Tumpik
#really on brand for me in my early 20s
geryone · a month ago
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you don’t have to answer but which line did you get tattooed?? been really loving louise glück lately and i’m curious
I got “You exist as the stars exist” tattooed! It’s from the poem Telescope in her collection Averno!! That poem has a special place in my heart ❤️
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irisbaggins · a year ago
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Do you ever just want to be...held?
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lovesickwriter · 2 months ago
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Babysitter (prologue)
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Father Gojo/father Toji/father Naoya x fem reader
This idea has been stuck in my head for a while~
Some things to note: reader is in her early 20's while the daddies are in their late twenties/early thirties. And all the boys are around 10 years old.
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It was pure coincidence when you met these 3 dangerous men while you were out and about.
The first incident was when you were out shopping for groceries.
"Should I get this one…? But this one has a better deal…" you murmur to yourself, trying to figure out which brand of potato chips you should get.
"But I like the other one better," you pout while glancing over at the kind you normally get.
With a smile, you finally managed to make up your mind. Okay! I'll just get my favorite!
Just as you reached out to grab it, another pair of small hands beat you to it.
"Huh?" You blink before looking down to see a young boy with black unruly hair. He looked only about 10.
He stares straight into your eyes while taking the bag of chips before running off down the aisle.
"H-hey!" You exclaim while reaching out to him.
That was the last bag!
Your expression deflates and you groan in disappointment before spotting him stop at the end to tug on a man's shirt.
"Hey bud, found what you wanted?" The male, who you assumed to be his dad, looks down at him with a smile before noticing you.
You jump before immediately looking away to avoid seeming creepy but as you continue to browse the other items, his voice next to you catches you by surprise.
"Hey, sorry about that. You were going to buy this right?"
"H-huh?" You whip your head over with wide eyes to see him handing you the bag of chips with a warm smile.
Your face heats up from how insanely attractive he was. The most striking feature was the scar on the corner of his lip.
You gaze down to see his kid standing beside him and looking away with a frown, disappointment written all over his face.
"Oh um, no, it's okay. I didn't want it that badly," you dismiss with a shy chuckle.
"You sure?" Toji double-checks.
You nod with your hands behind your back. "Yeah! It's fine, he likes them too right?"
Megumi looks up at you to see your friendly smile but only looks away before gripping his dad's shirt.
Toji smiles. "Thanks. Here Megumi," he hands him the bag of chips and Gumi takes it with sparkling eyes.
Your eyes soften from the sight. Oh well…I can always get them next time.
"I'm Toji by the way, and you?"
You snap out of your thoughts before directing your attention to Toji. "Hm? Oh I'm y/n."
"This is my son, Megumi," He introduces while ruffling the kid's hair.
You giggle when Megumi pushes his hand away and fixes his hair with a cute annoyed expression.
Toji looks at you with a small smirk. "Well, take care y/n. Maybe I'll see you around sometime."
You blush and rub your arm. "Oh s-sure."
"C'mon bud," Toji turns around to walk away as you watch.
You didn't really think much of that encounter until the second incident…
This time you went out for a run at the park when you noticed three kids talking up ahead.
You thought nothing of it and kept your gaze straight ahead until a shout was heard. When you looked over, you saw two of them fighting and wrestling while the other boy with them was crying and shouting stop.
Panicked, you ran over to try and break the fight. "W-woah, hey! That's enough!"
The kid with short black hair that started the fight glares at you and a chill runs down your spine. Yikes!
But the boy underneath manages to get away and sniffs while frowning. "J-just leave us alone! We don't want to play with you!"
They run off, leaving you alone with the kid until he starts walking away.
"Hey wait a minute, why did you start a fight with them?" You question with furrowed brows with your hands on your hips.
He stops in his tracks before muttering. "Didn't you hear? They didn't want to play with me. So I got pissed."
You stand there in shock before rubbing your neck. Would it be okay to scold some random kid you didn't even know?
But then a voice interrupted. "Ah, there you are Shou."
Looking over, you see a man with blonde hair and black tips walking toward you two. He had a cup of coffee in his hand. 
He smiles upon noticing you. "Hello."
"Oh, hi," you greet awkwardly while taking a step back.
Naoya smiles slightly. "Was my son giving you any trouble? Sorry about that."
"Huh? Oh no, not at all!" You chuckle before glancing down at Shou.
Shou just stares at you blankly and you wonder if he's waiting for you to tell the truth.
"Um, I just stopped to see if he was okay," you lie with a sheepish smile.
Shou looks slightly surprised but hides it before looking away as Naoya hums. "I see. Well, I'm Naoya."
"Y/n," you introduce politely.
His eyes scan you up and down and you feel a little flustered about how obvious he was making it.
He smirks before placing a hand behind Shou's back. "Well, we've gotta get going. Maybe you'll see me again."
Your eyes slightly widen as he turns to walk away. "Oh um, maybe…"
You frown while holding your chin. That's weird… That guy, Toji, said the same thing.
And then the third incident happened…
You were at a coffee shop, waiting at a table for your order but you noticed a little kid sitting on his own kept staring at you.
You often glanced over at him before finally giving a sheepish smile and wave. But he was wearing a mask so you couldn't see his expression. You only saw his blue eyes look away once you acknowledged his staring.
You tilt your head but brush it off until you spot his dad walking over with a coffee and croissant. He places them down before ruffling the kid's hair.
"Let me use the restroom then we'll go okay?"
You smile slightly from the sight when the boy takes his mask off to eat with a happy expression. He was pretty cute and had white snowy hair.
You avert your gaze out the window until nearby whispers catch your attention.
"Oh my gosh I knew it, it's him!"
"Wait, really? He's so cute in person!"
You look over to see two girls gushing while staring in the kid's direction.
Is he famous or something?
You watch curiously when they approach him, startling him in the process.
"Hey! You're Koji right?"
He seems nervous and only fiddles with his hands as the two girls excitedly wait for his confirmation. "Urm..um.."
He looked very uncomfortable and unsure of how to respond. But the girls didn't take the hint or didn't care so you decided to take action.
With a frown, you stand up from your seat before making your way over.
"Hey, sorry I took so long!" You greet while taking a seat beside him, catching both the girls and Koji by surprise.
You smile while looking at him. "How have you been? It's been a while since I last saw you."
Koji stares at you in astonishment before you turn to the girls curiously. "Hi, is there something I can help you with?"
They back off awkwardly. "Uh, no..sorry."
They walk off so you sigh before smiling shyly at Koji. "Sorry, did I scare you? You just looked uncomfortable when they came up to you so I thought I'd help."
Koji blushes before pulling his mask back up. "Thank you…" he mumbles.
You want to ask him how those girls recognized him until another voice chimed in.
"Oh? Did you make a new friend, Koji?"
You immediately jump up from your spot and stammer while facing his dad. "S-sorry! I uh, didn't mean to sit next to-"
Gojo chuckles, the sound making you blush. "No worries, I think I understand the situation. This nice lady helped you, right Koji?"
Koji nods with his eyes downcast. "Mhm."
You smile shyly while rubbing your arm. "It was nothing but I should get going."
"Hm wait," he called before you could take a step forward.
He smiles charmingly. "Let me pay for your coffee."
"Ah, no you don't have to!" You exclaim with wide eyes while waving your hands but he only chuckles before making his way to the register.
~
"Thank you so much…" you say while taking the coffee from him.
"No problem. I'm Satoru," he introduces.
"I'm y/n," you reply with a smile before sipping the caffeine.
"I'm assuming you already know my son, Koji," he chuckles before patting his head since he was standing beside him.
You nod. "Um, so-"
"Ah, shoot, I'm late," Gojo suddenly sighs while checking his wristwatch before looking back at you. "Sorry y/n, but we've gotta get going."
"Oh, n-no it's fine," you assure while pursing your lips.
"It was nice meeting you," he says before leaning toward you with a playful smile.
"You too…" you begin with a smile before trailing off when his glasses slide down his nose slightly, revealing his dazzling blue eyes to you.
You almost forget to breathe at how gorgeous he was before he waves goodbye and heads out the door.
You turn around to watch and see Koji glance back and wave to you as well. You smile slightly and reciprocate before they're out of sight.
Those three meetings had to be coincidental…right?
Cause the guy standing in front of you right now can't be Toji…right?
You called for a handyman to come and repair your door since one of the hinges was unstable, but when they finally arrived and you opened to let them in, your mouth dropped open upon seeing Toji with a toolbox in hand.
Toji's eyes slightly widen before he smiles. "Hey doll."
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ayeforscotland · 4 months ago
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I was on free school meals when Jamie Oliver was starting all his campaigning. Most days that was the only full meal I got to eat. He directly caused the fact that I went from filling, reasonably balanced meals to a damp cheese sandwich and a juice carton. He never cared about kids. He only cared about his brand and being "healthy". Now in my late-20s I hoard food and eat as much of it as I can when I can because I have it stuck in my head that it can be taken away at any moment. Hilarious that his health war resulted in unhealthy and disordered eating amongst the poorest people now we're adults /s
The sad thing is that I 100% recognise my own thoughts on food stemming from this too. I used to eat my food really slowly early in primary school but then changes resulted in me eating ridiculously fast and wolfing stuff down leaving absolutely nothing.
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kylejsugarman · 2 months ago
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one of my favorite parts of the pre-beforever historical doll collections was that each doll came with her own doll!! it said a lot about what toys and toy culture was like in each girl’s respective time period and was a really sweet detail that ive really missed so here’s the doll that i would give to the recent historicals that don’t have one!!
for nanea, you could maybe give her a souvenir hula girl doll just because those were indeed A Thing (and still are) and she might want one since she does hula herself, but it would probably be more realistic for her to have a baby doll. since this is in the early 1940s and plastic isn’t as ubiquitous as it would be after the war, her baby doll would probably be made from oil cloth and maybe latex or celanese acetate. a popular baby doll brand at the time was ideal, so i would give nanea an ideal baby doll!!
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for maryellen, 1955 is just before barbie was introduced, so she would probably have a baby doll or a similar kind of doll meant to be tended to in a maternal way or dressed and combed. if we want to stick with maryellen’s theme of getting hand-me-downs, she could get a tiny tears baby doll, which was first introduced in 1950 and could “cry” real tears. she probably wouldn’t be too interested in a baby doll, but it would be a great detail to emphasize her frustration with being stuck in the middle of her family and wanting to explore new things
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for melody, she would’ve been growing up during a Big time for dolls and could have her pick of barbie and friends, chatty cathy, and tressy. however, because the importance of melody’s culture in her story, it would be best to give her a doll that looks like her!! she would have a vogue “lil imp” doll, which was briefly popular in the ‘60′s before being drowned out by the more popular fashion dolls. vogue dolls were actually introduced in the ‘20′s, but the 11 inch lil imp dolls debuted in the mid-’60′s and expanded on the original mini fashion doll line to include a black doll that has the hair-brushing and fashion elements a little girl like melody would’ve wanted from a doll in this era!!
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yes i know julie got the barbie styling head but that doesn’t count. she needed to have one of the 1974 sports set barbie dolls. any of them would’ve been great.
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finally i understand why courtney was given an ag doll and it is a cute little wink but im not sure how much she would really want a molly doll. its probably more realistic that courtney would have wanted a jem doll or she-ra action figure based on the popularity of media-based toy marketing, but for the sake of not doing too much marketing for another doll, courtney would get a my buddy kid sister doll. the my buddy kid sister was one of the most popular toys of 1986 and makes for a great representation of courtney’s burgeoning sense of belonging in her new family!!
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captainmalewriter · a year ago
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Shady App
Alright.
I'll be the first one to admit that maybe I shouldn't have been fucking around on the dark web. But what I can say, I was bored. And besides, most of the things I've found on there haven’t been that serious. Jump scares, scam ads, shitty mobile games, and even the occasional doxing blackmail that turn out to be nothing but empty threats. So I figured this "Body Lottery" app wasn't going to be any different. 
It was late at night when I found the app while scrolling through the dark web. I didn’t recognize it, it must had been recently added. I clicked on the app info, which read: “New body, new you! Just fill out some basic info and get ready for a brand new life!”
I thought it was fake. After all, body switching only happened in movies or in books. Fantasy stuff. But I decided it couldn’t hurt to try it out for shits and giggles. I downloaded the APK file onto my phone and started it up. It took a minute to load, but when it did I was greeted with a “Welcome!” message, followed by a long text box that I didn’t bother reading. I clicked “I agree to the Terms of Service” and proceeded to the next screen, which asked for some info from me. Although really all it asked for was my name (I just put a fake name), my birthdate (I randomly hit some numbers), and my preferences. The preferences were just two questions, what gender and age range you wanted. I filled in male and early 20′s for my preferences, and hit submit. 
It asked if I was sure, and I hit yes and submitted my info. A confetti effect appeared on my phone and said I was successfully entered into the lottery. It laid the next steps, which read: “Go to sleep, and be ready for a new you!” 
It was pretty anticlimactic to be honest. But whatever, the damage was done and I just had to wait for this magical switch to happen. I scrolled my Twitter timeline for a bit before I couldn’t stay awake anymore and fell dead asleep. 
***
I slept so good that night. I felt so refreshed when I woke up from the sunlight hitting my face. That feeling of total relaxation didn’t last long however. I caught a glimpse of the bedroom I was in and quickly realized it was not my room. I saw a wall of shoes and a neatly organized rack of clothes, all of which weren’t mine.
I sat up in the bed in a panic. I was alone in the room. I was freaking out, but then I figured it was probably just a prank by my friends.
“Alright guys, you can come out-”
I stopped mid sentence when I heard my voice. It was lower than I remember it. I reached out to touch my neck, and I felt stubble brush against my hand. I touched my face and felt a beard growing in. But I had just shaved! This was not me!
I jumped out of the bed and saw that I was fully clothed. There was a phone and a wallet I didn’t recognize on the floor. I picked up the wallet and pulled out the ID in it. It belonged to some guy named Fernando Castillo. I grabbed the phone and unlocked it with the face ID.
“Not a good sign,” I said out loud. 
I opened the camera in selfie mode and saw Fernando’s face on the phone. I looked between the ID photo and the face on the camera. No matter how many times I checked there was no doubt about it, I was now Fernando Castillo. 
I noticed a mirror on the wall and walked up to it. I still had the phone on in my hand. I switched to the outer camera and took a mirror photo of me.
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Damn... this guy was hot. Err, rather, I was hot I guess? I’m Fernando now. 
I felt around my new body with my free hand. I lifted the shirt and saw my chest. I couldn’t help it, I had to take more pics. 
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This guy was pretty lean, not totally shredded but still fit. He didn’t have too much body hair but he had a treasure trail. Just the way I like them. 
I took off the shirt and jacket and started feeling all over my new body. I loved it. Every touch felt brand new as I explored my new body. This guy had thick thighs and a nice ass too. 
I remembered the mirror, and suddenly had an idea. I adjusted where the mirror was pointing and leaned forward onto the bed. I grabbed the phone and took more pics. 
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Damn... I’d fuck. 
My new dick started getting hard. I grabbed it through my jeans and rubbed it, letting out a moan as I did so. I couldn’t take it. I unzipped my jeans and my dick sprang right out. Fernando’s dick was longer than my own, and uncut too. I grabbed his dick and started jerking off. It felt so good, every stroke felt like pure ecstasy. 
“This is so wrong... but it feels so good...!”
I took off my jeans and shoes as fast as I could and kept stroking my new dick. I licked my fingers and started fingering my hole too. It was tight, and I could feel the hair as I slipped in my middle finger. I didn’t know if anyone else was in the house but I didn’t care, I moaned loud and hard. 
I was close. I wanted to edge but I was lost in the moment. I slipped in another finger in my ass, my strokes got faster and I felt the pleasure spread all over my body as I shot warm loads of cum all over the bed and floor.
My face felt warm. I was gasping for breath. My dick was still leaking out cum onto my legs. It was so much... no doubt the real Fernando hadn’t gotten off in a while. I had so much fun, I almost didn’t want to leave my new body. But I had to. I had to get back to my real body. 
I grabbed the phone and opened an incognito tab. I’m sure the app could bring me back if I tried. You know, that one app..... What was it called again?
I stared at my phone as I tried to remember the name, but I drew a blank. Damn it! Was the name of that... that... Was I looking for again? I felt like it had something to do with my phone, but I couldn’t remember what.
For some reason, I felt myself getting worried. I’m not sure why though. I felt like I had to go back... somewhere. I think I had to “become” someone else? No, that couldn’t be right. You can’t become someone else, that’s just fiction. I’m Fernando Castillo. Always have been, always will be. But I still couldn’t shake the feeling that I was going to download something on my phone. It was no use, I couldn’t remember. 
I felt some cum run off my leg onto my bed sheets. I just jerked off, but I was still horny. Oh wait, maybe I wanted to download Grindr. Yeah, I wanna get fucked tonight. 
I went to download Grindr, and as I waited for it download, I took one last pic.
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lemonluvgirl87 · 3 months ago
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Make Me, An Everlark One Shot
I wrote this story in response to a request for a drabble featuring “Come over here and make me” + Everlark. It ended up being over 20 pages long in google docs, but hey! Fanfiction am I right? You can never tell what’s going to happen when you start a story lol. Anyways hope you like this, whoever requested this. It does get explicit in the end. 
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It was supposed to be an ordinary Saturday night. The kind where I met my best friend for drinks at the local hole in the wall, and hustled some miners out of their pocket change. They were usually easy marks who paid more attention to the way my ass looked in my short denim shorts while I lined up a shot, than the actual game.
But a little into the first half hour, while patrons were still trickling in slowly, the mood in the bar changed from relaxed to filled with some kind of unnamable tension. It was still early, too early for any drunken disagreements to break out, but the tense mood lingered. I shrugged it off as Gale and I started to prepare for our first game.
The first time I noticed him was when he stood in front of the bar but didn’t sit down. He just held up a finger as he gave the bartender his order. His hair was pale blond, and he had a thicker build than most of the olive skinned men from the Seam. I only caught a side glimpse of his face, and then the crowd flowed around him, obscuring him from view.
Well, an outsider coming into our bar certainly explained the weird feeling I’d gotten earlier. I chocked it up to obliviousness, maybe a traveler passing through who didn’t know the customs of the locals.
The second time I noticed him was when he slowly sauntered over to the pool table that all of the regulars at the bar knew as mine and Gale’s spot. At first he just seemed familiar, but the closer he got the more familiar he appeared. He walked up to us and placed a quarter on the rail, at the same time I placed him, and where I knew him from correctly.
“I call next.” The now taller than I remembered, but still stocky blond guy said in a voice too cheery for the dreary establishment we all called The Hob. The only identifying mark outside was a busted neon sign labeling it ‘Bar’. He couldn’t have chosen to come in here based on the aesthetics, or the welcoming atmosphere. This place was usually only frequented by exhausted miners and out of work Seam residents, and he stuck out like a sore thumb in his brand name jeans and his expensive looking sneakers.
Beside me Gale laughed.
“I think you missed your exit Merchie. The townie bar is 4 streets over.” Gale told the guy, who I went to school with from elementary to high school. He had been the youngest son of the baker, valedictorian in my class, captain of the wrestling team. I vaguely remembered the circumstances surrounding his reappearance in our podunk town.
His father passed away last year. People said their family bakery was in trouble, and the former golden boy had to move back home because his university scholarship had been cut when he blew out his knee. A string of unfortunate events that seemed to plague the kind boy I once knew.
All that and his pale merchant good looks weren’t winning him any popularity contests, tonight. At least not in this place.
“It's a free country.” Peeta Mellark said, voice firm instead of placating like I assumed he would be. He had a reputation for being a nice guy back in school, not really a push over, since he was strong and athletic, but more….gentle than anything.
But right now Peeta’s blue eyes didn’t look gentle. They looked immovable and hard as he met Gale’s gray gaze, stare for stare. It was a little shocking to see him so…unintimidated by my 6’3 best friend who could scare off guys who sniffed too closely around our pool table in a heartbeat.
I elbowed Gale in the ribs to cut the tension and the macho male bullshit going on. He turned to me with a scowl.
“Your turn to break.” Was all I said.
Gale grunted and took up his pool stick, as Peeta leaned against the side wall watching.
I turned my back to him, hoping he’d get bored and leave eventually.
But he didn’t.
He stayed through the entire game, and I could feel his eyes on my back. Although he didn’t outright leer when I leaned forward to take my shots like some of the other guys were known to. Several times I caught his eye, but he always looked away or covered it by lifting the mug of beer to his lips, his stare getting lost in the dissipating foam.
Eventually, I kicked Gale’s ass, like I usually did on a Saturday night. When the last ball sunk into the pocket, my best friend handed over five bucks with a scowl but didn’t leave to go get us some drinks like he normally would. Instead Gale stuck around and eyed Peeta watchfully like he was a wild animal lurking around one of his game trails, waiting for Gale’s back to turn so it could swoop in and steal some meat from one of his snares.
Peeta, seemingly unbothered by Gale’s lingering presence, took up a pool stick and a cue and ignoring Gale’s glare. He instead looked over at me expectantly.
I looked back at him with a neutral expression. If he wanted to spend his Saturday night in a shitty bar, losing his money to a known pool shark like me, who was I to argue?
“It's your turn to break right?” Peeta asked me in a voice I almost mistook as shy. And when I looked closer at him, he smiled a little at me. It was…sort of adorable? I wasn’t used to guys giving me such blatant puppy dog eyes and sunny smiles with just the right hint of self consciousness.
I nodded, fighting off a blush, and was about to ask him whether he wanted to be solids or stripes, but before I could, Gale cut in.
“She’s not gonna play with you.” He said in a menacing voice.
My head snapped quickly in Gale’s direction, and now I could see there wasn’t just dislike in his eyes, but something akin to fury.
“I didn’t know you were her keeper.” Peeta replied, as he shifted his gaze to Gale who crossed his arms over his chest. There was something icy in his tone that I had not ever heard before.
I was taken aback for a second by the bizarre turn of events. Sure, my long time best friend had always been protective of me, but this was down right ridiculous. What did he think Peeta Mellark was gonna do? Shank me in the middle of the bar in front of a crowd of witnesses with a pool stick?
“He’s not.” I bit out the words to cut off Gale’s answer before he spoke.
“Grab a drink Gale. Or take a walk. I’ll be done here in a bit.” I ordered, fed up with his posturing and bad attitude.
“I’ll do that once this merchant asswipe gets the hell outta our bar.” Gale said, undeterred.
Before I could tell Gale what an absolute idiot he was making of himself, Peeta answered.
“Why don’t you come over here and make me.” In a challenging voice.
“Crap.” I muttered right before Gale took a step forward. The night was turning out decidedly different to how I envisioned my weekend going.
~
The fight was short lived, and ended with a black eye for Gale and nasty gash on Peeta’s temple. Sae, the actual owner of the bar, threw them out on their asses after they broke one of her tables.
I shook my head as I watched the blood drip down Peeta’s face, still flowing freely and in danger of getting into his eye. I suddenly felt bad about Gale’s behavior. Attitudes like his were what kept the merchant/seam divide alive in our small community. It didn’t sit well with me how he had attacked Peeta over nothing more significant than a game of pool.
I walked over to Peeta, ignoring Gale as he picked himself up the parking lot floor gingerly.
“You’re gonna need to put something on that cut.” I told Peeta who was holding up his sleeve to the cut on his head. The wound did not look like it was going to stop bleeding anytime soon, in fact his sleeve was almost soaked through with blood already.
“I’ve got a first aid kit in my truck.” I added and then extended a hand to him to help him up.
Peeta looked up at me with surprise.
He allowed me to haul him up and I tried to shake off the warm feeling that traveled up my arm from the heat of his big hand in mine. I dropped his hand as soon as he was on his feet and started walking in the direction of my truck, without looking to make sure he was following me.
I heard Gale call out my name but I ignored him. He could go home and ice his face without any help from me. I wasn’t going to baby him for starting a pointless fight.
I walked around to the passenger side door, unlocked it, turned on the overhead light and dug the first aid kit out of my glove box. Then I turned around to motion to Peeta, who was standing behind me patiently, to sit down in the passenger seat.
He moved around me carefully, and sat down, with his legs facing me as I leaned in to inspect his cut.
Thankfully the cut wasn’t deep enough to require stitches, and looked worse than it really was. That was the nature of head wounds though, they bled a lot and looked scary but were usually not that bad aside from the risk of concussion. Which Peeta was not in danger of, since the cut was caused from a scape when he caught the edge of a chair when Gale pushed him.
“Not too deep. Shouldn’t need stitches. But I can call an ambulance if you want to make sure.” I told him quietly.
Peeta shook his head slightly.
“No, it's fine. I trust your judgment.” He replied, his good eye looking at me with something undefinable, while he kept his other eye closed so blood couldn’t get in it.
I scoffed.
“You don’t even know me.” I pointed out.
“We’ve known each other since we were five years old, Katniss.” He said with amusement.
I frowned as I rifled through my first aid kit for the right kind of bandage and an antiseptic wipe.
“You haven’t seen me in four years, Peeta. For all you know, I could be a serial killer who buries bodies in my backyard.”
“Somehow I highly doubt that.” He says, before he winces as I start to clean his cut.
I didn't reply, and instead focused on putting on the small butterfly bandages to help hold the edges of the cut closed. I breathed through my mouth, to avoid the smell of blood making me ill. I was not like my little sister and mother, who didn’t bat an eyelash at gaping or festering wounds. There was a reason my mom had been an ER nurse for years before she met and married my father. It was the same one that ensured Prim got accepted into medical school while I stayed behind and took general community classes at the local college. I didn’t like the sight or smell of blood. But I could work through it, if I had to.
After applying the 2nd bandage I stepped back and surveyed my work. His wound was no longer bleeding, and he could open both his eyes, which he did as he searched my face for the answer to some question only he knew.
“Why are you helping me?” He asked, after a moment.
I blinked at him, caught off guard.
I shrugged. Probably for a lot of reasons, but mainly because I didn’t like how everything had gone down tonight.
“You helped me once.” I finally said, remembering the one kind gesture from so long ago.
“You mean from when we were kids?” Peeta asked, his voice slightly confused.
I nodded.
“That was middle school, Katniss, I think we can let that go now.” Peeta said in a tired and slightly disappointed sounding voice.
I shook my head. He didn’t get it. Of course he didn’t. He was a well to do merchant, who never wondered where his next meal was going to come from. He didn’t know the significance of what it meant when he fed me, when no one else would.
I cleared my throat, pushing away the old overwhelming emotions that resurfaced whenever I thought about that dark period in my life. I was no longer that starving girl, who tried to dig through the school’s trash bin to recover a half eaten sandwich without anyone noticing.
He was no longer the boy who slipped twenty dollars into my backpack after he caught me scrounging for scraps that day, like a desperate animal.
“The first gift is always the hardest to pay back.” I muttered under my breath, stepping further away.
Those twenty dollars had gone a long way. They paid for some much needed groceries for my sister and I. When I finally had enough to eat, I remembered about the bow my father bought me for my birthday before he passed away. I remembered about the woods and the animals I could hunt for meat, and the plants I could gather for sustenance.
Those twenty dollars changed everything for us in a way he would probably never understand.
Me bandaging his cut barely scratched a dent in the surface of what I still owed him.
But it would have to do for now. It was a start at least. I had never really gathered up the courage to thank him, too embarrassed to say anything after he had seen me at my lowest point, willing to eat literal garbage because I was so poor and hungry.
“Where’s your car?” I asked him, clearing my throat before he could say anything more on the subject.
“I walked.” Peeta replied.
I shook my head.
“I’ll give you a ride home.” I said, thinking this was one more way I could start repaying that debt.
I walked back over to the driver’s side door of my dad’s old pick up. The one I’d inherited after he died. My mother never could bring herself to drive it. So it passed to me when I reached driving age. It was old, but I loved it. It was one of his things I still had left, after all these years.
Gale met me when I got to the other side, his face a quickly bruising mess.
“What are you doing?” He seethed.
“Dropping off the guy you attacked for no reason.” I replied blandly, opening my truck door, determined not to let Gale do any more damage tonight. The easiest way to disarm Gale was to pay him no mind when he was throwing a fit. His anger usually burned itself out as long as I didn’t give it any fuel.
“No reason? Are you kidding me? You know he just wants to get in your pants right? Why else would he come here?” Gale yelled, loud enough for Peeta to hear from inside the truck.
I fixed Gale with my best scowl, pointedly not looking back to where Peeta was sitting in my truck.
“I don’t need you or anyone else to play gatekeeper with my underwear. I can do that just fine on my own. Go home Gale. Ice that black eye. I’ll see when you’re done behaving like a neanderthal.” I told him with a roll of my eyes.
“Just don’t come crying to me when you wake up in the morning and he forgets your first name.” Gale says bitterly, before turning around and stomping off.
I hold back from shouting something equally cutting at his retreating back and instead yank the door open with more force than necessary.
~
The drive to Peeta’s apartment is quiet, and he only spoke to give me directions. We drove a short distance from the bar, and stayed on the less expensive side of town. At the end I pulled up in front of a moderate complex, which surprised me because I thought he’d be back living above the bakery with his mom, but I found I respected him more for having his own place.
I parked and cut off the engine. Just when I thought I was going to get away without having to address the embarrassing things Gale said, Peeta broke the silence.
“Sorry I ruined your night.” He said.
I shook my head.
“Wasn’t really your fault.” I told him in an even tone.
“I still feel bad you had to leave early.”
“I’ll get over not getting my usual Saturday night beer.” I said to him with a shrug.
He looked over at me, tilted his head a little, with his hand still on the door handle.
“I’ve got a couple of bottles in the fridge.” He offered quietly, in an offhand way.
I began to shake my head, but then I thought about going back to my empty, rundown little studio apartment and reheating some leftover chinese takeout, while I watched some mindless tv.
I looked over at Peeta assessingly.
It could be that Gale had the right of it, and he was trying to make a move on me. But somehow I doubted it. The Peeta I remembered from school didn’t have a malicious bone in his body. Even during the fight, Peeta reacted defensively to Gale’s tactics, and hadn’t seemed out to hurt my friend.
After a moment I nodded.
“Ok.” I said, confident that if he tried anything I would put those defense classes I took at the community college to good use. That and I always carried some pepper spray in my purse.
Peeta’s eyes widened, as if he hadn’t expected me to say yes, but then he opened the passenger side door and waved at me to follow him.
Which I did, up a short flight of steps to the second door on the right. Peeta unlocked his apartment after fumbling with the key for a bit, and I blinked when he flicked on the light.
His place was small, but clean and it looked well lived in. It was an open concept, but not quite as tiny as my studio. Books lined one wall. Paintings another. I vaguely remembered art being his favorite activity in elementary. I think I heard he even minored in it when he went to college.
There was also an entertainment center with a newish looking flatscreen and a few game consoles that took up the majority of space in the living room. But his couches were old, the faux black leather peeling along the arm rest and on some of the cushions.
“It’s not much but-” He started to say, one hand gripping the back of his neck in mild embarrassment. The movement caused his shirt to ride up slightly, and I caught a glimpse of the skin above the waistband of his jeans.
I looked away, in an effort not to ogle the faint dusting of dark blond hair that caught my attention.
“It’s nice.” I cut him off, by passing the living room and heading for the kitchen. He had a small standing counter, with the sink on one side, and a couple of stools on the other turning it into a short and cramped breakfast bar.
I plopped down on one of the stools and waited for him. He walked around me, and headed towards the left side of the kitchen. He opened a door that I assumed to be his pantry, but was apparently his laundry room. I watched him from the sliver of space he left from the slightly open door as he stripped off his blood stained shirt and pulled a clean one over his head.
My throat suddenly felt very dry at the sight of his naked, broad, and well muscled back and arms. I shook my head to clear my thoughts. It had been a while since I’d seen a guy without his shirt on in real life. The image was a little dizzying.
He made his way over to the fridge then, unaware of my spying and pulled out two bottles of Corona. I watched as he opened a drawer and dug around in the clutter for a bottle opener.
He placed the beer in front of me after uncapping it and I took a slow pull from it, savoring the hoppy taste.
“I didn’t mean to cause any problems in your relationship. I just wanted to play some pool.” Peeta said as he stared at his hands on the table top guiltily. His knuckles were bruised, and peeling slightly from hitting Gale’s face.
I sighed. Took another sip.
“You didn’t. Gale will get over it. He gets a little overprotective sometimes. But it’ll blow over in a day or two.” I replied dismissively.
“He looked really upset.” Peeta argued. I looked over at him in annoyance.
“That’s Gale’s default mode. He’s not happy unless he has something to gripe about. But he’s my best friend and a good hunting partner, so I put up with his snark most of the time. Tonight he was over the line though.”
“Over the line? Why because he tried to kick my ass for daring to walk into a Seam bar or because he acted like you were his property?” Peeta asked, finally looking up at me.
There was a blazing question in his brilliant blue eyes. They were just as captivating as I remember from our years in school together. If anything, age and maturity had just given him a more magnetic stare.
“Both.” I answered simply.
Peeta made a ‘ahh’ sound, and clucked his tongue. He took a larger swallow from his beer and I watched the movement of the muscles in his throat as he swallowed.
Watching his adam’s apple bob is actually highly stimulating. Either that or I hadn’t been alone with an attractive guy around my age who wasn’t Gale in…how many months again?
“Gale gets territorial sometimes.” I found myself explaining, “We dated, like a million years ago. He was my first boyfriend, but it didn’t work out. We went back to being friends, but sometimes he forgets that I can fend for myself just fine without his help.” I said casually, trying to explain away the strange relationship Gale and I had.
Peeta eyed me, his lips pursed, as if he was holding back from saying something.
“What?” I asked in a gruff tone.
“Nothing, just…are you sure he doesn’t think you’re going to get back together someday?”
I laughed.
“We fought like cats and dogs the entire time we dated, drove each other nuts, and sex wasn’t even that great.” I said dryly. “We’re better off as friends.” I added with finality.
Peeta seemed a little surprised at my confession, he probably wasn’t expecting me to mention anything about Gale’s and my uncompatibility in the bedroom. Gale had a reputation for being a lady killer in town, but size wasn’t the only thing that mattered.
I’d had better and more consistent experiences with my medium sized vibrator.
“Well, that’s kind of surprising.” Peeta said, with a little cough at the end.
“Why?” I asked curiously.
“Because, he’s kind of famous for being the king of the slag heap.” Peeta replied, his cheeks flushing slightly as he avoided looking at me directly.
Was he weirded out by this conversation? I was kind of weirded out by it myself. I didn’t make a habit of discussing my best friend’s sexual prowess with aquaintences I hadn’t seen since high school.
I shrugged.
“Some people just aren’t as compatible in real life as they are on paper.” I stated. Which was the crux of the whole me and Gale problem we’d realized many years ago. Theory said we should have gotten along perfectly, but in actuality we were too alike to mesh well.
Peeta nodded, but his cheeks were still pink.
I cleared my throat, preparing to change the subject.
“Have all your relationships worked out the way you thought they would?” I asked, because it seemed fair he spill something after I just admitted why Gale and I didn’t work out.
Peeta shook his head.
“I dated a little in college, but no one really left a lasting impression, you know?” He said, with a shrug of his own.
I nodded. I did know. After Gale I had tried to date a few other guys. Darius who worked as a traffic cop. Thresh from my freshman psyche class.
But I had never felt that spark.
Peeta looked over at me then, as if trying to gauge my sincerity.
“The dating pool is unsurprisingly shallow in our small town.” I said with a chuckle before I took another sip.
“Oh, I won’t write it off completely.” Peeta said, adding a laugh of his own and glancing over at me. I squinted at him and he busied himself by wiping a nonexistent speck off his clean countertop.
I was starting to get the feeling maybe Gale wasn’t as far off the mark as I had initially thought. Surprisingly the thought didn’t alarm me. I had never been the kind of girl that let some guy pick her up in a bar, but for some reason Peeta’s assumed interest didn’t feel sleazy to me. I was cautiously pleased at the idea that he wanted me.
But there was only one way to find out for sure.
“Why did you come to The Hob tonight Peeta?” I asked, settling down my half finished bottle and looking right at him. “And don’t say for the atmosphere.”
He got a sort of deer-in-the-headlights look on his face then.
“It wasn’t because of you-I mean-well in a way it was I did ask Thom where I you usually hung out when he came by the bakery this week, but it's not how Gale made it out to be-I’m not trying to sleep with you-I mean, not that you’re not attractive, or that I think I’m superior or-or-shit.” Peeta stumbled over his words and I just watched, slightly mystified as to why the former homecoming King was nervous about trying to pick me up. Which it was now clear he had intended to do.
“Gale called it.” I said, sitting back in surprise.
Peeta shook his head emphatically. I laughed at his denial, it seemed this night was just full of surprises.
“I just wanted to ask you out on a date.” Peeta blurted, his cheeks and neck looked splotchy now, and his blue eyes were still wide in alarm.
I cocked my head, giving him a ‘don’t lie to me’ look.
Peeta shook his head again, but I’d had enough. I could deal with a straightforward proposition. What I didn’t like was being led on, or jerked around.
“I don’t like liars.” I said, before I stood up and started in the direction of his front door, ready to leave. I heard Peeta following a few steps behind, and I turned around to face him. He put his hands up with his palms out, and backed off, when he saw my angry scowl.
“You don’t have to believe me. I guess you have no reason to give me the benefit of the doubt.” He finally said, his tone defeated. He hung his head, and shook it, almost imperceptibly.
I looked at him then, scrutinized him really. I tried to weigh what I knew of him against the circumstances. It was the last thing he said that really stuck in my mind.
I guess you have no reason to give me the benefit of the doubt.
That was the problem. I did know him. He was the boy who always picked the nerdy kid to be on his team first so they didn’t get picked last. He would stop in the hallways and help people who had dropped their books. He loaned people his homework before the bell when they forgot theirs at home.
And he showed me kindness when I thought the world was a cruel and thankless place.
“Can you tell me your intentions were one hundred percent honorable?” I asked, with one eyebrow arched in question.
“Peeta’s head snapped up.
“Um, maybe 95% honorable.” He said, his voice hushed. He looked at me with a little shame but I didn’t focus on that. I made my way back towards him slowly.
He watched me warily, as if he were preparing for me to try and slap him.
“95% is a lot better than most.” I said quietly as I continued to stalk towards him.
“I’m not going to sleep with you just because you were the homecoming king, you know.” I told him, a note of warning in my voice. My worn hunting boots stopped just an inch away from his orange nikes.
Peeta smiled at me a little crookedly when I looked up at him.
“I can’t believe you remember that.”
I shrugged.
“You were kinda hard to miss up on that big float, with people throwing roses at you.” I replied.
He laughed, relaxing a little.
“I hope you know I don’t expect anything at all from you, Katniss. I knew it was a long shot just showing up at that bar. But I’ve wanted to ask you out for years.” He said, his eyes slightly dilated, the blue of his iris receding as he studied my features in the low light of his living room.
I bit my lips, debating for a minute. I had noticed him looking at me over the years, across classrooms and gymnasiums. At school dances and football games. He always had this question in his eyes. One I was never really sure how to answer before.
But in the moment, I decided to throw caution to the wind. Here he was, and here I was. I wanted him and it seemed he wanted me too. So, I simply stretched up on my toes to kiss him.
He made a startled sound in the back of his throat when our lips met, and his eyes remained wide open and locked on mine, but when I swiped my tongue across his top lip he shuddered, and closed his eyes.
I closed mine too, as he returned pressure and our mouths melded together.
He kissed me back softly, tilting his head just enough to give me better access as I tasted him. His mouth warm, his tongue neither too aggressive or too passive, for an introductory kiss. He tasted mainly like the beer we had both drank, and he smelled like something deliciously spicy and male.
When I didn’t break the kiss he wrapped one arm around me, palm pressed flat against my back tentatively. I leaned in closer, resting my hand on his chest, over his hard pec, where underneath the muscle and tissue I felt his heart beating hard.
The feeling of that fast rhythm pounding away under my hand did something to me. I ended up with my hands wrapped around the back of his neck, fingers woven into his short hair, pulling him in for more.
He moaned into my mouth, and his other hand came to rest on my hip. His fingers dig into my skin when I cloyingly bit his lip.
Finally, we broke away, both of our chests heaving. His eyes were almost completely black, and his lips were wet and swollen, as I’m sure mine were too.
He looked down at me in amazement and I smiled back at him.
“What was that for?” He asked, licking his lips like he liked the taste of me on them.
I smirked.
“That was because I always wondered what it would be like to kiss a valedictorian.” I joked.
Peeta tilted his head back and laughed, and in the moment he looked so beautiful it made the spot between my thighs clench.
“I should have known. You only want me for my intelligence.” He said, his voice playing at being wounded but his blue eyes were alight with amusement.
“Now you know my big dark secret.” I said in a playful voice. “Smart guys turn me on.” I added, my shoulders shaking with barely contained laughter.
Peeta raised his eyebrows.
“Oh yeah?” He asked in a husky voice that sent a little thrill through me that settled like languid heat pooling in my lower abdomen.
I nodded, biting my lip again. His eyelids drooped into something more hooded and his hands caressed my back through my shirt.
“I could talk to you about art theory, and the techniques used by master painters, or I could recite the history of the evolution of art, from cave paintings to the modern renaissance.” He told me in a low, seductive voice. I knew he was just kidding, but I almost wished he would start reciting some stupid art facts that were ultimately meaningless to me. I just liked it when he talked to me in that smooth drawl of his.
“How about we find another use for that smart mouth of yours?” I said in a suggestive voice. I was aware of how bold the request was, but then again, he had come to the other side of town, to a seedy bar to ask me out.
I was kind of betting on him wanting to do more than just kiss at this point. His nostrils flared and his hold on me tightened a little.
“Sweetheart, I could do things to you with this mouth that’ll have you singing prettier than the angels before we’re through.” He promised in a silky tone, pulling me backwards towards the couch.
“Big talk, but I like a man who can walk the walk better.” I replied, pushing him down so he fell gently against the couch first before I moved to straddle him, my hands pressing down on his shoulders as his larger ones bracketed my waist.
“Katniss, we can take it slow. Go on a few dates.” He offered, in a more gentlemanly tone but the outline of his erection that I felt through my shorts and his jeans told a different story.
I shook my head.
“I’d like to keep going.” I told him as I leaned down, and kissed his neck, before I began to suck on his pulse point to emphasize my intentions.
He swore, as his hips gave an involuntary upward thrust. I let out a small moan of my own when our centers collided. I dropped my hips then, seeking the exquisite friction of his hardness once more, as I slowly started to grind against him in time to the workings of my mouth on the skin of his neck. His hands wanded down, gliding over my back and hips, and stopped to cup my ass as he tugged me closer to him.
“Fuck, you feel so good. I don’t want to stop either.” He admitted. One of his hands ventured further then, coming around front to slip up the inside of my shorts, skimming across my inner thigh and stopping when he could feel the outline of my slit through my soaked panties.
“Ohhh,” He groaned, tracing my lower lips with his middle finger, “you’re as turned on as I am.” He said, almost to himself, as he played with me, making me lose my concentration. My lips fell away from his neck as I instinctively rocked my hips in time with the motion of his hand. Peeta leaned forward and captured my lips with his mouth, while his other hand snuck under my shirt to palm my breasts alternatively. I reveled in the way he multitasked. He kissed me so well, played with my hard nipples through my thin, unpadded bra, and his other hand didn’t let up on teasing my wet folds through my underwear.
I was so wet, and his movements felt so good, his tongue in my mouth, his fingers over my breasts, and my lower lips, but I wanted more.
I reached for the button on my shorts and quickly worked them open, Peeta made an appreciative sound in the back of his throat and helped me drag the shorts off my hips. He dipped his hand down the front of my underwear, as he cupped me in his palm.
He dragged two fingers through my wet folds, back to front, before slowly circling my swollen clit.
“Ahhh!” I cried out, as more wetness gushed from between my legs as he touched me just where I needed him to.
“Yes,” I hissed, practically gyrating in his lap.
“You’re so wet for me. Practically dripping. Did you ruin these panties just for me Sweetheart?” Peeta crooned in a slightly smug voice.
I growled into the skin of his shoulder, and bit him through his shirt, making him swear.
“Finger fuck me already, golden boy.” I ordered, before I took his earlobe in my mouth and sucked on it. He choked on his saliva then, and thrust up against me harder, making me mewl in pleasure, but when he finally thrust his thick finger inside of me I cried out. Loud enough to disturb the neighbors, I was sure.
“Golden boy huh?” he teased, as I rode his hand at a fast pace, plunging up and down vigorously while his thumb circled my clit.
“Homecoming king, valedictorian, captain of the wrestling team,” I panted as I fucked myself on his fingers, “Need I say more?” I added, circling my hips and pressing down on him through his jeans, making sure to brush his hard on with each pass.
“You-ah-never seemed all that impressed in high school.” He said, his voice thick and his hips straining upwards towards mine. But his eyes were confused as he looked into mine.
It made me pause for a second.
“I wasn’t really impressed by your accomplishments. It was your kindness that got to me. The fact that you could be all those things, and a decent human being.” I told him, hand traveling down to rest over his pounding heart. Then I tilted my face up and kissed him softly, sweetly.
He blinked, as I pulled away, his eyes filled with emotion.
“That’s why I always liked you. Because you saw to the heart of a person. You were never impressed with the pointless bullshit.” He whispered, resting his forehead against mine.
I shrugged, I didn’t know if that was really true. I thought everyone tended to be biased and looked at the world from their own perspective. But I knew I saw Peeta clearly. I felt like he saw me clearly too. Mostly.
Peeta inhaled deeply, and released a soft sigh.
“Can I eat you out?” He asked in a soft voice and I made a surprised noise in my throat. I hadn’t been expecting that even though we had discussed it when all this started.
“Um, sure.” I said, squirming a little because his finger was still inside me, and my body was thrumming with pent up energy from the long pause I had instigated in the middle of our activities.
“Ok, lay back.” Peeta said, his voice slightly breathless, excited even.
I did as he asked, laying back until my head hit the couch cushion. He pulled my shorts and underwear off simultaneously. Then he gently pried my knees apart to look at me. I tried not to be self conscious but there was always that awkward moment when someone saw you naked for the first time, that made me want to crawl out of my skin.
Peeta however put me at ease rather quickly.
“Oh Sweetheart, you’re so pretty and wet. So fucking sexy.” He said, tracing my swollen lower lips with his index finger and making me whimper.
Then he licked his finger and moaned.
“I’m gonna love this.” He said before he reached underneath me and hauled me towards him by my ass. He placed my legs on his shoulders and licked his lips before diving in literally face first.
He didn't bother with soft, cautious licks. He gorged on my pussy like there was no tomorrow. I had never been eaten out so enthusiastically, and it showed.
I chanted a chorus of ‘oh my gods’ up at the ceiling while Peeta lapped and sucked and plunged his tongue into me. I felt my muscles and inner walls tightening and throbbing in time with his minstrations. He was thorough, paying equal attention to my clit as he did my hole and even adding his fingers for extra stimulation.
He flicked his tongue back and forth against my clit, while two of his fingers searched inside me for that soft spongy spot that would make me scream. I moaned embarrassingly loud when he finally hit the right spot, but I didn’t come right away.
“Come for me, Katniss. Come all over my face, I wanna feel you squeezing my fucking fingers while they’re inside you!” He commanded, massaging my walls with his fingers, and I was close so, so close, but I had never responded well to commands.
I looked up at him, his blue eyes burning into me as he stared down at me with his face between my legs.
“Make me,” I panted, in a challenging voice, just like the one he used at the bar when he didn’t back down from Gale. “Why don’t you fucking make me come, golden boy?” I said, and his eyes narrowed at me, while his mouth latched onto my clit and he sucked hard, at the same time he rotated his fingers and then curled them inside of me.
I came in a delirious rush then, shouting his name while he licked me through my orgasm.
Peeta pulled back to survey me as my legs fell in boneless heaps on either side of him. My head rolled tiredly as I looked up at his smiling face.
“Did you like that?” He asked smugly. I just rolled my eyes at him.
“Give me a minute, then it’ll be my turn to make you.” I promised and his answering smile was more blinding than the sun.
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prodbyblush · 9 months ago
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hi so pls reconsider sugar daddy dori buying you anything you want !!! tysm <33
now loading …
▒▒▒▒▒▒▒▒▒▒ 100%
ᴄᴏᴍᴘʟᴇᴛᴇ!
・❥・ requested
AN: and because i love megan, here ya goooo
Taglist: @ahahawowwwwww @chishiyaslosthoodie @dorizone @bangtannie7 @fruity-frutta @miniminnie27 @itsmeaudrieee @andreeasancheez @cherriruto @cmterygates @animefan7420 @loevngyuno @x-lulu @greengummyworm @valiirie @aikerx @lowilaufeyson @lily-purple @theyluvmegan @fangrox @kittyoverraven @a-simp-20
→ fem!reader
In public:
• whatever you wanted, dori gets it in a heartbeat • the price? you don't have to worry about it • if you say something like "i really like the color and the design" while looking at a piece of jewelry • dori will buy it for you • whenever you and dori go on dates • he loves picking your outfits for you - from head to tie • boy knows which jewelry pieces go with his chosen outfit for you • the press calls the two of you a fashion icon couple • always wearing what is trending • and sometimes, you and dori start a fashion trend that makes the people go crazy and get it • he brings you to his public and private schedules • always has an arm wrapped around your waist because he doesn't trust other high profile people he is with you • "the scent of jasmine suits you" • when your birthday arrives, expect a ton of gifts from him • always posting pictures of you on his instagram stories • pictures of you on dates eating at high fashion branded cafes (like the louis vuitton cafe in tokyo) • or sometimes pictures of you whenever you go on vacations with him
In private:
• dori is the type of guy who would come home from his schedules and would hand you a paper bag • but this isn't just any paper bag - it's a victoria secret paper bag that has different lingerie sets inside • from lace to silk - it has it all • in nights wherein he can't wait, he'll rip your dress off for you • worried about the price? never mind about it, dori can always get you another one or another dress much better than what you're wearing • likes tying your arms up using chanel ribbons • "aw look at my baby taking my cock so well, such a good girl for me" • this man will literally ruin you • will most definitely have quickies with you inside the separate guest rooms when dori is invited to watch fashion shows • likes holding your hand and intertwining his fingers with you while he ruts inside you • degradations + bdsm • likes holding you close to him after doing the deed • dori is also the type of guy to wake up first • he'll most definitely stay in bed with you longer and just call for room service • hates leaving in the early morning because of his schedules • because he wants to spend more time with you • but when you wake up, dori leaves a sticky note for you to read • " good morning princess, when you read this pack your bags. let's go on a vacation to maldives. love you x "
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(gif is not mine. credits to the rightful owner!)
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dollslayer · a year ago
Text
Botanical Interest - Cicatrix
Mob!Steve Rogers x Florist!reader
Summary: On a much needed vacation with Steve your efforts to befriend Bucky are snubbed as a dangerous accusation is made.
W/C: 6k
Warnings: Smut, smut with feelings, the softest of fluff, mentions of past physical abuse (not explicit), swearing, scars, alcohol consumption, Bucky being a dick lmao
A/N: I'M BACK! I want to send a huge thank you to @stargazingfangirl18 for letting me bounce ideas/ramble/helping me flesh this out a bit more lmao it kicked me back into gear and motivated me to finish this, you rule💖💖 If you liked this then please reblog/comment and let me know! Cheers!
Botanical Interest Masterlist I Main Masterlist
Cicatrix, noun - the scar of a healed wound, (in botany) a mark on a stem left after a leaf or other part has become detached.
His breath was hot as it fanned against your neck in pants. He nipped at the skin before sucking a deep bruise into your sweet spot. You could only whimper while he fucked into you deeply, hitting your cervix in slow languid thrusts. One hand firmly on your hip and the other pinning your wrists above your head. You squirmed under his hold but had no real intention of breaking yourself free.
He was torturing you with these slow thrusts, putting you through the ringer and testing your patience. You knew what would happen if you pushed back though, so you let him take his time knowing that all your pleas would fall on deaf ears. You could practically feel the smirk on his face as he took you.
He pulled away from your neck, satisfied with the mark he’d left behind. Now that he was through with that he could really get to work on you. He gave you no warning at all before he started plowing into you with full force. The sound of skin on skin and your surprised moans fill the room. You’d be embarrassed if Steve’s apartment hadn’t occupied the entire top floor of his building.
The hand that wasn’t holding yours down had found its way to your clit, intent on working you over for the third time in the span of an hour. You were sure that every time Steve took you to bed he’d been trying to break you, not that you really minded though.
“You close again, doll? I can feel your sweet pussy squeezing me like a fuckin’ vice. Come on, cum for me” He huffed out.
With a few final strokes the coil that had been so tightly wound snapped within you. Just a minute later Steve spilled himself inside of you and cried out, slamming in twice more as he finished. Your head was dizzy as you floated in the afterglow. You looked over just in time to see him flop his head down beside you, his body weight rested on top of you.
A smile bloomed across his face as he looked at you, taking in all of your features. You felt shy under his gaze and moved to cover your face with your hands.
“Oh no you don’t” He interjected and grabbed your hands in his and kissed each of your hands.
You were giggling at him and tucked yourself into his side. You sighed in content and thought back on the last month. Ever since you two worked out your differences and Steve came clean about his work you’d been closer than ever. It felt like there wasn’t anything standing between the two of you anymore, all the cards were on the table and for the first time in your life it wasn’t a bad thing.
You sighed into his chest and pecked a kiss to his warm skin. You looked back up at him with the softest smile on your face. Steve looked deep in thought but he still looked content.
“What are you thinkin’ about?” This seemed to rile him from his thoughts.
“Who me? Nothin’, I’m just excited for this weekend. You’re still coming right?”
Summer was officially coming to a close and Labor Day weekend quickly approached you. In light of your makeup with Steve Natasha had invited the pair of you to join her and Bucky at their home in the Hamptons.
“Yeah of course! I’ve just got a small wedding on Friday but there’s no teardown and then I have a consultation on Saturday morning and we’ll be out of here!”
He kissed your forehead.
“Can’t wait.”
____
Friday night had gone off without a hitch, the couple only had 30 guests and the bride was perfectly content with the beautiful bouquets of dahlias and sunflowers you’d made for her. Now it was Saturday morning and you just needed to get this consultation done and Steve would whisk you away. Opening up your schedule on your computer you frowned, realizing that your assistant hadn’t put in a name for the consulting appointment, no matter, you’d just be surprised and that’s alright.
You’d just finished tidying out your cooler when you heard the door ring, your client was a little early but you didn’t mind, the sooner this was over the better. You wiped off your hands and walked to the main room.
A tall man with a slender yet muscular build and short brown hair cropped close to his head turned his attention to you. He had pronounced cheekbones that were only accented by his scruffy facial hair. He was dressed in a suit, definitely not from this part of Brooklyn, probably not from Brooklyn at all. The realization that he looked a bit like your ex hit you and you quickly brushed away the thought. You took a breath and forced a smile on your face.
“Are you here for the 9AM consultation? Sorry, there was no name in my books.” You explain.
“Yes, that’s me,” the man smiles at you but it doesn’t reach his eyes. He reaches out and shakes your hand.
“Great! We can talk back here in my office.” You wave him back.
“Excellent, I’m Brock, by the way.”
____
Trendy boutiques and vegan cafes lined the streets, 20 and 30-somethings milling about with their dogs, probably all aspiring musicians or makers of artisan whatever. Sam didn’t have the patience for any of it. He didn’t want to deal with any hipsters so he sat in the SUV waiting for Clint to come back with the coffees.
Normally they’re not really in this area of Williamsburg but Bucky had them deliver a few reminders to some of their smaller ‘problems’. Bored to death of Facebook he closed his apps and looked up across the street to people watch.
He doesn’t know what exactly he was expecting but it wasn’t Brock Rumlow walking out of a flower shop. Moreover, Brock Rumlow shaking the hand of… Steve’s girlfriend? Sam sat up a little straighter and peered out the window to the point where his nose touched the glass. What in hell?
Sam’s only met you once but everything Steve has ever said was absolutely glowing and Natasha loved you. You were pretty shy at poker night except for when you hustled everyone but you seemed like a good woman to him. There has to be some explanation to whatever’s going on but it’s not his place to find out. It is his place though to let Bucky know about this. He lifted his phone up and snapped a quick picture of the two of you, you’re smiling but you look like you’re trying to make yourself smaller like you’re nervous. What reason do you have to be nervous? What are you up to?
He briefly considered sending the picture to Steve instead of Bucky, see if he could handle the situation and forgo angering Bucky at all. But in his gut Sam knew that something like this had to go straight to the top, especially when it came to Hydra. They’d been laying low for a while so this sudden resurfacing worries Sam, resurfacing with Steve’s girl of all people.
He sighed heavily, explaining the situation and hit send. Bucky’s on vacation right now so he’d probably be extra pissed. He hoped whatever this was is innocent and no one gets into too deep of shit. But he knows better than that.
____
Steve closed the driver’s side door and leaned over the center console to kiss your face. You practically melt into him, relieved to finally be with him and indulge in the holiday weekend. You settled in and put on the playlist you made just for this two hour drive while the city passed you by.
“How’d your appointment go?”
“A little unusual but easy enough. The guy wouldn’t say what he needed the flowers for and he was a little creepy. Kinda reminded me of…”
You trail off, unable to say your ex-fiance’s name. Steve knows what you mean to say and he just nods in understanding. You were so grateful for Steve being so compassionate when it came to your past. He never judged you or thought you were weak, never stared at your scars or pressed you about them.
His right hand comes to rest on your thigh and gives you a light squeeze.
“Well at least it’s over, now we can just relax. I bet you’re looking forward to seeing Nat”
You hummed in affirmation and checked to see how much time you had left til you got there.
It’s not that you weren’t excited for the trip but you still felt a little out of place and it made you nervous. Even though you had decided to fully commit to Steve and his world you weren’t fully accepted yet, didn’t quite have everyone’s approval. Well, you didn’t have Bucky’s approval. There’s been no official indication of it but you just had this deep rooted feeling that Bucky didn’t like you.
You’d confided in Steve about it but he insisted that Bucky’s just a little guarded and he’ll come around. Maybe his pride was a little hurt from being hustled at poker night, maybe that’s just the way that he is. Either way you were determined to make Bucky genuinely smile at least once this weekend.
You’d even gone as far to make plum pie, when Nat had been complaining to you about how Bucky loved it but she was a terrible baker you made a mental note. Maybe you were trying too hard but Steve assured you it was a sweet gesture that he’d really appreciate.
East Hampton was every bit as posh as you’d expected, every house seeming to be bigger than the last. Seeing Bucky and Nat’s estate you could only imagine what their place here looked like. The car pulled down a secluded drive covered by trees and Steve told you you were finally here. The car rolled to a stop in front of a sizely house with a stone facade that looked perfectly antique yet brand new.
Steve strolled up to the set of large French doors and knocked with the bags in tow. One door creaked open to reveal Natasha waiting for you with a splitting grin that you couldn’t help but return.
“You’re finally here!” She pulled you in for a hug that was just a little too tight but you didn’t mind.
Steve gave her a peck on the cheek and a quick embrace before moving everything inside.
“Where’s Buck?”
“Over here, ya punk” Bucky’s voice carries across the large open plan of the first floor. He’s standing in the kitchen with two tumblers of scotch in his hands waiting for Steve to join him.
Your heart was hammering unnecessarily as the two of you approached him, you don’t know why you wanted him to like you so much, you just did. You anxiously presented him the pie and he simply quirked a brow and tilted his head. His lack of response was making you feel worse.
“I-It’s plum pie, Natasha had mentioned that it was your favorite,” You rushed out.
He smiled wide and took the dish from your outstretched hands. He brought you in for a quick one armed hug and when he released you he smiled but it didn’t quite reach his eyes. Damn.
“That’s really sweet of ya, thank you” You smiled and nodded but you only felt slightly relieved.
“Hey! Put your stuff away so we can do shots!” Natasha demanded. Steve just chuckled and headed down the hallway.
____
Evening turned to night as the four of you sat on the back patio, dinner cleared away, drinks topped off, and pie served. Bucky had to admit, it was the next best thing to his mom’s recipe and that was really saying something. He hadn’t said so, but he figured that the three pieces he had were praise enough.
Ever since the conversation he and Steve had at poker night Bucky wasn’t really sure of you. You were nice enough but it was like you completely clouded all of Steve’s judgement. He fell into things so quickly with you and now you knew more about what they did and you’d only been together since the Spring. You brought his strongest man to his knees when you didn’t talk to him for two weeks, something about that hold you had on him didn’t sit right.
Bucky also felt like maybe you didn’t understand the weight of knowing. You were all in but you’d done nothing to prove your loyalty, he had no way of knowing that you were trustworthy, only Steve’s word to defend you. And if he was honest he was still a little sore that you’d hustled him at poker, in front of everyone else no less.
He had to give it to you though, you didn’t ask Steve to go straight and that was a big plus in his book. He’s not sure what Steve would’ve said if you had. He also kinda liked that you were always nervous around him, it’s a feeling he can’t help but relish in no matter who it’s coming from. Maybe there was hope for you to learn your place yet and stand down before you figured out how much power you really had.
But for Steve’s sake he would try his best to get to know you and give you a fair shot. So for now he’d take you in his home, let you drink his wine, he’d even eat your pie. He’d just stay on guard and smile and nod at your stories while trying to enjoy this farce of a weekend.
The only reason Bucky was taking this vacation was for Natasha, she’d been begging to get away and the holiday was the perfect excuse. She’d insisted on him leaving his phone in their room otherwise he’d be chained to it all day. It was a request that had him rolling his eyes but he knew that if there was any emergency they’d call the landline or Steve.
As nice as this time was with everyone he was itching to hear updates on the errands he’d sent Clint and Sam on earlier. He excused himself and went to the bedroom. He was surprised to find no e-mails, no calls, just one text from Sam.
He opened it to find a picture, it took him a minute to make out what it was when he recognized the tall figure smiling at a familiar face. You and Brock fucking Rumlow standing outside your shop. He read Sam’s words carefully.
‘Check-ins went fine. Stopped for coffee and spotted Rumlow. Don’t know what’s going on, maybe you should talk to Steve about it. We’ll patrol all territory for more signs of Hydra until we hear otherwise.’
A rush of emotions passed through Bucky in that moment, confusion gave way to anger and betrayal and ultimately morphed into vindication. He knew there was something off about you. People let their guards down for you, Steve fell into everything with you far too quickly. You were dangerous.
Even Nat was more welcoming than he’d ever imagined she’d be. She’s usually as circumspect as he is and you two were practically texting each other every day, sharing posts and going out to lunch. Who knows what Nat might let slip?
All his thoughts came to a halt when he remembered that Steve had shared everything with you. You knew. Maybe you didn’t know anything specific but you knew enough. And now that Steve’s completely opened himself to you you’ve taken the opportunity to turn right around and gut him. One flap of your doe eyes and Steve was ready to let you tear the entire organization down.
He chucked his phone onto the bed before he could crack the screen. He contemplated how he wanted to go about this. He didn’t want to be the one to break Steve’s heart but he deserved the truth. You deserved to know the truth too, about what happens to traitors.
Not just yet though. He’d have to be delicate in handling it and then bring the situation to swift justice. He’d debated whether he wanted to take you to the basement like all the others and at least try to get some information out of you first or see what he could find out on his own, maybe more could develop in the next few weeks.
He sent a reply to Sam to call a meeting with him and a few others but to keep this under wraps. He needed to be careful about this so as not to embarrass Steve or the syndicate. For now he’d bide his time, keep an ear to the ground for the weekend. He went to his bathroom mirror and schooled his expression to one of calm indifference. He just had to make it to Tuesday and then he could really tackle this.
____
Natasha had you in stitches with all the dirty jokes she was telling you. She became so flirty and inappropriate when she drank but it was kind of exciting if you had to admit it. Steve was a good sport, chuckling along behind his glass.
When you finally caught your breath after her last remark you couldn’t stop smiling, you hadn’t felt this free in so long. It had been years since you’d taken a vacation or really just let yourself have something nice. Your therapist said you needed to learn to reward yourself more since you were still punishing yourself for your past relationship. You’d come so far in the years passed but recovery isn’t linear and you had a hard time not slipping back into old habits.
You took the last sip of your rose and felt it hit your stomach while you took a minute to admire the situation. You felt so full and content sitting outside on one of the last few nights of Summer with people you’d grown closer to. Steve was smiling at you like you were his whole world and it nearly knocked the wind out of you.
Before you could return the smile the sliding glass doors opened and shut behind you. Bucky had returned quietly to his wife’s side with a fresh glass of scotch. You turned to smile at him but you felt frozen as he placed a tense kiss into her hair and shot you a glare of pure ice.
You thought you had him earlier when you were telling the story of how you got suspended from school for punching a kid in defense of your friend. He’d cracked a smile and congratulated you on your delinquency, said you and Steve really were perfect for each other. He even ate three pieces of your pie, he didn’t say he liked it but still, you thought maybe you were making some progress.
Natasha had excused herself to change into something a little warmer and Steve took the opportunity to leave for the restroom. Momentary panic settled in your chest as you realized you were being left alone with Bucky. You had to decide quickly whether you wanted to pretend to look at your phone or attempt to make awkward conversation while he was already pissed.
The sliding door had been closed for all of 5 seconds before the silence consumed you and you caved.
“So do you and Nat-”
“How was your morning?” Bucky interrupted, “Nat said you had business at the shop? Must’ve been pretty important to keep you from your vacation.”
Oh. You hadn’t been expecting him to ask about your work, or ask you anything really.
“Oh, it was just this consultation with this man. He was kinda… I don’t know,” you laughed to keep yourself from wincing too much, “He reminded me of my ex and he’s just… yeah, anyways it was fine”
“Your ex? Sounds like he wasn’t a good guy,” Bucky concludes, “You want me to take him out for you?”
Is he joking? Do mob bosses joke? His smirk was playful but his eyes were empty and it was hard to tell. You let out an uneasy laugh and shook your head.
“Oh no, you don’t have to do that,” you insisted, “Yeah, he’s definitely not a good guy, but I’m sure someone like him is the least of your worries”
Bucky nodded and finished his drink. Before you could broach another unwieldy topic Natasha returned in sweats and hoodie complaining about the phone call she’d just received from her sister. Steve returned not a minute later and sat back in his place behind you, settling a hand on your leg.
You smiled at the comfort it brought and absently reached your hand out to his as Natasha launched into her rant about the latest fiasco with her extended family. The loose neck of the light sweater you wore slipped down your shoulder, you wouldn’t have thought anything of it until you felt Bucky’s eyes on you. You looked at him nervously but didn’t want to challenge him. Turns out you didn’t have to as he interrupted Nat.
“How’d you get that scar? Never noticed it before. Looks pretty nasty.”
You froze as you tried to think of how to explain while everyone’s eyes fell to you, rather to the long scar that started at the edge of your collarbone and up your shoulder. You felt exposed and ugly and had to stop yourself from having a panic attack. You couldn’t tell him the truth though, Steve didn’t even know, not specifically anyway. He just knew who gave them to you.
You don’t owe anyone an explanation of your trauma; your therapist’s words echoed in your head. Your many scars had been the topic of more than one session. You didn’t want people to pity you when they saw you, didn’t want them to look at you like a victim.
“Oh,” You grabbed the neck of your sweater and pulled it back up slowly, pinned under Bucky’s patient yet vacant eyes.
“Just a clumsy mistake I made a few years back.”
“That’s some mistake,” he countered.
Natasha’s eyebrows lifted slightly as she looked at her husband. She placed a firm hand on his forearm in warning to just drop it.
“It looks worse than it was, really. I hardly even remember it’s there.”
Natasha was doing her best not to look like she felt bad and she gave you an apologetic smile. You could feel Steve tensing behind you as he set his glass down on the side table, as if he was waiting for you to do something, bolt like some wild animal that had been cornered. It was exactly how you felt so that’s exactly what you did.
“I think I’m gonna get a shower and then head off to bed, you still wanted to go into town in the morning, right Nat?”
“Yeah, of course. You can help me pick out some new plants for the house! This place could stand to be livened up with your green thumb.” She was trying to cheer you up and you appreciated it. You gave her a weak smile and bid the boys goodnight without so much as a backward glance.
You got undressed and stared at yourself in the mirror. You twisted your body and inspected every scar and mark your ex had left you. In that moment on the patio it felt like they were the only defining trait about you and now you could feel every one humming in your skin. You sighed before bringing your hair up and out of the way, thankful you’d at least washed it this morning so you didn’t have to worry about it now.
The shower must have been a long one because you heard Steve call your name before he entered the bathroom. He poked his head in the shower door and gave you a small smile.
“You okay in here?”
“Oh, yeah sorry, this shower is just so nice, guess I kinda got lost in it” You tried to laugh it off but Steve wasn’t buying it.
“Have you even touched the soap yet?” Shyly looking away, you shook your head.
Steve let out a small sigh and shucked off his clothes before opening the door all the way.
“What are you doing?”
His large hands rested on your shoulders but carefully avoided your scar. He kissed the back of your head softly before moving to kiss the side of your face.
“Let me do the work.”
He gently ushered you under the shower stream while he lathered body wash in his hands.
“Turn around,” he said gently.
You did as he asked and he worked the product into your skin. The amount of care and effort and sheer love that he was putting into such a simple act had you in tears. Large calloused hands that were used to carrying out such violence were taking care of you in the softest and most intimate way. Others may have been put off by the duality of him but you were touched.
He turned the water off and brought you out onto the tile before he started toweling you off. He tried to walk you over to sit on the bed but you stayed in place. You felt like every mark on your skin was raised from the heat of the water, felt them even more. You couldn’t bring yourself to meet Steve’s eye when he placed a warm palm between your shoulder blades.
He turned you around and lifted your chin with one finger. You winced as you tried to hold back tears, you felt so weak in this moment but he just looked at you with nothing but love and understanding.
“I’m, I’m sorry I’m ruining the whole vacation,” you said quietly.
He cradled your face in his hands and ran his thumbs along your cheekbones.
“You’re not ruining anything, trust me,” he gave you a reassuring peck on the forehead, “Come to bed with me”
You silently agreed and let him lay you down on the sheets. He gave you a soft kiss on the lips and trailed his way down your neck and along the collarbone. You almost let yourself relax before you panicked and pushed him away when he was about to reach your scar.
“I- Steve…” you didn’t have the words to finish your plea, too embarrassed to ask him to stop and hoping desperately that he would understand. Sure he’s already seen all your scars but he’d never paid them any special attention, which you’d been grateful for. With all the notice they’d gotten tonight you wanted nothing more than to disappear beneath the sheets.
“You think I’m scared of some scars? They show how tough you are, I’ve seen them all and I love every inch of you. You’re so strong, I love that about you, I could never think any part of you was ugly”
You weren’t totally convinced and he could tell. You hesitated to reply and he took the opportunity to place a feather-light kiss on the long track of scar tissue that ran over your shoulder. You still felt uncomfortable but felt so heavy, you gave into him and ran your hands up his back.
“You are,” He kissed the shell of your ear, “The most beautiful woman, the strongest woman I know,” his lips now on your jaw, “let me show you.”
Something told you that he was right, begged you to give into him because you deserved it. You wanted nothing more than to be the woman he thought you were in this moment. You pulled him into a kiss that was soft and desperate and everything you couldn’t say to him but hoped he knew.
He lifted your arm and turned it gently to kiss one of your smaller scars and look you in the eye. His body shifts a little further down the bed so he can place his lips on your torso. Warm lips covered the soft flesh of your stomach while his hands palmed your breasts briefly on their way to your hips. One last kiss on the scar tissue on your knee before he revisited your thighs and pushed himself further between them.
You involuntarily squirm when he starts putting down open mouth kisses on your inner thigh. He pauses his actions to look up at you.
“Is this okay?”
“Yes” you breathe out, just above a whisper.
It’s all Steve needs to hear before his mouth is on your pussy. His tongue started at the base of your entrance and ended up circling your clit. You gasped in pleasure and buried your hands tentatively in his hair. Normally Steve would be eating you out like a man starved, showing you no mercy but tonight he was really taking his time with you, wanted you to feel every flick of his tongue.
He was building you up to a point where you couldn’t take anymore. You’d fully expected him to draw things out with how he’d been but now that you were close he seemed determined to get you there with no stopping. You’d been trying to stay quiet, knowing that you weren’t alone in the house but Steve was making it incredibly difficult and before you could stop yourself you came with a small cry. All the tension in your body was gone and your back hit the mattress.
“That’s my girl”
For a brief moment it felt like you were floating in the afterglow before you were awakened by Steve’s lips on your neck. He was gently nipping and kissing at your pressure point and it was getting you worked up all over again. Your hands slid up his back feeling every ridge of muscle and bone along the way and landed on his shoulder blades. You turned your head slowly so that you were face to face before you put your lips on his.
You could feel his cock hard against your thigh. He was slowly grinding into you desperately trying to garner some friction. He lets out a small gasp of relief when you wrap your hand around him. You work his length a few times and admire the velvety smoothness of his cock while feeling every hard ridge and vein underneath.
He supported his weight on his forearms on either side of your head while his face hovered just above yours. You spread your legs just a little wider and lifted your hips as you lined him up at your entrance. Slowly he pushed in until he was all the way inside of you. He shuddered at the feeling and took a moment to adjust. His forehead came to rest on yours and he looked at you in a way that made you feel seen, truly and completely.
“You are so beautiful” He whispers.
You were too overwhelmed to respond but you didn’t have to because he had pulled you into another kiss. His tongue was tangling with yours when he began to move inside of you. He took his time, moving slowly at first, just savoring the feeling between you.
When he was moving at such a pace you could feel every inch of him as it came and left you. You keened at the feeling of him slowly hitting that spot just inside of you. Your fingers absentmindedly grazed his and he took the opportunity to weave them together. Your hands were intertwined and he brought them just next to your head.
Your free arm was on his back, keeping you grounded when all you wanted was to keep floating off to where you had gone before. He began to pick up the pace slightly and continued to hit inside of you just right. He was still looking at you as he panted and worked towards both of your releases. You could tell he was close and with the way he was pumping into your G-spot you were too.
He worked you harder without getting rougher, he was so determined for your mutual release and to convey his love for you and your body. You could feel the tension within you build again as you arched your back in anticipation. A few more determined thrusts and you were sent over the edge at the same time that his hips slammed into you before stuttering to a stop.
The two of you were so wrapped up in the pleasure and love you shared as you let the waves of your orgasms crash into you. His forehead touched yours again and when you opened your eyes you were so overwhelmed at the sight of Steve that you felt almost to the verge of tears. He had loved you so openly and completely and he just wanted you to feel that same love for yourself.
“I love you” you confessed quietly.
You kissed him one more time and detangled your hand from his to nestle it in his hair. Finally he broke the kiss and slid out of you, settling himself at your side. The only sound in the room was the two of you trying to catch your breath.
You were gently pulled into his arms and he held you to him. You looked up to meet his eye and rested your chin on his chest. You didn’t even realize you were crying until he swiped a stray tear away with his thumb. He held your face in his hands and a few more tears escaped.
“Thank you”
You could’ve said more but you knew that he understood everything you were thanking him for, he didn’t need you to say it.
When he had finished cleaning the both of you up he returned and sat up in bed holding you against him. You felt yourself drifting in and out of sleep following the steady rise and fall of his chest with every breath.
“I mean it,” he broke the silence, “You are so beautiful and strong. Those scars don’t make you weak, they’re a part of you and I love them just as much as I love the rest of you.”
You still felt a bit bashful about it and the praise you were receiving so you buried your face in his neck.
“I’m sorry tonight ended like it did. It wasn’t right of Bucky to do that. I’ll talk to him”
You shook your head, the last thing you wanted was more attention about any of this.
“Don’t, please” you requested “I’d rather we just forgot the whole thing. I’m sure he didn’t mean to, he was just curious. Lots of people are.”
There was a pause before Steve responded, you could tell it didn’t sit right with him not to say anything but he heaved a sigh and agreed.
“Thank you,” you whispered.
His large hands ran up and down your arms slowly while the two of you sat in bed together. Right now anything that was happening outside of these walls didn’t matter, it was just you two. You’d deal with Bucky and whatever else in the morning.
____
“Don’t call me until it’s done. I want full surveillance detail up and running by Tuesday night.”
Sam gives his affirmation on the other end of the line and Bucky ends the call. He groans as he settles into the couch, his bed for the evening, having been sequestered there by Natasha. Their argument was short as Bucky refused to explain himself, brushing it off as genuine curiosity. He knew that she knew better and that it was more than that but he wasn’t going to give her anything more than a few shrugs and words of indifference.
One night on the couch won’t kill him, but getting through this weekend knowing what he knows might. He needed to keep his cards close to his chest on this one. It was better not to get Steve or Natasha involved, at least not right away. They were too close to the situation, they’d defend you in a heartbeat and what Bucky needed right now was unwavering loyalty. It’d all come to light eventually anyway.
No one messes with his best friend and no one sure as hell crosses Bucky Barnes.
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zawe-daily · 4 months ago
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Zawe Ashton on embracing pre-loved fashion and finding your authentic style
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The actress completely changed her relationship with shopping – now she’s on a mission to inspire others to do the same
Zawe Ashton was ahead of the curve when it came to shopping secondhand. After spending her formative years on the high street, as most teenagers did, the actress discovered a passion for pre-loved fashion when she went to college in London in the early Noughties.
“Secondhand pieces of treasure were the currency,” Zawe Ashton tells me over the phone, reminiscing about those college days. “Vintage was suddenly cool and we spent our time putting outfits together from different eras and scouring vintage and charity shops.”
This fascination with shopping secondhand only intensified when she later moved to Manchester, and found endless inspiration from the city's vibrant Northern Quarter. Ashton worked in one of the area’s biggest hubs for vintage shopping, where she sourced some of her favourite gems to-date and started to experiment with her style.
“As a young drama-school student, I was really beginning to experiment with roles and started to find characters in the vintage I was buying,” she recalls. “I was finding some really precious stuff that I still have today – a vintage Eighties cheerleading outfit that would probably take me a while to wriggle into now,” she laughs. “Another special find is my Jimmy Choo clutch bag. At the time, I'd been nominated for a British Independent Film Award and back then loaning clothes was so new to me and I didn’t have a stylist, so I just relied on the kindness of fashion houses and designers that I formed personal relationships with.” Having borrowed a dress and shoes from a brand, she needed the perfect bag to go with it: she found the dream Jimmy Choo clutch on eBay and picked it up en route to the red carpet. “That was a special pre-loved moment,” she recalls. “It made me realise you’re ultimately in charge of dressing yourself for these events, so you can be more imaginative.”
Being an early champion of secondhand designer fashion made the actress the perfect fit to front eBay's campaign for its new authentication process, which ensures any bag over £500 will now go through rigorous checking in a bid to build consumer confidence.
Following previous successful projects to authenticate watches and sneakers, as of this month, eBay is now working with a team of authenticators who will physically inspect luxury handbags by hand, as well as using specialist machinery. Any designer bags for sale will first be verified by an authenticator, checking that it matches the listing and inspecting the quality, from the stitching to the zippers. All bags will then get an Authenticity Guarantee card to prove their status, and sellers who offer returns get the same verification protection as buyers – allowing users to both shop and sell with certainty.
“I’ve definitely bought a few dud designer pieces [in the past] and I wish I’d had some kind of guarantee to help with that, especially when shopping secondhand online or for the first time,” says Ashton of the partnership.
Of course today, buying pre-loved fashion and contributing to a circular fashion economy is more commonplace than ever before, as we all seek to live more sustainable lives.
“Trends turn over so quickly now,” she says. “You can start to get carried away with it, rather than taking the time to explore what your own sense of style and expression might be.
“The younger generation are really targeted by these fast trends. So if there’s anything I would love to say to that generation, it’s to take a moment to find your authentic expression through how you dress and, while you’re doing that, you could also really be helping the planet that you’re about to inherit.”
Currently, the fashion industry is the second most damaging industry to the planet. The sector accounts for about 8-10 per cent of global carbon emissions and nearly 20 per cent of wastewater. Alarming statistics indeed.
Ashton is all too aware that being more eco-conscious with our habits has never been more vital – and that challenging misconceptions around secondhand shopping is key to promoting mindful purchases.
“Trend cycles have sped up in the past 10 years and we are conditioned to use that as a way of staying relevant,” she says. “Sometimes people are hesitant to step away from the crowd, which I totally understand, but it’s OK to break away from that.”
Celebrities wearing vintage on the red carpet has done wonders for the reputation of secondhand clothing; these are pieces with character, history and a uniqueness that's just not possible to replicate when buying new. But, with so much out there, where should vintage newbies start?
“Pre-loved doesn’t have to be a chore or a slog – it just means you’re authenticating your own journey of consumerism,” says the actress. “You can become more authentically yourself when you think more consciously about our planet, which goes a lot further outside of just shopping.”
“Finding inspiration is a really great start,” advises Ashton, who takes her own inspiration from a variety of sources – from stars whose style she admires, like Alexa Chung and Grace Jones, to the Punk Era or French cinema. “There are so many apps and sites to browse images of different styles and eras and see how people have put together different pieces.”
Aside from shopping secondhand, Ashton makes an effort to be more eco-conscious in other ways. The British actress loves to support sustainable brands and make her existing wardrobe work harder, by mending older pieces that might need some TLC.
“I’m also trying to just buy less and just have a more conscious approach,” she says. “I know it’s really hard to do that, as we are all different heights, dress sizes, and different physicalities. But often you can get pieces tailored. It’s about changing the psychology around shopping; those who previously loved fast fashion might now just be investing in one or two pieces they know will last. That’s the mixture I’m trying to get behind, as well as rental and re-wearing stuff on the red carpet, as that really sends a message.”
When it comes to repeating outfits, A-List stars such as Cate Blanchett and Emma Watson, and even royals like the Duchess of Cambridge, have been known to regularly re-wear dresses to big events, highlighting the importance of making the most of what we already have. So does Ashton feel a sense of responsibility to lead by example?
“We’re really on code red right now and everyone has a responsibility,” Ashton says. “Everyone has their part to play. I think you can’t get away from the fact that if you have a public persona or profile as part of your work, you can’t deny that there is a faster way to spread that vital message. I’m a work in progress; I’m really enjoying the journey of working out how I can work these parts of my job in a different way for the better.
“There’s also a lot of responsibility on big corporations, as the individual citizen can only do so much. I hate the way you can feel unbelievably guilty if you slip up and end up spiralling and feeling bad for your own impact. But you have to remember that huge corporations are actually still so responsible for the majority of issues that we’re facing.”
While things are definitely improving and we’re thankfully seeing more brands prioritising the planet, there’s still a long way to go. “It’s up to the fashion industry to answer the questions of its own accountability,” agrees Ashton. “It’s great to see that the access to rental has improved, [as well as] the quality of rentals, the businesses offsetting their footprints, and the scope of brands available. This will only encourage more people to go down that route. I really hope that continues to grow.”
As for Ashton's own personal journey? It's all centred on mindset. "It's about changing my psychology and helping to change other people’s. I turned an old pair of tights into a headband the other day,” she laughs. “It’s amazing what pops up on your radar when you start to change your psychology. Once you start to think about the terrible landfills, toxic chemicals, and the people who are being used to make these clothes in the most atrocious conditions, you’ll rethink everything.
“It’s really a work in progress that keeps evolving. If there’s a panic-buy you make last minute for a holiday, wedding or interview, you can offset that by buying pre-loved next time or opting for rental. Rewear the garment or tailor it so it becomes a forever piece. This isn’t about making the individual feel guilty, because there’s enough of that. I’m really not perfect and certainly don’t have it all figured out yet, but know that my mindset is really changing and that’s the most important thing.” We couldn’t agree more. (x)
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absolutebl · 4 months ago
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what's your opinion on homophobic actors ? for example the love by chance cast and their scandal with earth? there might be other homophobic ones idk about but I was just using that as a example I still want you're overall thoughts! would you still watch their stuff? or follow them? or another example actors admiting they used bl as a way for clout some people think thats okay and its justified would you agree?
BL Actor Homophobia 
Oh boy. I don't really follow actor drama. Or I try not to. And I kinda don’t want do this, but I guess I should do a sort of official statement thingy. Since this fun silly side blog of mine has sort of gotten bloated and out of my control. 
Like the giant peach. 
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In general, I think it's difficult to understand any celebrity's actual feelings on anything. 
 Sometimes it may not be safe for them to express their true opinion, because of image, brand, business, studio, agency, management, or family concerns or constraints. They may be more supportive or less supportive than we will ever know. Anything that approaches bullying is going to be even more complex because there are so many elements, perspectives, and entities involved. (Although I will always side with the victim.) 
With regards to interview, vlog, or variety show missteps and misspeaks, a lot of BL actors are BABIES, like so young. Tell me you didn't make a stupid fucking idiot statement when you were in your late teens and early 20s. Well, you CAN tell me you didn't, but I won't believe you. I certainly did. I was a pretty lousy human for a while. Queer af but still lousy. 
And a bunch of queers from other countries jumping in and attacking is surely going to change baby boy’s tiny mind... right? Yeah, no. No, it’s not. Multiple studies have shown that attacking someone only drives them into a corner and hardens their sentiments. 
Honestly? I don't think it's ever a good idea to make a hero out of an actor... they are, after all, ACTORS. I mean, come on, you must have meet some of the breed? 
Make a hero of the BL character he portrayed, certainly! But not the actor for goodness sake. He’s only an actor, after all. 
Celebrity turns people... odd. Or maybe it's just that the type of personality that seeks celebrity is innately suspicious? At least to this curmudgeonly introvert. (The fact that I all too often end up dating the fuckers is my terrible judgement and wicked bad taste.)
Where was I?
In most of these cases netizens take everything out of context, or at the very least hugely exaggerate. People pick camps. Yes there are certainly bad apples, but I think about this with kpop a lot, sometimes it's all shades of grey and no celebrity is as evil, or as good, as we want them to be. They're mostly just gloriously shiny narcissistic pricks (affectionate).
Particularly with something like homophobia, the context of identity (or identity erasure or abuse) is very culture specific. With BL we are often talking about places where, until recently, they didn’t even have a word for gay. I don't like to get outraged in general, it's exhausting. But to get outraged about something that some pretty kid said or did, in a language I don't speak, born and raised in a culture I did not grow up in, to a family dynamic I cannot comprehend?
It seems like, considering all the grey areas, I am not really equip to judge.
It's not the same thing, but I'm a long time melody and I often think about what happened to Ilhoon. As an outsider what he went through seems absolutely insane. But I've never lived in South Korea. What the hell do I know? I can only make a judgement call from my safe little nest where (currently) weed is legal and has been for ages. I guess, at the very least being in Kpop should have taught Ilhoon how to be careful enough not to get caught? 
And I guess that's were I do judge.
If the actor is homophobic (by any standards), and acts in BLs, at the very least he shouldn't have gotten his tiny hypocritical arse caught out, now should he? Tut tut on the brand management, fella. Practice a little circumspection. 
Oof. My cynic is showing.
Look, I’m not that bad, I’m just an old tired queer. We’ve been fighting a long time. Can’t I pass the buck (or blunt or cock) along? 
Mostly when one of these stories crosses my radar I just feel sad. And I don't wanna feel that way around BL (or Kpop for that matter), so I try not to even register it's happening. 
Here, you wanna get outraged, get outraged about this: 
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There are major cultural issues in play here, and when this kind of thing happens to an idol on the streets of Seoul, I’d venture to say, there’s society wide systemic problems at the root of of this kind of homophobia, that the homophobe’s are manifesting - like symptoms of a disease. Sure you can treat the pox (with a damp wet white towel, perhaps?), but darlings don’t you think it’s about time we developed a vaccine? (And maybe I think that’s kinda what BL and pop culture can do to culture, if it gets normalized enough.) 
But currently, with these homophobic incidents? We all lose, and we are all to be pitied because of it. 
I love BL because it leads with love, and that’s the best I can practice at this point in my life. Try to talk more about positive BL dramas and less about negative BL actor drama. Try to be a little more loving and a little less outraged. 
That’s it, I don’t have a solution, sorry. Just... perseverance, I guess? su su na and all that.  
(source)
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the-empress-7 · a month ago
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Continuing from post Re- working actress blog.
Comparing the writing style, yes it does seem like Meghan. However the biggest difference is that WA blog (as compared to Tig or get IG) seemed more self aware. The author was all to aware of her flaws, admitted mistakes, showed genuine vulnerability. As we have seen of Meghan, since Canada esp, she has been in the habit of self aggrandizement. Everything is show, over the top. But apart from that there seem to be afew details that are curious -
(I am just pointing out details pre-2013, before suits became famous)
1. Working actress claimed to live in LA. And travelled often for work. MM lived in LA but did not travel much for work. She did not have a steady work assignment and spent much of her time auditioning.
2. WA claimed that we have seen her often enough to know her by face, remember her from shows and family character she had played. We did not know MM back then, nor was she a regular on any show. (But maybe she is talking about deal or no deal?)
3. WA claimed to be single, spent her alone time in a small, not so great appartment by herself, often depressed. Mm was living with Trever, and was in a long term relationship with him since she was in her early 20s. Their flat was quite nice.
4. WA claimed to have had (2?) a boob jobs. That's apparently where the "magical boobs" phrase originated. Mms boobjob isn't documented, but looking at her it doesn't look like she had one. The tell tale signs are not there.
5. WA claimed to have supplemented her income with yatching. She really exploded the underbelly of that side hustle that most actresses resort to. It was all quite sordid. And she hated it. Was often depressed and self loathing because of what she had to resort to before landiy the lead role. For all we know, Mm has not been known to have done this, at least not on actual yatchs in Greece, S. Frace, Cannes. Infact she lived with Trever, so was comfortable in a way. And her dad also helped her with money.
6. WA often described her looks as model like, very tall etc. She used to say that her looks were what helped her in her career. Mm isn't at all supermodel like.
7. She once write a blog about yatching and mentioned that one of the girls who was on the yatch with her was a very famous actress who got into a very bad situation while on the yatch. And hinted that the public knows this actress very well, and she was also one of her costars previously. Best of my knowledge, none of MM costars ever showed up for a premier looking beatup. (Or died mysteriously).
8. Mm never did much modeling work pre-suits. Certainly not fashion shows or big brand shows. Which WA claimed to have done.
9. WA claimed to travel a lot to promote her show. Mm did not do much press till season 3/4 or suits. And suits was shot in Toronto and she stayed in To after shooting. WA claimed to return to LA.
The similarities however, are the writing style (words and phrases). And that WA became a total bitch after landing her lead role.
You have put a lot of thought into this and have certainly given me something to chew on. Regardless of whether it was her or not, the defunct blog is no longer of any remote benefit to her.
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butgilinsky · a year ago
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it's not living if it's not with you // tj
warning; language as usual, a lot of alcohol, and 6k of angst bby
summary; seeing your ex at a halloween party makes for a heartbreaking evening
word count; 6.1k+
a/n; hey bitches, bet you thought you'd seen the last of me(;
add yourself to my nhl taglist!
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It was a bad idea the first time you heard it, the first time she asked. Sirens were going off in your head the moment she sent you the same smile that was always used to persuade you into doing something reckless. It’d been fun in college when the two of you stayed out late and stumbled back home at an hour that could be arguably deemed too early in the morning to be awake. When you were 20 and carefree about almost everything around you, it was fun. Not now, not when the gaping wound in your chest still felt brand new. You knew it was a bad idea, it’d hardly been two months since you’d last seen the team and it didn’t seem bright to throw yourself back into the mix like nothing had happened.
But unfortunately for you, Caroline had some sort of superpower when it came to you. She’d find any reason for you to do things with her, and to be quite honest it hardly ever took all that much convincing, but tonight was different. Tonight, she had spent another hour convincing you that you’d be alright, on top of the two days she’d spent convincing you to come last week. You shouldn’t have been all that surprised that you’d end up here, standing on the cobblestone driveway of the house she just moved into with Nate. It was the first time you’d ever taken an interest in the font of the numbers glued to the front of the house, the same numbers you read over and over again as you tried to convince yourself to step inside.
As if she’d felt you staring from all the way inside, the girl you knew all too well stepped out onto the porch and sent you a knowing look from ten yards away. With her hands on her hips and her eyebrows raised in the air, she knew she was slowly beckoning you into the house with her mind. And it must have been working by the way your feet were slowly moving you towards her. A comforting pair of arms wrapped around your neck once you finally stood close enough for her to reach you, and you felt yourself relax for the first time all day.
She complimented your outfit, a half assed costume you’d pieced together after pacing around your room for forty five minutes and taking two tequila shots. It’d been safe to say that you were not excited about whatever sat behind the door in front of you. She hadn’t even waited for your acceptance of her compliment before her hand was intertwined with yours and tugged you in behind her.
The room held a smokey haze you could only assume was coming from a smoke machine hidden in some nook of the house you’d yet to discover. It took you several seconds to recognize people around you due to their get-ups and you had to shield your eyes from the strobe light in the room beside you. You couldn’t help but comment on the pumpkin wreaths you’d seen on the door just seconds after Caroline shut it, a smile and a cheer of excitement coming from her in response.
Your presence hardly went unnoticed for even a minute. It was as if your arrival to the house had alerted everyone in the house you’d met before because several seconds after you were done listening to Caroline’s process of constructing the orange wreath, you were being lifted up into the air and spun around while caged between two thick arms.
“You’re here! You came!” it was a reflex to hook an elbow around the man’s neck, knowing he would ignore any and all protests to being swung around in the air. It wasn’t unusual for Nate to greet you with such booming excitement. As long as you’d known him, he’d been a happy person that radiated nothing less than sunshine. It was hard to feel glum around Nate, which is part of the reason you were so glad that things between him and Caroline had never ceased to progress.
“Care’s not really one to take no for an answer!” it came out a little softer than you’d expected, dimmed by the music bouncing off the walls, but he’d heard you. The rumble in his chest told you as much before he’d finally returned you to your feet. He knew his girlfriend had many methods of persuading you to join in on the fun you were reluctant to have any part in. Not that you’d normally flaked out on events like these but given the current circumstances, you weren’t thrilled to spend much time in the same room as a majority of the Avs roster.
“Y/N!” your eyes widened as a body barreled into yours, almost twice as aggressively as Nate’s had just moments prior, but how could you be surprised? Mikko had been deprived of your company for far too long and he seemed to be bursting at the seams with things to tell you.
“Mikko!” you yelled back at him, hardly exuding half of the excitement that he was. He put you back down but kept a firm grip on your shoulders, smiling at you like he thought he’d never see you again.
“I’m going to get you a drink.” you were about to say something when a finger pressed itself to your lips and the 6’4 winger ran off in the direction of the kitchen.
Before you could have a moment to think for yourself, Nate was pulling you into a conversation about how your interview had gone the day before. He’d meant to call you about it but by the time he got home yesterday, Caroline had informed him that you had fallen asleep on the phone with her over an hour before. Knowing better than to even attempt to wake you up, he pocketed the question for tonight in hopes that his girlfriend was telling the truth when she said you’d be there.
He was happy to hear that it’d gone well, recalling all of the times he’d witness you freaking out about the very interview. It was a big deal for you, applying to be a nurse at one of the biggest hospitals in the city. It’d been everything you’d dreamed of since you were in middle school watching soap operas with your mom. Now you were here, in Denver, doing the damn thing.
Nate and Caroline couldn’t have been happier for you. They’d watched you grow into the person you are now. Caroline had gotten past the point of seeing you as her little freshman roommate that she grew to love and adore over your first year together. Nate had still called you short stack regardless of begging him to drop the name for going on three years now. They were so happy for you, pursuing your dreams in spite of all that had been thrown at you.
“Nate! You’ve gotta come see this, man. EJ’s convinced he can- Oh shit, sorry.” his eyes couldn’t be broken from their line of sight once he’d seen you. It was like the wind had been knocked out of him, any and all thoughts he previously had now wiped from his mind as he asked himself if he was seeing things correctly. “Hey.”
“Hi.” you forced a not at all convincing smile to the surface, feeling your fingers twitch in anticipation of what the next few hours were going to look like. “Nice hat.”
His hand flew up to the object, somehow forgetting he was even wearing one until now. It sent a wave of uneasiness through him, remembering the first time you’d ever seen the hat in his closet and teased him about it relentlessly.
****
“You weren’t supposed to find that!” he shouted through a mess of laughter, standing on the opposite side of the room as you, his bed creating a roadblock from him moving fast enough to shut the closet door.
“Why? Scared it’s gonna look better on me than you?” you placed the black cowboy hat on your head, pretending to shoot finger guns at him before blowing on them and shoving them back into your nonexistent holster.
It almost made Tyson double over in laughter before you were looping your fingers through your belt loops and pretending to chew on a string of wheat. “I will admit, it suits you.”
“You’re not from around this here town, are ye?” the smile that shot up the corners of his mouth were almost enough to have you break character. The way his cheeks wrinkled from smiling too hard for too long captivated you in every which way.
“You’re in my stomping grounds here, partner.” you bit your lip to suppress the giggle at his awful attempt at a southern accent. He’d call it a failure had you not kneeled on his bed and crawled your way over to his side. Now his hands were on your hips and your noses were less than an inch from one another.
You lifted the hat from your head and put it atop his own, using your fingers to part the hair that had flopped in his face. “So what’s the verdict? Who wore it better?”
With a kiss to the tip of his nose and a playful smile, you shrugged. “It hides the curls too much.”
It wasn’t even a second later that he was looping his arms around you and throwing you down on your back, fingers nipping at your sides until you were laughing so hard your stomach hurt.
****
“Yeah, thanks.” Nate rolled his eyes at the lack of subtlety Tyson possessed, a teasing comment dancing on the tip of his tongue until your savior appeared seconds later with a drink in hand a knowing look in his eyes.
“One tequila sunrise for the lady.” you bit back a laugh at Mikko’s attempt at breaking through the conversation smoothly but accepted the red solo cup held in your direction. The urge to gulp down the entirety of it sat in your chest but you refrained, deciding it would be too telling of your mental state at the moment. “I’ve also been ordered to bring you back to the kitchen with me.”
He offered his elbow out to you and while your fingers twitched in relief to grab onto and let him waltz you away, you were also aware that three pairs of eyes were surveying you carefully. So with ease and patience, you smiled at the three of them and promised you’d find Caroline soon enough as you followed Mikko towards the kitchen.
You were met by a group of boisterous hockey players, varying age and size as they congregated in the room you were being summoned to. Various greetings were thrown in your direction while their captain practically danced you around the room in a hug you felt comfort in. Gabe had been like an older brother to you over the years, after Nate and Mikko of course. He kept your best interest at heart which you always appreciated, but there were some forms of comfort the captain couldn’t provide. He couldn’t fully take your side when things went south a few months ago. He needed to keep his team under control, had to babysit the blubbering idiot, as he called him, out of trouble and in the zone. Gabe had other responsibilities but that never meant he left you behind.
Mikko had made sure you kept a steady drink in your hand, never letting your cup dry before he was pressing a new one into your hand. You had tried to wave him off after a time or two, concerned about how many cups he had you blowing through but amidst your lecture about plastic’s effect on the environment, he explained that he’d been rotating both of your cups back and forth and had therefore not used nearly as much as you had assumed moments prior.
You weren’t sure you’d ever been so grateful for Mikko, noticing the way he would take a step in front of you to shield you from an unwanted pair of eyes or the way his hands grabbed your side every time you wobbled slightly too much. His worry and protective nature for you seemed to come so naturally, like it took no effort at all to make sure you never stumbled too far or felt too vulnerable.
It hadn’t even taken him five minutes to realize your absence had gone on much longer than abnormal pee break. He found you out back, leaning against the side of the house you desperately wish felt more comfortable to you at the moment. With your eyes shut softly and your arms crossed over your chest, Mikko could only assume how you were feeling right now.
“It’s cold out here.” you snorted at his attempt at small talk, a soft smile resting on his lips once you’d cracked open your eyes.
“It’s October in Colorado, ko. We’re lucky we don’t have to wear gloves yet.” his laugh comforted you then, the slight droop in your shoulders not going unnoticed by the boy.
“Well if I know you well enough, which I'm positive I do, you’re about five minutes away from complaining about your nose going numb.” you rolled your eyes but moved from your place against the wall, knowing he wasn’t too far out of reach with that assumption.
“Fine, but I want a drink when we get inside.” he nodded his head then and agreed easily.
It was hard to let go, especially when you couldn’t seem to shake away the image of a curly head of hair out of your mind. All you could think about was the last time you were at one of these parties, Mikko wasn’t your saving grace for the night. It wasn’t the boy from Finland that was making you laugh and lifting your heart up off the ground. Last year your eyes hardly left the boy from Alberta. His hands were planted on your waist for the whole night, teasing lilts pouring out of him while he commented on how pathetic your outfits were.
****
Most of the people scattered throughout the house had put in a decent amount of effort into their costumes. Sure there had been the occasional football jersey played off as a costume, but as the two of you stood in bright orange jumpsuits, it was apparent you had fallen to a last resort. Tyson didn’t seem to mind though, not as his eyes scanned over you one too many times for it to be passed off as “just looking at the jumpsuit”.
After an hour or two of dancing together, you’d retired to a chair amongst your friends that had been previously up for grabs. Tyson took the chair and wasted no time at all before pulling you to sit on one of his thighs before you dove into a playful argument with EJ about which Bad Boys movie was the best.
You hadn’t noticed Tyson’s eyes on you, or the way you were absentmindedly playing with his fingers while you spoke so animatedly to his friends. The fond smile that found its home on his lips made your best friend’s heart soar as she caught the moment in time. You smiled at the feeling of a pair of lips pressed lightly to your shoulder blade and instinctively leaned back into his embrace despite you being in the middle of a sentence in defense of Bad Boys 2.
A familiar melody broke your train of thought though as the bounce of the bass thumped through you. A sharp gasp fell from your lips and before he could even refuse, you were up and pulling Tyson by the hand.
“Baby we just sat down.” he was whining but in all actuality he could never refuse your offer to dance. Especially not when you jutted out your bottom lip and reminded him how much you loved this song.
Sounds of whips cracking and various chirps were thrown out the second he stood up, no hesitation in his movements before there was a middle finger held in their direction. His hands found their home on your hips and while you jumped in place to the best of the song, Tyson couldn’t help but remind you just how much he loved you.
****
Mikko waving his hand in front of your face broke you from your thoughts and pulled you back to reality. Standing in the middle of a new living room in a new costume with the wrong Avalanche player weighed heavily in your chest before you excused yourself to find the bathroom. When a hum of disapproval met your ears you were quick to assure him that you’d be back in a jiffy before turning on your heels and making a break for the stairs.
You were thankful to find the bathroom upstairs unoccupied as you flung yourself inside of it and gripped onto the edge of the sink. The alcohol swimming through your system was surely helping you hear your heartbeat as you tuned out the music shaking the walls. Your grip on the sink tightened hard enough for your fingertips to scream at you to loosen up your hold on it. It was enough to have you let go of the porcelain and your next plan of action was to splash cold water on your face. You had to bring yourself back down to earth, quickly.
A knock at the door told you the universe didn’t quite seem to have that in mind for you though, a familiar voice calling through the door about how much he had to pee. You shut your eyes and let out a deep breath because of course he was the one that needed to use this bathroom right now. His look of shock was evident enough to tell you that he had no idea you were the one inside and before an apology could fall past his lips, you were pushing your way out of the door.
“Y/n, listen-“
“I gave you all the time in the world to explain things to me and you fucked it up.” while he’s not sure what he expected you to say to him, but it definitely wasn’t that. “You ruined everything Cale.”
“I don’t know what I was thinking, I'm so sorry, y/n.” but it wasn’t enough. It wasn’t enough to patch things back together again. He’d had two months to say his piece and while he tried at the beginning, his efforts were sorely misconstrued. He gave up quickly, falling under your exuding intimidation and the fear that you’d out him to the rest of the group.
“I just can’t believe that at this point.” his heart dropped into his stomach and you saw it on his face. You saw the lost boy look in his eyes and the heartbroken puppy dog look. He was breaking in front of you it seemed, and you couldn’t find it in you to try to help piece him back together.
You took one step away from the door before he was dragging you into the bathroom with him and shutting the door behind him.
“You have to listen to me. I don’t know what I was thinking, okay? I- I wasn’t thinking! I was just following my instincts, I didn’t think about what it would lead to and I’m sorry, I swear.” if too little too late had been compressed together and turned into a person, you were convinced it would be the sorry sap in front of you.
“You knew exactly what you were thinking. I love Tyson, I've always loved Tyson. It’s always been him and you knew that. You knew that I wanted to be with him, that I wanted to spend the rest of my life with him and you still ruined it.” his head fell forward in shame, like he had finally accepted the fact that he had indeed played a critical role in the downfall of you and Tyson.
“I just couldn’t pretend like it didn’t matter to me anymore; like you didn’t matter to me.” perhaps if it had been any other day, and other situation, you would’ve softened up at the look in his eyes. You would’ve stepped into his embrace and told him it would all be okay, but Cale had lost that privilege with you a long time ago.
“I never asked for this.” you muttered to yourself, unwarranted guilt hanging heavily in your chest. “I never wanted any of this. I was happy-“
“Were you?” the question cuts through like a thousand degree blade. His eyes have seemingly lost their puppy dog-like quality and are replaced with dark eyes you’d never seen on him before.
Cale was supposed to be the sweet one, the baby of the group that had everyone’s best interest at heart. You thought he’d be kicked around as a young rookie on the team and when he got occasional chirps thrown his way, you’d stick up for him. He helped you set up decorations for holiday parties and you'd help him find his spot in Denver’s hierarchy.
Unbeknownst to you, somewhere along the line Cale’s feelings had moved away from platonic and shoved deep down into a lovesick pool he’d made for himself. You couldn’t say you didn’t feel bad, worried that you’d thrown him mixed signals or led him on unintentionally but those thoughts had been thrown out the second he kissed you. It had been quick and he had apologized for it the second you’d stepped away from him, insisting that you were in a happy relationship with a boy you loved more than anything. He promised it’d never happen again, and you’d promised that you wouldn’t tell Tyson as long as nothing progressed from it. You didn’t need there to be a mess amongst teammates over one misstep on Cale’s part. He was already struggling with his place on the team and you refused to be the wedge between him and his teammates.
Regardless of his apologies and promises to never act similarly again, he did. He still cared about you, still loved you. He hadn’t meant for it to come crashing down all at once, didn’t mean to pour his heart out to you in the middle of a team cookout. All you had gone inside for was a few beers for the table and had been sorely met with a very vulnerable Cale that had recently found his voice.
It wasn’t the confession all on its own that ruined the lot of it though, it was the aftermath. Your rejection shouldn’t have come as a surprise, and you’d done your best to let him down easy while also being stern about your devotion to one of his best friends. He took this, however, as an opportunity to remind you of the problems you had been having with Tyson as of late. It was nothing too serious, just a bump in the road that everyone eventually came across.
Cale saw it differently though, taking the opportunity to tell you all the things that Tyson had said about you when you weren’t there. Most things were said in the heat of the moment, holding no merit to them at all. Cale knew this, but conveniently left that detail out. After all, Tyson had come to him in full confidence that Cale had been a safe space for him to let out everything he didn’t mean.
But it had been a small detail, a somewhat misconstrued statement that Tyson had uttered in a drunken haze months ago after a rough away game. It came in the form of certainty from Cale, the look on his face convincing you more than you wished it would’ve as he muttered, “he doesn’t think you’ll last.”
It hit you like a rollercoaster going full speed, like you’d been pushed off the top of a cliff with no warning. You felt your confidence slipping, your shoulders slumping. Cale was Tyson’s best friend, if he had said it to Cale it had to have meant something to him.
But that’s not what Tyson said. He was in fact listing a constant fear of his, that the arguing would lead to the end. This relationship had been everything to him, and he felt as if he’d been left standing on his own in the middle of nowhere. Cale’s feelings for you mixed with Tyson’s fear of losing you and what you got was a jumbled mess of different truths.
Tyson had been thrown off by your question at the end of the night. He had just wanted to climb into bed and sleep the day off but your question struck a nerve, and his once half asleep mind had completely woken up to the crack in your voice.
“Do you think we’ll end up with different people?” he hadn’t thought that far ahead in all honesty. He hadn’t brought himself to think about what the next step after you was. He hoped he wouldn’t have to come to that conclusion but the waver in your voice let him know something was seriously wrong.
“Why would you ask me that?” if avoiding the answer had been any indication for you, you were certain the tone in his voice told you your answer. “Do you?”
“I think that it’s hard to end up with someone who doesn’t think they’re meant to be with you.” he sighed then, not because you were into something but because he couldn’t help but feel slightly annoyed at your indication that this was the universe’s doing.
“It’s not about who’s meant to be with who. I want to be with you, do you want to be with me?” and you did, he knew you did. He was hoping you’d answer with full confidence and no hesitation that yes, you wanted to be with him. His heart cracked when the confidence never came and instead he got tears and a voice that clearly was fighting the lump in one’s throat.
“I want you to be happy.” his shoulders slumped then as he saw a sad smile stretch across your lips. “All I've ever wanted was for you to be happy, Tys.”
To this day, he’s still not sure why he allowed you to press your hand to his chest and leave him with a soft kiss on the corner of his jaw. It had been the last time he felt your lips on his skin, the last time he’d felt you between his hands.
He still has no idea of Cale’s feelings for you, still has no idea that you were driven to have that conversation. You found no use in telling him something that would lead to the loss of his girlfriend and his best friend in one full sweep. You figured he’d be better off with someone by his side, someone who would be there for him to call if need be.
“I was happier than I'd ever been in my life.” your words cut through Cale’s heart like nothing else he’d ever experienced. He didn’t think he was hurting you by giving you an out. He thought he was helping, thought that maybe after you’d gotten over Tyson, he could help put the pieces back together. He was planning on being there for you, truly, but it wasn’t enough. It wasn’t what you wanted and it wasn’t nearly enough to help.
“And what are you now?” you looked at the boy one last time and gave him the same sad smile you gave Tyson all those nights ago.
“Lonely.” you left him with that, and rubbed the underside of your nose one time before you descended down the stairs and joined Mikko once again.
You found him out back, sitting on half of a loveseat with two drinks by his side. Amidst a conversation with the owners of the house, he noticed the back door slide open and you step out onto the back porch. He smiled at you fondly and motioned to the empty seat beside him with a drink that had your name on it. You could feel your heart swell at the gesture and while you were determined to soak in it for the time being, you found yourself taking the drink from him and gulping it down in no time.
“Oh shit.” Nate mumbled to himself, his fingers dancing on his thigh as he saw the pain swimming in your eyes. You smiled fondly at him before falling beside your friend and laid your head on his shoulder.
“I put like four shots in that drink.” Mikko gaped at you before you merely shrugged your shoulders and let your eyes wander across the lawn to find the mop of curls you’d so efficiently avoided all night.
“It was good.” you tapped Mikko’s chest softly just before a familiar laugh swam through your ears. You sighed at the sound, almost finding comfort in it after not hearing it for so long. It had been your favorite sound on earth, the only thing that never failed to warm your heart and make you smile. Now it wasn’t yours to relish in, but yours to witness from afar. The smile that matched it wasn’t yours to hold and wasn’t your doing. You were merely a bystander to the joy that Tyson was exuding and while there had been a slight weight of pain in your chest, you couldn’t help but beam at the happiness you were witnessing.
“He looks happy.” you mumbled to yourself, catching Nate beam at you from your peripheral vision.
“He’s back on his feet.” Nate spared his teammate of the gory details of Tyson showing up to practice hungover and exhausted for days on end. He left out the part where Tyson had a breakdown in the locker room after he’d claim to cost them the game. You didn’t need to know about those parts of the story, not when you looked so happy at seeing him happy.
“That’s good. He deserves to be happy.” Nate just nodded along with you while Mikko kissed the top of your head in an attempt to pull your eyes away from your ex.
The two of them were quick to dive into a conversation about their next game and while you began listening to every word and even playing along, somewhere down the road you found yourself looking at Tyson again. His lips still held a smile as he and EJ did an awful attempt at a square dance and you couldn’t help but smile fondly at the sight. Tyson shook his hips and kicked his feet up to the beat of a country song you couldn’t quite hear and before you knew it, his eyes were locked with yours and his smile was falling ever so slightly.
You shook your head to clear your thoughts and excused yourself from the group and felt Caroline’s hand squeeze your thigh softly before you stood up and whisked yourself away. Tyson’s smile had completely washed away by that point and he was across the yard to find you walking around the side of it in no time.
“Y/n-“
“Don’t, please.” you couldn’t do this, you couldn’t give him a moment because you’d fall back into his embrace. You knew you would, you’d never had much self restraint when it came to Tyson.
“Baby please just listen to me.” you shuddered at the nickname, a chill running down your spine when his hand found yours. His fingers interlocked with yours and while you could feel your muscles relaxing, your heart rate was picking up simultaneously.
“Tys we’ve been down this road.” he remembered the night you spent together after you’d broken up. He remembered knocking on your door at one in the morning wanting to talk and slipping out just a few hours later with his shirt inside out. He remembered saying things he didn’t mean and leaving before he made a fool of himself when in all actuality, him leaving had been the most hurtful part of it all.
“It’s not like that this time. I swear honey, please. I need you to listen.” his hand on your cheek and fingertips softly caressing your skin had you instinctively leaning into his touch. He took this as a sign to keep going. “I don’t think there’s anyone else in the entire world that could fill the void that you left me with.” when your eyes narrowed and confusion presented itself he tried to backtrack. “That’s not what I meant. Not that you left me with a void, because you didn’t really leave, I know that- that’s now what I-“
“Tys.” you whispered softly, bringing his eyes to yours and ceasing his rambling. “Just say what you need to say.”
“I can’t do this without you. You’re it for me, you know? You’re the moon and all of the stars. You’re the cup of fresh coffee in the morning and the sun on a cloudy day. There’s no one else, there’ll never be anyone else. You’re it for me. You’re meant for me.” you were looking in his eyes intently, searching for alcohol driven thoughts and any justification that this was fueled by anything other than truth. You found nothing, not a trace of hesitation or uncertainty lying within the heart of Tyson Jost.
“What about everything said and done? What about the crippling fear that things were going south before they could ruin us for good?” your use of his past words made him flinch, regret flooding his mind in a matter of seconds.
“I was scared, I still am. I’m scared that things won’t work and I’m scared that it’ll all come crashing down again but now I know why. I’m scared because you’re it. You’re the one I'm supposed to be with, the girl of my dreams. I want to- I need to spend the rest of my life with you. Everything else is pointless, nothing else matters. But nothing in the world matters if I can’t live life with you.” you tried to tell yourself you were dreaming, that you were making all of this up but the feeling of thumb prints on your cheek bones was enough to pull you from that thought.
“I can’t just pretend nothing happened between us.” and he told you that you didn’t have to, that he wouldn’t expect that from you. He promised to work towards what the two of you had, to work through the bumps in the road before turning on cruise control.
It all would’ve been sunshine and flowers to you had you not had the nagging thought in the back of your mind that you still had to deal with Cale’s feelings and actions towards you. Things wouldn’t go back to normal even if you and Tyson tried.
“Just give me a shot. Give us a shot.” he was begging, pleading with you to agree to this. “No guarantees needed, just one try, one more go at it. I need to try one more time.” the spark in his eyes was almost enough to pull you back in, to have you falling at his feet and agreeing to this one last chance.
You were torn. On one hand Tyson was everything, this was everything, but things had been said and done that you’re not sure you’d ever recover from. Could you be around Tyson and Cale anymore? Could you be with Tyson without telling him everything that had happened with Cale? You didn’t have these answers, nor did you have any solutions. All you had was your mind going at a mile a minute and your heart following close behind. You wanted to try with Tyson but something was telling you that it wasn’t a good idea, that things would get a lot worse before they got any better.
But then you looked into his eyes and you saw the happy boy you’d fallen in love with all those years ago and you felt yourself split down the middle. On one hand this is everything you’ve wanted for the entirety of your time away from him. On the other, your gut told you this was a bad decision, that things would go south quicker than you could ever imagine.
“Just let me take you on one date.” he gave you that sweet look you caved into every time in hopes you’d still fall for it just as hard as before but the nagging voice in the back of your mind told you to tread lightly.
You were utterly and completely torn down the middle.
-
I know a few of you have changed your @ since i've posted/made my taglist so if it's different and you want me to change it just lmk lovelies
tyson jost taglist; @extratragic @pierreslucdubois @dmonchld @beauvibaby @honeybearbarzal @oilers2997 @cowboysarecool @nhlindblom @anxietyandtacos @sortagaysortahigh @besthockeyfics @stars-canucks @xserenax-13
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birinboom · 4 months ago
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Heat Haze ✦ Rengoku Kyoujurou x Fem!Reader
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Fandom: Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba
Genre: Kimetsu Academy!AU, fluff, pining, light angst, romance, spice
Parings: Fem!Reader x Rengoku Kyoujurou
Minor Characters: Kochou Kanae, Rengoku Senjurou, Rengoku Shinjurou, Rengoku Ruka
About the Reader: The reader is in her early 20’s, with Kyoujurou being a couple of years older. She teaches Japanese, loves literature, drinks a bit too much coffee, and is lactose intolerant. Kyoujurou eventually refers to her as ‘my sweet’.
Trigger warnings (all under the cut): Food/eating, very brief mention of past pregnancy (not related to the reader), minor injuries and blood (the reader twists an ankle, she gets exhausted to the point of fainting and suffers a nose bleed, Senjurou sustains an unspecified minor knee injury), alcohol, (drunken) kissing, implied sex. This fic teeters on the edge of NSFW, but I don’t believe that it crosses the line. If I’m wrong then please let me know and I’ll tag it as such.
Word Count: 16,134
Summary: As a brand new teacher, fresh out of university, you’re excited to finally start working and getting to know your students and colleagues of Kimetsu Academy. One colleague in particular catches your eye: the fiery, passionate history teacher who happens to take the same train as you every morning.
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The administrative director of Kimetsu Academy - Ubuyashiki Kagaya - surveyed you, fingers steepled under his chin, a mild smile on his lips. You forced yourself to sit still and not squirm in the chair. The interview for the position as Japanese teacher was nearly over. Or at least you hoped it was. 
Ubuyashiki's smile widened as he rose from his chair. “Well, I see no need to drag this out any longer.” Extending his hand to you, he added, “Welcome to the academy!” 
You gaped at him for a second before gathering yourself up and grabbing his outstretched hand. Was it really that easy? 
“I know what you must be thinking,” he said as he moved away from his desk, “you had imagined that it would be more difficult to find a position when you have no experience. Personally, I think that new teachers are just wonderful, filled to the brim with ambitions and hope for their future students. And I wish to cultivate that hope.” Turning back to you, he added, “Experience can be gained anywhere, so why not here? The headmistress and I pride ourselves at ensuring that Kimetsu Academy is the perfect first position for new teachers. And we will be lucky to have you join us!” 
You couldn’t do anything but nod as you got to your feet, overcome with the quiet benevolence this man exuded.  
He led you back to the teacher’s lounge.  
“Let’s get you introduced to some of your new colleagues,” he said. Then he turned, addressing the room at large, “Everybody, may I have your attention please?” 
He had barely raised his voice. Yet his soft words made the quiet chatter and scratching of pens stop immediately. 
You stood next to him, trying your best not to look like an overwhelmed child as he introduced you to the few people in the room. Forcing your back straight, you kept repeating to yourself that you weren’t a student in trouble. Even if you’d only recently graduated university and gotten your teaching certificate, you were still an adult - just like them. 
A woman with two butterfly clips in her black hair came up to greet you. She introduced herself as Kochou Kanae, the biology teacher. 
“If you’re not busy, Kanae, would you be kind enough to show our newest teacher around?” Ubuyashiki asked. 
She smiled, purple eyes twinkling. “Certainly, Sir. I’m sure we’ll get along famously.” 
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“We’ll start with the laboratories,” Kochou said, leading you away from the teachers’ lounge. Sending you an impish smile, she added, “That’s my domain, where I rule as an evil queen, torturing my students with boring lectures on allelomorphs and phenotypic traits. At least that’s what some of them claim I do.” 
When you gave her a blank look, she laughed. 
“My, my, I suppose my students are right in their assessment of me, then. The evil biology queen on her throne of boring textbooks.” 
A fond smile spread over your face. “I guess my students are going to say the same things about me. I remember most of my peers in school found Japanese literature boring. I never fully understood them.” 
“I thought the same when my classmates complained about our biology lessons!” Kochou said. “I always thought they were so fascinating. And that’s why we become teachers, you and I - we want to pass on our passion about our subjects!” 
You were really starting to like Kochou. Her easy-going personality felt like a breath of fresh air. 
As she turned to open the door to the biology lab, a ray of March sunlight caught one of her green and pink butterfly clips, making it sparkle.   
“I love your hair clips, Kochou-sensei,” you said. “Where did you get them?” 
Kochou turned to you again, seemingly puzzled for a moment, before she smiled. “Please don’t call me ‘sensei’, we’re about to be colleagues. ‘Kochou-san’ will do just fine. And these…” She reached up to touch the clips. “I make them myself. I’ve given some out to the members of the flower arranging club, too, since I’m their advisor; it’s like a little inside joke for us. The oldest of my younger sisters has one as well, though she’s not a member of the club.” 
“Oh, that’s so sweet! So your sister is a student here? What year is she in?” 
Kochou smiled again. “Shinobu will start her final year of high school next year. She’ll have to give up her position as president of the pharmaceuticals research club soon so she can prepare for her university entrance exams. And my youngest sister, Kanao, is here, too! She’ll start her second year of high school.” Letting out a sigh, she added, “They grow up so fast… ” 
The two of you chatted while she showed you around, introducing you to any staff members you came across. You paused briefly outside a classroom, the booming voice of the teacher piquing your curiosity. 
“That’s Rengoku, the history teacher,” Kochou said as the two of you peered in through the glass pane in the door. 
“Is he always this loud?” you asked, casting one last glance into the classroom before you moved on, wondering if he ever disturbed the classes next door. 
“Not always, but…” Kochou hid a giggle behind her hand. “He’s very enthusiastic; he often gets completely caught up in his lessons. If you ever have trouble being heard properly in class, you should ask him for some pointers. Just be warned, though…” She leveled you with a more serious gaze. “He will make you practice in front of him.” 
“Sounds like you’ve been through that already.” 
She giggled again. “I have! We started teaching the same year, and I had some trouble making my voice carry enough. Rengoku put me through the wringer; I could barely speak afterwards.” 
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As the two of you were descending the stairs of the high school building, heading back to the teachers’ lounge, you spotted the history teacher again. He was a couple of steps in front of you, pushing open the doors to exit the building.
“Rengoku-san,” Kochou called as she hurried towards him, “Do you have a moment?”
He turned, holding the door open. “Kochou, good morning! How are you on this fine day? And who is this?” 
Joining him in the small courtyard between the buildings, Kochou introduced you to him. The smile he sent you made your knees feel just the tiniest bit weak.  
“Our new Japanese teacher, huh?” he said. “It’s a pleasure to meet you! Let me know if you ever want to coordinate our lesson plans.” Turning back to Kochou, he asked, “Are you two heading to the teachers’ lounge?” 
When Kochou confirmed, Rengoku beamed, first at her, then at you.  
“Me too! I forgot the print-outs I made for my class this morning!” He let out a resounding laugh, the echo of it reverberating between the buildings.  
“Rengoku-san!” Kochou scolded. “Not so loud, you’ll disturb the other classes!” 
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Saying your goodbyes to the teachers, you let them know how much you were looking forward to working alongside them come April. You didn’t notice how Rengoku deliberately lingered in the teachers’ lounge, delaying his return to his class.
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Fastening the last button of your dress shirt, you scrutinized your reflection. You wanted to look your best on your first day of work. Nervousness coursed through your body, making you brush invisible motes of dust off your clothes. Was this normal? It seemed worse than you’d ever felt on the first day of new classes at school, or even when you’d started your part-time jobs. Surely, standing in front of a group of teenagers, having their undivided attention on you as you tried to imprint knowledge on them shouldn’t be so terrifying… right?  
You let out a shaky breath. Being a teacher was something you’d dreamt of since your own school days. You wanted to impart your passion for literature to your students and guide them as they grew into proper adults… And you were going to excel at it, nerves be damned! 
In an attempt to ground yourself, you thought back to the few teachers you remembered meeting at the academy, trying your best to recall what had made them stand out and what you could learn from them. 
You remembered Kochou clearly, her sweet expression and pretty butterfly hair clips cemented in your mind. She seemed so amiable - when she showed you around the academy, every student and staff member you’d passed had greeted her with a smile. You would like to be just as well liked some day. 
There was Shinazugawa, the loud and hot-tempered math teacher who made you thankful that the teachers you’d had in school had been much more agreeable. His temper was definitely something you didn’t want to imitate; you would prefer your students to be comfortable with you. But expecting them to do their very best would be a good thing to incorporate into your own teaching methods. 
The art teacher, Uzui, had seemed somewhat out of place with his flashy makeup and choice of clothes. Though you were relieved that the dress code for the teachers wasn’t terribly formal. Maybe you could dress a little more casually, too, once you got settled. 
And Himejima, the exceptionally tall and muscular civics teacher, who you had - quite literally - run into when you turned a corner. You’d been terrified of how he’d react at first, but he had turned out to be more worried about whether you’d gotten hurt than the stack of papers you’d caused him to drop. That kindness and concern for others was definitely something you’d like to display, too. 
The last one you remembered clearly was the chemistry teacher, Iguro, the lower half of his face covered by a mask. Kochou had told you that Iguro was prone to allergies so he always wore a mask to try to prevent himself from getting too sick. He had made you realize that you ought to take more care of your own health, too. You wanted to be strong and thriving so you could be present for your students when they needed you. 
The rest of the teachers were a bit of a blur. You remembered seeing the sleepy-eyed physical education teacher, Tomioka, as you and Kochou passed by the gymnasium, his hair dark and unruly. But that was all you remembered about him. 
Another loud voice - much more cheerful and enthusiastic than that of Shinazugawa - dug its way up from the depth of your memories. You couldn’t put a face to it. Shrugging, you grabbed your bag. You’d meet this teacher again soon enough, and once you got to know him better you could try to incorporate his enthusiasm into your own lessons.
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The train car was jam-packed. Not that you’d expected anything else; it had always been equally as packed when you'd gone to your early morning classes or work shifts. The train pulled into a station and the crowd shifted around to let people off. Letting your eyes glide over the mass as it moved, your gaze landed on someone familiar. You could swear that you’d seen that mane of blonde and red hair and those dark, bushy eyebrows before.  
The man held a book in front of his face, preventing you from taking a closer look at his features. Still, there was something very familiar about him. Then it hit you: the history teacher from the academy, the one with the vibrant voice. You remembered being able to hear every word he spoke to his class clearly, even through the closed door. It had to be him. There was no way that anybody would have that same odd combination of hair and eyebrows. 
Heat threatened to creep into your cheeks when you thought back on the sunny smile he’d sent you. Odd that you’d managed to forget him at all. You couldn’t help but wonder if he smiled at everybody like that… or if it had been a special smile for you. Closing your eyes for a moment, you mentally shook your head. Of course it wasn’t special, he didn’t even know you yet. 
Opening your eyes again, you watched intently as he lowered his book for a moment to turn the page. It only made you more certain that it really was him. You couldn’t help but feel a sense of giddiness that one of your new colleagues took the same train as you. Now you would have someone to talk to on your commute! Hopefully, he’d feel just as happy about some company; he had seemed like the type to enjoy having someone to talk to. 
When he raised the book again, you turned your focus to the cover. A young girl held onto an armful of sunflowers as she beamed at anybody who would pay her any attention. You were too far away to read the title next to her, but it looked like a standard comedy manga. 
Lowering the book again, he flicked another page. You kept looking at him, trying to recall his name. Then, as if he could feel your gaze, he raised his head, locking eyes with you. You looked at each other for a long moment, neither of you moving. The heat you’d been fighting to keep down crept into your cheeks, much to your chagrin. You’d been caught staring. Finally, his name popped into your mind. Rengoku, purgatory, a prison made of fire hot enough to use for smelting. It somehow seemed appropriate with how intense his gaze was. The air almost seemed like it shimmered around him from the fire in his eyes. 
Then a brilliant smile grew on his face, like the sun coming out behind the clouds. You saw him draw in a breath, as if he was planning on addressing you across the sea of people, but a tall  man moved in between you, blocking the view. Letting out a breath you hadn’t known you were holding back, you sagged with the relief of being let go from his gaze. You couldn’t believe you’d been caught like that. Now, at least, you would have a moment to think of a good excuse for why you were staring so unabashedly at him.  
However, if you had been able to see how Rengoku rose to his toes, stretching and craning his neck in an attempt to catch your eyes again, you’d have realized that your embarrassment was completely unfounded.
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He waited for you on the platform, letting the crowd push past him. His gaze on you felt like a spotlight. Your cheeks grew hot again as you tried to remember how to walk casually. One foot in front of the other. Were your arms too stiff? Or were they swinging too much? You couldn’t tell anymore. 
Hearing your name called out in that loud voice almost made you jump. You swallowed hard when you saw that same sunny smile - just like the one which had made your knees weak that day - gracing his features once more. How did words work again? Were they supposed to be in any specific order, or could you just let out whatever gibberish your muddled brain was forming? 
Finally, after what felt like hours of moving in slow motion, you reached him. He fell into step next to you as you started down the stairs to the street. 
“Fancy meeting you here!” he said. “If I had known that you’d take the same train as me, I would’ve kept my eyes peeled!” 
His voice was softer than you remembered it from last time, but just as vibrant. The laugh he let out tugged at the corners of your lips, your nerves slowly vanishing like mist in the sunlight. 
“I’m so happy to see a friendly face,” you admitted. “It’ll make the commute so much more pleasant. If you wouldn’t mind spending it with me, that is.” 
He beamed at you again. “It would be my pleasure!!” 
“I’m sorry for staring at you like that, I just--” 
He interrupted you before you could finish your apology. 
“Nonsense, you have nothing to apologize for! Kochou told me that you’re a fan of literature so of course you’d be interested in my book!” 
Book … You’d almost managed to forget the manga he’d been reading from the sheer embarrassment. But you grabbed at the straw he offered you. 
“Yes! It looked very…” You fought to find a word that would describe your assumption of the story. “Light-hearted,” you finally said. Was that really the best you could come up with?  
Rengoku didn’t seem to mind your current lack of conversational skills. “It is!” he said, grinning. “Very endearing, too!” 
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You learned a lot about Rengoku on the walk to the academy. Like how he lived a bit further out in the suburbs than you, meaning that he got on the train a few stops before you did. And how his mother taught calligraphy at a community center, and his father ran a kendo dojo adjacent to their home. 
“Seems like your whole family are teachers of some kind,” you said. 
“We are! Well, with the exception of my younger brother. He starts at the academy today! Our parents are driving him to school this morning, but he’ll be taking the train from now on. He’s been talking my ear off about how excited he is, both to commute with me and to have me as a teacher!!” 
You couldn’t help but wonder if the younger Rengoku would be just as vibrant as his older brother. The thought of a middle schooler laughing like Rengoku did made you hide a smile behind your hand. 
“Is he expected to become a teacher too?” you asked, trying to get the silly image out of your head. 
Rengoku shook his head vehemently. “Senjurou needs to find his own calling! If that ends up being teaching, then that’s great! But it’ll be just as great if he sticks with what he currently wants.” 
“And what is that?” 
“A librarian. Senjurou loves to read! He’s been talking about joining the literature club at the academy.” Pausing, Rengoku got a thoughtful look on his face. “Though the advisor of the literature club just retired. They’ll have to find someone new.” 
“Maybe I ought to take over as the advisor,” you thought out loud. 
Rengoku gave you another one of his brilliant smiles. “That would be perfect! I’m certain the students would greatly appreciate it!”
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When you first saw Senjurou - on your way home that same afternoon - all you could do was stare at him for a moment. His hair was shorter, and his eyebrows slanted down at the outer corners of his eyes, giving him a more open and innocent look. But beyond that, he was the spitting image of his older brother. You hadn’t imagined that it could be possible. 
Senjurou just blinked back at you, while Rengoku chuckled at your reaction.  
“Isn’t it amazing how much we look alike? I’m certain Kochou would disagree with me, but I believe it’s due to the kankagari ritual performed in my family!” 
You looked at him in puzzlement. “Kankagari? I’m not familiar with that ritual.” 
“When our mother was pregnant with each of us she would meditate in front of a burning torch.” Tugging on a lock of his flame-colored hair, Rengoku continued, “That’s why our hair and eyes turn out like this! Our father and paternal grandfather both look the same as we do! And their mothers also performed the same ritual!!” 
You let out a laugh. “Yeah, I’m sure Kochou would disagree with you on that reasoning.”
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Senjurou only joined your morning commute for a couple of weeks. One day, you found Rengoku alone. 
“Where’s your brother?” you asked. “Is he sick today?”
 Rengoku shook his head, a sad smile spreading over his face. “No, he took an earlier train so he could spend the time with his new friends. He’s growing up to be so independent!” Looking away, he mumbled, “I guess he’s getting to that age where he won’t need me anymore.”
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Commuting with Rengoku quickly became a habit - one you enjoyed every second of. Well, nearly every second… 
One morning, a businessman managed to elbow you squarely in the back, shoving you into another passenger. The man barely apologized before he hurried off the train, blind to the tears of pain brimming in your eyes. Rengoku reached an arm out to keep you steady, all the while glaring daggers at the man. The air around him once again seemed to shimmer like a heat haze from the intensity in his eyes. 
The next morning you found Rengoku leaning against the railing next to the doors. As soon as he saw you, that beaming smile - which always brightened your day - spread across his face and he moved away from the railing, offering the spot to you, and taking the spot directly next to you. 
“That way, if anybody gets hurt it’ll be me!” he grinned. “And I usually get a proper apology out of people!”
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Rengoku always had something interesting to tell you during your commute, whether he talked about some article he’d read, or something funny that had happened at his home, or an anecdote about one of his favorite historical characters. And the enthusiasm he always displayed stayed with you, even when he wasn’t present. Slowly but surely, you started falling for him. Which meant that the first time you had to commute without Rengoku’s company, only a month after your shared commute had begun, the packed train car felt surprisingly lonely and almost… empty. You had gotten so used to his vibrant voice, so used to his fiery gaze resting on you, that everything felt colorless and dull without him.  
He’d told you the day before that he needed to go in early that morning, but he hadn’t told you why. Just winked at you and said that it would be a surprise. You couldn’t even begin to imagine what kind of surprise it might be.
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He wasn’t in the teachers’ lounge when you arrived. But on your desk sat a cup from the local café, along with a handwritten note from Rengoku. 
Congratulations on your first month of work! I know you use creamer in your coffee, so I got you a latte. 
His handwriting was surprisingly neat. You weren’t sure why it surprised you, what with his mother being a calligraphy teacher. Casting one last glance at the note, a smile playing on your lips, you carefully slipped it into your bag. It’d be a nice thing to look at the next time you doubted yourself. 
You turned your attention to the cup, your smile slowly disappearing. It was such a sweet gesture, something that made your heart beat a bit faster… but you couldn’t drink it. You couldn’t really blame him for not having noticed that the creamer you always used was dairy-free. Drinking this would seriously mess up your stomach. 
Kochou slipped into the seat next to you, sipping on her own coffee. The cup was from the same café as yours. Odd… Then again, a lot of the teachers got their coffee there regularly. 
She motioned to the coffee on your desk. “Oh, perfect, you got one as well. I was somewhat worried that Rengoku would forget you.” 
Her words just puzzled you even more. 
“What do you mean, ‘forget me’?” 
Kochou sent you one of her soft smiles. “Rengoku insists on buying all of us coffee at the end of every month. He says that it boosts morale and camaraderie. I’m not quite sure about the last part… But I was worried that he’d forget about you since you’re new. He can be rather absentminded at times.” 
“Oh.” You looked down at your hands, feeling your heart sink. It hadn’t been a surprise just for you. It wasn’t really a surprise when it came to the other teachers, you supposed. Still, it had felt nice to think that he’d done something just for you. 
Kochou peered at you. “Are you alright? You seem sad all of a sudden.” 
“It’s just…” You looked up again, forcing a smile. “I feel so bad. I can’t drink the coffee he got me. It has regular milk in it and I’m lactose intolerant…” 
“Lactose intolerant?!” 
The outburst came from behind you. When you turned, you saw Rengoku, his eyes blown wide with shock. 
You sent him a pained smile. “Yeah. Sorry, but I can’t drink it.” 
“Don’t apologize, it’s on me for not asking! Do you want mine instead? I haven’t touched it yet.” 
You shook your head. “No, it’s fine, I couldn’t take your coffee.” 
“I insist!! I couldn’t possibly let you be the only one without a beverage when I’ve bought one for everyone else! Mine has no creamer, but it does have brown sugar, is that alright?” 
You gave up on arguing with him. Your mother had always told you to pick your battles, and Rengoku seemed determined that you’d get some form of beverage. The last thing you wanted was him going back to the café to buy you another coffee. And if you knew Rengoku well enough - and you liked to think that you did at this point - that would be his next offer if you kept declining. 
Well… brown sugar sounded pretty interesting. And if you were very honest with yourself, you liked the idea of drinking the coffee Rengoku had picked for himself. The thought of him willingly sharing something with you - even if he was never going to have his own share - made a little ball of happiness blaze in your stomach.
Switching your coffees, Rengoku sat down on your free side. “I apologize about that! I’ll make sure to ask you what to get next time!”
“You really don’t have to get me anything,” you tried.
“Nonsense! Everybody gets something!”
“Isn’t it too expensive?”
He grinned at you. “I can manage! Still living with my parents means that I can save the majority of my paycheck, so giving my colleagues a treat is my pleasure!”
Taking a sip of your new coffee, you let out a hum of surprise. The brown sugar gave it a slightly burnt, almost caramel-like flavor. 
Rengoku beamed at you. “Tasty, isn’t it?”
You nodded. “I never expected it to be this delicious. Do you always drink it like this?”
“I do! It’s one of my favorite things!!”
You let out a soft, contemplative hum as you took another sip of your coffee. This was a tidbit that you could use to pay him back for all the generosity he had shown you. 
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You didn’t set your plan fully into motion until mid June. Getting onto the train, Rengoku offered you his spot against the railing, as he always did. 
You handed him the travel mug in your hands. 
“This is for you,” you said. “I thought I ought to give you something since you’re buying me coffees every month. And since you’re spending all of your morning commutes with me. I meant to give it to you much sooner, but it took me a while to get the recipe working.”
Raising an eyebrow at you, he opened it and sniffed at the contents. “Iced coffee?”
You nodded. “Yeah, with brown sugar and some spices.”
“I really appreciate the thought, but you don’t have to give me anything! You’re an interesting person; I’m quite happy to spend my commutes with you!”
Looking away, you felt heat creeping into your cheeks. You couldn’t quite tell if this was just his normal friendliness or if he was trying to say something more.
“Please,” you said, “It would make me feel better if I give something back.”
Rengoku nodded. “Very well, if it’ll make you feel better!” Then he brought the mug to his lips. His eyes widened.
“Well?” you asked, nerves making your skin tingle. You really wanted him to like it.
A wide grin spread over Rengoku’s face. “It’s SO TASTY!!!”
You were almost blown back by the sheer volume. A couple of people turned their heads to stare at you. Yet you noticed nothing but the relief flooding your body. He liked it!
Taking another sip - and letting out another outburst of ’tasty!’ - Rengoku looked at you again.
“How did you make this? What spices did you use?! Please tell me so I can make it at home!!” 
You had half a mind to refuse; being the only one to supply him with this special coffee wouldn’t be half bad, especially if you got this kind of reaction. But it didn’t seem fair to keep it from him.
“Well, I used a moka pot and whole espresso beans,” you said, omitting that you’d bought the moka pot and coffee grinder specifically for this experiment. “And I added a pinch of cardamom, cloves, nutmeg, and cinnamon to the grounds before I heated it.”
“It’s that easy, huh?” Rengoku rubbed at his chin. “Well, I’ll have to give it a try some day!”
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A little while later you had to fight to stifle a yawn. Rengoku met your eyes, a small, teasing smile playing on his lips.
“Stayed up too late, huh? Did you work that hard on the coffee recipe?”
You shook your head. “It’s not just that. I keep thinking of ways to improve my lessons. It makes it difficult to sleep sometimes.”
“Tell me,” he asked, voice airy, “Have you made a plan in case you and your students have to stay at the academy overnight during a typhoon?” 
You just gaped at him for a moment. “How did you know?!”
He grinned at you. “Because I did just that in my first year of teaching!�� Then his smile turned into a more earnest expression as he continued, “But trust me when I say that you’ll never use that plan. It’s best to forget about it now, before it causes you to lose any more sleep!”
His stern expression had your curiosity piqued. 
“You sound like you speak from experience…”
“I do! I had to stay overnight a couple of years ago when a typhoon struck us in the afternoon. I was one of the teachers in charge of looking after the students until their parents picked them up. Some parents couldn’t be reached, so I was asked to drive the last few students home before the winds got any worse. But when we were about to leave a power line blew down, blocking the entrance to the parking lot!” 
You gasped, covering your mouth. “No way, that actually happened?!”
“Indeed it did!! Nobody was hurt, thankfully, but it was too dangerous to leave so we stayed at the academy until morning!” Looking away, Rengoku’s face turned the faintest pink. Scratching at his cheek, he continued, “I had this elaborate plan in place just in case something like that happened. I wanted to do a detailed lesson on the Kamakura period - such a delightful era! But when I saw the frightened faces of the students, I realized that the last thing they needed at that moment was a history lesson! I would have loved to have an in-depth discussion with a student as ardent about history as I am, to take their mind off the storm, but… none of the students present were history buffs. And I had to be mindful of the needs of all of them! The middle school students were terrified!! I needed to ease their worries at that moment and let them have some fun. So we spent the night playing board games and telling stories.” He finally looked back at you. “You ought to learn from my mistake. I felt so incompetent, never having thought about that scenario from my students’ point of view! At times like that, a teacher needs to abandon their lesson plan! If anything, you need to think of a riveting book to read to them!!”
You didn’t know what to do with all this information. What he said made a lot of sense. At the same time, your mind was still reeling at the thought that those kinds of situations actually happened. 
Typhoons were common, sure. But school was usually only completely canceled if the typhoon was predicted to hit the area directly. Most of the time the students were only sent home shortly before a more distant typhoon was expected to hit. Yet, you remembered the typhoon Rengoku spoke of; it had moved faster than the experts had calculated it to. And it had been surprisingly severe.
Logically, you knew that getting trapped at the academy due to a typhoon was possible, but it was one of those things you’d never think would ever happen to you. Yet knowing that Rengoku had experienced it made it seem frightfully possible that you might also experience it one day.
Rengoku seemed to pick up on your uneasiness.
“Did I frighten you?”
“A bit,” you admitted. “It’s one of those things I know happens, but it always happens to other people.”
“My apologies, I meant no harm!”
“No, it’s fine. It just… makes it real.”
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The end of the first semester quickly approached. Rengoku happily accepted your homemade iced coffee whenever you offered him some, saying that he just couldn’t get the recipe right at home. He kept spending his commute with you, always vibrant and cheerful, and you only kept falling deeper in love with him.
One morning in August, as the two of you were heading to work just in case the students needed you during their holidays, Rengoku brought up something new: getting together outside of work. 
It wasn’t truly new, if you were honest. You’d gone out with your colleagues to have a drink or two after work, and you had spent an afternoon here and there with Kochou. But Rengoku had never asked you to meet up with him, and only him, outside of work. 
“There’s a summer festival this Saturday,” he said, “down by the river. Would you like to join me?” 
“Yes!” The word was out of your mouth before you could stop it. Looking away, you fought to keep the giddiness off your face. “Yes,” you repeated, more controlled this time, “I’d be happy to.” 
He beamed at you. “Great! Senjurou and some of his friends are coming, too. We’ll have a blast!” 
The giddiness slowly seeped out of you. He hadn’t meant just the two of you - you were supposed to help chaperone his brother and friends. Still, it would be more time spent with him.
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You adjusted your kimono again, making sure that the fabric was lying flat. It wasn’t really necessary, you were sure that the woman at the kimono rental shop knew what she was doing when she helped dress you. Holding up your arm, you fiddled with your sleeve, letting the thin fabric slide between your fingers. You had chosen a kimono with a pattern of pink and blue morning glory flowers on a periwinkle background. Hopefully it looked good on you... 
You weren’t left to contemplate your choice of kimono for long. Soon enough, you heard someone call your name. Turning, you saw the Rengoku brothers approach. 
Sucking in a deep breath, you swallowed hard. So far you’d only ever seen Rengoku in his work attire. This time he was wearing shorts and a t-shirt, the fabric of the shirt tight around his torso and arms. You knew that his father was a kendo instructor, and you knew that Rengoku sparred with him daily. But seeing the results of that training so casually displayed wasn’t something you’d been prepared for. It only made your crush on him grow. 
Rengoku greeted you once more when he got closer. “Gone the traditional route, I see! You look lovely!! Maybe I should have worn a kimono, too, then we could've matched!” 
And once again, the air seemed to shimmer around him like a heat haze from the intensity in his eyes. You’d honestly thought that you’d gotten used to it by now.
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Senjurou quickly ran off, eager to explore the festival with his friends, leaving you and Rengoku alone.  
You drew in a deep breath. Calm down , you told yourself. You had spent time alone with Rengoku nearly every single morning for the past 4 months, this was nothing new. And it shouldn’t matter that he was wearing a shirt which looked like it’d tear if he made one wrong move… right? 
Rengoku turned to you. “I hope you’re hungry! I’m planning on visiting every single food stall tonight!!” 
You nodded, a smile spreading across your face. Yeah, you could handle this.
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Rengoku’s reaction to every single treat he ate was a shout of ‘tasty!’ It was the exact same reaction he’d had when you had given him your homemade coffee. It dulled the glee you still felt from that day. Sure, the food was good, but… Did that mean that shouting ‘tasty’ was a common reaction from him? And did that mean that your coffee hadn’t been great, just… normal? Popping a ball of takoyaki into your mouth, you started chewing. You weren’t sure about anything anymore.
Rengoku pulled you back to the present as he reached out, running his thumb over the corner of your lips. 
“You had a bit of sauce on your face!” he said before sticking his thumb into his mouth. 
Reaching up to touch the spot, your cheeks hot, you asked, “And you didn’t use a napkin because…?” 
He let out a chuckle. “Sorry!! I’m too used to doing this with Senjurou! I’ll have to break that habit soon, though, he’s getting to the age where he finds it embarrassing!” Then he added, almost as an afterthought, “And using a napkin means that the tasty sauce goes to waste.” 
Great, you thought. Now he’s treating me like he treats his little brother. 
Getting to his feet, Rengoku reached out again, grabbing your wrist and pulling you up.  
“Come!!” He said, looking back at you with that brilliant smile of his. “There are some games I want to try before the fireworks show!”
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An hour later, Senjurou texted Rengoku that he and his friends had found a good spot to watch the fireworks, right on the riverbank. You and Rengoku started towards them, slowly navigating the crowd on the grassy slope.  
A group of teenagers were taking up the whole width of the paved path, laughing loudly as they clowned around. They weren’t your students, and they weren’t too rowdy, so you saw no need to tell them off. You stepped onto the grass, trying to move past them. Everything went fine… until one of the teenagers stepped backwards in an attempt to avoid his friend grabbing for something in his hands. He bumped into you, throwing you off balance. You cursed your decision to wear the traditional sandals with their thick, inflexible soles. So much for trying to look cute. Sidestepping to try to regain your balance on the grass, you managed to put your foot down right on the corner of the sole. It rolled the wrong way. 
A pair of hands grabbed you by the shoulders, trying to keep you upright.  
“Whoa!” Rengoku said. “What happened? Are you alright?!” 
You let out a whimper of pain. “I think I twisted my ankle!” 
“Come, I’ll take a look at it.” 
He wrapped one of your arms around his neck, keeping a tight grip on your wrist, free arm looped around your waist. Almost carrying you over to a bench, Rengoku then knelt before you, gently pulling your foot into his lap. 
You hissed in pain. “Do you know what you’re doing?” 
He sent you a strained smile. “Not really… I’ve taken courses in first aid, but this is beyond my scope of knowledge.” Pulling his phone out of his pocket, he said, “There has to be a medical tent around here.”
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Wrapping your arms tighter around Rengoku’s neck, you tried to make yourself as light as possible. The doctor at the medical tent had told you to try to keep your weight off your foot as much as possible until you could get someone better equipped to look at it. Rengoku - whose home was just a brief walk away - had offered to borrow his parents’ car and drive you to the emergency room. And he’d insisted on giving you a piggyback ride to his house. 
A lock of surprisingly soft hair tickled your cheek. You tried to stifle an exasperated groan, acutely aware of his hands supporting your upper thighs. If it hadn’t been for the dull ache in your ankle, you might have been able to enjoy all of it. 
“Are you alright?” he asked. 
“‘M fine,” you replied sullenly. 
It wasn’t fair. He barely sounded winded, even walking uphill with your added weight. Meanwhile you barely dared breathe. Every inhale filled your nose with his scent, warm and musky, with an undertone of clean, sun-dried laundry and cologne. It wasn’t fair that someone could smell so good.  
“I’m sorry,“ you blurted out. “About ruining the festival for you.” 
“Nonsense, you didn’t ruin anything!” 
Tightening the grasp around your own wrist, you fought to hold back the tears that threatened to spill. “Yes I did. I even made you leave before the fireworks.” 
“Did you now?” 
Hesitating for a moment, he then turned around, starting back down the hill. 
“Where are we going?” you asked. 
He chuckled. “I want to show you something!” 
“But the emergency room…” you tried to protest. 
“It can wait for a moment. I promise this’ll make your mood better!” 
He took you down a path shaded by trees. Ahead of you the pathway turned, running parallel to the river. A few people had gathered there, waiting for the fireworks.  
Letting you down, he helped you hobble to the railing separating the path from the steep drop to the river, just as the first rocket shot into the sky. You felt Rengoku shift behind you, then his warm breath fanned over your ear. 
“There,” he mumbled, “Now we haven’t missed anything!”
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The doctor ordered you to rest your foot as much as possible for the next couple of weeks. She told you that standing on the train and walking to and from the stations were out of the question. And paying for a cab twice a day would completely break your budget, so you were forced to take some time off. Your colleagues were sweet enough to cover for you if any student needed help with their summer homework. And Rengoku - who seemed to feel somewhat responsible for your injury - texted you several times a week to ask if you needed anything. He offered to bring you dinner on his way home from work on more than one occasion. 
But just the thought of him entering your small, messy apartment was too much. You knew that he’d never be satisfied with just dropping off the food at your door, you knew that he’d insist on coming inside to check up on you. He’d probably insist on doing your dishes and taking out your trash while he was there, too. 
At any other time you would’ve said yes. But at any other time you wouldn’t be hobbling around your home, supporting your weight against any suitable surface. At any other time, you’d be able to clean and tidy your apartment and take out your trash yourself. But as it were, you couldn’t do any of that. And you didn’t want Rengoku to see the mess you were currently living in. 
You didn’t see him again until the beginning of the second semester. His happy smile made guilt course through your body. Maybe allowing him to come over to help you would’ve been alright. But it was too late to change your mind on that. In order to relieve some of both his guilt and yours, you took him up on his offer to support you through the two big events of the fall semester. He guided you through the sports festival in October and the culture festival in November, showing you how to better encourage your homeroom class to do their best in both events. And before you knew it the year was nearly over. 
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“I started watching that cat samurai show you suggested over the weekend!” Rengoku told you one Monday morning in early December. “I’m nearly halfway through the first season!” 
You grinned at him. The show was one of your favorites, one you thought that he would enjoy as well. Seeing how excited he was, it seemed that you had assumed correctly. 
“What do you think of it so far?” you asked, reading yourself for a lengthy discussion. 
Rengoku launched into a detailed analysis, both of the characters and the combat.  
“And the cat is so precious!!” He let out a wistful sigh. “I wish my father would allow animals in our house; I’ve always wanted a pet to--” 
He didn’t make it further. The train came to a screeching halt, the jam-packed crowd shifting with it. You clung to a stanchion handle with both hands, feeling yourself slip sideways. Rengoku slammed his hand against the railing next to your shoulder, trying to keep both of you in place. You screwed your eyes shut. 
It took a moment for the world to still. The train speakers crackled to life, filling the air with apologies for the sudden stop. People around you groaned, some hissing in pain. A hot breath fanned over your skin. 
Opening your eyes again, you found Rengoku’s face just inches away from your own, his heat-haze-eyes closer than they’d ever been. His cheeks had turned a furious pink, his jaw clenched tight.  
“My apologies,” he hissed through gritted teeth, “I can’t move!!” 
Peeking over his shoulder, your own cheeks heating up as another labored breath fanned over your neck, you saw at least two people leaning heavily against his back. It was only then that you realized just how much he was fighting to keep himself from collapsing against you. His arms were braced against the railing on either side of your shoulders, straining muscles stretching his dress shirt to its limits. You could almost hear the seams complain. 
Swallowing hard, you fought to keep your voice even. “It can’t be helped. If you can’t move then you can’t move.”
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The walk to the academy was uncharacteristically silent. Rengoku kept more distance between the two of you than he normally did. You racked your brain, trying to come up with something to clear the air. Passing by a residential neighborhood, you spotted a bush which someone had decorated in sprawling string lights.  
“Look,” you said, pointing at it. “Someone decorated for Christmas already! I guess the year is nearly over.” 
Rengoku let out a grunt in reply. 
“Do you have any plans for Christmas Eve?” you tried, desperate to fill the silence. 
“None.” 
“Yeah, me neither. I’m thinking of getting together with some of my single friends, though, have a little party… Or I might go visit my parents.”  
Finally, you felt his gaze on you again.  
“You don’t have a partner to celebrate with?” he asked. 
You let out an awkward laugh; you thought that you’d already made that pretty clear. Christmas Eve was for couples, you couldn’t imagine planning a get-together with your friends if you could spend the night hand in hand with a significant other, exploring the town in search of romantic Christmas decorations. Then again, some people’s partners had to work on Christmas Eve. 
“No, I don’t,” you said.  
Peeking at him, you saw a soft smile play on Rengoku’s face.  
“Neither do I,” he said.
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“Cheers!! ” 
A chorus of happy voices filled the room, almost drowning out the clinking of glasses. Taking a sip, you placed your drink back on the table, a warm, happy glow filling your entire body. This was the first end-of-the-year party with your new colleagues, and it was the most fun you’d had in a while. It seemed to you that everybody was more relaxed than they usually were when you’d gone out for drinks. 
Across from you, Rengoku picked his chopsticks up again, digging back into his food, a rosy tint in his cheeks. Even he was getting tipsy from Uzui’s infernal drinking games. You knew that Rengoku rarely drank, he usually focused more on the food and conversation. But Uzui hadn’t let him do that tonight. 
“It’s nearly New Year’s, Rengoku, we gotta celebrate~!” he’d said, over and over again, as he pushed yet another glass of beer into Rengoku’s hands. Even if you didn’t agree with his methods, you had to admit that they were quite effective. 
The drinking games had affected you, too. Everything was fuzzy, the edges of your vision swimming, your head tight from the thick, hot air in the room. You weren’t entirely sure that you could still walk straight. But you were about to put it to the test.
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Getting to the restroom had felt like navigating an agility course. You were pretty certain that the bar didn’t have a see-saw in the middle of their main corridor, but it certainly felt like you’d walked across one. 
“Might be time to switch to water,” you mumbled, staring at your wobbling reflection.  
You heard a knock on the door, then Rengoku called your name. 
“Are you doing alright in there?” he asked. 
“I am!” you called as you began the long trek back to the door. “I’m just… j-just… really drunk.” 
You were pretty sure that you’d spent at least half an hour getting out. And yet, Rengoku was still waiting for you. He gave you one of his standard sunny smiles. You had half a mind to ask for sunglasses. 
“Sorry to keep you waiting,” you slurred. 
“It’s no problem! Do you need a hand getting back?” 
You spotted the floor twisting in on itself further down the corridor. Having someone sturdy as support when navigating that part might be a good idea.  
“Yeah,” you said, clinging to his offered arm. “I’d like that.” 
Rengoku didn’t seem nearly as affected by the alcohol as you did. He supported you steadily as you made your way back down the corridor. 
“‘S not fair!” you whined. “We’ve been drinking the same amount, but you’re barely even slurring!” 
He grinned at you. “I’ve been eating more than you have. And I’ve been making sure to have plenty of water, too. Trust me, though, I still feel it!” 
Stopping in your tracks, you leaned your face against his shoulder. 
“Are you alright?” he asked, voice laced with concern. 
“‘M fine,” you replied. “‘S just… the lights are really bright. An’ the floors are moving. Feels like ’m gonna fall.” 
Rengoku let out a soft chuckle. “That won’t do…” 
He gently guided you down a different corridor, this one blessedly dark and empty. Reaching the end, he helped you sit in the corner so you’d be supported on both sides, then sat next to you. 
“How’s this?” he asked. 
You’d never heard his voice so soft before. 
“Better. At least I can’t fall very far here.” You sat in silence for a moment, before you spoke up again. “Uzui will be the death of me!” 
Rengoku let out another chuckle. “He’ll be the death of all of us!” 
Turning your head, you peeked at the man next to you. “Is Uzui always like that? So insistent that everybody drinks?” 
“Well…” Rengoku rubbed at his chin. “He certainly strives to ensure that everybody has a good time when we’re out! Which, as you know, means no difficult topics of conversation.” He started counting on his fingers. “No moping, no arguing - Shinazugawa has trouble with that one! - and everybody present has to participate. He usually lets me get away with nursing just one drink throughout the evening, but not tonight! He really wants us to take advantage of the ‘all you can drink’ event!” Grinning at you, he added, “Though I prefer to take advantage of the ‘all you can eat’ part instead!!” 
He laughed again. Soon, your laughter blended in with his. Sitting on the floor in the cool, dim, empty corridor like this - away from all the mingling voices and clinking of glasses at the party - did wonders for your head. The drunken fog slowly started to lift. 
The two of you sat quiet for another while. This time, Rengoku broke the silence.
“Hey…” He hesitated, then shifted his position so he could look more directly at you. “Since we’re alone, I… have been meaning to ask you something.” 
His fiery eyes were like embers in the dim light with the way they seemed to almost smolder and glow. Your heart beat faster. 
“What is it?” you asked. 
“What…” He averted his eyes. If you hadn’t known better, you would have thought that he was nervous. “What do you think of me?” he finally asked. 
That was the last question you’d expected. What you thought of him, huh?  
”I think you’re great, Rengoku-san!” you answered earnestly. “You’re a very accomplished-- a very well-liked teacher. You’re knowledgeable, you’re kind, you’re pretty cute. I think you’re great!” 
His eyes widened. “You think I’m cute?” 
You hadn’t meant to let that part slip. Averting your eyes, you let your gaze glide around the corridor, desperate to find something to help you change the topic. But what you found wasn’t exactly what you’d hoped for. On the ceiling above Rengoku hung a few sprigs with green, almond-shaped leaves and a spray of white berries, all of it tied together with a red ribbon. Mistletoe. It had to be a forgotten Christmas decoration. 
Rengoku followed your gaze, letting out a soft ‘oh ’ as he spotted the mistletoe. He inched closer. 
“May I?” he asked. “If you don’t want to, just say no and I’ll leave you alone.” 
You looked at him again. “Do you want to?” 
He smiled. “More than anything.” 
Your head went empty at that smile. Barely knowing what you were doing, you raised your hands, fingers grabbing onto the collar of his shirt, pulling him closer to you. He let out a surprised grunt. Then your lips touched. 
You released his collar, letting your hands run up over his neck, fingers tangling in his hair and tugging him even closer. Rengoku groaned. You couldn’t help but feel proud that you had so easily managed to pull that kind of sound out of him.  
One of his arms braced against the wall, the other snaked around your lower back, making you arch your spine to press closer to him. Deepening the kiss, you tasted beer on his tongue. 
You had no idea how long the two of you were kissing. Eventually, Rengoku broke the kiss, his sweltering lips brushing over your cheek. 
“Please,” he whispered, “come back to my hotel room with me; I want to spend the night with you!”  
You froze. Pushing back just enough to see his face clearly, you asked, “Did you plan for this?” 
A look of shock swept over his features. “No! I did not!” Sitting back, he continued, “I mean, yes, I booked the room as soon as I knew the location of our get-together, but it was only ever meant for me! Please believe me when I say that I didn’t intend for…” He gestured between the two of you. “For any of this to happen!” 
“Why would you need a hotel room?” you asked. “Wouldn’t it be cheaper to just go home?” 
“Mostly to ease my mind,” he replied. “I’m not much for these kinds of parties. This way I won’t have to worry about either catching the last train or staying out till morning like Uzui does! Getting a cheap hotel room allows me to just drink without worrying about how to get home or about disturbing my family.” Sending you a nervous smile, he added, “And it’s not much more expensive than taking a cab home!” 
His reasoning made sense. You’d been stranded before, only realizing how late it had gotten long after the last train had left. Usually, you’d end up crashing at a friend’s place… Or going the Uzui route and staying out till the morning trains started running. 
“This is not a capsule hotel, right?” 
Rengoku shook his head vigorously. “No! I’d never be so bold if it was!” 
“And you swear that you didn’t get the room just so you could get laid?” 
“I swear it!” 
“Do you have condoms?” 
“I do!!” 
“Why, if you didn’t plan to get laid?” 
A flustered blush spread in Rengoku’s cheeks. “Well, I… I like being prepared just in case it might happen. I think it’s better to have some in my bag and not need them, rather than need them and not have any available! Don’t you agree?”  
Finally, you smiled at him. “I do. I have some with me, too, just in case.” Reaching your hands out to him, you said, “Help me get up?”
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The hotel was only a brief walk away. Still, the cold sobered you up, as did Rengoku’s warm fingers laced together with yours. You had no idea what your colleagues might’ve thought when they saw you leave together, your lips swollen and bruised; and you frankly didn’t care right now. It was something to deal with after the winter holidays.  
Rengoku’s hotel room was small, the carpet worn, the sheets rough from too much laundering. Still, it was clean and private. And that was all you needed. 
Helping you out of your coat, he wrapped his arms around your waist, pressing a kiss to your shoulder. 
“Are you still up for this?” he asked. “We don’t have to do anything if you’ve changed your mind! We can just share the bed for the night if--” 
Turning in his arms, you pressed a finger against his lips to silence him. You wanted to spend the night with him. To be honest, you wanted to spend so much more than just a single night with him, but if this was what he was willing to offer for now, then you’d take it. 
“Yeah,” you said, leaning in to kiss him again. “I do want this!”
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Groaning, you screwed your eyes shut, burrowing deeper underneath the covers in an attempt to escape your aching head. You felt the bed dip, then Rengoku caressed your shoulder. 
“I brought you some water,” he said. 
You fought your way up, keeping the sheets wrapped tight around your naked body.  
Rengoku was already dressed in yesterday’s clothes, the tips of his hair still wet from his shower. He didn’t seem to have even a shred of a hangover. It only made the pain in your head throb worse. It wasn’t fair that he was so perfect; you didn’t even want to think about how disheveled you probably looked after last night. 
Last night… You remembered Rengoku asking you to call him by his given name. But you weren’t sure if that sentiment still applied today, or if it had only been a request in the heat of the moment. If he still wants it, you thought, accepting the glass, then he can correct me. 
“Thanks!” you said, lifting the glass to your lips. “You’re a gem, Rengoku-san.” 
You were too occupied with your water to see the look of confusion and heartbreak flashing over Rengoku’s face. By the time you looked at him again, he’d managed to twist his expression back to his normal, carefree manner.  
“Do you want breakfast?” he asked. 
You nodded. “I’ll give it a try, as long as it’s something bland.”
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Breakfast was a quiet affair, at least on your part. Rengoku seemed as vibrant as ever, monologuing your ear off. You couldn’t believe that nothing had changed. It seemed like the night you’d shared had been nothing special to him. But you refused to be the one to bring up the subject of ‘what happens now?’ If this was how he wanted it, then you’d play along.
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When school started up again, you still hadn’t talked about what had happened between you. At that point you didn’t think that it would ever happen. Rengoku acted the same towards you as he always did, still just as bright and cheerful and friendly as the first time you met him - but nothing more than that. 
Squaring your jaw, you reminded yourself that it could’ve been much worse. He could’ve been cold now that he’d seemingly gotten what he wanted from you. At least he still wanted to be friends. And maybe that was what he wanted, a friend who he could spend the occasional drunken night with. The question now was… was that something you’d be willing to do, too?
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You had barely made it into the teachers’ lounge when Kochou pulled you aside.
“So?” she asked, purple eyes wide with curiosity. “What’s going on between you and Rengoku? Are you two dating now?” 
“I don’t know,” you admitted. “We’ve never really talked about it.” 
You paused your conversation, watching as Rengoku walked past on his way to the restrooms. As soon as he saw you, his face lit up, just like it always did. Just like it had done since that first commute. He waved at you, and you and Kochou both waved back. 
“My, my,” Kochou said, hiding a grin behind her hand, “It seems like he likes you a lot!” 
You shook your head. “Nah, that’s how he always is. He hasn’t changed his behavior towards me one bit.”
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On the last morning of January, you were once again commuting alone. Rengoku still kept up with his monthly coffee runs, which meant arriving earlier than usual. You had decided to not join him this morning, instead opting for a little bit of extra sleep, your confused feelings frequently keeping you awake at night.
You spaced out, staring into the gray morning. Last night had been particularly bad; you’d kept running every conversation you’d had with Rengoku for the past month and a half through your head, trying to see if there was some nuance you’d missed. 
The train pulled into your station and you joined the throng crowding around the doors. But they didn’t open. The air filled with stressed voices questioning why. 
Then the speakers crackled to life. “Our most sincere apologies for this delay! We’re currently experiencing a technical error.”
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You hurried up the steep hill leading to the academy, breath sticking in your lungs. That damned electrical error had made you so late that you weren’t sure you would make it to work on time. 
Turning a corner, the school gates finally came into view. As you had expected, Tomioka, the physical education teacher, was there, a bamboo sword propped against his shoulder as he waited for the last few students to arrive. Swallowing dryly, you looked at the man next to him. Rengoku; the one person you didn’t want to see you like this. 
Tomioka glanced at his watch, then moved to pull the gates shut. 
“Wait!” you shouted, forcing your weary body to move as fast as possible. 
Your voice came out as more of a croak. Still, the two men heard you. Rengoku turned in your direction, waving at you, while Tomioka began closing the gate. He stopped it partway, letting you squeeze through. 
“Fell asleep on the train, did you?” Rengoku teased. “Is that what happens when I’m not there to keep you company? You ought to--” 
You leaned against the wall, your eyes closed, the whooshing in your ears blocking out his voice. Drawing in a labored breath, you opened your eyes again. Rengoku had moved closer, his face marred with concern. 
“What happened??” he asked. 
“The train,” you said, fighting to just breathe. “It broke down. We couldn’t get off. I ran as fast as I could.” 
Pulling away from the wall, you took a step forward. Classes were about to start, you had to get ready! Wetting your lips, you tasted blood. Then your knees buckled.  
Your cheek bumped up against something warm and firm. A pair of arms closed around your shoulders. If you’d had the wherewithal to parse any smell beyond the metallic one that overwhelmed your senses, you would’ve noticed the scent of cologne and clean laundry. 
The ringing in your ears nearly drowned out Rengoku’s words to Tomioka. Then he guided you towards the main building.
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When you regained full consciousness, you found yourself on one of the beds in the infirmary, the privacy curtains pulled shut. You tried to sit up but were instantly pushed back down. 
Rengoku’s face came into your field of vision. “You need to rest,” he said. 
“But what about class?” you argued, voice feeble. 
“Self-study; I asked Tomioka to pass on that message. We still have a while before the next class. But I doubt that you’ll be in any condition to teach today.” 
Reaching out, he ran his fingers over your cheek. “You need to take proper care of yourself!” he gently admonished. “Tamayo told me that you likely collapsed because of stress! You even had a nosebleed!! You haven’t been sleeping properly lately, have you?” 
And whose fault is that?! you wanted to argue. You wanted to tell him how his innocent and nonchalant attitude towards you was causing you to lose sleep. You wanted to force him to answer the question constantly tumbling around your brain: did he just like you as a friend, or did he like you as something more? But you couldn’t get yourself to push the words past your lips. 
Taking a closer look at Rengoku, you noticed that he’d discarded his dress shirt. All he wore was a tight, white undershirt. It ought to be illegal for him to look that good, especially in an infirmary. You might get a cartoonish nosebleed at any point. Wait a moment… hadn’t he said that you’d already had a nosebleed? 
Lifting your hand, you gingerly touched your nose. It wasn’t bleeding anymore, but you could feel the dried up blood in your nostrils. You looked at Rengoku in horror. 
“I bled on you?!” 
He gave you a gentle smile. “Only a little bit! I rinsed it off already, and I always carry an extra shirt in case I spill something on myself.” 
You hid your face in your hands. This was too embarrassing! You couldn’t believe that you’d pressed yourself hard enough to get a nose bleed. And you especially couldn’t believe that you’d repaid Rengoku’s kindness of catching you when you all but fainted by bleeding on his clothes. 
Peeking out between your hands, you noticed Rengoku staring at you, his fiery gaze taking in your features, lingering on your lips. He was completely oblivious to your inner torment.  
Leaning in, he whispered, “Listen, I--” 
The door opened and someone entered. 
“Rengoku-san, are you still here?” Tamayo, the school nurse, asked. 
He flinched away from you, jumping to his feet. “I am!!” he all but cried. 
“The headmistress would like to speak with you if you’re done changing.” 
He grabbed the fresh shirt out of his backpack and began putting it on. “Tell her that I’ll be there in a minute!” 
Hearing the door close again, you looked at him, urging him to stay for a moment, to finish what he’d been about to say. 
Swallowing hard, he met your eyes once more. “I borrowed my parents’ car this morning! I thought I’d offer you a ride home tonight!!” 
“Why?” you asked. Was he just worried about the health of a colleague? Or did he mean something more but didn’t know how to bring it up? 
“Senjurou got hurt horsing around with his friends yesterday! He’ll be fine, the doctor said that he’ll spring right back!! But his knee was pretty swollen this morning, so our parents still found it best that I dive him. That way they wouldn’t need to make multiple trips!” 
You let out a soft sigh. That was not what you’d tried to ask. But you were too tired to correct him.  
“Sure, I’d appreciate a ride home.”
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You stared out at the scenery speeding by. The car was filled with the happy conversation of the Rengoku brothers. None of them seemed to pay any attention to your foul mood. If you had been alone with Rengoku, you would most likely have forced a conversation about what you meant to him, just to get it off your chest. But it wouldn’t be fair to involve his younger brother in that kind of conversation. 
Rengoku. Purgatory. You smiled wryly. His name really was apt. Having a crush on him and not knowing how he felt about you was like your own private circle of hell. Yesterday he’d treated you like he did all of his other colleagues. And today, he’d behaved like you were precious to him, going so far as to caress your cheek. He had even looked like he wanted to kiss you before Tamayo interrupted him. 
Sighing softly, you peeked at Rengoku. Valentine’s Day was only a couple of weeks away. That would be your last attempt to make him understand how you felt. If he didn’t get your hints - or if he didn’t reciprocate your feelings - you owed it to both of you to stop trying. You couldn’t carry like this.
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Pulling the first little cellophane bag of homemade chocolates out of your tote, you settled it on your desk for a moment, adjusting the red bow. Your hands were shaking. Never, not once in all your life, had you been this nervous about giving someone confession chocolate. Hopefully, you’d made it special enough that he would understand. Hopefully, he would notice that the bow was red, instead of the blue you’d used for the bags of obligation chocolate you were giving to your other colleagues.  
“What’ve you got there?”  
Rengoku’s soft voice made you jump. You hadn’t heard him enter. Casting a glance around the otherwise empty teachers’ lounge, you pushed your chair back, getting to your feet. Turning, you held the bag out to him. 
“It’s for you, Rengoku-san! Happy Valentine’s Day!” 
He stood still for a moment, eyes flicking between your face and the red-ribboned cellophane bag, before he lowered his gaze, taking in your tote with the other bags of chocolate, each one sporting a blue ribbon. His eyes flicked back up to yours. 
“This one’s for me?” 
You nodded. 
He reached out, gingerly taking the bag from you. You watched breathlessly as he undid the bow, stuffed the ribbon into his breast pocket, and popped one chocolate into his mouth. 
“Well,” you asked, almost afraid to hear the answer, “How is it?” 
Rengoku covered his mouth. “It’s so tasty!” you heard him mumble. “It’s so, so, so tasty!!!” 
You had to hide a smile of your own. You knew how he normally reacted to tasty food; it seemed clear to you that he was trying to suppress that reaction so he wouldn’t disturb anyone else in the vicinity. 
“I’m glad that you like it!” you said. 
“It’s so good!” he replied, stuffing another piece into his mouth. “Pretty high quality, too, isn’t it?” 
“Yeah,” you said earnestly, silently begging him to understand what you meant. “I picked the best I could find.” 
He let out a soft hum. “I guess I’ll have to get you something equally as special for White Day, then.” 
Your knees almost buckled with relief. It seemed that he’d finally caught your hints.
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The arrival of March meant that graduation day had come. You fought to control your tears when the former student body president held a speech on behalf of the other students, thanking their teachers for the help and guidance they had received throughout the years. 
Once the ceremony ended, you decided to try to find a quiet corner to compose yourself before facing the crowd of students and parents again. It seemed that Rengoku had the same idea. 
“You too, huh?” he said when he spotted your wet eyes. 
You just nodded, accepting the paper tissue he offered you.
“It gets easier with time,” he said, wiping at his own eyes and blowing his nose. “But I don’t think I’ll ever get fully used to it. I’ll be a blubbering mess when Senjurou graduates!” 
You let out a soft laugh. “Aren’t you being a bit too dramatic? I know how much you care about your brother, but his graduation is still five years away.” 
Rengoku nodded. “Right! I have to look at what’s right in front of me first.” Slapping his cheeks with both hands, he said, “White Day is less than two weeks away!”  
He lowered his hands, two angrily pink palm prints still on his cheeks. Then he sent you one of his dazzling smiles, the teardrops clinging to his lashes making his eyes sparkle.  
“And you’d better believe I have something special planned, just for you!”
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You looked at the little, white bag on your desk. Reaching out, you touched the red bow. It was so similar to the one on the chocolates you’d given him, almost like it was the same piece of ribbon. 
Running the ribbon between your fingers, you then pulled on it, undoing the bow. You peeked into the bag. It was filled with little, heart-shaped pieces of hard candy. Popping one into your mouth, you smiled to yourself as the fresh, sweet taste of peppermint washed over your tongue.  
Since hard candy took a while to eat, the sweetness staying with the receiver for a much longer time than that of gummy candy, they were usually used to symbolize love rather than friendship. So that had to be a good sign… right?  
Sighing, you let the ribbon glide between your fingers again. You honestly wouldn’t put it past Rengoku to give out hard candy to every woman in his life solely because he thought it was more tasty than anything else, traditions be damned. Looking over at Kochou’s desk, you saw the same white bag, this one tied with a white ribbon. Maybe that meant something, though, that he had given you the bag with the red ribbon…  
Rolling the candy around your mouth, you noticed a change in the flavor. Chocolate. There was a little pocket of dark chocolate inside the candy. Surely that had to mean something. 
Smiling to yourself, you thought back on the first time Rengoku had bought you coffee; the latte that you couldn’t drink. Ever since then he’d taken extra care to only offer you dairy-free food and drinks. You were certain that he had put meticulous research into this chocolate, too.  
The door behind you opened and you heard a little squeal of glee. Kochou hurried to her desk, grabbing at the white bag.  
She turned to you, a wide smile on her face. “I’ve been looking forward to these ever since last year! Rengoku always picks the best gummy candies, but he refuses to tell me where he gets them!” 
You nodded silently, heart fluttering. Kochou hadn’t gotten hard candy. That meant that the hard candy wasn’t the usual gift from him. It was something only for you.
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“May I speak with you for a moment?” 
You looked up at Rengoku as he leaned against your desk. The two of you had spent most of the day shooting each other longing, lingering glances, both of you too occupied with work to talk about the candy.  
Rengoku cast a quick look at Uzui who tried to appear busy and like he wasn’t listening intently to your conversation. “In private,” he mumbled, “if you don’t mind.” 
You just nodded. 
Following him out of the teachers’ lounge, he lead you to an empty classroom. Shutting the door behind you, he leaned up against it. 
“I--” he started, halted, then cleared his throat. “How did you like the candy?” 
You smiled at him. “They were great! Very… tasty.” 
“I’m glad.” Stepping forward, he grabbed onto your hands. “So that means that you agree, right?” 
“To what?” you asked. You needed to hear him say it outright, to make sure that you didn’t misunderstand again. 
He let out a sigh. “I like you a lot. I’ve been trying to show it, but I suppose that I haven’t been clear enough. So when you gave me confession chocolate for Valentine’s Day--” He halted himself again, a look of uncertainty sweeping over his face. “It was confession chocolate, right?” 
You nodded, giddiness making your skin tingle. 
Rengoku’s face mirrored the relief you felt. He lifted one of your hands, holding your palm to his cheek, nuzzling his face against your skin. 
“I feared that I ruined everything at the end-of-the-year party when I asked you to stay with me overnight. You’ve been so distant since then. I assumed that I did something wrong that night, that my actions made you dislike me!” 
You let out a soft laugh. “And I thought that you weren’t interested in anything beyond that one night.” 
Rengoku turned his head, pressing a kiss into your palm. “But I am! I want every single day! I want to spend my whole life with you!!” 
“Your whole life? Isn’t it a bit soon to decide that?” 
You felt his lips curl into a smile against the sensitive skin of your palm.
“Perhaps it is,” he admitted. “But a man can dream, can’t he?” Raising your free hand, he pressed it to his chest right above his heart. “Do you feel that, my sweet? Can you tell how fast my heart is beating? That’s all you! I’ve gotten to know you quite well in the past year, and I know for certain that you’re the kind of person I want to spend the rest of my life with!!” 
You couldn’t help but laugh again. “I didn’t realize that you could be so cheesy, Rengoku-san!” 
He leveled you with a more serious gaze. “Please, don’t use my family name anymore, not when it’s just you and I. If we’re doing this, I want you to use my given name.” 
The pleading tone in his voice - and the memory of that night in late December where he had said those same words - made your heart clench. You really had misjudged his intentions. 
“Alright,” you said, nodding. “Kyoujurou-san it is!” 
He sent you one of his brilliant smiles - which, you realized, he saved just for you.
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Kyoujurou insisted on walking you home, getting off the train a few stops earlier than he normally did. You were ambling through the night-dark streets, Kyoujurou’s fingers interlaced with yours, when he pulled you to a stop, his hair blazing like sun-spun gold under the streetlights. 
“Would you have dinner with me tonight? As our first official date?” 
You looked at him. “I’d love to, but do you think we can find a place that isn’t busy? It’s White Day, I’m sure the restaurants have been booked full for a while.”
Kyoujurou shot you a smile. “Trust me, I know just the place! And the food there is really tasty!!” 
He led you to a little street stall, only big enough to fit four people. The old man running the stall greeted him warmly. Turning his gaze to you, he added, “And I see you’ve brought a companion tonight! Come in, please, and have a seat!”
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Kyoujurou was right, the food at the little stall was delicious. But as much as you wanted to, you couldn’t match his voracious appetite. 
Once he’d paid - and he’d insisted on paying for you, too, since he’d ended up finishing off some of your food - the two of you started towards your apartment building again. But you were sidetracked once more by the sounds of a cheerful crowd. 
Turning a corner, you saw groups of people dotting the grass at a little park, spread out underneath the blooming cherry trees, the flagstones of the main pathway lined with vendors. 
You let out a soft breath. “I didn’t realize the trees had bloomed yet.” 
Kyoujurou pulled you towards the gathering. “Come! I’m sure we can find some dessert here!” 
“You still want more food??” 
Turning back to you, he grinned. “I always have room for an extra snack or two!”
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Spreading his jacket out on the grass to protect your clothes, Kyoujurou then disappeared into the crowd. He returned a while later, hands full of treats. Crouching in front of you, he settled the containers on the ground. Tri-colored dango, sakuramochi, and… 
You looked up at him. “Sake?” 
“Yes! I thought it would fit the occasion! Or would you rather have tea? I can get you some!” 
Shaking your head, you smiled at him. “Sake is perfect!”
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You sat for a while, just soaking up the atmosphere, the chilly night air making you scoot closer to Kyoujurou. He didn’t seem to mind, carefully settling his arm behind your back so you could lean against him without being too obvious, occasionally brushing the tips of his fingers against yours.
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The walk back to your apartment seemed much too short. You would’ve liked to spend the whole night sitting under the cherry trees with Kyoujurou, but even his surplus of body heat couldn’t keep the chill from creeping into your bones.
 Unlocking your front door, you turned to look at him again. “I had a great time tonight.” 
He smiled at you. “I did, too!” 
You didn’t want the night to end, not just yet. Fiddling with your keys, you asked, “Do you want to come in for a moment?” 
His smile grew brighter. “Of course! But only for a moment!” 
You had barely pulled the door shut behind you before you felt Kyoujurou’s warm hands on your cheeks. They felt almost burning against your cold skin. Then he kissed you, softer than he ever had before.  
Pulling away, he let out a happy sigh. “I’ve been aching to do that all day!” 
Grinning, you pulled him into another kiss. And another. And another. Finally, you pulled away, cursing your need to breathe. 
“Do you want to stay the night?” you asked. 
He pressed a kiss to your forehead. “Not tonight, my sweet. I’d rather save that for when I’m completely sober.” 
Nodding, you tried your best not to pout. You knew where he was coming from with that sentiment. Still, it stung to be rejected. 
Kyoujurou spoke up again, almost as if he could sense your hurt feelings. “Do you want to visit me during the break? We won’t have a lot of privacy, but we can at least be together! We could frame it as us coordinating our lesson plans!” 
You nodded again, a smile spreading on your face.
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Looking up from your phone, you stared at the houses in front of you. Which one was Kyoujurou’s home? The directions he’d given you left a lot to be desired, and he wasn’t answering his phone. You couldn’t remember enough from the summer festival, when he’d offered to take you to the emergency room; it had been dark back then, and you had been preoccupied with your aching ankle. 
Walking on, your ears picked up the distant clacks of wood striking wood. Following it, you soon came upon a dojo. You hoped that it was the right one and that you weren’t about to disturb someone’s training for no reason. 
Peeking around the corner of the building, you spotted the practice hall, the outer screen doors thrown open to allow in some fresh air. And you spotted the two people sparring. 
It was Kyoujurou and his father. Both were steaming in the chilly spring air, neither wearing armor. Kyoujurou had shrugged off his gi top, leaving it to dangle from the waist of his hakama. His exposed skin was glistening in the sunlight. 
Kyoujurou let out a guttural shout. You watched as he attacked, enthralled with the way his body moved. Each swing, however, was blocked by his father. The wooden swords struck each other, again and again, resulting in the loud clacking sounds which had lured you this close.  
His father couter-attacked. Kyoujurou blocked. Somehow - your untrained eye couldn’t tell how it happened - the older man managed to get the tip of his sword wrapped around Kyoujurou’s, wrenching it out of his hands. It fell to the floor with a clatter. 
Kyoujurou sunk to his knees with a tired groan. “Not again!! Why can’t I beat you just once today?!” 
His father chuckled under his breath. “Because your mind is elsewhere. When will she be here?” 
“Soon!” Kyoujurou replied, getting to his feet. He moved to a narrow set of shelves, picking up his phone. “I should have enough time for-- oh beans, is it this late already?! She’ll be here any minute!!” 
“Go,” his father said. “I’ll clean.” 
Both you and Kyoujuruo’s father watched him leave. You were about to retrace your steps, your mind set on returning to the street and rounding the house that way, when the older man spoke up again.  
“How long have you been watching?” 
You froze, staring as Kyoujurou’s father turned, meeting your eyes. 
“A couple of minutes?” you squeaked out. 
His father let out a grunt in reply. “You’re her, aren’t you? Kyoujurou’s girlfriend?” 
You nodded silently. This man exuded much more raw power than Kyoujurou did. You couldn’t quite tell whether you liked him or not yet. 
As if he could see your apprehension written on your face - which, you told yourself, he probably could - he moved closer with cat-like grace. Then he knelt, settling on the floor. 
“I’m Kyoujurou’s father,” he said, “Rengoku Shinjurou.” 
You quickly introduced yourself, trying your best not to trip over your words. 
“I hope you’ll be good to him,” Shinjurou said. “Despite how he behaves, he has a delicate heart. I’d rather not have to pick up the pieces again.” 
You found yourself bristling at his words. “Of course I will! I care a lot about him!”
Shinjurou gave you a brief smile. “As do I.” Standing, he descended from the house, slipping his feet into a pair of discarded sandals. “I’ll take you to the main house; the layout is confusing if you aren’t used to it.” 
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Shinjurou handed you off to his wife, Ruka, at the private entrance to their house. Ruka seemed elated to meet you, her soft smile so similar to Kyoujurou’s. She pulled you into the kitchen, already busy pouring iced tea into a glass before you had even managed to hand over the cookies you brought.
The two of you settled at the kitchen table, talking about work. Before long you heard the padding of feet hurrying towards you.
“Mom?” Kyoujurou called, fighting to get his arm through the sleeve of his shirt. “Do you know if--”
Seeing you through the kitchen door, he came to a halt, a smile spreading on his face like a ray of sunshine on an overcast day.
“You’re here! My apologies, I lost track of time, I meant to pick you up at the station!” Letting his eyes glide over to Ruka, he added, “I see you’ve already met my mother.”
Ruka patted the chair next to her. “Come sit and chat with us for a moment before you start work. Do you want tea?”
“Perhaps later,” Kyoujurou said. “We should really start working.”
Getting up, you followed him as he led you to the living room.
As soon as he’d shut the doors behind you, he pulled you into a tight embrace, his lips grazing over your cheek.
“I missed you,” he mumbled, his mouth already searching for yours.
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“I can’t believe you told your family about us.” 
Kyoujurou sent you an embarrassed smile from across the low living room table. “I’ve been so ecstatic since Valentine’s Day that they could tell something was up. They kept asking why and I couldn’t keep it a secret any longer!” Reaching out, he grabbed your hand. “But does it matter that they know? Now we don’t have to sneak around!” 
“I guess,” you said. “But I would’ve preferred it if you told me before I made a fool of myself in front of your father.” 
Kyoujurou raised his eyebrows. “When did that happen?” 
“Well…” You fidgeted, not wanting to tell him that you watched him and his father spar. “I got lost on the way here. And I heard someone sparring and followed the noise. I thought that I’d ask them for directions…” 
“And it was dad and I?” he asked. 
You nodded. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to spy on you.” 
“How many times did you watch me lose?” 
Fidgeting again, you said, “Just the last time.” 
Kyoujurou hid his face in his hands, groaning. “So much for wanting to look cool. I suppose there’s a reason why dad is the master and not me. Even if it bothers me that I still don’t measure up to him.” 
You reached over the table, pulling at his wrist. “But you are cool! You’re much cooler than I am! I wouldn’t last a second against your father! I probably wouldn’t last a second against his students either.” 
Kyoujurou lowered his hands, a dejected look still on his handsome face. You interlaced your fingers with his, gently squeezing his hand. 
“Speaking of,” you said, trying to change the subject, “Why did you use the wooden swords? I thought kendo used bamboo swords, like the one Tomioka has.” 
“The sub-branch that my father teaches uses both,” Kyoujurou said. “Though only the older students are allowed to use the wooden swords. And I’m the only one my dad allows to spar without armor.” 
“See,” you said, “You’re the only one! You may not be as experienced as your dad, but he still trusts your skills!” 
Kyoujurou finally looked at you, his sunny smile returning. “You’re right! I just have to keep working hard!!” Raising your hand up to his lips, he continued. “And for the record, I do win on occasion!” 
Pulling your hand from his, you ran your fingers over his cheek and into his hair, hooking them around the back of his head to draw him closer. 
The door to the living room opened. The two of you pulled apart instantly. 
Ruka entered. “Working hard already? I made some more tea and snacks for you.” 
Kyoujurou gave her a strained smile. “Thank you, mom, but I could have done that!” 
Ruka hid a smile behind her hand. “My, did I interrupt something?” 
“Nothing at all!!” Turning his smile to you, he said, “We should get back to work!”
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“Sensei!” 
You flinched away from Kyoujurou again, just as Senjurou pushed the door open. 
“Sensei, would you mind helping me with a word? I can’t make sense of it.” 
Fighting to hide your annoyed expression, you turned to Senjurou. But Kyoujurou beat you to it. 
“She’s a guest, Senjurou. She’s here to work with me.” Waving at himself, he continued, “So you bring your questions over here!” 
Senjurou sent you an apologetic smile. “Sorry, Sensei!” 
Sitting next to his brother, Senjurou spread the book out between them.  
“This one,” he said, pointing. “It’s not ‘bird’, is it?” 
“You’re right,” Kyoujurou said, “It’s ‘crow’. See how there’s a line missing here? If you add that line, you get ‘bird’.” 
You tried your best to hide your smile as you peeked at them. They looked so cute together. You almost wanted to snap a candid picture of them.
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Once Senjurou left, you turned to Kyoujurou. 
“I know you said that we wouldn’t have much privacy here,” you joked, “But I didn’t realize that we’d get disturbed this much.” 
Kyoujurou returned your smile. “I normally appreciate how full of life this house is! Though I wish it wasn’t as lively, just for today.” Scratching at his cheek, he continued, “If you want… I could show you my room later. We should be able to have a couple of minutes to ourselves up there. And I could show you my collection of ancient maps!”
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Kyoujurou led you past the kitchen - where you could hear Ruka and Senjurou chatting as they cooked - and up the stairs to the second floor.  
“My door doesn’t lock,” he said, “So we can’t get too involved. But we should at least have a little privacy before dinner.” Then he pushed his door open. 
Most of his walls were covered by bookshelves. You only managed to read a few of the titles - all of them books about historical figures - before Kyoujurou pulled you over to his bed. 
“Sit,” he said, “Make yourself comfortable!” Then he pulled down a ring binder. Opening it, he settled it on your lap. “This one is Carthage,” he said as he pointed to the first map in the collection. “And this one is Constantinople. There’s the Hagia Sophia, which was still a cathedral back then. When Constantinople fell to the Byzantine Empire in 1453, it was turned into a mosque!” 
The two of you sat for a while, leafing through the maps, Kyoujurou’s arm slowly making its way around your lower back. Then he leaned in, his lips brushing over your cheek. 
You turned your head to meet his lips. His hold around your back tightened, hand grabbing at your hip to pull you closer. Feeling the tip of his tongue brush over your lips, you opened your mouth.
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“Dinner’s ready!” 
The two of you finally resurfaced, both of you gasping for breath. Kyoujurou had a dazed look on his face, his hair resembling a bird’s nest - and you were sure you looked equally as out of it.  
“‘Kay!” Kyoujurou called, his eyes never leaving yours, before he leaned in to kiss you again.
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On the first day of the new school year, you and Kyoujurou resumed your shared commute. During the walk to the academy, you hooked your pinky finger with Kyoujurou’s. You knew that the school board would not look kindly on any displays of affection where the students could see you. This way made it easy to pull apart, while still touching. 
Kyoujurou turned to you, his smile as sunny as ever. “I’m really looking forward to this school year, you know! It’ll be so much more calm when I don’t have to ruminate over whether you share my feelings!!” 
You just smiled at him. Yeah, this year would definitely be so much better!
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You walked down the empty halls, making your way to your next class. Stopping briefly by a window, you gazed out at the cherry trees surrounding the academy grounds. The blossoms were gone by now, soon to be replaced with leaves. You often found yourself wishing that the trees would bloom just a little bit longer; then the new students could experience arriving at the academy for the first time with the cherry blossoms still in full bloom. 
Your ears perked up when you heard Kyoujurou’s voice from one of the nearby classrooms. He was too far away for you to hear him fully, but it sounded like he was talking about his hobbies. Hiding a grin behind your hand, you moved closer to the classroom, just so you could hear him more clearly. He’d told you only last night that he liked to have an ‘ask me anything’ session with new students. ‘They’re always so curious, so it’s best to get it out of the way early!’ he’d said. 
“Alright, next!” you heard him say.
“Sensei, do you have any siblings?” a student asked. 
“I do! My younger brother attends this academy. He’s in his second year of middle school. We look exactly alike, so you can’t miss him!” 
You moved even closer, leaning against the wall opposite the door so you could see Kyoujurou through the glass. He was leaning against his desk, arms crossed. As you watched, he unfolded his arms, pointing at one of the students. 
“You!” 
“Are you in a relationship, Sensei?” 
The question unleashed a couple of titters from the students. Kyoujurou just smiled. 
“Indeed I am!” he said. 
Then, as if he knew you’d been there all along, he turned his head, looking straight at you, the air seeming to shimmer around him. 
“And she’s perfect! I couldn’t wish for anyone better!!”  
The head of one of the students popped into view. 
“The Japanese teacher?” you heard them say. “No way, you’re dating our Japanese teacher?!” 
“For how long??” someone else asked. 
Kyoujurou laughed. “Only a couple of weeks!” Turning his head to look at you again, a soft, loving smile spread over his face and he continued, “But I know that we’ll spend the rest of our lives together!”
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Thank you so much for reading! Likes, comments, and reblogs are always greatly appreciated! If you like, you can check out my other works here. Love, Birin 💖
©2022 birinboom - all rights reserved. Do not repost, redistribute, copy, modify, record, translate, or plagiarize.
Tagging: @thehouseofmaple​
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aslutforarthurmorgan · 4 months ago
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(Personal take away and opinion here) Dutch really didn’t understand he wasn’t in control of this situation. It’s a ramble post, so buckle up. And again this is all opinion. I do not think what I wrote here is the end all be all. 
I was talking to my partner about the Bronte missions to save Jack and how to me at least, it really showed how out of touch Dutch was, in that he was over confident, and really ignoring his kind of crime was dying and now with organized crime moving in on the States, he really was nothing more than a lowly outlaw. That he was the bottom of the barrel. With the exception of the early days (and we don’t know how long that lasted for sure), they were never nothing more than killers and thieves in the rawest form. 
Because I don’t want to assume everyone is intimate with U.S. history, in the 20s which in the grand scheme of things is just around the corner when this game takes place. We had prohibition and alcohol was outlawed. This a lot of people attribute organized crime coming to the States in force. And it changed how crime worked and looked in the country going forward. 
And you can see it in game already happening. In Valentine people talk about the heavy restrictions on what booze can be sold. People talking about the problems of alcohol with society. The Puritan culture moving it’s way into politics and those who saw it as a way to make money.  
So Dutch’s brand of crime was becoming antiquated. Arthur among others like John and Hosea all mention this at various points. Their lifestyle was done. Arthur even makes the joke about robbing coaches being old fashioned. He’s joking, but he also knows it’s true. 
So when they get to this point, I personally see John and Arthur realizing they’re mangy stray dogs who’ve just walked into a wolf’s den, but Dutch thinks he’s the wolf here. 
He aggressively gets their attention, like he’s the shark in a pool of fish. John even makes a snide comment about this, because it’s reckless. They get inside and Dutch is still trying to strong arm. He isn’t even being tactful. He’s trying to intimidate, while dressed in what he thinks is finery and assuming Bronte is basically just a rich Italian who thinks he’s like Dutch. Dutch not grasping, Bronte has the power and money he has because he’s merciless in his dealings. That this is what crime looks like now. 
But the moment it becomes clear it’s not working, and I think that moment is when Bronte says he’s being merciful and kind for letting them breathe in his presence Dutch shuts down the strong arm and instantly goes “we’re just country boys”.
Dutch thinks he’s playing Bronte, disarming him with this tale, because Dutch doesn’t think they’re just poor country men, even though they are. John and Arthur look visibly uncomfortable and appear to understand Bronte isn’t buying it. He sees what is actually happening; he sees a man so full of pride he can use that. Bronte, you can see it in his expressions and sudden shift, sees a pawn. 
It’s why when he mentions he wants to be compensated for them fucking with his moonshine work Arthur doesn’t hesitate to ask what the job is. He understands what’s happening. He gets that this is Bronte’s game and his rules and they are powerless. And most importantly he wants to get Jack back, safely. He doesn’t care about using Bronte or getting more out of him, he just wants his nephew back. And even at this point it’s like Dutch is trying to use this as an opportunity to make a score.  
Everything with Bronte really shows how much Dutch’s pride blinded him. It’s clear or at least a budding thought in their minds they are being played, that this is just what happened with the families but with a gangster. They are being used as tools, but Dutch is staunch that he has the upper hand, that he’s the puppet master and not the puppet. 
Bronte is such a great way of showing Dutch not wanting to face reality and to be crude here, how far up his own ass he was. 
My partner theorized, Dutch probably thought he could use Bronte to snake his way into the new way of crime, that he could just effortlessly talk his way into a kind of crime that people in Italy had been doing for far longer. That he was punching above his weight class here so to speak. Which ties into my personal opinion that Dutch used the Jack situation to also make another score. Dutch couldn’t just focus on getting the boy back safely he had to make it about making money too. Something Arthur and John I feel at that point couldn’t care less about.
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bizarrequazar · 4 months ago
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GJ and ZZH Updates — May 08-14
<<< previous week || all posts || following week >>>
This is part of a weekly series collecting updates from and relating to Gong Jun and Zhang Zhehan.
This post is not wholly comprehensive and is intended as an overview, links provided lead to further details. Dates are in accordance with China Standard Time, the organization is chronological. My own biases on some things are reflected here. Anything I include that is not concretely known is indicated as such, and you’re welcome to do your own research and draw your own conclusions as you see fit. A glossary of names and terms often used can be found [here]. Please let me know if you have any questions, comments, concerns, or additions. :)
05-08 → The Weibo CEO responded to a comment from a Gong Jun fan about Hao Jingfang’s muting, confirming that it was done because of legal regulations (aka because she was posting politically sensitive content) rather than because of mass reporting as was rumored. [translated source]
→ Another impromptu livestream was held by Naan, Qilin, QuelleVous, and Bluebird discussing Zhang Mama’s social media accounts, the entertainment industry in relation to Zhang Zhehan, the current environment about Gong Jun, and a bit more about Hao Jingfang. [recording] (Skip to 1:06:00 in for the serious discussion, the earlier stuff is just chatting.)
→ BAZAAR Men posted one of Gong Jun’s photos from his appearance on Global Chinese Music (04-23). Caption: “The best state is a future that can be expected, and when everything is too late, be a happy self.” (mtl)
→ Zhang Mama’s Meipian account made a post for mother’s day mostly talking about Zhang Zhehan’s late grandmother. Xie Yihua’s brand was mentioned. This post disappeared on 05-11, it’s not known why. There is currently reason to doubt that the account is really her.
→ Gong Jun made a post on his Weibo: “Wishing mothers a happy Mother's Day and good health!!!” Fan Observation: CPFs came out full force to leave positive comments.
→ One of Xie Yihua’s followers made a post mentioning that Xie Yihua had plans to register a new Instagram account; the sentence was edited out of the post shortly after.
→ Photos were spread by Xie Yihua’s followers of a man she claimed to be Zhang Zhehan’s boyfriend (because apparently him liking men isn’t an issue as long as that man isn’t Gong Jun...) The “evidence” was that the supposed boyfriend had recently posted a photo of a ragdoll cat that looked like Kele on his Instagram story.
05-09 → Addition 05-18: Warrior released a photo ad of Gong Jun.
→ Gong Jun posted a photo ad for 3CE. Caption: “Recieve the romance I prepared with @3CE_STYLENANDA!” This was reposted by 3CE with the added caption, “Who is surrounded by a screen of love again? The heart-pounding romantic May, let's start with Junjunzi!” (mtl) and a link to a limited edition bundle with Gong Jun merch available from 05-09 to the end of 05-11.  Fan Observation: 05-20 is the romantic day in May, so why choose to have this promotion end on the 11th, hmmm? :)
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→ A photographer posted a photo of Gong Jun from around when Begin Again aired (2020). Caption: “It was in the early morning of late autumn and he came to take pictures in the studio just after work. Have you ever seen Gong Jun (Ling Rui) like this?” The photographer tagged Word of Honor.
→ A new shirt was announced for Xie Yihua’s brand that directly contradicted the reason given in the video of “designing clothes to avoid CP implications,” as the design appeared to be plagarized from one that Gong Jun wore last October. The announcement was deleted after this was pointed out, with the excuse that the wrong design had been posted. 
→ The “boyfriend” made a post in his Instagram story saying “I like women, and only like women...” and making a comment about people mocking his appearance. Absolute clown show.
→ Youyou, a well known CPF livestreamer on Bilibili (if you’ve watched candy videos you’ve probably seen some by her), was outed via chatlogs as no longer believing what she was saying, badmouthing the relationship and CPFs, and supporting the Instagram. She claimed to “have contacts,” who are strongly suspected to be Xie Yihua’s people.
→ YA-MAN posted a photo ad featuring Gong Jun to their Weibo.
→ LockNLock posted a photo ad featuring Gong Jun to their Xiao Hong Shu.
05-10 → A livestream was held between followerno65, Flora, QuelleVous, and Bluebird explaining what had happened with Youyou and discussing the developments with Xie Yihua’s brand. The following entry about Noko happened during this. [here] is the recording, a warning that it gets a bit upsetting after this development occurred.
→ Noko, the brand whose design Xie Yihua had plagarized the day before, posted a statement to their Xiao Hong Shu that they were going to take legal action. Their initial statement referred to EHz.Z as “a Chinese celebrity’s” brand, but this detail was removed after Noko was contacted by CPFs. The entire post was later taken down, it is not known why. Fan Observation: Many fans ordered products from Noko immediately following this, as it felt like the only thing we could do to try to mitigate the damage.
→ Xie Yihua posted a statement about the situation with Noko, pinning the blame fully on her designers. This contradicts what she’s said before about Zhang Zhehan being the one behind the designs.
→ Fresh posted a short promo video featuring Gong Jun for their new online store. (1129 kadian) The same video was also posted to their Douyin.
→ YA-MAN posted another photo ad featuring Gong Jun to their Weibo.
→ Gong Jun’s newest song 青年说 was used in a CCTV news segment about patriotic youth.
05-11 → Zhang Zhehan’s 31st birthday! 🥳
Here’s a collection of things created by fans to celebrate (the numbers are to make it easier to keep track of which ones you’ve looked at, double x’s are for things that have been posted to multiple sites)  -  Art: [1] [x x] [3] [4] [5] [6] [7] [x x] [8]  [9] [10] [11] [12] [13] [14] [15] [16] [17] [18] [19] [20] [21] [22] [23] [24] [25] [26] [27] [28] [29] [30] [31] [32]  -  Birthday pfps  -  Charity drives  -  Fanfiction: [1] [2] [3] [4] [5]  -  Irl events: [1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] [7]  -  Letters: [1] [x x] [2]  -  Newly subbed clips: [1] [2]  -  Public displays: [1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] [7] [8] [9] [10]  -  Videos: [1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] [7] [8] [9] [10] [11] [12] [13]  -  Misc.: [1] [2] [3] (If you made or know of something that I didn’t link here, let me know and I’ll add it!)
→ #ZhangZhehan trended on Twitter shortly after midnight then again for a longer period around the afternoon (CST).
→ The post count on Gong Jun’s personal Weibo went from 739 to 741 despite nothing new appearing, indicating that he made two private posts. [source]
→ The Twitter for the Word of Honor Japanese release made a tweet celebrating Zhang Zhehan’s birthday.
→ 361° made a post at 11:15, a 511 kadian.
→ Addition 05-18: Warrior posted a photo ad featuring Gong Jun.
→ New photos and a short video were spread (presumably by Xie Yihua) that seem to have been promos for the concert Zhang Zhehan was preparing for before 813. [photos] [photo] [video]
→ Xie Yihua’s brand released a birthday message with a photo of Zhang Zhehan wearing their merch, except it was identified as being (badly) photoshopped from an ad for another company from 2018.
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05-12 → Gong Jun reposted a CCTV post remembering the Wenchuan earthquake. Caption: “Remember the deceased, remember the pain, pay tribute to the rebirth!” The same was posted to his studio Weibo with the additional caption: “Remembering the deceased, the living are strong! Salute the ‘Unshakable Wenchuan Spirit’.”
→ The Instagram was reactivated. Its display name was changed from Zhangzhehan_Super3 to 张哲瀚.
→ Hsu Fu Chi posted an image for Nurse’s Day featuring Gong Jun.
→ An impromptu livestream was held between Bluebird, QuelleVous, and Flora discussing the Instagram reactivation. The conclusion reached is that most likely Zhang Zhehan was the one who had it deactivated but it was then appealed by Xie Yihua and co., as an appeal takes seven days to be reviewed. [recording] [summary] 
05-13 → 9 months since 813.
→ Kangshifu Jasmine Tea made a post announcing that they will be releasing a “romantic micro-movie” staring Gong Jun on 05-20, with him playing both a manhua artist and the manhua’s protagonist. A poll is open to vote between the two characters. 
Caption:  “A touch of fragrance from the tea shop is brewing @ Gong Jun Simon 's heartbeat theater. The reserved cartoonist Gong Jun came by smelling the fragrance, but was taken first by the funny and flamboyant cartoon Gong Jun. Two people with very different styles, how would you choose? Participate in the voting and make a romantic choice~ ... In the dense atmosphere, romance is always the same.” (mtl)
They later made another post sharing a promotional image, caption: “I didn't hide you very well, I know. Introverted cartoonists and talkative cartoon protagonists in each of my drawings. Who do you pick?” (mtl) The flavour text on the image is “I didn't hide you away properly. It's apparent in every drawing of mine.” [translation]
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Fan Observation: Those are gardenias in the promo image, an LLD symbol. ♥
→ Warrior released a photo ad featuring Gong Jun.
→ A video was posted spoken by Gong Jun announcing that Safeguard is appearing at a beauty festival from 05-10 to 05-23.
→ YA-MAN posted a set of nine photo ads featuring Gong Jun.
→ A livestreamer played Light Up the Future on stream and people kept commenting about “Gong Jun’s laopo”, so they looked it up on Baidu and had a very fun reaction to the photo that came up. [video here]
05-14 → A livestream was held between QuelleVous, Naan, Flora, followerno65, and Bluebird intended as the first in a series reviewing the events relating to 813. This one covered the leadup to August and August itself. [recording] [summary]
→ Kangshifu Jasmine Tea posted another promotional image for their upcoming commercial. Caption: “Fortunately, there is no voice missing, otherwise you will definitely hear the heartbeat of ‘not yours’. One is a quiet and beautiful man, and the other is an interesting soul. Which would you choose?” (mtl)
→ Fresh posted a short video spoken by Gong Jun advertising their promotion for 05-20, this was also later posted on their Douyin and Xiao Hong Shu. [subbed video] They also released a new photo ad of him on their Taobao.
→ A costume assistant from Word of Honor posted two bts photos and a short video of Gong Jun. Another new bts video was shared by someone else on the same day.
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→ Xie Yihua’s brand now has an Instagram of it’s own (it’s almost like they’re worried the one they already have will be deactivated again...) The two posts that have been made are both of its logo; the first one has no caption, the second one is “explaining” the logo.
→ The Instagram posted three new photos from the same Forbidden City photoshoot. Caption: “One side of the lake is half ice 🧊 The old photos in the album are gradually dissolving” Fan Observations: Fans’ advice at this point is to ignore anything new that comes out of the Instagram, as they seem to be actively responding to what we’ve been saying about it.
→ QuelleVous posted a chart with sources showing that Xie Yihua has six different connections to CAPA.
Additional Reading: → Flora’s daily fan news thread
<<< previous week || all posts || following week >>>
This post was last edited 22-05-18.
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likecassandra · a year ago
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"SOUR is only about breakups" aside from being a lazy misogynistic criticism also misses the point. I've seen a lot of people say SOUR is a concept album centering on this breakup which is pretty accurate considering everything about how it has been branded. But I also think it makes the only two songs that aren't about the breakup, brutal and hope ur ok, all the more important.
First of all, they're the first and last songs on the albums, so they bookend the entire story. brutal serves as the thesis of the album, especially the perfect line "I'm so sick of seventeen, where's my fucking teenage dream." YES this is an album about a breakup, but it's more about being a teenager. That's why the album is called SOUR and she has this very teenagery vibe with the clothes and the stickers and the poses and the stylization of everything - it's not a breakup concept, it's a teenage girl who's a little bit sour concept album, which centers on a breakup, yes, but it is so so much more than that.
There's so much to brutal as well as an opening track. "Where's my fucking teenage dream" is clearly a reference to Katy Perry's Teenage Dream aka the 2010 pop album that defined the next decade of pop music. I haven't really thought about Katy Perry since 2010, but ever since hearing SOUR I cannot help but think about what it means in relationship to this album. I invite Katycats or anyone else to expand on this and I will probably have more thoughts too, but I think the gist of Olivia's point is that this glamourous sexy candypop vibe that Teenage Dream embodies in our collective imagery isn't real, even for a Disney star. She is deliberately referencing the 2010s pop girl scene throughout the entire album, which she openly talks about in interviews as well. In doing so, she evokes the imagery of this era but recenters it through her perspective as a teenager in 2021. One way she does this is by embodying an authentic teenage voice which Katy Perry, in her mid-20s and singing that she feels like she's in a teenage dream, was not at the time that the album was released. Olivia doesn't talk about sex, she just got her driver's license and can't parallel park, and says "I'm so insecure I think that I'll die before I drink" implying that she hasn't enjoyed any underage drinking she may have partaken in. She is singing about a first heartbreak, and people criticize her for being immature or obsessive or repetitive and it's like... first of all you're being a misogynist... second of all that's literally the point and she says that throughout the album. She's obsessive and insecure and angry and sad and she says that - because god, it sure is brutal out here for a teenage girl.
I'm not going to break down the breakup songs by track, but I honestly don't think they're repetitive. They explore different emotions - angry/sour (good 4 u), heartbroken (driver's license) - and songs like enough 4 u and happier create a very specific story about a single relationship which was unhealthy and tragic but Olivia still wants him to be happy but not too happy, which are all different facets of the same relationship. When Taylor Swift did this on 1989 that was awesome that won album of the year. And Taylor got shit for it too. We can't keep saying young women, especially teenage girls, aren't good writers for writing about relationships. It's tired. It's misogynistic. And it's just not true. Also the fact that I have seen Swifties use this argument against Olivia? Whew....
And our final track, hope ur ok. Aka the song that made me cry this morning aka seven by Taylor Swift's dear sister. Also not a breakup song, it's about people she used to know who had bad relationships with their parents and how she hasn't seen them in a while but she hopes that they're okay. The nostalgic song reflects on more ways that people can hurt other people in the name of love, and concludes the album with a wish of happiness for people she has loved.
At the end of the day, SOUR isn't just about a breakup. It's about being a teenage girl who has been through some shit and is working through it. And maybe the relationship is the focus for a lot of it, but think about it. When you were in high school, you had a lot going on because, again, it IS brutal out here. But certain relationships held up your focus - many of us cannot help but replay our high school friendships or romances or crushes when we listen to SOUR, because the album is about how it feels to be a, to quote brutal, "messy" teenager. It concludes with a memory of her old friends and wishing them well. Most of SOUR is about one relationship, but as a whole, it explores the facets of emotionally charged early relationships under the pressure of a changing world through the perspective of a teenage girl. She is dramatic, she is immature, she does reference other artists - that's the point! It's a brilliant debut album and I for one cannot wait to see where Olivia Rodrigo goes from here.
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