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Just added chapter 133 to the marching band AU. This is the first chapter of part 16. Sunday morning and early afternoon. This chapter is again mostly smut with a sexually explicit conversation and some fluffy cuddles at the end. The next chapter will be the date Benji has planned.
Chapter 1 (from the beginning) - https://archiveofourown.org/works/29409834/chapters/72250422
Chapter 133 (just added; part 16A) - https://archiveofourown.org/works/29409834/chapters/84965545
Title: And I’m in the bleachers
Words: 543,938 (so far)
Summary: Victor Salazar is finishing his freshman year of high school in Graham, TX when his dad gets a new job that forces the family to move to the small town of Ephrata, PA. Thrilled with the idea of a fresh start and maybe the chance to finally figure himself out, Victor is excited; his younger sister, Pilar, a little less so. Both Salazar siblings join the high school marching band upon arrival and this is the story of the hijinks and drama that unfold thereafter.
In the words of a dear friend: It might just be Victor being an idiot and Benji being more of an idiot but what’s new?
Notes: This story will come to you in 25 parts; however each part will account for multiple chapters, so it’s going to be a lot more than 25 total chapters, but there are 25 main sections of the story. The relocation from Atlanta to PA is because this is now set in my hometown, because I have no clue how HS marching band works in GA. I decided to eliminate a few characters (most notably Adrian and Simon). The move occurs at the beginning of June 2019 instead of January 2020. The first part of the story will loosely follow the plot of Love, Victor Season 1, but definitely not exactly. This may or may not be the slowest burn to ever exist.
I gave Fence to my coworker for her 16 year old daughter to read, and apparently she read the first two volumes and decided it had “too much romance.”
Like…what? What about my slow-burn boys is too romancey? Was it just Haiden that was too much?? I don’t even know.
If/when supercorp become Canon, I want to get a supercorp tattoo to mark this momentous occasion and the slow burn couple of the century 😆😆
people still read long fics on here LMAO
Find someone who looks at you the way Eddie looks at Buck. This is a man in love🥺😍🥰
chapter one of book five of course HAPPY BIRTHDAY ALEX I LOVE YOU BABY DOLL!!
Alex lifted his head and peered out the window at the landscape before him. Sam was right next to him in the driver's seat: both of them had mirrored sunglasses upon their faces. Despite it being the heart of winter time, the sun shone through the windshield and down onto their bodies to keep them warm from the bone dry winds outside. The road wound before them into the vast ancient forest within the very heart of the mountains.
It had already been quite the ride from the southern tail of Los Angeles to the cutoff there outside of Bishop. What better way to spend the week of Valentine's Day than five days solo together inside of a trailer they had rented from Chuck; Sam had been preparing for this trip with him since they departed on a new stint of their tour. Since Testament had toured for a solid three weeks following Sam's twenty fifth birthday, and then they were to start up again come the final week of the month, Alex had made himself clear to her that he wanted nothing more to do than relax amongst some thousand year old trees out in the desert; they had left San Pedro on Tuesday, two days after they had returned and then the two of them spent the first night together in that trailer, right on the outskirts of Bishop. Come the first rays of the morning, Sam had climbed out first and started up the car: it wasn't until she began rolling when Alex woke up and pounded on the little window to stop her, much to her amusement.
He shook his head at that but she swore she only did to tease him.
“So these are some of the oldest trees in the continental United States,” he remarked as the road rose higher into the White Mountains.
“In the world,” she corrected him.
All the while, since her birthday, and since Scarlett finally got back in touch with her for a genuine art gig in New York City, she had been rocking a brand new haircut with her bangs in feathery fashion about her brow and with faint blonde highlights around the crown of her head. When Alex first saw the highlights, he raised his eyebrows at her so she could better see the faint twinkle in his eye.
“New decade, new hair,” he said with a little smirk on his face.
But as far as anyone knew, he had become her best guy friend even though the words never left either of their lips. All she knew was they had reached a point of friendship between themselves, one that she hoped would stand for a bit longer than a few years, like what happened with her and Aurora.
Alex rode next to her in the passenger seat with his arm upon the top of the car door and the top two buttons on his shirt undone despite it being cold and windy outside. Every so often, he glanced over at her and the gray sunlight reflected on the mirrored lenses; it looked as though rays shot out from his eyes. Every so often, out of the corner of Sam's eye, he actually resembled to the devil. It also didn't help matters that she spoke about all the little roads and nooks and crannies about the place.
“So many quiet places, Samantha,” he noted.
“Quiet places are precious, you know,” she told him.
“Quiet places to go and check out for ourselves,” he said with a raise of his eyebrows. They reach the top of the crest, right before the park's entrance, which was complete with a vast view of the Owens Valley, Mount Tom, and the Sherwin grade on the other side of the valley's head.
“Amazing what you can see from another angle,” he pointed out.
“Right? I've never seen Sherwin Summit like this before.”
The gray light showed them just the sheer steepness of that hill from the top there. The gradual incline to the very top of the bend before it looked out to Mount Tom and the inside valley there.
Sam then returned to the parking lot before them.
“Let's go see some ancient trees,” she told him as they rolled forward once again. They parked near the front gate and he took off the sunglasses and wiped off one of the lenses with the bottom hem of his shirt. They climbed out in unison, only to be met by a gust of cold dry wind from the mountains at the north of the valley below: she quickly put on her jacket and zipped up. Sam thought about the snow up in Lake Tahoe: a part of her yearned to be closer to him like that again. Indeed, he huddled closer to her with his hands tucked into his jacket pockets.
“You know, seeing as we're in Bishop and everything, how 'bout tomorrow morning, you and I go and bunk up in Long Valley?” she suggested to him.
“You just wanna be in a volcanic place while things between us get volcanic,” he jeered.
“This whole area is volcanic, though,” she pointed out.
“Yeah, and things between you and me are volcanic, too.”
“Oh, come on, you barely touched me last night.”
“'Cause we were in tight quarters. It's not like we could do much anyways.”
Sam frowned at him when he said that.
“Sorry—it's been hectic lately,” he confessed with a shake of his head.
“Explains why you were awful quiet on the way up here. Well, that's why we're here right now, Alex.”
They strode through the gate together, where they were met with those tall, knotted spindly trees, with their pointed barren branches high to the sky in petrified fashion and their pine needles as rich and earthen green as they were several thousand years ago as young trees. A thin line of them paralleled the pathway into the hills before the mountains there. Alex shivered inside of his jacket: he reached behind him for something. Sam followed his reach, right when he caught his sleeve on the branch of a low shrug on the side of the pathway there.
“Damn it,” he grumbled as he tugged at the branch. Sam lingered back for him for a second: he broke free from it and he shook his jet black hair about against the winds around them. They walked together along the trail, and all the while Alex was still silent against the winds. Sam peered up at the trees, at their thick knotted branches that made her think of snakes and also Alex's spindly fingers. As smooth as glass and as heavy as the cold earth beneath them.
“Damn it!” he grumbled again; Sam turned her attention back to him as he caught his sleeve on another branch.
“God—so grumpy,” she muttered.
Nothing could deny the disgruntled look on his face, from the knitted eyebrows to the snarl in his mouth. Sam pursed her lips together and lingered next to him as he broke free a second time.
“What?” he asked her, taken aback.
“Alex, look—I know you're tight and coiled up and grumpy but like—it's Valentine's Day. Let's hang out together. Let's hang out and have fun amongst these thousand year old trees.”
“I keep walking closer to the bushes here,” he pointed out.
“Well, why don't we just be spontaneous?” she asked him.
“Yeah, why don't we?” he spat back at her.
She looked on at him, slightly disgusted, and then she led him towards another mouth of a pathway. Completely silent all the way up and yet he was usually so open with her.
They ambled past even more of those knobby trees: there, they became even more sparse along the trail and the pale white hillside there. Scores of those bristlecone pines dotted that hillside, such that it resembled to a quilt of sorts. The trail wound around the hill until it gently dipped down into the ravine: Sam guided him down to a small patch of clear soil underneath a tall tree with a trunk that swirled from the ground up like a torrent of unburned hellfire.
Without another moment’s hesitation, Alex groaned in his throat and he took his spot there on the sands and unzipped his jacket. He lay it down on the sand and lay down flat on his back before Sam could do anything more. She watched him take his spot there before she sank down right next to him there on the sand. Before she could say anything, he closed his eyes. She frowned at him again as he lay there in silence.
She then reached forward and nudged a stray piece of hair out from his face, to which he swatted her hand out of the way.
“Alex!” she snapped.
“What?” he scoffed.
“What the hell is your problem?” she demanded.
He snarled his upper lip in disgust but he never replied. She rolled her eyes at that.
“You need to loosen up. I'm trying to help you relax and you're not doing it.” She fumed at him. “You know, before we left my mom's house, and you were watching that Miles Davis concert, you had this twinkle in your eye. When you saw my highlights, your face just lit up so bright. Where is that spark? Where is that little man I met a few years back who had such a glimmer in his eye and a zest for things? Where is he?”
He rolled his head back into the palms of his hands and he gazed up at the vast bright blue sky overhead, at the few clouds which formed near the summit of the White Mountains: even more had formed near the top of Mount Tom on the other side of their hill, which meant the storm was coming soon.
“I don't know,” he confessed in a low voice. Sam thought about the times he had a few too many to drink and even though he was tipsy, he let loose those times. He seemed to have a veil over his deep eyes, one that she hadn't seen in the last five years she knew him. An emptiness of sorts.
Something was wrong.
This wasn't the young boy she first saw onstage that night in L'Amour. This wasn't the Alex she had gotten to know over the past two years. This Alex had an all too stern look on his face. This Alex smiled all of twice the whole day. This Alex just lay there with his gaze fixated on the sky overhead and he didn't seem to be lost in his own thoughts, either.
“Alex,” Sam started again, that time in a low voice, “is everything okay?”
He sighed through his nose and hesitated for a second before he took a glimpse over at her.
“I think I'm burnt out,” he confessed. “All the strenuous touring and doing shit all... it gets repetitive after a while. I have no idea how Anthrax and Metallica manage, but it's starting to bug me in a way.”
“You know, if you guys don't finish this album and you don't get on Clash of the Titans, it's alright,” she assured him, even though a part of her said that it most definitely would not be alright.
“Nah, it's not so much that—because it's something Eric has really been jonesing for, and I wanna see his wish come true—it's something else. It's more the tight schedules, the strict deadlines, and the very small margin for error. I mean, you saw me come up with those riffs for the titular tracks. I struggled with them a bit.”
“Yeah, you did!” she recalled, and Alex sighed through his nose again.
“And you know, I thought being in a rock and roll band would be fun—and it is, too, don't get me wrong.” He raised his eyebrows which softened his face a bit. “But I feel like there's more we could do with it, though. There’s more to Testament than anyone believes and I want to see us go further with it.” He knitted his eyebrows together and returned his gaze to her. “You know?”
“Yeah. Yeah, it's like changing up art styles or media or whichever.”
“Right! But the thing is I don't really see our label letting up and cutting us slack any time soon, though. Practice What You Preach did unbelievably well—like it genuinely surprised me how well that record did. When Chuck told me about it, I was like 'really? Us? Little Testament?' and he goes, 'yeah! We actually charted with that thing!' So now the pressure's on.”
“I mean, I just think of when the video for 'The Ballad' came out last year,” Sam recalled as she leaned back on her hands and lingered right next to him. “It always came on after Michael Jackson for some reason, believe it or not.”
“I'll believe it,” he told her as he shook his head a bit upon his palms, “Mr. Shelley did a damn good job on that thing. But now, like I said, the pressure's on. We've gotta do as well as or better than Practice and then they'll let up on us. But—I dunno, though, Samantha. I feel the well running dry for me already.”
He turned his attention back to her.
“I like being a creative person,” he confessed, “and if you stifle creativity, it will die.”
“I have hope that you boys will knock it out of the park, to be honest,” Sam assured him, “Souls of Black is a ferocious, formidable name and it’s a little bit sexy, too. The label ought to see that as something.”
“But it’s a matter of courage to me, though,” he pointed out. “My fear is that we’re going to rush the absolute hell out of it.”
“Well, like I said, Alex, if you don’t make it in time to Clash of the Titans, it’s okay.”
He hoisted himself up onto his elbows for a better look into her face.
“Be fearless with it,” she told him with a shake of her head. “If you have to rush it, at least be fearless with it. Be fearless in your fear. That’s the best way I can describe it.”
“Be fearless with it—of course! But again, there’s the label watching over us like we’re under a microscope.”
“Even microscopes can miss things,” she pointed out, “especially if courage is involved.”
“Hey, at least you had the courage to change up your hair,” he noted. “I like the kiss of blonde on you, by the way.”
“Something for a new decade, you know?”
“Think I should change my look?” he asked her.
“You know what, should go nuts with the ginger snaps,” she told him, “just gain like—thirty pounds or something like that.”
“Ginger snaps and something creamy and thick—you know to balance it out. 'Cause you eat nothing but ginger snaps you do more than just gain thirty pounds. You probably lose a foot in the process.”
“Like milk and cookies?” she giggled, and she gave her hair a toss back.
“Like milk and cookies, right!” He laughed at that, and then he smiled at her, that sweet thoughtful little smile. “Thank you, Samantha. I needed this. I needed to vent to someone and in a place as amazing as this.”
“Like you, I’m just doing what I can, Alex.”
She scanned his helmet of inky black hair, as well as the little plume of gray over his forehead, now the size of a baby carrot.
“I don't want you cutting your hair, though,” she confessed. “You have the best face for long beautiful hair. Like the guy from Soundgarden—uh, Chris.”
“Oh, him? Oh, yeah, he totally rocks the long hair.”
“I want you to have long beautiful hair for life,” she told him. “You'd look even more gorgeous with it as an older man. Long beautiful hair and a big beautiful belly.”
She sank down next to him and she put her arm around his slender waist. She cocked out her hip a bit as she rolled over onto her side.
“You're gonna be so gorgeous,” she whispered to him as she put her lips onto his. She set her hand right on his shoulder and he groaned in his throat.
“I'm not gorgeous right now?” he whispered to her in between caresses.
“You're gonna be even more gorgeous,” she whispered back to him as she slid her hand down his chest and back onto his stomach. She brought her hand back up to his collar bones and she undid the rest of the buttons on his shirt, one by one. She opened his shirt which in turn exposed his body to the cool desert mountain air. A wave of goosebumps crossed his skin and he started to breathe heavy from the feeling within him.
Sam slithered her tongue into his mouth, right between his teeth and inside of there. Even though it hadn't been very long so to speak, it felt as though it had been an eternity since she last tasted him.
To think Joey was completely oblivious to it all as well.
She pulled back for a look into those deep eyes and into that round face, still round and slightly full despite his having lost a great deal of weight since he entered his twenties. They were there amongst the ancient bristlecone pines.
No one else there but them, but she knew that if they went a little further than that, therein lay a certain danger with it all. No one could hear her or him, but then again, if something happened to them, no one would know they were there.
The same thing would happen if they went up the road to Tom's Place. Then again, she thought about him filling up on that fresh cobbler. Something so sweet about that very thought, the thought of Alex indulging on a big slice of cobbler was rather sweet to her.
Sweet and a little bit sexy.
She had a bit of money on her after all: she could spoil him the whole long weekend there on the quiet side of California. A slice of cobbler and she could have him a little bit looser than she could do for him right there underneath that thousand year old pine tree as it stood strong and high to the cold sky overhead.
She reached down and undid his jeans so she could see a little more skin on his belly.
That part of his body in particular, that little sliver of skin between his belly button and the top of his underwear, was extra decadent to her. If anything, that was the most vulnerable part of his skin: right underneath his belly button and only a few inches from his genitals.
The softest pieces of skin she could think of, more than the length between his thighs.
“God, what a beautiful body,” she breathed out, and she leaned down closer to that little stripe of skin there. All the times she had heard that sentiment, from the woman on the train to the cashier in the bakery, and each time she had a hard time feeling it for herself. But with her finger tips upon his smooth tender skin, she could genuinely feel it, especially when he tilted his head back a bit and showed her his throat.
Another gust of cold dry wind sent a shiver down her spine: that did something for her. She put her lips on that silky piece of skin. A part of her wanted to leave a vampire bite there for him, but that bit of skin was so precious, like the finest silk she could find anywhere.
A caress of her lips and he returned the favor with a soft pleased groan in his throat. She thought of him being so full of cobbler. To kiss him there at that point.
“Let’s make it sexy,” he breathed out. “The new album is gonna be sexy all for you, Mama.”
“Mama,” she echoed him in between little kisses.
“Big Mama,” he croaked out.
She gently ran her fingers down his waist to his hipbone. A mere inch away from his genitals and yet she wanted him to feel sexier higher up. Right through his stomach.
Another kiss there, right underneath his belly button, and she crawled up to his face for a better look into his eyes and the delirious expression plastered across his face.
“Come on—let’s relish in these trees some more,” she encouraged him, “and then we can probably have some fun in the trailer.”
“A little fun in the trailer? There’s hardly any room in there, though.”
“We can still be all lovey and sensual, though,” she pointed out as she nudged a lock of hair from the side of his neck.
“You have really smooth skin, too,” she told him, “it’s like glass. You are just—you’re so gorgeous. Absolutely beautiful, baby.”
He raised his eyebrows at her when the final word left her lips.
“What?” she asked him in a gentle voice.
“What was that last thing you said?”
“No, what was that last thing you said after ‘beautiful’. I heard something there.”
“I thought that’s what it was.” He showed her a mischievous little smile.
“‘Cause you’re soft and delicate and in need of protection like a baby.” She put her lips onto his, such that it felt like kissing a pair of plump ripe cherries. Her hands rested on his stomach for a bit more feeling.
“I want to take care of you and nourish you,” she confessed to him as she pushed herself up and loomed over his body. Her blonde highlights hung down to his chest and his neck: she peered down at his thighs right underneath her own. His body was precious to her.
She climbed off of him and then she helped him up. Once he slipped his jacket back on and zipped his pants back up, they returned to the trail: she put her arm around the middle of his back and held him closer to her to keep him warm. She also wanted to feel his softness some more as they walked amongst the thousand year old trees. Even through his jacket, she could feel him. She could feel him even once they rounded the gentle curve in the trail, where they were met with even more knobby barren trees and sparse vegetation on the hillside.
They reached a singular stray tree with a tightly coiled trunk right there on the side of the trail when he stopped right in his tracks.
The thick swirled trunk hid them from prying eyes on the other side of the ravine; he clasped his hands to either side of her face but he never kissed her.
“What?” she asked him in a hushed voice.
“Make love to me,” he begged from her. “Please—make love to me, Samantha.”
She gazed into his full face, into those parted cherry lips as they loomed right before her. She took a glimpse down at his body. She need not look any further at him to know that he wanted it.
“You’re not getting it,” she teased him with a shake of his head.
“But I want it—and I want you!”
She gripped onto the crotch of his jeans and she fondled him with only her thumb and her index finger. He pinched his eyes shut at the feeling between his legs. She never went any further for him, but she kept her face right before his for another full minute before she let go of him.
“You're not getting it,” she teased him a second time. She ducked out from underneath him and he followed after her down the trail to the next round of trees on the hillside.
Five thousand years and all the trees still stood strong and high as if they were still seedlings. Five thousand years and she wondered if Alex had the soul of one of these trees. To return to the trees, and to return as one of those trees with their gnarled branches and stark trunks that swirled up from the earth. They resembled to whirlwinds in a way, especially when she thought of Alex as he lingered right next to her every step of the way: his thoughts were a whirled mess themselves and yet she wanted to push him. To uncover more of what lay underneath those deep eyes and then twirl him around like those ancient tree trunks.
In the meantime, the sun followed them all around the park until they doubled back to the parking lot to the car. When she sank back into the driver's seat, she took another glimpse over at him as he peeled off his jacket and put his sunglasses back on. His face was flushed and at some point prior to climbing inside, he had run his fingers through his hair and disheveled it to the point it hung loose all around his head.
“Are you alright?” she asked him, to which he let out a long low whistle and propped the side of his head up in nothing more than his fingers.
“Huh?” He raised his eyebrows and turned his head to her.
“Are you alright?” she asked him again.
“I—I dunno,” he sputtered.
“You don't know?”
“You don't know how you feel?”
“I do, I just don't really wanna share, though.”
“I just don't, Samantha.”
She nibbled on her bottom lip as she fired up the car again. As she lifted the parking lever, his lanky fingers caressed over the back of her hand.
“Alex—Alex, what're you doing?”
He never replied, but she lifted the parking brake and then she backed out of that spot. He never let go of her hand as she brought the car back into drive.
“I want your tummy full and your hair even fuller,” she told him in a hushed voice.
“My hair?” To which he lifted his hand from her own.
“Yes,” she replied, “and I want your tummy full, too.”
“I swear, you must have like a big belly fetish or some shit,” he quipped.
“You're a boy who likes to eat,” she said. “All five of you are, actually. And you know what they say about feeding someone you kinda have a liking for.”
He turned his attention back to her.
“What do they say?”
She never replied. He was a big boy: he could figure it out for himself. He could find his way out of the forest himself.
She brought them back down the road and back into Bishop with the trailer still in place right behind them. All the while, he was sat there in baffled silence. It wasn't until she brought them to the bakery in the heart of town when he finally spoke again.
“Really, Samantha, what do they say?”
She led him out of the car and they ambled into the warm bakery together, where they were met with that lush aroma of freshly baked bread.
“Would you like your milk and cookies, big boy?” she teased right into his ear.
“Was I good, though?”
“Depends,” she said with a shrug of her shoulders, and she ducked away from him and down the bread aisle towards the cookies. Every step of the way, she swung her hips a bit more. She reached the end when he caught up to her with a frazzled look on his face.
“What's the matter?” she giggled at him.
“Swing your caboose at me one more time and I just might block you, too,” he warned her with a straight face.
“How so?” she retorted as she folded her arms across her chest. He nibbled on his bottom lip and glanced about him.
“How so, Alejandro?” she repeated.
“I swear, every time you call me Alejandro, I feel a need to play some salsa,” he said in a single breath.
“You just said that 'cause there's actually some salsa right there next to you.”
To which he took a jar of fresh salsa off of the shelf and showed it to her as if he was modeling.
“Fresh black beans, coriander, black corn, and rice for the tummy,” he quipped, still with a straight face.
“That reminds me,” she began again.
“You did bring your acoustic with you, didn't you?” she smartly asked him, to which he froze. “You brought your acoustic—right?”
He peered over his shoulder and then he ducked away from her and all the way back to the front door. All the while, she kept her eye on the small of his back. All this time, it had been rather difficult for her, but she kept her eyes fixated right on the backs of his thighs right before he slipped out of there.
Not only did he need a loosening up of sorts, but she did, too.
Sam returned to the shelves before her when she spotted something out of the corner of her eye. His long wavy inky black hair spread down over the side of his face closest to her, but she knew the round shape of his face even by a mere glimpse at him. He fixed the lapels of his dark royal blue sweater and then he looked in her direction.
“Oh, hi, Eric!” she greeted him, and she strode on over to him and he put his arms around her. “What're you doing here?”
“Just came up here to see what all the fuss is about,” he confessed with a thoughtful little smile on his round face.
“About the bakery or—”
“Oh, you're in for a treat. Alex and I just came down from the ancient bristlecone pine forest. It's just—it's utterly stunning up there.”
“We have that date together, remember?” he pointed out in a low voice and with a wag of his finger.
“How could I forget?”
“By the way—” He gestured to the crown of her head. “I like you with blonde hair.”
Alex then bowed back into the bakery with his one hand clenched into a fist and his mirrored sunglasses in the other.
“Oh, hey, there's Alex right now,” Eric greeted him as Alex tucked his sunglasses into the collar of his shirt.
“Oh, hey, man—what's poppin'?”
“Just came to see what all the fuss is about here in Owens Valley,” he repeated verbatim.
Sam and Alex glanced at one another.
“Louie must've told him,” he muttered under his breath.
“More than likely, yeah,” she replied with a nod of her head.
They returned to Eric, who raised his eyebrows at them.
“Where are you stayin' at?” Alex asked him with a nod of his head.
“I'm staying on the other side of town—right by that big red horse statue,” Eric replied in a single breath.
“Aw, you don't wanna stay over there,” she advised him. “That's kind of a dumpy hotel.”
“You guys have Chuck's trailer, don't you?” he asked her and he gave his wavy hair a slight toss back with a flick of his head: Sam eyed the interior of his throat.
“Yeah, we do. And he and I are gonna be staying in it tonight.”
“There's not a lot of room, though,” Alex joined in.
“Well, Alex,” Sam added with a raise of an eyebrow at her, “I don't really like the idea of Eric staying in a piece of crap hotel, though. It's not even our trailer, either.”
“I'm sure there's room for one more in there,” Eric said as the baker behind the counter approached the three of them.
“I think there is,” Sam assured him, and she turned to Alex. “Two against one, Alex. What do you say?”
“I think we need some salsa,” he told her as he showed her the container of black bean salsa to her once again.
“Sounds good by me.”
She bought the salsa as well as a pair of ginger snaps for him and a sugar cookie for herself. Eric lingered back on the promise that he would return with his things from the hotel, which in turn gave Sam and Alex extra time to spend together.
Once they were back outside, he turned to her as he took a nibble of a ginger snap.
“Milk and cookies,” she remarked.
“Milk and cookies!” he replied with his mouth full. He closed his eyes and relished in the warmed fused taste of ginger and nutmeg. Sam watched him sigh through his nose and relax his whole body. He pointed his feet inward and bowed his head.
“You're enjoying that cookie a little too much,” she noted, and then he swallowed. She showed him a playful little grin.
“By the way, you didn't answer my question earlier,” he told her. “What do they say about—going through the stomach or something like that?”
“The way to a man's heart is through his stomach,” she said.
“That's a bit high, don't you think?” he asked with a chuckle. “Especially on me 'cause I'm so tall.”
She shook her head and shrugged.
“I have no idea, to be honest,” she confessed, “but it is a good thing to run with, though, especially with milk and cookies involved.”
“They say 'jump', you say 'how high,'” he quipped as he took another bite of ginger snap.
A cool breeze blew through the blonde roots of her hair, such that it sent a shiver down her spine. He finished that cookie in a few more bites and then he tucked that little brown paper bag into his jacket.
“Ah, here he comes,” Alex pointed at the little black car headed their way.
“That was quick,” she noted.
“He doesn't mess around,” he pointed out, “—especially if it's stuff that belongs to him.”
Eric pulled up to the curb and rolled down the window so as to speak to them.
“So what do you guys wanna do?” he called out to her.
“Let's go up to Long Valley,” she suggested to him. “It's real cool up there. We've got the trailer, too.”
“Take a load off,” Alex joined in.
“Sounds good,” said Eric as he shivered in another cool gust of wind, “—I'll go park this bad boy and then we'll mosey on up there.”
Given it wasn't snowing, nor was it all that cold outside, she had her fears that the ride up the Sherwin grade would prove to be a bit much for that car, especially with the trailer on the back. But Sam put her hands on the rim of the steering wheel and she put on a brave face. All the while, Alex kept his gaze on the vast steep road before them. Eric stayed in the back seat right behind him.
Every so often, she noticed Alex looking over at the gauges behind the steering wheel. She took a glimpse down herself at them, at the temperature in particular. The needle rose up a little bit at around the halfway point and she swore that with every glimpse down from that point onward, it lifted a bit more. Or maybe it was her own nerves getting to her as she looked down again and saw that the needle hadn't budged even a little bit.
But Alex shifted his weight in his seat and he eventually leaned to the side a bit to see for himself.
“We're doing okay,” she assured him as she drummed her fingers on the rim a bit. “It's a little warm, but nothing for concern, though.”
“Are we getting too hot?” Eric called from the back seat.
“Nah, it's a little warm, but nothing for concern, though,” she assured him.
“Relax, Eric,” Alex said in a flat monotone, and all Sam could think about was how he behaved on the way over to the forest. And lucky for them, they reached the top of the hill and they rounded the bend, complete with a full view of Mount Tom and the thick snows up above. They passed a long low complex of almost pure cliffs on the right side of the road, which Sam had missed on her road trip up to Carson City with Alex the year before.
“Read that's all volcanic ash right there,” Eric pointed out.
“Those white cliffs?” she asked him with a glimpse into the rear view mirror.
“Well, this is Long Valley, after all. It's all Bishop tuff and rhyolite up here. Hard not to get into the geology of it all.”
“So where exactly do you wanna take us?” Alex asked her as they ducked into another stretch of forest. “'Cause I remember the first time you and I went through here, there was just stretches upon stretches of grass and trees and a little hill.”
“There's an airport here, too, isn't there?” Eric joined in.
“Yeah, a little airport,” Alex continued, “all that plus some roads up to the mountains and future trips for us.”
“There's some hot springs over here,” Sam told them as they reached the rim of the valley, “and there's a road to it.”
“You're Captain Shelley after all,” he pointed out.
“Captain Shelley's Gallery!” she exclaimed with a chuckle. “God, I miss them.”
“I do, too! It feels like it's been forever since we hung out with them.”
“Them and Metallica,” Eric added.
“Metallica have been touring like crazy since Justice came out,” Alex said, “and that's as far as I know, too. I last spoke to Kirk on the phone on New Year's and they were about to go out and play within a few minutes time, so it wasn't that long of a call. Also—I didn't find out about this until like just the other day, either. Greg showed it to me and him—” He gestured to the back seat. “—all because he tried out to be bassist for them.”
“Oh—Oh, god,” Eric groaned; Sam peered into the mirror at the sight of him putting a hand to his mouth and sinking down in the seat.
“What is it?” she asked them.
“There's an interview Cliff did,” Alex started again, “like five years ago or something like that—it was literally right before he was killed. The guy asked him some rather interesting questions. The one Greg showed us was 'who do you think will die first?' and he said 'me.'”
Sam gaped at him as she merged lanes: the exit to the hot springs was a ways up but she did it anyways.
“You're kidding,” she declared, and she felt her throat close up with the feeling of tears.
“Not at all,” he replied, “I'll have to show it to you when we get back to the Bay Area. It sends chills down my spine just thinking about it.”
Sam brought a hand to her mouth and Alex shifted his weight in his seat as a result. That explained why her relationship with Cliff felt so ephemeral and so long at the same time: he saw his end before anyone else did, and as a result, he gave his soul to her. She shook her head a bit to keep the tears at bay, especially since she was driving and she needed to keep her eyes on the road before them.
She licked her lips and then she took the exit just prior to the airport, the one that led them over to the hot springs on the other side of the resurgent dome, that long low rise right in the middle of the valley. Mammoth Mountain and Mount Morrison both loomed off along the rim of the valley all the way through the vast grassland and past the low pine trees.
“You think maybe we'll see an eruption up here at some point?” Eric asked them.
“Nah,” Sam shook her head.
“I'd be more worried about Yellowstone,” Alex confessed.
“Far more worried about Yellowstone than of Mammoth or even a huge volcano like Mount Rainier or Mount St. Helens,” Sam added.
They reached the rise and the scraggly trees which had sprouted around it, and once they passed the campground, she knew they were coming close to the hot springs. The dome loomed off to the left of the car: Alex peered out the windshield at the monolith there, right smack in the middle of the caldera. Sam took a glimpse herself over at it: to think that a small pool of magma resided underneath the surface there. But at the same time, she had no worries about it as the signs for the hot springs entered their view.
They receded below the rim of the road, away from the veins of civilization, and yet even as they reached the dirt trail which led over to them, Sam could make sight of the small feathery plumes of steam up ahead. They made her think of the plume of gray on Alex's head: indeed, she peered over at him and her own reflection in the mirrored lenses of his sunglasses.
He held onto the “oh, shit” handle as they reached the patch of soil before the springs. The trailer hitched to the back of the car only added to the skittery feeling underneath the tires, but Sam was sure that they would reach there with it still right behind them. The steam collected against the cold all around them: the snow beckoned them even as they climbed out of the car together and made their way to the separating rail. The smell of hot water and faint traces of sulfur greeted them as they came closer: the waters down below were bright blue, like the color of peacock's eggs and the surrounding soil was all shades of yellow and red. Columns of glassy pearly white Bishop tuff emerged up from all around the springs, in all of their eroded monolithic glory.
It was right then Sam missed Marla and her Polaroid camera as Alex gaped at the waters down below.
“Oh—” he breathed out. “Oh my god.”
“Beautiful, isn't it? More blue than your eyes.”
He chuckled at that.
“Completely safe to swim in,” she told him. “It'd be pretty warm, but it's totally safe, though.”
“It smells, too,” he said with a wrinkling of his nose. A quiet rumble emerged from behind them. He scowled at that.
“Please tell me that was your stomach, Alex,” she said.
“You sure it was mine and not yours?” he joked.
“This is Long Valley after all,” she pointed out with a peer about the stretch of grassland on the other side of the hot springs: Glass Mountain loomed off to the north while the White Mountains deviated away from the caldera into the vast Nevada desert. “A dormant volcanic crater surrounded by a couple more volcanoes, especially Mammoth.”
“After that earthquake over in the Bay Area a couple of months ago, I'm a little wary of that sort of thing,” he confessed in a single breath.
“Don't blame you,” she told him with a pat on his shoulder. “That was one of the things that bothered me about living down in Elsinore was the proximity to the San Andreas.”
“Hey, at least on the East Coast you can prepare for things like hurricanes and blizzards.”
“True. But see—the thing with a hurricane is it lasts several days. An earthquake is here and gone in a couple of minutes—if that.”
“What about the volcano?” he asked her with a serious look on his face.
“We'd probably know if it took place atop the volcano,” she pointed out. “The hot springs would be steaming like absolute crazy—like we probably wouldn't be able to go here right now—and we'd see plumes of steam coming out of the dome here.”
“I don't think so,” he confessed, and that was followed by another grumble. He set his hand on his stomach. “Yeah, that was me.”
She giggled at him.
“I'm glad I get you two ginger snaps instead of one,” she proclaimed.
“Alright, you know what?” he began with a sly smirk on his face.
“If I get fat, you have to, too,” he said.
“Fair enough,” she said with a shrug of her shoulders, “besides when I gain weight, it goes all over my body and it makes me shapely. I won't just have a potbelly, but a potbelly with thick womanly curves.”
“Thanks for rubbing it in,” he scoffed as he ran a hand down his jacket. He turned towards a sign on the railing which talked about the hot springs; she sauntered up behind him and lightly tapped the seat of his pants with her open palm.
“Hey—hey!” he cried out, and he turned to her with a slight blush across his face. “Cut it out.”
“Not in front of the park people.”
“Park people? Alex, we're in the middle of a collapsed volcano. There's nobody here but us chickens.” Her fingers caressed over him and he held still from the sensation there behind him.
“We're in the middle of a collapsed volcano—I can't touch my fuck buddy's butt?”
“Kudos to you for having the balls to use the phrase 'fuck buddy,'” he said with a straight face.
“Balls? Alex, do I need to take off my shirt for you?”
He let out an exasperated sigh and rolled his eyes. “Fine. Ovaries.”
Eric, who had made himself at home in the trailer behind them, chuckled at that.
“You guys,” he laughed from the doorway.
“What're you doin'?” Alex demanded.
“Actually seeing if it's really that small in here,” Eric replied.
“Dude, you gotta check out these hot springs—they're stunning.”
Eric joined them there at the railing, complete with his sweater zipped up and his hood over his head. Sam couldn't help but think of Joey at the very sight of the hot waters down below as they gently bubbled like the jets on a Jacuzzi. Much like Long Valley Caldera and Mammoth Mountain, her passion for him would have to erupt again at some point. But not for long given the first snowflakes drifted down from the gray sky overhead. Eric wanted to pick out a small piece of Bishop tuff to take home with him to the Bay Area, but she talked him out of it with the whole story of the goddess Pele.
“You don't wanna upset her,” Alex proclaimed as he sank back into the passenger seat.
They returned up the road to the campground and Sam had no idea if they had to pay a fee. But the snows were coming, and the sky overhead darkened with nightfall as well, and the two boys next to her shivered from the sensation around them. They posted up on the side of the road under a tree near the dome; without a moment's hesitation, Alex and Eric both bowed into the trailer.
It wasn't much of a trailer so to speak, but it did have a pair of twin beds on either wall and a narrow aisle between the two, as well as a small nook that served as a kitchen and a little table near the front axle. Even though it was small, it was cozy, and once she shut the door behind her, the warmth immediately sank over them.
Another round of Sam and Alex getting snowed in but at least that time around, they had Eric with them that time around and they could do more with what they had on hand as well, not just with Alex's blanket. They actually had more food on hand courtesy of Sam and Esmé herself, and they could keep the warmth in better even as the snow slammed the entire caldera. She made the three of them a small pot of chicken noodle soup and some freshly sliced veggies and oyster crackers, and Alex and Eric huddled up on either side of her there at the table.
“If you fellas want more soup, there's a few more cans in the box there,” she told them. “I'm gonna need some help with the can opener, though.”
Both of them looked at another with knowing glances.
“I'll do it,” said Alex.
“Nah, I'll do it,” Eric insisted.
“You and Samantha have been driving all day,” Alex pointed out, “I'll do it. I promise.”
He wound up opening a new can of soup for them, and at the point of them eating it, the mood in the trailer was warm and cozy and relaxed and ready for bed, even though it wasn't that late: only a quarter to nine according to Alex's wristwatch. Even though they weren't at the campground and the trailer had no running water, one of them could still brave it up the road a little bit for the bathrooms, which Sam wound up doing right before bed. Alex offered to go along with her just so she wasn't alone, but she insisted that she could do it.
Indeed, when she returned, she nestled up next to him there in the bunk on the right side where Eric took the left one. Alex had changed into his Run DMC shirt and took off his jeans before he slipped underneath the covers there next to the wall and made room for her, even with her wet hair from the heavy snows outside. Sam fell asleep right next to him by the time Eric turned off the light over his bunk. The blizzard outside howled but the three of them were safe in that little trailer, just off the hitch from the back of the car.
Sam woke up at some point, still snuggled up against Alex's little body, and to the sound of Eric yawning. She rolled over a bit, only to find that he had turned on the light again and reclined back against the separating wall on his bunk with a book plunked across his lap.
“What're you doin'?” she asked him in a broken voice.
“Couldn't sleep,” he replied in a voice low enough so as to not wake up Alex. “We went to bed too early and he and I are both fresh off a tour so my sleep schedule's all out of whack.”
“What time is it?”
“It's—” He checked his own watch which he set up on the narrow little window sill next to him. “—four fifteen in the morning. I woke up like twenty minutes ago and couldn't fall back to sleep.”
Alex groaned in his throat but he never woke up.
“Poor guy,” Eric remarked.
“He's stressed out,” Sam said; careful not to wake him, she lifted herself into an upright position. She tried to lean back against the separating wall herself but the plywood was too hard on her back. She leaned forward and rested her hands in her lap.
“Yeah, he is. He didn't seem like himself all during the tour, like he was a lot more reclusive than normal. He usually likes going out and walking around the place and trying out new things. I think he did that all of four times the past five weeks.”
“Aww.” Sam looked over at Alex, right as he rolled over onto his back and huddled further into the blankets. He was cold.
“It's been a little hard on me, too,” Eric continued as he tucked a bookmark into his book.
“Yeah, he told me about the new album,” she confessed, “how the label's just yelling at you guys to get it done.”
“That's an understatement. I really wanna be with Clash of the Titans, though. I know he does, too. Can't imagine what your dad must be feeling right now, too, him being a part of it and all.”
She turned to him with a thoughtful look on her face.
“Are you hungry?” she asked him.
“Me? Yeah, I'm a little hungry. Again, sleep schedule's all sideways.”
Careful not to wake up Alex, Sam climbed out of the bed and she slipped into the kitchen, even though the only breakfast food she had brought with her was some bread for toast and strips of bacon.
“How could you not pack breakfast?” Eric whispered back to her.
“I figured that if Alex and I are going to be camping, we'd be within range of a restaurant or some place with coffee because I utterly despise instant coffee.”
“Oh, that's understandable,” he laughed at that. Sam took her seat back on the edge of the bunk, that time atop the blankets. It was silent outside and all she could think about was the blizzard had passed. Eric kept the book on his lap as he looked on at her. The pale yellow light shone over the side of his round face so he actually resembled to a little crescent moon from the heart of Mexico.
“You wanna hang out?” he offered her in a low voice.
“I don't really wanna leave him, though,” she confessed. Alex was sound asleep in the small narrow bed right next to them. He wasn't her boyfriend and thus she was free to do whatever she wanted with Eric, and yet he lay there right behind her, all cozy and warm in the bunk bed.
“He's still asleep, though,” he pointed out.
“What if he wakes up?”
“Sam, I was right there right next to him when the earthquake happened a few months back,” Eric replied with a slight raise of an eyebrow. “He gets real full like that and falls asleep, you could shout his name and it wouldn't wake him up.”
Sam glanced over her shoulder at Alex, who had rolled back onto his side. He snuggled his head further down into the pillow and a piece of his jet black hair spread right across his face: she couldn't even see the plume of gray on that side of his brow. His eyelids were as smooth as porcelain: with his soft round face and the way the thick warm blankets spread over his slender body, he resembled to a little doll. Add to this, the way his curls feathered a bit over the crown of his head only accentuated the feeling for her even further. A little doll. A little boy again.
Sam swallowed and then she returned to Eric once again.
“Okay—what would you like to do?”
“I was just ask you that,” he confessed.
“Well, we're about twenty minutes from Tom's Place and another twenty minutes from Mammoth Lakes. Both places have breakfast there and I think Tom's Place has a billiards table.”
“Are they open?” he asked her as his face lit up.
“All year round,” she replied.
Eric set his book down on the sill next to him and he gave his hair a gentle toss.
“Let's do it,” he said.
“Should we wake him or—?”
“Sam, I was right there right next to him when the earthquake happened a few months back. He gets real full like that and falls asleep, you could shout his name and it wouldn't wake him up.”
for some reason, when i wrote that line, i thought of jerry seinfeld yelling at his comatose neighbor to see if he was awake: “martin... MARTIN!”
Prev - Ch. 8: Ever Fallen In Love (With Someone You Shouldn’t’ve)? - Next - Master Post - [ A03 ]
Fic rated M, this chapter rated T - CW: referenced past child abuse/neglect, hospitalization mention, swearing, implied past drug abuse - WC: 6103 - there’s still some fluff, but…
Ever fallen in love with someone?
Ever fallen in love? In love with someone
Ever fallen in love? In love with someone
You shouldn’t’ve fallen in love with?
- Ever Fallen In Love (With Someone You Shouldn’t’ve), Buzzcocks
Fic playlist on Spotify
Monday, December 12, 1983
Patton re-read the third page of notes left by the last social worker to complete a home visit for the case in front of him. In addition to the 18-B attorney chatting up the social worker two desks down from where he sat, the records room clerk was delivering requested files, the old wheels on the overburdened cart screeching every time the cart moved. He shook his head and sighed, turning up the volume on his Walkman in an attempt to drown out the distraction.
He’d gotten half-way through the page when someone tapped his shoulder, and he jerked in his seat, ripping off the headphones and looking for the intruder.
“Whoa, sorry, dude, are you Sanders?” Patton nodded, blinking and taking a deep breath. The records clerk nodded, handing him a thick file. “You requisitioned this over a month ago.” He shrugged at the frayed tab and binding reinforced with clear tape. “It was closed ten years ago when the kid aged out, so it took a while.” Pressing his clipboard into Patton’s hands, he muttered, “You gotta sign for it.”
Barely glancing at the file requisition and receipt form as he signed, Patton’s eyes were drawn to the dusty file in front of him. He read the faded tab.
Punos, Remus D - 1955/03/15 - PUNOSRD-1968-1206-A
“Uh, thanks… I….” Patton’s brow furrowed. “When I didn’t get anything right away, I thought we didn’t have anything.” He looked up again at the record clerk who’d already pushed the cart down to the next row of desks. Patton leaned over into the aisle, calling again, “Thanks!”
Patton closed the previous case file he had been reading and opened Remus Puños’ old foster care file.
Patton twirled the phone cord as he waited for Remus to pick up. He glanced again at his watch. It was around the same time of day that he’d attempted to visit the Heaney home, so he was optimistic that this was a good time to catch the man.
On the fifth ring, Remus finally answered, sounding a little out of breath. He heard the sound of keys and a door closing and locking. “Mr. Puños, this is Mr. Sanders from the Bureau of Child Welfare. Is this a good time to talk?”
Remus cleared his throat but his voice still sounded creaky. “Um, yeah, yes, sure thing. I—I just walked in the door.”
“That’s great, thanks. Well, I wanted to know how Jay is doing. Is he at school now?”
“Yeah, he, uh, gets out in two hours. Uh… “ Patton could hear papers rustling in the background. “He just got a report card and his teacher is really happy with his progress.”
Patton made a mark in Jay’s file, nodding to himself. I sure got an earful from his teacher on that already. “That’s really good to hear.” Patton checked his phone interview script, skipping most of the prompts. He furrowed his brow, lingering on one. “Do you have any concerns that you’d like to talk about?”
“Uh… No?” Remus sounded confused by the question. “He’s growing. We went clothes shopping on Saturday to get him the next size up.” Patton made another mark in Jay’s file. “So that’s actually, well, it makes me a little less concerned about him.”
“That’s good. Kids his age are supposed to grow out of clothes.” Remus chuckled over the line. “Well, I don’t want to keep you too long. I appreciate your time, Mr. Puños.” Patton sighed, eyes drawn to Remus’ foster care file.
“Actually, um, Mr. Puños… I, uh, I need to tell you that I—I looked you up. In, um, BCW’s foster records.” Patton licked his lips, throat suddenly dry. “It’s uh, standard practice… we’re supposed to do a records requisition for anyone we, uh, encounter when taking a new case.”
Remus was quiet for a moment on the other line before clearing his throat, his deep voice rough as it rumbled over the line. “And whaddya find?”
For the briefest of moments, Patton was grateful he didn’t have time to make a personal visit. Just imagining the man’s face was bad enough. “I got a file back. From… well, from when you were in a group home.”
Remus was silent.
“Well, I guess they still called them all orphanages back then.” Patton cleared his throat. “And, um, well… it has the notes from a case worker who found you in the tunnels and, um… tried to get you to come back.”
Remus made a sound like a laugh. “Yeah. No way in hell I was gonna go back there just to—” He cleared his throat again and went quiet. After a few breaths, while Patton felt the phone receiver grow slick from his sweaty palm, Remus finally continued. “I wasn’t going back.”
“You should know we closed that group home nine years ago.”
“Good. I hope you burned that shit to the ground.”
Looking down at the black and white photos taken during Remus’ hospitalization after the first time he’d run away and was disciplined, Patton wanted to agree.
“Mr. Puños”—Patton cleared his throat—”I, um, I’m sorry for what happened to you.”
“You didn’t do it.”
“Well… Um, and I… I wanna say that I know how hard you must’ve worked to…” Patton’s words fell away as he grasped for something to say that didn’t either make things worse or make him sound like a condescending ass. “I, um….”
After he hung up, Patton marked the call in the logs on both Jay’s and Remus’ foster care files, as well as his daily call register. Hands shaking, he closed the book and the files and took the stairs down and out of the building, escaping into the cold December air. He took a walk, hoping to clear away the pounding in his head and the heaviness in his heart.
A second ring pealed from the phone and Logan called out from the kitchen, elbow deep in a basin of soapy water, “Pat? Could you get that?” The phone rang again. “Pat?” Logan tried again, listening carefully for the sound of creaking floorboards or any other sign that his brother was actually moving to answer the phone.
Shaking his head, a small frown dragging at his mouth, Logan quickly rinsed his hands and wiped them dry on a towel. He rushed to the living room to answer the phone before the fifth ring when the answering machine would pick up.
Catching it just in time, Logan answered as he was still raising the receiver to his mouth. “Hello, Sanders’ residence.”
“Logan,” Remus’ baritone voice pouring from earpiece softened Logan’s features as he pressed the phone closer to his ear as though that could somehow shrink the distance between them. “I’m glad I caught you. I was afraid you were out.”
“No, no, just… ah, I was in the kitchen.” Logan stood still, listening and waiting for Remus to speak. Finally, he asked, “Is everything all right? Is there anything I can help you with?”
“Oh, right, Jay’s just fine. Nothing to worry about. I… well, I am actually calling to ask a favor.”
“Of course, Remus. I will help in any capacity that I can. What do you need?” Remus was quiet for a long time. “Whatever you may need, even if I cannot render assistance, there is no harm in asking me.” Logan smiled, hoping some of the sentiment would come through in his voice as he repeated his question. “What do you need?”
“I… I have a, um, engagement coming up and my sitter’s schedule changed with the new quarter and now…”
Logan’s heart tightened behind his breastbone. Of course Remus is seeing someone. How could he not be?“Are you looking for someone to stay with Jay while you are out?”
Remus sighed over the phone, “Yes, if… if it’s not asking too much.”
Stretching the phone cord over the armrest, Logan sat down on the couch. He perched on the edge of the cushion, back straight. “No… no, of course it’s not asking too much. I would be happy to help you. When is your date?”
Brow furrowed, Logan took a deep breath and repeated, a little more slowly, “When is your date for which you need a sitter?”
Remus chuckled breathlessly over the phone. “Oh! Oh, no, it’s not for a date. It’s….”
“But you said you had an engagement…” Oh… are The Fists still playing? Logan was surprised. Bands usually had limited regular runs at CBGBs. They must still be drawing crowds if the talent booker was keeping them on. Recalling the last show he’d been to, the pounding energy in the club, and the way his own heart raced as soon as they began to play, Logan could understand why.
“Ah, well, it’s… “ Remus breathed hard into the mouthpiece. “I… play in a band, with my brother and an old friend. We’re performing on Thursday.”
“That is wonderful… I envy your talent. I… I do not have a musical bone in my body.”
Remus chuckled, “Oh, you wouldn’t say that if you knew where we played.”
Relaxing into the couch, Logan smiled broadly and murmured, “Try me.”
“We, uh, we play at this club down on the Bowery….”
“CBGBs,” Logan supplied before he could stop himself.
“Right, yes… I forget you’ve been in this neighborhood for a while.”
“I grew up in the Lower East Side, down on Avenue B." Logan chuckled. "I used to attend P.S. 63.”
“I didn’t know that. Wow, that must be wild, teaching where you used to be a student.”
“Occasionally, yes it is…” Like when the bassist of your fantasies suddenly appears in your classroom.
Logan’s mind wandered to that first night he’d gone to the club on a Thursday and saw Remus on stage… his concentration as he sang… The contrast between the brothers that first night was especially marked. They were identical twins, both attractive, but whereas Remus’ brother strutted across the stage, fully aware of his appeal, Remus… he had no idea.
“Logan?” Remus sounded tentative.
“I apologize, I—I was lost in thought. I did not hear you. Could you repeat your question, please?”
“It’s okay, you’re probably in the middle of a million things. I… are you available Thursday night? I—”
“Yes!” Logan cleared his throat, “Yes, I would be more than happy to assist you. What time is your performance?”
“We start at 8.”
“Would it help if I arrived early to assist you with dinner? To give you time to prepare?”
“Y—yes, that… Logan, would be amazing, thank you! Say around six o’clock?”
“I will be there at six, then.” Logan worked to unkink a knot in the phone cord. “Remus, I, I wanted you to know that I… I deeply respect the way you must have rearranged your life to suddenly accommodate the care of a small child. Particularly a child whose… needs are great.”
“I, um, uh, thank you? I think anyone in my shoes would do what I’m doing.”
“I have worked with students and their families for over six years. I know that is not true. You are not just anyone, Remus.”
You are amazing. You are breathtaking, and talented, and so caring toward that little boy and I…Logan sighed, feeling the words die in his throat before they could even begin to emerge. “So you perform on Thursdays? Is it safe to assume you meet at other times to rehearse? Do you still have support for your rehearsals?”
“I, uh, actually bring Jay with me.” He added in a rush, “He wears headphones to protect his hearing, and it’s just the band and a couple of the staff from the club there. He’s totally safe.”
“Oh, I did not doubt that. I was merely wondering... Would it be helpful to you if I attended your rehearsals… from time to time, I wouldn’t want to intrude… just to be there… in case Jay needed something when you were busy.”
“I—um, I bet Jay would like that, but uh… well, I don’t know if our music’s really your style of—”
Logan grinned. “I am familiar with the musical genres typically performed at that venue. It sounds like it could be fun.”
Jay sat in the kitchen chair closest to the front door. He’d angled the seat, shifting it so he could watch both the hall and Remus as he cooked at the same time. As soon as he’d finished his worksheet from school that day, he hurriedly washed his hands and set the table. Once the table was ready, Jay had taken out his crayons and a fresh sheet of construction paper, kicking his feet back and forth as he’d drawn. He now sat, dangling feet still swinging, as he held the drawing close to his chest, bouncing a little in his chair as he waited.
The moment the doorbell rang, Jay leapt out of his seat and ran to the door, turning and watching Remus as he approached the door, checking the peephole. Remus winked at Jay, nodding, “He’s here….”
Jay’s face bloomed in a bright smile and he bounced up and down, watching Remus unlock the door, inviting Logan in. “Hello, you two,” Logan said brightly, looking first to Jay then Remus, eyes quickly darting away from his stage clothes. Jay waited—quietly but impatiently—while Logan removed his jacket and his shoes.
Clearing his throat, Logan turned to Jay, crouching down to ask, “What do you have there, Jay?”
Still grinning broadly, Jay shoved the paper into his hands, then took a small step backwards, watching Logan’s face while he held his breath.
Remus looked over Logan’s shoulder and smiled at Jay. In the picture, Jay had drawn a tall figure with black hair, a blue shirt that looked suspiciously like the one Logan wore that evening, along with a bright blue necktie. He had squares around his eyes and had big looping arms, encircling a much smaller figure with yellow curlicues drawn out of his head and a bright pink smudge on the side of his face.
The taller figure held a book in his hands and had a big speech bubble above his head, with the words ‘Frog it is spring’ painstakingly printed, with the last word a little squished at the end.
“Jay…“ Logan’s voice was quiet as he looked up at the boy with a broad smile. “This is a lovely picture.” Jay’s face exploded in a smile and he resumed his bouncing. “I really like the colors you chose.” He held the drawing so that all three could easily see it and pointed to the squares over the taller figure’s eyes. “Are these eyeglasses?”
Nodding quickly, Jay pointed at Logan’s own eyeglasses. Logan’s smile grew. “Have you drawn me in this picture?” At Jay’s continued nodding, he added, “Are we reading? This looks like the book we read together last week.”
Jay nodded one more time before racing off to the bookshelf, pulling out two books and handing both of them to Logan. “Ah, I see… and would you like to hear both of these tonight while Remus is performing?” Jay’s eyes widened, full of hope. “These are both excellent choices. I would be happy to read them with you this evening.”
Remus laughed, “How about some dinner first?”
A child’s crayon drawing of a little boy in a yellow t-shirt and blue jeans, and a pink scar on his face. He stands next to a man in a blue shirt and tie, black hair and rectangular glasses, holding a Frog and Toad book. The man has a speech bubble saying “Frog it is spring.”
While the snow swirled against the windows in icy drifts, it was cozy and, for the moment, relatively quiet in CBGBs as the band took a short break from rehearsal. Jay sat at his usual table in the back, lightly kicking his new snow boots against the legs of his chair. Logan had asked if he would be more comfortable taking them off—Remus had brought his sneakers along for that purpose. Jay just shook his head, smiling, appearing to enjoy the little thudding sound the nubby heels made against the thick, worn wood.
Remus stood next to Virgil in front of his drum kit, working through a last-minute change they wanted to try before repeating the last song. He cast a quick glance at Jay and Logan, smiling and nodding when Logan gave him a little thumbs up that all was well. Virgil cleared his throat.
“Dude, why haven’t you made a move yet? He’s geeky but he’s kinda cute.” Virgil’s voice was low, glancing between the table and to where Roman had just walked down the hall. “And he’s so clearly into you.”
Remus tore his eyes away from Logan at the little table, training his gaze on the neck of his bass. He shook his head, hoping the heat he felt in his face wasn’t noticeable in the dim lights of the club. “Nah, it’s not like that. He’s just a really good teacher. He’s looking out for Jay.”
“Uh-huh. Sure, man, sure.”
“‘Sure, man, sure,’ what?” Roman asked, bounding up on the stage, handing Virgil a glass of water. He winked at Remus and sipped at his own cup while he tapped his foot as though impatiently waiting for Virgil’s response.
Remus interjected instead, “Hey, Bro, where’s mine?” He put on an exaggerated pout, pointing to Virgil’s water.
“Get your own boyfriend to fetch your water,” he laughed, keeping his voice low.
Remus rolled his eyes, turning away from the laughing pair, hissing, “He’s not my boyfriend!” He walked up to his mic stand, refusing to give them the satisfaction of catching him staring at the table where Jay and Logan sat. He kept his eyes focused on the joints of his stand, adjusting and readjusting the height while he waited for their laughter to die down. He called back to them over his shoulder, “Are we ready to start again?”
“Would you like this first?” Logan’s voice was just a few feet away. He stood on the floor at the lip of the stage, arm extended, holding out a glass of ice water.
“Uh, um, yeah. Thanks, Logan.” He smiled as he crouched down, taking the glass. He took a sip and smiled. “Thanks,” he said again.
Logan grinned. “Hydration is important when one spends so much time in radiator-heated spaces.” He pulled a small cloth from his pocket and took off his glasses for a moment to polish one of the lenses.
Remus sputtered on his water when, for a split second, something in Logan reminded him of Blue. He hadn’t thought about that blue-tressed man in well over a month and hadn’t seen him in even longer. He was sure the momentary resemblance was just a trick of the light and the fact that Logan was standing so close to where Blue had when he’d first seen him. But that moment had been sufficient to make him choke, sending a flush over his face and neck. Logan quickly shoved his glasses back into place, jumping up on the stage and patting Remus’ back. “Are you all right?”
“I’m fine, I’m fine…” he shook his head, fighting to calm what appeared to be his constantly flushed face. “I guess I have a drinking problem,” he joked, picking up the overdone pun. Logan chuckled but then yanked his hand away just as they both realized his hand had lingered on Remus’ shoulder, the pats morphing into a gentle stroking.
“I—I should let you get back to it.” Logan looked over Remus’ shoulder where Virgil and Roman stood next to each other, watching their entire exchange. “Excuse me,” he mumbled, jumping off the stage.
“What? You liked Return of the Jedi?”
When Logan had started calling a few nights a week after dinner to check in on Jay and to see if there was anything he should be aware of before the following school day, Remus had installed a longer cord on the phone bolted to the wall in the kitchen. It allowed the receiver to stretch comfortably to the sink so that he could talk while he washed up after dinner. After Jay settled into a healthier routine, though, they had fewer and fewer concerning issues to discuss. The semi-weekly calls continued, their conversations quickly veering onto other topics.
“Of course I liked Jedi! The Ewoks were cute.” Remus laughed as he rinsed a salad bowl. “Blood thirsty little things, but still cute…. Hey, do you think that’s what they cooked at the nub-nub feast? The stormtroopers’ bodies?” Remus laughed when Logan groaned over the phone. “Do you think they turned the Rebels into cannibals?”
“Hmm…” Logan pondered the question. “Perhaps. It might not have technically been cannibalism, however, if the stormtroopers were non-human. Without seeing under the armor, there would be no way to tell.”
Remus laughed, rinsing a small fist full of forks and knives. “They’re still eating sentient species. I’d be creeped out if Chewbacca suddenly decided to make a meal of Lando….”
“He would likely experience the least amount of guilt consuming Lando if it ever became a necessity.” Remus thought he heard a chuckle hiding underneath Logan’s thoughtful hum. “Though, are we certain that Chewbacca is not actually an herbivore?”
“Naw, Chewie went right for the meat in the Ewok’s trap. Besides, look at those teeth… canines like that? He’s at least an omnivore, like a bear.”
Remus felt a shiver at the melodic peal of Logan’s low laugh bubbling through the phone. “You make a solid argument,” the teacher finally conceded.
“Oh, that reminds me, have you read the latest book by Clifford Geertz? He’s that anthropologist who was in the news when he dismissed his old team for misinterpreting those ceremonies because they spent less than a day on site?” Remus’s hands danced “His book has a whole set of a… he calls them conceptual tools, like using Chewie’s teeth, to fill in the blanks in a culture.”
“I read the review in the Times, but I have not yet been able to obtain a copy.”
“The Voice reviewed it, too… I borrowed my copy from the Arts desk. They’ve always got more books than they know what to do with. I bet I still have it, if you’d like to borrow it.” Remus winced. “But ignore the notes I made in the margins. Old habits. I got halfway through the book before I remembered I’d only borrowed it.”
“I would not mind your play-by-play annotation. Marginalia is almost intimate, er, rather… it is always interesting to see what a fellow bibliophile thinks of a new book.” Remus grinned, turning off the water and starting to dry the dishes he’d been setting on a towel laid across the counter.
“I still haven’t found your by-line in the paper, you know. And I have been looking.”
Remus held his breath for a moment before slowly releasing it. “Well, I…”
“I have been wondering, do you write under a pseudonym?”
Sighing, he quietly admitted, “Yes. Yes, I do.”
“Hmmm… what secret thing would you write about that you would not want anyone else to know? If the Voice had a sports column, I would guess that, but…”
“Okay, if I tell you, ugh, no…” Remus let out an exasperated sigh. “Please don’t think any less of me when I tell you, okay? I… I’m not on the Arts desk and I don’t write the deep investigative pieces, I’m just a…”
“Remus.” Logan’s voice was firm. “You are a gifted musician, a generous soul, and a… a poet. I saw the liner notes on the tapes you were selling in the back at CBGB’s. You’ve written most of The Fists’ songs.” Logan took a deep breath. “And certainly all of The Fists’ songs that challenge what a punk song can be.” Remus felt a warmth growing in his chest that threatened to take control of his mouth. Logan continued, “Please. There is nothing you could say that would make me think less of you.”
“Okay.” Remus squeezed his eyes shut. Fuck, please don’t let this be a mistake. He took a deep breath and the words spilled out. “Are you familiar with the Savage Love column?”
There was dead silence on the other line.
Remus could practically see Logan slamming down the phone in disgust, only to pick up the phone again and call BCW to come and take Jay away. Fuck, fuck, fuck. You just fucked up big time.
“Oh, god, Logan, please don’t get the wrong idea, I’m not just some horny—”
“I love your column.”
Remus fumbled the phone, catching it by the cord. “Wha—what?”
“It is one of the few places people can go for accurate information and honest discussions about sex and the importance of good communication and trust in relationships. Sure, it is, um, not something I would let a child read…
“But the underlying message is important and, for adults, and, admittedly, a lot of near-adults, is vital information about sexual and emotional health.”
Face splitting in a broad grin, Remus laughed, “Fuck, can I get you to write my next resume?”
Logan chuckled, “I would be amenable to that proposition.” His laughter quieted and Remus heard him take a deep breath. “I—thank you for trusting me with your pen name, Remus.” Logan was quiet for a few moments and Remus gripped the phone tightly against his ear, hearing something change in his voice. “I, ah, I have…” Logan sighed, “I… I have to go, I apologize. See you tomorrow?”
Hearing the squeak of the faucet and the dissipating hiss of the shower, Remus quickly said, “Sure, yeah, um, yeah, Jay’s just turned off the water and will be ready for his bedtime story soon, so the timing worked out.” Remus smiled. He opened his mouth to say more, but his voice failed, the words refusing to leave his lips.
“Good night, Remus.”
“Good night, Logan.”
Logan rushed to the intercom, drying his hands on a dish towel. He leaned close to the ancient speaker before pressing the button and speaking directly in to the tiny mic pickup. “Yes?” He released the talk button, then pressed the listen button.
“Hey, your building’s buzzer actually works.”
Logan laughed, thankful no-one was around to see the clown-like smile that must be splitting his face. He pressed the talk button. “Yes, barely. Come on up!” He pressed the door button, then the talk button, listening for the sound of the door closing behind them. He faintly heard Remus’ voice saying something animatedly to Jay.
He took a deep breath and held it for a few seconds before slowly exhaling, looking around the living room. He straightened one of the pillows on the couch, then tugged at the throw draped over the back of the couch before pulling it off and re-folding it, putting it back in a different direction.
Racing back to the kitchen, Logan checked the stirfry again, double checked that he hadn’t forgotten napkins or glasses on the table, and adjusted the chairs for the third time.
What are you doing, Sanders? This is a student and his guardian. What are you so freaked out about?
The doorbell rang before he could answer his own thought. Sucking in one more breath, Logan checked his teeth in the mirror next to the door, then the peephole, then swung open the door.
“Welcome, both of you!” Logan could feel his too-broad grin but was powerless to control it. “Please, please, come in.”
Remus let Jay enter first, surprising Logan with a small hug. “Well, hello there, Jay. I am so happy you could come over tonight.” Remus followed, smiling down at Jay.
“Hey, Buddy, remember the trick when you go to someone’s house?” Jay looked thoughtful for a moment, then suddenly grinned and looked down at Logan’s stocking feet, then spied the rack near the door for a place to store shoes while inside. “You got it, Bud. And some families keep their shoes outside, so that’s a dead giveaway that you should take off your shoes before you go inside.”
Jay toed off his shoes, then raced back to Logan, wiggling his toes, showing his teacher his multi-colored socks, kitted with little puppets. Logan looked closely then laughed, “Are those Bert and Ernie socks?” Jay grinned, a tiny, strained giggle escaping his throat. “Wow, do you think they make those in my size? Or perhaps I could simply borrow yours?” Jay’s giggle grew.
Slowly venturing deeper into the new space, a small glass terrarium caught his eye. Logan nodded at him, “You can go look at the terrarium. It belongs to my roommate. He had several different little creatures in there. Do you want to see what you can spot?”
Jay looked back at Remus and at his small nod, raced over, peering closely in the terrarium.
Remus put his hands in his pockets, head still nodding. “Oh, you have a roommate? That’s… that’s really good not to be alone.”
“Yes, it is, most of the time, at least.” Logan chuckled. “Well, you know what brothers can be like…”
Furrowing his brow, Remus tilted his head for a moment, then suddenly cried out, “Oh, your roommate is your brother!”
“Yes, he has lived with me since… well, since I was still at Hunter College as an undergrad. We had a much smaller place back then. This two bedroom is practically a palace.”
“I’m sorry, I assumed, um, well.. When you said roommate, I thought you meant—” Remus waved his hand, glancing toward Jay, finally muttering, “You know…“
“Oh!” Logan felt his face grow hot as he shook his head. “No, um… no, I’m not seeing— I’m not with… I mean I’m avail—” He mouth shut and took a deep breath through his nose, wrangling his rambling. He turned, gesturing toward the kitchen, pushing away the topic before he said something he truly regretted. “Are you hungry? I made a stir fry…” Logan looked back, eyebrows raised.
Something flashed across Remus’ face that was too quick for Logan to process. “It smells great. How can we help?”
After dinner, Logan and Remus sat on opposite sides of Logan’s kitchen table, drinking coffee. Jay stood in front of Remus, holding up the small book he’d brought with his crayons and construction paper.
“Are you sure you wouldn’t rather go home and hear a bedtime story in your bed?”
Jay looked stern, shaking his head firmly, pressing the Grover book into Remus’ hands. Remus looked again at the clock. “It is still pretty early for bed, isn’t it?” Jay nodded excitedly, the tiniest of smiles starting to tug at the corner of his lips. “Okay. This is a golden little book, after all.” Jay grinned, a little laugh escaping his lips and he pulled Remus toward Logan’s couch, settling next to him and leaning against his side, idly tracing the tattoo on his forearm.
He suddenly looked up at Logan, who’d followed them to the living room and was now leaning against his desk, watching them get settled. Jay then jumped up and grabbed Logan’s hand, dragging him over to sit on his other side on the small couch.
“Is this book too good not to share?” Logan asked, smiling down at the little boy’s excited grin. He nodded, then settled back against Remus, still gripping Logan’s hand.
Remus shot a quick glance over to Logan, hoping to catch if he was uncomfortable or needed a little assistance disengaging from Jay's persistent attention. Logan was simply looking down at Jay, a soft little smile on his face. "Ready, everyone?" Remus asked.
Jay nodded firmly and Logan laughed, "Ready." Remus began to read.
A little over half-way through, no amount of silly sound effects or Remus' more-Yoda-than-Grover line readings could keep Jay's eyes open. He slumped against Remus' side, the fingers of one hand tangled in the hem of his shirt, the other still lightly gripping Logan's hand.
The Monster at the End of this Bookby Jon Stone.
Starring your lovable furry old Grover! 'Hello, everybodeee….“'
"Remus," Logan whispered as he reached over, lightly touching Remus' thigh. Remus' leg jerked at the contact and Logan's eyes flew wide open, wincing. "Oh my god, I apologize! I—”
Remus blushed, waving his hand, "You're okay. I, uh, you're okay. Just surprised. Sorry." After a moment, he seemed to collect himself, looking down at Jay. "Well, I know how to get him to sleep tomorrow night," he closed the book, tapping the cover lightly.
Logan smiled, "You do appear to have discovered an effective strategy." He carefully extricated his hand from Jay's grip, fighting back a chuckle at Remus' more difficult task of getting up without disturbing the sleeping boy.
Finally, he managed to get Jay resettled on a side pillow on the couch without waking him and stood in a gymnast's pose next to the couch, claiming the tiny victory. Logan couldn't hold back his small laugh, miming a polite golf clap.
Jay shifted slightly on the couch but didn't wake. Logan mouthed to Remus, "Kitchen?"
Nodding, Remus mouthed back, "Kitchen."
Logan refilled Remus' coffee, shoulders shaking with stifled laughter.
“So, lemme get this straight." Remus took a sip of the fresh coffee. He raised the cup towards Logan's in a small salute. "Thanks." He chuckled again, "So I grew up in the suburbs and you grew up two blocks from here, and somehow I’m the punk with green hair and you’re the teacher in a necktie?” Logan's laughter stilled and looked down, still smiling and smoothing down his tie. He adjusted his glasses.
“In a way, yes, I suppose that is accurate. But, perhaps… somewhat incomplete.” Logan peered closely at Remus, biting his lip.
Remus narrowed his eyes, eyebrow raised in confusion. “I’ll be right back,” Logan whispered, then went quickly to his room.
Remus followed him toward the living room to check on Jay. He sat on the armrest, gently brushing Jay’s hair from his face. The kid needs a haircut. Maybe tomorrow. He pulled a throw from the back of Logan’s couch and covered the boy, gently tucking the soft knit around him.
He heard Logan’s footsteps in the hall as he returned from his room. “We should probably go soon, I—” Remus’ voice fell away when looked up and saw Logan standing in the hallway. He’d removed his glasses and wore his electric blue wig.
“Hello,” Logan murmured. “I, ah…”
“It is you.” Remus’ voice was hushed as he slowly stood. “I thought….”
“I apologize for not telling you sooner.” Logan looked down at the floor, folding his hands in front of him, “My brother is the only other person who, well, who knows both sides of me.”
Remus stepped closer. “I get it. With my job, I’m… safer. I don’t have to hide who I am.”
Logan chuckled dryly, “I wouldn’t last long as an elementary school teacher if… if anyone knew about this”—he gestured toward his hair—"or anything else…."
Stepping closer, Remus was nearly touching Logan. He could feel Logan's warm breath ghosting against his neck and collarbone. “I saw you… I looked for you at CBGB's…”
Logan stared up into Remus’ eyes. “You noticed me?”
Nodding, Remus smiled. “I wanted to talk to you, but by the time our set ended, I… I couldn’t find you.”
A smile danced across his lips even as his cheeks flushed. “You were much easier to recognize when you came into my classroom,” Logan’s breath caught in his throat.
“May I?” Remus asked, reaching toward the wig.
“Only if you kiss me first.”
Remus reached for him, lightly pressing one hand against the small of Logan’s back, closing the distance between them. He brushed the back of his fingers across Logan's cheekbone, gasping quietly at the softness of his skin. He leaned in, their lips just brushing when both men heard a key turn in the door lock and they quickly stepped away from each other.
At the same moment that Remus' panicked brain belatedly reminded him that Logan had mentioned he lived with his brother, Patton walked through the door.
“Mr. Sanders ?" Remus blinked in confusion. Mr. Sanders... Oh, fuck , how common of a name did you think Sanders was? “You're—”
Logan nodded, fumbling for his eyeglasses. “Yes, we are brothers.”
Remus’ gaze bounced between them for a few moments before finally muttering, “Jesus, New York can be a small town sometimes." Remus shook himself, brain fuzzy and still feeling a tingle across his lips from their interrupted kiss. "We—we should go. It’s not a school night, but Jay’s clearly wiped out from the week.”
Reaching out at his retreating form as Remus hurried away from him, Logan stuttered, "Y—you are welcome t—to stay as long you w—”
Patton watched Logan for a moment before he turned to Remus, words falling out in a jumble, "Yeah, it's no bother, Mr. Puños."
Remus turned back to look at Logan, gaze shifting between his eyes, his lips, that electric blue hair. Logan thought he would drown in everything unsaid behind the taller man's eyes. "It would be better for Jay to sleep in his own bed." Remus' voice was rough instead of mirthful when he added, "Well… you know what I mean."
Logan took a small step toward him as he gently lifted Jay and held him against his chest like a koala joey. "Would you like some company while you walk? I know it's only a few blocks, but…"
Chuckling, Remus stretched to his full height, flipping his hair and rattling the wrist with his spiked bracelet. "We'll be fine."
Logan felt Patton's gaze trained on him as he stared into Remus' eyes, starting and stopping a half a dozen sentences before finally sighing and nodding.
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Remus draped Jay's little backpack onto his shoulder, then nodded at Patton, then Logan. His eyes lingered on Logan's before murmuring, "Goodnight," and he slipped out the brothers' front door, closing it quietly behind him.
You swallow, hard. Your eyes shift to her lips, then back to her eyes. You are about to say something, you don't even know what, when those eyes staring at you flick away while she removes her fingers. "There. You will follow my instructions to the letter. And you won't forget our Thursday meeting this time. Now come."
✨ZINE ARTIST PREVIEW✨
Sink your teeth into @rikichie’s gorgeous Victuuri Vampire AU!
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☕From Coffee Shops to Slow Burns🔥 is a Yuri!!! on Ice zine for all the tropes you can't get enough of!
Mark your calendars ~ Pre-Orders Begin on September 30th!
Another cheeky chapter preview, hope you enjoy, this ones from tom’s POV!
Link here if you just wanna get straight to the fic; https://archiveofourown.org/works/28824465/chapters/70698570
Tom slammed the diary shut and sent it flying across the room and watched as it connected with the wall and landed on the floor with a harsh thwack. He didn't flinch. Didn't even register the sound in his mind.
The words were replaying over and over again, they were ringing in his ears too loudly for him to register almost anything. He could see them. Floating around him. Taunting him.
He couldn't deny it now, could he? He'd written it down in a frenzy, a frenzy where he writes out his deepest, darkest desires. Except, they'd always been violent, never intimate. Of course he's slept with girls, of course he'd pleasured himself in his free time, yet it was more of a chore to him than anything. A basic necessity, that wasn't all bad to fulfil. Yet, he'd never yearned for someone like this before. Every girl he'd fucked had come to him, practically begging, and he was never inclined to say no. But he always had to keep a leash on his actual desires. He could hardly send these girls back to their dorms with bruises lining their bodies without evoking unwanted questions. He had to restrain himself with them, which wasn't necessarily hard.
Walburga was his favourite - out of all of his frequent shags. She let him do anything. And she liked it. He would tie her up, slap her, throw her around, choke her - do anything and she would enjoy it. The others, he'd merely bend them over a desk in a spare classroom and do what had to be done. But at least with Walburga he could take his time, and at least he could do something he actually wanted to.
But recently, he'd been seeing the girls less. Ignoring them when they'd wink at him in the hallways, or when they would gesture to an empty classroom. When he did follow through with it, when he really needed to release some stress, he found himself thinking of her. Thinking of Ninette.
At first, he played it off as him just being intrigued by her knowledge, fascinated by her mind. But as it happened more, and the images that swam into his mind weren't just her face but focusing more below the neck, with much more revealing clothing than the uniform he knew it had become a problem.
Then it got bad. It got really bad. Suddenly he couldn't come unless he was thinking of her. He had to hit the girls from behind or otherwise their faces would distract him - because they weren't her. He'd even taken to casting silencing charms on them because their voices differed to much from hers. It was bad enough she invaded his mind when he was fucking someone else, it was worse that it happened even when he was on his own.
When he was agitated and had only one way to ease his nerves, he'd usually just focus on the task at hand - he had no time to fantasise. But now, he couldn't even get hard unless he thought of her. Thought of the way she would sound when she was touching herself. How her breasts looked underneath her blouse. He'd remind himself of the way her school skirt hugged her hips so deliciously. He'd replay small memories he had of her biting her lip, or when she had that sinister smirk painted on her lips that made him feel feral. Sometimes it would get too much and he'd even think of calling out her name, even when he was inside someone else.
She made him feel electric. Eventually, he had to sack off most of the girls because he knew he couldn't control himself with them. He knew he wouldn't be able to reign himself in, and he'd do something he knew they weren't comfortable with. So he prevented that before it could happen.
Though he never got rid of Walburga. No, her visits to his dorm late at night became all the more frequent. The sneaking off to empty classrooms happened almost every day now. Because he needed an outlet, and the one he so desperately craved wasn't available. So he chose the next best thing.
Renjun’s traveling ice show desperately needs a new love interest before opening night. Jeno agrees to take up the role, but on one condition: Renjun must be Jeno’s fake boyfriend for his upcoming family reunion.
In theory, it’s the perfect deal.
There’s just one problem. The more they practice their roles on and off the ice, the less they feel like they’re just playing parts…
Listen... I can’t think of how it’d even work for sol but- fake dating trope.
It had been a few weeks since the assassination attempt, and things were quiet around the palace, but the quiet was what unnerved Hunter. Quiet always led to complacency, and complacency is when people got killed. There were always aftershocks, actions and reactions, but it was as if the Empire had just faded from existence, and therefore, from everyone’s minds. He knew his men were still doing the best that they could, but he hadn’t missed how they’d started to slowly relax, Tech especially. They all knew he’d been sneaking out at night to spend time with Kestia, and Wrecker and Echo teased him lightly about it, which he seemed to take in stride, but that sort of comfort was what concerned Hunter, even though he certainly couldn’t fault them for it. He and Wrecker had briefed Tech about their suspicions after the assassination attempt, but he hadn’t seemed convinced, and that further concerned Hunter. He’s losing his ability to be objective.
Oddly enough, the one he was least worried about was Crosshair, mainly because the sniper hadn't formed any sort of close relationship with the queen and continued to keep his distance from the squad. In fact, it seemed as though the tension between Kestia and Crosshair had increased, although Kestia never mentioned it in her briefings with Typho and Hunter. Even though it was good tactically for the mission, it felt like a loss for the clone sergeant. Crosshair had confronted him a few more times about the sniper incident before seemingly consigning himself to silence, going about his guard shifts without so much as a word to any of them.
As for he and the queen, Hunter had quickly come to understand why most of his squad became comfortable around her. She was easy to talk to, showing interest in them and their individual histories when they had a moment or two alone. She seemed genuinely invested in getting to know the people around her and understanding what made them tick, what made them unique. Certainly a quality more politicians could use. It endeared her to them, and perhaps that was a good thing, making her safety more important, but it also made them comfortable. Too comfortable.
Hunter’s thoughts and concerns continued to torment him as he headed into the latest briefing with Typho. The queen was sitting behind her desk in the throne room as usual, two empty chairs set in front of her desk for them to sit in. Hunter took his seat next to the Captain, who was already thumbing through a datapad and greeted him with a slight nod. He removed the helmet he was wearing, scratching at his scalp where the helmet pressed down. He missed just wearing his bandana, but he understood the need to stow it away, opting instead to tie his longer hair back in a bun that was easily stowed under the guard helmet. All part of the job.
Kestia smiled at him once he got situated. “So gentlemen, what’s on the docket this week?”
Typho’s eyes never left the screen of his datapad as he launched into her agenda. “The usual engagements for the first half of the week. You’ve got a few ambassadors coming to meet with you this afternoon. The agricultural union has asked for some of your time towards the middle of the week. Senator Anden is going to be back for the gala at the end of the week and has requested an audience before then. And then of course, there’s the actual gala itself.”
“Gala?” Hunter asked.
“Yes, every year, we hold a celebration of peace with our closest allies in the system to commemorate their aiding us in recovery after the Trade Federation Invasion. The celebration is meant as a sort of continued gratitude and promise of peace between our worlds. Centuries ago, several of the planets represented were our sworn enemies, and we were constantly warring until each of us respectively adopted a culture of peace. It’s an honor to host it, and meeting with the respective leaders and representatives is critical to our continued alliance. We also use it as an opportunity to memorialize those that gave their lives protecting the planet, such as Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jinn.”
Hunter nodded. “So what does security look like for this event?”
Typho leaned back in his chair. “Normally, no security would be allowed within the event as a symbol of trust and good will. This year, however, I believe we should have additional security and-“
“I hardly think that will be necessary, Captain,” Kestia interrupted, waving her hand dismissively. “This event is meant to be a symbol of our peaceful alliance with our neighboring worlds. Having guards there visibly would be a slap in the face to all those that are leaving their entourages and bodyguards behind. We shall have the standard security in place, out of sight, and that will be sufficient.”
She’s also grown too comfortable. “What if it isn’t a guard?” Hunter interjected.
Queen Nodala’s eyes narrowed and Hunter shifted his feet nervously as the tension in the room grew. “And what are you suggesting, Sergeant?”
“An escort, m’lady,” Hunter stated. Typho shot him a look, but he ignored it. Nodala’s eyes were boring holes into him, and he almost regretted his outburst. Too late to back down now. “I would recommend, with Captain Typho’s approval of course, that one of my men escort you to the event, disguised as a fellow politician.”
“It’ll never work,” she said quickly. “All of our politicians here are on the record somewhere. The ruse could be easily disproven.”
“An old acquaintance then. Someone you knew prior to being elected,” Typho suggested, and Hunter gave him a grateful nod.
She mulled it over, drumming her fingers on her desk, clearly grasping for more objections to throw at them. “And which of your men do you think would work for this endeavor? You? I regret to inform you that your tattoos make you stand out quite a bit, sergeant. Same with Crosshair. Wrecker’s size makes him incredibly conspicuous, and Echo-“
She stopped short, and Hunter didn’t miss the way her pupils dilated and the way the pulse point on her throat beat more rapidly. He bit back a smirk. So his feelings are reciprocated then. He knew Kestia wouldn’t back down without an argument, and he was prepared now that he felt he had somewhat of an upper hand in the conversation.
“I hardly think-“
“With all due respect, m’lady, he’s researched your customs and culture and may know it better than you do at this point. He’s the least conspicuous out of all of us when he’s out of his armor and in civilian clothing, and,” he said, cocking an eyebrow, “you two have formed a rapport that I think would make him the best candidate.”
Hunter was certain that if looks could kill, he’d combust on the spot from Kestia’s glare, but he held her gaze. Now it was Typho’s turn to shift uncomfortably as the silence dragged on, broken only by Kestia’s continued drumming on the desktop. Finally, she sighed in defeat, leaning back in her chair.
“Can he dance, sergeant?”
Hunter blinked. I have no kriffing idea. “I’m sure he’s well versed in that as well, m’lady,” he bluffed.
She stood, pushing back from the desk and striding past him. “Make sure he knows at least a few steps. I’d hate to disappoint my guests by being sidelined.”
He bowed slightly, a smirk breaking free across his face. “Yes, m’lady.”
“YOU WHAT?” Tech was the most flustered Hunter had ever seen him, and it took every bit of willpower he had to not openly laugh at him now. Wrecker and Echo had no such inhibitions, however, doubling over and cackling at their brother.
“It was all we could get her to agree to for some reason,” he said pointedly, and Tech’s face flushed further. “It’s the only way we will be allowed to be in the room. You are the last line of defense and will have to keep her safe.”
“And what do the rest of us get to do while he’s wining and dining the queen?” Crosshair muttered from his usual spot, leaning against the wall.
“We will all be on duty with a few of Captain Typho’s most trusted guards. We will keep the perimeter clear, watch for any suspicious activity.”
“Sounds easy enough,” Echo said. “It would be bold of the Empire to attack such a large gathering.”
“It was bold to take a shot at her on the palace steps, and it’s been quiet for weeks. I’m worried we’re overdue for some action. Keep your wits about you.” They all nodded in acknowledgement. “Oh and Tech,” Hunter said, a grin creeping across his face. “I was instructed to inform you to learn some dance steps before the end of the week. Sounds like you’re going to need them.”
Echo couldn’t help it. The look on Tech’s face sent him and Wrecker back into a fit of snorts and chuckles, doubling over and wheezing. Tech shot them a glare before nodding, walking back to their room to presumably start researching what traditional dances were common on Naboo.
Once Echo had recovered, he nudged Wrecker in the shoulder. “I’ve got an hour before my rotation. Let’s go grab some food.” Wrecker never turned down a meal, no matter what time of day it was, and the two of them made their way to the kitchens. They grabbed some sandwiches and fruit that were laid out and made their way outside to the dining area that was reserved for palace staff. Taking a seat, Echo noted Wrecker’s brow was furrowed.
“Something on your mind, Wreck?” he asked, taking a bite out of his sandwich.
Wrecker picked nervously at his food. “Just thinkin’ about what Hunter said, about us being overdue for some action. I hope he’s wrong.”
“Yeah, me too,” Echo said, “but he normally has pretty good instincts for those types of things. Still, the quiet has been nice. Almost makes you forget we’re fighting a war still.”
They chewed in silence for a few minutes, and Echo could tell Wrecker’s tension still hadn’t eased. “You’re worried Crosshair’s going to be right, aren’t you?”
Wrecker scratched at the scar on the left side of his face. “That’s part of it. I like the queen, and I don’t know how she could do somethin’ like that. Do you think she could?”
Echo pondered the question for a moment. Kestia was certainly one of the kinder people he’d met in his life, but she also had a side to her that was fiercely protective and loyal to her people. He had little doubt that she’d do whatever she had to in order to serve Naboo, but he’d seen countless politicians lose sight of what it meant to serve and what the “right” thing to do was, so while he truly believed Kestia had the best of intentions, he couldn’t say with complete confidence that her reckless nature would not have led her to do the things Crosshair suggested. He wanted very badly to believe otherwise, but the analytical part of his brain couldn’t shake the feeling that something else was amiss.
“I honestly don’t know, Wrecker.”
The large clone sighed. “That’s what I was afraid of.” Wrecker took another bite and chewed. “I just wish Crosshair understood why we aren’t sure.”
It was Echo’s turn to sigh. “He just needs time. He went through a lot when he was with the Empire.” It had taken Echo a long time to have sympathy for his brother, but after realizing the amount he had sacrificed for the Empire only to be thrown in prison and branded a traitor, he had managed to have at least a little understanding, especially after the discovery of the chip. He struggled to imagine what it must have been like inside Crosshair’s head with the chip constantly warring against him without him even knowing it.
Wrecker grunted. “He acts like he’s the only one that’s had it hard.”
“Wreck, he had his chip enhanced and he didn’t know it was there. I have to imagine he’s pretty conflicted about what he did while under its influence and-“
“I get that,” Wrecker said pointedly, staring at Echo. Of course he does. Out of all of us, he gets it the most. Wrecker was the only other clone out of the squad that had had his chip activate. It had been terrifying. The combination of blind loyalty to the Empire and his brute strength had almost been the end of all of them. Echo hadn’t been able to turn his head very well for a few weeks after Wrecker had essentially thrown him into Rex by his face, and he had considered himself fortunate that was the most severe of his injuries. Tech had gotten the worst of it by far, and while he had done his best to hide how hurt he was, Echo knew that Wrecker had noticed, constantly trying to help Tech whenever he was struggling to move or reach or bend for something. None of them had blamed him for what had happened, but Echo knew he carried a certain amount of guilt about it, and that made him more empathetic towards Crosshair, but also at times, less patient. Echo suspected Wrecker had greatly benefited from having his brothers around to console him and show that they harbored no ill will in the immediate aftermath of his chip activating. Crosshair, however, had been alone, and left to wonder and worry how he would be accepted or if he ever would be forgiven. That’s a different kind of torture that would torment anyone.
They sat quietly for several more moments before Echo broke the silence again. “So…you think Tech is back in the suite trying to figure out which dance steps he needs to have memorized by the end of the week?”
Wrecker chuckled at that, and Echo smiled, glad to have brought a little bit of levity to the conversation. “I’ll bet he’s twirlin’ around with his data pad in hand right now,” the large clone snickered, and Echo couldn’t help but join in his mirth at the thought. Tech was normally the most calm and collected of all of them, and the look of borderline panic that erupted across his features when Hunter disclosed their plan to him had been something very new to see. “You think he’s in love with her?” Wrecker asked, and Echo’s laughter stilled.
It was a serious thought. Love was something clones weren’t really meant to experience, but he’d witnessed several instances of it, and it had always seemed to end poorly with at least one person getting their heart shattered. He worried his lower lip with his teeth as he considered the way Tech looked at Kestia. It was undeniable that his eyes glowed a little brighter behind his goggles when they interacted. He wanted happiness for his brother, for all of them, but forming romantic relationships during a war seemed like a terrible idea. However, life was short and with tomorrow never being promised, he’d always been supportive of people loving who they loved, consequences be damned.
Echo couldn’t deny that Tech seemed happier. He could tell that whatever their relationship, Kestia had been good for Tech. His steps were lighter, he smiled more, and it seemed as though his constant info-dumping had ceased, which made Echo think he’d finally found someone willing to listen on a regular basis. As much as he had always tried to humor Tech’s constant lectures on his latest engineering project or his current academic interest, he often found it distracting and would normally try to gently ask Tech to save it for a time he wasn’t busy, but that time never came. He knew Tech often tried to mute that part of his personality for all of their sakes, and the thought that Tech may have found a willing audience in Kestia warmed him.
“Love is a strong word, Wreck, but I certainly think he cares for her very deeply.”
Wrecker went back to nervously picking at his food again as a shadow passed across his face. “I hope Crosshair’s wrong then. It’s gonna hurt Tech if the queen is lyin’ to us again.”
Echo’s gaze drifted out to a distant point as Wrecker’s worries seeped into his mind as well. “I hope so too.”
Tag List: @imalovernotahater
Paring: Bruce Wayne x Reader
Summary: Detective Y/L/N is the youngest yet the most skilled detective in Gotham’s Police, being one of the few James Gordon trusts with Batman stuff. After some time working closely with the Bat, Y/N starts to get the vigilante’s attention. But there’s no way this would work right? Getting close to you as Batman wasn’t a possibility, but maybe he could take a chance as Bruce, right?
Prologue | Chapter 1
A/N: it took so long to write this one, cause I think I rewrote about 5 times and I still couldn't be completely satisfied. Not that I'm now... but I just decided to stop demand too much of me, cause in my head is never good enough so I posted it anyways. And I'm happy with how it came out. Hope you like it too.
The next day you were sitting at your usual table at the coffee shop still working on that case. It happened with frequency, whenever you got tired of the same four walls of the station you would gather some of the documents of the case and went to the cafe nearby the station to clear your mind and work on things in a nicer environment. You usually order a sweet coffee (anything with whipped cream on it), some food to accompany, and talk to your friend the attendant Andrea.
“I can’t believe you actually meet Bruce Wayne” she said excitedly leaving your order on the table. Today the cafe is crowded, maybe it’s the time you decided to come, and all tables were occupied and Andrea was rather busy, so you didn’t have too much time to talk. “He passes by some times here, but he always seemed so busy, never really had a chance to speak with him.”
“Well, lucky you!” you said taking your coffee to take a sip “The guy is insufferable. I think I never meet someone so full of himself” you said taking another sip and rolling your eyes just remembering your encounter with Gotham’s favorite millionaire “I had to wait 30 minutes for him to decided to show up and it only takes 10 minutes of talk to make me wanna kill myself.” you were being dramatic you know that but you needed to prove your point. Andrea knew you too well those rich people, always saying that they spend their whole lives sitting around, doing nothing, looking pretty in their expensive clothes while the city falls apart. That act like going on stupid charity balls just to look like they were soo good was enough. “Didn’t even get anything helpful. At the end of the day, I just lost time and sanity”
Andrea knew your opinion about rich people. You were always saying that they spend their whole lives sitting still, doing nothing, looking pretty in their expensive clothes while the city falls apart. They act like going on stupid charity balls once or twice a year was enough. Even when they went to charity balls they were more worried about what they were wearing them the people they should be helping. You didn’t get why they were treated like celebrities, you hated it. So she could think that your opinion about Bruce Wayne was a little clouded by those previous thoughts. (It wasn’t he proved you to be exactly how you expected him to be)
“And you concluded that in 10 minutes of interaction?” she asked giving you a knowing look. Sitting in the chair in front of you. See… you sure she already thinks that you were biased, she thinks that you treated Bruce badly even before meeting him, she definitely thinks that you had your judgment clouded by your loath at rich people.
“Yes!” you answered a little too loud “10 minutes were more than enough to see how shallow he is, just like every other one of them”
“Okay!” she started speaking sarcastic “So you’re sure you didn’t conclude a lot of things even before you meet the guy and just take him for granted with everything he said?”
“I’m sure! If you had been there you would have seemed! I wasn’t biased okay?!”
“Well, I never said that,” she said giggling a little “But if the shoes fit…” she said laughing now, you just rolled your eyes at her and were going to answer when someone called her “Well I have to get back to work” she said getting up “Good luck with the case” and she gave you a smile and blew you a kiss before walking out.
You returned your focus to the documents analyzing the profile of your suspects, eating your muffin, and drinking your coffee when you heard the door of the cafe opening. You didn’t pained attention to it cause it was a busy hour, people were coming in and out all the time. It was after fell minutes that you felt a presence in front but you didn’t look up too focused on your papers. The person cleared their throat getting your attention
“Excuse me… this seat is taken?” when you look up, wearing a friendly smile with a cup of coffee in hand and pointing to the seat in front of you Bruce Wayne stands.
Alfred entered the office with the tray in hand only to be greeted with the sign of his master’s spread in the chair with his hands on his face giving a frustrating moan, He walked into the room and left the tray with the teapot and cups on the coffee table.
“May I ask you, what bloody hell have you done?” he said sitting in the chair you previous were and started serving a cup of the to Bruce
“What?” he said finally looking at the butler “I didn’t do anything, I just guess she was done with questions” Bruce said defensively while taking the tea Alfred was offering him. “Thank you Alfred” he said quickly, receiving a questionable look
“Are you sure? Because she seemed quite disturbed when I saw her leaving the house and slamming every door she found in the way” Alfred said sarcastically serving a cup of tea for himself and drinking it.
“Well… she has a strong temper” Bruce said taking a drink of his tea avoiding looking Alfred in the eyes knowing there would be a lesson
“It did not seem like that to me”
“Are you kidding me?” Bruce said straightening up in the chair and resting his cup on the coffee table “Don’t you remember when I first meet her? She looked like she was going to throw me off that roof and had a staring contest with Batman, and honestly… if wasn’t for the mask I think I would lose.”
“Yeah, I remember very well. I also remember she acted like that after you were rude at her”
“That’s true, but I wasn’t being rude now! Actually, she was weird. Like a completely different person.” Bruce said relaxing again in the chair and return to his drink “And maybe I got annoyed and told her to ‘actually do her job’” he said mumbly under his breath
Alfred looks incredulous “Maybe? Or you actually said it?” he just nodded and Alfred knew what he meant. “Oooh Master Bruce” Bruce felt like the lesson he was avoiding was coming and he really didn’t want to hear how wrong he was.
Alfred was the only person who he accepted a lecture but even coming from him it wasn’t nice to be told you were wrong. Plus, he wasn’t all wrong, you were treating him badly ever since he arrived. He knew you for 2 years and had never seen you soo hostile for someone you just met. So he got frustrated, he was excited to finally meet you as Bruce Wayne, maybe you could be friends, he could get closer to you know you better since as Batman he couldn’t do this stuff. But he wasn’t expecting things to go south as they did. So now he just hoped to never see you as Bruce again. He was fine with the relation had with you like Batman and that way he could keep a safe distance.
“She was hostile! Then she asked about the hotel and I had to tell that stupid story about the fountain, then she started laughing! I got embarrassed and just lost my mind. Pretty sure he was judging me, thinking I’m stupid and shallow rich playboy” Bruce started trying to justify himself
“And is not that you want everyone to think?” Alfred said interrupting him and giving him a challenging look
“But… you cared about what she thinks” Alfred interrupted him leading the conversation in the direction he wanted to.
“I don’t care about what other people think Alfred” Bruce said defensive
“Well.. but you did” Alfred tried to get him to see what he was refusing to see.
Alfred knew Bruce better than everybody else in the world, probably the only person who knew him at all. Maybe Bruce couldn’t see it yet but Alfred could, as clear as day, it was clear how different he acted when the subject was you. How brighter he has been ever since Batman started working on cases with you. Even in the beginning when you both didn’t get along soo well when he arrived home complaining about how stubborn you were and refused to follow a simple order and how it would get you killed, Alfred saw he was actually worried about your well-being. And as the partnership grew, as you started to learn how to work together Bruce won’t shut up about you, Alfred teases him and he always said is just professional admiration. Yeah, it may have started as it but Alfred was sure Bruce was passed that. And still had this Batman thing. How Master Bruce made it his life’s goal to protect the city, to be a lone vigilante. He would never admit it. He doesn’t know he deserves to be happy. He was just stubborn to accepted it. Alfred has made his personal mission to make Bruce see his feelings for you.
“I did not” he said angrily and practically slamming the teacup on the coffee table
“Tell me master Bruce… if it was anyone else would you be embarrassed about the fountain story or would you be worried if they thought you were a ‘stupid and shallow rich playboy’?” Alfred said finishing his tea and landing the cup on the tray, getting up and collecting the tea set setting on the tray before leaving. Bruce didn’t say a word he knew Alfred was right, he was mad because he cared for some reason he didn’t care if the whole of Gotham sees him as a rich playboy but he cares if you do. That’s why he was frustrated, that’s why he said that stupid thing. He is starting to realize that he wants you to see him differently.
Seeing that Bruce had nothing else to say probably thinking about what he just said, Alfred started to leave the room but right before stepping out he said “Fix it, okay?”
At night Bruce decided to investigate the hotel. He owned the hotel but still, he decided to put on his batman closets and trespass his own hotel. To see if he could find something to help on the case. It was late night so only some members of the staff were around. He went to the manager’s office and he has looking at every file in the drawer, some employee’s files, he looked at some numbers and hotel accounts and a lot of useless papers. When he realized that was a locked one. He managed to open it and saw more papers, it looked like the same ones he saw before for the numbers but only papers from the day he bought the hotel. Different numbers, and different numbers from the ones that were sent to him. Since he bought it he thought it was weird the hotel wasn’t giving profit, but he didn’t need it so he didn’t care. But now it was clear why. The manager is stealing and forging the numbers.
He had other things to do that night so he didn’t dig too deep. This was an important piece of information that you probably didn’t know since you haven’t mentioned it when you met him. And it could help on the case. So he decided he was going to share this with you somehow.
That’s how he finds himself, standing in front of you holding a hot cup of coffee while you’re too focused on your papers no notice his presence. So he clears his throat and finally speaks.
“Excuse me… this seat is taken?” he give you a genual smile but you looked up and seemed actually disappointed to see he was the one talking to you, so now he was a little nervous and he really hated how he didn’t have much control of his emotions when you were involved like he was it everyone else.
“No, it’s not taken!” you said seeming bothered, but anyway he started pulling the chair to sit on, “I said it wasn’t taken I didn’t say you could sit,” you said not even caring to sound rude anymore after your encounter yesterday.
“Well… but there is no other sit available,” he said giving you a smirk, you looked around and realized that all seats were taken leaving only the seat across you available when you were just opening your mouth to tell him he could sit he spoke again “And I don’t think you own the place to tell where I can seat”. SHUT UP BRUCE
“Do you? I’m sure you own a lot of places right?!” you said sarcastically but he didn’t answer you just kept looking at you, even though he said you didn’t own the place to tell him where to seat it looked like he was still waiting for your consent to sit so you decided to speak “Suit yourself.” you said return your focus to the papers without even looking at him you said “Just don’t bother me and let me do my job as you told me to yesterday” you said angrily the last part.
“Look… I’m sorry about yesterday okay?! I was rude but you were rude too. So we're good, right?” he said sting and taking a drink of his coffee
“I wasn't rude” you said defensively now looking at him. And that’s how the most heated and tension-filled argument of his life began. Both of you are too proud to let the other win.
“You’re kidding me? You weren’t exactly nice”
“I was being professional. I don’t have to be nice for an interrogation” you said
uninterested trying to end this conversation
“Was it an interrogation? I thought you said I wasn’t a suspect”
“I said that to everyone, people tend to spit out easily when they think they’re safe”
“And I’m not a suspect anymore?”
“Don't you remember what I said when I left? I put away this possibility the moment I realize you wouldn’t be smart enough to hide your trails like he is doing”
“Ouch!” he said dramatically, putting his hand on his chest. by one side he was glad to see his facade worked just fine, if people could think he has not smart enough to hide a murder they definitely couldn't think he has Batman, but on the other hand he has sad cause the person assuming it now was you. “I remember very well! Good to know that’s you being professional”
“I dropped the professional facade the moment you gently told me to actually do my job”
“Okay… I told already that I’m sorry and admitted that I was rude. Can you just admit you were rude too and apologize too.” he knew he could maybe just let it go it would be easier but his pride wouldn't let him, and it seemed yours too. You couldn't just admit that MAYBE you were rude too, but you had your reasons
“ I don’t know what you’re talking about, I have nothing to apologize for” you said and turn back to your papers “Now please... let me do my job”
You would never admit it was a heated but rather kind of fun discussion, it seemed like you both knew exactly what to say next and there wasn't a moment of silence always coming with a perfect comeback to what the other just said. Like there was some weird chemistry between you two. But you would never admit that even to yourself, either that you may need to apologize too. So you just throw these thoughts away and focus on the papers.
Bruce was cursing at himself for not keeping himself in control. God! He looked like one of those boys in kindergarten who kept teasing the girl over some attention. You weren’t helping either. He came here to bring you the information he found out and as Alfred told him to “fix it” since your first encounter with Bruce Wayne went as well as this one is going. But you were making things difficult. Why couldn't you just accept his apology? Why couldn't you just say you’re sorry too? Then he remembered this looked like your first interaction with him at all, two years ago, with Batman. But only this time it looked like the roles were reversed. You were defensive, so he had to do what you did at the time and insist. He came here with an objective in mind so he is going to make it. So after some minutes of silence with you practically with the face on the papers, Bruce cleared his throat.
“What is it now?” you said looking up annoyedly
“So... I wasn’t expecting to meet you again so soon” all lies, he knew this was your favorite coffee shop and that you practically lived here besides the station (not in a creep way, you just told Batman about it at least a thousand of times) “but… After you left I realized I should know better about the places I invest my money on-”
“No kidding” you said sarcastically
“Can you please let me continue?” he said firmly, you just nodded and he continued “Three of my employees were killed and I didn't know it until you called that day, so I decided to look at every information about the hotel I had. And my accountant discovered a diversion of large amounts of money he trailed the money to some side account of Henry Howard”
“Wait!” you said showing him the file of Henry that already was one of your principal suspects “Henry Howard? The manager?” you asked and he nodded
“Yeah, it looks like right after I brought the hotel the sucker saw the change of administration as an opportunity to steal money and forge the numbers so no one found out.”
“But someone did..” you said quietly remembering something you had seen at the beginning of your investigation and putting together the information Bruce just gave you.
“What?” he heard you mumbling at yourself and suddenly getting together all the papers you had messy on the table, throwing in your bag, and quickly getting up. You didn’t answer him.
“Thank you Mister Wayne '' it was the last thing you said before rushing out of the coffee shop Bruce was frozen seeing you rush to leave the place. He guessed you probably came to a conclusion since he knew you always get energetic when you are close to closing a case. He was glad that even in a messy way and with an awful back story he was able to help you. He even got a ‘Thank you in the end.
Turns out it was the manager. After you left the cafe you rushed to the station and started to put things together more clearly, you knew one of the widows told you that before dying her husband was really happy saying that their lives would change and the husband of Ms. Bennett had told you she said that she knew a secret that she cannot tell him now but soon he would know. That information didn’t make sense to you until now. He was arrested but was now talking to his lawyer, but since he confessed you don’t think there is much he can do. But that’s something to worry about later.
You’re now in your room staring at the pile of cases you had after losing so much time on this one but at least taking a rest before taking another one when a knock on your door got your attention. You looked up to see Gordon walking in.
“So I heard your suspect confessed” he said walking to you and taking a chair to seat
“Yeah… he did'' you said stretching in your chair “Just had to pull some pressure, told him I knew about the money he was stealing and the guy didn't take it.” you said proudly of yourself
“He was stealing money?” he asked and you just nodded “And why kill his friends?”
“They weren’t his friends, actually they found out and were blackmailing him. He said that he couldn't do that anymore, they were always asking for more money and he freaked out. Then he killed Bennett first, after some weeks Edward, and last week it was Joey’s time.
“How did you pull that out anyway?”
“Aah well.. Bruce Wayne told me. He said his accountant found the wrong numbers and they found out the scam” you said and he gave you a confused look “He was telling the truth, I could see it. So I took his word and it made sense it the rest of the story”
For a moment you forgot about him. He had helped you, you don’t know how you would find out the money situation without him. Maybe he isn't the most pleasing person in the world but he helped you. You were starting to think he might deserve an apology.
“Ohh, I thought said that talking to him was just a waste of time”
“Well.. it was… at first. But later we meet at the cafe and he told me this was actually helpful information. It looks like he did something helpful at once right?”
“Stop being so mean” he said laughing “He is always helping you know?”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean, have you seen how much he spends on charity causes? The orphanage you grow up in included. And the handful of people his company helps? And you know… every year we receive a generous anonymous donation, but I’m pretty sure he is the one to send it” you were shocked, you didn’t know he did all that, the media was always so focused on who he was dating. Why didn't they talk about that? Maybe they did and you just didn’t see it. Maybe that didn’t mean anything
“I’m sure he is doing it just to look good on the picture” you said
“With anonymous donations? Really Y/N” Gordon said with a challenging look “I don’t know how it went yesterday, I’m not defending him or anything… but… maybe… not all rich people are the same, you know. The same way, not every cop is the same.” Gordon knew your strong opinion about the elite of Gotham too, it’s not like it is something you hide, you actually used to talk about it a lot. So you're guessing that knowing your opinion and knowing you like nobody else Jim knows that your interaction with Bruce was in fact clouded with prejudices and hostility.
At some point he had to admit you were wrong too, of course, he was rude, but you were too. You were rude from the beginning, already judging his lateness, the story about the purchase of the hotel, and calling him dumb indirectly. Not to mention the cafe encounter where he was trying to apologize but you couldn't find in yourself how to do it too. You knew you needed to apologize, you knew you were rude too but you were just too proud to say it to him. And now knowing the things he does? If what Jim is saying is true and you know it is, he helps a lot of people, more than any other millionaire in Gotham. Maybe he deserved at least an apology.
“Maybe I was a bitch to him” you confessed to Jim and he just gave you a smile.
“Maybe?” he teased you
“I was” you confirm “But that’s in the past, what is gone is gone. I can live with it”
You couldn't. Knowing you like you do, you may think you can live without apologizing and thanking him for his help, but you couldn't. You would think about this all day, you were the kind who apologizes to the waiter if your order comes wrong. You would think about Bruce saying he is sorry in the cafe and you just saying you had nothing to apologize for, replaying the scene over and over in your head. You started to gather your things and the car's keys.
“Where are you going?” Jim asked seeing you rush out of the room.
“To the Wayne Manor”
Okay, Y/N! You can do it. Is very simple. You just come in, ask Alfred if Mr. Wayne is home... If he isn’t you just leave the message to him (which you hoped would happen), and if he is... just say your sorry for your behavior on both occasions, thank him for the help with the case, tell him that the guilty is already arrested, he will have his money back soon and leave. Simple. No need to further conversation, no need for an argument. Just say what you gotta say and leave. That’s easy.
You were standing at the front door right now replaying what you gonna say in your mind a thousand times. You wanted to do it but at the same time, you didn’t. You know it’s not a weakness to apologize, to confess you were wrong, but you didn't want Bruce to be right either.
You took a deep breath before knocking and waited, after a few seconds maybe a minute the door opened, and you were greeted by a very happy Alfred. He knew it was you, since he was the one who let you past the enormous gate that surrounded the land.
“Ooooh Detective Y/L/N how great to see you,” he said widening the door so you could come in. “What an honor to see you two days in a row right?” he asked politely as always you smiled at him and took a step in. “May I know the reason for your visit? Would like another tea?” he said already walking toward the kitchen. Excited to have you there again even after yesterday's fiasco.
“No no! You don’t have to” you said shaking your hands to stop him from taking any step further “Actually I don’t intend to spend much time. Is Mister Wayne home? I just need to talk something quickly with him.” you asked secretly hoping he would say no so you wouldn't have to deal with it directly to him.
“Yes, he is! I am going to call him now.” he said giving you a smile and showing you a place to sit “Just sit here and wait a bit please, I will get him in a minute.”
Bruce was in the cave getting ready for patrol. He was thinking about your interaction early and the disaster that went again with you probably just hate him more than you already did. He was hoping he could see you tonight, at least you were extra nice to Batman, even if he couldn't talk about personal stuff and get closer as Batman he was glad you had at least a good relationship.
But when Alfred came down the cave saying that you were upstairs wishing to talk to him, he got nervous. It couldn't be good right. It was never good. He was pretty sure already that Bruce and Y/N were synonyms of conflict, bad communication, and arguments. But he rushed upstairs anyway, having a mix of wanting to see you again and curiosity about what this was about.
You waited a few minutes analyzing the room you were in, the entrance room of the mansion had a huge portrait of the Wayne family, with a young Bruce standing close to his parents. Everybody in Gotham knew the tragic story about the Waynes, you were a baby when it happened but it was impossible to not know how Bruce Wayne became an orphan and the owner of a billionaire fortune overnight. Raised only by his butler. It must have been lonely. You never had parents but you had your brother, growing up in orphanages and foster houses he was always there to protect you. Looking at the portrait of their family you couldn't help but think about your broken little one. Something you don't do often and when you do you quickly push away. You were too lost in your thoughts that you didn't notice someone else arriving in the room.
“I was 8 in this picture” you jumped a little from hearing a voice behind you only to quickly realize it was Bruce and he had caught you staring at his family portrait. "It was taken in the same year they died" you turned to him nodded and gave him a sweet smile. Why is he telling you that?
“I never met mine” Why are you telling him that?
“That sucks!” he said before starting walking toward you “Why you’re here?” he asked genuinely and you realized he was trying extra hard to not sound rude, maybe wanting to avoid another meaningless discussion, and you were glad for it. You didn't want to discuss either.
“Huuuuuuum…” you said slowly trying to gather the courage to do what you came here for
“I wanted to.. to apologize” you started saying and saw a smile growing on his face. “You were right! I think we were both rude and… I may have jumped to some pretentious conclusions even before we met.” you said now looking at the floor wanting to avoid eye contact with him since his eyes didn’t seem to leave your face “You see… I thought you were one of those rich selfish jerks that spend money on cars and women while the city falls apart… even if you were” his eyebrows furrowed hearing you said that “... what you do with your money is not concerned to me, right? but I know now you make good use of it.” Bruce was listening to your every word doesn't matter how messy they were but at the same time, he was hypnotized by your face, thinking how much this speech you were giving reminded him of the first time you met Batman and became a babbling mess. “Anyways… sorry about yesterday... and today too - I was a bitch! I hate being a bitch.. I swear I’m not like that - I'm usually nice” you stopped talking suddenly a habit you caught after realizing you have been babbling non-stop.
“I’m sorry too! I know I said early but it may have sounded a little fake… with me demanding you to apologize too. I just want you to know I'm genuinely sorry” he said after you stopped, you weren’t expecting him to say anything - breaking the whole plan you had made in your head, so you decided to just nod, smile, and continue with the list you had to say.
“I also wanted do thank you,” you said and he looked confused at you “for your help… with the case” you explained and he came to realization nodded and you continued “The thing you told me about the money was crucial to solving the case when I called the manager to an interrogation and mentioned we knew about the money the bastard freaked out and confessed everything” after explaining what happened with the case you just had one more thing to say to end this and be free from guilt “The money stolen will be returned to you… so don’t worry about it, it will be back in no time.”
He could tell he didn't want that money, that you could leave it to the police or find some charity cause to give to. But he didn't need you or anybody else to know what he did that wasn't the reason he was doing. He decided he would take the money back them make an anonymous donation himself.
“Thank you for letting me know. I’m glad I could help” he said only now realizing you two were standing a few feet apart in front of his family paint.
Looking up to his parents and looking down at your face Bruce never felt more conflicted. He had promised to protect the city to never let another kid lose his parents like he did. In order to do that he couldn't get distracted. But he also wanted to be happy. Putting someone else in the equation was putting this person in danger and he didn't want that. But being Batman and being alone for the rest of his life was something that deep down he knows he doesn't want too. Should he try to be happy? Should he take a chance with you?
Seeing he went silent and were weirdly looking at you and at his parent's portrait, you had already said everything you came here for so you just wanted to leave, you cleared your throat and took a step back.
“I should get going now! Thank you for hearing me out Mr. Wayne and sorry again about everything” you said awkwardly before start walking toward the entrance door. Bruce had heard you but he has still trapped inside his head with a million thoughts running through his head. This right now would be the perfect timing to make a move, he could ask you out, he could try to be happy. But as he sees you leaving he looks at his parents one more time and makes a decision.
“Yeah yeah! That’s no problem. I was a jerk too. So we are good” he decided couldn't drag anyone to this. H couldn't drag you to the mess he was. He had so many issues, being batman was only one of them. He couldn't ask no one to live in his messy world no one deserved that. He didn’t deserve that. He needed to stay focus on his goal.
You just nodded and started opening the door, when Alfred came practically running to stop you from doing so
“Leaving already Detective?” he asked and you just nodded “So please let me open the door for you” you were just opening your mouth to protest when he interrupted you “that’s my job” he said laughing and you laugh together.
“Thank you, Alfred” and you let him be a gentleman and open the door for you
But Alfred was opening that door painfully slowly. He knew his master feelings for you he knew this was a perfect opportunity. He was praying to every god that exists to Bruce stop being stupid and at least give it a try. He started looking at his master with a pleading look hoping he would understand him just with a glare.
When Alfred arrived at the scene Bruce’s mind just went a million miles again. He thought he had made a decision, to let you go, let it be. Be batman and be Gotham's protector, a lonely vigilante forever. But seeing Alfred talking to you and holding that door, opening the door with the speed of a turtle, he started having seconds thoughts. Alfred loved him and raised him with love, and ever since he came back with this Batman idea he had been supportive but wouldn't shut up about how he wanted Bruce to be happy. How he shouldn't be alone and don't push people away.
Bruce wanted that too, deep down he knew he didn't want to be alone. He started thinking of endless possibilities and realized that if he asked you out, it didn’t mean it would be forever, it didn't mean it would work but he could at least give it a try right?! Just ask, see how it goes. There was no need to share his secret or bring you to his messy world. He could enjoy life for a few moments. For that, he had to take a risk.
And after what felt like hours of Alfred looking at him and slowly opening the door Bruce opened his mouth and it came out the last thing he thought he would say today.
“Detective Y/L/N!” he called your attention and you turned to look at him confusingly, he was acting weird like he lost his confidence and turned into some shy teenager rubbing the back of his neck and looking at the floor “Would you like to go out with me?”
WHAT? Bruce Wayne was asking you out? Like… on a date? That’s definitely not how you were expecting to go on your visit to the Wayne Manor. It didn't make any sense. How should you react to this? Your mind was running miles per second and before you could help yourself your body has spoken for itself.
“No, thank you! Bye!” you said quickly getting out of the Manor and running to your car.
Chapter 3 (soon)
yeah yeah I know... I feel bad for Bruce. I'm feeling mean now ksksksks I'm sorry but I had to. Things will soon start to get better, and our two idiots will start to get along... I hope
Hope you liked it and let me know what you think.
Pairing: Pedro Pascal/OFC
Warnings: some mildly dubious consent, r-word, (but nobody is getting r*, chill)
Summary: What was the plan with these pictures? Pedro will have to make an unpleasant deal if he wants them back.
Notes: Also find this fic on Ao3 -here- or the series' Masterlist -here-
Author's note: The original draft turned out to be 12k long and I had to divide it into two parts. So, the next chapter shouldn't take as long to update!
PS: To all the men in show biz who have dealt with #metoo. Trigger warnings apply accordingly. Let's hate the character, not the author.
His nostrils flared at the sight. There were several pictures exposing their unofficial liaison behind the curtains, both figuratively and literally. They showed Pedro caressing Nini’s body and roaming his hands up her skirt and under her top while she was tugging at his clothes and clinging onto him with such insatiable greed. They held tightly on to one another while practically eating each others faces and the both of them were clearly enjoying it. It looked heated and raunchy, leaving nothing to the imagination and even suggesting more than there had truly been. The angle at which the pictures had been taken made it look like they were caught in the act. The lovers thought they had hidden away, yes, but from sight? Apparently, not so much.
Pedro’s throat started to close up and he couldn’t look at the woman in fear he would start yelling uncontrollably at her if he did. He wanted the tear the pictures up, throw them away and burn them to ashes. His fingers gripped the edges tightly enough to wrinkle the material.
His gaze snapped up at her when she spoke. “Oh, this is just a copy, by the way,” Sharon mentioned with a spark of malice in her nasal voice. She stood in front of him in this dark and enclosed room, arms crossed and defensive. “The only other file in existence is safe with me, of course.”
Pedro stared at her in a mixture of disbelief and anger and couldn’t believe he was led here to be tricked into... what was it exactly? He could imagine a few reasons why she was doing this and blackmail was the most likely one of them. He wasn’t stupid. “What is this?” He held back the threatening tone in his voice to the best of his abilities.
He knew he shouldn’t have come down here but Pedro had heard a cry for help and had found a helpless Sharon trying to lift a heavy roll of fabric twice her size into this basement. The room was big enough to store plenty of spare materials, broken props, screens and apparently, secrets as well. He realised her struggle had just been a ruse to get him to be alone with her.
Pedro smiled ironically, thinking the designer chose the wrong profession. She would have made a great actress. Sharon had looked so desperate, about to collapse under its weight and though Pedro liked to stay as far away from this woman as possible, he couldn’t just let her deal with it on her own, not when the set was about to close up for the day and everyone was meeting up to travel back to their hotels.
Sharon was testing his patience while she simply smiled at him like she was feeding on his anger. His mind raced a million miles per hour, imagining the scandal she would trigger. It really was a worst-case scenario and he could picture it ever so clearly, even against his better judgement. It didn’t make any sense. “Answer me,” Pedro glowered.
“Well, what does it look like, sugar?” The arrogance in her voice was remarkable as she asked him a question in return and traced a finger along his jawline to the tip of his chin. He evaded her touch and looked away. Sharon was the kind of imperturbable person who was usually easy to ignore but she had come on too strong a few times too often. Normally, he was able to deal with her and forget it after he had brushed off her advances with a polite decline. A simple ‘no’ should have been enough to remind her of the fact that he still wasn’t interested. The first couple of times, it had still been amusing. After a while, he had gotten easily irritable in her presence.
You didn’t follow untrustworthy people into dark basements. Rule number one in literally every horror movie.
“Funny, you and me in a dark and private room again. Anything could happen, really.” Sharon mentioned when he had already turned his back on her.
“Sure.” He replied tightly. Pedro had only wanted to help her push the fabric up against the wall and take his leave again but Sharon called him back to reveal what was inside her envelope then. She had shown him these pictures, right out of the blue.
She smiled at him. “Cute, aren’t they?” She said like she kicked puppies for a living.
He pushed them back at her, pointing out the flaw in her plan. “You can’t publish them, it’s not legal.” “Yeah, that’s what we assume right now.” Sharon didn’t agree. She carried such a confident air about herself it would have been comical if Pedro hadn’t found himself in such a gravely ill situation. Her smile would have been sweet if it would only reach her eyes.
She couldn’t leak them. There was no way. “I don’t think you understand. There will be consequences if you publish pictures that reveal confidential information about the movie or violate the actors’ privacy.” He spoke calmly like he was explaining something to a mildly problematic toddler. “Do I have to remind you of the non-disclosure contract you signed so you could work here?” Either she carried a plan or she was just plain stupid. Never mind he knew the latter was also true, he wished for this simpler explanation.
Sharon studied the pictures in an absent-minded way like she had to recalculate their value. “Oh, we’ll see. One could always find a way and accidents happen, like, all the time you know? You and I are the only people who know I have these, actually.” She intervened and giggled at his expression. “For now.” She sealed the envelope back together. “But I kinda wonder what Van Fleet would have to say about these. I guess she’d really want those pictures back, why don’t you?”
“Try to do the smart thing for once and stay away from her.” He warned Sharon and scoffed. “And I’m not playing your stupid game.” He was ready to leave her here and climb the first stair when Sharon’s next words stopped him in his tracks.
“You know, Leonie dealt with the one or other scandal and I would watch what I was doing if I was her.” She spoke somewhere behind him and he took one careful exhale. Rage bubbled up inside him as he whisked around and took brisk steps towards her. “Careful.” He warned her, pointing a finger at her.
She backed up against the nearest pillar with a sly smile on her lips, giddy almost at the proximity. “People will definitely look past your flaws quickly but to her, this would be some sort of a final strike that could really harm her career, if not... end it.” She bit her lip excitedly at the thought of causing Nini harm. It made him sick. “Unfair, if you think about it. Nothing a popular man does could harm his career in an equal manner. The blame will be all hers.”
He thought entirely too long about her hypothetical equasion. Sharon was right about this, of course. One tiny leak and they would all be in big trouble but Nini would be struck the hardest. She would be devastated. Could he risk ignoring Sharon if there was even the slightest possibility of these pictures leaking? He took a step back, letting out an aggravated sigh.
Sharon beamed at this newly found sign of weakness behind his eyes and walked around him until she playfully leaned her chin against his shoulder and cooed as she pitied them for the situation she caused. “Hm, tricky.” The redhead batted her long, fake eyelashes at him.
He didn’t want her that close. She had tried to flirt with him for weeks, first only hint her interest in him and then bluntly offered sex but she just couldn’t take a hint. She even mentioned running a fan blog dedicated to him and though she didn’t always act the part, she was obsessed with him. She was the lunatic kind of fan and she was only tolerated because Pedro didn’t want to be the reason why people who were great at their job got fired, even if they were completely crazy. He had made a quick change of mind. Bothering him was one thing, threatening Nini another.
He walked away from her, circled the room and ran his hand across his face. “Okay, what do you want? Is it money? I’ll pay you. Just don’t harm her.”
“Oh, honey-“ she began. “Pedro, I would never harm anyone. I’m on your side. Though, I don’t know what she did to lure you in and wrap you around her finger. I hate to be the one to tell you that she’ll get bored of you one day but someone has to.” She pouted when he glared at her. “You’ll only get your heart broken.”
He shook his head. “You don’t know one single thing about her.”
“I know you need a loyal woman. A real woman.” He glanced the other way in annoyance before he could muster the patience to look at her again, her sharp perfume stinging in his nose as he took a deep breath to try and control his temper. “Like you, I suppose. Not if we were the last people on earth.”
She took offence in his words, face twisting into an ugly sneer. “I guess I never had a chance ‘cause you fuck women almost twenty years younger than you now, huh?” she insulted him by bringing up Nini’s and his age difference.
He stared icily at her, mentally counting to ten. “Your pictures, Sharon...” he reminded her to focus, pushing away the thought in the back of his mind that she had a point. It felt very much like something that should be a serious issue but he had simply elected to look past it and don’t care about age.
“I was about to give them to you. For free.”
Nothing she’d offer would be free. His contempt for her actions was evident on his face. “What’s the catch? Shouldn’t you tie me up in your evil lair and explain your plan to me in detail?”
“Ouch.” She squinted her eyes at him, leaning back. “It’s really simple. I’ll give them to you and the original file for... a night?”
He couldn’t believe her right now. “Fuck you.” Pedro brushed past her and knocked into her shoulder, not seriously considering this more than dubious way out.
“A kiss then.” She called after him.
He chuckled bitterly. “Not even that.” It was a game of poker, really. She had a good set in her hands, admittedly and he had to start bluffing. “I certainly won’t consent to anything and you won’t publish these either because you know Nini and I will sue you if you do. So, keep your fucking pictures. Your hands are tied and I’m not interested, never have been, never will.”
“Great, alright. Suit yourself.” Sharon cut him off on his way out and climbed the stairs towards the door herself. She looked back down at him when she reached the top. “Too bad you chose the hard way to do things.” She commented before she shut the door.
Pedro heard a klick and a shuffle behind it. “What the fuck?” He cursed and rushed up towards the door but when he turned the knob, he realised she had locked him up.
“Sharon, open the damn door!” He bellowed and slammed the palm of his hand onto the heavy metal. He turned to check the dimly lit room and cursed when he noticed it didn’t have any windows.
“Hello? Is somebody out there?” He tried to call for help but nobody answered. “Fuck!” He kicked against the door and stalked the room like a mad man. He ran his hand through his hair, cursing the fact that his phone couldn’t get a signal in here. He looked around for something that could possibly get him out... like a crowbar. There was nothing helpful in a room full of useless props and garbage.
‘The hard way’, he mentally repeated. What was Sharon going to do, what would she do to Nini and how the hell was he going to stop her when he was trapped in here?
Pedro’s body slacked against the metal and he rested the back of his head against it. “Hello?” He complained weakly, for the millionth time. Why wasn’t anybody working in this part of this damn location?
“Is somebody in there?” A tiny voice outside questioned and Pedro’s eyes snapped open. He recognised the voice that belonged to Jim’s assistant. “Laura, is that you?” He shuffled onto his feet. “Mr Pascal?” She asked in surprise and he would have told her again that calling him by his first name was just fine if he wasn’t in such a hurry. “Open the door please!” He yelled, relieved. He heard her try to turn the knob but she failed as well. “There is no key, I am sorry. But for standard lock, I have a hairpin!” She replied with a heavy German accent.
“Fantastic, thanks.” Pedro let out a breath of laughter. “Where did you learn how to pick locks?” “Girl scouts.” “You deserve a raise, scout girl.”
“Don’t worry about it.” She replied while the lock was being picked. She twisted her hairpins inside the keyhole, the metallic noise snapping and scratching at the lock.
Pedro tried to see anything she was doing but the corridor outside was too dark. “Listen, I need you to call security and find Leonie. It’s Sharon, that designer. She’s gone mad.” Pedro spoke through the keyhole.
“Oh, I know her. She is not very nice.” The lock snapped and the door opened. “No, she isn’t.” Pedro rushed out to find the tall girl with thick glasses. He was already hurrying down the corridor towards the stairs but turned back mid-run. “Do you know where Leonie is?” “Miss Van Fleet is in her makeup trailer!”
“Danke sehr, Laura. I owe you one!” He shouted as he ran outside the building into the darkness and across the dry earth towards the makeup trailers that surrounded each other like the circus was in town. He cursed on his way, hoping he was still on time to prevent a disaster.
Pedro heard Nini’s voice arguing with Sharon before he had even reached her trailer.
He ripped the door open and finally noticed he was out of breath from the run. He was sweating and trying to regain his composure. “You! Don’t touch her!” He pointed at Sharon, who had an iron grip wrapped around Nini’s wrist. His command was rough and left no chance for denying his request.
“Pedro?” Nini asked when she saw him, eyes wide in surprise.
All eyes were on him when he stomped up to the three women, one of them in particular who needed some serious support.
“I thought I asked you to stay away from her.” He reminded Sharon with a dignified amount of patience in his voice as he put his body between her and Nini. His hand found hers subconsciously and manoeuvred her behind him.
“You leave me no choice!” Sharon protested, looking at him in such a pathetic way as if Nini had just hit her across the face, like he couldn’t tell real tears apart from those of a crocodile. Nini scoffed as she stepped next to him again. “Choice?”
“It’s hard, you know. Working your ass off for movie productions and serving you people who’ve got it all sorted out for them with your endless opportunities, like, especially those born with a golden spoon in their mouths!” She spat out her words, targeting them at Nini especially.
Nini’s jaw dropped and the other woman standing somewhere behind them sighed. “Silver spoon,” she corrected her in annoyance but Sharon ignored her. “Like, they throw away the sets you build with so much love and devotion and then they tear it off again and you spoiled Hollywood brats are always so mean and unappreciative.”
Mean? It would have never occurred to Pedro to connect this description to the gentle girl next to him. Maybe she used crude language sometimes, she was certainly stubborn and right now, furious... but never mean. She would never even insult anyone.
“Oh, you’re really taking the piss right now.” Nini snarked, her use of British slang taking over when she got really angry.
Pedro took back his former statement.
She gave her a smile full of irony, dropped it and stuck up two fingers into the air afterwards, looking less the Hollywood brat and more like the kind of woman ready to throw hands with someone outside a bar or cut a bitch.
Sharon simply sneered at her.
“Have you seen these?” The woman in a dark business suit addressed Pedro and waved the pictures at him in an accusing manner. She was a rather impressively authoritative presence and even though he didn’t know why it was her business or who she was to Nini, he nodded. He sensed she was on their side. She clicked her tongue but then eyed Sharon like one look could throw her stone dead. “Like publishing these wouldn’t end in you losing a law case. And bitch, quit the crying. Save it for the day you’ll have to compensate them.”
Nini closed her eyes. “Thank you, Olivia.”
“Who said anything about publishing?” Sharon threw her hand to her chest and acted shocked. She was touching Pedro’s arm again as if he would protect her.
“There’s no way you’d be able to anyway so why did you take them?” Pedro asked, mustering the very last of his patience when he pried her hand off his shoulder.
Sharon was too calm for his liking. She shrugged her shoulders. “I thought they must be good for something, right? I have nothing to lose, whereas for you it’s...” She looked at Nini. “Uh, let’s call it a real disaster.”
He uncrossed his arms to block Sharon’s way before she could approach Nini any further. “You’re only doing this because I rejected you.” He said lowly.
“Is that it?” Nini ducked under his arm and stood up to Sharon, the shorter woman suddenly twice as intimidating. “You can’t take a no for an answer and now you’re trying to destroy what you can’t have by selling these to some kind of magazine.” Sharon took a step back and opened her mouth to interrupt but Nini didn’t let her. “Why can’t you accept he doesn’t want anything from you?”
“Again, I’m not selling them. I’m gonna keep them while you guys know they’re in unsafe hands.” She contradicted herself and lounged into the chair on the opposite side of the room, propping her feet onto the table.
Pedro clenched his fists. “Where are the copies?”
“Oh, you’re looking for this?” She pulled a USB stick out of her cleavage, acted like she had found an easter egg and pushed it back down. So that’s where they were. “I’m sure you’ll get them back once we figured something out that’s to all of our advantages.”
“So you’re blackmailing us,” Nini spoke up, voice hollow. Pedro wanted to pull her aside, reassure her that they would be fine.
“Blackmail? No, call it a business arrangement.” Sharon said, ignoring the way Nini glared at her like she wanted to break her spine over her knee like an uncooked noodle.
Olivia spoke up next. “I think we still don’t understand what you want them to do.”
“What do you want? Money? My firstborn? Get stuffed.” Nini dismissed her, not willing to play a part while Sharon was having her villain moment. Pedro almost smiled at her, remembering he had mentioned a different kind villain trope to Sharon. They had a way of thinking the same things sometimes.
“I don’t want your money. There are things more valuable.” She glanced over to Olivia and the pictures. “Like influence.” She suggested and got very excited out of sudden. She jumped up and clapped into her hands. “I made it, baby, I was discovered!” Sharon flounced around until she stood in front of the mirror to admire herself, pull her top lower and inspect her waistline. “The Hanley gallery wants to show my work to the world, I’m going to be the next big thing in the American art scene!” She squealed out a sound of happiness and self-content and turned around, her vain smile freezing at the sight of their unamused faces. “Listen, I don’t want to harm myself, Pedro or... your already damaged reputation but I see this as a fantastic opportunity to gain publicity.”
She grazed Nini with her air, speaking near her ear. “I know you have, like, a lot of friends... rich and influential friends, puppet.” She widened her eyes dramatically while Nini’s narrowed. “I’m happy about this outcome ‘cause my career as a set designer was going, like, nowhere. So, I’m getting fired and leave with a big bang. My designs aren’t appreciated anyway and I ‘am’ an artist. With your help, I could rise in the world of fame like the morning star and sell my art for thousands of dollars once you tell all your little friends about my genius and show your pretty face at the vernissage.”
Nini was laughing without an ounce of amusement in her voice. “That’s what you want? A career starter? Do you have any fucking idea how simple it would have been to just ask me like a normal person would? But no, you’ve got to threaten us first.” She blushed in anger. “So yeah, I’ll promote your stupid art if that’s all you want. Don’t think for one second that I wouldn’t do anything to protect him! I’ll stop at nothing.” She yelled out the last part while pointing at Pedro.
Pedro was stressed out too but affection grew inside his chest at the way his little songbird had transformed into a lioness to try and keep him safe and think about him first. They thought alike in that department. He was doing the same thing.
She had gotten up to Sharon rather fast, almost standing on her toes. “Listen, I’m gonna-“ Pedro could imagine her just punching Sharon in the face and yank the memory device out from between her tits. As much as he wanted to see that, he had to try and keep her out of a fight. He couldn’t risk her getting hurt. He put his hand on her back and just like that, she stopped. Tongue-tied, she lowered her finger. “Please. Calm down.” Pedro tried to soothe her temper but she already had. It was the effect he had on her.
“I knew you won’t do shit because there’s one more thing I want, more than that and I’m always getting what I want,” Sharon whispered harshly.
Her eyes drew to the side towards Pedro and he tensed up. He was starting to grow tired of her. “And you know exactly what it is.” She purred, backing Nini off.
He was about to reply when the door opened again. This time, revealing two security men and Jim. “You’re fired.” The director gestured at her, first hand, without been given any context.
“Please, could you give us a moment?” Pedro stopped them with one raised hand before he could utter another word. The tall man with storm white hair scorned each of them with a strict glance but took his leave again after realising they had everything under control. Only Olivia decided to join them outside and leave the three of them. “I have to make a few calls.” She sighed and slapped the photographs onto Sharon’s chest.
Pedro squeezed Nini’s shoulder. “Babe,” he tried to persuade her it would be better if she didn’t have to watch this. This was between Sharon and him. “I’m not leaving you with her.” She replied, stubbornly and he saw there was no use in arguing with her as well.
“Sharon, just... don’t do this. Please.” He tried to persuade her one last time.
“Then there’s no deal. Van Fleet will keep up her end of the deal to get the pictures back... after a successful exhibition. Until then, the pictures stay with me... unless?” “Pedro, what is she talking about?” Nini asked, pulling him closer. He still didn’t answer. “What’s your deal with him?” “Why don’t you tell her?” Sharon replied, still expectantly looking at him.
“A kiss for an immediate exchange.” Pedro finally explained and raised his voice again. “As an alternative to offering myself for fucking prostitution.”
He spied at Nini and saw her flushed cheeks pale in comparison to the white blouse she wore when she looked up at him. The anger inside her had come to a halt and her fury froze in the eye of the storm. The devastation in her eyes felt akin to cold waves of a big ocean crashing against a cliff.
She gaped at Sharon and cried out in disbelief. “You dirty bitch.”
Sharon offered the pictures to Pedro and he frowned at them, exhaled slowly and gave her this empty look full of disgust and loathing. “You’re a horrible person.”
“I’m an opportunist.”
Pedro put danger into his voice. “You can’t make me.” “Then I’m going to keep the stick but I can see that doesn’t sit right with you or your little girlfriend either, right?” He said nothing. “Oh, oh... darling. I told you, you can have it. I just want you to kiss me like I’m her.” She flicked her head in Nini’s direction.
“You could never match her, ever come close to what she is or what she means to me.” “I bet you can make me believe it.” She gritted her teeth. “And you’ll make her watch too.” The evilness in her was a bottomless pit and he was nothing but sad at the reality that people like her existed, people without an ounce of decency or civility. He pitied her.
“What’s your fucking problem?” Nini’s voice had gone weak. “You!” Sharon all but screamed at her and made her jump at the sudden attack as she finally snapped. “You’re my problem! What’s your secret, huh? Why does everyone like you so much?”
“For starters, I don’t blackmail people or try to rape them!”
Pedro was quick to interrupt them before they could start cutting each others throats. “Enough!” They stopped arguing and silence spread between them. “And if I did it, you would give them back, all of the original data and leave us alone?”
Nini pleaded next to him, tugging him slightly away from her. “Pedro, no. You don’t have to do this. It’s sexual harassment.” Sharon rolled her eyes. “Such a harsh word. It’s like a trade, nothing more. What’s the big deal? You kiss people all the time as an actor.”
Pedro scoffed. “That’s different.” Sharon took her time while she walked towards the door. “You can make the audience believe it’s real. If this is all I would ever get, I would take it but I see, there’s no reason why I should stay.”
He saw her reach for the door. “Wait.” He heard himself say and she stopped, interested in what he would do next.
“Angel.” Nini tried to remind him that he didn’t have to consent. She palmed his face tenderly and he held her softly in return. Tears welled up in her eyes. “She can’t do this to you, it’s cruel and wrong and you know it. Let her keep them.” She whispered to him.
“You’re not the only one who would do anything to protect the other.” He argued, giving her a gentle look, tugging at her chin as he had done earlier. “We can’t risk it. I don’t want her to have that kind of power over us. It’s just a kiss. It’s easy. I’m okay, I got this.” It sounded like it was no big deal but the sense of betrayal gnawed at his consciousness and would leave an ugly stain on her trust in him, he feared.
Nini’s eyes were simply fixed onto him and emptiness poured into her gaze when she realised it wasn’t for her to decide the outcome of this.
“I know,” she needed time to process the situation. She leaned against his chest as he tipped his head down to rest it against her forehead. He shut his eyes.
He knew she wanted to lash out and protect him but he had already made up his mind. He tried to convey the message into their silent exchange and eventually, she gave him a weak nod, eyes fixed onto the floor when he let her go unwillingly. Guilt trapped him as soon as he had turned his back on her.
He looked at Sharon in disgust. She won. “Deal,” Pedro replied, defeated and ready to get it over with as soon as possible.
She seemed surprised. Pedro ignored her smugness as she looked at him expectantly and pushed her hair behind her ear, licking her lips. “See, I knew you’d come around.” She told him in sickeningly sweet triumph. He hated her for this exercise of power that subjected him and forced him to do this in front of his girl.
She let him come to her. Pedro had no desire to kiss anyone else. He wished Nini wouldn’t be here to watch, wished he had gotten it over with back in that basement, wished had any idea what would happen if he refused. He knew what to do and nevertheless, it took him some time to prepare mentally. He sighed once when he stood in front of her, taking in her pug face and the excited sparkle in her eyes.
He flexed his jaw, leaned in and saw Sharon’s eyes close as their faces approached each other. It felt cold, mechanical. Though he pressed his lips onto hers, he didn’t touch her anywhere else. A few seconds and then it was over. He hated every single one of them.
“Pathetic. You didn’t even try.” Sharon mused, disappointed. “No, that won’t do. I know you can do better.”
He turned his head to see Nini standing there, murder written on her face before she raised a full bottle of wine, first to him and then to her lips. Pedro wondered where she had produced it from and if she would share it later. She swallowed when she returned Sharon’s stare. “What, you wanna kiss me too? I’ll fucking do it, you twat.”
Pedro laughed, actually laughed at her words but the other woman tried to get his attention back and he remembered his task with a sense of dread.
He cleared his throat and clenched his fists, Nini was right. It had to be done. This was an acting job. He had kissed multiple people before for the cameras, people he didn’t necessarily have any feelings for but none of which had been nearly as unpleasant as Sharon.
Though Sharon wasn’t considered unattractive by social standards, she was a person of horrible character and thus as ugly and revolting to him as you could possibly become.
He needed to dissociate. Maybe if he did treat this as an acting job, it wouldn’t be that bad and the woman would be satisfied after he had treated her like a scene partner. He skipped his memory for a character who wouldn’t have a problem performing an act to get what they wanted. Maybe Maxwell Lord... too flamboyant. He thought again. He eventually settled for Javier Peña instead. He stopped being Pedro then, regarding it as easier for him to channel the character and forget everything else.
He grabbed her waist before kissing her again, surprising her with the eagerness he had faked many times before.
He moved his mouth against hers and didn’t pull back when she parted her lips and gave him access to slip in a little tongue. He pressed in harder, giving Sharon a kiss she would never forget, all or nothing. His hands came up to frame her face so he could deepen their connection and turn it into something bruising and demanding. A simple pause for breath became the end of it.
Sharon tipped forward, losing a little of her balance. She seemed like she was in a daze, brain emptied from her vile intentions after experiencing the simplicity of carnal desires. She had been kissed into hazy mindlessness but it had been all but a taste, a fake glimpse.
“Happy?” Pedro asked and stepped away, wiping his mouth as he turned to face Nini. She looked sad, for him, he guessed and he felt ashamed, dirty and taken advantage of. What little aggravated last sliver of control he had had, he had poured into that passionate kiss a man like Javier only reserved for someone who would take the edge off at the end of the day.
He silently reached out for her wine bottle and felt it connect with his palm while he stared ahead.
Sharon dared to walk up to Nini and push the stick into her hand. Pedro didn’t have to witness it to feel the tension.
“The invitation to my vernissage still stands, doll,” she mentioned. “Yeah, go fuck yourself,” Nini answered with a laugh.
He took a deep swig while the woman made her exit and was immediately flanked by security.
“Vieze kutwijf.” Nini mumbled and Pedro hummed in agreement, even though he didn’t know what the words meant. They were accurate.
They climbed down the trailer and she groaned out in fury as they watched them walk away and disappear. “Are you okay? What can I- what do you need, do you need space? I can-“ She touched Pedro’s arm but drew back, unsure if he was open for physical contact at all.
“No, mi amor, not from you. Not ever.” Because he understood why she was hesitant, he drew her in for a hug himself and she sighed in relief.
“Let’s destroy it.” He buried his face into her hair and breathed her in until he felt comforted. She nodded and smiled bitterly but she also fought a grin and rolled her eyes at Olivia when she came back to join them. The woman crossed her arms at their familiarity. “Shut up,” Nini mumbled at her.
Her smooth voice rang through the dark. “I didn’t say anything.” “I can feel the judgement.”
Olivia sighed in disapproval but mustered a crooked smile. “You’re not going to her art thing, right?” She asked Nini while Pedro was still holding her close with one arm. “I think I’d rather deep throat a cactus,” she replied and Pedro choked out a laugh between a swig of wine.
“Vernissage...” Olivia muttered, unimpressed. “That attitude will give her only vanity sale gallery deals in the future.”
“Pedro, this is Olivia Hunter, my agent. Olivia, Pedro.” She introduced them, Olivia being the one who extended her hand to him first. The white of her eyes lit up in contrast to everything else that was dark about her. She had a strong facial bone structure and heavy braids piled up on her head.
Pedro shook her hand. “Nice meeting you, Olivia.” She hummed sceptically in return and he put extra effort into his inviting smile, trying to win her over like he would if he was meeting Nini’s relatives. He couldn’t hold up the façade for long. “You don’t happen to carry a lighter?” He asked, seriously once again.
“Give me that,” Nini demanded the lighter Olivia silently held out to them. She jumped back into the trailer and emerged with the photos. She was giving them to him. “Would you do me the honour?” After she had ignited the cheap plastic lighter, Pedro tipped the corner into the flame, letting the fire lick its way up the paper until the edges curled and lit up. They watched them waste away until he had to drop them into the dust. Pedro observed the last of their kiss light up in fire and frowned at the feeling of regret in his heart for not keeping them for himself. What was wrong with him?
The memory stick was tossed onto the hard desert earth next and found its end under the heel of Nini’s boot. She grunted angrily and stomped until it cracked, was crushed into bits and ruined forever. “I think it’s dead.” He tried to gently persuade her to stop and Nini huffed out with one last aggressive stomp. She flicked her head back gracefully afterwards and blew a strand of hair out of her face. The three of them broke out into snorts of laughter. “Proost.” Nini took another swig and offered the bottle to Olivia.
Olivia tutted and went to leave. “You better go ahead and get some sleep, Nini.” She instructed her.
“Yes, mum.” “I didn’t hear that.” She was given a smile that revealed a secret fondness for Nini’s rebellious nature. Pedro on the other hand earned one last strict glance. “Now you take good care of her or I’ll make sure you’ll live to regret it.” She didn’t have to remind Pedro. “Of course, ma’am.” He replied before she turned around and left them at the trailer.
Nini gently rubbed his back and Pedro let out a breath he didn’t know he had been holding. “Don’t worry,” Nini said. “That means she likes you.”
To be continued
(ger): danke sehr - (eng): thank you very much
(dut): vieze kutwijf - (eng): dirty cunt(woman)
(dut): proost - (eng): cheers
#ReleaseBlitz #ReviewBlitz: Mr. Park Lane by @louisesbay ~ #5stars #TheMisterSeries #newrelease #friendstolovers #sweetromance #needtoreaditnow #sexyreads #roommates #romance #5starread #ARC #review #booklover #bookblogger #mustread @WildfireMarket1
Release Date: September 28 I haven’t seen him in over a decade, but Joshua Luca can still get to me. And I hate it. At twenty-nine, I’m a doctor and I’ve travelled the world, but just the thought of him has me sliding my sweaty palms down my jeans and wishing I could steady my racing heartbeat. Joshua was an almost obsession until, at seventeen, he cost me my future. In one night, I grew up and…
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Yoongi works at a convenience store, and Namjoon is very forgetful.
Too many ideas, too little time. The hoard continues.
Probably the idea exist already somewhere, but I haven't read many fics lately, beside gifts so... (anyway, if it exist... Two or more fics are better than one, right?)
Winterhawk, the shape of water AU
Clint worked for shield most of his life, actually picked by Fury put of Carson's circus early, even though he was already pretty known as the amazing Hawkeye, Fury basically lured him out and trained to the point Clint was one of his closest and best agents, other specialist still underestimated him, and Clint let them. It's part of his cover, and he knows his real worth.
Deaf not because of an accident during a mission but in a way to save himself, he deafened himself permanently to prevent mind control through words during a mission, Fury was pissed but he still had his agent so good enough, right? He's a fast learner, sign language doesn't take him long to pick up, and lips reading is already something g he knows as a spy. (agents and specialists alike called him "the director's protégé", and the favorite. Clint just ignored them.)
One day he finds himself in one of the secret labs, Fury asked him to investigate, they picked heat signatures and movement somewhere supposedly abandoned and classified. There he finds a tank, like a huge aquarium occupying most of the surface, and inside, a creature, similar to a merman, but without a tail. Curiosity wins over, Clint put his hand and face against the the glass, but the creature swims away, in fear.
Clint doesn't report his finding to Fury, not yet, he wants to understand better, he wants the creature to burst him, and find out what happens there exactly. And Fury knows better than request a hourly or even daily update. Sometimes in missions Clint goes silent for weeks, so even if he sees him daily he doesn't expect a report straight away. (being the one who picked Clint he also knows how and when to give him space and wait. That does indeed fuel the whole favorite talks.)
It takes a while for the creature to warm up to Clint, he finds out that he does understand his language (Clint can speak, and he learned how to keep a low voice even without hearing himself), and the creature can talk, once taken the muzzle away. But they use his (it's a he, Clint learned delighted, even though he seems to... Lack certain parts) voice to mind control others, because he's similar to a siren, they get drawn to him and he can control them for his masters. But Clint is deaf so there's no problem on that, they speak, Clint reads his lips; they grow close, the creature, Bucky he reveals, is drawn to the human just as much, he never experienced anything like that before. It's trust and warmth and desire. It's love.
When Clint finally gives his report he reveals Fury everything. How pierce got hands on that creature, how he uses him for his things, how he plans to overthrow SHIELD. because bucky hears him speak when he's hidden, and Pierce never bothered checking if he could understand. He understands orders, that's fine enough for him. No one would bother talk to it.
Fury is not convinced at first, that until one evening Clint shows up with a barely dressed thing. Creature. With gills and bright blue eyes. Fury curses, Clint laughs and bucky just looks confused, but sticks close the the boy who apparently is trying to save him and free him.
(not sure how it will go, but I want them to get close slowly, Clint earning that trust.. And perhaps have a happy ending somewhere... Would anyone be interested tho?)