shown so far... it’s why I’ve been in a hurry to get her to the Temple.”
Depa frowns at her, clearly working through the implications of a Jedi having a daughter and still teaching... and then visibly dismisses the situation, eyes closing to breathe in the steam of her caff.
Biological father certainly implies a child that was raised by her mother or adopted out so the Jedi father could remain in their chosen career without a conflict of interest or duty.
She’ll tell the council the truth, or... at least Master Koon. Master Kenobi is still a padawan, but she can tell Master Koon.
She already told Jango Fett, of all people.
Her head snaps up. She hasn’t been a padawan in over fifteen years. It’s weird to hear. “I’m sorry, what?”
“I asked if you wanted some time to think it over before I presented the offer to Fett,” Depa says.
Ahsoka gets the distinct feeling that Depa is planning a report to the Council that has ‘needs a mind healer’ underlined at least three times.
“No, I’m--I’m fine. That sounds like a good plan.”
“I’ll speak with him, then. Would you like to come with?”
"No, thank you.”
Fett agrees. Ahsoka’s pretty sure it’s all to do with Rex and maybe Leia. It’s probably nothing to do with ‘Sokari.’ She’s a Jedi, an adult in mind and in body, or at least close enough to count. She’s a damn sight more ‘enemy’ to Fett than the other two are. Not as much as Depa, maybe, but Fett’s been playing nice with her for Leia’s sake.
He plays nice with Ahsoka for Rex’s. That’s all.
They’re only a few planets over from the meeting point, and they have a few days to hang around before the escort meets them. Depa hadn’t given them a name--apparently it could have compromised the opsec for the Jedi team--but Ahsoka’s pretty sure she’ll be able to identify almost anyone. She gets the feeling that the Force is going to send her a familiar face, just as it did Master Padawan Billaba.
Ahsoka lets herself feel the world around her. It’s dark and dreary, in the sense that the beaten-down port is full of petty crimes and less petty horrors, but it’s still lighter than most of the Empire had been. She sneaks away from the ship at night, ignoring Fett at her back, and performs a bit of vigilante justice while she can. She’ll be banned from doing so as soon as she’s reinstated as a Jedi, probably, but for now... for now, she can look at the drug cartels and ‘they’re not slaves, really’ workers and do something to help.
She doesn’t use her sabers. She doesn’t need to. It’s been a long time since she has, for small fry like these.
“What are you doing?” Fett asks her, landing heavily behind her back.
“Chip removal,” she says, hand pressed to the slave’s leg. Her eyes are closed, but she can hear him shifting. “Let me concentrate, I don’t have a meddroid for this.”
He’s silent until she finishes, and waits until the people she’s helped are on their way to the planet’s freedom routes. He doesn’t ask what she did with the owners.
“You’ve done this before.”
“Regularly,” she confirms. “You?”
He doesn’t answer that, just ambles over to the the chains and stares down at them.
“You go through this like it’s as easy as breathing,” he says. “It’s... impressive.”
“I guess?” she hesitates to continue. “I’m... I don’t think of it that way. This is the easy stuff. A time-waster that helps people. If I wanted to help for real, I’d been going after Jabba or Sidious or--”
“How old were you?” he asks, turning on his heel to face her dead-on. The vocoder of his helmet pulls the emotion from his voice. “When did this... these missions, the slavery battles, when did that start for you?”
“Fourteen,” she says. She’s not entirely sure, really, what counted as a mission for ending slavery and what counted as just a part of war, but she can round down. “Maybe fifteen. It’s a bit of a blur.”
“And you just kept doing it.”
“Of course,” she says. “If I have the time and the energy, if I need to do something and there’s nothing official on my hands, why not?”
He doesn’t answer her.
Rex greets them before she does.
Ahsoka, in her defense, is asleep at the time. It’s a restless sleep, but it’s enough that she doesn’t sense the nearing Force signatures until they’re almost at the ship.
She recognizes one of them.
“Auntie ‘Soka?” Leia questions, when she lurches to her feet and starts pulling on her boots with all the energy of a zombie. “Where are you going?”
“Jedi,” Ahsoka grunts. “Here.”
Leia dresses to follow her, in a little coat that’ll withstand the chill of the outside air, and Ahsoka makes it to the cargo hold just in time to hear Rex saying, “I’m not shaking your hand until you put your gloves on, Vos.”
She laughs to herself, breathless with the knowledge of what she’s about to find. She jumps the railing of the upper walkway, drops down just in front of the Master-Padawan team, and keeps her back to Fett and Rex. “Hello, there.”
One human, one Kiffar. She knows the latter.
“Would you be Sokari Torrent?” the Master asks.
“I am,” she says, with a slight bow. She can tell there’s a bit of judgement for how she’s dressed, but they’re covering it well. A Shadow and his trainee know the value of armor better than most Jedi bother with. “I’m afraid Padawan Billaba didn’t inform me of your names before we met.”
“And yet your friend knew my padawan,” the Master says.
“By reputation,” she says, as smoothly as she can. “I’ve encountered Quinlan Vos before, though I doubt he remembers--”
“I’d remember someone like you,” Quinlan interrupts, with a grin she’s sure is meant to be charming and rogueish.
He’s... very young for her, and not her type. Mostly, she wants to pat him on the head, but that probably wouldn’t go over very well. She still looks like she’s younger than him.
“Anyway,” she says, turning back to the master, “I’m afraid I still don’t know who you are, Master.”
“I am Tholme,” he says, with the bow that a Master gives a Padawan. She feels a little slighted, but it’s fine. She looks the right age, it’s fine.
It’s not like they know.
“It’s nice to meet you, Master Tholme,” she says. “My charges are Rex Torrent, the young man behind me, and currently coming down the ladder is Leia Antilles. I’m sure you’re aware of Jango Fett.”
“The Mand’alor,” Quinlan volunteers, and Ahsoka can almost hear Fett’s teeth grinding.
“Don’t call me that,” he says. She’s sure he’s got a hand drifting for his blaster.
“There isn’t a whole lot of room on the ship,” she says before the men can get into whatever weird contest she’s sure someone might start. Her bet’s on Fett. “But Leia and Rex are small enough to share with me, so I’m sure we can make it work.”
“There’s spare rolls for anyone comfortable with sleeping in the hold,” Fett grunts. “Or on the floor in the passenger room.”
“Well, I guess I could ask for a little help fi--”
“Vos,” Ahsoka snaps, letting her voice take on the kind of ‘obey me or get fresher duty’ irritation that she’d perfected back when the rebellion still had her managing people, before they’d realized she was more use in the field. “Do not.”
There’s a moment’s pause, and Tholme looks unimpressed with that raised eyebrow, but the kind of unimpressed that’s split between his own padawan and the stranger before him.
“Um,” Quinlan says. “I just--”
“No,” she cuts him off. “No flirting.”
It’s weird and uncomfortable and she’d have maybe been okay with it if she was actually the seventeen-or-eighteen-ish(?) that she looked, but she’s not. She’s in her thirties and Vos is... what, twenty? Twenty-one? No.
He stares at her, and she wonders momentarily if she’d gone too far in the direction of judging his intentions in the Force and preempted actual flirtations.
“I’m sorry?” He offers, looking confused, but ashamed. “I, uh, I’ll keep that in mind.”
She definitely preempted the actual flirtation.
Ahsoka closes her eyes and breathes in. Breathes out. Opens her eyes. “Right. That was... I’m not sure how much Padawan Billaba told you about me.”
“Enough,” Tholme says. He moves forward and puts a hand on Quinlan’s shoulder. Ahsoka has no idea if it’s to comfort him or hold him back. “I didn’t share most of it with my padawan, but I have a general understanding of what’s going on.”
Quinlan darts a look at his teacher, but Ahsoka doesn’t acknowledge it. It’s fine. Everything is fine.
“Thank you for your understanding,” she says, and bows, and stiffly turns away to walk to the galley.
Leia squirms into the bench seat, shoving her way under Ahsoka’s arm like a particularly wriggly tooka.
“What was that?” Leia demands, the authority of a rebellion general rather useless in the squeaky voice of a child.
“What was what?”
“The whole thing with Padawan Vos,” Leia says. “You blew up at him before he even did anything.”
That’s pretty true.
“I felt the flirtation coming before it happened and reacted inappropriately because I panicked. I’m significantly older than him, but I can’t tell him that, so it’s just awkward and uncomfortable and... I’m not okay, Princess. I haven’t been for a long time.”
“Yeah, we can tell.”
“What? I need therapy too! Captain Rex needs therapy! I’m pretty sure Fett needs therapy! You, Fulcrum, you really need therapy. None of us are okay.” She huffs, wiggling impossibly closer. “I don’t like it, but it’s true.”
“I know,” Ahsoka groans. “I just... I just need to hold out until the Temple.”
“Will you be able to hold it together if you see someone you actually care about?” Leia demands. “What are you going to do when you see Kenobi?”
“I’m serious, you--”
“Leia, that’s enough,” she snaps. “I was fighting that war before you were even born, and I’ve dealt with the consequences since. I know the risks and I’ll thank you to remember who taught you to control your own mind.”
Leia stiffens, sucking in a sharp breath. “That was uncalled for.”
“You’re not the child you appear to be,” Ahsoka reminds her, not a little sharply. “You want to dish it out, be ready to take it. What will you do when we see Bail Organa? When we see the toddler that is Anakin Skywalker?”
“I get it.”
“I’m not sure you do,” Ahsoka mutters. She isn’t surprised when Leia ducks out of the embrace and leaves the galley. She lets the girl go, guilt warring with the memory of how Master Kenobi had more than once spoken that way to Anakin at the height of the war. The fact that she’s an adult in the body of a child isn’t an excuse for poking at Ahsoka’s open wounds. It was cruel and unnecessary, and unbecoming of a... not a Jedi. A princess. A politician.
She rests her head on her arms and zones out. She should meditate, but that seems like... too much effort.
She can feel Vos and Tholme setting up in the room they’ve been assigned. Neither seems particularly angry. Most likely, Tholme’s given the absolute shortest explanation of ‘child soldier, dead master, highly traumatized and emotionally unstable’ to Vos to smooth over the incident in the cargo hold. Rex is with Leia; he’s agitated, but less so than Leia herself. Fett’s annoyed, in the cockpit, but he seems annoyed as often as not. There’s a shudder at lift-off, and a few minutes later, they’re in hyperspace, headed for the Core.
Fett finds her, falls into the other bench in full armor, and drops his elbows onto the table. The helmet clunks down a moment later.
She doesn’t lift her head. “What do you want?”
“Do I need to keep Vos away from you?”
“Vos. He made you uncomfortable. Was that him being someone that hurt you in the future, or just the interaction being awkward?”
She lifts her head. She stares at him. “What?”
He leans back and crosses his arms. “Do you need me to tell Vos to stay the hell away from you?”
She’s gaping. “You realize I’m thirty-two, right? I can handle my own battles.”
“You’re also traumatized as hell and everyone can see it,” Fett argues back. “If Vos himself is a trigger, I can handle it.”
“He’s not,” she tells him. This is strange. Fett’s being strange. “He was actually a friend of my grandmaster’s. I’m just uncomfortable with the flirting because I’m a lot older than he realizes, and I can’t tell him that.”
He nods sharply, and then looks away. The silence sits.
“Thanks for asking?” Ahsoka says, well aware of how her confusion over the offer turns it into a question. “I mean, thank you for... caring.”
I guess, she finishes in the privacy of her own head. Or at least pretending to.
Fett makes a face, still not facing her. He eyes the galley instead. She can guess where his thoughts are going. The galley is... not very big, especially with six people on board instead of one, but she’s sure they’ve stocked up enough. On the off chance they do go through more than expected, because of how many growing bodies are in residence, they can stop off and buy more. They have those resources now.
Jango never does ask what she did with the slavers.
“Who’s going to cry if I spice things properly?” he asks.
“Probably Leia,” she says immediately. “Vos will try to power through it even though he’s going to be overwhelmed. No idea about Tholme, but I think he’ll keep a straight face whether he likes it or not. Rex and I are fine, ‘hot’ was pretty much the only flavor of seasoning the GAR had.”
“Grand Army of the Republic.”
He finally looks at her.
“You already knew I was a child soldier, Fett; don’t act surprised.”
“That doesn’t mean I like hearing about it.”
“I was fourteen. That’s old enough by Mando standards, Fett. Just think back, when did you get on the battlefield?”
“I take your point,” he says, lip curling unpleasantly. “It just hits different now that I’m old enough to look back and think of how damned young fourteen really is.”
Ahsoka shrugs. “Yeah, well--”
“You said the clones were ten.”
There’s the rub, isn’t it?
Of course it was about the clones.
“...closer to seven, by the end. Kamino was just making speedies at that point. Triple growth on the average instead of double, but averages in that case meant they’d been growing at double rates for six years and then got forced through four growth cycles in a single year to beef up the army when we kept losing men.” She looks down at the table, picking at a scratch in the plastipaint with her nail. “Rex and the rest of the ones from the beginning were basically twenty in mind and body, even if they’d only been decanted ten years earlier. The speedies... I always wondered. They’d gone from functionally twelve to functionally twenty in a year. That’s not... even in Kamino, that can’t have been normal. They didn’t act like adults, not the way the originals did.”
Fett rubs at his face, groaning. He swears under his breath in three different languages.
She pities him, if only because he hasn’t actually done any of this yet. He’s paying for the crimes of a man he likely won’t ever become.
She kicks him under the table. “Wanna make tiingilar and see how long it takes Vos to start crying while he insists it’s fine?”
Dinner is when the questions start. Some are relatively easy. Others, not so much.
“My Master was Leia’s biological father,” is an easy truth to share. “She inherited his power, so I need to get her to the temple for her own safety, because home no longer is.”
“Yes, her adoptive parents were unfortunately killed rather recently. We’d prefer not to talk about it.”
“Rex is with me. Where he goes, I go, and vice versa.”
That one gets her an odd look.
“I thought...” Quinlan trails off, gesturing between Rex and Fett.
Fett keeps his face impassive, but his discomfort and guilt leak into the Force. “I didn’t know Rex existed until I ran into these three in a spaceport cantina a few weeks ago.”
Quinlan blinks at him, looks at Rex again, and then turns back to Fett with a grin that might have been described as ‘saucy’ if he were less smug about it. “Wild oats, huh?”
“Are you shitting me right now,” Leia whispers, and Ahsoka elbows her.
“That was inappropriate, padawan.”
Quinlan’s grin fades as Fett just continues to eye him.
“How old is the kid?” Fett interrupts.
Darting eyes answer him, as Quinlan tries to gauge Rex. “Ten? Maybe twelve?”
“And how old am I?”
Quinlan’s grin fades further as he does the math.
“I’d have been between fifteen and seventeen when he was born,” Fett says, tone flat. “Between fourteen and sixteen at conception. I know damn well I wasn’t doing anything that could have resulted in a kid at that age.”
Quinlan rallies. “So, brothers?”
Tholme sighs loudly, hand over his eyes.
“I’m a clone,” Rex says, and Ahsoka can feel the amusement he gets out of Quinlan’s confused shock. They’d both had plenty of respect for Master Vos, but Padawan Vos was nothing but trouble. “Harvested genetic material, grown in a tube, inconsistent aging meaning I don’t even know how old I am for sure.”
“I broke him out,” Ahsoka adds, which is half true.
“There was a chip in my head,” Rex adds, with a bright smile. Quinlan’s discomfort grows. “She got it out. Also, lots of brothers. None of them are... around anymore. The creators were trying to make an army.”
Vos and Tholme have no response. Fett looks like he’s been carved out of stone. Leia’s just ignoring them and picking at her food.
Ahsoka lifts a hand and, without looking, Rex high-fives her.
“Drop your elbow.”
Ahsoka tries to cover her smile at the dirty look that Leia shoots Fett. Fett remains unimpressed by the glare of royalty, just gestures for the girl to do as he said.
“I know how to fight,” Leia grumbles. “I took lessons. I was good at them.”
“And I’m better,” Fett says, leaving no room for argument. “You want the Torrents to take over?”
The Torrents. Rex and Soka. She likes being referred to that way. Like they’re a team that never got split up.
Force, she wished they’d never gotten split up.
“Again,” Fett orders, and Leia moves through the Mandalorian kata with ill grace in her emotions and all grace in her sweeping limbs.
Well, as much grace as an undersized six-year-old can, at any rate.
“Think he’ll ask me to spar her again?” Rex asks, dropping down into the seat next to Ahsoka and passing her a drink.
“Maybe,” she acknowledges. “I think he’s wondering if it’s worth asking Vos to spar with her, so she gets more experience with size differences.”
“She flinched at his face again,” she tells him. “The whole... thing with Boba, I guess. She still won’t tell me why Fett triggers her sometimes, but he’s not pressing her to spar with him, and there’s only so much she can get out of fighting me. Asking Tholme would be presumptuous, but Vos is just a padawan. I think it’d work out.”
She looks at him, already feeling a cresting wave of bullshit she doesn’t want to deal with. “What about me?”
“Are you going to spar with the Jedi?”
She should. She hasn’t sparred with a saber since she got tossed back into a body only half-familiar to her. She’s let Leia borrow the shorter one to learn some basic blocking moves, Shii-Cho and then, with hesitance, the first Soresu form. Another time, she loaned it to Rex to practice some attacks; they both know that the next time he picks up her saber in battle, having lost his weapons or she her grip, it will be neither the first or last time he wields a sword of light. None of that, however, is... sparring.
None of that is against someone who knows what they’re doing.
How long has it been since she sparred with anyone other than Kanan and Ezra?
How long has it been since she sparred without the looming specter of Darth Vader in the back of her mind, without fear of the Inquisitors, without the knowledge that any saber held by someone other than her two friends would be red as blood and twice as drenched.
Would she be able to hold back as she fought?
“I should,” she acknowledges, eyes on where Fett is nudging Leia’s feet into position for some kind of leveraging flip. She’s so small. “It would probably be a good idea to spar against a master at some point.”
“Do you think you can?” Rex asks.
“I never knew him,” she says. “And he isn’t Dark. It should be fine.”
Rex nods, taking her word for it. They watch as Leia stumbles on a final move, and Fett gestures for her to sit down and get a drink.
“That man is a terror,” she informs them.
(She’d once described him as a slave-driver. She had not made that mistake twice.)
“Least it’s not Kamino!” Rex tells her cheerfully. When Leia refuses to look impressed, he laughs at her.
Ahsoka has a half-second’s warning before heavy boots thud to the ground next to her. “What’s Kamino?”
“Hello, Vos, it’s nice to see you too,” she drawls. “I’m good, thanks for asking, and yourself?”
The boy-not-quite-man rolls his eyes. “Hi, Torrents; hi, tiny one.”
Leia glares at him next.
“Planet by Rishi,” Rex says.
“Why were you there?”
“They specialize in cloning.”
Ahsoka covers her mouth as the conversation drops into the same awkward gap that always happens when Quinlan stumbles into a subject he didn’t know to avoid.
“Like... you were made there, or you were researching how it works for your own--”
Ahsoka slaps a hand over his mouth. “Now’s a great time to stop talking.”
He licks her palm.
She bares her teeth and arches her fingers just enough to press nails into his cheek.
He bites at her palm, and she yanks her hand away.
“You’re all children,” Leia accuses, conveniently forgetting that Ahsoka and Rex are both over a decade older than her.
“I can throw you the length of a swimming pool,” Ahsoka tells her. “One of the fancy competition-ready ones that would make a Tatooinian cry. You are absolutely the child here.”
“Using the Force is cheating, sir,” Rex informs her.
“Only if there’s a competition,” Ahsoka shoots back. “And proving that a certain princess is a small child is not a competition. It’s a declarative fact.”
“I’m going to rip open the seams on all your tops except the ugliest one,” Leia decides.
“Try me,” Ahsoka challenges. “Adi’ka.”
A low, rough cough interrupts them. “Are you done?”
Fett has his arms crossed, and an eyebrow raised. He knows they’re all adults here, and is entirely unamused. As the silence drags, the eyebrow climbs a little higher.
“Done with what?” Quinlan finally asks, thereby volunteering himself to spar in hand-to-hand with Jango Fett, as one does.
“Poor, poor Vos,” Rex laughs, watching as Fett barks out orders at Quinlan every five seconds to fix his footwork, to stop dropping his guard, to stop wasting energy on flips instead of just dodging the easy way.
“Throw him!” Ahsoka calls. To her delight, Fett obliges.
The thing is, Quinlan isn’t bad at brawling. He’s got training, endurance, skill. The man knows what he’s doing, objectively. He’s just not a match for Fett, and is used enough to relying on his saber that his hand-to-hand skills are rusty. They are perhaps less rusty than those Jedi who don’t take questionable jobs in the Mid-Outer Rim, and Ahsoka’s got a suspicion that Vos regularly gets into bar fights in his downtime, but none of that is enough for him to actually do more than survive against Fett without his saber.
Even the saber wouldn’t help, if Fett had his armor.
“Whose idea was this?”
Ahsoka cranes her head back and smiles. “Hello, Master Tholme. Vos... volunteered.”
“Did he know he was volunteering?”
Tholme snorts, crossing his arms and eyeing the spar in front of him. “I thought Fett hated Jedi. Giving us a ride for the sake of you three is one thing, but why is he teaching my padawan?”
Ahsoka shrugs. “Constructive bullying?”
There’s a small twitch of a smile, quickly gone. “He said something wrong, I’m guessing?”
“There was no way he could have known,” she dismisses. “We’re just, like, ninety-percent tragic backstories.”
“You’d think the Force would warn him,” Rex notes.
“That’s not how the Force works,” Leia chides.
“No, no, he’s right,” Ahsoka corrects. “The Force does sometimes step in to stop a person from saying something stupid. However, Padawan Vos is at an age where people think they are very rational while being more irrational than they likely ever will be again.”
“Do I want to ask what you were doing at that age?” Tholme asks.
“Running bla...” she trails off, then whips around to gape at him.
He smiles, bland and unassuming. “Does Fett know?”
“Know... what?” Ahsoka asks.
“That you’re significantly older than you look,” he says, voice just low enough that the sparring duo can’t hear him. “All three of you.”
Ahsoka turns back to the spar, only catching Tholme out of the corner of her eye. “He knows.”
“Mm. Were you planning on telling the Council?”
“Yes.” That part was never in question. “How did you figure it out?”
“I am a good investigator,” he says. “And you rely a little too heavily on your physical forms to obfuscate. Were it just one of you, that wouldn’t be a problem, but the pattern repeated across three is a little easier to discern.”
“I hoped the whole ‘child soldiers’ thing would be a bigger distraction,” Ahsoka mutters. She glances at Leia and Rex. Both of them are used to being in charge to some degree, giving orders and making contingency plans, but in this... in this, Ahsoka is in charge. They’d decided that at the very start. It didn’t matter that Rex had lived longer and had more experience, or that Leia had held the highest Rebellion rank of the three of them. Ahsoka had been agreed as leader, and they were relying on her.
They’re waiting on her orders. Stiff and unhappy, in Leia’s case, but they trust her.
“Will you be telling Vos?” She asks.
“No,” Tholme says. “Your secrets remain your own unless they endanger us, and I’ve a feeling they won’t be.”
“Don’t be so sure,” Rex jokes, smile not reaching his eyes. “I’ve been working with this family for too long to trust that trouble won’t find them around the next corner.”
“This family?” Tholme repeats.
“Sokari was telling the truth about her master being Leia’s biological father,” Rex says. He shrugs. “I worked with him, with his wife, with both of his kids, with his master and his padawan. All of them, to a one, are trouble magnets.”
“Ah, but that’s not the secret that’s putting us in danger,” Tholme points out. “Simply existence as a Jedi.”
Rex shrugs. “Fair enough. Don’t say I didn’t warn you, though.”
Ahsoka lurches to her feet, turning with a smile and dancing backward into the the stretch of empty cargo hold they used for such things. “A spar, Master Tholme?”
He looks past her, to Quinlan, and raises a brow. “Would you not prefer to spar with someone a little closer to your level first?”
She barks out a laugh. “Master Tholme, I’m afraid I’ve spent more of my life fighting to survive than having normal friendly spars. My style is more lethal than the average, and you’ve already seen what war’s done to my mind. I ask to spar with you because, if I lose control, if I slip in time or react on an instinct that isn’t appropriate, I trust that you’ll be more able to stop me than a senior padawan.”
He smiles. “Yes, I gathered as much. Still, better to ask. Shall we wait for them to finish up?”
Ahsoka shrugs, turns, and yells. “Clear the deck!”
Rex snorts behind her, and lowly mutters, “Sir, yes, sir.”
She smirks at him over her shoulder. “At ease, Captain.”
“That’s ‘Commander’ to you, I got promoted,” he sniffs, chin held high.
Heavy steps herald Fett’s arrival at their little group. “The hells are you doing?”
“I’m going to have a spar with a Jedi Master, and I want you and Vos to not get stabbed.”
“I’m not that easy to injure in an actual fight, let alone by accident,” Fett grouses. He looks up and over at Vos, who is already significantly taller, if a fair shot less built. “This one, on the other hand...”
Ahsoka laughs and backs into the center of the cargo hold, drawing her sabers. “Don’t worry, Vos, I won’t play dirty. You’ll probably get your master back in one piece.”
He wrinkles his nose at her. “Getting a bit ahead of yourself there, aren’t you? He’s a Jedi Master and former Watchman. You’re... what, eighteen?”
Ahsoka raises a brow and activates her sabers, tapping the blades together and watching as more than one person winces. “Wanna bet on how long I last?”
“No,” he says immediately, stepping back to join Rex on the bench. “You’ve already blindsided me enough. I’m not dumb enough to fall for whatever you’ve got up your sleeve.”
“I don’t have sleeves.”
“Greaves go on the legs, these are vambraces.”
He throws his hands up in the air. “I’m just going to stop talking now!”
“Good plan,” Leia snarks, and then literally hisses when Rex ruffles her hair.
Tholme lights his saber and sinks into an opening stance.
Ahsoka mirrors him.
She wins, but barely. She's had a few weeks to practice her forms, has sparred hands-only with Rex and Fett, but this is her first real try at using her sabers against a person, instead of a blaster or thin air, since she arrived in the past. She’s only mostly adjusted to her body.
But Tholme is a healer and a watchman, not a duelist. Ahsoka held her own against Ventress, against Grievous, against Maul when she was this age. Still adjusting to her body or not, her lineage is one of battle, and it bled true.
“You’re terrifying,” Quinlan tells her after they’re done, smiling like the sun as he hands her a towel. “Please never turn that on me.”
She laughs at him. “Would you believe that I’m out of practice?”
“Out of practice with what?” he asks, horrified and fascinated. “Fighting Sith Lords?”
“Among other things,” she says, and smirks when he chokes on his drink. “Multiple darkside users who claimed to be Sith, at least. One being a full Lord, one that was disowned by his master, and one that was apprenticed to a Banite apprentice, so she wasn’t technically allowed to be a Darth because of the rule of two.”
Tholme meets her eyes past Quinlan’s shoulder, head tilted and eyes half-shut in consideration. He’s taking her seriously. He knows what she’s not saying.
“How...” Quinlan trails off and shakes his head. “You know what, no. Asking you people questions never ends well.”
“Good plan,” Ahsoka says, clapping a hand down on his shoulder. “Also, you need to spar with Fett more. Your footwork is shit.”
“It is not,” Quinlan gripes. “You’re all just scary good at this stuff.”
“You mean surviving?” Leia pipes up, and smiles innocently when Quinlan turns to pout at her.
“You’re getting bullied by a six-year-old,” Rex informs him.
“Yeah,” Quinlan sighs. “I know.”
Ahsoka laughs, and it’s fine. It’s all fine. For a week, everything is honestly great. She trains, she laughs, she works through the nightmares.
Then fucking Denon happens.
Denon is a city-planet on the intersection of two major hyperlanes. It’s the kind of place where they stop for two things:
Technically, there’s a whole mess of paperwork they have to fill out to continue along this specific hyperlane, since they aren’t official Republic ships, and don’t have the licenses to just pass along like ships that are pre-registered to the Trade Federation or the like. They could sneak past--literally all of them know smuggler’s routes--but it’s honestly less of a pain to do things legally. They have a Jedi Master. They have cash. Some of that cash wasn’t quite legally acquired, but nobody needs to know that.
It’s supposed to be a pit stop. That’s all.
It’s just a pit stop.
But no, the galaxy isn’t that kind and Ahsoka’s luck is currently being compounded with a Skywalker, two Fetts, and Vos, which means that of course they run into trouble. Of course they do. There was never any other option, was there?
“Motherfucker,” Ahsoka snaps, lifting her head up and slamming her drink on the table.
The glass is empty. That’s good. They’re in a restaurant right now, a little splurging after weeks with only each others’ company, and spilling the sugary child-friendly juice with that move would have drawn way too much attention from the servers.
“Language,” Tholme says, voice idly unconcerned.
“Sir?” Rex asks, kicking Ahsoka under the table. “What’s wrong?”
“What’s wr--that jackass,” she hisses, getting to her feet. “Rex, grab a blaster, I’ve got shebs to kick.”
“Okay,” Rex says, grabbing one out of Fett’s holster and scooting out of the booth before anyone can tell him not to. “Whose?”
“I didn’t even know that he was... osik, I don’t have jurisdiction,” she realizes. “I don’t have any record of wrongdoing. I can’t arrest him since we don’t have evidence of criminal wrongdoing...”
“Are you two going to explain what’s going on?” Vos asks. “Or sit down, maybe?”
Ahsoka makes her decision. She eyes the window--the restaurant in question is a little dingy, but it’s also several dozen stories in the air. “Rex, remember the thing we did on Geonosis that you hated?”
He pauses, and then sighs heavily. “Yes, sir. I remember the... yeeting.”
Hah. That slang doesn’t even exist yet.
“Great. With me!”
It’s a good thing the windows are forcefields instead of transparisteel. A bit of a twist to the energy and they’re gone.
She only hears a little screaming before the wind tears all noises away while they plummet.
They land lightly--of course--and Ahsoka wraps them both in a don’t notice me aura. Nobody even notices that they’ve just come from above. It’s great that she can just Do These Things again, and get brushed off as Weird Jedi Shit, instead of worrying about the Empire. She’s missed being able to jump out of windows without fear.
Rex follows her as she starts running through the city. They don’t have comms, and he’s still so small, which means he can’t keep up with her even if she runs at normal speeds without Force enhancement.
“Should you carry me?” he asks, before she can figure out if it’s worth suggesting. She did it a few times before they joined up with Jango.
“It’s not... urgent, I think,” she says. She hesitates to speak, even as she keeps jogging with Rex at her heels. “Honestly, I’m trying to figure out if there’s anything I can ding him for so we can attack him. It’s all well and good that I can beat him right now, but all the crimes I know about haven’t happened yet, so it wouldn’t be legal...”
“I have no idea who you’re talking about.”
She scrolls the conversation back mentally, considers, and says, “Oh.”
“Who’s getting steamrolled?”
“Uh, Maul’s here,” Ahsoka admits.
“Ah,” Rex says. He makes a face. “I understand the desire to jump out a window, now. I don’t agree with it, but I understand.”
Ahsoka laughs. “I mean, I just... every time I’ve seen him for almost twenty years, it’s been like... on sight, you know? We’ve never not attacked each other, except when I needed him to cause problems on Mandalore. But I always knew I was in the right, then.”
“So... what do we arrest him for?” Rex prompts.
“Um... carrying a lightsaber without a license?” she hazards. “We’ll need Tholme there. Hopefully I can just shout at him and he’ll attack me, but I think he only went full nutjob after Master Kenobi cut his legs off. He might be too controlled to try to kill me just for yelling at him.”
“...do we have to stalk him?” Rex asks, sounding like he’d most likely sigh if he weren’t mid-run.
She scoops him up and swings him around onto her back before she answers. “I think we have to stalk him, Rex’ika.”
“Don’t call me that.”
Maul is... exceptionally sneaky, actually. Either that, or he hasn’t done anything wrong yet. Ahsoka’s betting on the former, because she’s seen this particular skocha kung take over a planet before anyone realized he was the most dangerous person around.
Or maybe he’s just not committing crimes, and is in fact just here to buy groceries.
He’s examining a papaya.
She fantasizes about jumping across the market and greeting him with a heel to the cheekbone.
“Are you imagining a flying kick, Sir?”
“He’s examining a papaya, Sir.”
“Does he know we’re here?”
“I don’t know. Maybe? Do you think I should go hit him?”
“Should I hit on him?”
“No, Sir. I would not advise that.”
“He’s looking at the neloms.”
“I can see that.”
“Why does he have to be so bo--did he just fucking bite a nelom?”
“It appears so, Sir.”
“Like... like rind and all. Just bit the little fucker.”
A scuff of metal. “What the fuck are you two doing?”
Ahsoka tips her head around to peer through the grate. “We’re spying, Fett, what does it look like we’re doing?”
Rex cranes his head. “We’re hanging upside-down from a fire escape to get a look at a suspected Sith Apprentice that is currently shopping for various fruits, Mand’alor.”
Ahsoka waves. “Hi, Master Tholme.”
“Sokari,” the master greets. “This seems a very conspicuous way to spy.”
She shrugs as well as she can from this angle. “Yes, but you see, this way’s more fun.”
“Is it now.”
Rex shifted. “He’s on the move!”
“To kill someone?!”
“No, to the deli meats.”
Apparently, Tholme and Fett had told Quinlan to take care of Leia, as Leia had wanted to finish her juice and refused to get involved in the Torrents’ nonsense. According to her, if they couldn’t be bothered to explain the nonsense, they didn’t need her.
This was true and accurate.
Quinlan shows up while they’re still stalking Maul, having moved to a low rooftop for a decent vantage point with less likelihood of being spotted. He’s giving Leia an eopie-back ride, and the pout on her face at needing it is adorable. She pouts harder when she sees them.
“Are you even trying to hide?” Leia scoffs.
“Not really,” Ahsoka admits. She’s got Fett’s binoculars out. “I’m not sure he’s caught wind of the fact that we’re here yet.”
“Or he has and he’s just biding his time to escape while we’re distracted,” Tholme points out.
“Meh,” Ahsoka says, avidly devouring the visual that is a teenage Maul glaring at leafy vegetables. “I just want him to do something so I have an excuse to beat his ass.”
“Do I get to know who?” Quinlan asks, setting Leia down on the roof. “Or are we going to keep being completely unwilling to share information?”
“Baby Sith Lord,” Ahsoka says. “He’s fifteen. A child.”
“A baby,” Rex agrees.
“You’re... that’s... ugh,” Quinlan groans as loudly and as dramatically as he dares, flopping down to the rooftop. “Master Tholme, please tell me this isn’t a real Sith.”
“He’s Dark,” Tholme confirms. “Sith is... up for debate until we have evidence.”
“He’s a bitch is what he is,” Ahsoka mutters. She observes the teenager in question stop to poke at some pink tomatoes. “E chu ta, break the law, already!”
“Does he have a lightsaber?” Quinlan asks. “If he has a lightsaber and no Jedi ID or specialty license, we can probably arrest him.”
“Auntie Soka doesn’t have a license or ID,” Leia points out.
“She’s got a Jedi escort,” Tholme says. “And if our supposed Sith is polite and plays nice, we can probably escort him to the Temple as well.”
Rex snorts derisively.
“Do you know why he’s on Denon?” Fett asks.
“No clue,” Ahsoka admits. “Evil reasons, probably.”
“You’re useless,” Leia tells her.
“Thanks, princess, how’s that attempt to open the jam jar by yourself coming?”
Leia says something very inappropriate for a princess, for a child, and for a lady. It’s fairly appropriate for a soldier, which is admittedly what she’s been for a few years now. Ahsoka sticks her tongue out at the girl like the mature operative she is.
“I wish we could still get him to lose his osik by just showing up and insulting him,” Rex mutters, low enough that Quinlan probably can’t hear.
“I wanna punch him in the face,” Ahsoka confesses. “I want him to try to punch me in the face, and fail.”
“Don’t bully the baby Sith,” Rex admonishes.
“He’s a Sith.”
“He’s fifteen, it’s tacky.”
“But it’s Maul.”
“I know, but you’re tw--significantly older than him.”
“But... but it’s the motherfucker himself.”
“...you can bully him a little, but only because he’s a Sith.”
Fett steals the binoculars. “You can borrow them again when you stop acting like children.”
“I don’t know what you mean,” Rex says, dry as Ryloth. “I’m ten.”
“Pretty tall for your age,” Ahsoka mutters, and then giggles.
“Don’t steal my jokes,” Rex says. He elbows her, hard.
“You know,” Quinlan says, slow and tired. “Master Tholme and I are trained investigators.”
Ahsoka and Rex look at each other, and then up at him.
“...do you want me to find actual evidence of this guy doing something criminal?”
“Oh, yes please.”
Quinlan, as it turns out, is not overselling his skills. He does catch Maul doing something illegal later that day. It’s a little more ‘stealing corporate secrets in the dead of night’ and less ‘torturing people for kicks,’ but it’s still enough to legally arrest him. Quinlan attempts to do so.
Quinlan does not succeed, and is forced to jump out a window to avoid getting cut in half. Maul follows, steals a passing speeder by throwing out the driver, and takes off. Someone--looks like Tholme--drops back to save the driver, but the rest of them give chase. Ahsoka gleefully takes point on that, of course. She’s the best pilot.
(Rex looks bored, but someone is likely to puke by the end of the night. She hopes it’s not Leia, who insisted on coming for some fucking reason.)
“How the kriff is a teenager that good?!” Quinlan yells, clinging to the edge of the speeder to avoid getting tipped out as Ahsoka swerves around a corner with a wild laugh.
“He’s a Sith!” Leia shouts over the wind. “What do you think?”
Quinlan is not impressed by the claim of Sith.
Ahsoka screeches as she drifts across four lanes of traffic and into an alleyway to pursue Maul. He’s pretty good at dodging cross-building walkways, but she’s better. She bares her teeth, hissing, and tries to pick a plan.
“Vos, how’s your aim with Force throws?” She calls to the backseat.
“Great! Fett’s the projectile!”
Vos takes a second longer to process that than Jango does.
He cuts off, screaming, and is flung forward by Quinlan to crash headfirst into a teenage Sith.
“Take the wheel!” Ahsoka commands, not waiting to see who follows the order, because Fett and Maul are both getting to their feet, the other speeder is about to crash, and she’s not sure who’s going to win that fight.
She jumps from the speeder they’ve been violently dragging around Denon, and lands feet-first on Maul’s... shoulder.
That definitely dislocated something.
“You should wear armor!” she chirps at him, drawing both sabers and grinning as he whirls to face her, eyes wide with hate.
He’s utterly silent.
That’s disturbing. Expected, but disturbing.
“Did you just throw me?” Fett demands, higher pitched than she’d normally expect.
“No, Vos threw you.”
“Because you told him to!”
“Yeah, it’s a good strategy!”
“It is not!”
“Why not? Throwing people was standard practice in the GAR.”
She can’t see his face, but she’s pretty sure he’s about ready to strangle her.
Ahsoka cannot, at that point, continue snarking with the father of her best friend, because there’s a red lightsaber coming for her throat, and she should probably worry about that. Maul’s very good at killing people and she’d like to avoid becoming part of that statistic.
As she is quickly reminded, he is... fifteen. And shorter than she’s used to. And already injured.
It’s really, really easy to take him out, actually.
At some point, the other speeder was safely recovered before it caused property damage, and their own is landing a few meters away with Vos and the kids.
“You have Force-negating cuffs, right?” Ahsoka asks.
“No, Master Tholme has them.”
“Oh,” she says, and grimaces. “I guess I’ll just... keep sitting on him then.”
Maul snarls, and she raps him on the skull. “Stop that, it’s uncivilized.”
Jango makes a noise that is incredibly frustrated with the lot of them, and turns on Rex. “Was she telling the truth?”
“Throwing people being standard practice for the GAR.”
Rex’s face goes pained. “It was in the five-oh-first. And a few others.”
“What’s the GAR?” Quinlan asks.
“None of your damn business,” Fett snaps.
Quinlan throws his hands up in the air again. “Come on! I just proved I know what I’m doing!”
“And their tragic backstory is none of your business, prudii!”
Quinlan blinks at him, and then glances at Ahsoka. “Um.”
“He called you a shadow since your training, um, seems to be pointing in that direction,” she says as carefully as she can. “We were theorizing.”
“Wh... you actually paid attention?” Quinlan asks, looking horribly confused. “I thought I was just annoying you.”
Ahsoka laughs at him. “Oh, Vos... I’ve been running black ops for... much longer than most would guess. Trust me, I know another spy when I see them.”
She smiles as kindly as she can, because she hadn’t actually meant to make him feel left out or unwanted or... well, she’d been pretty patronizing, especially for someone seemingly younger than him. The smile does not work. Quinlan just looks kind of horrified about how young she just implied she started spy work.
Granted, she’d been sixteen for Zygerria...
Deciding to ignore him for a bit, she shifts on Maul’s back and pats him on the cheek. “Don’t worry, Baby Sith. We’re going to get you lots of nice therapy. Mind healers, no Sith tortures, all that fun stuff. Maybe some plushies.”
“You’re also getting therapy, right?” Quinlan asks. “Please say you are. I’m required for the specifics of my training and if anything you’ve said is true, I feel like you really need it and I’m scared of what’ll happen if you don’t.”
Ahsoka laughs, knowing exactly how empty it sounds. “Oh hell, if I didn’t get therapy, I imagine Kix would rise from the grave to force me into it.”
The name means nothing to anyone except Rex, and... ah, yeah, she told Fett about Kix a few weeks ago.
“No more throwing me without warning,” Fett grumbles, dropping to sit on the ground next to her. “Especially not at baby Sith Lords.”
“I am not a child!” Maul spits.
“He speaks!” Ahsoka cheers. “Aw, I knew you could do it.”
“’Soka, I told you not to bully him,” Rex complains. “It’s tacky. You’re being tacky.”
“I’m allowed to be tacky,” Ahsoka declares. “I’ve died twice, that’s, like, permission from the universe.”
“You’ve died twice?” Quinlan asks, back in ‘fascinated horror’ territory. “Wait, no, I shouldn’t ask--”
“Too late! The first time was on a planet that doesn’t exist and my Master lost his mind, killed a god, and used the good favor of another god to have me brought back to life at her expense. Not in that order.”
“I--what? No, that’s--what?”
Ahsoka smiles brightly. “You asked.”
Tholme finally shows up with the cuffs.
“You should eat something.”
He glares at her.
“Baby Sith Lords need to eat.”
He keeps glaring at her.
“Maul, you’ll never get big and strong and ready to kill if you don’t eat your vegetables.”
He bares his teeth.
“No, I don’t eat my veggies, but I’m a Togruta, so if I eat too many vegetables I throw up.”
Rex kicks her thigh, right on the faulds. “What did I say about bullying the Sith Lord?”
“And what are you doing?”
“Making him eat his vegetables.”
He kicks at her again. “Get up, we’re swapping out the watch.”
“But I wanted to hang out with my favorite little criminal mastermind.”
Rex drops to the floor and presses his forehead to her shoulder. “How the hell is being around this guy the first thing to make you cheer up in weeks?”
“I’m allowed to be mean to him.”
“He’s going to bite you.”
“I’ll bite back.”
Rex jabs a finger into her ribs, and she squeaks. “Go get something to eat, Commander.”
“Fine,” she huffs, rolling to her feet and moseying along to the galley. She walks in on Tholme and Fett having an argument about the ways in which Jedi and Mandalorians differ. Quinlan’s on the side, watching with wide eyes, and little Leia’s drinking a juice box at his side, tucked up under his arm and occasionally saying things to fan the flames. Ahsoka assumes she’s enjoying herself.
She opens the cooling unit, looks over the contents, and pulls out a raw leg of eopie mutton. She leans against the counter, bites into the chilled-but-not-frozen meat, and uses the back of one hand to wipe the blood off her chin. The ‘real adults’ don’t notice.
“I’m like ninety percent sure you’re doing this to mess with me but also...” Quinlan trails off, staring at her with horror. “Why?”
“A girl’s gotta eat.”
“Yeah, but all the obligate carnivores I know are like... generally holding to basic rules of courtesy when it comes to not grossing people out,” Quinlan says. “Like, I don’t chew with my mouth open. You don’t... eat in the most intimidating--did you just crack the bone with your teeth?!”
Ahsoka smirks at him, using her free hand to take away the shard of bone so she can suck out the marrow without eating the bones themselves. “I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but this isn’t polite society. We’re in a galley on a bounty hunter’s ship, and I’ve been living on the run or in an army for most of my life. Table manners are optional.”
“No, they’re not,” Leia orders. “Fett, it’s your ship, tell her to--”
“--and another thing!” Fett snaps at Tholme, clearly paying less than no attention to the food argument.
Ahsoka keeps on eating, trying to catch wind of where the discussion’s at. Mostly, it seems to be at ‘talking past each other.’ Neither of them seems to have fully grasped more than the absolute most basic parts of the other culture, and that’s only enough to insult each other, not actually have a constructive conversation. She’d have expected more out of Tholme, at least. He’s not exactly young.
“Hey, quick question,” she says, in a moment where both of them have paused for breath and the opportunity to seethe. “Fett, when’s the last time you worked with a Jedi, or any member of a Force-based religion, before I popped into your life?”
His nose scrunches up as he makes a face.
“And Tholme, when’s the last time you worked with anyone from the Mandalorian system?”
Tholme’s reaction isn’t any more gracious than Fett’s.
“Yeah, that’s what I thought,” she says. “Vos, were either of them actually interested in that conversation, or just looking for an excuse to yell?”
“Now listen here, jetiika--”
“Fett,” she snaps. “I am not a child.”
“And neither am I,” he growls right back. “This is my ship, and I damn well don’t need you treating me like a misbehaving youngling. You’ve got a problem, you bring it to my face, not get all smug about people’s tempers blowing over.”
She smiles thinly. “Of course.”
He stands with his arms crossed, in full armor save for the helmet. She puts aside the eopie meat and wipes her hands, smiling until she can put her hands on her hips and let it drop to a challenge.
“You know, I’m just--I’m just gonna go,” Quinlan mutters, pulling Leia out with him, the girl hanging from under one of his arms. “This, uh, this looks like a problem for... you folks. Um. Yeah.”
He sidles out.
Fett rubs at the bridge of his nose, and then gestures at the table. “Sit.”
“I’d prefer not to.”
He drops his hand and glares at her. “We have another week on this ship together. We are going to have this conversation. Sit.”
She sits, right on the warm spot left behind by Quinlan and Leia. She crosses her arms, lifts a brow, and waits.
Fett takes the seat across from her. Tholme leans against the counter.
“We all know you’re older than you look,” Fett says. “I heard Tholme mention it, I know that much has been shared. You’re acting like an actual teenager, and I’ve... I’ve put up with a lot. I am trying to keep things civil, particularly with you. I’ve tried to be friendly. You’ve been fucked up since we met, fine, everyone’s got trauma. The thing where you’ve started talking shit to our faces for what seems like your own amusement? That has to stop. You’re older than me, Torrent. Fucking act like it.”
She blinks at him, slow and not exactly happy, and turns to Tholme.
The man shrugs. “I was planning to put up with it until we arrived to the temple and handed you over to some mind healers. Fett doesn’t have that kind of time.”
There’s a curdle in her stomach, defensive and angry and guilty.
“You’ve been... a bitch,” Fett finally says. “You know that. I’m not going to mince words. You’ve been holier-than-thou and rude and condescending, and aiming that at Antilles is one thing, when you’ve apparently known her since she was a toddler and taught her things. Aiming at the rest of us isn’t going to fly. We’re all adults trying to share a space. Stop acting like... just like you have been.”
There is no defense to be made that they aren’t both already aware of.
She closes her eyes and tries to strangle the burst of irrational rage.
Their accusations aren’t unfounded.
They deserve an apology.
She is in the wrong.
She’s felt freer than she had in years, and in that freedom allowed herself too much rein, let herself lace her words with barbed wires and poison instead of sparks and spices, comments that were cruel instead of just joking. Too familiar. Too comfortable.
“My behavior’s been inappropriate,” she finally says, the words clumsy and too big in her mouth. “You’re right about that. I’m sorry, and I’ll endeavor to keep a tighter rein on my less pleasant behaviors in the future.”
At least she only lashes out with words. It could be worse.
She opens her eyes, fixes her gaze on the wall behind Fett, wrestles her expression into stiff neutrality. “Am I dismissed?”
“...uh, no, not after that,” Fett says, sounding just a little horrified. “What the hell was that?”
Tholme hisses out a breath. “Let her go.”
“No, this needs to be discussed, that’s not a healthy rea--”
“Fett, let her go,” Tholme insists, low and heavy.
Fett looks between the two for a moment, seems to come to a realization he doesn’t like, and then gestures almost violently towards the door. “Fine. Go.”
She walks out, doesn’t sprint. She’s stiff. She’s controlled. She’s the one that fucked up, so it’s fine if she doesn’t feel great right now. Getting called out on one’s own failings as a person isn’t something to get upset about if the failings are real. The feelings are real and normal, but this was her fault, and so it’s up to her to fix it, and she can’t let them know it hurt her, because this was her mistake.
She goes to the cargo hold.
Ahsoka works out her frustrations on Fett’s punching bag. She does not augment herself with the Force, just uses raw strength and technique, ignoring the tears that press at her eyes.
It’s not weird. It’s not odd. It’s not strange to not notice she’s been kind of a bitch since her mood came up with the whole Depa thing, and then Maul. She’s been mean, mostly to Vos and Fett, and nobody’s confronted her about it until now. They let her have room for her trauma, and she hadn’t reined it in. She’s just gotten worse.
‘Snippy’ she’d always been, but age apparently hadn’t fucking tempered it.
She catches the punching bag, breathing heavily and covered in sweat. She hasn’t worked out all the twitchy, nervous energy yet.
“Vos,” she greets, once she’s caught herself enough that her voice won’t waver. He’s on the other side of the bag, but she knows his voice. “Do you need something?”
“You’re kind of... projecting,” he tells her, drifting to where she can actually see him. “Not self-loathing, but, um, recrimination? You just don’t feel very good and I was hoping to help”
Why in all the Sith hells does he have to be nice.
“I got called out on my behavior and wasn’t ready to face the fact that I’d kriffed up,” she tells him. “I’ll be fine. And I’m... sorry. I haven’t been fair to you and was using you as an easy target for some of my ruder comments.”
“I mean, I kind of figured,” he admits, coming closer. “I’ve been tutored by Shadows before, and a lot of them act like you. I just assumed it was more of that.”
“I still shouldn’t have let myself run loose like that,” she says. “I’m... it wasn’t appropriate. I shouldn’t have let it happen.”
He shrugs, not meeting her eyes. “Do you want to talk about it?”
“No,” she says. “Not with... not with you. Or anyone other than Rex and a mind healer, really. Most of it is...”
She trails off, distantly noticing that her eyes are tearing up enough to blur her vision, and her nails are digging into the bag in a way Fett won’t appreciate.
There’s so much that beat her down, never quite breaking her, that she doesn’t even know what made her act the way she does.
“Want to spar?”
She looks over at him, wonders what he sees that makes him want to fight her when she’s visibly unstable.
He smiles, kind and easy, and it doesn’t quite reach his eyes. It’s genuine in intent, if not in energy. He wants to help. “You all keep saying I could work on my hand-to-hand. Just take off the armor so I don’t break a finger, maybe.”
“No, I’m Quinlan.”
She’s going to wipe the floor with this boy. “You sure you wanna fight me?”
“You won’t be able to meditate until you do,” he says. He’s right, damn him. “The other option is that I go get your... vod, I think? I go get Rex and you two can talk it out since you trust him with more. I don’t want to do that, though, he’s still a kid.”
She eyes him, lips pressed together and mind awhirl with emotions and thoughts she’d tried to beat out of her head and into the bag. “Ever fought someone without the Force?”
“Was it cuffs?”
“Oh, you meant me not having the Force,” he realizes. “Er, no. Is... is that something you’ve done a lot?”
She smiles at him. “You’re planning on Shadow work. That means getting captured and stripped of everything you are at some point, Force included. Unfortunately, the cuffs are in use on a very annoying Dathomirian right now, so we’ll have to make do with you shielding like your mind’s a Kessel Spice Mine.”
“...do I want to know how often you’ve been captured?”
“No, you don’t.”
When he comes at her, it’s easy to dodge. It’s easy to tap him on target points, little pokes that show she could take him out, but isn’t going to until he’s learned something. He stays grinning throughout, letting her take the lead, and he treats her like... like a knight. Like a teacher. He’s stepped back and gone from trying to impress her as a fellow padawan, to proving himself to a full knight.
She’s not sure when that change happened, or why or how, but it makes things much smoother. She wants to think that it would have even if she hadn’t gotten a wakeup call from Fett.
So she treats him the way she treated Ezra, for the year she’d spent traveling with Kanan. She treats him as a student that’s willing to learn, good but not yet great, competent but not yet ready to survive. She draws him into the kind of chest-heaving exhaustion that tells a fighter just how much energy they waste.
(Ahsoka may have had her own style, but her grandmaster had been the pinnacle of a Soresu user. She’d spent years on the frontlines of a war. She knew the worth of conserving energy, and she’d teach it to any who stepped in to challenge her.)
“Who taught you to fight like this?” He asks, when they’ve taken a handful of moments to circle each other. His steps are heavy, sure, planted. Her own are light and ready.
“Soldiers,” she says. It’s true enough.
“Not your Master?” he asks, just as he tries to kick for her upper arm. It’s a safe question. For anyone else, it would be a safe question.
But for Ahsoka, it’s another chink in the armor, after a maelstrom of emotion, a storm of self-loathing, a dervish of instability.
She doesn’t break right away.
She spirals. She fights Quinlan, but doesn’t quite see him. Her strikes get sloppy, her feet stumble. She can’t make herself meet Quinlan’s eyes, not when the scrape of his heel against the metal sounds like the rasp of a breathing machine. Her shields get fuzzy, she knows, and she leaks what she feels into the air, making it sour and thick. She doesn’t notice, because all she can see, all she can--all she can hear and feel and--
She drops to her knees and grabs at her head, trying to stop it.
She breathes. In and out, harsh and jagged but natural in a way that the damned respirator wasn’t.
Her master her teacher her brother the traitor the hound the executioner
Her face is hot. Something prickles. It might be tears.
She tries to say something, tries to say a name or a request, tries to make anything come out of her mouth that isn’t the broken wail of a woman who hasn’t let herself think about how she died.
She feels herself pulled into someone’s arms, and she can’t quite tell who, but they’re bigger than she is, and feel warm and worried. They care. They don’t understand, they’re scared, but they care.
Her hands shake, clutched to her chest and she can’t breathe she can’t make herself take in enough air to do a Force-damned thing the empire is going to feel her her shields are down and broken and her emotions are spilling and the empire is going to find HER ANAKIN IS GOING TO FIND HER AND--
Rex is here.
Her breath is coming so fast that she’s hiccupping more than she’s actually inhaling. She feels small hands in gloves on either side of her face, and then her forehead presses to something warm.
Rex. A Keldabe kiss. Her brother, her partner, her other half. He’s here. He’s calm. If he’s calm, then things are fine.
“What happened?” Light voice, high voice, small and distant. Leia. Little Leia little princess Leia she’s in danger she’s in trouble Anakin will--
No. Here and now. She needs to focus on here and now. Her throat feels cold. She breathes too fast, still. She can’t stop it.
“I don’t know.” That’s Vos. He was... they were doing something. He was here. Talking to her. “We were sparring, and she just--”
“I don’t know if I said something?” He offers, voice pitching up, unsure and worried. Is he the one holding her? He’s the one holding her. That’s embarrassing.
“Commander?” Rex prompts. “Commander, can you open your eyes?”
She tries. She can’t. She shakes her head.
“Soka?” he asks, voice quiet. “Where are you?”
“F-F-Fett,” she manages. It’s enough.
“And where were you?”
His voice is so soft. So worried. She held him the same way after Mandalore, after Order 66, after all his brothers, all her friends...
Her mind is spinning, and suddenly all she can hear is Anakin Skywalker is dead. I destroyed him.
Her breath hitches, and she wails.
“Commander,” Rex tries again, but her head is a vortex of Then you will die and Perhaps this child and not the Jedi way.
Our long awaited meeting.
I destroyed him.
Then you will die.
She can’t breathe she can’t breathe she can only see that yellow eye that’s too familiar but belongs to a stranger can only hear a voice that shouldn’t exist can only mourn and break and--
“Malachor,” she manages. “I--h-he--I died.”
“What did you say?” someone asks. A vod. It’s the right voice, almost, rough and business-like, not accusing anyone yet, and... and... no. No. Not one of her boys. It’s Fett.
“Um, right at the end? I asked her who taught her to fight like this,” Quinlan says, nervous. “And she said it was soldiers. And I joked, I asked that it wasn’t her Master, and she didn’t answer that. A couple minutes later, she just started...”
“Oh, Soka,” Rex whispers, pulling her closer. “Commander, just breathe with me.”
“H-h-he, he just--R-Rex, he j-just--and I c-c-couldn’t--”
“I know,” her captain whispers. “I know, just breathe with me.”
“He k-k-k-killed me,” she sobs, falling out of the Keldabe and into too-small arms. “I l-loved--he was my broth-ther and--and he just--he killed me, he didn’t even stop.”
“I know,” Rex whispers. “Soka, I know.”
Of course he does.
“It was just bad timing,” Rex says, once they’re in the room she’s been sharing with her little family, curled up under a blanket and watching the floor like it has all the secrets to how she lost her world three times over.
“Is there anything we need to keep in mind?” Fett asks, gruff and uncomfortable. She wonders if he’s angry that she took his necessary confrontation and turned it into this mess.
“Don’t bring up her Jedi Master,” Rex says, and pulls her in when she shivers. Her eyes squeeze shut before she can stop them, tears beading up again. “Just... don’t. It’s too soon.”
“He Fell,” Ahsoka interrupts. “I thought he died, but he became a Sith. And fifteen years later, we ran into each other, and I refused to join him in the Dark, so he tried to kill me.”
Fett swears, low and muffled. She thinks he has a hand over his mouth.
Quin and Leia aren’t there. She thinks they’re keeping an eye on their Baby Sith prisoner. That’s good.
“Soka,” Rex whispers, and she buries her face in his shoulder. She’s too old to be this kind of mess. She’s thirty-two. She’s Fulcrum. She’s...
She’s in need of a lot of therapy.
“We can avoid the subject unless you bring it up,” Tholme promises. “Definitely until the Temple. Is there anything else we shouldn’t talk about?”
Ahsoka can practically feel Rex’s deadpan look. “Sir, we’re a trio of child soldiers ripped from everything we know. Every other sentence is a risk. We’re just... working our way through.”
There’s a knock at the door. Oh. Quin and Leia.
“Just figured we’d drop this off before we went down to visit Mr. Grumpy-Face,” Quinlan whispers. He still thinks Leia’s a child. He’s trying to make things less terrible for her. That’s nice. “We decided he’ll be less angry if he tries Hoth chocolate, and made some for everyone.”
They definitely made it for Ahsoka herself, and Maul was an afterthought. Still. It’s sweet.
“Commander?” Rex prompts, jostling her a little to try and get her to sit up.
“Gimme a sec,” she manages. It takes longer than it should to push herself away from him, to accept the mug that Leia gives her, too-serious worry in the furrow of her brow and the twist of her soul.
She doesn’t look six. She doesn’t even look twenty-two. This girl was always too old for her skin, forced to grow up in the hostile fear of the Empire.
“Thank you, Princess.”
She can barely taste it beyond the ashes she imagines coating her tongue.
I destroyed him, her memory echoes. His slightest hesitation before he made the final move, it haunts her. She almost reached him. If only she’d tried harder, yelled louder, been better...
“Do you need help falling asleep?” Tholme asks. “I’m a regular healer, not a mind healer, but...”
She probably should.
She takes another sip of her drink, willing herself to taste it. It’s good. She likes it. She knows she does.
“Can you make it dreamless?” she whispers.
“It doesn’t always work, but I can try,” he tells her.
She nods. “When I finish the chocolate.”
Everyone’s careful around her for days. The whole decision to be nicer doesn’t mean anything when she’s walking about in a daze of too few emotions, drained of everything she could feel in favor of a grey cloud of fluff in everything she does.
She does forms. Single saber and Jar’kai. Ataru and Djem so and Soresu. Reverse grip, regular grip, partial reverse on either side.
Again. Again. Again.
She loses herself in the motions, not meditating so much as just empty.
Rex worries. Fett worries. Vos worries.
Leia and Tholme keep their shields locked up tight, and she doesn’t know how they feel. She thinks Leia might be judging her. She think Tholme might be pitying.
Maul simply hates. It’s an old and familiar sensation to walk into, and she takes unthinking comfort in his rage. She’s silent instead of snippy, when she plays the role of guard, and they stare at each other in silence. His eyes burn, and she wonders how much he’s heard of her nightmares.
“You need to talk,” Rex tells her, when he finds her with a cold cup of caff, eyes fixed somewhere beyond it all. She lifts her head. “Soka.”
She just stares at him.
He sighs and pulls her into a hug. “Commander, please.”
Ahsoka stares at the wall behind him, resting her chin on his head. Her neck itches under the lek at the back of her head, a little tingle of a feeling that she can’t bring herself to do anything about. The pale light of the galley is sharp against the chipped paint of the metal that surrounds them. It hurts her eyes to look, but it’s not the deep and dark lit only by red--
Then you will die, her memory growls.
“Breathe,” Rex tells her, too-small hands clinging at her back. “Just breathe, ‘Soka.”
She curls in tighter and tries to just breathe.
“Tell me something good.”
Ahsoka blinks. She looks at Leia. She doesn’t have the energy to parse that.
Leia chances a look at Rex, who isn’t leaving Ahsoka’s side any more than he has to, and Fett on the other side. Tholme’s asleep and Quin’s on Baby Sith duty. It’s just people who know, right now.
The little girl across the table, the child senator, the spy, purses her lips and huffs in irritation. “You knew my biological father before he became one of the worst people in the galaxy. Both of you did. Tell me something good about him.”
“You fought a war as a Jedi,” Leia prompts. “Surely you must have done some good things with him, or at least thought you were.”
Every mission ended in tragedy or was just a ploy of Palpatine’s. Every saved life was just...
“He built Threepio,” she finally says. “Your father wi--I mean, Bail wiped Threepio’s memory after the Empire rose, for your safety, but Anakin was the one who built him.”
Leia sits up, eyes brighter. “I didn’t know that. I... was Artoo involved? Did he build R2D2, or...”
“No,” Rex says, “But Artoo was his favorite astromech, and they always pushed each other into stupid stunts. We risked a hell of a lot to save that droid, more than once, and I didn’t find out until you started working with the Rebellion full-time, but Artoo and Threepio were the witnesses for your bio-parents’ wedding.”
Leia gapes at him. So does Ahsoka. (Fett doesn’t know enough to care.)
Rex grins, and if it looks a little forced, that’s fine. “He had a holo recording. I was one of the few people left that knew about the marriage that might have wanted to see, so Artoo offered. It was... sweet.”
He waits, probably for Ahsoka to add something herself, but she has nothing.
“I think that’s when they swapped droids, since Threepio was more useful to a politician and Artoo did his best work when we set him loose on the enemy.”
“He never changed,” Leia muses. “Did he always swear that much?”
“Yes,” Ahsoka answers, as Rex laughs. “Always. All the binary I learned started with the best swears.”
She tries to think of another good memory, something else that Leia might appreciate. Her mind ticks back to saving Stinky, which is just a terrible option, because that mission started with Hutts and ended with the Battle of Teth. That massive loss of life, all for the son of the creature that had put Leia in chains.
She wonders if she has anything in her memory that doesn’t end in blood and graves.
“Remember that time Fives and Echo got lost in the undercity their first time on leave, and we had to get the General to help us find them?”
He’s right, that’s a good story.
“Okay, so what you have to understand,” Ahsoka says, already digging the faint details out and dusting them off, “is that these boys were ARC troopers, top-notch, terrifyingly competent once they got through specialty training, and loyal as hell. Echo had memorized the reg manuals front to back, and Fives was... well, Fives ended up being the only person to figure out the chips before they went into action. Point is, the Domino twins were good... eventually. Just like everyone else, though, they started out shiny.”
“Tholme’s hiding something.”
Ahsoka wonders if Leia will just leave if she ignores her enough. Probably not. This was the girl that got kicked out of boarding school for leading a sit-in at age seven. She’s got patience.
“His job requires him to hide a lot of things,” Ahsoka says instead. “Not as many as Vos will have to, eventually, but a lot.”
“He’s hiding something from us,” Leia insists, visibly frustrated that Ahsoka isn’t as upset about this as she is. “Something important.”
The way she says ‘important’ is clumsy and impacted by the missing baby tooth. She can’t say the r. It comes out as ‘im-poh-ten,’ which is adorable, and if Ahsoka comments on it, she’s probably going to get punched by a six-year-old.
“The Force doesn’t care,” Ahsoka says. “I trust his intentions, if not him as a person.”
“If you don’t trust him, then why trust his intentions?”
“Leia, I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but I trust one and a half people in the galaxy,” Ahsoka points out. “Me not trusting a person isn’t a sign of anything except my paranoia. The only person I trust fully and without reservation is Rex. Even you, I only mostly trust, because my brain starts screaming if I think too hard. That’s why you’re the half.”
“Okay, whatever, paranoia aside,” Leia barrels on, “He should tell us. Whatever it is that he’s hiding, we deserve to know. We’re not children that he can just hide things from for our own good.”
Ahsoka presses her lips together. “Leia. Princess. I know you’re used to holding all the cards--”
“This isn’t about me being a control freak!”
“It is, though,” Ahsoka soothes, and smiles. “Your mother--the bio one--was the same way. You spent years as one of the leaders of the Rebellion, so obviously you’re used to having all the information, and people reporting to you... but Tholme is a Jedi Master. He reports to the Council and the Republic. Do you know how many people I kept secrets from while I was a padawan? We’re an unknown, Leia. They have no proof that we’re on their side, especially since we’re traveling with Fett.”
Leia crosses her arms and glares as hard as she can.
“I’m not going to bother him,” Ahsoka says. “I’ve already had, like, five unrelated mental breakdowns. I’m putting this on hold until we get to the Temple and I can trust that there’s a healer on hand to sedate me or something.”
“You... want to be sedated?”
“Leia, this... really should be obvious, but a Force-Sensitive losing their osik the way I have been isn’t actually safe. I know I broke a weapons rack last week.” Ahsoka gestures vaguely. “If the Jedi Master isn’t telling me something for reasons that might relate to my clear and obvious mental instability, I’m going to assume he’s got a point.”
“So he should tell me or Rex.”
“We’ll be on Coruscant in four days,” Ahsoka soothes. “Just... let it be. They won’t hurt us.”
“You don’t know that.”
Ahsoka shrugs. “I don’t have to. The Force leads me in all things, including this.”
Leia isn’t impressed by that, but Leia isn’t impressed by much in the first place.
She strides off in a fit that is, perhaps, more influenced by her six-year-old emotional control than she’d like to admit. Ahsoka lets her. It’s not worth the argument.
It’s only a few minutes later that Fett strides in, takes the seat Leia was just in, and asks, “What would it take for you to teach me how to use a jetii’kad?”
She blinks at him. “You want to learn how to use a lightsaber?”
Ahsoka taps her fingers against the table, eyeing him with the kind of interest she copied from Master Kenobi, years ago. Fett doesn’t fidget, but she thinks he might want to. He just looks back, waiting for her judgement.
“You’ll need to justify it,” she finally says. “It’s a significant difference from what you actually did, so I need to know your reasoning for doing it, and your plans for once it’s done.”
“That’s step one,” she corrects. She tilts her head, considering. “My standards for you aren’t built in a vacuum, and you know that. Explain to me what you plan to do and how you plan to do it, and if I approve...”
“You’ll help me achieve it.”
“Maybe,” she allows. “A lot of that depends on Rex.”
“I expected as much,” Fett says. “He is... an admittedly large part of the reason.”
“He would be,” she says. She gives the silence a few more seconds to sit awkwardly between them, and then stands up. “I’d guess you’ve been brainstorming already. Do you have it written down or is it mostly just in your head so far?”
“I’m still... debating options, so to speak.”
She grins, and the shape of the predator’s smile, the baring of teeth... that almost makes him step back. She can see it in the twitch of his muscles. Smart man.
“Follow me,” she says, and doesn’t wait for him to stand. She strides out with tooka-light steps, hears the heavy beskar tread behind her, and goes to the cargo hold. Fett’s confusion grows tangibly behind her, especially when she tosses him a wooden quarterstaff. She picks up the other and spins it in one hand.
“You’re going to fight me,” she tells him, stretching and letting the staff help with the process. “And while we fight, you’re going to tell me what your plans for Mandalore are.”
He mimics her, but there’s a frown on his face. “And why staffs?”
“You and I, we’ve only sparred bare-handed,” she says. “I need a feel for how you fight with a weapon anyway. These are a good start.”
“Not the beskad?”
She grins, and the twitch is back. “No. That can wait. We start with the staffs.”
He takes a stance, and she mirrors him. She lets him strike first with a weapon, but she’s the one that asks all the questions.
(He is the only one on the ship that can fight her one-on-one right now, and he can win. Still, she makes him work for every inch, and what she doesn’t win in bruises, she wins in words.)
(Fett might yet be a proper Mand’alor, but Ahsoka learned war from her brothers, negotiation at the knee of a general and in the shadow of a prince, and government at the side of duchesses and queens.)
(If he wants her help uniting his people, he needs to prove that he can hold them together once she’s gone.)
Ahsoka’s interrogation of Jango’s plans is thorough, and she’s not the only one involved. She brings Leia in, and has her join in on the grilling. She maybe laughs as the twenty-seven-year-old survivor of Galidraan, the Mand’alor, a man who has killed Master Jedi with his bare hands, gets lectured on various government structures by a tiny girl that's missing several teeth and needs to sit on books to see the table properly.
Still, Leia knows this better than any of the rest of them do. The girl might have grown up heir to a monarchy, but she got a classical education and was drilled on democracy and all associated forms of government. Where Ahsoka knows military protocol and law enforcement, intersystem relations and defensive measures, Leia knows agricultural subsidies and welfare programs, infrastructure and education.
Ahsoka may know how to find out if someone’s breaking a zoning law, but Leia knows why it exists in the first place.
“And I grew up in a cult,” Rex says, when an argument on that topic breaks out. Everyone that hasn’t heard the joke-that-isn’t-a-joke stares at him. “The Jedi grew up in a religious meritocracy; Leia grew up in a monarchy; and I grew up in a cult.”
Ahsoka elbows him. He’s not wrong, but still.
Unfortunately, Ahsoka is about forty-seven percent sure that Leia will put her foot in her mouth when it comes to Mandalorian culture, blunt as the girl is. That prefrontal cortex isn’t anywhere near as developed as it should be, either, so impulse control for the princess isn’t great. Ahsoka refuses to let Leia and Fett talk about ways to mend the breaks between tradition and the pacifism of the New Mandalorians without either Rex or Ahsoka herself as a mediating presence. Tholme sits in a few times, but while he knows that Leia isn’t really six--though not about the time-travel, yet--Quinlan doesn’t.
They admittedly end up doing this while he’s on Maul-sitting duty.
“It’s like he doesn’t even care about making nice with the people that, at this point, make up the majority of his people!” Leia grumbles one night, as Ahsoka kicks over a step stool so the girl can brush her teeth. “He may not like the New Mandalorians, but from what I understand, it’s still early enough to prevent the majority of the cultural bleaching you brought up. If he stays this stubborn--”
“Leia,” Ahsoka says, and the girl’s mouth snaps shut. “I’m aware of your reasons for not trusting his intentions. But if I may say? Chill.”
“He’s not even trying!”
“He’s trying a hell of a lot harder than he did in the original timeline,” Ahsoka reminds her. “Brush your teeth.”
“I’m not a--”
It’s a little worrying, how the child’s brain affects Leia, but... well. That’ll pass in time, hopefully. Until then, Ahsoka gets to be the aunt she should have been. This includes tucking Leia in, which the girl grumbles about despite the fond waves of comfort that enter the Force around her. Ahsoka doesn’t call her out on it, just brushes back wisps of hair to plant a kiss on Leia’s forehead, and then does the same once Rex stumbles in, grumbling about the limitations of a cadet’s body, but far more ready to follow the protocol that is bedtime.
Rex doesn’t pretend to not like getting tucked in, for all that he’s sharing with a grumbly, already-asleep princess. He smiles up at Ahsoka, lets her hug him, and pretends they can be a normal family for five seconds.
Quinlan’s making a late night snack for himself in the galley. Tholme is guarding the Baby Sith. Fett...
Ahsoka goes to the cockpit, takes the copilot’s seat, and watches hyperspace pass them by.
It takes long minutes before either of them say anything.
“Do Jedi believe in souls?”
His shields are up, locked up tighter than the innermost chambers of the Imperial Palace. She has no idea where he’s taking this question. She has to cast about for an answer.
“That depends on how you define a soul,” she finally says. “Leia told me about Force Ghosts. A Jedi Master who underwent the right meditations and training could pass into the Force upon their death without losing their sense of self. They could remain themselves, to an extent, and interact with force-sensitive individuals. I don’t know if they could last that way indefinitely, but depending on your definition, I could argue those ghosts were evidence of a form of soul.”
“So you believe that the dead pass into the Force, but that what passes could be a soul. Something must exist for a sense of self to disappear at death in a way that impacts the Force as you understand it, and many would use the word ‘soul’ for that something.”
“Mm,” Ahsoka considers it. “I’d say that’s pretty accurate. You’ve put a lot of thought into this.”
“What about those not yet born?”
Her fingers feel cold, and she finds herself no longer able to watch the passage of hyperspace as passively as she had, and her eyes catch on streaks and motes of what is not dust, her vision unable to keep any more still than her heart.
“Oh,” she hears herself say. “The clones.”
It’s a long time before he answers, but the walls come down. He carries a confused sort of grief with him, guilty and a mite resentful. His questions have been building for longer than she’d thought. His voice is rough. “I’ve taken plenty of lives, but I’ve never known the name of someone I erased from existence before they were even born.”
“The stories we told Leia about the brothers.”
There’s a grunt of agreement from Fett, so those dots at least connect.
“I take it my answer wasn’t helpful,” she manages to say.
“Will they still exist?” Fett asks. “Will they be born elsewhere? Or is... is a soul something that only comes into existence after the body does?”
“I have no idea,” Ahsoka admits. “I want... I want to think that I’d be able to find them eventually, to recognize them, if their souls are still born into this world elsewhere.”
“And if your Sith finds someone else to build his army out of?”
Ahsoka looks at him, sharp and pointed. “You wouldn’t.”
“They’ll be doing it anyway, if their plans are as ironclad as you say.”
“You’re already associating with Jedi,” Ahsoka says, fighting the urge to break his nose. “They wouldn’t approach you, not now. They can’t leverage your anger against you. They won’t know everything, but they’ll know that you have friends among the Jedi.”
“You think they can’t come up with better lies?”
He has a point. He has more than one point and she hate hate hates it.
A Jedi does not hate.
I am no Jedi.
“You’re going to have to convince me,” she says. “Especially if you want to somehow balance this with the darksaber thing. I won’t teach you how to fight with it if you’re not planning to retake Mandalore.”
“That’s how they’d sell it,” he says. “Retaking Mandalore. An army ostensibly for the Jedi, and ultimately...”
“You’d build an army of slaves.”
“No, I’d be the inside man for when they build that army anyway.”
She holds his gaze. She looks away first.
He lets her.
“I’ll need to talk to Rex. Probably Leia.”
“I don’t like this.”
“I’m only just considering it. It’s an idea, not a plan.”
“That’s the only reason I haven’t ripped your throat out with my teeth.”
“Hyperbole doesn’t suit you.”
She glares at him, and leaves, her mind chopping up and laying out every possible angle on Fett volunteering to do the exact same thing as last time, but somehow worse.
Great. Just what she needed.
Ahsoka isn’t there for the shouting match between Rex and Fett, but she doesn’t have to be. She can hear it form clear across the ship, and Rex comes to her afterwars. He’s been crying, which isn’t as surprising as it could be. These bodies are still prone to such things, and will be for years. She doesn’t comment.
“Do you want to talk about it?” she asks.
“We need to take out Sidious before he starts anything on Kamino.”
“Agreed,” she says. “It’ll be hard, though.”
“I don’t care.”
“What did Fett say?”
“That if it wasn’t going to be my brothers, it would be someone else’s. Either we stopped the cloning from happening at all, or we mitigated damage by being there.”
“I don’t think Sidious is going to tap him for it,” Ahsoka admits. “Not unless you’re willing to stage that kind of fight publicly enough for Fett to claim the Jedi poisoned you, family, against him. It could work, but it’s a gamble.”
He knows all of this.
“I miss them,” he says, and she cards her fingers though the curls he’s managed to grow in the past weeks. “I just... even at the end, I had Wolffe. I knew Boba was out there; I wouldn’t be surprised if the beskar let him survive a Sarlacc. I had brothers. Not as many as I used to, but there was always someone. I miss them all, so much it hurts.”
“It wouldn’t be them,” she reminds him. She pulls him closer, puts her cheek to his head. “It would be the same process, the same faces, the same training, even, but the boys themselves...”
He clings to her and shudders.
“I can’t force them to grow up the way I did. I want them back. Sidious is going to make the army no matter what. Someone’s going to suffer, and I don’t want it to be my brothers, but they won’t exist otherwise, and...”
“And it’s an impossible choice,” she summarizes. “And it sucks.”
“It’s sucks Gungan balls, ‘Soka.”
She laughs, and feels him smile against her shoulder. Good. He needs to smile more.
“He’s still trying to get me to like him,” Rex says. "He’s still making an effort, and he never did that for anyone except Boba, and it’s weird. I don’t know what to do with any of that.”
“Gain a brother,” Ahsoka whispers, and she feels him jerk against her. “If that’s what you want.”
“He’s not vod.”
“Same blood as all the rest, and you’re older than him, so he’s not really in a position to be a parent to you like he was to Boba,” she says carefully. “You don’t have to do anything, if you don’t want to, but... I think he’s trying. I think this means a lot to him, and that he isn’t any more sure of what to do than you are. You don’t have to forgive him for what he did in the future, you don’t have to accept when he reaches out, you don’t have to ever talk to him again after we reach Coruscant if you don’t want, but I think... I think it’s worth at least considering what you have to gain. I think it’s worth looking at what he’s trying to give you.”
Rex huffs. “Why couldn’t he just be the shabuir I knew in training?”
“Something happened between now and then?” she offers. “I don’t know. I never met him in the original timeline. I just know the guy that keeps trying to get on my good side so you’ll like him.”
He outright scoffs. “Soka, that’s not the only reason he’s trying to get on your good side.”
“...I’m a former Jedi who talks trash to his face,” she says slowly. “And I cried on him. There is no reason for him to be nice to me, other than you.”
“He thinks you’re cool and a good person and wants you to be his friend.”
Rex grins in a way that goes straight to smirking. “Soka, I’m not joking. Jango Fett wants you to be his friend.”
“Kriffing why?” she asks, more than a little horrified. “I’m a mess, look like I’m ten years younger than him, have gleefully kicked his ass in front of an audience; I even told Vos to throw him at a baby Sith Lord. Putting up with me is one thing, but I’m... I’m only barely not a Jedi. I’m a historical enemy of Mandalore, and part of the community he hates more than anything, and--”
“And his reaction to you kicking his ass was pure Mando,” Rex says. “In that he now thinks you’re a badass, and thus worth being friends with.”
“I can’t believe that. I physically cannot.”
“Soka, just accept it. The Mand’alor wants to be friends with you.” He scratches at his scalp. “I mean, he met you while you were protecting what appeared to be children, and it’s apparently still early enough for him to care about that.”
She leans back in her seat, eyes on the wall ahead of her and back against the cool metal of the other side. Rex falls back with her. She wonders if Rex changed the subject so they didn’t have to talk about deciding how many of his brothers get to exist, and whether or not he can swallow the bitterness of his history to have a connection with at least one member of his blood. She doesn’t ask. If he wants to change the subject, that’s his right.
“I don’t... no.” She denies it as well as she can, and then the implications dig a little deeper. “Is this me accidentally signing up to be the Jedi Order’s official liaison to the Mand’alor?”
“I mean, this point in time... they’ve got Kenobi for the Duchess, yeah?” Rex shrugs. “Good relations with the system are probably a good thing, and you’ve got a stronger connection than Tholme and Vos.”
“Ugh,” she says. She rubs a hand against her head, and then lurches to her feet. “Fine! Fine. If it’ll get him to retake Mandalore before the Sith decide to bribe him with an army he doesn’t get to keep, I’ll teach him how to fight for the kriffin’ Darksaber.”
“That’s what makes the decision for you?”
“Well something had to!”
They only get one lesson in before Coruscant, but the lesson lasts a full day, and Ahsoka’s got his comm number. Fett’s a quick learner anyway, and Tholme was there to give pointers where Ahsoka couldn’t.
He won’t measure up to a Jedi in saber-to-saber combat, but he doesn’t need to. He just needs to learn enough to turn all those skills with a beskad to something that works with a jetii’kad.
(The balance of a saber is wrong to those used to a physical weapon. The inertia doesn’t work the way anyone expects. There’s no need to worry about damaging the blade.)
(Fett is good. Ahsoka is better. And, bless his heart, he knows it.)
(She will mold him into the shape of someone who not only can, but should rule a system with a history like that, and he damn well knows that too.)
“Dropping out of hyperspace in T-minus twenty seconds.”
The Slave I is not, in fact, a Venator-class starship, or anything else near the size and smoothness of the ships that Ahsoka grew up on. This is a bounty hunter’s vessel, and the drop to real space jolts like nothing else. Ahsoka’s in the copilot seat for the return, but Tholme’s going to swap with her as soon as they’ve got confirmation that there were no problems with exiting hyperspace, and nobody’s shooting at them.
“We’re not going to get shot at,” Tholme had assured her.
“I always get shot at,” she’d told him.
“I have our clearance,” he reminded her, seeming more amused than frustrated. “There’s no need to worry about getting shot at.”
“I also always get shot at,” Jango had thrown in.
“Okay,” Tholme had allowed, after several minutes of his trust in the Temple warring against Ahsoka and Jango’s learned paranoia. The looks Quinlan had darted around the room when Leia and Rex also claimed ‘chronic getting-shot-at disease’ had been a treat. The paranoia of a Watchman and a future Shadow was great, but the paranoia of three revolutionaries and a galaxy-wide criminal was greater. “You can take us in close enough to get in radio contact, but the second we have to ask for clearance and a vector, I’m in the seat.”
She’d agreed, of course. She was paranoid, not inexperienced.
“We’re much less likely to get shot down by ground control if you tell them we’re with you,” she’d said, to his hilariously apparent metaphysical exhaustion. “Obviously.”
“Good enough,” he’d sighed.
What that means is mostly just that Ahsoka gets to watch the distant star at the center of Coruscant’s system grow rapidly brighter. She can pick out the constellations she’d grown up with, the stars the creche had projected on the ceiling every night, the ones that she may not have seen from the surface, but had greeted her and then sent her on her way every time she left on yet another campaign that lost her men their lives for a Sith Lord's wretched plans. These were the shapes and stories she’d never seen again as Fulcrum, a woman so hunted that to come within a dozen subsectors of the planet was to court her death.
For sixteen years, she hadn’t ventured closer than Alderaan, save for a single trip to Chandrila.
And now, maybe twenty minutes away at this speed, was the Temple. It was home.
A home that didn’t know her, that had sentenced her to death, that had hosted the rampage of her former master... but home nonetheless.
“Stable?” Fett grunts.
“Thrusters are good,” she confirms.
“I meant you.”
Ah. “I’m... fine. As good as I could be, anyway.”
She hesitates, but manages to speak before he does. “You?”
“I’m not the one walking into an entire building of triggers.”
“Only because you’re not entering it,” she says. “It’s the home of your ancestral enemies who, bad info or no, killed off a whole lot of your friends.”
“I get to leave,” he says. “You don’t.”
She plans to needle him a bit more, maybe on something a little less based in both their traumas. She needs to talk, if only to fill up the silence and keep herself from reaching out to all the lights in the Force. It’ll be too much, she knows.
Tholme enters the cockpit. “Change of plans.”
“Better be a good reason,” Jango says, voice flat.
Ahsoka’s unbuckling herself before she can process the words fully. “What?”
Leia doesn’t cry for no reason. Her emotional control is as difficult as the body makes it, but she doesn’t just cry. There’s always a cause.
“I don’t know. Rex said to get you,” Tholme explains. “She was saying a name. He seemed to recognize it.”
Not good not good not good. If Leia was feeling the Emper--No. She cuts the thought off there. No catastrophizing. Information first.
“Luke. Mean anything to--and she’s gone.”
Ahsoka ignores him, just sprints to where she knows the ‘young ones’ are. They’re all in Maul’s room, because nobody wants to be alone with him now, but it’s the worst time to leave him without supervision. It’s not the worst option; he mostly refuses to talk, still.
This holds true, because he definitely isn’t talking when she bursts in. He’s sitting on the bench, in a corner, hugging his knees and watching Quinlan try to calm Leia down.
“Vos and Tholme attempted to show Leia how to reach out to feel the Temple from a distance. They felt that it would be a good use of the time, and an interesting exercise at this distance. She attempted to do so, struggled for several minutes, and then reacted with shock. She has repeated the name ‘Luke’ several times since then, and we’ve been unable to fully calm her down. I asked Tholme to get you, as you are the only Force-Sensitive on board that understands the situation in full.”
“Understood.” She nods to him, and then goes to nudge at Quinlan. “Vos, move.”
“You can sit behind her, hold her in your lap like you did when we had lunch the other day, but I need to get in her face.” She waits for him to comply, and then drops to her knees and takes Leia’s hands in her own. She radiates calm and assurance, even though she knows Quinlan’s probably been doing the same since this started. She dips her head enough to get in the girl’s line of sight, waits for her to meet eyes.
“Princess,” she says, and meets Leia’s eyes. “What did you feel?”
From this distance... they’ve got half the system to go, at least, and Leia’s training shouldn’t reach that far for anything more than the fact that the Temple is there. Ahsoka could feel unshielded individuals from here, if she focused, but she’s also been doing this much, much longer. The twins theory holds more water than ever.
“Can you show me?” Ahsoka asks, instead of asking for more clarification. She squeezes Leia’s hands and smiles. “In the Force?”
Leia nods, and closes her eyes. It’s not the first time they’ve done this, but it’s the first time in a while that Leia’s needed Ahsoka to guide her through.
Luke’s light, for all that it’s unfamiliar to Ahsoka, is brilliant among the rest of the signatures in Coruscant. Like Anakin and Leia, he’s a star in his own right, but he’s brighter. He doesn’t have Anakin’s bitterness or Leia’s righteous anger, just... light. Ahsoka had asked Leia to show her instead of looking for herself because she’d expected to not recognize the boy, but she needn’t have. He’s unmistakable.
He’s so bright that she almost misses the other signature that she does recognize. She shies away, knowing that it would be there, but... but it’s almost twinned with another nearby. Not identical, but different in a way that comes with age, with trauma, with... death.
Leia hadn’t arrived alone, after all.
Why would Luke?
Her eyes snap open, her hand coming up not-quite-fast enough to clap over her mouth as she gasps. She feels a shudder, one that starts in her shoulders and reaches deep into her ribcage, finds a home in her chest and doesn’t stop.
“Oh fuck,” Quinlan whispers. “Torrent? Um, Sokari?”
Rex steps closer. “Commander?”
“That shabuir faked his death again,” she manages. “Three times, Rex!”
He blinks at her. “...I know way too many people who fit that description, Soka.”
“Master Ke--” she cuts herself off. He might have changed his name, just like she had. There’s already an Obi-Wan here. Rex seems to be figuring it out, but she needs to give him another hint.
“He pulled a Hardeen,” she stresses, and Rex’s eyes snap shut with a tired groan.
“Who?” Leia asks, her own tumult of emotion paused in the wake of Ahsoka’s shock. There’s a hope and relief to her, and Ahsoka belatedly realizes that her main worry had been that she’d misidentified what was going on, that she’d given herself a false hope. Ahsoka’s internal reaction, her approval and awe at Luke’s presence, had trickled over enough to give Leia the reassurance she’d needed.
Unintentional as it was, Ahsoka was glad that she’d succeeded in helping her charge.
“Er...” she trails off. “I don’t know what name he’s going by, right now. We’ve spent so long in hiding...”
“The man Luke knew as Crazy Old Ben,” Rex says, and Leia’s eyes light up.
“Oh,” she breathes. “General O--no, names. The High General, then.”
“Yeah,” Ahsoka says, not a little soft. “Yeah, I guess death didn’t stop him any more than it stopped me.”
“I could have told you that,” Leia says, smiling far too widely. She squirms where she still sits on Quinlan’s lap. “He was... he taught you, right?”
“As much my master as the official one,” Ahsoka says. She glances as Quinlan, feels Maul’s gaze on the back of her head. “Your f... my official master was very young when I was assigned to him. He wasn’t ready to teach, wasn’t even ready to be a knight, entirely, so my training was split between him and his master.”
Quinlan pops in at that moment, “Your grandmaster was military, too?”
We all were, she thinks. Even you, in your own way.
“I landed in their care mid-battle,” she says carefully. “It was a complicated situation.”
He nods, and she vaguely notes that he’s got his arms wrapped around Leia, and his chin tucked on top of her head. She isn’t sure if Leia’s noticed, but Quinlan’s picked up ‘baby’-sitting duty so often recently that she’s fairly certain he’s all but declared her ‘little-sister shaped.’ It doesn’t matter that Leia’s older--she’s still taking the juice boxes and gummy snacks that Quinlan shoves at her every single snacktime.
“Do you think...” Rex trails off, something uncomfortable twisting in the Force, even though his face keeps it mostly hidden. “My brothers. If the General survived and... and made it back...”
“I didn’t feel any,” Ahsoka says, because she knows she’d have noticed if it was anyone she’d met, and likely any clone at all. They all felt different in the Force, but they all held a spark that made her know it was one of them. “I’m sorry, Rex’ika.”
“A long shot,” he says, that dash of hope shriveling up. He must see something in her face, because there’s a curl of warmth in him, even if his smile is brittle. “It’s fine, really. I have you, ‘Soka.”
Rex and Ahsoka. Two halves of one whole.
She can’t wait to hear the lectures on attachment, the way people who haven’t seen her wars try to criticize her for clinging to any chance at still having a will to live. She can’t wait to see them justify telling her that it’s selfish to hold her sanity in her hands and refuse to let the grief take it away. She can’t wait to stare someone down for asking her to ‘learn to let go’ after she’s lost her family, her life, her universe three times over.
Most of the Jedi are more sensible than that, are reasonable enough to see those shades of grey and how to approach rules in the spirit they are meant instead of the rigid letter, but there will be some.
There will be more than enough telling her she is wrong to hold her oldest, closest, best friend as dear as she can.
Attachment, they’ll say.
What they’ll mean is ‘codepedence.’
They won’t be entirely wrong.
She reaches out for him, lets him fall into her side and stay there, closes her eyes and reaches out for the man she’d long called father, when they’d still been in each other’s lives.
This time, past the deafening flare of surprise-love-hope of the little star next to him, she can feel him reach back.
The second the ship has landed, even before Tholme and Fett are done with the checks, Ahsoka’s waiting at the exit. She strains her hearing so she’ll know the second the system will let her open the massive door of the cargo hold.
Leia clings to her side, and the boys stand to her back.
Quinlan’s stressed enough that she can feel it like a cloud. She is very much not trying to feel that stress. Quinlan’s stress levels, back where he’s got Maul so he can keep an eye on Ahsoka and the Baby Sith at the same time, are so low on her priorities list that it’s a a little sad.
It doesn’t take long for her to be able to punch the button and open the damn door.
It opens slowly. She bounces on her toes, because there’s a beacon of light and a steady, familiar glow on the other side, and she’s so, so close. She can’t see through the crack yet, because it’s day in this part of Coruscant, and the sunlight is blinding against the dark of the hold. So close. She’s so close.
“The hell’s wrong with you?”
Fett? Fett. He’s already here to get off? This door’s slow.
She doesn’t answer him, because the door is finally open enough to let her out, and she leaps through the gap.
She lands on a pourstone floor, feels pebbles and grit compress under her boots, frantically looks around as her eyes adjust to light and--
The High General, the Negotiator, Master Obi-Wan Kenobi, looking just as he did when she first met him, if a little less armored and a little more fed. The hair, the beard, the crinkle in the corner of his eyes. His spirit is a little older, his smile a little more strained, his posture a little more tired, but it’s him.
He spreads his arms, low enough that she could have dismissed it if she’d cared less for hugs, except she’s almost as small as she was when they met.
And every other hug she’d given back then had been, functionally, her being a living missile aiming her montrals for someone’s organs.
She’s a little more aware of how to avoid stabbing her friends in the intestine now.
She sprints for him, collides and sobs, feels him stumble back and then sink to his knees on the too-hard floor, and can feel the tears pouring out of her already. Her breath hitches, and she wails like a child, and that last part of her that couldn’t even grasp at safety shreds itself. His arms are tight around her, warm and strong and Master Kenobi don’t you dare leave again.
It doesn’t matter that Sidious is out there, that the Republic’s been building towards war for a century, that even now someone’s kicking up the Trade Federation. Her dad is here.
“I’ve missed you too, my dear,” he says, pressing a kiss to the side of her head, the bristles of his beard scratching along the skin of her forehead. Off to the side, the binary suns that are Luke and Leia grow brighter in proximity, so bright she can barely bear it.
(“Fett, why the kriff are you reaching for your blaster?!”)
(“Torrent said her master tried to kill her.”)
(“Different guy, that was a different guy, put the blaster away.”)
(“You could have just warned me.”)
(“I didn’t expect you to go for a shot on sight!”)
(”Calm down, Jetiika, if I was going to shoot on sight, we’d already be in a firefight.”)
She ignores everything.
“If you fake your death one more time, I swear I’m going to kill you myself.”
He tries to pull away to talk to her more directly. She does not let him. He apparently resigns himself to this, because he just adjusts how he’s sitting and pulls her in closer.
“In my defense, I was far from the only one presumed dead that took advantage of that status, by the end,” he says, letting her slump into his lap and cry herself dry. “I’m proud of you. You know that, I hope.”
She nods against his chest, smearing tears and snot across the linen and wool. She doesn’t care that they’ll need a thorough washing. She can have her public breakdown and it’s fine because Master Kenobi is here.
He doesn’t even know what she’s spent the past fifteen years doing. Luke wouldn’t have known. He doesn’t know she’s thirty-two and broken, beyond a shadow and cut down by her own master. There’s so much he doesn’t know but the Force rings with the truth of it: he’s proud of her anyway.
“I’m going by Ben, now,” he mutters against her montral. “There’s already an Obi-Wan here, after all. Still, I remain a Kenobi.”
She can’t make the words come out of her mouth. She’s overwhelmed, so much so that speech is a mite bit beyond her.
Sokari Torrent, she presses along the frayed bond that’s knitting itself back to life with every breath they take. Leia was already calling me Auntie Soka, and Rex and I both took Torrent, for...
“For the men you lost,” he mutters. “Yes, that’s fitting.”
He smells like sapir tea and a spiced beard oil.
There’s a whirl of activity about her, greetings and ‘a Sith apprentice?’ and introductions. She distantly notes when Fett almost shoots Dooku before Rex shuts that down and advises the Master to leave the area before things spiral out of control. She feels Ben stand, and she stands with him, clings to his side like a child and trusts that whatever happens, whatever needs to happen, he’ll take care of it until she can stand on her own two feet without swaying.
Rex grabs her free hand, and she feels herself settle back into her skin, bit by bit.
She’s back at the Temple. The twins are safe. Her grandmaster is here. She has her other half.
They can save the galaxy this time.
She’s alive she’s home she’s okay.
Everything’s going to be okay.
Seeing Red | bodyguard!Bucky Barnes x reader (part 7)
(part 1) (part 2) (part 3) (part 4) (part 5) (part 6)
series summary: bucky used to brag that he didn’t have a celebrity crush, or really care about famous people at all, which is what made him the perfect person to start working for a celebrity like yourself. except, of course, it’s just his luck that he’d fall for you.
word count: 2.5k
warnings: um just implied smut and fluff and a reference to bdsm I guess?? but it's pretty chill overall
Liked by starkcosmetics and others
y/n.y/l/n okay first of all, it takes an act of god to get a picture of this guy smiling, but it’s always worth it. he really changed everything for me and I can’t thank him enough for that. so happy ❤️
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flowercrowny/n oh my god this is so sweet i’m gonna cry
1 HOUR AGO
He smiled as he stared down at the post you’d made, remembering how much effort you’d put into finding the perfect picture (in your opinion; he thought he looked kinda dopey in it) as well as writing and re-writing your caption.
The speed at which your post gained likes and comments was inconceivable to him; even more impressive was the speed at which gossip rags were picking up the story. Sure enough, his phone’s alerts to new headlines about you were not only going off like crazy, but had started to include news about himself as well.
Y/N Y/L/N Shocks With Romantic Instagram Post, Confirms Dating Rumors
You’ll Never Guess Which Hollywood Starlet Is Dating Her Driver
Who is James Barnes? Everything We Know About Y/N Y/L/N’s New Beau
Skimming one of the articles, he was impressed at how much information they’d managed to get without actually getting anything from you or him. Born in Brooklyn, disabled Army veteran, worked a list of odd jobs before becoming your driver and bodyguard. ‘No social media presence, prefers to keep a low profile’ one of them said; you can say that again, Bucky chuckled to himself when he read it.
He found another from People and didn’t particularly appreciate that it spent half the time going through all your past exes and rumored partners (turned out ‘rumored’ is a fancy word for ‘a bunch of fans deluded themselves so hard that it somehow turned into news without any proof necessary’). But he still smiled when he got to the part that was actually about you and him.
‘The relationship is pretty new but they’re so happy together,’ a source close to the couple reported.
Close indeed; that statement came from your publicist, who he’d never even meet.
‘He’s a very private guy and she’s got this huge following, so they’re sort of an odd couple in that way, but she knows her fans are respectful and will let them have their own life outside of the spotlight.’
Bucky wasn’t sure that the respectfulness of fans was such a given here, but he hoped you were right. To be fair, they’d been very sweet on your original post insofar.
However, when he scrolled to the bottom of the celebrity magazine articles and realized they had their own comments section, he discovered that they were a little less forgiving than the ones on your Instagram.
Is this the best she thinks she can do? So sad tbh :(
a military guy…. yikes, she could get any guy she wants and she goes for a murderer.
He looks like a hobo that found a coupon for a free haircut lol
I don’t buy it, I know she’ll always love Pietro!
Pietro being your former co-star that so many of your fans were convinced was actually your soulmate. From what he’d heard from you, those speculations had made things so uncomfortable between the two of you that it killed your friendship. Those were nothing, though, compared to the comments about someone you actually had dated.
she’s obviously not over sam… they were so good together
He’d better watch out for her ex, he still likes tweets about her and they have so much chemistry
Wait, she’s not still with Sam Wilson?? I could’ve sworn they’d been dating for, like, five years.
You were scrolling through your phone with a smile as you walked past where he was sitting on the couch, and he just couldn’t help himself from asking even though he knew it wasn’t the best idea. “Do I need to worry about this Sam thing?” he blurted out, trying to play it cool and not sound too anxious. “People are really obsessed with you two…”
“Sam and I…” you sighed, staring off into space for a second. He made himself anxious imagining what you were thinking about in that moment. “I haven’t talked to him in… years? I think it’s just because our relationship was so public that people are still talking about it. And it had a lot of gossip material— we did a movie together, people thought it was sweet that we got together during production, it was great promotion for the picture… and from the outside, we made a lot of sense for each other. But he has his own problems. I loved him, but… he wasn’t ever going to be a one-girl kinda guy.”
“But you’re not just any one girl. You’re… you know, you,” he emphasized.
“You’ve been reading too many headlines,” you shook your head as you sat down beside him. “Please don’t turn into one of those guys who thinks of me as a celebrity first. Before that—” you pointed to your own name where it was bolded on his screen in the trending topics page of Twitter— “was popping up on movie posters and in gossip magazines, it was just my name. And I’m not perfect. Not even close.”
Bucky sighed and wrapped his arms around you, pulling you into him and holding you tightly. “And before I knew you were famous, or rich, or incredibly talented, I was totally obsessed with you just for who you are.”
“You’re too fucking amazing,” you sighed as you held his face and gave him a gentle kiss— the kind of kiss that instantly melted his heart and banished his worries. When you pulled back and looked up at him with a smile, it was like everything else just… faded away. “Don’t read the comments, okay? None of them matter.”
He smiled and brushed his thumb over your cheek, overwhelmed by not only the softness of your skin but of your spirit as well. In all his life he’d never been handled so… gently, with so much care. “You’re the best thing that ever happened to me,” he mumbled, not even really realizing he’d said it aloud until you gave him a beaming smile.
“I can’t believe you’re my boyfriend,” you giggled pridefully.
“Seriously? I can… very easily believe it,” he scoffed.
“I just mean… you’re so…” you searched for the words. “You’re actually good to me, that’s the thing. I’m not used to that.”
“You deserve the world,” he assured. “I’m just gonna keep trying to give you as much of it as I can find.”
He watched his hand trail over your face, down your neck and to your chest where he played with the hem of your t-shirt.
"It's odd to know there are millions of people who are jealous of me,” he admitted quietly, remembering some aggressive comments from some very angry dudes who had apparently also watched your nude scene a few too many times.
"Do you like it? Do you like how it feels to know you're making them angry every time you touch me?"
"Couldn't care less," he refuted. "Nobody else matters when I'm touchin' you."
“Do you maybe wanna… touch me a little more about it?” you smirked, opening your legs slightly in invitation.
Bucky had, thankfully, not let the newfound fame get to his head. In fact, he had demanded that the two of you hunker down in the house, since he feared that going out would lead to being recognized. What he apparently hadn’t anticipated was that that might not be enough.
“Will you get that?” you requested when the gate buzzed, too wrapped up in the book you were reading to answer the intercom.
He hopped up and held down the button to communicate with the gate speaker. “Who is it?” he asked.
“I’ve got a delivery from Anjappar Chettinad on 23rd?”
Bucky didn’t even reply before hitting the green button and granting access to the driveway. BEEP BEEP BEEP! you heard the gate signal its opening, and the car pulling around up to the door. Bucky didn’t open it until there was a knock, greeting the delivery guy with a smile and the necessary cash.
“I’ve got a lamb korma, hyderabadi mutton dum biryani and an order of— woah,” the man suddenly stopped, staring at Bucky’s face. “Are you—?’
“Hungry? Yes,” he frowned.
“You’re the guy dating— holy shit, congrats man,” he beamed, smacking Bucky on the shoulder pridefully before leaning in with a mischievous smirk. “Say, is she a freak or what?”
“She is,” you piped up from the couch, making both men turn their heads; but one was chuckling while the other looked mortified. “You better not have forgotten my paneer pakora or I’m gonna chain you up and whip you.”
“Uh, I— no, I got it right here,” he promised weakly, handing the bag over to Bucky and starting to dash away before Bucky grabbed his arm, making the smaller man whimper fearfully.
“You forgot the money,” Bucky reminded him gruffly, stuffing the bills into the driver’s front pocket.
Finally, he let go, and the delivery man instantly pulled away, rubbing his arm and looking a bit like a kicked puppy as he went back to his car and drove away.
“You didn’t need to scare him that bad,” Bucky chuckled.
“I could say the same to you! Grabbing somebody with the metal arm like that will put the fear of God into them pretty fast.”
“I didn’t mean to grab him that hard,” he admitted, examining the prosthetic hand as he came back to the couch with the bag of food, handing it to you while he focused on watching his motorized fingers curl and uncurl. “I think I need to get this thing recalibrated… it’s been bugging out lately.”
“I dunno, it was working just fine last night,” you smiled, remembering how delightfully cool those fingers felt inside you.
Bucky seemed to miss it entirely, though, as he stared off into space. “I can’t believe I got… recognized.”
“You’re a star,” you winked. “And not just with random delivery drivers. I’ve had a lot of press requests, everybody wants to be the first one to get nice pictures of us together— we’ve had a dozen event invites as a couple.”
“Seriously?!” he scoffed, snapping back to reality slightly enough
“Yeah, and look what came in same-day mail this morning!” You leaned over to shuffle through the mail on the side table before finding and handing him a letter in a gold-embossed envelope, watching him read what you knew was inside.
The Hollywood Foreign Press Association extends an invitation to Y/N Y/L/N and James Barnes to the annual Grant Banquet in support of the Young Artists Fund.
“It seems like a good first event for us,” you explained. “Relatively small and low stakes, it’s for a good cause…”
“Are you sure I’m ready to be, you know… seen? By people?”
You scoffed, hardly believing how insecure he could be sometimes. “You look great, if that’s what you’re asking.”
“Will I have to talk to anybody other than you?” he asked, grimacing as if that were a form of brutal torture.
“Probably,” you admitted.
His frown deepened. “What if I say the wrong thing?”
“I’m not that worried about you,” you smirked. “You’re a lot better at this stuff than you think you are.”
“I don’t have anything to wear…”
You smirked, a little too proud of yourself, when you remembered the email your publicist had forwarded to you just this morning. “Hugo Boss will pay you $1500 to wear one of their suits on the carpet.”
“They’ll pay me to wear free clothes?” he repeated with wide eyes.
“Yeah, that’s one of the cooler things about fame,” you laughed. “I make a grand every time I wear this watch outside!”
“I guess I should send them my measurements then…” he trailed off. “Any chance I can get in on that watch deal?”
“No, but you can make $50 by getting papped at Jamba Juice.”
He paused for a moment, scratching the back of his neck as he thought. “Is the smoothie comped?”
“I don’t know. Do you want me to ask?”
“...kinda…” he admitted with a shy smile.
“Well, I will, and I’ll RSVP to this invite saying we’ll be there next week,” you decided as you started to open up the food, but Bucky stopped you by reaching for your hands.
“Are we really doing this?” he asked.
“If you want to,” you mitigated.
“Of course I do. I guess I have to accept that you’re actually willing to be seen with me,” he chuckled. “It’s just sort of hard to believe.”
You leaned in and kissed him; it was meant to be a casual, reassuring peck but he held you closer and you melted into him, moaning softly at his touch as you started to climb into his lap.
“The food’s gonna get cold,” he reminded you with a mumble against your lips.
Unfortunately, your literal hunger was a bit too strong to ignore, even with the growing intensity of a metaphorical hunger for Bucky. “Alright,” you relented, getting off of him and returning your attention to the meal on the table. “Just know that I really, really want to be seen together, in public, just in case anybody missed the news about us already. I’m not embarrassed by you or afraid you’re going to do something dumb. I…”
One of those words that can’t be unsaid started to bubble up in your throat and you coughed, banishing the thought.
“I really like you. I think we have something special.”
He smiled gently, giving you one more kiss on the cheek. “I think so, too.”
Since this was slightly less of a big deal than a premiere or press tour, you had managed to convince your styling team to let you dress yourself, which was why he was laying on the bed and talking to you through the bathroom door while you put on your gown.
“Do you want me to hire a new driver?” you prompted him, voice muffled slightly as he imagined your head covered in the fabric, trying to navigate through the dress. “I don’t want you to feel… I don’t know, like a servant?”
“A servant? You’re still paying me,” he reminded you. “You are still paying me, right?”
“Yes,” you laughed, “but still, I would hate it if you felt like staff. You’re my boyfriend!”
(His heart still fluttered every time you said it.)
“No new driver,” he decided. “I can drive just fine, and considering how things went between us… let’s not open the door for anybody else,” he smirked, making you laugh in that way you did when he made a stupid joke but you still liked it somehow.
“Okay, sure, but what about being my bodyguard? Is that too weird?” you continued.
“God no,” he scoffed, “if anything I’m gonna be better at my job than ever. As your boyfriend, keeping you safe is my job, but since keeping you safe was already my job… it’s, like, doubled-up now.”
He lost his train of thought when you opened the door.
“How do I look?” you asked as you stepped in and gave him a spin in your new dress. Your whole body was draped in red silk, with the exception of your back which was almost entirely exposed, as if it were begging him to run his fingers down your spine.
“Like everything I ever wanted,” he blurted out before he could stop himself.
And it was so odd that you questioned his desire to drive you, because those moments where he could steer with one hand and rest the other on your thigh, when he could catch a glimpse of you looking out the window at the city rolling by, when he got to listen to you ramble about something to kill the time during a drive; those were his favorite moments, and he wouldn’t trade them for anything.
After a relatively brief trip, you arrived at the venue, and all of a sudden he was doing what he’d fantasized about more than he’d like to admit: escorting you down a red carpet. It was almost overwhelming— yelling, chattering, reporters speaking into camera, flashes going off in every direction—
“Hey,” you whispered, bringing your hand up to his cheek and instantly taking all his attention.
“Hey,” he returned.
“Just follow my lead,” you instructed.
“That was the plan.”
The Falcon and the Newlyweds
Summary: After Steve travels back in time to reunite you and Bucky, he retires as Captain America, but you’re just getting started. (aka exactly like TFATWS but better?)
A/N: All credits to original owners/writers of TFATWS series. Added details/characters and minor storyline changes are of my own imagination.
Word Count: 5.9k
And away, and away we go!
The next handful of weeks after Steve brought you back were a whirlwind that started with you and Bucky getting to finish the honeymoon you started eighty years ago, before settling down in his apartment in Brooklyn.
“It’s amazing how the city’s so different from what it used to be, but somehow is still the same,” you marveled as he carried you over the threshold.
“That's why I got this place. With everything that’s changed it was nice to have something that felt familiar at least,” he explained as he set you down on your feet. “And now that you’re here, it can really feel like home again.”
“Does this home have a bedroom?” you asked, looking around the apartment with its sparse decorating of a chair, along with a blanket and pillow on the floor.
“Down the hall,” he said, pointing.
Excited to see everything about the place you would turn into your home with Bucky, you raced down the hall to a door you assumed led to a bedroom, only to find it completely barren. “Uh, Bucky?”
“Where’s the bed?”
He pointed back out to the living room where the blanket and pillow were.
“That’s not a bed, Bucky.”
“Beds are too… I’ve gotten used to sleeping in less than ideal conditions.”
“Well, I haven’t, so I’d very much prefer for us to get a bed. And for you to sleep in it with me.”
He smiled, wrapping his arms around you as he held you from behind. “Okay, doll.”
Two hours later, you were enjoying the site of Bucky assembling the bed frame when a phone rang shrilly, causing you to jump. “I don’t think I’m ever gonna get used to this thing,” you grumbled, pulling the phone from your pocket.
“I’m still not used to mine,” Bucky laughed as he screwed a bolt in place.
“You know that’d be faster if you used that fancy arm of yours,” you pointed out as you answered the phone. “Hello?” you asked while Bucky mumbled something about not always remembering his metal arm because he’s right-handed.
“Hey, Y/N,” Steve replied. “How’s getting settled at Buck’s?”
“It’s going well. He’s putting the bed together now.”
“Good luck getting him to sleep in it.”
“Oh, I think I’ll manage alright,” you said suggestively.
“I-” Steve choked. “Okay… Anyway, I wanted to talk to you and Buck about something. Sam too.”
“Okay… Is this a phone call conversation? Or a ‘come over as soon as you can’ conversation?”
“A ‘come over as soon as you can’ conversation. Sam’s already on his way.”
You looked over at Bucky and the half assembled bed. “I- Yeah, okay, we’ll be right over. But, when we’re done with your thing, you and Sam are coming over to help Bucky with the bed.”
“I don’t need help,” Bucky grunted as he swore trying to connect some of the pieces together.
“Yeah, we’ll help,” Steve told you anyway with a small laugh. “See you in a bit then?”
“Yep, see you soon.”
“Where are we going?” Bucky asked around a screw he was holding in his teeth so it wouldn’t roll away.
“Steve’s. He wants to talk to us about something.”
“I’m kinda in the middle of something here, doll.”
“I know. And now we’re going to Steve’s. C’mon.”
He leaned back on his palms, rolling his eyes at you and chuckling. “Alright, I’m coming,” he said, spitting out the screw and pushing himself to his feet.
“Any idea what’s going on?” Sam asked as the three of you sat around the kitchen table waiting on Steve.
“No,” you answered with a shake of your head.
“Yeah, it’s an annoying habit of his to NOT TELL US ANYTHING!” Bucky called out loudly.
There was a chuckle as Steve joined you all in the kitchen, laying his shield down on the table.
“Whoa,” you breathed, running your fingers over the metal, having never seen his shield before. “This is really nice.”
“It’s like his third one,” Bucky and Sam told you, clearly not as impressed with it as you were. “But why are you showing it to us?” Sam went on.
“I’m retiring,” Steve announced. “As Captain America. As an Avenger.”
“We had that option the whole time?” Bucky asked no one in particular.
“You have to be an Avenger first before you can retire from being one, Buck,” Sam told him.
Bucky’s eyes darkened as he pointed a finger at Sam. “Hey! If I’m not an Avenger, neither are you, bird boy.”
You and Steve shared a look and a matching sigh. “Guys!” Steve said to get their attention.
Bucky and Sam shot each other one last glare before focusing their attention back on Steve. “So, you’re retiring? Just like that?” Sam asked.
“That’s what he said,” Bucky muttered under his breath.
“Hush,” you scolded, resting a hand on Bucky’s thigh.
“Yes, I’m retiring,” Steve repeated. “With The Blip being fixed and everything that happened, it’s time for me to step down to the new age of heroes.”
“So, what does that have to do with the shield?” Sam asked.
“What?!” both Bucky and Sam exclaimed.
“I want Sam to take up the shield. So it’s yours.” Steve nodded at the shield. “Go ahead. See how it feels.”
Sam tentatively picked up the shield, feeling the weight of it in his hands as he slid it into position on his arm, his expression unreadable.
“Well? How’s it feel?” Steve prompted.
“It feels like it belongs to someone else,” was Sam’s reply as he slid it off and put it back on the table. “But thank you. It means a lot.”
Steve nodded with a proud smile.
“Well,” you said, breaking the silence that started to fall across the group. “Steve, if you’re retiring, I suppose now is as good enough to ask as any.”
“To become an Avenger myself.”
“What?!” all three men asked, turning to you in shock. “Doll,” Bucky continued, “you don’t want to be an Avenger.”
“I do too,” you pressed. “I’ve been thinking a lot since I’ve been here. About what I want to do. What I’m meant to do. I mean, surely Steve you didn’t bring me back just to be Bucky’s wife again. I want this life to have a purpose for me. And I’m not sitting on the sidelines waiting for another knock on my door.”
Bucky and Steve stared at each other, Bucky silently begging Steve to tell you no. That they could find you something else to do. Something that didn’t put you in constant jeopardy. “C’mon,” you continued to press. “Steve, you told me that now that the intergalactic war was settled there’s no current threat you’re facing. Otherwise you wouldn’t be retiring and going on about making way for the new age of heroes. Now’s the most realistic time for me to become an Avenger. So I can be ready for the next threat along with everyone else.”
Steve sighed, knowing you had a point, but Bucky wasn’t willing to relent so easily to your wish. “No. I’m sorry, but the answer is no.”
“Good thing you’re not an Avenger then, and it’s not your choice,” you snapped harshly.
Steve sighed again, not wanting to be the one to cause a riff between his sister and best friend. But in good conscience, he couldn’t deny your request. “Yes, you can join the team.”
“Steve!” Bucky barked, rising to his feet.
“On one condition,” Steve went on. “Buck oversees your training.”
Training under Bucky would ensure that he could keep a close eye on you, and make sure you were as adequately trained as possible. A chance he wouldn’t sabotage no matter how conflicted he felt personally about you becoming an Avenger. “Deal,” you both agreed.
“Congrats. You three are now part of the newest Avengers team.”
Being part of the new Avengers team didn’t really amount to much in the months that followed Steve’s retirement. With no imminent threat presenting itself, focus shifted to recovering from The Blip. Which for Sam meant he returned to the Air Force. For you it meant training under Bucky. And for Bucky it meant court-sanctioned therapy as part of his government pardon for his actions as the Winter Soldier. Simple routines while you all waited and wondered if and when the ground would start shaking underfoot again.
Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately, the ground didn’t seem like it wanted to shake. Which meant you three shook it yourselves. Or more specifically, Sam did when he announced his intentions to turn in Steve’s shield in a ceremony to honor Steve’s service as Captain America.
“While I appreciate the sentiment, Sam, I have to ask why. The shield is yours,” Steve said as you all talked over the plans for the ceremony.
“No, it’s not,” Sam said with a simple shake of his head. “I’ll explain it better in my speech at the ceremony.”
“Which you want to do when?” you asked.
“In about a week. I have to fly out to do a small mission with the Air Force. So once I get back from that.”
“Lucky…” you muttered under your breath. You were itching to get on a mission yourself.
“No,” Bucky said sternly. “You’re not ready yet.”
“Then train me more,” you answered sweetly.
Rather than continue to engage in a back and forth about your training, Bucky turned his attention back to Sam. “As long as it doesn’t conflict with my therapy, I’ll be there.”
“I’ll make sure it doesn’t,” Sam nodded.
“How’s that going by the way?” Steve asked.
Bucky set his jaw and rolled his eyes which was enough of an answer. He hated therapy and the therapist’s three stupid rules. Dr. Raynor would be pissed to learn he found a loophole to rule number 2 which stated he wasn’t allowed to hurt people in his “making amends effort”. But how else was he supposed to train his wife? “So, same time next week?” he asked, again bypassing attempts to pull him into conversation.
While Sam left on his mission, you and Bucky partook in one of your own so he could cross off a name on his list of people to make amends to.
“Which car?” you asked, barely moving your lips as you walked purposefully through a parking garage.
“That one, straight ahead,” Bucky’s voice said into your earpiece as he watched from his vantage point further away, his eyes dropping to watch your ass as you walked. “I think those might be my favorite pair of heels you have.”
“Oh is that so?” you teased, again barely moving your lips as you spoke. “Enjoying the view are we?”
“Very much so. My wife’s a bombshell.”
You couldn’t help but smirk at his comment as you slapped your hand on the hood of the white SUV, sliding your hand underneath to stick a computerized device to the underside of the hood adjacent to the front passenger tire. “Device is secure,” you reported, trailing your hand over the hood again as you walked on through the parking garage to your own vantage point.
“Perfect. Now we just wait.”
“You know, there’s probably a simpler way to get Senator Atwood’s attention than by temporarily taking control of her car,” you said as you pulled out a small device from your purse.
“Yeah, but then you wouldn’t get your training, would you?”
“There are other ways to train me than to just use me to plant devices on people and things. Like how to fight. That could be a useful skill.”
“One skill at a time, doll. And get ready, they’re coming.”
“Just say when,” you said, tapping at the device in your hands to get it prepared.
Bucky watched as a woman dressed smartly crossed the parking garage with an assistant, both of them getting into the white SUV you had bugged. “Now.”
You hit a button that locked the doors of the SUV, then another one that backed the car out of it’s space, spinning the car a bit as you did so. Even from the distance and the rolled up windows, you could hear the panicked screams from inside the car.
“Stop,” Bucky commanded and the car jerked to a standstill as he stalked up to the vehicle.
You rolled down the window for him as he approached, hearing the Senator’s panicked frustration of “C’mon!”
“Remember me?” Bucky asked.
The assistant in the car pulled a gun, and without thinking, Bucky grabbed it, twisting the other man’s arm. Only then did he break rule number 2 by knocking out the assistant with a quick hit to the head. “I am no longer the Winter Soldier,” Bucky then said, gaining the startled woman’s attention. “I’m James Bucky Barnes, and you’re part of my effort to make amends.” Then, he offered the most awkward attempt at a smile of apology, before leaving as the sound of sirens and cops swarmed the parking garage.
“Having her arrested is part of your effort to make amends?” you questioned as you and Bucky left together.
“She abused the power I helped her to get,” your husband shrugged.
“Mmm, and breaking rule 2?”
Bucky fixed you with a stare. “He pulled a gun on me. He’ll be fine.”
You raised your hands in surrender, “Hey, you don’t have to justify anything to me. I’m not your therapist.”
“Then why did you ask?”
“Curiosity. Also, can you teach me how you did that?”
“Really?!” you asked, brightening up.
“It’s useful, and it keeps me from having to do it myself.”
You crossed your hands behind your head, smiling contently. “I love finding ways around your rules.”
What you didn’t love was Bucky’s nightmares.
What woke you up first was Bucky’s leg kicking out. “Ow!” you muttered, rolling over to get him to stop. Bucky thrashed again, like he was fighting some imaginary foe. “Bucky, wake up,” you said, not wanting to reach out and touch him just yet.
Bucky’s movements stilled as he mumbled something under his breath.
“Bucky, wake up,” you repeated. “You’re dreaming. It’s okay. It’s not real. Wake up!”
His eyes flew open, his breathing heavy. In the soft moonlight streaming in past the curtains, you could see the layer of sweat on his face as he sat up.
“Another nightmare?” you asked softly, now reaching out to stroke his arm.
He gave a slight scoff. “I don’t think it counts as a nightmare if it’s real.”
“It’ll get better,” you assured him.
“Is that so?”
“What? You think you’re the only one who has nightmares? Bucky, I lost you and Steve for two years, turning over the worst scenarios in my head. And then that worst scenario came true. Granted, it ended up being a lie, and everything went sort of crazy from there. But for two days I was living in a world where the war had taken the two best men away from me.”
Bucky sighed, pulling you into him, a kiss finding a way into your hair. “I’m sorry,” was all he could think of to say.
“I wasn’t telling you that for sympathy. I was telling you because eventually the nightmares will stop.”
“What made them stop for you?”
“Getting you and Steve back. It’s definitely not in a manner I ever would have thought to expect. But I got you guys back.”
“While I’m happy that you’re not having nightmares yourself anymore, and that I get to have you back again, I don’t think my nightmares will go away that easily.”
“That’s okay. That’s why you’re in therapy.”
“No. I’m in therapy because I don’t want to be in jail for the rest of my life.”
You chuckled lightly. “Okay. That may be true. But that doesn’t mean that therapy has to be this punishment. Make it work for your benefit.”
“You haven’t met my therapist.”
“Just be honest with her, Bucky. She’s there to help you. Tell her about the nightmares and Senator Atwood in your session tomorrow.”
“I will,” he lied, giving you another kiss before settling back down in bed.
“So, how was therapy?” Steve asked as you all conjoined for a weekly meetup before heading to D.C. for the ceremony Sam had been planning.
Bucky rolled his eyes. “Usual stuff. She accused me of not trusting people.”
“You don’t trust people,” you, Sam, and Steve said in unison.
“I trust you three.”
“I’m your wife, Steve’s your brother-in-law, and Sam’s… Well… I don’t really know what Sam is.”
“I still trust you guys though.”
“Did she call you out on how we’re still the only contacts in your phone?” you went on.
Bucky stared at you for a good while before he gave the smallest of nods. “She also pointed out I’ve been ignoring Sam’s texts.”
“You have,” Sam confirmed.
“Cuz we do this,” Bucky gestured about Steve’s kitchen, “every week. I don’t need to respond. What really pissed me off was when she accused me of not having a family. Like what does that mean? What’s more family than this?” Again, he gestured about the kitchen. “Whatever. She’s a quack who doesn’t get it. I went most of my adult life bouncing from one fight to the next. This is the closest I’ve had to normal since ‘43, so what? I’m just supposed to start trusting people and making friends? No thanks.”
You, Sam, and Steve all shared a worried glance while Bucky sulked about how much he hated therapy. “Okay…” you said slowly, turning to Sam. “Tell us about the mission you went on!”
“Oh, it wasn’t much,” Sam shrugged. “Just some guys who are taking advantage of The Blip chaos. One of the guys, Torres, mentioned something about this group called the Flag Smashers. Some radical group who thought the world was better during The Blip, and how they want a world unified without borders.”
“Well, that last part doesn’t seem so bad,” you pointed out.
“Yeah, so we’re not really sure what to think about this group right now. So we’re keeping our eyes on the situation.”
“We meaning ‘we’?” Bucky asked, waving a finger between him, you and Sam. “Or ‘we’ as in the US Army?”
“The Army. But I told Torres to tell me if anything serious starts to happen.”
“Yeah. Oh, I also heard a great conspiracy theory about Steve.”
“Yeah?” Steve asked.
“Yeah. Apparently you’re on a secret base on the moon.”
You snickered into your hand. “The moon? Yeah, right.”
Sam looked at you, raising an eyebrow. “You know we’ve been to the moon, right?”
Your eyes widened in shock. “I-”
“You believed Steve about the intergalactic war that eliminated half of the Earth’s population, but moon landing is too much for you to wrap your head around?”
“Give her a break, Sam,” Bucky said, rising to your defense.
“Include history lessons in her training.”
Knowing the bickering between Bucky and Sam could carry on all afternoon while you sat there muttering “the moon?” to yourself on loop, Steve stood up, taking action. “Let’s get to D.C., yeah?”
“Steve represented the best in all of us,” Sam spoke clearly as he gave his speech, pride in his friend evident in his tone. “Courageous, righteous, hopeful. And he mastered posing stoically.”
There was polite laughter from the crowd as you all looked at the banner bearing the stoic pose of the now-retired Captain just behind Sam. While you were certain the speech was almost commonplace to anyone who had known Steve or witnessed him as Captain America, to you the words help cast your brother in a new light. Shedding helpful insight on the man you missed out on getting to witness his transformation from scrawny kid from Brooklyn into the hero the world knew him to be.
“The world has been forever changed,” Sam continued. “A few months ago, billions of people reappeared after five years away, sending the world into turmoil. We need new heroes. Ones suited for the times were in. Symbols are nothing without the men and women that give them meaning. And this thing,” Sam picked up the shield beside him, holding it carefully in his hands. “I don’t know if there’s ever been a greater symbol. But it’s more about the man who propped it up. And he’s gone.” And while he meant that Steve was gone only in terms of retirement, he also meant that technically so was Captain America. Because while Steve may have been sitting next to you, now he was just Steve Rogers again, his legacy as Captain America now a memory.
“So today, we honor Steve’s legacy. But also, we look to the future. So, thank you, Captain America. But this belongs to you.”
There was applause as Sam handed over the shield to a museum worker who placed it safely in a glass case, but also a somber reality settled in around Sam’s speech. A reality of what the world would look like now without it’s familiar faces of the original Avengers. A reality of how to continue the legacy, while also redefining it to fit in with the new world you were all living in.
“Thanks for coming forward with the shield, Sam,” someone was telling him as you, Bucky, and Steve approached. “It was the right decision.” They shook hands and the man walked off.
“Right decision,” Steve scoffed under his breath. “It’s my shield, and it’s my decision. And my decision was to give it to you. It’s crazy to think nobody’s going to be carrying it now.”
“Hey, we went 70 years without anybody carrying’ it when you were a Capsicle. So, I think we’ll be alright.”
“It was a different time, Sam. So my only question is why you won’t accept it.”
“When you gave me the shield, I told you that it felt like it belonged to someone else. That someone else is you, Steve. It’s not right for me to keep it. To be the next you.”
“It’s just a shield, Sam.”
“To you, maybe. Maybe it was just a shield. But that’s not the way other people see it. That’s not the way I see it. Look, man, I’m an Avenger through and through. I’ll do my part. But the shield? That’s always going to belong to you and no one else.”
Steve opened his mouth to continue protesting Sam’s refusal to take the shield, but now after hearing the speech and Sam’s more detailed explanation as to why he was denying the gift, he closed his mouth. Instead, he nodded, resting a hand on Sam’s shoulder. “You’re a good man, Sam.”
The Wednesday after the ceremony celebrating Steve, you and Bucky were back home, walking the streets of New York on your way to lunch. For a reason you didn’t understand, Bucky was always insistent with having lunch with an old man by the name of Yori Nakajima. You had a hunch that it had to do with your husband’s list of names, but you never wanted to press the issue. Plus, you liked Yori. He was a sweet old man with a lot of stories you liked to hear as they helped fill in your own gaps of knowledge.
As you and Bucky walked hand in hand down the street, you could hear an argument happening in an alleyway just outside of Yori’s apartment complex. As you got nearer, you could see it was a dispute between Yori and a man of similar age to you and Bucky.
Bucky quickly let go of your hand, taking a few rapid steps to get closer to the disagreement. “Hey! Hey! Yori, what’s going on? I thought we were getting lunch.”
“Unique is putting his trash into my trash,” Yori explained.
“It’s trash,” the other man said, not understanding what the big deal was.
“And the time has come for me to sma-” Yori continued, raising a hand to Unique.
“Whoa!” Bucky said, stepping in between them, while Unique insisted again that “It’s just trash.” “Hang on,” Bucky told Yori before turning his attention to Unique.
“Hey, man. I’m Unique,” the man introduced, shaking Bucky’s hand. “It’s like Monique, but it’s got a ‘U’ in there for uniqueness.”
“That’s absurd,” Yori muttered, looking at you, and you coughed to cover up a laugh as Yori started walking down the alleyway.
“Okay, sorry,” Bucky apologized, before following after you and Yori. “Yori,” you can’t keep fighting with your neighbors,” Bucky scolded. “C’mon, let’s go get some food.”
“No, go away,” Yori said, pulling away as Bucky tried to rest a hand on the older man’s shoulder.
Bucky shot you a look, pleading silently for you to step in and help.
“But Izzy,” you said soothingly. “We always go to Izzy on Wednesday.”
“I’m not in the mood today,” Yori said, in a tone much nicer than the one he would have addressed Bucky with.
“What if Bucky buys?” you asked, offering an incentive.
Bucky shot you another look. Really?!
You smiled sweetly at him. You said you wanted help.
Bucky rolled his eyes, while Yori pondered the offer over. “Fine,” he finally said. “But no talking.”
You and Bucky shared a bemused look as the three of you started walking to the sushi bar up the street, knowing that it’d only be a matter of time before Yori was talking your ears off as per usual.
“Take a look,” Yori said, snapping out a newspaper to show to you and Bucky. “Nobody made it past 90 this week.”
“So young,” Bucky said with a shake of his head.
“Such a shame,” you agreed.
At that moment, the waitress walked by, setting your plates on the table. “You guys didn’t order the usual, huh? Feeling a little adventurous?” Even though her question was directed at all of you, the waitress’ gaze was heavy on Bucky.
“She always flirts with you,” Yori pointed out the obvious as the waitress shot Bucky a wink and then walked off.
“I hadn’t noticed,” Bucky deadpanned.
You snorted into your drink. “Really? Are you that oblivious?”
“Only have eyes for you, doll,” he said with a soft smile, squeezing your hand in his.
“Aw, aren’t you sweet?” you smiled back, feeling your cheeks flush pink. Ring on your finger or not, Bucky always had a way of making you feel like you were the only girl that ever mattered to him. And it never failed to make your heart race.
“And so what if she flirts with me?” Bucky asked Yori. “Am I supposed to flirt back?”
“No, you should flirt with your wife. Ask her on a date. Has he asked you on a date, Y/N?”
“No, he hasn’t.”
“You’re my wife. Since when do I have to ask you on a date?”
“I may be your wife, but I still like to be taken out.”
“I take you out all the time.”
“Yeah, but dancing?”
“Doll, I haven’t danced since 1943.”
“That’s exactly why we should go dancing.”
In your bantering with Bucky, neither of you realized how Yori had fallen silent, looking sadly at his food. You nudged Bucky, jerking your chin at Yori. “What’s wrong?” Bucky asked.
Yori started speaking in Japanese, before switching into English. “Um, he had a job with a consulting company. And, uh, he was working abroad. And he was killed. The police said ‘wrong place, wrong time,’ but I will never know what really happened to him.”
While you missed who Yori was referring to, you assumed it was somebody close to him. And when you looked at Bucky to fill in the missing gap for you, your husband’s face had taken on a haunted blank stare at Yori’s story.
“I felt it was strange,” Yori continued. “In here,” he patted at his heart, while yours cracked in your chest.
Quietly, the three of you finished lunch, Bucky slapping down some money to cover the bill. And as you and Bucky walked back home, you couldn’t stop yourself from asking. “Is that why?”
“Is that why what?”
“Is that why we have lunch with Yori? He’s one of the names isn’t he? Part of the nightmares?”
“His son is, but yes.”
“It’s like Yori said. Wrong place at the wrong time. Back when I wasn’t me. But I-”
“Still feel guilty about it?”
“Then tell Yori. Explain the situation. Give him the peace of mind of knowing what really happened to his son.”
“So he can hate me?”
“So you can both heal.”
“I’ll think about it. In the meantime, why don’t you and I go dancing?”
“Really?” you asked, a smile coming to your face. “You’ll take me dancing?”
“Well, we can make our night of it at home. Dancing is a lot different than what it used to be. But yes, I’ll take you dancing. How’s tomorrow sound?”
“It sounds perfect.”
The next evening, while you got dressed, Bucky excused himself to step out, saying he needed to take care of something. And when he returned a handful of minutes later, he presented you with a small bouquet of flowers.
“Oh, Bucky,” you smiled, taking a deep sniff of the flowers. “You didn’t have to.”
“Of course I did,” he said, going to the record player and putting on some music, while you put the flowers in a vase filled with water. “Now come dance with me,” he said, holding out his hand to you.
Outside, the world might have been 2023 with its fancy technology you still struggled to make sense of, and advancements you tried to keep track of. But inside the walls of your apartment, with the record player filling the living room with soft jazz, as you danced slowly with Bucky, you felt yourself transported back in time. You leaned your head against him, closing your eyes as you swayed with him. And you could see him as he used to be: laughing as you cleaned both him and Steve up after he had to get Steve out of a fight. The shy look in his eyes the first time he told you he loved you, and how scared that made him, not because Steve was his best friend and because you were his sister, but because now it meant he had so much more to lose. The first equally shy kiss the two of you had shared immediately after that confession, ten non-metal fingers gently cupping your face. The Bucky you had gotten to know and love before your world flipped upside down.
“What are you thinking about, hmm?” his voice hummed in your ear, drawing you back to the present moment.
“You and me. What we used to be versus who we are now.”
“Mmm, and which do you prefer? Us then, or us now?”
“I’m not really sure,” you answered honestly. “I just know I like having ‘us’ however that looks.”
“Did you ever try to date? After Steve saved you and before he brought me back, I mean.”
“Not really. Sam tried to get me to do online dating. But I wasn’t too keen on it.”
“You know I wouldn’t have blamed you if you moved on, right? That I’d always want for you to be happy?”
“I didn’t want to move on.”
“Didn’t think I deserved to. Hell, I still don’t think I deserve to. Even now with you here.”
“James Barnes, you deserve everything, and don’t you ever forget it,” you told him sternly.
His chest rumbled with his laugh. “Okay, doll.”
“How’s Sarah and your nephews?” Steve asked Sam.
Sam rubbed at his face tiredly, his week going home to try and square things away weighing heavily on him. “They’re good. It’s everything else that’s a mess.”
You patted Sam’s hand soothingly. “How do you mean?”
“Turns out you can’t get a loan after disappearing for five years. Which we desperately need if we want to keep the house and the boat.”
“And is that what you want?”
“Yeah, but Sarah thinks otherwise. She wants to sell everything. Wash her hands of it all. But the house and the boat are half mine. It’s all we got left. I can’t let it go.”
Steve scoffed lightly, rolling his eyes at Sam’s words.
“Oh, what, big guy?”
“Nothing. It’s just funny hearing you go on about wanting to protect legacies.”
“It’s my family’s legacy, Steve. If you want to keep your own legacy alive, go ahead. Go get the shield back from Washington. No one’s stopping you.”
“I’m teasing, Sam. Let us know if there’s anything we can do to help.”
“Thanks, man. I appreciate it.” At that moment, Sam’s phone buzzed. He pulled it out, giving the notification a quizzical glance. “Can you guys excuse me for a minute?” he asked, not waiting for an answer as he made his way outside for some privacy.
“Wonder what that’s all about,” Bucky wondered out loud.
“Probably some really cool mission,” you guessed.
“You’re not ready for an actual mission yet, doll, trust me.”
“And I’m never going to until we actually go on missions.”
“In due time,” both Bucky and Steve assured you as Steve turned on the news. “Uh… Sam?!” Steve hollered. “Get in here!”
“What, what is it?” Sam asked, running inside as you all crowded onto the couch to watch the announcement taking place on the television.
A man you recognized as the man from the ceremony who had thanked Sam for turning in the shield, was addressing a small crowd. “Unrest, in the wake of recent events, has left us vulnerable. Every day, Americans feel it. While we love heroes who put their lives on the line to defend Earth, we also need a hero to defend this country. We need a real person who embodies America’s greatest values. We need someone to inspire us again, someone who can be a symbol for all of us. So, on behalf of the Department of Defense and our Commander-in-Chief, it is with great honor that we announce here today that the United States of America has a new hero. Join me in welcoming your new Captain America.”
Another man stepped forward, dressed in a Captain America suit, Steve’s shield in hand. He smiled and winked at the camera as the crowd applauded.
You spared a glance across the room. Steve’s face was pinched in anger, his fingers white-knuckling the armrest of his chair. Bucky’s face was pinched in a similar manner, his tongue clicking in his cheek as he shook his head. And Sam? Sam looked downright terrifying.
“They can’t do that, can they?” you wondered. “Steve, you gave the shield to Sam. If anyone should be the new Captain America, it’s Sam. Not whoever that guy is.”
“You’d think, but Sam gave up the shield.”
“In a ceremony honoring you! He was hardly giving it up. He was turning in a piece of history!” You were outraged that the same guy who had thanked Sam for “doing the right thing” by giving up the shield had now handed it over to this wanna-be version of your brother.
“It doesn’t matter. It’s technically government property anyway. They can do whatever they want with it.”
“That’s bullshit,” you spat.
Steve’s eyes went wide. “Language!” he scolded.
“Oh, c’mon,” Bucky said, rolling his eyes. “She’s right, Steve. It is bullshit. Sam, you okay?”
Sam hadn’t moved, his eyes still fixed on the television with that terrifying glint. “Those sons of bitches,” he muttered darkly.
@cxddlyash @stanofalotofthings @philthepegacorn @youngblood199456 @binxiboo @creator-appreciator @frontmanash @iknowyouthinkimbulletproof @jessalyn-jpeg @lilyoflower @mychemicalimagines @rougese7en @milea
could you write a really fluffy bit on harry kissing every single self harm scar on your body? like, stroking them and cuddling with you and reassuring you that your body is beautiful and okay even with scars? 🥺
thank you for requesting this! this was genuinely quite therapeutic to write so i’m glad i did it — it’s longer than i meant it to be at about 2.4k words, but anyway. here’s a difficult conversation with new boyfriend!harry.
major trigger warning for discussions of self-harm and scars. this is not a story for everyone, and could definitely be triggering if you are not in the right headspace. please be responsible and look after yourselves <3
this is also pretty unedited so forgive any mistakes. okay!! onwards!
It’s getting late when Harry asks you, ‘Do you want to spend the night?’
The meandering film you found on Netflix is drawing to a close, finally. The characters are on a boat, drifting away into an Italian sunset. You barely have a grasp of how they got there — mostly, you just listened to Harry talk over the dialogue about a pretty little café he knows just around the corner from where this scene was filmed, or how cool the water gets at night there and so the actors must have been shivering. All of it wrapped up, of course, in a quiet suggestion to take you there someday so you can see for yourself. You get a little thrill every time he says something like that. It means he’s thinking of a future with you, which means he wants one, even though it’s only been just over a month since you’ve been seeing each other.
He trails his fingers up and down your arm, bringing up goosebumps beneath your sleeve, and looks at you. ‘Or I can drive you home, if you’d rather sleep in your own bed.’
You hum. ‘No,’ you say. ‘I’ll stay. I’d probably end up falling asleep in the car anyway. I’m so tired.’
His dimple appears. ‘Good, because I’d probably fall asleep at the wheel.’ He grabs the remote and turns the TV off, then pushes himself off the couch with a groan. He holds his hand out for you. ’C’mon, then.’
You grab his hand and he hauls you up, his other arm coming up to your back to pull you into his chest. You fall against him, grabbing his biceps to steady yourself. The two glasses of wine you’ve had tonight have thrown your balance off. He presses a kiss to your hair as you giggle. Then he brings his hand up to your jaw to tilt your head up to look at him properly. You nearly melt at his green eyes.
‘Hey,’ he says. ‘I can sleep on the couch.’ His gaze is completely sincere.
You haven’t slept together before, both in the literal and figurative senses. You haven’t had sex with anybody at all, actually, and Harry seems to have picked up on your hesitancy. He’s never asked for anything. He lets everything stay on your terms.
That’s what makes you trust him.
‘You don’t have to do that,’ you tell him.
He holds your gaze for a moment longer, just to make sure. ’Right,’ he says, breaking into a smile.
He finds a new toothbrush in his cupboard for you, and you brush your teeth together. It feels like a big step to do these nighttime rituals with him. It’s so domestic. He shares his cleanser with you and offers his moisturiser that smells like vanilla. You imagine spending every night like this.
As he leads the way back into his bedroom, he pulls his shirt off. ‘I get hot at night. D’you mind?’
You giggle — you can’t help yourself, at the sight of his muscled torso with all of its tattoos. He’s so handsome. ‘Not at all,’ you tell him.
He throws the shirt into a hamper in the corner, and the birds on his chest seem to fly with the movement of his shoulder, then looks back to catch you ogling him. He chuckles, and the sight of his dimples gives you butterflies.
‘You like?’ he asks.
You narrow your eyes. ’Are you flexing?’
He relaxes. ‘Yeah, a bit. Just wanna impress you.’
You snort at that. ‘Like you need to do anything to impress me.’
He grins. ‘D’you want something more comfortable to sleep in?’ He rummages around in his drawer for a moment, then pulls out a t-shirt and holds it up for you. It has an incredibly faded image of Flinstones characters on the front. ‘How’s this?’ he asks.
You smile at his courtesy. ’Perfect. I love your t-shirt collection, by the way. Where the hell do you find things like this?’
‘Oh, you know… Here and there.’ He tosses it to you.
You catch it with some semblance of grace — you’re proud of yourself for that. ‘Thanks.’ You glance at the bathroom door. ‘Alright. I’ll just… get changed in here,’ you say, slipping through the ajar door.
You shut the door, and realise you’ve forgotten to turn the light on, leaving you in pitch-black. You grope against the wall for the switch and turn it on, and take a deep breath. Why are you so nervous, so frazzled? It’s just Harry. You shimmy out of your leggings, then pull your sweater over your head.
You look at your reflection. Well. There’s a problem. It’s easy for you to forget when you’re alone, or wrapped up in layers of clothing — it’s just a part of your body now. Artefacts from a different time, years ago. Even the memory of how you got them — how you gave them to yourself — is slipping away, thank God. It’s all a haze. These scars were carved by a girl that you don’t see much anymore. They aren’t really a painful reminder anymore, just a fact of life. You know they're there. The problem is, no one else expects it.
You stare down at your wrists, seeing the lines that never faded. Maybe if they were all like the thin white lines, barely visible until you look closely, you wouldn’t mind. You’re going to sleep, anyway, and it’s not like he’s inspecting your forearms. No, it’s the three darker ones, hard twisting scar tissue that you can feel even through sleeves. Times where you went just a little too deep, were a little too reckless. The ones you regret the most. They’re big, and ugly, and too obvious. He’d notice them right away.
But he gave you his t-shirt.
You look at your reflection in the mirror, furrowing your brows. You adjust your pose, twisting your arms around so the inside of your wrists are hidden, facing behind you. You look ridiculous. You know, as soon as you see Harry, you’ll reach for him, and he’ll see.
Would that be so bad?
You look down at your arms again. It’s been years, and they’re still there. They’ll probably be there forever. They’re as permanent as the tattoos on his skin — except those are beautiful, and what you have is not. You can’t show this to him. The world where these scars exist, and the world where he exists, should never cross over. It wouldn’t be right.
You pull your long-sleeve back on, covering them again. Then you put the t-shirt, which is long enough to be modest on you. This is fine, right? It’s better than any alternative, at least.
You leave the bathroom holding your folded sweats up to your chest, nervous now realising that you are standing in front of Harry in just your underwear, more naked than you ever have been in front of him.
He’s checking something on his phone as he sits on the bed, back against the headboard and long legs stretching down the covers, but he brightens up at the sight of you. His gaze drops to your legs — which makes your cheeks burn, but his boyishly excited expression dissolves your nerves — then rises up again to your shirt. He frowns at the long-sleeve.
‘Are you cold?’ he asks. ‘I thought it was pretty warm but I can turn the heat up if you need.’
You shake your head, dropping your sweats on the floor beside the dresser. ’No, it’s fine.’
He sits up straighter, swinging his legs over the side so his feet rest on the ground. ’Can’t be comfortable to sleep like that.’ He hesitates. ‘You didn’t have to wear the t-shirt if you don’t want to.’
‘No, I want to. I do.’ You wrap your arms around yourself, trying to figure out how to navigate this situation in a way that won’t end in him being annoyed or disgusted. ‘It’s just…’ You trail off, but one glance at his frown, at the way he leans forward and hangs on every word, makes your resolve crumble. You’ll have to have this conversation at one point or another. ‘Okay. Shit, Harry, can I talk to you about something?’
The way he answers immediately makes you want to cry. ‘Yeah, of course. Anything.’ He sits up straighter, pats the covers next to him, inviting you to sit down.
You sigh and cross the room to sit next to him, not daring to meet his eyes. How the hell do you explain this?
He moves his arm behind you once you’re sitting. Not touching you, but enough so he’s close. ‘What’s wrong?’ he prompts. ‘Do you need me to drive you home instead? Because I didn’t—’
‘No,’ you interrupt. ‘It’s fine. It’s just, I kinda…’ You take a deep breath. ‘Okay, please don’t freak out?’
He frowns. His next words are measured. ‘I’ll try not to. Is everything okay?’
‘Yeah,’ you whisper. It feels like the greatest effort in the world, but you curl your fingers around the end of your sleeve and pull it up, revealing your wrists. ‘So, I have these…’ Your voice shakes.
‘Oh, baby,’ Harry says quietly, and that’s all you need to hear. His arm behind you reaches around and pulls you into his chest, hugging you close to him. His thumb rubs circles into your shoulder as you sniffle, his other hand resting on top of yours.
‘It’s in the past, you know,’ you say, muffled into his shoulder. He smells good, you notice. Not that it’s really important right now, but you appreciate it all the same. ‘Not a big deal. Just didn’t want to scare you or anything. ’S embarrassing.’
‘Listen to me,’ he says, pulling back and holding your face in his hands. He waits until you manage to look him in his eyes. They’re watery, you realise, and that might be the most painful thing about this night. ’It’s not embarrassing, alright? I don’t want you to feel like that. They’re part of you, and I really like you, every part.’ He smiles. ‘I really do, you know.’
You sniff, wiping at your cheek with your fingertips, trying to calm your tears. Suddenly all your fears seem ridiculous. Did you really expect him to turn you away, disgusted? Ask to never see you again? You knuckle at your eyes. ‘Okay. I’m sorry.’
‘Hey.’ He springs from the bed to grab the tissue box from the dresser and brings it to you, pulling out a tissue and dabbing under your eyes himself. He’s so gentle. ‘You’ve got nothing to be sorry for. I’m sorry, that you were worried to show me.’
You chuckle, grabbing a tissue from the box and blowing your nose. What more can you say to him? He’s so wonderful to you. It’s early days still, and you’re wary of moving too fast and coming on too strong. You aren’t experienced with relationships in the same way that you know he is. But you love him. You’re sure of it. You’ll tell him, one day. Soon.
‘You don’t need to wear my shirt if you don’t want to,’ he repeats once you’re calmer.
‘I’ll wear it.’ And to show him, in your sudden burst of confidence, you undress right next to him, taking off both layers and then putting the only t-shirt back on. You turn to him, and giggle. He’s turned his head away. ‘You can look,’ you tell him, nudging his knee with yours.
He looks back with a sheepish smile. ‘Didn’t want to be a creep.’ He scoots backwards onto the bed, settling his back against the headboard. ‘C’mere.’
You crawl over to him, settling with your back against his chest, sitting between his legs. His arms wrap around your middle, anchoring you to him. He presses kisses to your neck, the scruff on his cheeks tickling you. You curl up, twisting your neck away, giggling.
‘Sorry, love.’ His hands relax, and find your own. He rests his chin over your shoulder, and gently turns your palms upwards, so your wrists are visible to him.
You shiver, but allow it. You feel this is important. You don’t want to hide with him.
‘Y/N…’ he says quietly. You feel his chest push against your back as it expands with a breath. ‘Am I… am I allowed to touch them?’ he asks.
You’re surprised. You thought he would want to avoid them. You nod, then, realising he can’t really see you, you add, ‘Yeah.’
Your fingers are tense. You can’t help it. His thumb presses into your palm, massaging the tension away. He pulls the back of your hand to his lips and brings it back to your lap.
You close your eyes.
When he finds the first hard lump of scarring with his thumb, he pauses. He takes a shaky breath, then he runs his thumb up and down the length of it.
‘Y/N,’ he says softly.
You squeeze your eyes shut tighter. ‘Mm?’
‘You’re beautiful, you know.’ He pulls your hand back up to his lips, but instead he kisses the biggest scar on your wrist. ‘No matter what. You are.’
‘Harry,’ you whisper, because you don’t know what to say.
He kisses the scar again, then trails his lips up your wrist, covering them all. ‘I don’t want you to be ashamed of anything. You survived. That’s a wonderful thing.’ He drops your hand and cups your jaw, turning your head towards his. He leans around your shoulder to face you properly. ’I’m so fucking proud of you, you know?’
You never were good at taking compliments, so you just cross the distance between the two of you and kiss him.
When you’re lying together in the dark a little while later, with his arm thrown over you protectively and his soft breaths hitting your neck where his t-shirt doesn’t cover, you feel safe. Your arms are bare, you’re with another person, and you feel safe in this situation for the first time in years. It’s a wonderful feeling. All because of Harry.
You can’t wait to wake up in the morning and see his face again.
Secretary!Yamaguchi Tadashi x gn!reader
Summary: you befriend your boss’s new secretary and it turns out he wasn’t as shy and innocent as you’d thought
Based off of this headcanon
Warnings: a little bit suggestive 😏, Yamaguchi with piercings? Idk if that counts as a warning tbh
Word count: 1527
a/n: this is for yall yamaguchi simps I got you
If your coworker would’ve told you how unbelievably hot your boss’s new secretary was, you would’ve put more effort into your office outfit.
“You really think he’s that hot?” He asked you.
“Are you kidding me? Look at his face, are you seeing what I’m seeing?” You grabbed his face with one hand and turned it in the new guy’s direction. “He’s even got freckles agh”
Jeez get a hold of yourself.
“I don’t know he seems pretty normal to me, and he’s also very socially awkward so…”
“I’m just saying he’s not that easy to talk to” and with that he left your desk and headed back to his working area.
You kept thinking about what your friend had said for the rest of the morning, wondering if the new kid would appreciate it if you tried to befriend him or if he would prefer being left alone. Anyway that thought left your mind as soon as a tall, green eyed guy entered your field of view.
He was carrying a hell lot of papers and muttering ilegible words under his breath.
“H-Hi! Good morning, I'm here to give you this emm paperwork?” He shyly placed a ton of paper sheets on your desk next to your arm, his hand brushing lightly against yours and the action tinted his ears the softest of pink. “I’m sorry I-I The-this desk, it’s so tiny there’s barely any space to- I’m not saying you’re messy though, it’s the desk’s fault, I’m pretty sure you’re very organized and clean.” Luckily he ran out of breath before continuing to embarrass himself.
“It’s okay, don’t worry” you tried your best not to laugh, he was so cute. “These desks are very small indeed, but I also am pretty messy so it’s kinda my fault too. I’m y/n.”
Oh god when he realized he hadn’t introduced himself. His whole body seemed like it was about to erupt, bowing and apologizing frenetically.
“Hey, hey it’s okay. It’s fine really… Yamaguchi is it?” You tried getting his attention back again. He nodded, too shy to let out a word. “How old are you Yams? Is it okay if I call you Yams?”
“Y-yes!” He sounded a little too excited. “I mean yes, it’s okay. And I’m 23.” The blush on his face was still very prominent but his voice had stopped quivering, you had a feeling you were gonna get along just fine.
After a month or so of awkward interactions and shared lunch breaks you two became friends. It was kind of a weird relationship, he was nice and funny, every now and then he’d loosen up a little and go on rambling about a certain topic he was fond of only to shut up abruptly once he’d realized he was talking non stop. You found it fun to mess with him too, complimenting his outfits and telling him how you wished you had freckles like his.
One day while you were sitting next to him in the break room showing funny tiktoks to each other, you realized a small mark on his left ear lobe. Without thinking twice you grabbed his lobe between your thumb and index finger, getting closer and analyzing what seemed like a scar?birth mark? Oh.
“You have your ear pierced!” You almost yelled at him, making the nervous boy turn to you with open eyes and red cheeks. “I’m sorry that was so loud. But I’m right, right?” He nodded shyly, almost as if he was ashamed of the fact he had his ear pierced. “Can I ask why you’re not wearing any?”
He proceeded to tell you about his punk phase in his late high school years and almost all through college, showing you what other piercings he had gotten done.
“But it wouldn’t look professional if I came here to work with all those things on my face, you know?” He sounded kinda sad, like he was repeating what someone had told him instead of actually believing what he was saying.
“I know it’s not my business, but you’d look so pretty with piercings” your words almost sounded like a sigh, chin rested on your hand while your eyes roamed his face. He blushed furiously, again.
You decided not to insist on the piercings topic, you’d seen how nervous he’d gotten and thought maybe it had been too much. So it’s understandable to say you were surprised when he showed up at the office the next day after your talk with a black stud earring on his left ear.
“Yams! Oh my god it looks so good on you, I love it!” To you it seemed like a nice compliment from a coworker to another coworker, but to him it was a love confession. He thanked you while trying to avoid your gaze, his fingers playing with his tie.
Over the course of the week, he kept on showing up to work with a new piercing every day. The second was his right ear lobe piercing, next his helix followed by his left ear tragus and flat. And it didn’t end there, he started adding other accessories too such as necklaces and rings, showing off his slender fingers and prominent bone structure. Every time he came to your desk to drop off paperwork and talk about future meetings you got lost in his neck, hands and ears. Indecent thoughts would flood your mind, daydreaming about his fingers buried deep down your throat, which became a constant in your fake scenarios prompt list and every time you found it harder to look him in the eye. It didn’t help either that he had gotten used to your compliments, sometimes he’d even compliment you back while giving you a shy smile.
What really was it for you was the first friday of your third month knowing each other, that was the day he decided to wear his lip piercing. It was a black ring right on the left corner of his lip, you were barely able to say hi to him without embarrassing yourself and tripping over your words, your cool and cocky demeanor nowhere to be found. You spent the whole day avoiding him as much as you could, trying to give off the impression that you were just really busy and didn’t have time to talk to him. Apparently everyone in the office knew what was going on, they had caught on to your little crush a while ago but kept quiet because they were affected by the secretary boy as well. Who were they to judge, right? Oh, but your friend didn’t think so and took hands in the matter.
“Hey, Yamaguchi right? Come here a second” You heard him calling him over to his desk. What is this bastard doing?
You decided to go back to your work, ignoring the suspicious whispers coming from the desk a few meters away from yours. It was impossible, you couldn’t fight your anxiety and decided to take a break, maybe make yourself a tea.
Obviously, as soon as you entered the common kitchen the freckled boy walked in behind you, closing the door and silently following you over to where the cups were. You grabbed one and handed it to him, not wanting to give place to a conversation and hoping he’d understand what you were trying to ask him. He took it and gave you a soft smile, turning around and turning on the electric kettle. You stood next to each other, not uttering a word and stealing nervous glances at each other.
“Is everything okay?”
“I gotta go”
You both spoke at the same time. Yamaguchi let out a sigh that sounded slightly… annoyed?
“If you don’t like my lip piercing I can take it off, but stop avoiding me okay?” He sounded desperate and hurt but a small smirk danced on his lips. Was he messing with you?
“What the fuck are you talking about? You look great with that stupid thing on, like unfairly hot and insanely pretty, why would I-“ you were caught off by his contagious laugh, but it only made you mad. Why is he laughing? Is he trying to get a ride out of me just so I would talk to him? Wtf is going on.
“So he was right after all, you do like me.” Your jaw dropped open and hit the floor. What happened to sweet, shy Yams? Two shaky fingers grabbed your face and pulled you closer to his. “You’ve been staring at me for weeks now, always complimenting my looks and now all of a sudden you stop? Why are you so mean to me I was looking forward to it, I wore this thing just for you” and with that he slowly licked his bottom lip, sliding his tongue across the ring and slightly playing with it. You tried to keep your cool but your mouth let out a low growl, you were still mad at him but could help getting turned on by this nervous yet forward behavior of his.
“Wait till I show you the ones under my shirt”
Innit an Adventure
An addition to the AU, lol. Instead of chat being in his head, like Techno’s, Tommy’s chat are ghosts that follow him around :)
This one is dedicated to @ivorylin for being very supportive of my first post regarding this au. This is also dedicated to @petrichormeraki for being poggers and enjoying the first part of this series, as well as inspiring it.
Part 2 [CURRENT]
“Big brother returns!”
“HE CALLED HIM STARCHILD, I’M GONNA SOB”
“I just woke up, what’s happening?”
“GOODBYE SBI, HELLO HERMIT GRIAN”
”HERMIT HOMIES HOURS”
“HOLY SHIT, HE’S OUR BROTHER”
“I was getting a snack, what’s up?”
“DJLFKNGON I’M GOANNA CRYSLK”
“BEST BROTHER EVER”
“I’m on the toilet, pog”
“I have tacos :)”
“This makes me happy you didn’t do a double flip”
“ADIOS TECHNOBRO AND WILBRO, I ONLY KNOW BIG BRO G!!!”
“Anyone else have dust in their eyes?”
“CHAOS DUO RELATED POG”
Tommy let out a shaky breath as he rubbed his eyes. Chat was going crazy at the new news and, to be honest, he couldn’t blame them. If he was in their position, he’d be freaking out alongside them. Wanting to end both the silence that filled the cavern and the nonsense Chat was saying, Tommy let out a hoarse laugh before speaking.
“Chat really likes you, G.”
A smile formed on the teen’s face as his head bounced with the hefty laugh that came from Grian, whose chest began to rumble alongside the laughter. Finally lifting his head off his brother’s chest, Tommy allowed the remaining tears in his eyes to fall as he looked to Grian’s face. Grian smiled fondly back at Tommy, wiping away the tears from his little brother’s eyes.
“I suppose I should say hello to all of them. Is Chat similar to Techno’s voices?”
Concern flashed across Grian’s face as Tommy flinched at the mention of Technoblade. It was small, and could have been easily overlooked if Grian wasn’t watching his brother like a hawk. He made a mental note to ask about that later that night, when they were around the campfire.
“Nah, he’s just insane. Psychotic or some shit like that. I’m just really fucking cool and can see spirits and shit.”
Eyebrows from the crowd (shit, they were still there, weren’t they?) and Grian were raised as someone Stress half heartedly scolded Tommy for his language. Tommy just rolled his eyes, knowing that they only scolded him as a joke. They had all grown accustomed to his wording, and were worried when he didn’t slip in a few curses into his sentences.
“Yeah, spirits. I call em Chat most of the time, but they have different nicknames, and they all have individual names. Clara explained that it was one of the many side effects to her marking me as a ‘Starchild’ in her name. They are the spirits of the lands, from servers all around, or some shit like that. I can see them all, but they make the choice to stick with me or not.”
This was...news. Grian, who was still processing that he his baby brother was alive, sitting right in front of him, as well as the fact that Clara was real, could only stare. He wasn’t so sure how to feel about his brother being indifferent to all the spirits, but he suppose that it couldn’t be helped. Spending pretty much your entire life seeing spirits would make him indifferent to the spirits as well.
“So, Chat is...everywhere?”
Grian hummed as he proceeded to greet Chat, being polite to the beings he couldn’t see. Much to the annoyance of Tommy, Chat seemed to be loving Grian even more. Maybe a bit too much.
“HE’S SO POLITE”
“How thoughtful of him”
“HELOO HI GRI A N HWAHT’S UP BRO”
“Grian bro supremacy”
“GRIAN BRO SUPREMACY”
“HERMIT HOMIE WOOOOOO”
“BEST BRO POG”
“holY SHIT I’M IN LOV E ADKNVOD”
“THE RACCOON HAS A POG BROTHER WOOO”
“HI GRIAN HI”
“Rodent brothers??? pog?????”
“TELL HIM WE SAID HI, CHILD”
“Woah, woah, woah, woah, woah, calm down, calm down, calm down, calm down. Chat says hi, Grian. And, hey, I’m not a child, what the fuck!? I’m a big man!”
Impulse snickered as Mumbo walked over to the two brothers. Smiling down at them, he helped the two back to their feet. Grian smiled as he set a hand on Tommy’s shoulder, squeezing it slightly. Tommy, in turn, beamed with pride at his brother and his friends.
“Alright, we spent enough time being emotional and shit. Let’s get going, I have more cool shit to show you guys.”
Laughter filled the cavern as Tommy fixed his hair, his booming man child I’m not a child voice being drowned out as he led them back outside. Slightly huffing. He let out a yelp as he was nearly tackled to the ground from behind. Letting out undignified noises of protest, he turned to see the smug smile of Grian, who was ruffling his hair.
“Alright, big man, show us your land of paradise!”
Barking out a hearty laugh, Tommy ducked out from his brother’s hand before grabbing it, spinning a few times, and pulling him forward.
“Aw, look at them!”
“Wait, so Grian has two sections now?”
The traditional booth games in Tavern Town were fun. From balloon darts to milk bottles, to ladder climb and hoop toss, Tommy thought of it all. Unique designs decorated each booth, all holding an individual and unique look. Everything about the area was impressive.
“Where did buy get these for the games? I don’t think I’ve ever seen them in the main server.”
Tommy peered over to Doc, who was inspecting the prizes neatly strung up on all the booths. There were plushies of different types of mods, some familiar, others not. They came in all types of colors and sizes, and were overall impressive. Walking up beside Doc, Tommy just shrugged his shoulders, sheepishly rubbing the back of his neck.
“I didn’t buy them, I made them.”
Scar perked up, before jumping right into the conversation.
“You what? Toms, that’s impressive! I didn’t know you could sew.”
‘Fucking hell,’ Tommy thought to himself. He didn’t expect to get praise for his simple hobbies.
“Yeah, I sew. I’m actually pretty crafty, being resourceful and shit. I also knit and crochet. It’s not much, but it’s really fucking therapeutic and all that jazz.”
Before anyone else could comment, a dinging noise sounded at one of the booths. Turning to look at the cause of the commotion, they saw that Stress and Impulse had won a game together. Giving each other fist bumps, they watched as a screen popped up, giving them prize options to choose from. After receiving their prizes, they hurried over to Tommy with smiles painted on their faces.
“You bet we’re gonna win one of each plush here.”
A high pitched laughter erupted from Tommy, who was starting to enjoy his decision to hand make all the prizes in his park. Wiping away a tear of joy, the teen I’m eighteen, I’m a fucking man! You’re a child, Tommy beamed at his friends, who smiled warmly in return. Tommy’s joy seemed to increase as more booth alarms were set off, many more prizes coming off the shelves. By the time everyone was ready for the next land, they all had at least two plush toys each.
“This is delicious! You baked these?!”
The group was currently sitting in the seating area in the Dream SMP section of the park, more specifically, L’manburg. They had gotten pastries from the duplicate bakery that belonged to Niki. According to Tommy, it was an exact replica to the real thing. The pastries sold there were the same ones Niki sold back at L’manburg. Tommy had used the recipes and techniques that Niki had demistrated to both him and Tubbo to create the dishes.
“If you think these are good, you should taste Niki’s. I swear, her pastries were sent down from Heaven by Jesus himself. They taste fucking amazing, godly.”
Grian smiled as he nudged Tommy’s shoulder with his own. Popping another sweet cake in his mouth, Tommy quirked an eyebrow as he faced the older boy.
“You should teach me some of your hobbies, Starchild. We can do a hobby exchange.”
Tommy visibly brightened up as he wiped some frosting from around his mouth. Smiling, he nodded his head happily.
“Hell yeah! That sounds fuckin’ amazing!”
The group ate with content as they looked around their area. They had already seen the rest of the Dream server lands.
“It’s amazing that you’ve made all of this by yourself. You haven’t even showed us the rest of the park yet! Good job, for a child.”
“Hey! I’m not a fucking child! I’m turning 19 soon!”
“Oh yeah, I forgot you were an Aries.”
“What’s wrong with being an Aries?”
“Nothing is wrong with being an Aries, Tango.”
“Oh shut it, you Librarian.”
“Yeah, the worst sign.”
“First of all, kid, I’m a Gemini.”
The rides and games in the DSMP were very diverse and unique. Tommy had really put a lot of effort and time into every attraction, no matter how small. From things as small as a scavenger hunt through the Badlands, water themed adventures in El Rapids, to fast paced coasters in L’manburg.
“Scoot over, bandit child, I’m sharing this ride vehicle with you.”
“What the fuck, man?”
“Oh, don’t act surprised. I know you made it to where two people share a seat just so you can spend quality time with your brother.”
“Oh, fuck off, I didn’t even know you were my brother until an hour and a half ago.”
“Whatever helps you sleep at night.”
The first ride the group decided to board was dubbed A Home. Entering a little shack, everyone boarded their ride vehicles and waited for the ride to begin. While they waited for the vehicles to move, Tommy explained how he managed to use the latest mods that were added to the server to his advantage. He managed to fit different tracks to different rides in the same builds, as well as add animatronics. Just as he was about to receive yet another wave of praise, the ride began.
“It’s like looking at a younger version of you!”
“That’s kinda the point, genius.”
Grian’s statement, as obvious as it was, was true. As the vehicles left the shack and entered the caravan, and animatronic Tommy, merely 16 years of age, welcomed the riders as they witnessed the beginning of a new home, L’manburg. They kept comments to themselves when they saw, yet again, the replica of Tommy’s old base. The ride track took them through different areas of the DSMP, following the young Tommy as he searched for a home.
“-the citizenship of Wilbur Soot and Tommyinnit!!!”
“What does he mean revoked?!”
Before Tommy could reply, the vehicles lurched backwards, keeping the vehicles facing the stage at all times as the animatronics turned to take aim at the riders. It wasn’t until the red stone to the dirt entrance revealed the entry way to Pogtopia that the vehicles did a 180, moving forward into the entry way before going down the spiral steps into the ravine. Laughter filled the air as the group saw animatronics of Tommy, Wilbur and Techno conversing together, joking around and teasing each other. Suddenly, the ride vehicles fell down to the next part of the track, the prime path. As they raced through the tunnel, they witnessed an animatronic Tommy and Tubbo embracing and conversing, their cheerful voices free from worry. The group could only sit in awe as the scenes continued to change.
“What does he mean goodbye?!”
“Oh my fucking god, shut up!”
The vehicles suddenly raced through the Nether, coming out to an island far from DSMP. The sign at the entrance of the area welcomed the group to Logstedshire. There, they could see an unhappy Tommy staring out towards the ocean, listening to Chirp as he mumbled nonsense to Clara. And just as quickly as they came, they raced out of the sunny area and into the snow. They raced around the inside of Techno’s cottage before racing outside, towards an empty area. There, an animatronic Tommy yelled out in shock as an animatronic Technoblade pressed a button, turning around as a secret lair was revealed.
“Welcome home, Theseus!”
For the final time, the scene changed. They entered, backwards, into a portal, coming out to face a replica of the spawn to Hermitcraft. There, in wonderous glory, stood an animatronic Xisuma, welcoming the group to Hermitcraft. Then, the track dropped, leaving the riders back at the entrance to the ride.
“Haha! Holy shit is right!”
The group quickly learned that Tommy spared no expense in all his attractions. As they explored the different lands, they really saw the individuality of every land. L’manburg had fun rides, including Nation’s Legacy, Blood’s Ballad, Wither’s Wrath, and Creator’s Cabin. Nation’s Legacy is an underground ride that worked like a turntable to tell the history of L’manburg, ending on a grim and looming hint to the possible destruction of the nation. When asked about the fate of L’manburg, Tommy admitted that he appeared in Hermitcraft before he could witness the possible doomsday, so he wasn’t entirely sure what had occured afterwards.
Blood’s Ballad is an interactive ride that used a special red stone technique. The ride vehicles could seat up eight passengers at a time, each using special gloves that allow them to interact with the special ride elements. The goal is to get the most points out of everyone in the ride vehicle. The ride took the group on a journey with Technoblade, the Blood God. The group racked up points training alongside him, as well as fighting all sorts of mobs. By the end of the ride, Tommy was sulking as Stress managed to gather the most points. Stress was enjoying the victory, smiling happily as “SUBSCRIBE TO TECHNOBLADE” boomed through the speakers.
Wither’s Wrath was more of a small scale ride to enjoy. There were only three ride vehicles, each shaped like a wither and able to hold three riders. Each rider sat in a wither skull. Grian smiled as he pulled Mumbo and Tommy into a a wither vehicle with him. As they strapped in, they were transported to a virtual world where the rules of the game were shared. The goal was to cause the most destruction in the virtual world than the other vehicles. Each player controlled their own skull, making it easier to gather points. At least, that was the case for-
“Fuck yeah! Team Kickass all the way! Check it Grian, Mumbo, we’re badass!”
Creator’s Cabin was simple enough. It was just a large cabin that held enchanted portraits of everyone who resided in the DSMP. The portraits could move within their frames. They could also interact with each other. When the group walked in, the portraits were chatting away with each other. Sam’s portrait seemed to be listening in on the conversation that the portraits of Tubbo, Tommy and Purpled were having, occasionally joining in when he saw fit. Fundy was chatting away with Eret and Niki, a bright smile on his face. Ranboo was timidly peeking over at the group with Tommy and Tubbo, obviously wanting to join in. The portraits of Quackity, Sapnap and Karl were deep in conversation, while the portrait of George was asleep sitting up.
“Why are there two portraits of Wilbur?”
“Oh, right. Grian, about Wilbur-”
“AHOY THERE! WHY DON’CHA BOARD ME SHIP AND CONQUER THE WATERS WITH ME?”
The group, aside from Tommy, jumped at the booming voice. Without hesitation, they all ran out to the water, searching for the source of the voice. There, out on the water, stood a lone animatronic. It was the animatronic of a petite woman, one with red curls dancing around as she swayed and spoke. Once more, her confident, melodic voice filled the air.
“JOIN ME ON MY QUEST TO RIDE THE WONDROUS WAVES OF THE SEAS”
With that, she raised her right arm, hoisting a sword into the air. On cue, she began to rise as a ship emerged from the sea below her. Once it was no longer submerged, the ship rocked a few times before settling. A banner unraveled and blew in the breeze, the name of the area now visible for all to see.
Sally de Mon’s Sea Voyage
“You like it? Creating the entrance for this ride was a fucking bastard. Kept me up all night and crap. Almost gave up completely on it.”
“It’s amazing! I was not expecting to see something like that!
“Hey, Tommy? Who’s Sally. I don’t think it was ever explained how you know her?”
“Really? I gotta fix that, then. Sally is my sister-in-law who-”
“I HAVE A SISTER-IN-LAW?!”
The Badlands was a fun, interactive section of the DSMP area. The various puzzles and mazes made it fun for all the participants. The muffin stand was also a fan favorite to the hermits.
El Rapids was a water-filled adventure. Because he wanted to play around with the word rapids, Tommy made several water-based rides and activities, his favorite being the log ride. They just seemed to be the perfect addition to the area, adding a way to cool down to balance all the water-free rides. It seemed as if Tommy had thought of every type of ride for every type of biome and scenario.
SMP Earth was another large section of the park. It also held the only other largest ride in the entire park, one that led the riders throughout the Antarctic Empire, as well as its surrounding cities and towns. The area for the empire was beautiful decorated in colors of all kind. Flowers and banners decorated the buildings and streets, brightening up the area. Classic activities, such as the sparing rings and archery, as well as the axe throws and parkour courses were set up. It all felt familiar to Grian, who couldn’t help but smile at his brother. Grabbing one of the fliers, he inspected it before shooting his brother a look of uncertainty.
“On the contrary, brother dearest, I did!”
“Did what? What did he do?”
Grian laughed as he showed the group what the flier said. It was decorated in beautiful, hand-drawn flowers. Golden lettering perfectly spelt out the message.
Floral Festival of Spring
Join us in the weeklong celebration of Spring! Enjoy the festivities with friends and family as you explore the traditions held within our grounds. Finally, enjoy the wondrous Floral Gala held on the final night of festivities. Dawn your greatest fabrics as you dance the night away, before enjoy a magnificent firework display.
Signed by his royal highness,
Prince Thomas Theseus Minecraft
“He used his full name and everything!”
“Your middle name is Theseus?”
“Your actual last name is Minecraft?”
“Did you actually write this? It’s worded and written so…formally.”
Huffing a bit, Tommy crossed his arms. Fixing his posture, he stood up, tall and proud, as he puffed out his chest. It took everyone every fiber in their bodies to not laugh at the sight of him.
“I can be very formal, thank you very much. I’m not a fucking idiot, I remember the formality lessons the teachers put me through. And I take the offense to that writing comment! Do you know how many attempts it took for me to be able to recreate the stupid fancy font used back at the empire? And another thing-”
Grian playfully hopped on Tommy’s shoulder, startling the younger brother to his usual stance. Ruffling his hair, he assured his brother with a laugh.
“Calm down, Toms. You know that we’re messing with you. You did amazingly. How many more flyers do you have? We’ll set them up in the Hub to be distributed across the main server. It’s been a while since I’ve attended a royal ball, so let’s make it grand!”
Laughing, Tommy had no choice but to agree with Grian. His smile faltered, however, once realization sunk in. The next activity for the group was the campfire. The secrets of his time at the Dream SMP that he kept for over 2 years would finally be revealed.
‘Better late than never to prepare the waterworks’, thought a very nervous Tommy.
A Malide One Shot (940 words)
Masterlist ~ AO3 Link
@hellasblessed Heard you needed some cheering up today<3 I was gonna just write a little headcannon, but then I thought “Hey, what’s better than a little idiots to lovers to brighten your day?” and this happened:)
(also i finally wrote something who even is this?!)
“Did you know that icicles make the perfect murder weapon?”
Elide looked to her side, at Manon, who was wearing a thoughtful look on her face. Ahead of them, Aelin and Dorian were kinda walking, kinda wrestling, as they all made their way toward the small lake that had frozen over, this winter being much colder than usual.
Smiling faintly, Elide said, “Because they melt, basically erasing all evidence?”
“Exactly!” Manon exclaimed. “When I tried explaining this to Dorian, he looked at me as if I’d actually murdered someone with an icicle.”
Elide chuckled as her friend dramatically rolled her eyes, though she couldn’t ignore the way her stomach fluttered as Manon got into an animated rant about murder weapons and their pros and cons. She was beautiful when she got excited, her strange, golden eyes lighting up with enthusiasm.
Far ahead, Elide could glimpse the lake, and all the butterflies fluttering around in her stomach quickly turned to lead.
Today was the first day of winter break, their last one together, before they were all spreading across the country to go to different colleges, and Aelin had been planning these two weeks for months, determined to do everything “before it was too late”. Elide had tried explaining that no one was dying, but Aelin wouldn’t budge, so today, they were going ice skating.
Which Elide had never done before.
Which she was now doing in front of Manon.
They’d been friends for years, so they were pretty comfortable around each other, but when you also had a massive crush on someone, you naturally wanted to impress them.
Not that anything would ever happen between them. Manon was so cool and beautiful and unbothered by everything and everyone, and Elide was...well, Elide.
She had admitted it to herself ages ago; Manon would always see her as just a friend. And a pretty pathetic one at that.
As they reached the edge of the lake, ice glinting, Elide sat down and began pulling on her ice skates. It was an old pair she’d borrowed from Aelin, tiny enough to fit her freakishly small feet.
By the time she’d figured out how to tighten one of them, Manon was already out on the ice, looking as if she’d done nothing but this her whole life.
“Hey Blackbeak, can you please suck at something, so us mortals can feel a little superior for once too?!” Aelin called from her spot, her and Dorian more interested in drinking hot chocolate and eating Evalin Ashryvers famous Christmas cookies.
Manon merely laughed and gave Aelin the middle finger.
Just as Elide had put on the other skate too, Manon glided over, stopping right in front of her, as graceful as ever.
Elide tried to get up, but she couldn’t get both her legs beneath her, and they were shaking with the effort to try and stay balanced. God, this was humiliating.
“I uh, kinda haven’t done this before,” she stammered, before daring a glance up at Manon, who was probably having the time of her life right now, watching her lose her footing over and over again.
But Manon wasn’t laughing or mocking her, she had a patient look on her face, and she seemed almost shy as she said, “Do you want some help, perhaps? I can teach you a little.”
“Yeah, that would be, uh, great,” Elide smiled, unable to meet Manon’s eyes.
Manon reached out a hand, and Elide took it, pulling herself up. Her legs trembled even more, and she felt like she would fall at any moment, but she held onto Manon. It also didn’t help that it was freezing outside.
Noticing her shivering, Manon suddenly reached behind her and pulled off her deep green scarf. “Take this,” she said, practically pushing it into Elide’s hands.
“But won’t you get cold?” Elide asked, before she let out an embarrassing yelp as she nearly fell again, regaining her balance at the last moment.
“Nah, I’m fine,” Manon said sheepishly. “Here, I’ll help you.” Then she leaned even closer, tucking the scarf around Elide’s neck, the fabric soft and warm. Elide could have thought her hands lingered for a moment, but she was probably just imagining things.
Manon carefully started to lead her further onto the eyes, all the while uttering small encouragements.
“Are you sure you’re not cold?” Elide asked again, once she was sure she wouldn’t fall on her ass within the next seconds.
“I’m sure,” Manon said, a faint smile on her lips. Though Elide didn’t believe her, for her cheeks were all red.
From the sideline, Aelin and Dorian watched them, a mix of awe and exasperation on their faces. “I’m gonna tell them,” Dorian said after a while, witnessing a blush spread on Manon’s pale cheeks after Elide nearly fell, and had to grab onto her arm.
“No you won’t. As much as their obliviousness makes me wanna bang my head into a wall, repeatedly, it’s also kinda cute,” Aelin pause for a moment. “And entertaining.”
Dorian groaned. “With this speed, we’ll all have graduated college by the time they realize they’re both madly in love with each other.”
On the ice, Manon was now facing Elide, holding both of her hands to steady the other girl as she made her way forward, looking a lot like Bambi. They were laughing as they stumbled around, caught in their own bubble.
“No, I feel like things are about to change,” Aelin whispered, her eyes glowing. “Really, really soon.”
And as the snow begun to fall, once more, Aelin and Dorian staggered onto the ice, joining their lovestruck friends.
Taglist: @hellasblessed @ireallyshouldsleeprn @notyournymphetish @mercxrial @rowaelinismyotp
(I keep a separate taglist for every ship, so let me know if you want to be added!)
Stan x anxious/compassionate reader (kind of has a little canon divergence)
After giving up on Wendy (around Season 12), Stan and us start dating, we were always worried about him (no we weren't dating him out of pity, we were just a very anxious person). Some people find of clingy, others find us adorable but We've never left his side:
Ex: We were by his side helping with whales (Whale W)
We were the only one who didn't leave him when he got depression (You're Getting Old/Ass Burgers)
Next to Heidi, we became social pariah because we didn't want to dump Stan (this even made Wendy guilty)
But him moving, really gets to us, the coronavirus makes it worse. We get worried about him, then we start getting worried about everyone else as everything falls apart (Kyle, Kenny, Eric, Butters, Tweek, Craig, Scott, etc.) And we pass out of stress. About waking up in the hospital, we find out, everyone was worried about us. And Stan is the most worried of all, he spends the whole day with us. We tal-no vent about all the happened to the both of us. By the end of it, we agree that whatever happens we'll do it together.
Guess whos back! :D
Well, while it's not my best work, in my humble opinion, I sure hope you enjoy and like it. Again sorry for the delay! ಥ_ಥ
And if it's not that clear, because I know I can write a little cryptic, there is a time skip. You can either have all the show events happen when they are children and have the time skip between Covid and the memories or between you getting together as kids and the memories. Choose however you like! ^^
Stan x anxious!compassionate!Reader
Tiny eyes watched the scene unfold.
Normally, Wendy was the one to break up with Stan, but not this time around. Stan was actually telling Wendy that he had no interest in her anymore.
“What changed Stan?” Wendy asked, obviously confused.
“I think I like someone else… I don’t know yet…”
Wendy gave him a smile.
“I wish you all the luck Stan, say if you need anything!”
“I will.” And with that, Wendy took off to be with her friends, while Stan turned a corner and told Kyle and Kenny how it went.
Cartman was there too, but he only wanted to know if she cried, because “she would deserve it.”.
You closed your locker and felt your heartbeat like crazy. Ever since you changed school a few months ago, Stan captured your little ten-year-old mind.
He was kind and showed you around when you had no idea where to go. It was a little crush you developed, and you never felt as scared and excited as now, since that Stan had broken off with Wendy.
This newfound feeling almost made you dizzy but you quickly snapped back into reality when you heard your name.
“Y/N?” Stan asked and waited patiently for his answer next to you.
“Oh, sorry, I was thinking, what did you want?”
“Would you maybe like to hang out some time?”
Stan almost got a heart attack when you suddenly squealed but was happy when you managed to get a high-pitched “YES!” out.
“Okay, what are you betting Kenny? Some Pennies or a dead rat?” Cartman almost fell from his chair laughing about his shitty joke, while Kyle and Kenny rolled their eyes.
“Don’t you think it’s weird how clingy they are?” Kyle asked his blonde friend, while they kept watching you and Stan, who were seated at a separate table at lunch.
“Honestly, I think it’s pretty cute.” Kenny said with his muffled voice.
You held his arm and hugged him from the side, while he happy kept on eating his lunch.
Eric, who had now calmed down from his laugh attack eyed the couple critically. “I’m giving them a month max.”
He said lazily and looked around. “I say longer than a year.” Kenny said, throwing a crinkled five-dollar note on the table.
“You two are horrible.” Kyle shook his head before he threw 10 dollars on the table.
Kenny was a happy man after a year, because despite everyone believing you two would eventually break up, you never did.
You were always by his side, no matter what.
His desire to desperately save whales with the help of a braindead ship crew?
You were always right by his in the interviews he gave.
His horrible depression that even drove Kyle away? No chance, you stood strong and helped him through the whole thing and even help reuniting the gang.
Even during the protest against Skanthunt42, you chose to sit this one out, despite you absolutely hating that the troll photoshopped a dick into your mother’s mouth.
At least you and Heidi got close due to you guys both becoming social outcasts. When Wendy heard this, she was impressed by your dedication and felt somewhat guilty for obviously not trying as much in her former relationship.
Everyone admired your patience and endurance. No matter what obstacle came, you managed to get through it.
“You don’t need to be sad, Y/N. I won't be that far away.” Stan said, holding your hand.
“B-But it's outside of town. You need ages by bike to get there and vice versa.” You said, holding back tears.
Randy walked past you and you desperately pleaded to him.
“Please Mister Marsh, please stay in town!” Randy put the box he carried into the car, before turning to you.
“Real sorry, dear Y/N. This town is…How do I put it… Absolute shit and I really want to get away.”
He patted you on the head and went back into the house to get more boxes.
“Told you, you cant talk to him.” Stan said and shrugged.
“But it’s unfair. We won’t see each other as much anymore.” Stan pressed a kiss onto your cheek, which made you blush intensely.
“Don’t. Worry. I will make time for you.”
With that in mind, you didn’t feel as sad, when the car with the Marsh Family in it left for their new home.
“I will make time for you, my ass.” You mumbled while you sat at a bench near Starks Pond. Letting out a deep sigh, you leaned back and just enjoyed the warmth of the setting sun.
Covid was one hell of a bitch and just had to have this big impact on everyone’s life. Stan and you now saw each other less and less.
It was just a horrible feeling that tainted your heart and made you worry a lot.
Maybe he was feeling just as bad as you are, maybe even more?
Maybe he just didn’t want to tell you how he felt?
Were you maybe a bad partner? Your mind began racing and your train of thoughts became unrailed.
So many bad thoughts manifested themselves and it made you almost gasp for air.
“I need to check on him.” You mumbled getting up from the park bench.
You began walking and you kind of hoped that maybe just the walking would get your mind in check, but sadly it didn’t. Involuntarily you had to think about all the other stuff that happened during this horrible time.
The precious Broship was more fragile than ever. You had become such good friends with Kenny, Kyle and Cartman over time that it hurt you a lot too.
You also saw Covid take a toll on your other friends, like Craig and his group, who now took Cartman into their gang after the split up.
However, that came to be…
The girls were also pretty divided, so hanging out with them meant picking sides which wasn’t your thing, you kinda just want them to get along again.
Everything felt like it was falling apart. Your parents had fights ever so often, all your friends had problems and your beloved boyfriend was stuck on that stupid farm.
God how you hated that stupid farm and Randy.
When he gave you one of those plushies that looked like him, you functioned it into a voodoo doll. But sadly, it didn’t seem to affect him, no matter how many needles you rammed into it.
Your heart felt heavy, and it seemed hard to breathe, but you brushed it aside.
You had already reached the busy streets of South Park and mingled between the newly vaccinated people.
Everywhere you looked, the people seemed happy.
Everyone was happy except you and the people around you… Maybe…You were the problem?
You shook your head. No, you didn’t allow those kinds of thoughts.
You much rather think about Stan. How you miss him and how amazing your dates were.
Oh, how much effort he put into all the small things… Well… At least he did.
Now that you thought about it when was your last date?
It feels like it had been ages. It has been ages. Everything had been ages. Going out with him, hanging out with your friends, your family not fighting… How long has this been the new normal? You can’t help but wonder.
Your heart clenched again. “Stop it, stupid heart.” You mumbled under your breath.
An exhausted sigh escaped your lips when you thought about how you maybe had to walk all the way up to the farm… It would take ages, but you really craved being held by the person you adored so much.
So, you continued walking down through the street when an elder lady stopped you.
“Excuse me, but you look rather sickly, are you alright?” Confused you raised an eyebrow. Did the vaccines make them delusional?
“No, I’m fine.” You answered, somewhat snippy, even when you didn’t know why you were so agitated.
“But you look rather pale, maybe you- I am fine.” You interrupted her and continued your path.
Were all people in this shitty town stupid or- The thought could not be completed, due to you suddenly losing consciousness.
When you woke up again, you immediately recognized one of the Hells Pass Hospital rooms, once your eyes had adjusted to the bright lights. Around the bed were your parents and more importantly Stan and his mother.
“Thank God, you’re awake again!” Your mother said when she went for a hug.
Confused you asked why you were here.
“Well, seemingly you were so stressed out, that your body basically shut down.”
Somewhat shocked you looked around. Was it really a surprise to hear that? Not really, but it still felt odd knowing that it happened.
“Well, I’m glad you’re fine, Y/N.” Misses Marsh commented and smiled warmly at you. She had always liked you and you felt the same. She was always nice to you and you felt like she was the only one with a brain in the family…
Feeling a sudden sensation of warmness on your hand, your eyes darted down to it. Stan held you hand while answering something your dad had asked him.
“Well, Sharon, you wanna accompany us to get some hot chocolate for us all?”
Your mother said with an odd wink, which made you and Stan roll your eyes.
The three adults left the room chatting happily. Stan looked at you with a stern expression, which kind of surprised you.
“I swear, whenever I think I couldn’t get more worried about you, your parents call me, to tell me that you’re in the hospital.”
“Worried? About me? I should be worried about you?” You laughed to which Stan shook his head.
“Listen, everyone has been super worried about you since you seemed so down and just exhausted. Like, Kyle already called me earlier to ask if you’re awake again. I don’t know why you worry about me; I am really fine babe. Promise.”
With that said, the door opened, and your parents came back inside.
“Y/N, the doctor said they would like you to stay the night, so they can check that you’re really alright.” Your father informed you and you were immediately annoyed.
Well, you had no choice but to oblige. Your parents left after an hour, wanting to get you some clothes and other things you’d need.
Sharon also bids her goodbye and so you and Stan were left.
And just like you wished, you got to cuddle with him. He held you close, and you vented to him, how worried you were about everything and everyone, while he told you just how worried all of your friends had been since you were acting so out of character.
“Yup, even when he would never admit it.” Stan laughed. He held your hand tight, and his content smile never left his face.
“I think we should talk more about feelings and being worried and all that. I know I’m not all that good at it, but I don’t ever wanna have to visit you in a hospital again.” Stan said, giving your hand a squeeze.
“That sounds good. But you gotta accept, I worry a lot, because I care a lot about you, okay?” You said sternly and Stan nodded. You two looked fondly at each other and just enjoyed the time you got.
“Together forever?” You asked and he whispered “Forever.”, before he pressed a sweet kiss onto your lips.
Magus and/or Flea
Ohhhh big cape evil dude with one of the coolest boss themes I've ever heard!?
Sighhhhh there's so many... When you really look at him he has such nuance and everything is linked and I LOVE thinking about him (been almost 15 years lol...) It's really hard to just pick one. For now, let's just say his iconic line
Idea for a story
Men of Mystics
For real tho, I've wanted to do a cool horror/creepy pasta type story about Magus in relation to the black wind. I just don't know how to get the really good feeling out into words or art so it's been a few years in the back of my mind. Just something about being so young and losing your mum to the black winds, and watching your sister slowly succumb to the same thing, all before you start to hear it yourself... Yeah, I wish I had in inspiration to pull it off how I want
A vast majority of the fandom reduce him to a gross and/or incorrect flanderization of self. That, or glossing over him entirely, when he adds so much to the narrative of ct as a whole. I still see fucking terrible takes on him as recently as 2022 lol and it makes me a bit sad. I know my interpretations won't be to everyone's liking but I've put effort into looking into him (and most the ct cast as a whole) and picking up the subtle things that are laid out right there in the source material. Looking only at him (or anyone for that matter) PURELY through a fandom lens gets tiring for me to see sometimes...
FOR REAL THO, ALL THESE YEARS LATER AND HIS RELATIONSHIP WITH SCHALA IS STILL SO NICE.... EVEN THO most of that relationship is his one sided view on it, he still dedicated most of his life working to try and avenge/save her. It's strong enough that it prevailed through to both sequels (to varying degrees and missed opportunities 🙄) because he just cared that much. Even when he's a grown man, he's still that little kid who's sad cause he misses his sister!!!!
That the use of magic changes your appearance. I had a whole theory about hair colour and magical affinity, which explains why Magus has such a beautiful icy blue colour. It also explains why his ears got pointy, and I like to further that by imagining that he overall looks very sharp and angular, as much as a human can. I try to express that with most art I make of him, I know he's really hot and even if it's so subtle most will miss it, I try to keep him looking sharp.
WOAH WE'RE FIGHTING IN THE STARS!!!
(fun fact, flea was one of my very first glimpses of ct, before my very own playthrough I used to sit with my dad in his office and watch him play, and he was going through Magus' castle one of the first time I watched him!)
EPIC NB TRANS MASC KING!!!
Idea for a story
Hmm... Honestly, a lot of the stuff I wanted to explore for him (+the other generals) is gong into men of mystics. I've always just wanted to kinda explore the behind the scenes lives of everyone leading up to the war in 600ad, and that's exactly what men of mystics is - all that boring stuff, but harland is there :p
Flea is not trans fem. Let trans mascs have this one, he literally says 'hey, I'm a guy'
I'm not saying this as a dig at trans fems, if they see something in him and connect with him that way I love to see it - I'm saying as a trans masc myself who often feels like people hear the word 'trans' and think it only means 'trans woman,' let us have this one and respect the masc despite appearing androgynous/feminine, I talked about it a little while ago here
Honestly? With slash and ozzie. I'm soooo interested in how the dynamic between the three of them plays out, I love thinking about the antics they'd get up to while they were rising to general status
Honestly not so much a hc but more trying to bring back the aspects of Flea that were lost through translation. Mainly the amazing pun on his name making him talk real flirty. I wish there was a way we could have all the little nuances brought over to eng, I could talk about them all day....
Come Together - Little Movie Star Chapter Five (Jensen Ackles x Daughter!Reader)
[Actors-Masterlist], [Little Movie Star-Masterlist]
Previous Chapter / Next Chapter
Summary: It was finally time to meet the Padalecki’s. What if they did not like you? You were expecting a lot of things but you certainly were not expecting this. Were you dreaming? You had to be.
Warnings: language, Jared being a hugger (you’ll understand why I put it here), being uncomfortable, scared of having to go back, surprises, kinda a filler chapter but important for the future of this story
If you like my work & wanna support me: a coffee would be highly appreciated ❤
Tonight, the Padalecki’s were coming over. When Jensen broke the news to you, you were excited but equally nervous. Danneel drove the kids over to their grandparents so they would not disturb you during dinner. Not that they ever annoyed you. The exact opposite, actually. You loved having them around. But you were supposed to focus on Jared & Gen tonight.
The thought of them getting to know you scared the shit out of you. They were the Ackles’ best friends, after all, & you wanted to leave a good first impression behind. It took you some time to figure out what you wanted to wear for dinner. It would be held at home so you did not have to overdress but at the same time, you found dressing nicely to be convenient. After changing your outfit one too many times, you settled on a simple look. While it was nothing special, you did feel confident in it. And confidence was definitely something you needed later today.
Spending hours in the bathroom was not planned, it simply happened. You wanted to look perfect. Danneel had told you that there was no need to worry, that they would love you just as you were. Being a fan of them for a long time, you knew they would never judge you by they way you looked. It just was not in their nature. Still, it could not hurt to put effort into your look, right?
When you woke up today, the first thing you did was checking your phone. You knew you should not but sometimes you felt the need to. By now, everyone knew about you. And while the hate comments were becoming less & less, some days, you only noticed the negative responses. Of course, the media had picked up on the fact that you were a new person they could write about. There was not much to report about you, though. Some paparazzi had shot a few pictures of you over the time of you living in Austin. At first, you were creeped out by the idea of being watched 24/7. Now, you were dealing with it way better. When you were seen with Jensen, you posed for the pictures & it was fun to mess with them, really. Besides your first Instagram post, you had been quiet on social media. The hate wave still needed some time to die down & you did not want to add fire to the flame by posting more stuff about your new life. Surprisingly, the articles that had been written about you were mainly positive. Of course, a couple of them were looking for drama but because of your silence on social media, there was not much they could write about.
Walking out of your room after checking your look in the mirror for the hundredth time, you saw that you still had an hour left before they would be coming by. You could ask Danneel if you could help in the kitchen. She had insisted on making the main dish while the Padalecki’s would bring over dessert. Danneel heard you walking in & gasped when she turned around to look at you.
“Wow, (Y/N). You look gorgeuous.” blushing at her words, you thanked her.
“Is there anything I can help you with?” walking over, you could already smell the delicious dish Danneel was preparing.
“You could set the table if you don’t mind?” she asked you & you immediately got to work, grabbing everything necessary to put on the table.
Hey, Dee?” you were at a point where calling her by her nickname did not make you uncomfortable anymore. Yet, if you had to be fully honest, being in Jensen’s presence calmed you more. Comparing your relationship to the beginning, though, the both of you had improved by a lot. And you were grateful that your trying was not for nothing.
“Where’s Jensen? Shouldn’t he…I don’t know, be here already?” you knew he was not the person to be late, especially not for something as important as this. Okay, it was just dinner but he was aware of your nervousness even days before. Danneel informed you that he was at the Padalecki’s house & would arrive right in time with them. Okay, good. At least he did not forget about it.
Ever since you had arrived in Austin, Jensen’s filming schedule was all over the place. The crew wanted to give him more time with you & the change in his life. This ended up in him flying back & forth from Vancouver to Austin almost every couple of days. It was exhausting & you had reasoned with him to focus on his work entirely, that you guys would be okay here. But nope, Jensen wanted to be there with his family & you appreciated his efforts a lot. A lot of weekends, he was at conventions all across the country but he always managed to stop by & spend time with you all. He was great.
There was knocking on the front door & you knew it was them. Danneel asked you to get the door & you were silently preparing yourself. You had multiple conversations in your head & hoped that one of them would be fitting. Taking a deep breath, you opened the door. Damn, you knew Jared was tall but he was tall. You were pulled into a bone-crashing hug before any words were exchanged. Right, you knew Jared was a hugger, you had seen enough videos of him admitting that. Still, you were getting used to physical touch & his hug did more bad than good. You hated yourself for feeling that way, there was no need to be scared of hugs.
“Easy, pal. Let her go.” Jensen rescued you by tapping Jared’s shoulder. It was as if he suddenly remembered that you actually were not one for hugs. Pulling away abruptly, he scratched the back of his neck.
“I’m sorry…” he quietly apologized. “I’m Jared. It’s nice to finally meet you, (Y/N).” you could not stay mad at him, the look in his eyes & his smile was enough to forget the uncomfortable hug immediately.
“It’s no problem & likewise, Jared.” stepping out of the doorway to let them in, Gen came into view & she smiled sweetly at you. Not making the same mistake as Jared, she simply shook your hand.
“Hi (Y/N), I’m Gen. You look pretty.” would you ever stop blushing whenever someone gave you a compliment? You were not sure but it was something you could work on, you thought.
“Thank you. It’s good to see you.” keeping your nervousness at bay, you were proud when your voice did not crack. If you acted like this the entire evening, you would be fine.
Jared & Gen walked into the house to greet Danneel & Jensen stopped you before you could follow them. Facing him, you gave him a confused look, not knowing what he wanted from you.
“I’m sorry about Jared. I told him you weren’t one for hugs but that jerk doesn’t listen very well.” Jensen felt bad that the first interaction between you guys was uncomfortable for you.
“It’s fine, Jensen, really. I knew he was a hugger.” a laugh escaped you, one that eased him a little. Now he could tell you were not mad at what happened. It could only get better from now on, right?
Dinner went by fast. It was easy to talk to them & while they did ask you a lot of questions, they were never uncomfortable. They knew where the line was that should not be crossed. At least for the time being.
“So, (Y/N).” Jared started.
“I heard a rumor that you’re a fan of Supernatural?” he gave you a smile that showed you that he knew the answer to that question already. You nodded your head.
“Started watching about three years ago.“
“That brings me to my next very important question. Who’s your favorite? Sam or Dean?” oh, he did go down that road, great. You could feel Jensen’s eyes on you & Jared was looking way too confident. Honesty was important, right? Well, then you might as well confess.
“Actually…Cas is my favorite.” you admitted. Both, Jared & Jensen, gasped & acted as if the world just ended. You laughed at their antics. They could be such children.
“That’s my girl.” Danneel spoke up & high-fived you. Yeah, you could get used to that group of people.
Danneel & Gen left Jensen, Jared & you alone, knowing what they were about to tell you. Jared had brought you a little gift. It was one of his hoodies from the newest “Always Keep Fighting” campaign. The one with the “Family Has Your Back” logo. After thanking him, you immediately put it on, loving how it fit you. It was a little too big on you but that made it even comfier.
“We have to tell you something.” Jensen started. Oh no. Usually, when people from your past started a conversation like this, you were sent back the next day. Wait…Would they really do that? After everything?
“O-okay?” hiding your nervousness was not possible anymore. Jared noticed you trembling hands & eased your mind before you got the wrong impression.
“Hey, it’s alright. It’s a good thing, I promise.” again, Jared’s smile had an effect on you. Maybe it was because he was so empathetic.
“Remember when you told me that you enjoyed acting a while ago?” Jensen continued after you nodded, “I managed to get you two auditions. They are online, so I can be there with you this entire time. That is, of course, only if you wanna do this.” your eyes widened at his words. Had you heard him right? He got you auditions? Plural? That was literally one of your biggest dreams.
“So?” Jared asked when you were silent for a few seconds. You just needed time to process everything. But holy shit. Of course you wanted to do this!
“I’d love to! What are the auditions for?”
“One is for being a main character in season 13 of Supernatural & the-“ Jensen was cut off.
“WAIT WHAT?! You’re kidding, right?”
“He so isn’t kidding.” Jared chimed in.
“And the second one?” everything was too much right now. How could you possibly deal with this information without freaking out?
“A role for the next Avengers movie.” Jensen finished. Yeah, sure, why not?
“How? How did you get these auditions for me?” you were shocked to say the least. What was happening?
“We do have some connections.” Jared winked at you & this time, it was you who pulled the both of them into a hug. Jared looked surprised while Jensen just smiled. He appreciated whenever you initiated physical touch, knowing it was not easy for you.
After the talk, Danneel & Gen joined you guys again & you excitedly told them about your upcoming auditions. That was so foreign to you. Having upcoming auditions. Even though they made sure that you understood that they could not guarantee anything, you were more than grateful that they even got you this opportunity. Supernatural & Marvel, both fandoms you loved wholeheartedly. And now you had the chance to be play an actual part if everything worked out. And how you hoped it would. Your life had changed so much lately & it could change even more now.
~to be continued~
Published (04/17/2021) by Cathy
Tags: @vicmc624, @imaginationisgrowth, @stoneyggirl, @alyispunk, @thevelvetseries, @multifandomlover121, @samsgirl93, @supernatural3002, @diabetes-03, @prettyybubblesintheair, @originalsoulcollector, @vir-tual, @bellero, @sergantbuckybarnes (let me know if you wanna be tagged <3)
Reckless - DSC
Pairing: Sicheng (Winwin) x female reader || WayV
Genre: fluff, angst, comfort
Includes: motocross racer reader, tournaments, established relationship, crashes, head injury, broken arm, Mark mention, news headline, hospital visit, overnight stay, falling unconscious, concussion, Renjun mention, Donghyuck mention, Jeno mention, hot chocolate, eating breakfast together, teasing, domestic fluff
Word count: 3.31k
Warning: hospital, injury, concussion, broken arm
Networks:@kwritersworld, @kdiarynet, @kpopscape, @ultkpopnetwork, @kpopficsnetwork, @kpopcontentcreatorsclub, @k-dinernet, @lovesick-net, @whipped-kpop-creators, @prism-nw, @k-library, @neoswitchnet, @nct-writers, @nctcreations
Tagging: @teeztheflag, @intokook, @cherry-hyejin
Summary: : After ending her tournament on a high, y/n takes Sicheng to the practice track for a few spins on her bike. Opting to watch her instead, he warns y/n not to injure herself; she does need to rest after her race. Promising to try and be as careful as she can, y/n takes her bike on a few laps of the track. When she takes her eyes off the track for just a moment, she sends the bike and herself flying into the ground.
An: My first collab fic! (I’m kinda ehh about this tho-)
Champagne, cameras, crowds; winning the national championship - y/n had done it. As she ran into Sicheng’s arms in front of the cameras, he spun her around. Setting his girlfriend down, he pulled her in for a soft kiss. A kiss that held a thousand meanings; longing, congratulations, you did it, I’m proud of you, well done, y/n. Pulling away and seeing the stars in each other’s eyes, the couple stayed like that, the cameras capturing their moment - as if they were the only ones in the world at that moment.
“Shall we get out of here? I think I’ve seen enough cameras to last a lifetime.”
Sicheng couldn’t describe just how proud he was of y/n; seeing her win a tournament after she had returned from a dip in motivation felt like a scene out of a drama. Except it wasn’t a drama: this was y/n, this was real. His hand intertwined with hers, the couple walked through the streets of Seoul and simply enjoyed each other’s company. As they stopped to cross the street, a cheeky grin made its way onto his face as he quickly pressed a kiss to y/n’s cheek. When she looked to Sicheng, he turned away immediately, a bashful series of giggles falling from him as he walked across the crosswalk with y/n. With the blush on her face dying down, y/n scoffed to herself, shaking her head. Gosh, he was endearing.
Somehow, they ended up at the race track not that far from their shared apartment, and y/n was already eying the practice bikes they kept in the shed. Sicheng knew that look in her eyes all too well, and it already seemed like a bad idea in his head. Didn’t y/n just come back from a race tournament? It wasn’t that he wanted her away from what made her happy, but he missed her dearly. A little quiet time together before she hit the tracks again would be more than ideal.
“Baby...you only just returned home today, I’m sure you’ll have plenty of time to get back in your gear tomorrow.” An effort to persuade y/n was made, but it wasn’t strong enough, because with nothing more than a pout, some aegyo and ‘please baby~’, Sicheng’s resolve crumbled. He was whipped for y/n, and it showed. A lot. With a sigh, he ruffled her hair and nodded, a smile finding its way onto his face. Giggling, y/n kissed her boyfriend on the cheek and took her long coat off, asking Sicheng to hold it as she went over to the garage. Picking out a bike that she used frequently, y/n changed into gear and pushed the bike out to the track.
As Sicheng took a seat by a bench, his phone rang whilst he was watching y/n, making sure that was safe. Looking at the caller, he chuckled to himself.
“Mark! How are you?” The younger male across the line was bouncing with excitement, the news article on his computer. Being the couple’s mutual younger friend, he was practically treated like a little brother.
“Hyung! Oh my gosh - have you seen the article?! Your relationship is viral!” He exclaimed, the article in question running with the headline; ‘Motocross champion in a loving relationship. How long has this been going on?’. As far as tabloid news articles went, it was definitely a much kinder title than what could’ve been developed. Listening to Mark ramble on while y/n drove a few laps around the track, Sicheng burst out laughing at Mark’s impression of some of their friends. And this caught y/n’s attention, for better or for worse. To her detriment, y/n turned her head towards her boyfriend as she approached a corner, however, she failed to control her bike. Before the professional racer knew what was going on, she was sent flying off of her bike and into the metal chairs - that had been stacked up and stored under a shelter - her bike getting caught on the barriers. The sound of the crash itself was by no means quiet, as multiple chairs collapsed and fell on top of y/n.
As the crash happened, Sicheng’s gaze was ripped from the sky towards the fallen bike, and soon the chairs. A panicked horror fell on his face and he immediately hung up on the younger friend, running down towards the track and to the mess of chairs that had covered y/n.
“Y/n! Oh dear God… I told you to be careful!” His heart dropped out of his chest when y/n didn’t respond for a few seconds - although it felt like an eternity - and Sicheng feared the worst. As the adrenaline flooded his veins, the 23-year-old started pulling the chairs away, discarding them every-which-way as he tried to find y/n. Once a majority of the chairs were out of the way, he pulled her to his chest, cradling her unconscious - but thankfully alive - body. Hands still trembling, he fumbled with his phone as he dialled 119. His voice trembled as he described his situation, a shaky sigh of relief when help was confirmed. Putting the call on speaker and leaving it next to him, Sicheng held y/n’s face in his hands.
He didn’t like this. He didn’t like any of it.
He hated seeing her like this.
The tremble in his voice turned to whimpers as he ran his hand through her hair. But something felt off. Pulling his hand away, a stifled cry fell from him when his hand came back stained red. Blood. Y/N was bleeding from the back of her head. How hard did she hit her head..? Sicheng’s eyes warmed with tears as he brushed his girlfriend’s hair out of her face, a thumb tracing over her shut eyes. Soon, he could feel the tears drip down his face and he made no attempt to wipe them away, simply letting them stain his cheeks. If only he hadn’t distracted her, then she wouldn’t be unconscious. Then y/n wouldn’t be laying in his arms, bleeding from her head.
The sound of sirens brought the 23-year-old back to reality and Sicheng raised an arm up to grab the paramedics’ attention. Surrounded by paramedics, they brought y/n onto a stretcher and into the ambulance that had accompanied them. Still trembling as he tried to explain what had just happened, Sicheng was brought to the ambulance afterwards and given a glass of water to drink as the doors closed and they were driven to the hospital. His leg bounced as he grew more and more panicked, eyes blurring up with tears again as he looked over to y/n. The irony was painful, and it still didn’t register to Sicheng that only a few hours ago y/n was awake and joking around with him.
A few hours later, Sicheng was sitting in y/n’s room, on a chair close to her bed. Her hand enclosed in his, he rubbed his thumb over her palm subconsciously while he replayed the crash in his head over and over again. Getting up to walk off the anxiety, he turned to the door when he heard a series of knocks. Walking to open the door, he was met by a panicking Mark, who looked like he’d seen a ghost. Seeing y/n laid on the bed, his face fell. Lying unconscious in a hospital bed didn’t suit the motocross racer at all. He looked at Sicheng and his eyes said more than he could ever say with words. A hand on the older male’s shoulder, Mark sighed before he spoke.
“Hyung, why don’t we go outside for a bit? Y/n’s still going to be right here.” He suggested, hoping that Sicheng would agree and go to the courtyard with him. Fresh air would do them both some good. Nodding, Sicheng exhaled and grabbed his coat, which had been draped over the chair he was sitting on. With one last look at y/n, the older of the two opened the hospital room door and they left the room, making their way to the courtyard.
Handing Sicheng an iced caramel latte, Mark sat down on the bench and took a sip of his own drink. Neither of them knew what to say, but they both knew that they had to stay positive about it. Sicheng was the first to bring his attention away from the floor, looking at Mark.
“Do you think she’ll actually take a break after she recovers?” He asked, his features softening.
“She definitely won’t want to, but Noona really should take a break. A few weeks away from her bikes won’t kill her.” The brunet responded, a conviction in his voice. Y/n was brave, but sometimes too reckless for her own good and today proved that effortlessly. They both had a lingering feeling that they’d have to force y/n to take a break. Staying like that for the meantime, both were lost in thought until Mark’s phone rang; he was needed back in his apartment. Renjun was seconds from beating Donghyuck up and Jeno did not want to be the one in between it. Although, he did agree to film if anything did happen.
“Hyung, I’m sorry - I gotta go. Renjun’s going to beat Hyuck’s ass-”
“Go on, and send me the video later.” Sicheng chuckled, patting Mark’s shoulder in the reassurance that he’d be okay. A quick goodbye, and soon Mark was making his way out of the hospital, getting a taxi and heading to his shared apartment before he would be greeted by a screaming Donghyuck. Watching the younger male leave with an amused smile, Sicheng hummed to himself before he figured it was time he headed back to y/n.
Returning to his girlfriend’s hospital room, he sat back in his chair, his hand holding hers once again. The sun had started setting outside as his eyes felt heavy, and Sicheng could tell he’d most likely end up spending the night in the hospital. Pulling his chair closer to y/n’s bedside, he laid his head on the mattress, facing his girlfriend as he let the urge to sleep take over. A nurse who happened to be passing by peeked inside the room and smiled gently, almost parent-like. Going into the storage room, they picked out a pillow and blanket for Sicheng as he slept through the night shift.
By morning light, the sunlight had just started to fall on y/n’s face, and the motocross racer’s skin glowed in the early morning rays. Eyes opening with a low groan, she looked around at her surroundings, a brow raised in confusion. Why exactly was she in the hospital? Wasn’t she riding her motorbike when- oh right…
She crashed. Headfirst. That was why she was lying in a hospital bed, dazed and with a throbbing headache. Wonderful. A soft smile on her face when she saw Sicheng asleep, y/n sat herself up - albeit slowly and with a lot of effort - and reached forward to lace her fingers through his hair. Stopping when the sleeping brunet started opening his eyes, y/n’s hand stayed in her boyfriend’s hair. Yawning as he rubbed the sleep from his eyes, Sicheng’s eyes formed into an ‘ㅇ’ when he noticed the pillow and blanket.
“Oh? One of the nurses must have-” words getting caught in his throat when he ran his hands through his hair and ended up feeling y/n’s own hand in his hair. Turning to face y/n in hopes that he wasn’t simply just imagining things, his eyes almost didn’t process what he was seeing until Y/N smiled, amused by the shock on his face. It was cute, she had to admit.
“Awake?” She answered, her voice a tad hoarse. Reacting immediately and pulling her into a hug, Sicheng exhaled, content with staying like that for a few minutes - in hope that y/n being awake wasn’t a dream. Releasing her from the hug, Sicheng held her hands in his, stars in his eyes.
“How, how do you feel?... You scared me, you know?” Sicheng asked, peacefully admiring how his girlfriend looked in the morning - despite the bandages, IV and cute but unruly bed hair. Throat still dry, y/n shrugged.
“My head’s killing me, that’s for sure. Uh - what, what did the doctors say?” She asked, curious as to exactly how bad her injury was. The way Sicheng grimaced before answering wasn’t helping either. Preparing for the worst, y/n braced herself for the news. What if she couldn’t ride bikes again from that point on? Her career couldn’t be over that quick-
“Well, you got a pretty bad concussion, and they want to see if you’ve broken anything.” Sicheng explained with a sigh, indicating her elevated arm. Y/n had gotten away with concussions before - it was nothing new. Workplace incidents, that sort of thing. But if she had broken a bone, there was no way she’d be allowed to go anywhere near a motorbike until she was fully healed. Which would be a minimum of a month off the tracks, at least.
“I hope it isn’t broken.”
Getting the x-ray done was the easy bit; keeping her arm in place, letting the doctors do what they had to do, simple. It was the waiting for the results that was the hard part. Although it was only a few hours, y/n’s train of thought wasn’t letting up. The worry was eating away at her. Distracting herself by staring out of the window, even that was proving to be of little help. Biting at her lip as she went through what she’d do in the event that she did break her arm, y/n hadn’t noticed the nurse walking up to her bedside until Sicheng had repeatedly tapped her leg, an amused grin on his face after he had gotten a cup of water for the both of them. Shaking her head and turning to the nurse, y/n waited for the news.
“How bad is it?” Y/n asked, a blend of hesitation and hope in her voice.
“You’re quite lucky, Miss L/n, you had a pretty nasty crash. Apart from your concussion, you’ve sustained a mild fracture in your right arm.” The nurse answered, a polite smile on their face as they broke the news as best they could. As y/n took in the news that she’d ended up with a broken arm, she exhaled, thanking the nurse for letting her know. There was a pause in the room as the couple were left alone, an amused realisation and chuckle coming from the professional bike racer.
“Well, isn’t that wonderful?”
Holding y/n’s free hand as the couple left the hospital, Sicheng reached over and ruffled his injured girlfriend’s hair, a grin on his face at y/n shaking his hand off with a sulky downturn to her lips. They’d been on the phone with her manager, and it was confirmed that she’d be taking the required time off to recover, and an extra two weeks to actually take some time away from the track. Lips pursed as she observed her arm sling, y/n turned to her boyfriend - who had been calling a cab while she was zoned out in her own world. If she was going to be taking time off, the idea of spending as much of that time with Sicheng was quite appealing, to say the least.
“Sicheng, can you stay the night? I wanna spend more time with you,”
“Sure~ I’m free for next week. I’m all yours y/n-ah~”
Entering the apartment together, y/n sighed, taking a seat on the sofa and resting her head as she stared up at the ceiling. Hanging up his coat, Sicheng joined her, taking the same position and giggling when y/n turned to him in confusion. She knew why she was staring at the uninteresting ceiling, but why did he have to? His giggles turning into snickers, Sicheng excused himself into the kitchen before y/n could ask the question that was on her mind. Returning to the living room with two mugs of hot chocolate in hand, Sicheng set y/n’s down and took a sip of his own, an amused grin remaining on his face. Still more or less not in the mood to talk, y/n leaned over and pressed a kiss to her boyfriend’s cheek as she picked up the other mug with her unbandaged hand. The couple stayed like that, enjoying their drinks and the silence.
As the evening drew closer, and both y/n and Sicheng were feeling their eyelids grew heavy, a yawn from the motocross racer in the room signaled to them both that it would be best for the couple to get some sleep.
“Baby, I don’t know about you, but I’m seconds away from passing out on this sofa,” Y/n joked as she pulled herself up and helped Sicheng to his feet. Wincing a tad when her ankle collided with the corner of the table, y/n rolled her eyes with a shake of her head and a smile when Sicheng started giggling.
“Y/n-ah, are - are you okay?”
“Well, I’m glad you’re entertained,” y/n sassed, walking into their bedroom with Sicheng trailing after, a grin still on his face, “I’m fine, just so you know~”
The next day, y/n had woken up with a groan. Although she had spent ten minutes trying to find the best way to sleep, she had tossed and turned - and now her arm was starting to ache. Pushing herself to sit up and get out of bed, y/n tried managing as best she could, gently massaging her arm every so often. She’d take some painkillers after she ate breakfast. Heading to the kitchen to try and make herself something to eat, y/n stopped and looked down, a flustered smile on her face as she turned to see Sicheng with his head buried in her shoulders.
“Good morning you~ could I interest you in some breakfast~?” Y/n laughed, kissing the still half asleep man’s cheek. Muttering something about making it himself, Sicheng unwinded his hands and dragged his feet around the kitchen floor as he made himself something to eat, his girlfriend watching him as she leaned against the dining table, sipping on a fruit smoothie.
“How do you manage to get up so early? I’m exhausted.” Sicheng asked, still rubbing the sleep from his eyes. Prone to working afternoons himself, waking up early morning was definitely something he wasn’t used to. Giggling as she ate, y/n shrugged, a playful smile on her face. Waking up early was the norm for the motocross racer; arriving at the tracks at unforgiving times to practice.
“Oh I don’t know~? Motocross perhaps?” She asked, teasing the man in front of her. His unamused face turning into a smile that screamed ‘I love her so much’, Sicheng rolled his eyes, shaking his head as he watched the pleased grin on y/n’s face.
“Y/n-ah, do you know how much I love you?”
“I- come here you-” Walking over to y/n and pulling her out of the chair and into his arms, the couple stood there for a moment, lost in each other's eyes...Until y/n started wincing.
“Baby? What’s wrong? Did, did I hurt you, I’m so-” Sicheng pouted in concern as he started checking y/n’s arm, looking back up in confusion when she started laughing. “What? What is it?”
“Y/n! You scared me! Seriously, you’ve got to be less reckless next time”
“Love you too baby~”
Stoner Snaf <3 So this one's kinda weird, I based it around the Watch Me from fictober so if you haven't already read that, I suggest reading it first! It's also set in a post COVID world because I need something to look forward to. Disclaimer; I wrote this while very high last night and didn't really edit it so it's probably a mess.
Pairing: Merriell Shelton / Female Reader
Warnings: 18+, unprotected sex (don't do this), recreational drug use, if you squint there's some kinky undertones but nothing too crazy.
Word Count: 4.4K (i haven't written something this long is forever omf)
Tags: @edteche2 @xmxisxforxmaybe @diasimar @txmel @gloriousdarkangelsworld @paradoxicaltornado @404-not-found-xix
Enjoy and happy 4:20
Ever since the pandemic, you hadn’t been able to do crowds. Not like you used to anyways. It killed you a little bit because all the things you missed doing so much involved crowds; concerts, clubbing, festivals, travelling. Getting back into the swing of things took time. The feeling of being surrounded by people you don’t know set every one of your nerves on fire in the worst way. It felt so...
This is probably why you didn’t last more than a half-hour at some seedy dive bar your friends had dragged you out to for the night. They begged you to go out with them, if even only for a drink or two. It had been so long since the whole group had a proper outing, it was nice to have the gang out for a night. Until some dickhead grabbed your ass and whispered some unwanted filth in your ear, his breath hot and unpleasant on your skin. After that, you were quick to grab your bag and say goodbye to your friends. You knew they were disappointed, but you could still feel the strangers breathe on your skin like it had been singed.
You welcomed the cool air of the night, feeling it immediately cool your skin. You hadn’t realized how warm it was inside but now that you were out in the open, you felt better. The burning on your neck had settled, more of an afterthought now. Your brain still felt overwhelmed, and you knew exactly how to remedy that.
Sitting down at one of the picnic table benches nearby, you began to sift through your bag when a voice rang out through the quiet streets.
“Well aren’t you a sight for sore eyes,”
You’d know that slow drawl anywhere, you’d go so far as to say it near haunted your dreams.
“Merriell Shelton,” you beam up at him as he walks closer to you, nodding at his friends to continue without him, “I haven’t seen you since-”
“That last party.” He nods, smiling at you in the way where you’re not quite sure if he’s flirting with you or if he’s just that naturally gorgeous, “when I taught ya’ how to smoke.”
An excited smile bubbles onto your face and you shake your head at him, “Oh, you’d be so proud of me. I’ve grown so much since then.”
You resume digging through your bag to find your various forms of weed paraphernalia you carry with you. The pandemic had not been kind to you, and some days it felt like the only thing keeping your head above water was your bedtime joint. It wasn’t something you were terribly proud of, but it helped your anxiety and that was good enough for you lately.
He barks out a laugh at your response and you can’t help the pride the swells up inside of you knowing that you made him laugh like that. He comes to sit on the bench, placing himself close enough that it wasn’t weird, but far away enough so that he wasn’t directly in your space.
“What, you some kinda stoner or something now?” he asks as you layout your joints and pipes. He whistles, a mix between being impressed and mocking, when you pull out your vape too, “Damn, you got a bong in there too?”
Now it’s your turn to laugh, “No, that stays at home.” you say with a wink, “So, how have you been?” you ask, starting to put everything but your joints back in your bag.
He blows out through his lips and laughs a little, running a hand through his hair, “Been better lately, that’s all that matters, I s’pose.” He watched, something like a weird form of pride in his eyes as you pull out a joint and light it carefully. You certainly can’t complain, you forgot how great it felt to have his eyes on you.
You hum knowingly, “That’s what I keep telling myself, anyway,” you hold the joint up hesitantly.
“I don’t usually share my joints anymore, but if you’ve got your shots...” you shrug, your sentence tapering off. It’s a weird world you live in now, no one quite knows what’s socially acceptable anymore.
He smirks at you, amused, taking the joint from your fingers, “I’ve got my shots alright,”
His eyes don’t leave yours as he brings it up to his lips and takes his hit. He’s not even doing anything out of the ordinary, but he looks like he’s up to no good in every way. It’s like he’s just taking you in as if comparing you to the girl he met years ago.
“You changed,” he comments on an exhale, passing it back.
You nod, laughing softly, “Turns out I get really impulsive when I’m alone,”
He scoffs, “tell me about it,” and then he’s shrugging off his hoodie to reveal a handful of new tattoos covering his skin, “Buddy of mine is an artist,”
You gasp, ‘ooo’ing at some of the more complex pieces. Without thinking your hand darts out to let your fingers drag against his forearm, following the linework of the ink. His muscle twitches beneath your fingers involuntarily and you’re reminded of how long you’ve gone without intimate touches like this. You wonder if it’s the same for him. Did he long to be touched so innocently like this too?
“They’re wonderful,” you say, pulling your hand away, still admiring from a distance.
“Yea, I like ‘em.” He shrugs, nodding at you to take the last pulls from the joint, it’s your weed after all, “You get any?”
You shook your head, “No, surprisingly enough every time I finally convinced myself to book an appointment, shops got shut down again.” You said, only kind of bitterly.
He laughs and you scowl at him, “Aw, baby, don’t be like that,” he laughs, swatting at you half-heartedly, “Look, I betcha I can get you a discount at my buddy’s shop.”
You eye him suspiciously, “I can’t tell if you’re kidding.”
He puts a hand to his chest with a lazy smirk, “On god,”
You bite your lip to suppress a smile, shaking your head lightly, “Okay fine but that just means you’ll get to see a whole lot more of me,”
His smirk turns darker, into something more playfully suggestive, “I have no problem with that,”
A silence fills the space between you as you both take each other in. You had really only hung out with him that one night and nothing had really happened. You just sat and talked really. You talked for a while. You talked so long you didn’t realize the party had ended until your friend came to get you. You exchanged numbers and then just a few weeks after, you were instructed to start isolating. You’d kept up a steady social media friendship since then, but you had missed actually talking to him. He wasn’t much of a texter. The silence only lasts a moment, but it feels thick with tension.
“You look good by the way,” he comments, leaning ever so slightly closer to you, “I meant to say that earlier but then you made me strip for ya-”
“Whoawhoawhoa!!” you sputter through a laugh, “I did not make you do anything, you did that yourself.”
He shakes his head at you, “Nah, that doesn’t sound like me.”
You're giggling at this point, “You’re ridiculous.”
He beams at you, clearly pleased with himself for the moment. It settles for a second as he looks at you, eyes softening a bit before he glances down, nudging your knee with his a bit, “I missed you,” He cringes a bit, “I know it’s weird to say but, I did.”
Your nodding before you can even think to play it even a little bit cool, “No, I get it,” you assure him, smiling softly, “I missed you too, actually.”
He hums, smiling a rare soft smile at you before changing the subject, clearly wanting to shift the attention away from his moment of vulnerability, “So why aren’t you inside?” he asks.
“Oh,” you glance back at the bar behind you, having forgotten it was even there, “I was heading out, I wasn’t really in the mood for dive bars tonight.”
He nods, “The crowds right?” you nod and he’s talking again before you can ask him how he knows that, “I get it, sometimes being so close to that many people again makes me wanna crawl out my skin.” he chuckles.
You nod, a weight lifting off your shoulders to know you’re not alone, “Exactly, it’s not something I’ve gotten used to yet.”
“Well, can I walk you home?” he offers with a smile, “I’m in no rush to head in there,”
You smile and nod, “I’d like that,”
Somehow he had ended up on your couch. You weren’t entirely sure when walking you home had turned to him being on your couch, but you certainly weren’t complaining. You were both pleasantly high, talking anything from movie theories to possible dystopian futures and alien invasions.
“Look, I’m jus’ sayin’ that if I was an alien, I wouldn’t wanna fuck a human, are you kidding?” he reasons, eyes squinted as if he’s offended and your laughing so hard you have tears in your eyes, “Nah, I’m goin’ for a much cooler species.”
He watches you as you fight back giggles at his ridiculousness, a lazy, grin settled on his face. He reaches for his jacket that’s slung across the arm of the couch, reaching into his pocket to pull out his own stash and you gasp, mocking offence.
“You had your own weed all this time and you’ve been smoking mine?”
He rolls his eyes, settling the joint between his lips and lighting it. He inhales slowly, watching the tip as it sparks to life, eyes flicking back to you as he exhales, “I was gonna share,”
He holds out the joint for you, however as soon as you go to steal it he holds it back, just out of your reach, “what’s the magic word?”
“Oh my god, are you kidding?” you ask through a laugh, straining forward further in an effort to reach it but you’re hindered from the way you’re sitting. You make grabby hands at it instead.
“Ya want it or not?” he asks, eyebrows raised expectantly. There’s a tension between the two of you, still mostly playful but turning ever the more thick as the moments pass by.
You huff, getting comfy again in your spot, keeping your hand stretched out lazily, “Please,”
As soon as the word leaves your lips you can see his eyes get darker, that infuriating smirk only stretching across his face and you’re so mad that that’s all it takes for the playfulness between you to shatter into pure sexual tension.
Without a word he hands you the joint, enjoying the way you quickly bring it into your mouth for a deep drag to calm your rising nerves. It’s infuriating, how good he looks like this. All calm and relaxed on your couch in the low living room light, curls messy and looking at you through hooded eyelids. You want him. Just his eyes on you like this has a warmth pooling in the pit of your stomach.
You try to play it cool though, taking another slow drag and enjoying the way the smoke rises up around you. His eyes zero in on your lips, watching with a peaked interest as they wrap around the filter, watching the way the smoke escapes them. Neither of you say a word for a while. Just sitting in a comfortable quiet, a forgotten Spotify playlist playing in the background as you pass the joint back and forth.
He didn’t make his move until the final few hits of it. He shifts to sit straighter on your couch, a little more proper. What left his mouth was anything but.
“C’mere,” he says lowly, cocking his head to the side and gesturing to his lap, “gotta nice seat for ya,”
You don’t hesitate to comply, your high erasing any ideas of playing hard to get. You maneuver yourself as gracefully as you can, swinging a leg over his and settling there, straddling him comfortably with his hands on your hips. Once you're settled he raises the joint to his lips, taking in the last drag, eyes glimmering in the low light of the room. He holds it for a second, one hand moves upwards to cup the back of your neck and pulls you in closer.
Your lips are so close, the tension crackling between you like electricity. He tilts his head ever so slightly, lips parting to exhale the smoke into your mouth. You inhale on impulse and your mind goes blank as your lips brush ever so slightly together. You knew people said shotgun kisses were hot, but you had never truly believed them until now.
You know you should pull away to exhale, but you can still feel his lips brushing against yours and your mind is dizzy from the weed and from him and you can’t take it anymore. You close the distance the rest of the way, kissing him slowly through your exhale, smoke slipping through your lips as he returns the motion.
You kiss him like that for a while, enjoying his hands on your waist and the feeling of his chest beneath your hands. You were quickly realizing that Merriell was his own kind of drug. You’d only had a little taste of him and yet you found yourself craving more. His fingers flex against your body and you can’t help to low noise that slips out of your throat. It only spurs him on, emitting a growling sound of his own as he tugs you closer, dragging you against his growing erection. Your hand slides into his hair in response, feeling like you’re so high on weed and him that you might just fly away.
“Is this okay?” he asks against your lips, letting his forehead press against yours while he waits for your response.
You hum your affirmative, nodding your head quickly while diving back into for another kiss, this one much more ravenous than the last. God, you felt like you were starving for him. You couldn’t get enough at the way his tongue slid against yours, the feeling of his hands gliding up and down your body. They continue down the curve on your spine, settling once they reach the globes of your ass.
“You don’t know how many times I thought ‘bout this,” he mumbles, pulling away to stare at you teasingly through hooded eyelids. His accent, already a slow drawl, comes out much thicker when he’s high like this. It washes over you like honey. He smirks at you and before you can begin to wonder what he’s up to he brings one of his hands down in a sound smack against your right ass cheek.
You gasp at the feeling, dulled by the layer of your jeans but rippling throughout your sensitive skin nonetheless. You laugh lowly against his cheek, “likewise,”
He bites his lip on a grin, capturing your lips in a single, filthy kiss as if he knows exactly what it’ll do to you. Your hands wander up under his t-shirt, nails digging in sightly, just as a preview, returning the favour.
Like a switch, he’s on you a little more urgently and things begin to move faster. His hands tug on your shirt impatiently and you obediently part to take it off, shucking your bra off as well, and feeling pleased when he follows your lead. Your hands explore each other's bodies, every inch of new skin. It’s not long before he switches positions, standing up and dropping you back on the couch so that this time you’re laying on it properly. Without wasting a moment, you wiggle your jeans off, tossing them somewhere over the coffee table and taking in the way his eyes darken further at the sight of you.
He crawls his hips between your legs, capturing your lips in a messy kiss before starting to trail them down your body. Your high has your skin feeling so sensitive, every soft brush of his lips feeling like a shock of electricity through your body. He spends time on your breasts, marking and kneading them with his hands, enjoying how responsive you are beneath his ministrations. Though he doesn’t spend long there, clearly more interested in another prize.
He settles, this time his shoulders keeping your legs spread. He presses a soft kiss to your inner thigh, lets his fingers dust over your panty-covered pussy. Your muscles twitch at the feeling, and you feel your cunt clench around nothing. He looks good there, tattoos cover his skin and you long to be able to leave something that permanent on him. Fuck, you want him so bad.
He grins at you, knowing exactly how impatient you must be feeling. And that bastard uses it to his advantage. Sucking marks into your thigh just to watch your squirm. Eventually, he pulls your panties to the side, letting his fingers slide through your folds. He whistles lowly between his teeth.
“Mmm, baby, you this wet for me already?”
The whimper that leaves your lips is pitiful, your hips twitching in an attempt to get the pressure where you need it. He chuckles under his breath, eyes darting between your heat and your face, “Look at you,” he near coos, letting his thumb trace circles around your clit, watching as your mouth drops on a silent moan, “You want it so bad, don’t cha? Sweet thing...”
“Are you gonna be an asshole like this all night?” you ask, breathless but trying to redeem some of your dignity through what little wit you have left.
He laughs, sinking a finger into your heat just to watch the pleasure ripple across your face, “Don’t pretend like you don’t love it.”
And he’s right of course. You do love it, love the way he comments on how wet you are for him, almost mocking. Love the way he’s taking his time to find the most sensitive parts of your body and using them to his advantage. You let out a breathy moan as his finger brushes your G-spot.
The sound must do something to him because within a second he's attaching his mouth to your pussy with a growl, not even bothering to remove your panties before doing so. The heat of his tongue on your clit as his finger works that sweet spot inside of you turns your breathy moan into one much louder.
He’s good with his mouth because of course, he is. Within moments you feel like you're right on edge. And the smug bastard knows it too if the amused glint in his eyes is anything to go by. Your one hand twists in his curls, encouraging his movements while your other works at your nipple.
“God,” you whine, tugging at his hair as you feel heat wind up your spine. You swear you’ve never felt this good. It only takes another flick of his tongue against your click before your orgasm rips through you, thighs attempting to squeeze around his head, stopped by his free hand holding your one leg open so he can work you through it. Your body twitches in its aftershocks, mewling pathetically when the simulation starts to ride that edge between pain and pleasure.
“It’s just Merriell, actually,” he supplies when he pulls away with a smirk.
“I fucking hate you,” you breathe out, pulling him up your body so you can kiss him again, despite your words. He laughs, moaning softly against your lips when your hand finds the bulge in his jeans.
He kisses you for a while, letting you paw at him for a bit before he pulls away to work them off his body. There’s no real rush, the high allowing you to take it slow and enjoy the moment as opposed to the frenzied fucking drinking tends to lead you to.
You whine and he laughs at you, low and cocky as he leans down for another wet kiss, “You hurtin’ that bad for it, baby?”
You beam up at him from your place on the couch, feeling comfy and sexy with the way his eyes trail across your skin, leaving a tingling feeling in their wake. You shrug, watching with interest as he rids himself of his briefs, admiring his cock as he awaits your response.
“It’s been a while,” You say, distracted as you anticipate the stretch required for your body to accommodate him, ‘I’m excited, sue me.”
His hands use your hips to drag you closer to him, lifting one leg onto his shoulder while letting the other wrap around his body. He leans down to kiss you and you only have half a second to wonder the last time your legs were stretched like this before the feeling of his cock at your entrance steals the breath from your lungs.
Your mouth drops open, a moan caught in your throat as he slowly sinks into you. Your eyes roll back, shamelessly enjoying the stretch as he sinks, inch by slow, pleasurable inch. He continues the slowness, but you’re not sure he’s doing so on purpose.
When your eyes focus again you see the definition of bliss on his face as he thrusts slowly in and out of you, moaning lowly in his throat.
“Fuck,” he says, drawing the word out through gritted teeth, “that’s it, takin’ me so good.”
His thrusts begin to pick up, still fucking you slowly but with more force behind them. Each sharp movement of his hips as the tip of his cock dragging sweetly against the deepest parts of you, and it feels so fucking good. In the moment, it’s intense. He’s folded over you, holding your leg against your chest so he can suck and bite at your neck as he fucks you. You can’t help the filthy moans you let loose in his ear, one hand fisted in his hair while the other digs your nails into the smooth skin of his back.
“Merriell,” you gasp, feeling distinctly insane with the pleasure you're feeling. Your head drops back onto the couch, body jolting with each thrust of his hips. It’s good, god, it’s so good. But the need that burns through your veins makes you impatient, “Let me ride you.”
The words are out of your mouth before you can stop them, but it’s a suggestion he is clearly open to acting upon. He quickly pulls out, sitting back in his original position and pulling you on top of him.
“Be my gu-” he doesn’t finish his sentence, instead tapering off into a moan as you waste no time in sinking down on to him again, “Christ,”
You waste no time. Quickly stabling yourself with your hands on his shoulder and maneuvering yourself up and down on his cock. Now it’s your turn to watch him. Watch him as his eyes roll back and his hands grip your hips with a vice-like grip. That smirk never strays from his face though, clearly enjoying himself.
“You look so pretty like this,” he talks, bringing a hand down on your ass again, loving the way it spurs you on, “talk to me baby, tell me how it feels.”
You moan, loud and borderline pornographic, “You feel so good,” you breathe, biting harshly down on his lip, savouring the growl that vibrates through the both of you, “Oh, fuck, Merriell, you feel so good,” You emphasize your words with a particularly good roll of your hips.
You can tell he’s getting close by the way his hips start to snap upwards to meet yours and the way his brows furrow in concentration, “Fuck, baby girl,” he groans, unaware at the way the nickname makes you melt, “tell me you’re getting close. I wanna feel you cum around my cock.”
You nod immediately, pulling on his hair so you can capture his lips harshly, letting him bite your lip and pull your hips frantically against his own, “yes,” you whimper, “yes, yes, fuck imgonnacum,” you rush out, feeling like every touch he’d ever laid on you compiling into this one moment. It’s completely overwhelming and for a moment, you blackout.
When you come to he's kissing at your neck, hands massaging and pull at your ass, helping you ride of the aftershocks of your orgasm. His sounds have turns high and desperate against your neck, hands gripping at your skin so hard you think you’ll have bruises tomorrow. He needs you to keep going. Give him something.
The small, dare you say whimpery, “Oh baby, please,” has you moving quickly, almost as desperate to make him finish as he is to finish.
In the blink of an eye, you’ve lifted yourself off of him and onto your knees in front of him, quickly enveloping his entire length into the warmth of your mouth.
“Oh fuck, baby,” He moans urgently, both hands coming to tangle in your hair as you work your mouth over his cock, eyes trained on his face, “Fuck, I can’t-”
You hum, encouraging and within seconds you feel him reach his climax. His head thrown back, hips twitch upwards into the welcoming heat of your mouth, a low long moan pulled from his throat. He lets you bring him down, continuing to suck and lick softly at his spent cock, eyes lazily following your every movement.
When he finally pulls you up off the floor it’s to kiss you, lazy and heated. You collapse basically on top of him as you kiss, unbothered by the smallness of the couch and the cold air that bites at your cooling skin. He makes a noise in his throat when you pull away, watching in amusement as his eyes barely open to look at you.
“‘M so fuckin’ high.”
It pulls a laugh from you, bubbling up from your chest. He smiles, bright, relaxed and dazzling, “Hope you weren’t plannin’ on kickin’ me out because ‘m not movin’ for a while,”.
You rest your head on his chest, letting yourself sink into the moment with him, your own high coming back to you as you bask in the post-sex haze.
“You're still gonna get me discounted tattoos though right?"
That Wasn't in the Plan
Spider Queen's Revenge 2: Wrath of Pythor
Possessive AU by Emily aka @urlocalllama
Well, they forgot to grab the power tank containing all of Wukong and Lloyd's stolen power. That's fine, they just needed to go back to get it. Pythor and Spider Queen weren't a big deal, especially as there was obvious infighting. However, they shouldn't have been so content to let their guard down...
Sanzang had only come along to be the designated adult. Wujing didn't count this time.
Macaque and Mk wanted to come, but Wukong had gotten a fever and they needed to watch him and the babies. The adult ninjas were nursing Lloyd and helping where they could.
Bajie was working with his blessing - he knew that his wonderful fiance needed to de-stress, and the restaurant was doing wonders to help with that. Still, there might be something more he could do for him later, but that'll have to be set aside for now.
"Alright gang," Wujing rubbed his hands together, "We're here to play pranks, steal that power tank, and then go get some midnight donuts!"
The teenagers cheered, and with Wujing's instruction they dispersed, armed to the teeth with prank supplies. Cans of silly string, whoopie cushions, prank tasers, expanding foam, you name it, plus some individual specialties. Jay and Cole immediately ran off with several cans of spray paint, giggling about the immature imagery they were going to put everywhere. Kai, Nya, and Mei teamed up to toilet-paper some of Spider Queen's leftover robots and mechs. That all left Zane to infect their computers with a virus that played annoying and catchy songs every time they tried to interact with things, and it only got louder whenever they tried to close the associated window.
Wujing and Sanzang's job was to locate the tank and take it with them, Wujing carrying two power compressors that were programmed to separate Wukong and Lloyd's powers so they could be properly returned to their owners.
"So, uh, how exactly would they USE their separated powers?" Sanzang asked him, peering ahead of them to make sure nothing jumped out.
"There's lots of ways!" Wujing said cheerfully, picking the electronic lock ahead, "While they can have it pumped back into them, use it like any other eletric power source, or even to power up spells they cast, my favorite way is being able to brew a delicious tea with it and give them a much needed physical and magical immune system boost!"
"On that note, could they make themselves soup with it? That sounds kinda delicious."
"Sure, but I'm not sure how it would affect the taste. Regardless, the point is they can do whatever they want. It belongs to them!"
The electronic lock clicked open and the door slid open. Wujing motioned for Sanzang to follow him, and they dashed inside.
They were close to where the power tank was being stored.
All they had to do was head down this hallway, cross an upcoming bridge, and they'd be in the storage area.
Distant noises of angry screams as several of the minions encountered the pranks, along with howling laughter from others, reached their ears.
"Wonder what got them?" Sanzang snickered.
"Hopefully something really, really funny," Wujing said, "I'm sure we'll get a detailed report plus probably some videos from the kids."
"They're good kids, they're good kids. But like any good kid, they need some space to be little terrors - talk about a perfect place to get it."
"Was that a little bit of salt I heard in your voice, 'Master'?"
"Considering Spider Queen was one of the demons that tried to eat me? Yeah, a little salt."
"Oh yeah! I remember now!" Wujing exclaimed, "Seriously, the amount of times weird demons kept trying to eat you was insane. No wonder you needed FOUR celestial-slash-demonic beings to help you on your journey!"
"At least I knew what was going to happen," Sanzang sighed, "The worst ones were really the ones that kept trying to get me to marry them. The lengths people go for things like that..."
"We all know how ugly that is. Wukong just went through extreme levels of hell regarding THAT..."
"Mhm. I'm especially sensitive now... not only for myself, but for well... all of you." He shook his head, "That's a fate I wouldn't wish on anyone."
"Valid. Anyways, to go back to the task at hand, the tank should be down here... AHA!!"
Wujing pointed at a softly glowing container hidden by boxes. Sure enough, it was the power tank.
"Nice work! I'll go wait outside, you compress the power."
Wujing slipped down there, surprisingly silent for a guy that had muscles the size of Sanzang's head.
Doing as he said he would, he went back to the outside of the room and stood guard.
His noodle-like muscles, despite his efforts at bulking up a little, weren't good for fighting still. So he just prepared his vocal chords for any yelling, screaming, shouting, or frantic whispering he may need to do.
Then the door behind him clicked closed all by himself. He heard it lock.
He tugged against it, trying to get it open.
He summoned some of his powers, trying to will it open.
Then he heard shouting. And it wasn't good.
The ninja had been ambushed by something, and were barely trying to hold it together. He couldn't tell what it was, but it was clearly very severe or it wouldn't sound so desperate.
"Hello, there Tang Sanzang," A voice behind him sang.
The woman from the restaurant, now in full demon form, was approaching behind him.
"Wh- you?! You were- then why did you-?!"
"Oh, dearest little Sanzang," She pouted, stepping right into his personal space and patting his cheek, "There's so many moving parts of what I'm trying to do! I'd explain why in full, but it might dazzle you just a little too much."
"Who are you then?"
"Don't you remember? I thought I left behind a greater impression on your mind than this."
"I'm gonna be honest, there's been way too many people that want me to remember them and I just didn't. This-this isn't personal. It's been a long time!"
"You're so right," She giggled, "It really has been, love."
The way she said it made his stomach curdle, and he swatted away her hands as they tried to descend into unwelcome territory.
"Still nothing? You don't remember your dearest little Du Fanghua?"
Where had he heard that name before?
He tried to connect the dots... she was clearly trying to seduce him, and she had supposedly done it before. That narrows down the list. And her name...
"Poison... the whip from before... you're... you're..."
And it hit him.
A face that he really didn't want to remember, the look in her eyes as awful as it was all those years ago.
"Scorpion Demoness. You... you kidnapped me as we were leaving Women's Country. You wanted to... you were trying to..."
He couldn't bring himself to say it, but he ended up not having to.
"You were my little bridegroom," She smiled sweetly, brushing his hair from his face, "We were all set to be married, and we would've had a happy little life together! An exalted being like yourself, blessed by Buddha... oh, it was all I had ever wanted."
"I'm gay," Sanzang said bluntly, "Women are NOT my thing. And never have been."
She may have meant it as a good thing, but to him? That was a threat.
"Well, I've never been interested, and I sure am not now. So you can just give it up, okay?"
"Hm. No," She laughed, "I don't think I will! But don't worry, I'm not here to take you just yet. You see...
She snapped her fingers, and the cries of desperation from the others grew louder and more fear-filled.
"When I gave you that little note, you were supposed to come down yourself. Not that I would've minded company, but you weren't there until AFTER I was forced to fight! For this pathetic Spider Queen of all people! I'm not done with her yet, so I won't be betraying her like that spineless coward of a snake. Because I'm not done with you."
"Yeah? And?" Sanzang knew he couldn't do anything against her, so he tried, "What is it that you want right now?"
"To punish you..." She grinned.
"And what do you want to do to me? If I obey you, will you leave the others alone? I know you're doing this..."
"Of course I will! I don't want to actually hurt you or your loved ones, but I can't let this misbehavior slide! So be a good boy, bend over the railing here with your head over the side..." She pulled a thin cane out of thin air, tapping it against Sanzang's hip,"And take the little spanking you've earned."
His face turned pale.
The grossest feeling entered his soul. She was trying to encroach upon a territory he had already reserved for someone else, and she knew it. Yet, he could still hear the kids barely holding their own against Fanghua's forces.
"Alright. I will. But if you don't fulfill your promise, I'll make sure you regret it."
She just smirked, and motioned for him to bend over.
He stared down at the floor below them, a little queazy with how high it was. He braced himself against the railing, and the pain came much sooner than he wanted.
Sanzang could tell she was enjoying it. Every painful stripe on his rear was given too enthusastically, and he lost count of how many she gave him.
She finally stopped when she broke through him and he cried out in pain.
"There we go..." She grinned, "I was wondering how many I would have to give you until you were in a sufficient amount of pain. Punishments should be PUNISHING, after all..."
He pulled himself back up. He could tell a bruise was forming, and he made a mental note to not sit on any hard chairs for a while.
Fanghua snapped her fingers, and soon several scorpion shadows crawled across the floor and returned to her.
The fighting stopped, and the door behind him unlocked with a click.
"What a good boy," She drawled, caressing his cheek, "You can all go now... but remember this..."
She forced him into a kiss, and he felt his lips turn numb from her lipstick. It was poisoned.
His vision turned black, and he crumpled in on himself.
"...The next time we meet, you'd better remember it's better to obey."
He awoke with a start, bolting upright. His face collided with Bajie's soft cheek, who had pulled his head away from him enough that it didn't hurt either of them that much.
"Wh-wha-what?" He stammered, his lips still numb.
"Dude!" Kai said, "We were just playing some pranks when all these scorpion ninja came out of nowhere! They were so strong, so ready, and then they suddenly disappeared. Next thing we knew, Wujing was carrying you completely passed out and we had to go!"
"What he said," Wujing agreed, "The machine was really, really loud, and the door had closed somehow. I couldn't hear anything going on outside!"
He finally registered what was around him. The ninja were surrounding him as he lay on one of the couches in Wukong and Macaque's home, a blanket over his legs, as Bajie held him with one arm and Wujing was carrying some freshly brewed tea. Several cups rested on the tray, and he stopped to set one of them down next to Sanzang.
"Something to help you out," Wujing explained, "Wukong put some of the power essence in yours as well, so that should help you out."
"Th-thank you. Uh, how is he doing?"
"He's fine, he drank a whole cup of that power and he's right back to normal. He upstairs putting the twins to bed, he'll be back down in a second. And before you ask, the same thing happened with Lloyd."
Wujing passed around the rest of the tea, the ninjas mumbling 'thank you's as they took them and found spots around the living area to sit.
"Still, love," Bajie started, "You still haven't told us what happened. We can tell you were poisoned somehow, and it probably had something to do with the scorpions... but..."
He didn't want to talk about it.
Hell, if he had his way, everyone would just let this go and pretend it never happened.
That sickening feeling wasn't leaving him, and he just wanted to go swim in a lake of cleansing water and let it all go.
But that wasn't going to happen.
Bajie's eyes were filled with concern, and he understood that he was filled with fear when he had been brought back unconscious.
"Can... can I tell you privately?" Sanzang begged Bajie, "P-please?"
"Alright. I'll trust you."
A Bet can be costly (Percy Jackson)
A bet can be costly
It was only half past nine in the morning and already Percy and Jason were bored while hanging out in the latter's cabin. True it somewhat helped that Jason had somehow swung getting a TV and cable while even Percy despite being the son of one of the big three didn't but still there was just nothing on that held either boys attention for long.
Of course Percy despite his claims of being strait and sighting the fact he was dating Annabeth as proof of said straightness he found himself looking over at Jason who was in just his black shorts and nothing else as he relaxed on the cream colored sofa that the two boys where sharing.
Jason might of been younger but he was well more build compared to Percy who while wasn't fat or even chunky, was as ripped as the demi god next to him.
"Ughhhh, there is NOTHING to do.." Jason groaned and shut the tv off, leaning back and closing his eyes, then smirking and turning to look at Percy as he opened them. "Well almost nothing, but I don't think you're man enough for a little bet I have in mind."
Percy huffed a little at that, ever since he'd been caught with wet pants during a party, everyone had started to treat him like a little guy, even though he had to be one of the most hung guys there!
(Well at least he thought so, it wasn't exactly like he went around and measured everyone else's ding dongs.)
"I can take on any bet you have in mind!" he said and crossed his arms.
'heh, gotcha~' Jason thought and then flashed his pearly whites at Percy.
"Alright, but if you don't wanna take the bet even after I say it, don't feel bad alright?" Jason said, and waited for Percy, who was getting somewhat fussy to nod in agreement.
"Ok buddy, The bet is simple enough.. we're gonna drop our pants and compare cock sizes. Whoever is bigger wins, and the loser has to be the winner little boy for the summer, and do whatever he's told."
"..Where you dropped on your head as a child?" Percy asked, raising a eyebrow but then smirking. "But Fine, you're gonna look sooo cute as my little boy Jason. It's you who might wanna back down, I'm packing some major heat here." Percy said and patted his crotch.
'..Ok he's just asking for a cuddle now. just too cute.' Jason thought then out loud went "Well Mr.Jackson, if you're so sure of yourself go right ahead."
"heh, Wanna spare yourself the humiliation huh? I'll let you keep your modesty." Percy said, really full of himself now as he stood up and started to tug down his black jogging pants. "Your about to see why Annabeth walks funny every time she comes over to my cabin~"
with his pants around his ankles and his plaid boxer's on display, Percy hooked his thumbs in the waistband and shot Jason a shit eating grin.
"Last chance to back out, though I hope you don't. you're gonna look fucking adorable in a sailor suit on the beach making me sand castles."
"Sheesh you trying to be a Pro wrestler with all that trash talking, shut up and show me what you got." Jason laughed, the sheer attuide coming from Percy was just too cute, double so when he knew a few things about Annabeth that Percy didn't.
Smirking Percy dropped his shorts and showed off all 7 inches of his fuck meat, not as thick as he would of liked but it got the job done and his pubes were neatly trimmed , almost a buzz cut.
"Face it Jason, your F'ed in the A." Percy said, reaching down and stroking his semi soft cock and gaining a half inch as it went to full on stiff mode.
"Oh my~ That IS quite impressive Percy, way more then I thought a pants pisser would of had." Jason said and stood up, hooking his thumbs in his shorts. it was well known he went commando so there would be no build up here. "Too bad it's still not enough."
"What?" Percy asked, looking confused and then Jason's shorts hit the floor and a soft 8 inch cock was looking back at Percy, at least TWICE the thickness of Percy's proud fuck meat!
"But, wait, there's more!" Jason said in his best TV infomercial voice, and with a couple of pumps his cock jumped up to 10 inches and was leaking a little cock drool.
"H-Holy fuck!" Percy squeaked.
"So do we need the measuring tape? or compare them side by side or do you wanna be a good boy and take your shirt off so big brother can get you dressed little man?" Jason asked.
"ah..ah..about that..see..I uh..I was totally kidding about making you do anything.." Percy was saying, trying to back away from Jason now with his pants and undies around his ankles. "T-this was all just a silly joke so I don't think we reall-"
"Percy, I'm going to ask one more time, for you to finish striping, or you'll be going over my lap little man." Jason said, bending down and tugging his shorts back up.
"Well ok, when you put it that way that soun- LOOK A DISTRACTION!" Percy yelled and pointed behind Jason and then went to run, instantly tripping and boinking his face off the floor since he hadn't kicked the clothes off.
"heh..I can see you're going to be a handful." Jason said and walked over and picked the dazed Percy up.
"I can taste purple!" Percy coo'ed.
"-snek-, I bet you can."
After making sure that Percy wasn't concussed, Jason waited for a few for the poor soon to be little guy to get his marbles back, and when Percy did he'd find himself over Jason's lap, a firm hand on his lower back to keep Percy from taking off.
The boy had been stripped naked by this point and Jason had made sure his cabin was far enough away from the water to keep Percy from using any of his powers, plus his own taps and water tank were enchanted to 'help keep Percy honest'.
"i.. what... Ah!" Percy yelped as he came to his sense and realized the situation he was in.
"welcome back buddy." Jason said, rubbing his free hand on Percy's bubble butt, almost kneeing the semi fatty flesh of the older boys butt. "Never knew you had so much junk in your trunk!"
"S-Shut up!" Huffed Percy even as he fought to get free, but it was clear who of the two was the stronger and a sudden SWAT to his ample back side (when made a ripple to Jason's delight) stopped him.
"J-J-Jason...Big Brother..I-if I promise to be good, can we skip th-" Percy started.
"Sorry buddy, I don't wanna do this anymore then you wanna be spanked." Jason started, a bold face lie but still. "But you need to learn if your not a good boy there is a fallout. I'll only go with 10 swats THIS time and hopefully you won't make me punish you more."
Percy whimpered, giving a weak token effort to get free but Jason could tell he had more or less accepted his fate and in a small way made Jason hate he STILL had to follow though.
Figuring it was better to get this over with Jason brought his hand down hard on Percy's cheeks, making the demi god guy out and kick his legs.
before Percy could even fully process that swat the second was already happened, Jason wanted this to be fast and hard.
He was all of five swats in, and Percy was blubbering like a baby, his hot tears flowing freely when he felt Percy stiffen on his lap.
"JASON STAP I HAF-" Percy started to warn and then..
well Jason was glad he'd pick a bar stool he had for the spanking as his lap and legs were drenched and a smelly puddle was made as Percy's bladder unloaded itself.
"I-I'm sorry please don't spank me morrrrre!" Percy sobbed.
Jason, despite being soaked in his little guys wee wee, just tugged Percy up and hugged him, wincing slightly as the bawling Percy got snot all over his shoulder while glomping him.
'Yeah..we're gonna share a shower.' he thought.
One wash up later and Jason and Percy were cleaned and dried off, with Jason in a fresh pair of shorts and a t-shirt while Percy was just wrapped up in a big fluffy towel whining softly still.
As it had turned out Percy was NOT a fan of showers, and had wanted to go for a bath despite Jason pointing out how bad of a idea that would of been. Having to put his foot down Jason had been forced to threaten anther trip over his knee to get Percy into said shower.
Now with Jason dressed it was Percy's turn and Jason rummaged though a dresser drawer and came out with a perfect little guy outfit made to Percy's size, clearly he had been planning this for awhile.
Said outfit was a pair of white socks with little anchor designs in dark silver all over them, a pair of briefs likewise with the anchors on them and then following up from that, a pair of cream white shorts and a sailor top.
"..How long have you been-" Percy started to ask.
"long enough, now lay back and let big bro get you dressed. and try not to have anymore accidents little man." Jason chuckled, and smirked as Percy huffed and stuck his tongue out at him.
"You shouldn't stick out your tongue, only snakes and fools do that and snakes don't have arms and legs so you must be a fool~" Jason teased.
"Oh WHATEVER!" Percy fumed and went to stick his tongue out again, but seemed to think better of it.
Once the little guy was all dressed, Jason helped him stand up and kissed his forehead, Making Percy whine and squirm and lead him over to a mirror so he could look at himself, adding a little sailor cap to his head and smirking.
"...I look like a oversized 5 year old!" Percy whined, cheeks going bright red and huffing and squirming.
"That WAS what I was aiming for." Jason chuckled and smooched Percy's cheek, getting even more fussy whines from the newly turned little. "Your gonna look SO cute on the bench making me sand castles and I have a cute little swim suit for you and everything!"
"..why do i get the feeling even if I had won, you would of just found a way to little me anyways?" Percy whined.
"Heh, that kinda foresight would of served you well about half a hour ago little bro."
Leading the huffing Percy back out to the living room, Jason set out a blanket on the floor for the little guy and then as Percy sat there silent fuming, he brought over a cardboard box and set it down.
Percy peeked into the box and it was half filled with toy's that he was sure would of delighted any 4-7 year old but only made him roll his eyes and look up at Jason.
"Really?" he asked Jason."Even if I hadn't of stopped playing with toys years ago, i was more into action figures then stuffies and toy cars and boats."
"Well since video games are a no no for little guys like you and ditto for action figures, you better learn to like these." Jason chuckled.
"What? why can't I have action figures?!" Percy demanded, never mind he had JUST said he wasn't into them anymore.
"Too many little pieces that could come off when you chew on them." Jason chuckled and patted the top of Percy's hat covered head.
"I DON'T CHEW ON TOYS!" Percy semi shouted and huffed.
"That's nottttt what your mom said when I was getting her help with this." Jason said in a sing song voice. "she told me you had teeth marks all over your old power rangers toys.
"Slander and lies! ..WAIT MY MOM WAS IN ON THIS?!?" Percy shrieked.
"Heh, oh yeah. wants pictures and warned me if I make you feel too little to be ready to diaper you at night."
Percy's right eye twitched and then he went on a incoherent screaming and shouting fit that Jason let go on, just to get it out of Percy's system and was amazed it took about 10 minutes before Percy stopped, panting and huffing, spittle running down his chin.
"You wanna try that again, this time in English so I can actually understand what you say?" Jason asked, grinning ear to ear.
by the time Percy was done, Jason had tallied that normally he would of earned about four mouth washings and at least one trip over his lap, but again, was letting the little guy get one punishment free vent in.
"Free better?" Jason asked as Percy huffed and pouted.
"Good, that's the last time I'm putting up with a fit like that Percy, so I hope you got it all out of your system. next time you'll be treated like any other five year old who has a tantrum." Jason said.
"..what does that mean?" Percy asked, gulping. "A time out in the corner?"
"well a time out is part of it, but you'll find this isn't some new age parenting place. Here at camp half blood, we believe in spanking naughty little boys and girls." Jason said and the look on his face left no doubt he meant it.
"..Oh poopie." Percy whimpered.
"Really Percy? stand up and let me check. I don't smell anything." Jason said with a chuckle.
"T-That's not what I meannnnnt!"
after his twin rants and everything else, it was just about lunch time so after getting Percy to start playing with his toy cars, even though Percy looked bored out of his mind, Jason started to cook up some lunch for the boys.
"Percy, I don't hear you playing..you being good over there?" Jason called over his shoulder, cutting up some potato's to make them fries to go with the grilled cheese he was gonna make.
Percy almost snarled out a reply but the threat of a spanking was in the back of his mind and instead..
"Yeah I'm being good, I don't know how to make the cars make enough noise to convince you though." Percy said.
"oh well thats simple. Make the engine noises. go vrhoom vrhoom." Jason chuckled.
"...you are a sick sick man, you know that?" Percy asked, but knowing when he was licked, started to do the noises just like 'big brother' wanted.
blushing the whole time and feeling foolish.
'I suppose it could be worse, no one else is here. and he'll have to get tired of this before long.' Percy thought.
Of course with the way Percy's luck was going he wasn't exactly surprised when right as he thought that, the doorbell rang.
"Percy buddy, can you be a good boy and go answer the door? big bro has his hands full." Jason called.
Huffing and getting up, Percy semi stomped his way over to the door to Jason's cabin, never once realizing with his bratty attuide he seemed less like someone who didn't wanna show off his outfit and more like a huffy little guy who didn't wanna stop playing.
Opening the door without checking to see who was there, Percy entered a full body blush as his girlfriend was standing there, looking amused.
"A-Annabeth!! W-what are you doing over here?" He squeaked.
"Pfffttt, Oh my god, Jason actually got you to do it! this is too good!" She giggled. "I've known he wanted to dress you up for awhile but never in a million years would I of thought you'd -actually- do it!"
the clear amusement in her voice and the big grin on her face had Percy feeling like the little boy he was dressed up as and he squirmed and whined loudly.
"Percy! Who's at the door?" Jason called.
"I..I..It's.." Percy stammered.
"It's Annabeth!" Annabeth called over Percy's shoulder.
"Percy, don't be rude, Invite her in." Jason called.
the last thing that Percy wanted was for his girlfriend to come in but clearly it was out of his hands, so instead he looked down at the floor and then stood to the side, gesturing for her to come in.
'Dad, if your listening..I could really use a tidal wave right about now.' Percy thought.
Sadly, Either seaweed daddy wasn't listening or found this whole thing to be funny as Annabeth walked in and spotted Percy's play area, squealing with delight and laughing.
the next 20 or so minutes was spent with Annabeth 'looking after little Percy' and keeping him out of trouble while Jason made them all lunch.
As bad as playing cars and having to make the noises had been before when it was just for Jason, it was so very much worst doing it for the amusement of his girlfriend who kept asking humiliating questions, and 'Big brother' insisted that he answer them all.
"Awww are you having fun?" She coo'ed as she sat back on the couch.
"..Oh yes, Loads." Percy huffed sarcastically though to his dismay she took it as a honest answer.
"Well that's good! So which car is your favorite?" and she leaned forward now, studying the different types of toy cars.
"...I dunno, I guess the police car?" Percy said and semi shrugged his shoulders, and squirming from all of the embarrassment he was receiving.
"Heh, lots of little guys like cop cars, that makes since. Hmm..Your squirming a lot, do you need to use the potty? we don't want you to have a accident!" Annabeth said, looking mildly concerned though still grinning.
"I-I don't need help telling when I hafa potty!" Percy almost shrieked.
"Heh, tell that to the damp spot on the floor from your accident eariler." Jason called.
"Ohhh, did somebody wet his pants?" Annabeth giggled, looking totally delighted.
"I-It wasn't my fault! Jason was spanking me a-and I ju-" Percy tried to argue but got cut off.
"Oh, why did he have to spank you? were you being a bad boy?" She asked, leaning in close, eyes filled with excitement as she brushed her hair behind a ear. "Did you cry lots and lots and beg big brother to stop?"
Percy was having all sorts of warning bells going off in his head at how excited she seemed by this and just shut his mouth and crossed his arms turning away from him.
"Oh you did! Ahahahaha! Wow, spanked into submission by someone younger then you~" She teased, then got up. "Well all that aside, I don't believe you Mr.fussy pants, so come on, let's take you to the potty."
"NO! I don't have to!" Percy huffed, and winced, he HEARD how little he sounded.
"Percy, you come with me to the potty and try little man or I'll get Jason to do it. who do you think is gonna be nicer about it?" Annabeth asked.
"She's got a point buddy." Jason called over, he was almost done with the fries and grilled cheese that was gonna be supper. "Also you've had your mulligan, any more accidents and you'll be losing big boy underwear privileges."
"..You mean it gets worse then these baby briefs?!" Percy yelped out.
"Yup~ Normally next step down would be pull-ups but I couldn't find any in your size so right back to diapers." Jason called and turned and smirked. "So.. still think your good or wanna hedge your bets and go sit on the potty?"
"...I'm going to the potty because -I- choose to!" Percy huffed and scrambled to his feet.
"Mmmhmmm, whatever you have to tell yourself little man." Jason said and turned back to the cooking.
Annabeth had stood up as well and offered Percy a hand, and while he wanted to slap it away, somehow he just knew how that would end and accepted it.
"..Your waiting outside the door while I go." was the only thing Percy could think to say.
It never dawned on him that despite never being to Jason's cabin before, she seemed to know exactly where the bathroom was, though in his defense she was keeping him off guard.
"Oh my, such a big boy, going all by yourself.. Deal but remember to wipe and wash your hands."
'fuck my life..'
sitting on the potty Percy was mentally counting down how long he should play along with the potty game when he was shocked that a stream did escape him, followed by a couple of wet farts.
As such after the boy had wiped and flushed and washed his hands, his face was somehow even more crimson then before.
Not helping matters was Annabeth praising him for being a good boy and holding up a hand for a high five which Percy weakly returned.
Getting back out to the main room the table had been set and while Annabeth's and Jason's plate sat on the white table cloth, Percy's on was on top of a plastic mat shaped like a teddy bear.
when Percy whined and pointed Jason just gave a big toothy grin.
"Sorry buddy, but I've seen you eat, you're a messy eater and it's easier to wipe the plastic mat clean then to wash the table cloth. Oh! that reminds me.." Jason said as Percy fumed and took his seat.
His grilled cheese had been cut into four parts for him and his ketchup for his fries were in a little plastic bowl to the side. He was about to comment he wasn't that bad when Jason produced a teen sized bib,white in color with navy blue text on it reading 'I love my big brother!'
"..Your joking right?" Percy asked, narrowing his eyes and glaring at Jason while Annabeth covered her mouth to stifle a laugh.
"What, you don't like it?" Jason asked, pretending to sound hurt while smirking.
"What do you think?" Percy asked.
"well ok, you don't HAVE to wear the bib if you don't want to, but if your not wearing it, i want you to strip down to your undies so you don't get your new outfit all dirty buddy." Jason chuckled.
"...Give me the effing bib." Percy growled though clenched teeth.
"Ah ah ah, none of that, that was too close to a swear word for my liking. try that again and your be a little bubble breath. also, as your loving big brother." and Annabeth couldn't hold it in and laughed out loud. "..It's my job to get this on you."
"..Of course it is."
Percy's one mulligan as the bib was put on him was that his drink was at least in a cup, though Jason noticed him looking at it as he finished.
"Ok buddy, I'm taking a chance and trusting you with a big kid cup. but if you spill it, it's back to sippy cups. Or if you wanna just use one now that's ok too. you don't have to put on a show for our guest." Jason said.
A swear was almost out of his mouth when Percy caught himself, and biting down on his tongue, he just ignored Jason and started to chow down on his fries, planing to eat in silence.
However much like most of his other plans for the day, this one fell to the wayside as while Jason and Annabeth started to chow, Jason asked Percy what he'd been pretending was happening while he played with his cars.
The tone in Jason's voice made it clear Percy better come up with something quick, and so the newly turned little boy spun a tale about some cops trying to bust a smuggling ring of counterfeit toys.Percy was getting annoyed though that despite how much of a excellent bullshit story he was weaving on the spot, Jason and Annabeth were apparently distracted and ignoring him.
the only time they seemed to chime in or respond to what he was saying was when he went quiet for too long.
what the Demi god turned little guy couldn't of known though since he lacked X-ray vision was that there was a good reason the two of them were semi ignoring Percy, except to encourage him to go on between his bites of food.
Jason and Annabeth were playing footsie under the table and sending each other signals of shared attraction.
What little Percy didn't know yet, but would find out all too soon was that Annabeth had been over to this cabin more then a few times, having hooked up with Jason while Percy was off being a good boy for his mom.
The idea of cucking the son of one of the big three had just been too much of a temptation to pass up, and it had been going on far longer then Percy himself would of guessed.
She had even faked being too sick to go out with him on his birthday, just to come over and get fucked by Jason, who had truthfully ruined sex with Percy for her but she still put on a show.
The moment that let her always squirt the hardest when neither boy was available though was how she had tricked Percy into eating her out, while blindfolded after Jason had cream pied her. she claimed the funny taste was a sugar cream she had picked up from a sex shop and Jason had been there, watching from the closet as Percy licked and slurped her clean, making her moan even as the poor boys face had been screwed up.
Clearly he hadn't cared for the taste but whenever Annabeth moaned and asked how he liked it, he would reply with a choked
"I-It tastes awesome..y-you should get more."
That had made her squirt right then and there and breathlessly after, she promised Percy she would.
She hadn't even returned the favor, just had Percy climb into bed with her and removed the blind fold once Jason was out the door, cuddling him and stroking him off and on so that in the middle of the night Percy had been forced to sneak off to the bathroom and jerk off, not knowing Annabeth was awake and could hear everything from her bed.
Percy finished his food and his drink, and let out a loud Belch as he finished his story, Annabeth and Jason had finished before him but stayed seated to 'listen' to his 'amazing' story.
"Wow buddy, you have a activate imagination!" Jason coo'ed, pulling his feet away from Annabeth and giving Percy his full attention and smirking.
Of course the sea brat had gotten ketchup on his face and fingers, and on his bib. add into it that while Jason and Annabeth had been drinking root beer Percy was sporting a purple kool-aid mustache and Jupiter, he just looked so cute!
"Heh, hold still buddy, I think somebody needs a quick clean up." Jason laughed, getting up and getting a damp wash cloth and rubbing over Percy's face as the little guy squirmed.
"Stopppp! I can do it my selfff!" He whined, making Annabeth snort.
Did Percy really not hear just how much of a little guy he sound like right now?!
Either way, over his own protests he was cleaned up and given anther drink of grape juice, though this time it was in a light blue sippy cup.
And boy, if looks could kill Jason would of hit the floor stone cold dead.
"I THOUGHT you said I could use big kid cups!" Percy huffed, furrowing his brow and once again looking like the little guy he was dressed up as.
"well your gonna go back to playing while me and Annabeth watch some TV and I don't want you getting too excited playing cops that you knock over your drink without realizing it." Jason said reasonably.
"I wouldn't!" Percy whined.
"well maybe you would, maybe you wouldn't, It's my floor so I get to make the call. when we're over at YOUR place you can knock all the cups over you want." Jason said and smirked, then tapped a finger on Percy's nose.
Leading Percy over to his blanket, Jason got him sat down and noticed Annabeth tapping her chin as she looked down.
"Penny for you thoughts." He said.
"I was thinking, you know that old play mat, where it's a toy and it's toy car sized? we should get one of those for Percy!" She said grinning ear to ear.
"I think-" Percy started to say, not looking happy but he was of course cut off by Jason.
"That's a awesome idea! In fact I think Nico has one still, I'll go see if we can borrow it later!" Jason said smiling and turning to Percy. "Doesn't Annabeth have the BEST ideas little guy?"
"I can barely contain my joy." Percy muttered, huff and holding his sippy cup up and taking a drink before he said more and got his mouth washed out.
with the TV turned on Percy tried to get into the movie that Jason had popped in, but it was some sort of a romantic comedy and he hated those and found himself legit getting into playing with the cars, talking softly to himself and not realizing he was talking out loud as he did a few more police chases, then had a whole story going on about a big race going on.
He found himself drinking lots of the kool-aid, it was really sweet but seemed to dry him out and more then once he had to go and excuse himself to go pee (though Jason or Annabeth insisted on walking down with him to the bathroom, just in case he needed help)
he also found himself getting super tired despite having a good nights sleep, though he chalked it up to everything he had been though so far and laid on his tummy and put himself on eye level with the car's as he ran them back and forth, watching the shiny metal of the the hub caps move and feeling his eyelids drooping.
"Percy buddy, you wanna go for a nap?" Jason called over, pausing the movie, making Percy sit up. he'd shut his eyes for a few seconds.
"Nooo I don't need a nap." Percy huffed and whined.rubbing a fist under one eye.
"Well you were laying there with your eyes closed for about a minute." Annabeth pointed out.
"wasn't sleeping..I was..checking my eyelids for cracks!" Percy huffed, pouting, and taking anther gulp of his juice.
"well ok, if you say so. if you wanna go for a nap it's ok though." Jason said, smirking.
"What EVER." Percy huffed and laid back down switching to one of the toy boat's and laying on his back, moving it in the air now.
he played with the boat for all of 30 seconds before his eyes closed again and soon the 18 year old going on 4 at best was snoring softly on the floor.
"Sheesh, I thought you said you were only gonna give him a light dose of sleeping pills." Annabeth said softly, leaning in and kissing Jason's cheek.
"I didn't. Sea brat is just a lightweight. still, we better move to the other room if he snores as bad as you say." Jason said.
as some deep snores started to come out, the cuck'ed demi god was left on the floor to sleep it off, though before Annabeth and Jason went to go and play 'hide the pickle' they were nice enough to drape a blanket over Percy and get a pillow under his head, setting his hat on the coffee table.
Kissing and mashing lips, Jason and Annabeth almost didn't make it to his bedroom before they were all over each other, she was trying to pull off his shirt as she pressed him against the wall.
"Some one's needy." Jason teased, though he only had slightly more restraint then her.
"I haven't had a real orgasm in 2 days..you turned me into a nympho, take responsibility for it!" Annabeth moaned and begged.
A slap on the ass brought he back in line and she manged to keep her clothes on till they were in Jason's room, with her going and kicking the door shut, or trying to as it only closer 3/4's of the way.
"Jesus, look how wet you are, I'm shocked you didn't leave a puddle." Jason teased, getting her on his bed and sliding two fingers into her dripping sex and hitting all the right spots to drive her wild.
"Stop teasing and fuck me already! I need a MAN, not a BOY!" She moaned.
"Far be it from me to argue." Jason chuckled and pinning her on her back, he entered her hard and fast, just the way she liked it.
Or so he assumed from the cries of pleasure that rang out and the way her arms and legs wrapped around him, trying to pull him in deeper.
her cries were muffled by Jason's lips on hers, his tongue entering her willing mouth and making her hers and when he pulled back, she was semi drooling.
even as he rocked his hips in and out of her, he held up a finger to his lips.
"Shhh, don't wake the baby."
Percy groaned and whimpered in his sleep, having weird dreams where he only came up to Annabeth's and Jason's knee caps and they were teasing him lots and treating him even younger then they already were, when a sharp cramp in his tummy woke him up and he sat up on the floor, rubbing a eye.
"Gotta poop.." Percy mumbled, half asleep and slowly making his way up to his feet, swaying a little bit and letting out a massive fart as he did so.
the poot drew a whine and a whimper from the sleepy demi god, who held his nose as the smell reached him and toddled away as fast as he could, a little cry of 'stinky' coming out of his mouth.
heading down the hall to the bathroom, which was across from Jason's room Percy mostly didn't pay it any mind, the absence of Jason and Annabeth hadn't really clicked in his mind yet.
He likely would of ignored the room all together if he hadn't of heard a cry of pleasure coming from it, and it wasn't Jason's voice.
Toddling over Percy took a peek and his eyes went wide and his sense got a rude wake up call, there was his girlfriend naked and bouncing up and down on top of Jason who was fondling her tits as he cried out and and had her hands on his wrists, encouraging it.
even as he took in the site and felt a rage boiling over, Percy's little sailor shorts painfully tented out and a cramp hit, making him go to his knees and keep watching.
"Fuck fuck fuck, you're so much better then Percy~" Annabeth was moaning and mewing, trying to lean down for a kiss. Jason instead rolled and now was on top of her, fucking her like the whore she was and looking over in Percy's direction, smirking.
"Of course I am. He's just a little cuck boi. I bet if he knew what was happening he'd just suck his thumb and jerk off." Jason said, and winked at Percy.
Percy wanted to get up and storm in there, to pound on Jason and put him in his place.
Instead he found himself reaching into his shorts and jerking his painfully hard cock, which had already leaked pre though the briefs and the shorts and his thumb found it's way into his mouth, sucking on it.
"Hell I bet once we get his stupid ass back in diapers, he'll be more then willing to prep daddy for mommy. can you picture him bobbing up and down on my cock, thickly diapers and whimpering but rubbing the front of his huggies?" Jason added.
Percy missed Annabeth's reply, mostly because as Jason said it Percy was picturing himself doing it, and accordingly the thumb started to move in his mouth, as if he was practicing for daddy.
"Might even let him have a load or two..I know you're gonna breast feed him but I wanna give him some daddy milk too." Jason chuckled, fucking Annabeth in ways Percy knew he never could and he whimpered around his thumb.
Normally Percy's stamina was as such he could fuck for at least half a hour without blowing his load but whether it was the scene in front of him, the scene in his head, the bowel movement pressing on his prostate as he was fighting to keep it in now or all three, his peak was coming fast.
Drool trailing sown his chin and shutting his eyes, he let the mental image of Jason face fucking him while he pooped himself fill his mind and had the biggest most intense orgasm of his life, shooting though the undies and shorts like they weren't even there and spraying his load on the wall, before slumping over, panting and eyes glazed over.
the last thing he recalled before conking back out was a loss of control, and a warm muddy feeling starting to spread on his butt.
Jason finished up with Annabeth and they cuddled, the smell reaching them both but oddly not bothering them as much as it should.
She had picked up Percy was watching from the looks Jason kept giving the door and then his dirty talk and smirked and she traced a finger on his pecs.
"You really are evil you know that~" She giggled.
"Oh please, if anything I just saved us about 2-3 days worth of effort in making him a diaper wearing cuck. trust me, he's never gonna be able to replace that feeling with anything less then watching mommy and daddy fuck." Jason said.
"heh, so you don't think he'll at least be able to hump his stuffies?" Annabeth asked.
"Oh, he'll hump them alright, but all he's gonna do is basically goon himself stupid. Add in maybe some hand jobs from you while your breast feeding him and that's what sex with you will become. him sucking on your titties and humping your hand." Jason laughed and pulled her in for a kiss. "Unless of course you don't even wanna grant him that?" Jason asked and smirked.
"Heh, Nah, I'm not heartless. what we had was fun and the least I can do is let him suck on my titties. though maybe I'll dump a condom full of 'daddy milk' over them first." She teased and they both laughed.
"Well, I suppose ONE of us should go and get him cleaned up and diapered." Jason said and gave Annabeth a hopeful look.
"Heh, nice try, diapers were YOUR idea, so enjoy wiping his poopie butt Mr.daddy dom." Annabeth said and rolled over, covering herself with a sheet and drifting off into a light nap.
"..Maybe it won't be so bad." Jason said softly and slid out of bed.
getting a pair of shorts on he moved out into the hall way and leaned in to check on Percy.
"Oh Jupiter! it's worse then I thought!" came his cry as Annabeth opened one eye and chuckled.
15 minutes later (though it felt like hours to poor Jason) and Percy had been cleaned up of all of his mess and taped up in a nice snug diaper.
the sea brat had woken up halfway though the clean up but hadn't offered one bit of resistance as Jason cleaned him, unless you counted him covering his face in shame when he got a stiffie as Jason wiped his winky.
Still he had been a good boy and lifted his hips when told to for Jason to slid the thick diaper under his butt and sucked on his thumb big time as Jason helped him to his feet.
"well, I guess it's save to say your not big enough for big boy undies huh buddy?" Jason asked and kissed Percy's hot cheek. "Wave bye bye to your undies." Jason added, tossing them in a waste basket and almost melting as after a second, Percy actually waved bye.
a pat on his padded rump and a point towards the living room had Percy toddling unsteadily on his feet, getting used to the bulk between his legs while Jason took the bag out of the trash can and tied it shut, unwilling to let the treasure so to speak linger.
As he came out of the bathroom he saw one of two adorable sights. the first was that Percy had plopped onto his butt and was trying to get back up. the second was that Annabeth was at the end of the hall, leaning down slightly and lightly slapping her thighs and coo'ing to Percy.
"Come on little guy, you can do it! walk for mommy!" She coo'ed."Stop sucking on your thumb and use both hands to get up and for balance~ that's it!"
Percy was clearly mortified, but had a silly grin on his face and pulled his drool soaked thumb out of his mouth and managed to get up on his feet and step by step made his way to her, arms held out like a baby learning to walk.
'Awww, babies first steps and we didn't record it.' Jason mused.
Percy huggled and nuzzled Annabeth who showed off her shocking power as he lifted him up and set him on her hip, taking over over to the couch and sitting down with him as Jason ran the bag with the smelly undies and shorts out to the trash.
Joining the other two on the couch, Jason and Annabeth were on either side of Percy and giving him lots of cuddles.
"So..I suppose you have a few questions for us." Jason started.
"MORE then a few.." Percy agreed.
Half a hour later and Percy was all caught up with what was going on, how this had been the end game from the start and how long he'd been cucked.
It hurt in a way but in the long run he could tell that despite him not being considered a man or even a big boy anymore, Annabeth still cared for him and well, he kinda liked the attention from Jason as well.
"Will I still get to have sex?" Percy asked as his last question.
"well, depends on what you count as sex. You'll get diaper rubs when being breast fed." Annabeth said.
"and your free to hump your stuffies, just not too much, I don't wanna have to replace the stuffing in them every day." Jason said then looked a little sheepish. "Thoughh uhhh..If you wanted to make daddy super duper happy and get a bunch of toys as a reward..I kinda like the idea of long term cock locks on little boys like you."
Percy whined at that and squirmed.
"H-How long?" he asked.
"ehehe well uh..at least a year at a time." Jason started and Percy's jaw dropped.
"Are you nuts?! I'd go crazy!! There's n-" Percy started to whine and have a fit, but was tugged suddenly by Annabeth.
while his attention had been on Jason she'd slipped off her top and now had Percy in her lap and one of her tits resting against his face, the hand on the back on his head and the other hand on his crotch.
"Shhh don't be so fussy and drink up and think about it." she coo'ed.
He tried to fight free for a few seconds but then while trying to yell actually tasted some milk coming out of Annabeth's perfect tits and calmed down, suckling away almost greedily now and thrusting his crotch into her hand over and over again as he drank up.
"if you end up creaming yourself while drinking titty milk I'm going to have to take it as a sign you wanna be locked up for a year buddy." Jason coo'ed, moving around behind Annabeth now and kissing the back of her neck. "Doesn't that sound fair 'mommy'?"
"Mmmhhhm~ totally 'daddy'."Annabeth moaned then turned her attention to Percy. "What do you think baby Percy? Does that sound fair and you want mommy to stop feeding you her boobies or do you wanna keep drinking. hold up one finger for stop, two for keep going."
To the surprise of no one two fingers were held up and she let Percy keep nursing, though she felt a need to toss out a warning.
"Percy sweetie, you might wanna slow down, titty milk is mean for real babies, not big ones and can react funny with your system." she warned.
"Like what?" Jason asked, looking a little concerned now.
"Oh, he'll have this go right though him and then you'll have your first stinky diaper to change." Annabeth said with a evil grin.
"..Uh Percy buddy maybe slow down." Jason said, sweat dropping a little.
It wasn't that he didn't wanna change a smelly diaper, more just he thought there would be more of a break in between said smelly diapers.
In any case Percy either didn't seem to hear mommy and daddy because he was lost in his own little world of diapie rubs and titty milk or he just didn't care, a ominous gurgling coming from his tummy.
"better get ready for anther present from your favorite little gift maker." Annabeth teased Jason as she increased the diaper rubbing which made Percy only drink harder.
Jason resigned himself to his fate and decided to help things along, reaching around Annabeth's arm and rubbing and pushing on Percy's tum tum.
the effect was almost instant and Annabeth pulled her hand away just as Percy started to spurt, the back of his diaper ballooning out with hot mush and hiting his happy spot on the way out and Percy was derpy faced and hand titty milk running down his chin as he diaper humped the air.
"Cumming! Baby Percy ish cumming while going POOPIE in his diapies!" he babbled out.
"heh, you sure are~"
-3 and half months later-
Adjusting to life as a family and living at the camp year round wasn't always easy for everyone, for one there had been a tricky business with calming down Percy's real dad when he found out what Percy had been turned into.
Thankfully Zeus and Hades had manged to calm him down and make him see how much happier their nephew was like this and sea daddy had let it go, though warned Jason and Annabeth that if they ever broke Percy's heart not even his brothers would be able to stop his rage before leaving.
(ironically this threat had made Annabeth have a slight accident and Percy had giggled for almost a hour about how mommy needed diapers too)
Switching all of his clothes into little style ones was anther challenge and then there was the fun of trying to figure out what he could keep from his old life and what he had to give away, though the little yard sale they had for his big boy stuff was helped with Percy in just his diapers and a pair of sandal's running around and gushing over different things and hyping up how kewl they were.
Today however Fall was well underway and Jason was sitting on the front porch with Annabeth sipping on some hot cider while Percy played in the yard.
He was dressed in light black sweat pants and white socks and a pair of light up heel velco strap sneaker, and wearing a light jacket colored blue to help with the chill in the air.
his thick diaper showed under the sweats but after so long in the diapers he only had trouble walking or running when they went up to three diapers just before bed.
Jason had just finished raking up all the leafs into piles before taking a seat on the porch and sighed a little as Percy apparently made it his mission to take out the 'evil leaf aliens from planet FART' via jumping into the piles.
"Remind me why I bothered to rake these when i knew he was coming out to play?" Jason asked, smirking slightly.
"heh,well if I had to take a guess I would suggest that your a glutton for punishment.. or you just wanted to watch him be a cute little dork." Annabeth said and took a sip, then placed a hand on her tummy. "So, I have a question for you."
"Oh?"Jason asked, his hand joining hers on her belly and feeling a little kick.
"How long do we wait to tell him he's gonna be a big brother?"
Swing Batter Batter
Part of a larger fic posted on AO3 over here, in which token metahuman abilities are pretty common, and it’s not unusual to encounter a circus kid who can fly, or a cop who gets impressions of a person’s intentions when shaking their hand, or in this case, a street thief with super strength.
When he registered the Bat standing over him, Jason didn’t think, he just grabbed and swung as hard as he could. If he’d been a regular scrawny street kid, he didn’t doubt the tire iron would just bounce off with barely a bruise to show for the effort. But Jason stopped counting as ‘regular�� last year, and his skinny arms were plenty strong enough to land a blow that knocked the Bat clear off his feet.
Jason then promptly ran for his life.
He made it to the end of the alley and swerved first around the corner, and again into the narrow gap between wall and dumpster. There he froze, heart pounding, hands shaking, as he waited for either Batman’s footsteps to go past his hiding place like so many others, or for one of those big hands to grab his hoodie and yank him out into the open.
...a couple minutes of nothing went by.
...and then a few more.
Jason’s heart kept pounding at breakneck speed, but shifted from running on adrenaline to fear. He eased himself back out from behind the dumpster, and peeked around the alley corner. Just to double check; maybe the Bat decided to chase him from above, and that fourth tire could be retrieved after all-
Except two thick-soled boots were laying next to the fancy car.
He’d killed the Bat.
Shit shit shit - every crook in Gotham would be out for Jason’s blood, looking to curbstomp the little pest trying to make a name for himself. Or worse, someone nuts would show up like the effing Joker in order to get revenge over not getting to off the Bat himself-
One boot shifted. A deep voice wheezed. Jason nearly fell over in relief.
And then, because the Bat didn’t move again, and because Jason was an idiot of the worst kind, he edged his way back towards the car and the crimefighter lying prone beside it. “Uh. Batman? You gonna be okay?”
Another wheeze. Jason got close enough to peek around the car’s fender, and saw the man just staring upwards through the narrowed lenses of his mask. It took a second, but the Bat could apparently tell when he was being watched, because he tilted his head and the lenses opened up a little more so he could stare back. “...’f Robin were here,” the man grumbled, “He’d ask, if you swing for the Knights...”
Jason’s face spasmed as he tried not to laugh. “Nope. Maybe when I’m older, if they pay good.”
Batman snorted, and then wheezed again, one hand starting to grab for his stomach only to stop and clench into a fist. “Got the same spot, as Killer Croc, two nights ago.”
At that, Jason winced. He’d only ever seen Croc in newspaper pictures before, but the guy was definitely huge, and it didn’t take a leap of logic to assume he hit hard, too. “Uh. Sorry?”
The Bat gave an aborted huff. Slowly, he pushed himself up, palms flat to the ground. Then he rolled, to pull one knee underneath himself, and gradually stood while leaning against the car. Jason made sure to keep out of arm’s reach.
After that, the man just braced himself and breathed for a minute, before shifting enough to once again peer down at Jason. “I assume you took the tires to sell.”
Jason lifted one shoulder in a shrug. “Depends on which chop shop I take ‘em to. At least a hundred apiece, maybe a bonus if I get all four.” That probably wouldn’t be an option, seeing as he’d wasted enough time for the Bat to get back to his feet. Honestly, Jason needed to run at this point, but he still felt kinda bad. Batman was just about the only good thing in Gotham as far as working folks were concerned, and even if he wasn’t dead, it didn’t seem right to leave him alone and hurting in Crime Alley...
Jason blinked when a roll of green suddenly appeared in front of his face. “Five hundred,” Batman said dryly, “If you bring back the other three.”
Well hot damn.
In the space of twenty minutes, Jason not only brought back the tires he’d spirited off, he went ahead and put ‘em back on the car, just ‘cause the Bat didn’t seem inclined to bend and use his stomach muscles any time soon. And besides, five hundred dollars. That would be food and rent and even new clothes when the weather turned cold.
As he worked, though, Jason couldn’t help but feel Batman’s gaze on him. It didn’t seem angry, didn’t raise the hairs on the back of his neck like when certain guys leered, but he still started to feel just the slightest bit antsy. And then, right as he was tightening up the bolts on the final tire, the Bat made his move. “You don’t want to go into foster care, do you.”
Jason scoffed at that.
“Have you been flagged as a meta?”
“‘Course not, never told anyone. Didn’t get strong until after I was on my own, and I’m not stupid enough to put a target on my back to get ‘recruited’ by any of the gangs.”
The Bat hummed.
Jason Peter Todd-Wayne
Date of Birth: August 16th, 1996
No Known Meta Abilities
“Man, rich people get away with anything,” Jason huffed. “Park wherever you want, buy shit you’re not s’posed to have, falsify your paperwork...”
Bruce just grunted, but it was an agreeable sound rather than an annoyed one. And, privately, Jason couldn’t help but feel pleased by the adoption paperwork, his brand new name right at the top of the page.
Which just left the matter of deciding on his other name.
When Bruce had found the pages torn out of a notebook with costume designs sketched out and messy notes in the margins, he’d glanced at Jason out of the corner of his eye and haltingly said he could be the new Robin. And part of Jason felt thrilled by the idea, but-
Robin flew. He soared around skyscrapers, did somersaults mid-air, zipped along just above the ground to take crooks out at the knees. Jason didn’t do that - Jason couldn’t do any of that. The closest he’d ever get to flight would be grappling from perch to perch like Batman did. Which, admittedly, was really insanely awesome, but still.
Jason couldn’t be Robin.
...at least, not until he sat on the Manor roof one evening a few weeks later with Dick Grayson, who sighed and smiled at him. “You could wear them, y’know. My colors. My suit.”
“But- our powers-”
“Are different,” Dick agreed, “But that just means we bring different strengths to the playing field. Literal strength, in your case.” He grinned and ruffled Jason’s hair.
Batting away the playful fingers, Jason took a few moments to consider it. “Yeah. Yeah, okay. I will.”
(Dick still argued viciously with Bruce in nine out of ten conversations. But every so often he’d come by to pick up Jason, and they’d go flying over the forested property, or drive into the city to get ice cream, or a dozen other things Dick very firmly insisted on referring to as Civilian Brotherly Bonding Activities. And a couple years later, when Jason started having his own problems with Bruce, and found his birth certificate in an old box with a different woman’s name listed as his mother-
He knew just who to go to with it.)
Chapter 3 ASAL Preview!
Howdy folks! If you haven’t been following me on twitter the status of chapter 3 is that we are in beta-reading stages (woo!) meaning my very kind friends are giving me feedback on this new draft. We’re over half way there, but it’s just gonna take me a bit longer to get this thing done just cause it looks like this final chapter is gonna be anywhere between 28 to 25 thousand words (eesh), and I still have to move this thing through beta and gamma phases, so hang tight.
So! In the meantime, and as thanks for being so patient with me, I thought I’d do a little preview of the opening of chapter three just to tide y’all over before the final thing is ready. Prose and stuff is subject to change in the final thing, yaddah yaddah yaddah Enjoy!
Dustin pushed the swinging door open and zipped up his hoodie-jacket as he stepped into Olathe’s cool, pre-dawn air. He and the four other drivers swung their tired limbs as they exited the loading dock building.
A rattly eleven o’clock bus to the warehouse district, punching in, turning the truck keys, driving out to the farms to load up the crates of produce, driving to the packaging center, unloading everything, then driving all the way back to the warehouse. That was the gig. Working under the cover of night, you’d think they were doing something illegal rather than just delivering the food that would be on the supermarket shelves the next morning. It made sense to Dustin, though. People didn’t like seeing the underbelly of how things were run, didn’t like seeing things that might make them uncomfortable. No one knew that better than him.
They all herded themselves into the chain-linked parking lot.
“See ya, Dustin,” said a squat, curly-haired driver. While his company ID card read Lorenzo Hernandez, everyone just called him Lardy. Lardy was the first—well, only—person here who tried talking to him. Waiting around before shift started, Dustin liked the way Lardy would talk about his day, his homelife. He liked the way Lardy produced an accordion of pictures of his wife, parents, grandparents, and many many brothers from his wallet to illustrate the dramas within the branches of his family tree. He liked the way he pronounced his name. Dostin.
Dustin didn’t really know where Lardy’s motivations lay, and he didn’t really care. Sympathy, pity, religion—the result was the same. Vocal vibrations custom-made to be aimed in his direction and free of any jeers or unkindness were the best thing people like him could hope for.
Could you be thankful but resigned? Dustin thought you could.
Lardy waved as he unlocked his car. Dustin silently waved back.
He left the company parking lot, its marshy, moth-flittering light, into the crunchy, unpaved stretch of road.
It was a three-mile walk back home. The buses stopped running six hours ago. But it wasn’t too bad. After hours hunched over a steering wheel in a cramped truck cabin, Dustin appreciated the opportunity to stretch his legs.
After taking a few strides, he heard a polite mahp-mahp of a car honk that brought Dustin to a halt. A beat-up, duct-tape-on-a-tire, car pulled up beside him. The window rolled down and Lardy leaned his head out.
“I know, I know, you’re tired of me asking, but are you sure you don’t want a drive back this time, güey?”
Dustin shook his head, but smiled in a way he hoped showed he appreciated it.
Lardy shrugged in surrender, rolled up the window, and drove off.
Dustin watched Lardy and the other cars drive past, waiting for the moment the droning thrum of engines dissipated in the distance. He stayed there for a long while, staring at the horizon, unsure what he was waiting for.
Dustin sighed. He looked down the barrel of dark road. He walked.
Loneliness was a habit, a skill Dustin exercised to the point of talent. It’s not like he liked it. Dustin didn’t believe anyone ‘aspired’ to be by themselves. But some people in life are either shoved towards it, or steadily drift in its direction in order to avoid any potential collision. Done often enough it sank into your skin, seeped into your bones, until it became instinct.
He sighed again. Darnit. Maybe he should’ve said yes, just this once. Maybe he could have sat in the passenger seat and felt the car dip slightly under his weight, having to crouch his head to fit in, and maybe Lardy would say a joke, and maybe Dustin would’ve been comfortable enough to ask Lardy why he kept a rosary wrapped around his rear-view mirror, and maybe Lardy would have explained it, and maybe Lardy would’ve invited invited Dustin to dinner sometime to meet that family of his, and maybe…
...Dustin would’ve screwed it up somehow. And then he’d have no one to listen to before shifts.
The air was silent save for the sound of his sneakers crunching against the gravel road. He passed landscapes of industrial warehouses and cavernous truck garages leaning against each other like tired old men.
He forgot how flat it was around here. Down south lived towns nestled under hills, embraced by rivers, and shaded by tall trees. But out here, it was all an impressive carpet of swaying prairie grass.
He breathed in again, enjoyed the two deep lungfuls of familiar, earthy air.
It was coincidence how the whole thing worked out, really. The freight company was being hit by hard times and wanted to station him in Olathe, and it was made pretty clear he could kiss his job goodbye if he tried digging his heels in.
Dustin would’ve said something, but he was never one to raise his voice.
* * *
“So over there is the gym-slash-auditorium. Assemblies are every Tuesday.”
“And that’s the cafeteria. Don’t drink the milk. The expiration dates are bogus.”
“Annnnd down that hallway is the library. Do you do sports? My big sister Lucy does. Once she wouldn’t accept a certificate she got from soccer finals because her last name was spelt wrong on the paper and she got so mad she fractured the coach’s shin. I would never do that though—I hate soccer. Also I am very nice.”
Dusty lifted and lowered his chin in acknowledgement as Sally Zhao led him through the crowded halls of Olathe Middleschool. She continued chattering away as Dusty looked out at the throng of students. They didn’t look much different from the kids in other schools. It was like snorkeling in a colorful reef. Kids dressed in bright backpacks and shoes, hairbands and socks. Swimming in groups, knowing their exact place, vibrantly flashing their scales as they ran and skipped and shoved between each other. Complex subcultures and intertwining friend groups and snatches of inside-jokes and after-school promises communicated in crisp, clear voices floated over their heads like bubbles.
Sally was clearly part of them. A coral fish in her pink-yellow plaid dress, waving her fins at other girls in similar styles.
If they were coral fish, Dusty was a mollusk, slowly trudging along the bottom, watching them all from below.
Dusty was a new kid, but he wasn’t new at being the new kid. Dusty was moved around a lot. He was a foster, and being a foster meant, having your stuff stolen at home when you weren’t looking, wearing old hand-me-downs that were two sizes too small since the foster parent allowance couldn’t keep up with his accelerating growth spurts and, of course, doing the whole ‘First Day’ routine over and over.
He’d really thought the last place was going to keep him for just a bit longer, but after a case worker caught his last foster mother nodding off during a home visit because she’d slipped too much 'syrup' into her coffee, Dusty had to be relocated. Again.
He was taken to Olathe. The new home was busy. He was the oldest of a few other boys: three in elementary, one in kindergarten. His new foster mother, an older lady with grey streaks and sunken eyes named Edna, was always being stretched in all directions like one of the action figure toys the younger boys were always fighting over.
Being the eldest, it was clear Dusty was expected to look after himself. He tried being helpful, washing up after meals, keeping his bed neat, hoping that whatever he did to help around the house would earn him some attention. Maybe a question on how his day was. Or how he was feeling. But usually as soon as Edna saw Dusty taking charge cleaning or had ascertained he wasn’t trying to set anything on fire she would just plod off to bed.
It wasn’t the worst house he’d been in. There was no one old enough to pick on him at least. But the constant moving around made things difficult to grasp onto. If you asked Dusty how long he’d been in the system, he wouldn’t be able to tell you. He couldn’t remember what the first house was like. Anything younger than two or three years ago got cloudy. It was like he was moved around so much the memories couldn’t quite catch up with him, left at whatever old house he’d been in, abandoned with no one there to remember them. For all he knew he could be forgetting the memories he was making right now if he was randomly moved again in another week. Either way, this far out in the sticks, Dusty’s troubled intuition told him that he should be less focused on how much he was forgetting and more concerned about the concerted effort the powers that be were pushing him farther out of arm’s reach so they could forget about him.
His hearing came into focus as he saw Sally turn into another locker-filled corridor. He stuck close, following the slipstream of her voice. She hadn’t stopped talking.
“...and yeah that’s why I can’t get trying to get on a teacher’s bad side. Ooooooh, like Mr Muehler. He’s our homeroom teacher, but he teaches science too. Word is that two days ago, someone, I don’t know who, put one of the salamanders they were dissecting into his chair when he wasn’t looking, and he sat right on it. Like, SPLAT! All over his butt! He hasn’t been letting anybody get an inch on him since. Is it weird I kinda wish I was there? Anyway.”
Sally jumped to a halt in front of a locker, spun in place, and pulled out a slip of paper.
“This is your locker combination. Don’t worry, I only looked at the first two digits. You have your timetable, right?”
Sally gave him the paper slip, paused, then put her hands on her hips. It was her turn to perform a full lifting and lowering of the chin just to look him up and down. He was always a head taller than most kids—teachers had been thinking Dusty was in middle school since he was in elementary.
There wasn’t much to see. Shoes with grubby laces, grey jeans, and a red-and-white-striped T-shirt that he had to constantly pull down to cover his stomach.
Her black pigtails swayed as she tilted her head to the side. “You’re a quiet one, aren’t you?
Dusty nodded in a way he hoped communicated: Yep! That’s me! Quiet Kid. Conventionally unconventional.
“Alright. Well. Homeroom’s over there. Bye.” Sally gave a meek wave and left, finding a girl she recognised and started gabbing away with—a fish rejoining its school and swimming in perfect synchronicity.
Dusty looked at the slip of paper in his hand. He turned to the steel locker, put the combination into the knob, opened it, and rested his chin on the cold metal shelf inside.
He sighed, his voice echoing around him in the dark. As sure as he was that his memory problems came from being moved around all the time, he didn’t think it was the cause for his trouble with people, not really. There was something… wrong with him. Something inherently deficient that he was sure others could see radiating off of him, something that only became obvious as soon as he opened his mouth. But even quiet, he just knew that kids at school or older kids in different foster homes could smell off him, like blood in the water.
It was always the same thing. Every time he went into a new school, kids would keep their distance because he was the big, tall, quiet kid. Then some boy itching to climb the social ladder would seize the opportunity and pick on him. He’d try to ignore it, he’d get picked on even harder until he couldn’t, Dusty would cry out for it to stop, and everyone would know his secret.
But this time it would be different. This was a blank slate. If anyone picked on him he wouldn’t fold. He’d stand tall. He’d be brave. He was going to make an impression here. He could feel it.
The school bell clanged in Dusty’s ears.
He gasped, jerked his head out of the locker, slammed it shut, and leant against the door while his heart pounded in his chest.
Good job, Dusty. Very brave.