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2017 Askbox Prompts

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Will is underdressed, soaking wet, and has a cup of black coffee in his hands that cost seven dollars; all of which are excuses he’ll give Alana when this client drops them for Simon and Schuster or someshit after seven years with Bloom Publishing and exactly one late afternoon meeting with him.

“... ‘a pile of pretentious garbage,’” the client, one Dr. Lecter, repeats. “I see.”

The wine bar cum coffee shop, Lecter’s preference for the meeting, is unnecessarily dim and a bit too warm. It almost makes the rain outside seem atmospheric, rather than a huge pain in the ass for anyone commuting downtown via public transportation instead of private car, or however Lecter got here. The man has a dusting of mist on the shoulders of his velvety-looking plaid suitjacket, but is otherwise dry down to his wingtips. Opposite him, Will’s buttery leather armchair is doing a great job preserving the puddle growing at the seat of his pants.

“Perhaps you’d care to elaborate,” Lecter says mildly, and Will sets his jaw.

“I’m sorry if that was too frank ,” he says, because he owes Alana at least that much. “However, from the standpoint of your previous work, this particular manuscript seems... less developed .”

According to Will’s research, Dr. Lecter is a practicing psychiatrist who occasionally deigns to write what could charitably be called cerebral mystery novels. This book, if it ever makes it to publishing, is in the same vein, and in its current state absolutely unreadable.

“I see,” Lecter says again, fingers steepled in front of him. “Please, continue.”

Will takes a sip from the tall, narrow mug he’d been handed. It tastes weirdly fruity, but at least it’s hot. “At a thirty-thousand foot view? The themes you address are complex, and you don’t have enough progression in the plot to sustain interest or give emotional impact to the conclusion. This is basically five hundred pages of navel-gazing. This character, the murderer, wins by default-- your protagonist thinks himself to death.”

Lecter has a faint smile, but before he can speak Will holds up a hand.

“Trust me, I know what you’re about to say. Your book is not going to be on airport bookstore shelves. It’s not for beach reading. Understood. That doesn't absolve you from the basics of structuring.”

“An interesting choice of words,” Lecter muses. “One that implies I’m committing some kind of crime against literature, yes?”

“I wouldn’t go that far,” Will says, taking another sip of coffee. He’s starting to shiver, even in the heavy warmth of the small bar. “I’m just laying out the reasoning behind my comments in the draft.”

“I received them,” Lecter says. “I must confess, they are quite a bit more detailed that I am used to receiving from Mr. Chilton.”

And when they finally find the guy, I'll be happy to swap back, Will promises silently. “All the editors at Bloom have their own styles. The goal is not to make this draft unrecognizable from the original, it’s to give it a little more life than your last monograph on psychotic symptoms and Graves’ disease.”

Lecter gives him a slow blink. “You’ve read that,” he says.

“I’ve read everything you’ve ever publically published,” Will says bluntly. Every bloody psychological thriller and niche entry in staid psychiatry tracts, and, “A lot of it was brilliant. Which is why I feel qualified to say that this needs work.”

“A lot of it,” Lecter echos, eyebrows raising.

“Most of it,” Will says, a bit grudgingly, and Lecter’s faint smile makes another appearance.

“Then, Mr. Graham, I look forward to working with you."

Chapter Text

meeting at a masquerade ball au


“Hey. Hey!” someone hisses.

Poe stirs, then twitches violently as he realizes there’s a figure looming over him. It’s hard to make out details; the light above the table is off, and at some point in the during his last session with the First Order’s intelligence officers, blood had seeped down and congealed around one eye. He blinks, and the gummy lid comes slowly unstuck.

“Are you Dameron?” the figure demands, bending closer. “The pilot?”

“… who’s asking?” Poe whispers, hoarse and sore. He’s honestly curious, because either the Order has finally succeeded in breaking his mind, or there’s a man in a Teutonic knight’s helmet and chainmail hauberk accosting him.

“That’s not important,” the knight says impatiently. “I’m here to get you out.”

“You what?” Poe mumbles, but the knight is already kneeling down to yank at the straps keeping his ankles tied to the table. “Wait, seriously?”

“Yeah, seriously,” the knight says, and stars he sounds young. But Poe’s legs are coming free, then his shoulders, and then there are mailed hands under his shoulders pulling him off the table and onto his feet. When his knees buckle, there’s an arm around his waist to hold him up. “Listen, I need you to—”

There’s a burst of sound from somewhere above them as a door opens, jaunty music and raucous laughter. The knight freezes in place, and Poe does too, staring at the stone steps that lead into the dungeon where a long shaft of light has appeared.

There are footsteps, and the door closes again. The light disappears. It’s quiet for one second, two, and against Poe’s side the knight lets out a long, silent breath.

“What—”

“Look,” the knight says, turning to him. In the cold blue moonlight filtering in from the barred windows, Poe sees the shine of one dark eye in the slit of the helmet. The knight holds up an armful of dark fabric.  “I need you to put these on, okay?”

“What?” Poe asks as the knight pushes it on him, hands coming up automatically. “Why? What going on?”

The fabric unfurls in a floor-sweeping cloak, which Poe can see the utility of, but there’s also a black domino mask and a broad-brimmed hat with a long feather plume in the band. Poe stares down at it a bit too long, and the knight snatches the mask from the top of the pile and pulls it down over his head.

“There’s a party upstairs, and we have to go through it,” he says, grabbing the hat next. “I just need you to follow my lead, okay?”

He thrusts the hat at Poe’s chest, and Poe slowly reaches out to take it. The cloak is heavy and warm, the cowl deep as he pulls it up and settles the hat on top of it. “Is that it?”

“Crap, you have blood on your face,” the knight says, a little panicky. His hand comes up, but stops as Poe flinches back.

“I’ll get it,” Poe mutters, ducking his head and wiping under his nose, across his mouth.

“Hey,” the knight says again, a little softer. “Look, it’s going to be fine. Everyone up there is drunk as hell and no one’s even guarding the hangar.”

“The hangar,” Poe says. “You need a pilot. You’re Resistance?”

“No!” the knight says. “Well, maybe. I guess, after this.”

“So you’re… defecting?”

The knight stares at him, then flings his arms out. “I’m trying to!” he says in a whisper-shout. “And rescue you! I was assuming you’d be on board with that!”

Poe laughs, a huff of noise that hurts his throat. Well, what has he got to lose? “Okay, kid. Lead the way.”

“I’m a stormtrooper, not a kid,” the knight says, and grabs his hand. “Come on, Dameron. We need to be gone yesterday.”

Chapter Text

25. librarian/avid reader au


Under the reference desk, on a shelf about the height of his knees, Castiel maintains an irregular but meticulously curated rotation of books. They have no particular relation to one another.  They’re new, most of them, or so old they exist only in the library’s undigitized card catalog (last updated in 1982). He keeps this collection in a cast-off copy paper box with a lid, where his fellow reference librarians won’t see and ask questions about it. It includes both fiction and nonfiction, periodicals, and the occasional length of microfiche. Right now, it also contains a freshly baked banana muffin, carefully separated from old paper and cardstock by the three-ring binder that houses their printer manual.

However, the reference desk is slow this Wednesday, and librarians are known to be particularly nosy. Kevin is wordsmithing his thesis under the guise of working, and Charlie has been staring at her phone for the past hour; when he returns from a coffee run, Castiel is almost unsurprised to find her under his side of the desk, clearly searching for something.

“I smell baked goods,” she says accusingly as Castiel sets her mug on the counter above her head. The script on the side reads, SHE BLINDED ME WITH LIBRARY SCIENCE.

“You know the rules,” Kevin says from his assistant’s station across the way. “No food or drinks around the books—”

“Unless you’re sharing,” Charlie chimes in, slightly muffled. “Cough it up, Novak.”

“It’s not for me, or you,” Castiel says with dignity, pulling out his chair. “Yes, ma’am, may I help you?”

“Oh,” the woman on the other side of the counter says, eyeing Charlie’s position. Her toddler is trying to peer over the edge to see what his mother is looking at. “Could you tell me where the children’s books are?”

“Ooo, what’s in the box?” Charlie says, pulling it out.

“Be careful with that,” Castiel says. “The children’s books are on the lower level— I can take you to the preschooler’s section, if you like.”

“Oh, that would be nice,” the woman says nervously as Charlie pops up with the box in her hands.

“That’s private,” Castiel says to Charlie, and to the woman, “please, follow me.”

There was probably nothing else he could have said to better inflame their interest, and so of course when he comes back up the stairs both Charlie and Kevin have unpacked the box and strewn the contents over the entire reference desk, including microfiche, muffin, and easily thirty pounds of miscellaneous reading material.

“I don’t get it,” Charlie informs him.

“I really don’t get it,” Kevin affirms, holding up a recent land survey and photocopies of a series of newspaper clippings from the 1900s. “Is this for an outside project?”

“Of a sort,” Castiel says, pulling it firmly out of his grip.

“Um,” says a new voice, and Castiel looks up and sees Sam standing in front of the desk with a quizzical look on his face, eyes tracking over the mess spread across the desks.

“There you are,” Castiel says, and hands him the land surveys. “Topographical and soil type maps included. McHenry County is on Drummer Silty Clay Loam. And here are a few articles from the last time the… anomalies you mentioned were seen.” He picks up another book. “Here’s a new folklore compendium put out by the community college. It has a section devoted to Algonquin tribal myth.” Another, bigger book. “The book from Galloise County Public Library on Irish immigrant settlers. I need it back in five days.” A new issue of Popular Mechanic. “For Dean.” A sheaf of handwritten notes. “Isa Wells was in yesterday and I asked her about the… anomalies. She had a few things that might be helpful.” And at the very top of the stack, which now nearly reaches Sam’s chin, Castiel gently places the banana muffin. “For the road,” he says.

It’s a little hard to meet Sam’s eyes with Charlie and Kevin hovering with palpable interest just over his shoulder, but the man’s slow smile is worth it. “You know I’m going to have to eat this before I get in the car,” Sam says.

“They sell them at the end of the street if he wants his own,” Castiel says, which is as good as admitting that he’d gone and bought a muffin specifically to give to Sam, only for Sam and dear Lord. Oh, God.

But Sam smile just broadens, and he says, “I’ll let him know. See you soon, Cas,” with a soft undercurrent of something that leaves Castiel’s face hot, blinking dazedly after him as he turns and heads for check-out counter.

“Whoa,” Kevin says.

Castiel,” Charlie breathes in delight.

“No,” Castiel says preemptively, still blushing, and settles the lid on the box again.

Chapter Text

38. cop/person getting a speeding ticket au


“Oh, he’s hot,” the drunk and disorderly in the back seat says, leaning over as much as she can to peer through the grate between the headrests. “What’s his name? I can’t read it from here.”

“It’s none of your business,” Castiel says, scanning through the file on the MDT.  Dean Hendrix, 27 and an Illinois native, grins up at him from the screen with the same easy charm he’d layered on when Castiel had first walked up to his window. According to the DMV, his eyes are hazel, but they’d looked very green in Castiel’s flashlight. No history of moving violations, not even a parking ticket, and a criminal record that’s similarly clean. But he’d been going so far over the speed limit it was technically a felony, on a gravel road to boot, and Castiel’s in no mood to grant favors.

“At least tell me if he’s legal,” the woman whines. “If you throw him back here, I want to know how creepy I can be.”

“Ms. Masters, please,” Castiel mutters, eyes on his pen and ticketbook. “Contain yourself.”

“So— a little? A lot?”

Castiel privately decides he will not be bringing Dean back to the cruiser, even if the man is drinking directly out of a whiskey bottle when he goes back to hand him this ticket. He opens his door and the warm night air rushes in, heavy with the smell of rain.

Wind is driving the light rain in sheets, rippling and quiet on the road and the shoulders of Castiel’s clear raincoat. They’re far enough out in the country, in the tall corn and dense soy, that everything outside of Castiel’s headlights is a murky black. The shadows twine long and febrile against the wet ground. Dean gives him another smile when Castiel reaches the car, sprawled loose and relaxed across the front bucket seat. “Hi again, officer.”

“Mr. Hendrix,” Castiel says gravely, and his face falls a little.

“Man, really?”

“The speed limit in this zone is fifty-five,” Castiel says, and tears out the thin pink slip. “You’ll be required to show up in court, whether you plead guilty or innocent, and the court date is set for a month from now. I hope—”

“Hey.”

Dean Hendrix is still smiling but his body is still, his face gone fixed and rigid. His eyes are on his side mirror, slightly wider than they were before.

“Hey, officer. Can I tell you something?”

“What would that be?” Castiel says. There’s something about the way the man is staring at the mirror that makes him uncomfortable.

Dean slowly turns his head to look up at him. “There’s a reason I was speeding.”

“You told me,” Castiel says. “You were trying to get to a party. You’re late.”

“I lied,” Dean says, blinking hard.

“I assumed so, yes. You’re hardly the first person to lie about that.”

“The real reason is that I was trying to get away from something,” Dean says, face drawn, eyes fever-bright. “Something bad.”

Castiel’s unease is growing, and he shifts his weight back on one heel.

“Don’t look back,” Dean says.

Castiel stares at him. “Why?” he says, and then something moves out of the corner of his eye, from the direction of the cruiser behind them.  

Don’t,” Dean says urgently, his fingers twitching, and Castiel doesn’t dare take his eyes off of him. “Don’t look. We’re having a nice conversation about this fucking ticket. Everything’s fine. Is there someone in your car?”

“What?” Castiel asks, dry-mouthed, watching Dean’s hand clench on the side of the car, the other with a white-knuckled grip on his knee.

“Is there someone in your car with you?” Dean repeats, pitching his voice under the susurrus of the rain. “Do you remember where you picked them up?”

“I… she was drunk,” Castiel says, searching for the memory. Truck stop? Gas station? “It was close by.”

“I bet it was,” Dean says. “Just keep looking at me, alright?”

Castiel swallows, and settles a hand on his belt, closer to his gun. “What’s going on?”

“Nothing is going on. You’re giving me a ticket, and I’m trying to talk you out of it, and in a second you’re going to come around the front of the car. Maybe you saw something on the floor that made you suspicious. Maybe you want to make sure my headlights are both working.”

One of the cruiser’s doors slams shut.

Shit,” Dean says, and brings up a sawed-off shotgun he’d been hiding behind his leg.  

Castiel is diving away from the car as Dean brings the barrel up, and his entire focus is on the tall cornstalks pressing up to the sides of the narrow road and the cover they can offer. He’s not looking when the shotgun goes off, and he’s not looking when something shrieks, a raw shredded-metal sound that tears at his ears. The darkness around him is thrashing, roiling like a thunderstorm, and when the shotgun fires again it shudders with red edges.

He’s down on the wet gravel, panting, palms sore from the impact and water soaking into the knees of his pants. He doesn’t remember getting there, and flinches violently when he realizes that someone is standing next to him. He rolls and yanks his pistol out, blinking furiously in the rain, and Dean stops with his hands raised.

“Hey, it’s okay. It’s gone now.”

The darkness has gone flat and black, still like death. Dean has blood dripping down his forehead, all the way to his chin.

“You can put the gun away,” he says. “Really.”

Castiel just stares at him. “What,” he says. “What the hell.”

“Well, look at that,” Dean says. “Right on the first guess.”

Chapter Text

#37 - meeting in prison au


“Oh yeah, baby,” Charlie says with a leer. “Come to mama, you’re so pretty—”

Jo chooses not to be offended that it’s the phone she’s talking to, a shiny newest generation iPhone that had somehow made its way out of the warden’s back pocket and down Jo’s workshirt. Charlie makes grabby hands and Jo passes it to her with an eyeroll.

“I’m going to do such bad things to you,” Charlie murmurs, hefting a hammer. “Oh, yes.”

“Do you want to be alone together?” Jo says, leaning back again the wall.

“Oh, honey, don’t be jealous,” Charlie says, already cracking open the casing with deft little taps. “You’re getting at least thirty minutes of head for this one, especially if I can get it hooked up before they call dinner.”

“A good grab, then?” Jo asks, a little strained because there are a bunch of girls right outside this closet who might hear her. Still pleased, though, because she’s had to get pretty damn close to Buckley’s hairy ass to get the thing.

Charlie grins at her, eyes bright and hair falling loose from her ponytail. “That, and I really like giving you head.”

“That’s fair,” Jo allows, and Charlie laughs while she eviscerates the phone.

 

Chapter Text

12. writer and editor au


“Oh, hello there,” she says, surprised but making sure her smile is extra big for the little boy who answers the door. “My name’s Donna! Are your parents home, by any chance?”

The boy just stares at her.

“Your mom? Dad?” she tries.

In the hallway leading into the house, a tow-headed girl sticks her head around a corner. “Oh my God,” she says. “Seriously?”

“Seriously,” says the boy, who’s looking at Donna like she’s a particularly underwhelming school pet.

“Um. Maybe we can talk inside—?” Donna starts, but the girl’s head disappears.

Mom,” she hears, “I told you! Someone called the cops on you!”

“What?” An older, female voice.

“I said they called the cops!”

“Who did? Why?”

“I don’t know! They probably heard the screaming!”

“Anyway, our moms’re home,” the boy says, and leans back with his hand on the knob. “I guess you can come in, if you’re a police officer.”

He pulls the door all the way open, then trots away, leaving Donna deeply confused and stranded at the edge of the foyer rug.

“O-o-okay then,” she says to herself, slowly stepping forward, and then yelps in surprise as a door crashes open and a tiny woman in an apron appears, complete with murderous-looking hand trowel.

“I’m not keeping her chained up in the basement, or whatever that sick old man thinks!” she yells, shaking the trowel at Donna.

You might as well be!” a second woman yells through the door. From the direction of the sound and stairs beyond the doorway, she probably is in the basement.

“I see,” Donna says weakly.

The first women whirls and says, “Jody! You are not helping!”

“He’s saving me. We’re going to run away together on his ugly-ass boat, and my next book will be a Jimmy Buffet tribute.”

“Nice try! You’re on contract for four more books with Hachette, including the one that I am supposed to be editing right now.

“We’ll fake my murder, and frame you. It won’t be hard.”

“If you have time to come up with that, you have time to write! Write!”

“Ma’am,” Donna says, and tries not to quail when the tiny woman turns on her. “We, ah, received a noise complaint and—” The woman is swelling like a bullfrog, and Donna hastily pushes out, “And I’d appreciate the opportunity to speak with your partner. Before I go. If that’s okay?”

Before the tiny woman can explode, there are footsteps on the stairs, and Jody emerges to wrap her arms around her wife. From Donna’s perspective, this looks a bit like hugging a nuclear warhead.

“Linda. Hun. If you scare the nice police officer, who’s going to save us from burglars?”

“I have a gun,” the first woman, Linda, mutters.

“And a permit,” Jody adds hastily, looking up at Donna. “Listen, I am so sorry about this. Can I make you some coffee?”

“Ohmygodyourejodymills,” Donna squeaks out, because Black Heart is on her nightstand right this minute in hardcover because she just couldn’t wait that long. The solemn face from the dust jacket is now blinking at her surprise from the above her wife’s head.

“Why, yes,” Jody says, starting to smile. “Yes I am.”

No,” Linda says. “You are an irresponsible and endlessly procrastinating—”

“Can I sign something for you?” Jody says, already moving around Linda towards her. “Come on in, I’ve got plenty of promo copies if you don’t. Let’s talk about your favorite. I’ll get a new pot going just for you.”

“Jody!”

“She’s a guest, we can’t just let her go empty-handed.“

“I don’t want to be any trouble,” Donna says, faint and getting fainter as Jody Mills, the crime writer of the century, puts her arm over her shoulders. Oofda hey.

“You’re trouble! Now leave!”

“Honey, you’re fine. Let’s go sit down.”

Chapter Text

A few people follow them out of the fundraiser and down the steps, men in bowties and women in long satin dresses. They seem drawn irresistibly in Lucem’s wake, and he has a ready smile and handshakes for all of them, lingers over his goodbyes with what looks like sincere warmth and regrets for a night cut short. Sam is left stranded next to the limo, hovering near the open door and the stone-faced chauffeur who holds it open.

He’s keenly aware, just as he had been all night, of his wrinkled suitjacket and plain tie, the lack of Italian silk or leather anywhere on his person. Lucem hadn’t told him it was black tie, had just said come, and dragged Sam straight from his desk into the car. He likes keeping the staffers on their toes, he’d told Sam and rest at the start of the year. On their toes is one way to put it.

There are still a few photographers outside from when the gala opened, and a few snap pictures of the departing guests as they drift by. Lucem gives them a cheery wave as he trots down the last of the steps and swings himself into the car, Sam folding in after him as quickly as he can. He hates the cameras at these things.

The car starts rolling, and Lucem seems to be lost in thought, gazing out the window with his hand over his mouth. Sam takes the opportunity to ease his phone out of his pocket, aiming to do some of the work he’d had to abandon for this event. Tomorrow afternoon is still a hopeless snarl of competing meetings, and there are about ten emails he should have sent before close of business. He’d spent the interminable hours of the gala writing them in his head, so maybe if he starts now and writes that briefing on the metro home, he can actually get to sleep before—

Across from him, Lucem says, “Sam.”

Sam’s fingers lock up on the keyboard.

“Put that thing away?” Lucem asks, smiling faintly. “You’re making me tired just looking at you.”

Sam clutches it a little tighter. “There, ah. There are a few things we should discuss for tomorrow. The lobbyist meeting after lunch you asked for, it conflicts with—”

“Put it away,” Lucem says, “and come here.”

Sam swallows thickly, and slips it back in his pocket. He starts to shift over on the seat.

“Sam,” Lucem says, still smiling.

He gets down in the floor and crawls forward, the car rumbling quietly under this hands. Lucem spreads his legs obligingly so Sam can kneel between them, hands coming up to tilt Sam’s face to his.

“You work so hard for me,” he says, a satisfied gleam in his eyes. Washington slides by outside the windows, embassies and hotels and federal office buildings. “You know how much I appreciate it, don’t you, Sam?”

Sam nods, and when Lucem’s fingers tighten he manages, “Yes.”

“Good.” Lucem drops his hands, leans back against the plush seat. After a moment, Sam’s hands rise to the button on his trousers, opening it.

“Good boy,” Lucem says approvingly, and Sam ducks his head and shudders.