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Hi! If you're clicking on this, you might be a reviewer looking for their story, or a reviewer hoping to get a drabble. Or, you saw a couple you like that I've written and decided to drop by. Whatever the case, most welcome to you :)
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HOW TO REDEEM A DRABBLE

1. Review ten chapters of one of my stories- this is not to say that you go and just do 'good' or 'update' on ten chapters, because that ain't gunna fly. This is not a contest to get a drabble, but a reward to those that are already reviewing more than one chapter of my story, and an encouragement to continue doing so. So, if you're just seeing this/want to get a drabble, read my stories, actually comment worthwhile things that prove to me you've actually read 'em. On here, a03, also be sure to leave kudos :)

2. This is a list of the fandoms I'm in. You can request a couple that is NOT within my OTPs, I'd write any couple for your request. The fandom list is just to give you an idea of what I like.

3. When you request a couple (or, maybe just a character if you're not hugely into shipping) give me some hints of what you'd like to see in this drabble, like two or three tropes, or tell what tropes or characters you WOULDN'T want to see.

4. I'm not going to write smut on command, but you can choose to say you're okay with smut if I'm writing and the writing takes me there. You may or may not get smut if you say yes

5. Here's two examples of what the request form might look like, just to sorta give you an idea

COUPLE: Bellarke

Tropes: Bedsharing, not dating, no Finn

SMUT?: Yes

or

COUPLE: Klaroline

TROPES: All human, College, Klaus is an art professor

SMUT: No
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I will update this list as time goes on to always have the most complete list of ships here. Last updated; 4/22/18

SHIPS (* indicates I have written or am planning to write a fanfiction on this ship, in case you were interested in finding them!)

The Vampire Diaries/The Originals: Bonkai*, Kennet*, Karoline, Monnie* (Matt/Bonnie), Halijah, Tyler/Liz, Delena, Freya/Lucien, Marcel/Rebekah, Cami/Vincent, Finn/Sage Josh/Aiden, Steroline, Alaric/Jenna, Mahbekah, Beremy, Freya/Kellin

Harry Potter: Dramione*, Fredmione*, Tomione, Theodore Nott/Hermione*, Seamione*, Neville/Hermione, Hermione/Bill, Pansy/Harry, Ron/Luna*, George/Luna, Ginny/Neville*

The 100: Bellarke*, Murven*, Jactavia*, Raven/Roan, Linctavia, Raven/Wells, Bryan/Nathan, Monty/Harper, Monty/Nathan

Avatar: The Last Airbender: Zutara*, Tokka*, Aang/Ty Lee*, Taang*, Suki/Sokka, Jinora/Kai, Azula/Hahn, Bolin/Korra, Mako, Korra, Bolin/Opal

Reign: Bash*, Greer/Leith, Mary/Francis,

Stranger Things: Jancy, Mileven, Kali/Steve, LuMax,

Riverdale: Bughead*, Betty/Sweet Pea*, Varchie, Cheryl/Archie, Cheryl/Reggie, Cheryl/Toni

The Walking Dead: Bethyl, Carzeikiel, Maggie/Glenn, Richonne,

Gossip Girl: Chuck/Blair, Nate/Jenny, Serena/Dan, Jack/Georgina

Once Upon a Time: CaptSwan, OutlawQueen, Snowing, Ruby/ Whale, Belle/Will Scarlet, Swan/Graham, Henry/Wendy, Henry/Violet

MCU: Romanogers, Loki/Jane, Peggy/Thompson, Steve/Peggy, Kastle, Peggy/Sousa, Valkyire/Hulk, Thor/Darcy, Vision/Wanda, Nebula/Kraglin, Peter/Liz, Trish/Will, Peter/Shuri,

DC: Steve/Diana, Thea/Roy,

Star Wars: Reylo, Cassian/Jyn, Padme/Anakin, Finn/Poe,

TEOTFW: James/Alyssa*

Hunger Games: Catoniss*, Everlark,

AoS: Skyeward*, Fitzsimmons, Skye/Fitz, HuntingBird, May/Coulson, Daisy/Robbie

Game of Thrones: Gendry/Arya, Sansa/Tyrion, Dany/John, Jamie/Brienne, Sansa/Theon

Criminal Minds: Spencer/JJ

Ghibli: Haku/Chiro, Kiki/Tomboy,

Twilight (yes, yes, I know): Bella/Jake, Bella/Jasper, Bella/anyone from the pack

Jane the Virgin: Jane/Raf, Jane/Michael

Quantico: Caleb/Shelby

Disney/Dreamworks: Jelsa*, Hiccesla*, Helsa, Moana/Maui*, Adam/Belle, Peter Pan/Merida,

Sense8: Kalagang, Sun/Mun (I mean, I ship them all…but these two are the big ones)

That 70s Show: Hyde/Jacki, Donna/Eric

Fraiser: Daphne/Niles, Fraiser/Roz

Grimm: Nick/Adaline, Monroe/Rosalie, Renard/Juliet

Pride and Prejudice: Lizzy/Darcy

Fringe: Peter/Olivia, Olivia/Lincoln (current universe)

Percy Jackson: Nico/Thalia, Luke/Annabeth, Percy/Annabeth, Leo/Calypso

Orphan Black: Sarah/Paul, Mark/Gracie

HTGAWM: Wes/Laurel, Asher/Michaela

Misfits: Alisha/Simon, Nathan/Marnie, Jamie/Lilly, Kelly/Seth

Bones: Angela/Hodgins, Bones/Booth, Cami/Arastoo, Angela/Wendell,

Gravity Falls: Pacifica/Dipper, Wendy/Dipper

House MD: Cameron/Chase ,

Lost: Claire/Charlie, Sawyer/Kate, David/Charlotte

The Office: Jim/Pam, Angela/Dwight, Erin/Andy

POTC: Jack/Elizabeth

Maximum Ride: Iggy/Max

Teen Titans: Beast Boy/Raven

BBC Sherlock: Sherlock/Irene

Elementary: Joan/Sherlock (but, not all the time)

Divergent: Tris/Peter, Tris/Four

3%: Michele/Rafael

Kick-Ass: Mindy/MoFo*

The Host: Wanda/Ian*

Gone: Cain/Diana, Astrid/Drake, Astrid/Sam, Breeze/Coomputer Jack, Virtue, Lana

The Princess Diaries: Mia/Michael

Homestuck: Jade/Tavros

Covert Affairs: Auggie/Annie

Total Drama Island: Courtney/Duncan, Gwen/Trent

Death Note: Light/Misa,

— LINE FOR THINGS I USED TO SHIP BUT HAVEN’T SEEN IN A LONG TIME

The Clique: Cam/Claire, Massie/Derrington

Gallagar Girls: Cammie/Zach, Macy/Preston

Disney Chanel/Nick: (old ff stuff): Zailey, Sonny/Chad, Cece/Gunter, Freddie/Carly, Spencer/Sam

I ALSO WATCH and LOVE (but don’t have any ships or ship everyone): Mindhunter, Black Mirror, Warriors (used to love it but I can’t say I have ships anymore…), Bojack Horseman, Archer,

Happy reviewing and enjoy the drabbles to come!

Chapter Text

Reviewer: lucel18
Couple: Jane/Loki
Prompts that they wanted: comforting between the pair about the fall of Asgard

So, I'm writing this with the thought that it wasn't a single day they were traveling before Thanos found them, but maybe a week or something. Enjoy!
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Jane Foster’s science found Loki, or perhaps Loki’s magic found Jane. The exact terms of the energy mattered not, and the bottom line was that coincidentally at the same time the two were reaching out into the cosmos and that was simply that. 
Jane wouldn’t say she was looking for Thor, not specifically. Once, what had felt like eons ago, that had been her mission. But, not now, not today. They had broken up. It wasn’t mutual, but it wasn’t catastrophic. It just wasn’t working, despite how much she had wanted it to. There was a realization on her end, that Thor would always be the leader of his people and that just left little room for her.
So, no, she wasn’t looking for Thor, despite the fact he was on her mind in a sense. They’d been getting strange readings all over the globe, glitches here and there and Jane was at a wall. 
And, she had the thought, maybe Thor knew? Or, someone.

When Loki flickered in front of her, she was more surprised than she should have been, things considering. Between the pair of brothers, he was the one more adept at magic or science or the manipulation of space and time.
Loki hadn’t been trying for Jane either. He hadn’t been trying for anyone. What he was trying was for some goddamn peace and quiet. 
The ship carrying the remainder of Asgard was large, but that didn’t mean there was an abundance of space left over. There were people everywhere and everyone was starting to feel a little cramped. Loki was no exception, except he had the ability to send his mind elsewhere. 
So when he opened his mind to meditation and found Jane, he was completely unprepared.
They regarded each other for a second, as though to decipher if this was a trick of the light or a vision or something else.
Loki saw Jane take a step back, her fingers clenching on instinct. 
“What are you doing here?” She demanded, uneasy.
“What are you doing in my meditation time?” Loki asked, scoffing, “I’m not going to hurt you, Jane Foster. Those times are long past.” 
Jane studied him. It’s what she did best, studied things. Loki looked…exhausted, she decided. His hair didn’t have its usual sheen, his eyes weren’t bright, and his face was sallow. She’d even say that he looked defeated if she didn’t know better. Loki was hardly ever bested.
“How’s earth this time of year?” Loki asked, tilting his head.
“Why?”
Loki quirked his lips, as though holding some great secret, “Reasons.” 
Ah, well, good to see he was just as irritating as ever…tired or not, Jane decided. 
“Coming to invade again? Should I alert the Avengers?” Jane asked, somewhat seriously.
“I believe I told you those times are long gone. Besides, the Avengers have enough on their minds, I’m sure.” He said. 
Jane recalled why she’d been sending out feelers.
“The earth has been experiencing weird readings lately. You wouldn’t know anything about that, would you?” Jane decided that she was too curious to pass this up. She took the steps to Loki. 
“Somewhat,” Loki said but didn’t say anything else. Jane raised a waiting eyebrow, “It’s not…perhaps you should speak to my brother.” Loki seemed uneasy. 
“Haven’t you heard? We broke up.” Jane’s voice quivered. Just because she had been the one doing it hardly meant that she was unaffected.
“I did,” Loki smirked. Jane had the feeling he already knew, “Despite that,” He said, becoming serious again, “It’s something you should ask Thor.” 
“No,” Jane said, firm, “What’s going on, Loki? Should we be worried?” 
Loki did not answer for a long time. Jane saw his mind spinning, likely considering just popping away or telling her. Those were the only two outcomes. At this point, Jane wasn’t going to allow anything else. Besides, if he wasn’t going to tell her, what was the point? The two weren’t friends, it’s not like they would fill the space chatting over coffee or something. 
“It’s Asgard,” He finally began. Jane could see him picking his words so specifically, like say a wrong word and it would detonate this conversation or him or her, “It’s gone.” 
“What do you mean gone?” Jane felt a chill zap her spine. Even as she asked, she knew somewhere in her heart- or should she say her mind, since she would always trust that more- that it was the truth.
Loki inhaled hard, letting it out slowly, “Destroyed. Nothing left. Exploded.” He said, and at any other time, she would think he was making fun of her by listing synonyms like she was an uneducated child. However, at this moment, it seemed like he was trying to grapple with this himself, “A week ago.” 
Jane paced for a long moment, holding back tears, her throat burning. She wanted him to be up to his old tricks, to be pulling a fast one on her. From the severity in his eyes, she knew he wasn’t. 
Finally, her feet would move no more and she shakily sunk down beside him. Not close enough to be touching him, but close enough so that it was like they were friends.
“Tell me how.” 
So Loki did. He spoke about Sutur and about Hela and about both of him and his brother’s trip away, and how while they were gone, a monster was created. A monster that killed his people- and Jane did not miss the way he referred to them as ‘his’ instead of his brothers, how he did not distance himself from it- and how the only solution, in the end, was to incite Ragnorok. Jane, after learning of Thor’s existence, had read extensively on their mythology, so she was not unfamiliar. It played out differently, but then again those were stories. This was real. This happened. All of it, all the blood and death and anguish. As Loki spoke, it seemed a part of his mind could not get away from it and she could see, physically see it. She saw the end of Asgard through Loki’s eyes.
When Loki finished, he saw the expression on her face.
“I didn’t mean to project that to you,” He frowned, “It’s just rather on my mind.” He admitted.
“I know,” Jane agreed, feeling useless and broken.
“What now?” 
“We’re coming to Norway. It’s what Odin wanted.”
Asgards coming to Earth, huh. It wasn’t unheard of- there was a professor somewhere, a former Berserk- but the rest of the Aesir race? 
Jane grappled with this loss. It wasn’t just a society missing, but an entire world. Everything is gone, just like that.
“All that knowledge, poof…” Jane felt stupid for focusing on such a trivial thing since there were families that were slain too, houses felled and wildlife consumed by fire. But those libraries there, information beyond her own knowledge she’d never know.
“Yes,” Loki agreed, looking more depressed than she could ever recall. Even when he was trapped by SHEILD and he’d grown too tired to hold his mirage, but then he’d just looked done with attempting. She wasn’t even sure he could attempt if he wanted to now, to pretend it was all okay, that is.
She had the strange urge to comfort him. Strange because Jane was not a cuddly sort of person. She was ruled by logic, and logic wasn’t what people wanted to hear when they were in emotional turmoil. But right now, Jane wanted to reach out to him and try. Her hands twitched in her lap as she imagined herself patting his shoulder or even hugging him. She imagined Loki would have been shocked at her gesture, so she kept her hands to herself. That didn’t mean she didn’t have other tactics.
“You know, they say if you think about something in the shower, you’re still not over it,” She began, “I guess that means I’m still not over the burning of the Library of Alexandria,” She said and she saw Loki almost smile. Success, in her mind, “I guess that also means I’ll be thinking about Asgard in the shower a lot too.” It was her way, she hoped, of conveying how broken she felt to by this, without being overly sentimental. Loki glanced up, tilting his head.
“Are you trying to cheer me up with humor?” 
“Is it working?” Jane winced.
“A little,” Loki admitted, “But perhaps only because I’m imagining you imagining Asgard in the shower. And all of its people, which, includes me.” He was smirking.
This was back to the Loki she knew; the insufferably handsome and sly Loki. If she weren’t so glad for a moment he was returned to the state she knew, she would have been offended by what he was insinuating.
An echo, like something very far away interrupted the silent space. It almost sounded like Thor’s voice, and Jane stiffened. Loki glanced back at her, opened his mouth to say something, but when she blinked he was gone again.
And Jane was back on Earth. And, if she thought about it, she almost missed Loki. 


--
Hope you enjoyed that! When I say they will be drabbles, I mean to say they will be at least drabble length, but they'll be as long as the inspiration takes me :) I was so excited to see Lokane! They're a huge ship of mine, but I've never tried writing them. BTW i'm so stoked for Infinity Wars (but prepared for pain and anguish). Who's with me?!

Chapter Text

Reviewer: Hepchaton
Couple: Zuko/Katara
Prompts: modernau/collegeau

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Katara shoved the last box Tetris-style into her trunk, rolling her eyes at Sokka, who hovered with a scowl on his face.

“Tell me why again you have to go to college so far away?” He asked, settling his arms into a cross, “It’s crazy! What does that place have that Alaska doesn't? Not your entire family, for one.”

“Sokka,” Katara slammed the door harder than she needed to, “It just has other things. New Mexico might not be better than home, but it is different. Besides, college is just four years, then I’ll be back.”

“I don’t like it,” He admitted after a very long moment, “But lord knows nothing I will say can change your mind, huh?”

“Nope.” Katara agreed, but then went to give him a last hug, “I’ll miss you Sokka.”

“Yeah, none of that mushy stuff,” Sokka said, turning so she didn’t see the way his eyes were watering a little, “I’ll miss you too, but only because you’re one of the few cool people around here. Who am I going to hang out with now? The kid that licks frozen poles?”

Katara gave him a withering look, rolling her eyes, “You’ll figure it out.” She assured.

“Fine, fine.” Sokka intercepted her attempt to open the driver’s door, “Just promise me one thing? Don’t go off and date anyone because otherwise, I’ll have to break their nose.”

“Right. Whatever.” She rolled her eyes, but at his hardened gaze gave a huff, “I promise.” She said holding up two intertwined fingers, “See?”

“Get out of here,” Sokka bumped her shoulder, “Deserter.” But, as he said it, he was almost smiling.

Katara watched him vanish in her rear-view mirror, his figure shrinking until it wasn’t visible at all. And then, Katara drove and drove and drove.

She would remember this conversation specifically a week after moving into her dorm. She was on an all girl’s floor, so there weren’t many boys to meet personally.
School didn’t begin for another week and her roommate- a girl she wasn’t sure if she liked yet- didn’t seem interested in guys to begin with.

Azula had just about thrown a fit when she discovered not only was she in the crappiest dorm on campus, but she had to share something that Katara would have called a closet with an entire other person. Katara had awkwardly shuffled in the background as Azula argued with the RA about her rooming assignment. The RA seemed cool as a cucumber, probably having dealt with all sorts of people, quietly explaining the dorms were a lottery system so no one was more likely to get a ‘good’ dorm vs a ‘bad’ dorm.

“But my father owns this campus!” Azula argued.

The RA had merely shrugged, uncaring, and Katara tried looking up proof of these claims but came up short. Azula didn’t bother setting her things up, because she kept telling Katara she’d be moving to a single in the nicest dorms, but Katara had a feeling she rarely told the truth. She wasn’t mean to Katara, but Katara’s dreams of moving in and becoming best friends with her roommate were pretty much shot down.

So, they existed like two acquaintances; Katara’s side filled with her things and Azula’s still in tidy, neat boxes.

A week later, her other brother visited.

Katara had been watching Stranger Things on her laptop when there was a knock on the door. Azula looked at Katara, eyebrows raised but made no motion to answer it. Katara sighed, unlocking it to find a boy in the halls. And, Katara could only think a single thing. Two things, actually.

Firstly, damn he’s attractive and secondly, he must be mistaken to be at our door.

“Uhhh…” Katara opened her mouth, shaking away her thoughts, although she was sure she was blushing widely.

“Azula there?” He asked, craning his neck around. Katara stuttered, about to say something like ‘I didn’t know Azula was dating someone’, but was glad her tongue-tied state saved her from beginning that statement.

“Ugg, go away, Zuko.” The way Azula addressed him was definitely reminiscent of the way Katara talked to her brother. And, there was a family resemblance.

“Dad sent me to check up on you. Wow, this place is cramped,” Zuko said, stepping in past Katara. Katara spied a bra thrown lazily over her beanbag and practically leaped on top of it to hide it.

“I’m Katara.” She said, trying to seem casual and natural in her chair. Zuko looked at her. His eyes flickered and he gave a small smile, something really sexy and Katara was pretty glad she was sitting because it made her knees feel weak.

“Sorry, hi. I’m Azula’s brother.”

“Who is leaving.” Azula got up, practically shoving him out the door, “Tell dad to rescue me from this hell hole ASAP if you want to help.”

“Azula, be nice,” Zuko snapped, “The world isn’t ending.”

“Oh, you haven’t seen the bathrooms yet,” Azula shuddered, “Just, urg, be useful for once.” Zuko pinched the bridge of his nose, sighing heavily.

“You want to go get dinner?” He asked, “This is making me hungry.”

“No,” Azula dismissed him harshly, “Go home if you’re not going to help me out of this mess or fire the idiot that messed up my application.”

Zuko snapped his jaw, “Maybe I wasn’t talking to you?” He said although Katara was pretty sure he had been.

“Who were you talking to then? Katara?” Azula snorted.

“Yeah,” Zuko said, “Yeah, I was.”

“She doesn’t want to go and get food with you,” Azula said.

“Uhh, well, I’m a little hungry,” Katara said. Frankly, she wanted this fight to end.

Azula turned to Katara, biting the inside of her cheek, “Hmm. Whatever.” She finally decided after scrutinizing Katara for a long moment, “He has a girlfriend you know.”
“What? I was just-I’m not-,”

“I didn’t mean it like a date, and I’m sure she didn’t think that,” Zuko cut in smoothly, “I’m just trying to be a nice person because I know you sure as hell aren’t.”
“Yeah, not a date,” Katara agreed. She was still pretty sure Sokka wouldn’t like it, and that made her want to do it more.

“If it gets you out of my hair, whatever,” Azula said. Katara couldn’t be sure if she was talking to her or to Zuko. Probably both.

Zuko took Katara to one of the three restaurants they had on campus; a sushi place. It was middling in price- a place Katara would agree to go to with a friend, but wouldn’t have paid for if she was alone. It was also a popular college haunt, which made it decidedly non-romantic.

“Thanks for going along with that. Zula can be a real piece of work.” Zuko told Katara, insisting that he pay for her. Katara’s protests were meager, considering she didn’t have a job on campus yet and she was here entirely on scholarship.

“It’s a small place. When people get angry, it gets warm really fast.” She pointed out, “Besides, you don’t seem half bad.”

“You mean I don’t seem like her at all?” Zuko interpreted. Katara held her tongue, but smiled apologetically, “It’s true. She’s...well, something. She’s my sister, so I’m obligated to look out for her and all, but we don’t get along all that great.” Zuko pushed around some of his rice with his chopsticks, “I was hoping college would change that.”

She sensed his mood darkening, sinking quickly. As though he was already going to give up. Katara wouldn’t have given up on her brother, but her brother was a little more forthcoming than Azula seemed.

“Well,” Katara blinked, “We’re friends now.” Zuko looked up at her, half-amused and half-surprised, “So, that means if you come to the dorms, it’s to see me. If Azula ends up having to stick it out with me, chances are you’ll see her too.” She said with a small smile, folding her hands in front of her. Zuko looked grateful, though he didn’t explicitly say it. But, she knew. It was what Katara did; fixer of the broken, helper of the downtrodden. Sokka often said that in an acerbic tone, but today, Katara felt proud of it.

Azula wasn’t moved. Katara wouldn’t eve be sure if her father owned the campus or not, but Zuko came up with a whole host of reasons that she was stuck there. So she unpacked, muttering cuss words and sending murderous looking glares at the white concrete walls.

And Zuko started coming around; they’d rope Azula into staying to watch a movie with them, and when Azula wasn’t paying attention to herself, Katara would see her smiling ever so slightly. Sometimes Zuko’s girlfriend came along, sometimes it was other girls in their dorm block, but Zuko was always a constant.

Katara got used to having him around. She would hold her feelings for him at the surface, just there enough that she could convince herself that it was a harmless crush because Katara wasn’t a homewrecker, but she kept it close to her because people did stupid things when they had a crush on someone. Besides, in the early months, she’d tried to squish her feelings, but it just made her a little miserable. So, the feelings stayed, but she told herself Zuko would never be allowed to know.

As the months bleed into spring, there was a discussion buzzing around the dorms about what to do next semester. Some girls opted to stay in the dorms so they could room with friends, others threw around the idea of moving off campus to an apartment. Katara wouldn’t call herself best friends with Azula (not nearly as close as she was with her brother) but she would call her someone she had learned to enjoy, in the sort of way she liked hot peppers but wouldn’t eat a whole handful of them.
She also couldn’t be sure of Azula’s feelings for her. Azula, who had stopped being mean to her but didn’t go out of her way to be nice. But, maybe that was nice to Azula.

Therefore, when Azula asked if Katara wanted to move into her brother’s house with her next semester, Katara nearly choked.

“Father won’t get me my own place, and Zuko’s is big enough. Plus, ever since he and Mai broke up, the house has a lot of extra space and you both know if Zuko and I are forced to live together we’ll sooner kill each other than anything else.”

“Mai and Zuko broke up?” Katara felt like she’d been kicked again, being blindsided twice in a short span of time.

“Tragically,” Azula sighed, “So, you in?”

Katara waffled. Some other girls had extended an invitation to her a while ago, but Katara wasn’t sure if it still stood. She’d seen Zuko’s apartment before; it was stunning and large and a nicer place than she’d ever lived before. It wasn’t even an apartment, it was closer to a freaking house. But it was an apartment, but it was a penthouse.

“You’d be living with Zuko, every day…” Azula pointed out and Katara nearly said something along the lines of their Sunday Night Movie would be easier until she saw the gleam in Azula’s eyes.

“I don’t know what you’re implying,” Katara said, but her blush probably gave her away.

“Katara, I’m only going to extend this invitation once, so take it or leave it,” Azula regained her usually snappy self, putting on her shoes to go out and take one of her exams, “But just know...this invitation comes from both me and Zuko. I like you. Don’t be an imbecile.”

Then, Katara was alone in their half-boxed up dorm room. If she didn’t know Azula any better, she’d say that she cared.

Katara’s fingers texted a message of Zuko before she was really aware of what was happening.

-I hear we’re living together next year, roomie.

Zuko’s reply was instantaneous.

-I look forward to it :)

Chapter Text

Reviewer: JoinThDarkSideOfMagic
Couple: Haku/Chihiro
Prompt: Anything
--
Chihiro waited for Haku.

She couldn't recall anything specific after leaving, but she remembered his promise. It bounced around in her mind relentlessly and a part of her just knew that it wasn't a remnant of a dream, but it was real. Someone was waiting for her out there.

And Chihiro was who she was; she was a young human child that had survived the harsh Spirit World, she'd faced witches of unimaginable power, she'd saved her parents from a feat that no others had, attracted the favor of a god, and she'd come out with her life. So, Chirio wasn't the type of girl to sit around and wait for this promise to magically work itself out. No, she was would take matters into her own hands. Even if she didn't remember doing those things, she felt the impact of them, deep within her. Chihiro would be her own knight.

So, she did, or at least, she tried to.

In the years directly following the event, she would plead with her parents to take her back to the grassy knoll. Her parents had no recollection of the days spent there either (which, was for the best), however whenever they thought about the seemingly innocent green hills, they would have a taste like putrid decay fill their mouths and almost remember the feeling of being crowded in a barn, but the memory would whisk itself away just at the last moment. This was enough to firmly cement that they should never return there, much to Chihiro's ultimate dismay.

When Chihiro was a middle-schooler, she had a knack for convincing friends to have their parents drive them out there again, to pack a picnic or some kites and let the girls run wild in the tall grass. She became very good at seeming so innocent and goading her friends back there time and time again.

By the time she was old enough to have a car of her own, she'd mostly forgotten why she continually returned to the fields. But, she very often would find herself drawn back here on the way home from her girlfriends' houses or from work, and she'd park her car in front of the funny little statue, walk through the tunnel and just sit on the other end...waiting. Every time she returned, it was like her whole body crackled with magic and the pull toward the unknown was undeniable.

And, if she closed her eyes and just sat, it's like she could hear whispers of all things; but muted and muffled, as though she was hearing them from underwater or after just waking from a very vivid dream. Yet, the fields still answered no questions, and this felt like a stab in the heart, even if she didn't know why.

Finally, as she was turning 18 and she hadn't been back to the hills and the archway in over a year. She had wanted to go many times but had convinced herself it was silly and useless and she had better things to do with her time, so she had stayed away. But, she indulged herself in this little obsession, pulling her coat around her tightly as she passed under the archway for what she told herself might very well be the last time.

She put her iPod on, listened to some of her favorite music, and watched as the sky streaked with red.

There was a familiarity that danced over her, a feeling she knew she used to get back when she was a child, but at 18 she was more aware of it. She sat up, pulling her hair into a ponytail with a sparkling hairband- one, that if she didn't know better would say it was magical because it never broke and always turned back up- and stared into the growing darkness.

As the wind picked up, rustling the leaves at her feet, she heard it. It wasn't far away like the whispering voices once had been, but very present, as though someone was sitting right next to her.

Will we meet again sometime?

Sure we will.

Promise?

Promise.

Chihiro stumbled a couple steps, recognizing her own voice from when she was a child. She felt her mouth go dry and she patted her cheeks, pulling her fingers back to see tears. She sniffled, shaking her head angrily.

"Well," She said out loud, "Fat promise that was." She was angry about something she didn't understand, about words she didn't know the meaning of, by a person, she couldn't remember.

She spun, snatching her bookbag from the dewy grass, stalking back to her car and cussing as she left.

All she knew was that eight years ago she'd walked into her place with her parents, and she'd walked out feeling different; surer of herself, more confident, braver...but a part of her had also always felt inexplicitly empty. She'd be damned if she let these phantom feelings grip her anymore.

She slid back into the driver's seat of her car, clutching the steering wheel tightly, her knuckles turning white. From her viewpoint, she saw the little statue, grinning eerily at her, mocking her. She had the irrational urge to kick it over if she didn't partially fear retaliation from whatever deity it represented. It wasn't that she believed in the old gods, necessarily, but she also wasn't going to tempt fate by irritating one. And, she always told herself, on some wild chance they did exist, she'd be all right about it.

Or something. Whenever she thought too much about the possibility of ghosts and spirits and nature gods existing, she felt something grip her heart and squeeze hard.

"Damn it all," She muttered, hitting her forehead softly against the leather of the wheel, "You're an adult now, Chihiro," She reminded herself, "Who doesn't get choked about about a summer's day that happened eons ago!"

She turned the car on, and drove. She didn't get very far, however, not before she slammed hard on her breaks. She threw open her car door, getting out.

She had thought she'd seen something slithering in the sky, through the trees, like a…

Well, the thought she had was that it looked like a dragon. It wasn't, she knew because dragons didn't exist. It was probably just a…

Chihiro's mind came up blanks for a way to explain what she knew she had seen, but she waved it off. She wasn't a bird watcher or an ecologist, and one of those would probably laugh at her thoughts and tell her a perfectly reasonable rare something that looked like a glossy silver dragon.

"Water, you need water. You're going crazy." Chihiro told herself, fishing for her bottle, to find it empty. Ah, yes, she'd forgotten to fill it up on her way. She had come back here, spur of the moment, so to say Chihiro was unprepared for anything was an understatement.

The urge to drink sized her and she begrudgingly exited her car. She was sure she'd seen a stream or something in these woods as a child. The sky was just getting dark, but her parents didn't expect her home from the gym for at least another hour, and these woods weren't very large.

Her feet took her there, the familiarity of these woods seeping back into her mind. How many times, as a young girl, had her sneakers crunched over the pine needles, searching for whatever it was she thought she might find?

She found a small creek snaking through the forest. It wasn't anything large at all and it seemed to be moving at a slow pace. Chihiro saw that it came from underneath a set of half-demolished apartment buildings, the water dripping from a crack in the concrete.

She snorted; maybe it had been the spirits here in the forest to blame. She remembered that this forest had once been set for demolition, but she was glad to see something had halted the progress and that the apartment buildings that had been shiny and new eight years ago were starting to crumble already.

She saw the washed and smooth dirt pushed back into high banks and as Chihiro clambered down, muddying her shoes as she went, she wondered if once the water had roared up to those points? Had it once been a mighty river that cut through this forest with ease?

If so, the water that remained now seemed pitifully small. The river banks would have been high above Chihiro's head, the water that flowed now was hardly two feet deep.

"I wish I could heal you," Chihiro sighed, looking up at the twisted roots, gnarled and twined, that poked through the soil bed from where the river once was. Some of the trees looked a little dry without the water right at its feet.

At the foot of the apartment building, a fissure hardly bigger than Chihiro's palm let the water out, and it came out in a pressured stream. She impulsively dug her fingers in, trying to do away with some more of the concrete wall to let more water out. Faintly, there was a name in the back of her mind of what this river was. She recalled her parents talking about it, what seemed like years and years ago. About how they used to go to the water's edge with her when she was very small and how many people had been horrified that the city was built over it, and despite the overwhelming disapproval, they had anyway.

"Stupid politicians, stupid city," Chihiro muttered kicking the wall and little pebble-sized pieces of concrete came off in her hands. She found a large rock and hit the side of the wall, unsure if this was doing anything at all, but was beginning to feel better herself about things. About being an adult, about going away to college soon, about having these feelings she couldn't shake. Sometimes, she was sure she dreamed of whatever happened to her that day. It never remained. She never recalled.

There was a gurgling somewhere inside the building and before Chihiro could connect what was happening, a whole piece of the wall seemed to buckle in on itself, sending an icy cold flash of water barreling out from the widened hole in the wall. It was now about as large as Chihiro's head, she realized with a grin.

The water had sent her tumbling off the little ledge near the apartment building, into the remainder of the river below. It rushed around her legs, and she wiped her soaked bangs from her face, grinning.

There was movement from out of the corner of her eye, and she turned to see a man not much older than her, standing in the ankle-deep water. There was something ethereal about him, something glimmering, but Chihiro couldn't place it.

And, he was handsome. At that moment, she realized she must have seen her very ungraceful fall as she tried to give a big middle finger to greedy corporations bulldozing forests.

"A hand?" He asked, stepping through the flow to her.

"I, uh, sure," Chihiro said, using one hand to scrape away the mud from her cheeks and she raised the others to reach his. He looked sort of funny, out of place, in very traditional garb. Maybe there was some event, like a play or a service going on somewhere? Maybe he'd heard her swearing at a slab of concrete.

As soon as her fingers touched his, it was like someone had revived her from the dead. Her mind opened and memories poured in, memories that had been locked away somewhere far below, memories she couldn't quite believe were real.

She stood, staring at the man in front of her, "Haku?" She asked, frowning. His hand clenched tighter around hers.

"Hi, Chihiro." He whispered.

She stared, dumbfounded for a couple seconds, before promptly shoving him hard.

"What the hell? Eight years! Eight fucking years of me waiting for you and you never came! And now, of all times, when I'm about to go to college?" She demanded. Haku's expression flinched, confused. Chihiro scooped up rocks from the riverbed- pebbles really and began half-hearted flinging them at him.

"I. Looked. For. You. For. Years!" She said, trying to let out all her anger, all that anxiety that had led her to come back to the hills time and time again.

"Chihiro, stop throwing rocks," Haku sighed.

"No!" She said, crossing her arms, "I'm pissed at you."

She stared silently at him for a couple moments, stewing and thinking of ways she could murder him before the distance between them came too much. She threw her arms around him, burying her face into his shoulder.

"I'm still mad at you," She murmured, but hugged him tighter, "So angry."

"I know." Haku acknowledged, pressing his nose to the top of her head, "Chihiro, it's not like it's been easy for me too. Didn't you feel me there? Every time you came back?" He asked. Chihiro stepped back, putting just an inch of space between them. She frowned, and now that she knew what to feel for, she could recall his shadowy presence...always just out of reach, on another plane of being, a little too far away.

"If all it took was a touch...why didn't you…" Chihiro struggled, shaking her head.

"I couldn't risk having you come back on the other side." Haku reached a hand up, stroking her cheek, "Too risky."

"I made it out once," Chihiro pointed out haughtily.

"I know you did," He grinned with pride, but then his face fell, "But do you think they would have let you over the second time? Don't you recall all the faces of humans stuck there, endlessly?"

"I had people on my side. I would have had you on my side." She said, sighing into his cheek, "Granny, No Face, Rin, Kamaji…" She continued.

"I couldn't risk it." Haku sighed, "I feared that if you came back, you'd never be able to leave again. And after all you did to get back to your family, I didn't want you to not have the choice."

"Then, what about now?" Chihiro felt fear grip her, for just a moment.

"Not the same. Don't you recognize this?" He asked. Chihiro opened her mouth to say she'd never been to this part of the forest before, or, not in this river until she realized she had.

"Haku, this wouldn't happen to be your river, would it?"

His grin was impossible to ignore, "Once you stepped in it, you invited me here, not the other way around."

She looked back, "I remember that the reason you lost your name is because they built apartments over it," She frowned.

"True," He said, his fingers rubbing over her arms, "But you gave me back my name. I was trapped under the ground until you gave me that power back."

Chihiro smirked, "I hoped you flooded every inch of those apartments," she said earnestly.

"Burst the pipes, broke every floor, it's a mess in there." Haku laughed, "Made sure they won't be back in a long time."

"Good," Chihiro said firmly, "Because I can't imagine you...what if they…" She bit her lip hard, "What if I lose you again?" She asked. She didn't mean just in the sense that she'd walk away, but what if his river was lost again? Or completely dried up? Would he...die?

The thought was nearly too much for her to handle.

"Hey, it's okay," Haku assured, "Granny helped me divert this past the fields. So now, even if it disappears here, I'll still exist on the other side. I'm not going anywhere, Chihiro."

"Well, good," Chihiro's cheeks flushed. She bit her lip, looking back up the ridge to where her car was still waiting, "You wouldn't have, ah, persuaded me here? As a dragon?" She asked.

His foxy grin said it all, "A river is very patient, Chihiro, until it isn't. I've always been there, I know you're going on to bigger things. But, maybe, I wanted you to know that you have a choice."

"A choice?" Chihiro echoed.

"Yes. With me. Of me," Chihiro thought it impossible to see a god seem unsure or embarrassed, yet here he was, "Over there. But, I want it to be your decision, not an accident."

"Oh," Chihiro tugged on the hem of her shirt, "Oh." There wasn't much more she could say.

Haku didn't push her, but bent down and scooped up an inch of water into a little locket, clasping it shut. He held it out to her, "If you ever need me, here I'll be. You can call me with this." He whispered. Chihiro took it gently, as though it was the most precious thing on earth. At this moment, to her, it was.

"You should be going," Haku gave her a sad smile, "I've taken up a lot of your time."

"Yeah," Chihiro wondered how many missed calls she will have from her parents once she gets in range of data again. At least twenty, since she knows she's now been gone far longer than she was supposed to.

She paused, turned back to Haku. Throwing herself around him a last time, she tried to remember every inch of him. And then, she pulled his head down and kissed him. Haku's fingers dug into her damp shirt and she let him pull her tighter. She was covered in mud and twigs, soaking wet, and had a thousand rocks in her shoes...and Chihiro had never felt more like this is where she was meant to be, with him.

"Ever hear of the god that fell in love with the human?" Haku whispered when they pulled apart, kissing her forehead.

"Those never end well," Chihiro sighed.

"Ours will." He said only two words that held so much.

Chihiro raised her head, giving a half-smile.

"Promise?"

"Promise."

Chapter Text

reviewer: Jacpin2002
Couple: Zuko/Katara
Promps: Soulmates/Forbidden love. I choose to do the 'see in black and white until you find your soulmate' trope

--

By the age of 14, Katara had come to terms with the fact she’d never see in color.
It was okay, she told herself, because most people never found their soulmate. In fact, in the whole of the South Pole she only knew two people who saw color; her father and her grandmother. And, both of those people were now alone, so maybe it was better this way anyway.
Katara knew she’d probably die on this piece of floating ice. She’d marry a perfectly nice boy, have perfectly nice kids, and maybe do waterbending here or there. This all seemed rather set in stone.
Until she met Aang.
She would have never thought that meeting Aang would be the catalyst, not when she blinked and the world was still in black and white and all she felt was disappointment. She’d been so sure that a new male figure that she just happened to coincidentally come up on had to be her soulmate, but here she was, wrong.
And that sort of killed the last bit of hope she had, however small.
Aang seemed equally as disappointed, but he hid it better.
But, he was still fun and so unlike anyone else in their war-torn village that she couldn’t help but go along with him to ride penguins and go into that creaking ship no one was supposed to go to. Katara wasn’t usually so careless, but she chalked it up to the anger she felt, the anger that even if her soulmate was out there, she’d never meet him because she was undeniably stuck here. She was stuck and Aang wasn’t even going to stick around; he could leave, he would leave. Katara would be all alone with her thoughts and grayscale world again. So Katara, like an idiot, went into the ship.
They tripped that bobby-trap, and well, what came next was nothing good.
She watched as the Fire Nation vessel plowed through Sokka’s carefully crafted lookout, as though it was so insignificant. Everyone here was insignificant, to him, she figured.
He had such an air of leadership from the first moment she saw him. He was tall, thin and the ultimate enemy. He also was a fighter, because he dispatched Sokka within seconds (although, Katara would later say, Sokka was stupid to even try).
But Katara couldn’t focus on any of that. All she could focus on was that she could see his eyes were golden.
No one else in the village saw the way she sucked in hard, the way she stumbled a foot or two as the world spun on its axis, or the sheer terror that plagued her.
He saw. Prince Zuko, someone had said his name, he saw her and he understood. The Prince of the nation that had only ever brought her tribe agony was her soulmate.
The spirits must be having a good laugh about this.
And she knew from the way he just stopped, the way he paused the fire that he held on his fingertips died, that he too could see the blue in Katara’s eyes, the purple in her dress, and the red flush to her cheeks.
There were many other colors that overwhelmed his sense, but alas, all he saw was her.
Sokka might not have been the best fighter out there, but to say he wasn’t an opportunist would be wrong. Sokka saw him falter for some unknown reason and had grabbed the prince, producing a knife from his boot and dragged the invader in front of his crew and pressed the weapon against the boy’s neck. This prince was hardly older than Sokka, and Sokka had never killed anyone, but he would. He absolutely would, if he felt like he needed to. There was a pair of handcuffs that had been left that his father always told him to put on a firebender, if they ever came back. They could make the metal hot, but it would take a lot to burn through it. Zuko hardly budged when he had one of the male children snap them on. Sokka grabbed the Prince’s hair, sucking in a deep breath.
“One move and I slice his throat,” Sokka’s hands wobbled and his voice shook, but he was able to press the knife hard enough to draw blood.
The crew made a motion to burn the place; but what could they really burn here, and the women in the village protectively stood too, a war just on the brink of happening.
Katara felt like she couldn't breathe. She couldn’t tell Sokka not to hurt him, just because he was her soulmate, but she couldn’t let this happen either.
Luckily, before Katara had to make any hard choices, a portly older gentleman walked down the gangplank.
“Stand down, he’s not lying,” He advised, catching Sokka’s eyes. Whoever he was was someone important, because everyone listened, “Now, who can we talk terms to?”
“Me,” Sokka still sounded like a child, Katara noted, but he wasn’t shivering, “I am the leader right now while the men are away.”
Katara took a step forward, but her grandmother grabbed her arm tightly.
“We just want the Avatar,” Zuko growled, jerking himself to look at Aang, “Just give us him and we’ll leave.”
“You’re not in a position to make demands.” If Sokka was shocked about the Avatar, as Katara was, he didn’t look it.
“Sokka, maybe-,”
“No, Aang. We have this.” Sokka snapped. Aang looked helplessly at Katara.
“What is it that you want?”
“Leave. Leave this place. Don’t return.” Sokka’s demanded. The man’s eyes slid over to the Prince, “We’ll take him as our prisoner of war. If you all want him back so badly, we can negotiate then.”
The man raised a hand, eyeing Zuko, who was not eyeing the Avatar, but was instead looking at a village girl. She was trying not to look at him either.
In that moment, Iron understood.
He gathered his men, “We will be out on the water, writing home. We will get the Prince back, but we will not fight you now. Do I have your word that you will not harm my nephew?”
“I will not kill him,” Sokka said, making a show of lessening the pressure, but still kept the knife there, “Let me see you go.”
And so, they did.
There was the question of where to keep the Prince, after the ship had left. Sokka finally became frustrated and knocked him out, before leaving him tied and bound in a smaller hut. He felt exhausted by victorious and that night everyone was celebrating him.
So, it was easy for Katara to sneak into where he was.
Zuko awoke to someone pouring cold water over his face. He sputtered, about to raise hell, before a finger was pressed to his lips.
He looked up to see the girl, the girl that gave him color, standing above him.
“Shh,” She motioned to a shadowy figure outside the doors.
“How did you…?” He asked, frowning.
She was working on getting him out of the ropes and cuffs.
“If I let you go now, will you not come back? Will you leave us alone? Even if Aang stays here?”
“You’re letting me go, I’m a very good bargaining chip….”
“Katara.” She whispered, “Answer.” A demand, not a question.
“I will not come back.” He couldn’t deny her, “But as soon as Aang leaves…” He frowned, “I make no promises about the Avatar.”
Katara turned, sliding a wall down in the ice.
“Watebender,” He whispered, “I thought they were all-,”
“I’m the last one.” She bit her lip, looking torn, “How do I know you’re telling the truth?”
“Why did you let me go?” He asked, flexing his wrists and running the pads of his fingers on the new wound around his neck.
She almost smiled, “I imagine our answers are one in the same.” The grin dropped, “Please, just go, now...before I really regret this.”
“Katara, I…” Zuko began, pausing. He thought better of it, and ran off across the cold tundra into the night. He managed to connect back with this ship at dawn, and while the colors of the morning sun were brilliant, nothing compared to the blue of Katara’s eyes.
--
Katara and Zuko continue to pass each other, like ships in the night. She goes with Aang, he does not stop looking for Aang. When they are apart, the world is still in color but it is duller. Things are not as beautiful. Katara always knows when Zuko is around because suddenly the world looks wonderful to her again.
She does not tell her brother or Aang about her revelation.
Zuko does not tell anyone, but somehow, Iroh still finds out.
Zuko is always antsier, Iroh notices, days before they intercept the Avatar again. He sees in color as well, so he knows it must mean Zuko is smart enough to chart the changes in the way the colors pop out. He must capture the Avatar. He might need to do awful things to capture the Avatar. He does not want to do awful things to Katara. Iroh understands his dilemma.
They both feel the tug to each other, something so natural that Katara almost wants to stop ignoring it.
They are two people, caught on different sides of a war that she’s been hearing about her whole life.
Once, they manage to talk about it. She will not leave the Avatar, he will not stop trying to regain his honor. That should be the end of it. That should be where this thing between them stops.
But having a soulmate isn’t like that, and the spirits would just keep laughing at her, she decides.
When Zuko saves her from the pirates something within her wakes. It wakes him too. If she’s recounting it back, that’s the point in which she knew this between them was always going to happen.
And Katara hasn’t ever kissed a boy before but she can’t help but steal a kiss before they both leave again. Parting is harder this time.
---
And so it goes, the pair meet up when they can, steal little moments. In the Northern Water Tribe, Zuko pulls her into a room and can’t help but kiss her, letting his hands roam. He knows what he’s supposed to be doing, he knows he’s supposed to be getting Aang and killing the water spirits.
Katara knows she should be fighting him. She should be pushing him away, she should be shoving at his shoulders. Her hands are also preoccupied, as it were.
He’s nearly killed, and he and Iroh leave. Aang is still okay. Katara cannot stop thinking of Zuko.
---
They do not see each other for a long time. Katara continues to help Aang, Zuko ends up in Ba Sing Se.
Once Katara messes up in front of Sokka, Aang, and Toph. She comments about a colored detail of something.
“You’ve found your soulmate?” Sokka’s reply is strangled. She curses inwardly.
“Soulmate stuff is bullshit,” Toph snorts, “Since I can’t see anyway.”
Katara still is silent.
“Well, who was it? It wasn’t Jet was it? I’m going to murder Jet,” Sokka is rambling now, fists out and eyes blazing.
“No, it wasn’t him! I don’t know, we’ve seen a lot of faces while traveling. It could be anyone.” She says in a rush. Sokka seems to believe this- he wants to think his sister would tell him if she knew- and lets it go. Katara tries not to feel bad at Aang’s absolutely devastated expression.
It’s only later that Katara realizes that Toph knows she’s lying, but she does not say anything about it. Toph does not bring it up either.
Sometimes, Toph can be okay.
--
Somehow, without ever messing up, it seems everyone knows that Zuko now sees in color. He has a feeling it started with his Uncle. It wouldn’t have been his Uncle’s intention to tell anyone, but maybe an event with a little too much liquor would have done him in.
A lot of people are curious, but don’t seem to press it.
He goes on one date, and she’s nice enough, until she sighs.
“I know you see color. I’m not your soulmate, so maybe I’m a bad person to even want to date you.”
“She’s not around,” Zuko feels the ache for Katara deep within.
“She will be one day.” Song seems so sure. Zuko isn’t, however, life does throw them together all the time. He almost admits to her how somewhere along his chasing of Aang, it became more about seeing Katara again. But he does not.
--
When Katara sees him through the window of a dingy tea shop, she nearly can’t believe it.
She waits for him out back, grabbing him and hugging him tightly. She didn’t think he’s dead; she would have felt it, and she should hate herself for how worried she was about him.
His hair is longer, and it looks good.
“I’m so glad!” She muttered into his tea apron, half angry and half relieved, and Zuko just presses her closer to him.
There’s so much he wants to tell her, but in the end, all he can do is kiss her again. And again, and again. He’ll be sure to notice the firey red of her garments, the gold clasps, her chocolate hair, the pink of her lips and the blue of her eyes.
He’ll remember this in the caves later.
---
“Come with me,” Katara asks, desperate, “You are not the same person anymore.”
She wants to tell him about how she’d never realized how pretty the green glow of these crystals are if it weren’t for him. She wants to tell him how all her dreams are in black and white, still, unless he appears, which has been happening increasingly.
Katara wants this to be a happy ending.
She should have known better.
Zuko goes back with Azula and Katara is left with a nearly dead Avatar, wondering how and why and what right does the universe have to give her so much misery.
--
She will rescind these thoughts when Zuko reappears. She is so angry with him she can’t even look at him, so betrayed, but so glad all at the same time.
He says he’s different. He says he’s not the same person anymore. His words mirror his, and while it’s a plea directed at Aang, it’s said for Katara.
She does not want to believe him, after all this. Katara hates how weak she is toward him. Zuko is willing to wait for her forgiveness.
--
It isn’t until he helps her track down the person that killed her mother that she truly lets him in.
Aang doesn’t like that she goes, but she needs to. She wonders if Zuko would have watched her kill that man, had she not stopped.
She does not dwell on this.
She does, however, hug him when they land.
She knows Aang likes her, but Katara has done all she can to convince him otherwise, because she could never like him.
“I love you,” She whispers so quietly in his ear. Aang, and the rest, are watching but no one hears her words. Her lips are just on his neck, so they can’t see the movement. She’s always loved Zuko. The universe designed that she loved Zuko before she knew who Zuko was.
Zuko just holds her tighter.
“I love you too.”
--
They laugh and pretend that they’re still just friends during the Ember Island players, despite the subtext that is practically shoved onto the audience’s lap about their secret dalliances. Maybe if they were less sure of themselves with the other, they’d have problems. As it is, it truly is laughable.
However, the next morning, Zuko has a black eye and Sokka’s hand is bandaged. He just sets his jaw, nods to Katara and moves on. Zuko had proven himself to her brother at Boiling Rock, but that’s not to say that he wasn’t going to be protecting her honor, or something.
--
They have sex for the first time the night before the comet invasion. Katara didn’t go into his room intending for this, however, it seemed silly to wait. They both know they could die. They both know what could happen.
It seems natural.
The colors of the candle, albeit tiny, are even more brilliant afterward. It is a world of yellows, oranges, reds, and just a hit of blue. She feels like it is not so different from them.
Red and blue.
Red and blue.
Red and blue.
--
In the moments when that electric blue bolt was flying at her, Katara wondered if this is how she would die. She wondered if after everything, this was going to be how she would go. She notices how static the hue of it is, and thinks, at least she sees in color.
But Zuko takes it for her and Katara does not die.
She’s able to capture Azula and when Zuko startles awake, the first thing she sees once again is the gold of his eyes.
“It’s over?”
“It’s over.” She promises. He cups her cheek and pulls her down to kiss him. He doesn't care that it’s in front of Azula, or the palace guards, or the dignitaries that come out after. He kisses Katara for everyone and for himself.
--
It’s years down the road, when things have settled.
Katara comes into one of the spare rooms to see Zuko arranging things. Her fingers run along the bassinet and the tiny array of stuffed animals in the corner. She sees the mobile that Aang gave them, full of air bisons and flying lemurs.
“Have you picked a color?” She asks, knowing they need to paint the room tomorrow if they want it to dry before the heir to the Fire Nation is born. Red is traditional, she’s been informed.
Zuko grins, kicking the unopened can toward her, skidding it across the tile floor.
Katara opens the paint, laughing.
“I was thinking,” Zuko kisses her forehead, “Purple.”

Chapter Text

Reviewer: KnightOwl247
Couple: Zuko/Katara from Avatar the Last Airbender
Prompts: Season3!AU, Ember Island, Toph locking Zutara in a closet
---
Toph grasped Katara’s wrist a little too tightly, “Sweetness, when you see this, you’ll understand,” She was saying as she practically dragged Katara down the darkened hall. Katara fanned herself with her free arm, trying to stave off the sweat gathering already on her forehead. She was accustomed to the chilly weather of the South Pole but the weather in Fire Nation wasn’t bad; not until she reached Ember Island. The heat was sweltering, every single day, and worst of all was the humidity. Katara had quickly learned to abhor that combination of weather conditions.
It was four days into their adventure at Ember Island at Zuko’s family vacation home, although ‘adventure’ was a word Katara would use lightly. She- along with Zuko and Toph- had been drilling Aang on his practices to the point of exhaustion. Sokka was usually around somewhere, throwing knives at trees with semi-accuracy, and Suki was on deck whenever they wanted a non-bender to fight Aang.
At this time, it was late in the night after another grueling day. Katara had been in the kitchens, methodically eating a mango and contemplating if sleep or bathing was more important when Toph found her.
Toph was strangely cryptic about her mission, but that wasn’t unusual for Toph. Toph was either very open with her plans or very closed-lips, no in between. What was strange was her urgency in which she grasped Katara and took her through the tangled maze of the beach house.
“Toph, I’m tired,” Katara sighed, “Can it wait until tomorrow morning?”
“Nope! You gotta see this now. Don’tcha trust me?”
“I swear to god if it’s a chicken-rat in the rafters or a piece of wood that looks like Avatar Kyoshi, I’ll be so upset.” Katara grumbled. She chooses not to answer Toph’s question (and yes, she did trust Toph, with her life, when it came to battle. Other times...ehhh) and instead reminded Toph of two totally pointless things Toph had insisted was ‘of extreme importance’ before. And the wood didn’t even look like Kyoshi, it had just ‘felt’ like her but to a person with sight was just a jumble of wood knots.
Toph stopped Katara in front of a door.
“It’s uhh…” Katara had assumed it was just a broom closet on her initial sweep of the house, due to the fact it was very undecorated and a little shabby looking. Maybe it was more. Maybe it was only like this to make people assume it was nothing important, as Katara had.
She opened the door, stepping inside.
It was just a broom closet.
“Go in farther!” Toph encouraged from outside. Katara, feeling as though she’d been led on a goose chase again, locked her jaw and took a small step inside.
The door slammed behind her, inches from her back. She spun, shaking the knob, but it was jammed.
“Toph, the door shut! Something’s wrong,” Katara called, but heard a suspicious lack of sound on the other side.
“Toph was the one who closed it.” A voice in the shadows startled Katara. She squinted, letting her eyes adjust to the closet. The only light available filtered in through a small window near the top.
“Zuko?” She asked, frowning, “But why would she...what is…”
Zuko shrugged. He had commandeered a wooden crate to sit on, topped with a bag of rice as a cushion.
“She trapped me in here about five minutes before you.”
“What’s her game?” Katara demanded, pacing in the small space available to her.
Zuko gave a helpless shrug. It seemed he’d just accepted his fate.
“You two need to work out your feelings.” Toph’s muffled voice from the other side caused both to whip around.
“What feelings?” Katara scoffed, glad the darkness hid her small blush.
“Toph, whatever you think you’re talking about-,”
“Can it, both of ya. The others may not see it, because you both try very hard to hide it, but you forget. I can feel it. And if I have to go one more day of feeling those things that I don’t want to be feeling, I’m gunna puke. So, work it out. I’m not letting you out until you do!” She banged twice on the door, “Enjoy!”
Katara kicked the door, finding it more solid than she’d thought it to be before. She muttered a quiet cuss to Toph under her breath.
“She’s just making things up, I’m sure.” Katara murmured, still not facing Zuko. The middle of a war was not the time to be expressing deep emotions. The middle of a war in which the main hero was hopelessly in love with you was especially not the time to be expressing deep emotions to one of his friends. In all, Katara planned on telling Zuko after the war was done, after she could could gently let Aang down. Now was not the time she’d been planning on this.
“Uh-huh,” Zuko mumbled, equally as mortified, “Maybe we could just tell Toph we worked it out, and get out of here and go to sleep.” He offered.
“Toph will know we’re lying,” Katara winced, “So probably not.”
“Right.” Zuko sighed under his breath, “Well, if we stay in here long enough, I mean, she has to let us out, right?”
Katara was tempted to point out Toph didn’t have to do anything, but if she left them in there all night, people would notice and ask questions. It was the best solution she could come up with and so she took a seat across for Zuko and prepared herself for at least a couple hours worth.
For the first hour, they didn’t talk. Katara counted all the roof tiles above her head six times over, just to be sure (323 and ½, in case it mattered) while Zuko continually snapped his fingers to light and put out a tiny flame at the tips. The cadence of his fingers brushing past each other ticked away the minutes, but it wasn’t a very accurate measure.
“How long d’ya think we’ve been in here?” Katara yawned out her question.
“Too long,” Zuko grumbled. There hadn’t been a peep at the other side of the doors. Katara wondered how Toph would know when to look them out. She’d probably feel it, Katara realized with a scowl, “I’m tempted to just burn the door down.”
“This whole place is made of wood. The whole place would torch.” Katara winced, “Sort of a bad design for a family of fire-benders,” She added.
“Well, scorching this place would be an improvement,” Zuko replied dryly. His uncomfortableness of his family’s former summer abode had not escaped the team’s notice.
“Yeah, except we have to hide out here. After the war, you can come back and reduce this place to ashes. Build something better here. Or, nothing at all.” Katara offered. Zuko offered her a watery smile.
“Maybe,” He sighed, “If we win…”
Katara didn’t think it rude that his tone was so unsure. Ozai was powerful and Aang was a 12-year-old kid who had only started training a year ago. They were really placing a large amount of hope and faith in him. If he lost...well, it would be catastrophic, but Katara wouldn’t have been surprised.
A year ago, she had ultimate hope...she wanted to believe Aang would save the world. A small part of her still did, or else, she wouldn’t be here. However, her time out in the world had broken down parts of her once naive expectations, made her more prepared for heartache. Prepared her to loose.
To say Katara didn’t think of a contingency plan in the event they did loose would be false. She could never tell Aang that, however. But, she knew she had to be prepared. The stark reality of it was that if she lost, she’d likely be executed...along with her friends.
Zuko saw her grave expression and drew in a deep breathe.
“I might be able to grant someone immunity. I don’t think they’d kill me,” He said, reading her thoughts nearly exactly, “Ozai and Azula would want to keep me alive, a punishment nearly worse than death. They’d kill Aang...they couldn’t have the Avatar alive. Chances are if we lost he would have died anyway. But I could make the argument for one other.” He caught Katara’s eyes and then looked away swiftly. That said so much more.
It was the first time they’d talked so frankly about things, about the possibility of darker things. They hadn’t had a chance, before. They were always with Aang, usually, and to bring it up would only mess with his mind. He needed to believe his team was with him 100%, in mind and in trust. Katara would follow Aang to the end of the world to win this war, that much was true.
“Me?” Katara whispered, hugging her chest and swallowing hard, “You’d..save me?”
Zuko gave a gentle motion of his shoulders, something between a shrug to say ‘why not’ and a nod to say ‘of course’.
Katara was quiet, thinking. In the rest of their team, in the event that Aang was dead, that just left Toph, Sokka, or Suki to ‘save’. She knew she was a strong bender but it was almost unimaginable to believe that Zuko would choose her life over three of their friends.
Katara wasn’t sure, at first, she’d want to exist in a world in which Aang, Toph, Suki and her brother were dead.
But Zuko would be alive…
She was upset with how ‘okay’ that second thought made her feel. How the idea that if Zuko was alive too, she could survive. Maybe it was the idea she wouldn’t be alone.
“Why?”
Zuko looked up, his arm slung over his knees.
“Probably the same reason Toph locked us both in a closet.”
Katara blinked, feeling a wee bit dizzy. She slumped to the ground, unable to speak.
“And Azula knows this, I’m sure she would, but I just can’t...we shouldn’t...dammit.” Zuko growled, jumping the space between them and grabbing Katara, pulling her into kiss him. Katara leaned into it, grasping onto his shoulders. He kissed her like it was the last time he could; which, maybe when they left this closet, it would be. Maybe they wouldn’t be able to do this again until the war was over. And, if Aang lost, they’d never be able to again. She kissed him too, like he was water; except the heat of the kiss evaporated the sweat between them, and it just made her thirstier.
“This is not how I wanted to do this,” Zuko said, or Katara thought he may have said between their kisses, but she wasn’t sure.
Katara didn’t answer that, she just pulled him closer to her. She didn’t hear the crash of something that was likely very expensive outside the door, she didn’t hear the footsteps in the hall, and she definitely didn’t hear someone opening the closet door.
Suddenly, white moonlight washed into the area as someone threw open the closet door, “-Oh, wait, it’s not stuck I got it…”
Suki trailed off, staring wide-eyed at the pair before her. Zuko and Katara completely froze, looking at her. For a second, they all just regarded each other.
“Well hurry up! God, Zuko might freak when he finds out I broke this vase. Looks expensive. By the way, do you know where he is?” Sokka’s voice, which was far less worried than he likely should have been, came from another room.
Suki’s gaze flickered to Zuko.
“Erm, nope?” She called back uneasily. She lowered her voice, “If I could just...yep,” She said, reaching between their head to grab the dustpan and tiny broom on the shelf behind them, “Sorry to bother you?”
Katara still couldn’t really find words and Zuko just winced, taking a step back. She clutched the dustpan to her chest.
“Should I close this again?” She asked, squinting at the pair and looking very confused about everything.
“That’s okay.” Katara said, her voice wobbling, “We’ll just...if you could maybe…” She trailed off, “Oh, god. If Aang finds out.”
“Of course.” Suki agreed instantly. She understood. Katara ranked her fingers through her hair to make it look less conspicuous, while Zuko adjusted his shorts.
“So, Sokka broke something,” Suki said to Zuko.
“Good.” Zuko replied, brushing past Katara, “I hope it was something my father liked.” As he passed, a shiver went down Katara’s spine, “Goodnight Katara.”
“Good night.” Katara replied back, still trying to process the last couple minutes. She was left with just Suki in the hall. Suki opened her mouth to say something, but before she could, Sokka poked his head into the hall.
“Well, get in here, there’s glass everywhere and, oh, Katara!” He said, turning his head, “Toph said you were ‘dealing with something’. You okay?” He asked.
“Fine,” Katara said, walking over to the closet door and shutting it firmly, “Just fine.”

Chapter Text

Reviewer: Avidfan13
Couple: Katara/Zuko
Prompts: Anything (So, I continued the college!AU)

This is a part 2! It can totally be read on it's own, but perhaps for just more on the world, go read the part-1 I did of this back on chapter 3 (or, the drabble I did for my lovely beta Hepchaton!)

--
Katara flopped down on her unmade and undressed mattress, staring up at the white ceilings of her new bedroom. Her last box from her dorm sat in a corner with the other boxes, unpacked and waiting. She rolled on her stomach, staring at the crown-molding running along the bottom of the walls and biting her nail. Even though this was ‘the help’s’ room, it was the nicest place that she’d ever lived in.

Of course, Zuko was too kind to have a live-in housekeeper or maid, and only brought one in once a week, so this room was open for hers to have. Azula had made some comment about the ‘pathetic size’, but honestly, it was bigger than her bedroom at home- plus, she had her own bathroom. She wasn’t even sure her boxes would fill half this space and the stained mattress she was on now she's vultured from the side of the road.

That had been Toph’s idea; to take advantage of the move-out week on the campus. The time when nearly the whole city was in transit and half the students didn’t plan on taking stuff with them anyway and left perfectly good furniture by the road to be picked up by the trash, although most of the times it made it to a new owner’s room before the trucks would ever touch it. Toph, Suki, and Katara had packed into Suki’s Chevy and prowled campus streets, shoving anything that looked to be in good condition into the truck bed and tied it down with a thousand bungee cords.

Katara had accumulated more furniture than she’d owned before, all for free. A mattress, a desk side table, a bookshelf, and a dresser. She was still looking for some sort of reading chair and maybe a desk chair. She doubted she’d find a bed frame and had already prepared herself for the truth she might have to go to IKEA for that.
If Azula knew where she was finding the furniture, she’d probably be horrified; considering all of Azula and Zuko’s own things came from fancy furniture stores and all matched each other perfectly. Katara’s room looked like the leftovers from a flea market.

Her phone, charging on the ground, bleeped the familiar Skype call jingle.

She saw it was her mom and accepted, sitting back on the mattress against the wall. She had chosen not to go home this summer, but to stay here and try to find a job instead, so she was very much homesick. She had been expecting this; she’d texted her mom earlier in the day to say she’d gotten a job offer.

“Baby, hi!” Her mom’s smiling face greeted her, “Congrats!” She said.

“It’s not that exciting. I’m just working the front desk at the hotel in town.” Katara rolled her eyes. It was a paying job, one that was more than willing to work with her schedule. So, yeah, Katara was pleased.

“Is that Kat?” She heard her father call from off-screen, “Oh! I need to talk to her.”

Her mother passed off the phone.

“Hi daddy,” Katara said, waving to him.

“Katara! So, I’ve been looking into apartments. There’s a couple within a good price range, furnished, and utilities included. Do you know where,” There was the sound of paper shuffling on his end, “The Ciel is? Am I saying that right?”

Katara winced.

“Actually, I uh, already have a place.” She hadn’t exactly found the words to tell her parents about her new rooming situation.

“Oh?” Her mother popped her head into the background, “Well, where is it? Do you have roommates? What’s the price? Utilities?”

Ah, the third-degree. It was inevitable, but Katara had been putting it off as long as she could manage.

“Well, I live with Azula-,” She began.

“Your old roommate?” Her father cut her off, narrowing his eyes, “I thought you didn’t get along?”

“Azula and I are just two different people,” Katara shrugged. They didn’t not get along, but it’s not like they were besties, “Plus, their other roommate dropped out last second, so they made me a really good deal. $400 a month, all utilities. It’s really nice here.” Katara said.

“Their?” Her father asked suspiciously, “Who else do you live with?”

“Toph,” Katara lied quickly, “You know, the blind one?”

She wasn’t about to admit to her parents she lived with a boy, much less a boy she was dating. Her parents would be horrified. It’s not like they had the occasion to come down to her college often, since she was all the way from Alaska, so she was confident she could keep up this lie. What were her parents going to do? Go and ask Toph about it?

Well, her mom no. Her father…?

“Yeah, it’s a smaller room, but I mean the price can’t be beaten. Just a bunch of girls...all living together.” She plastered a smile she knew was completely faux, but hoped over the gritty connection of Skype it would seem real.

“Oh, Toph seemed...interesting,” Her mother said cautiously. By that, her mother meant she was horrified by Toph’s potty-mouth the one and only time Toph had appeared over Skype with Katara. And Toph had been on her ‘best behavior’ apparently, “What about Suki? Couldn’t you have found a place with her?”

“Well, she just continued her old lease, so she wasn’t in the market for a new roommate. She’s two years older than I am, ma.” Katara pointed out. Her whole family loved Suki, Sokka included (although, for a different reason- he had seen her picture once and was certifiably obsessed and in love with her).

“Katara?” Zuko called through the mostly-empty apartment, as Azula hadn’t officially moved in yet.

“Is that a boy? Who's that?” Her father asked immediately, eyes narrowing.

“Oops, bad connection! I’ll talk to you later, bye!” Katara said, clicking end. She knew she’d handled that with less than poise, but hey, what were they really going to do? She was nineteen now, dammit, she could date a boy if she so pleased! She could be having sex with a boy, as long as she was safe about it. She was an adult.

“Katara?” Zuko poked his head in, “Oh, you found a mattress. I would have paid for one, you know?”

“It’s fine.” Katara felt a little uncomfortable with all the money Zuko had to be throwing around freely, “You’ve already done a lot for me.”

Katara didn’t even want to know what the rent was on this place, really, but she was sure it wasn’t close to $400. Zuko and Azula didn’t know, because they didn’t pay for it, and at first they’d both offered a free room. Katara had more pride than that, so Azula just spitballed a price. Even so, Katara was sure for a room in this nice a place with its own bathroom, it was surely closer to $700.

“Hey, so, Azula’s going to a party tonight. Do you want to come?” He asked.

“Yeah, of course!” Katara nodded. It was the first week most students moved back, so she was sure the parties would be starting back up again soon, “I just need to find my, well, everything,” She said, eyeing the un-marked cardboard boxes.

“I’d offer to help, but I have my internship,” Zuko sighed, “Which tie says ‘I’m not just daddy’s trust fund kid’?” He asked, holding up two ties. Katara examined them closely.

“That one, for sure,” Katara laughed. She was pointing to a hideous paisley one, “Because any trust fund baby would have a much better fashion sense.”

Zuko grinned at her response, throwing the more professional one to the side and using Katara’s floor length mirror, leaned against the closet door. He ducked to see his reflection, his nimble fingers to looping the silken fabric. He gave Katara a quick peck on the cheek before leaving.

That left Katara to her own devices, to begin to unearth her possessions, mostly searching for her party outfits that were buried way below, since she had little occasion to use them.

She heard the front door open.

“Azula?” She called down the long, white halls, “That you?”

She padded out to the living room to see Azula with a handbag. She was sure a mountain of luggage was sure to follow.

“Katara, I see you’ve made the move,” Azula set her sunglasses on top of her head. Behind her, Mai and Ty Lee slipped inside. Katara and Mai regarded each other for a quiet moment. It was the first time she’d seen Mai since she had begun officially dating Zuko at the start of the summer.

“How was Europe?” She asked, diverting her attention away.

“Fab, darling,” Azula, “Just a thrill! You’ll have to go sometime. I’m sure you could easily talk Zuko into taking you to our Tuscan villa over winter break.”

“Uh, maybe.” Katara winced, “You said something about a party to Zuko, tonight?”

“Yes! I hoped you go and-” Azula looked Katara up and down, “Are you wearing that?” She frowned.

“No,” Katara felt her face flush a little, “I’m still looking for something. Makeup too.”

“Well, let me help you.” Azula decided, “Mai, Ty- you two know where everything is. You’ll be okay out here?”

“Sure! Good to see you, Kat.” Ty Lee was always gregarious. Mai hardly looked at her.

In Katara’s room, Azula seemed to make her judgements about the furniture but kept her mouth quiet.

“Do you still have that mesh shirt from homecoming’s party?” Azula asked, starting to rifle through her things, “That would work. And those mini black shorts.”
“I was going to wear jeans…” Katara trailed off.

“Zuko’s a leg girl,” Azula said, “Don’t ask me how I know. He’ll like you in these.” She held up a pair of short black jean shorts that Katara only had because Azula insisted she buy them once at a time at the mall. She’d worn them once. She’d been meaning to give them Goodwill. It seemed she’d be wearing them once more.

“And this. We’re sophomores now. We need to dress like we’re not children anymore.” Azula finished off the outfit with one of Katara’s bralettes. There was it in her tone that this was the outfit, no arguing, and Azula pretty much got her way. Katara wasn’t going to fight with her about it now.

They left for the party about two hours later, after a round of shots for everyone. Katara still wasn’t used to shots and had to finish her in two takes, unlike the rest of the girls.

Azula bought an uber for them, bringing them to a house that looked well past it’s day. There were already beer cans cluttering the yard.

“Oh, a Bone House party,” Ty Lee said, “I have a money to pay for our cups. It’s still five, right Zula?”

“Last I heard,” Azula shrugged.

“Bone House?” Katara echoed, frowning. Azula had gone out to parties often last year. Katara, on occasion.

“Trombones. As in, a band house.” It was Mai who answered, shocking Katara by answering her, “The quietest and geekiest ones throw the wildest parties.”

“Yeah. I can see that” Katara said, frowning. Already, she could hear the bass line from outside, there was a table of beer pong set up on the driveway, and two idiots had managed to get onto the roof and were stumbling rather precariously near the edge, “Should we help them?”

No one seemed to answer her. No one else seemed concerned about the roof goes (though, it seemed most the party was already drunk) but Katara decided the drop may break a bone, but wouldn’t kill them.

Ty Lee bought their Red Cup fee and they managed to find a keg in the back, manned by a boy who looked like trouble, despite his Hawaiian shirt which usually made people look like dweebs. But, it was the way he was wearing it (disheveled, mostly unbuttoned) and the ever-present shit-eating grin.

“Azula, the sun has been your friend,” He whistled, looking her up and down, “But I have to imagine a girl like you is a perfectionist enough to want zero tan lines. Care to indulge my bet?” He leaned over the sticky, beer-stained counter made from a repurposed door.

“Jet, you’re a dog,” Azula said, but behind her scowl was almost a grin, “And you don’t play anything, do you?” She squinted.

“Only the game of love, darlin’,” He smirked, “But, I’m friends with a guy. Said I’d get free drinks if I helped out. Beer?” He held up the nozzle. They funneled through. He flirted with the whole group. Ty Lee rolled her eyes, sighing and telling Jet he shouldn’t be so crass. Mai sent him a look which made him rescind his comment. When he got to Katara, he laughed.

“Doesn’t look like your usual, Azula. Too wide-eyed.”

“I’m her roommate from the dorms.” Katara tried to look as cool and collected as Azula did.

“Alaska girl,” Jet wiggled a finger at her, “Of course.” Katara didn’t know if she should be honored or creeped out that Jet knew about her, “I can warm ya up, if you need me to.”

“Oh, stop it. She’s dating my brother now.” Azula shoved his arm.

“You’d go for a guy like Zuko?” Jet narrowed his eyes, “Well, if it’s angsty, moody types that float your boat, I’d like to offer myself up as the better model. I have everything grumpy does, as well as the experience.” He raised a suggestive eyebrow. Katara was about to say that she didn’t actually find Zuko all that grumpy when Azula leaned across and filled Katara’s red cup herself.

“Keep dreaming and find some other girls to bother.” She dismissed him, “C’mon, let’s go. Enjoy ourselves.” Azula emphasized, grinning to Katara. Katara already felt a little out of place.

“If you drink that, it will get better,” Mai offered a piece of advice, although Katara wasn’t sure how sound the advice of ‘get drunk’ was. However, Katara would try anything once, and she forced herself to chug it. When she went to refill her solo cup, she made sure to go to the other side of the Bone House where Jet was not the one manning the keg.

Somewhere in the music, she found Toph. Toph, who had a gaggle of guys following her around but Toph seemed oblivious (or, was purposely ignoring) their advances. Toph was the sort that attracted guys in a different way than Mai or Ty Lee or even Azula did. Toph attracted guys because she was almost a guy herself, sans her petite stature and long black hair.

“Ugg, that’s what you’re drinking? No, no.” Toph gave a disgusted look into Katara’s cup. Katara wasn't sure if she was too drunk to remember she couldn't see, or if she was sniffing for whiffs of really cheap beer.

“It’s not bad when you’re two in. Or three?” Katara frowned, staring down into the contents like it was a Magic 8 ball that would tell her which drink she was on.

“Lemme get that,” Toph demanded, taking it from her hands and dumping the contents out the window. There was a squawk and Toph laughed, “Sorry, dude, but maybe don’t stand under windows!” She disappeared and returned with something much fruiter in Katara’s cup.

“What’s this?” Katara asked, taking one sip but finding it just as bad as the beer, but in a totally different way.

“WOP.” Toph replied, “It’s basically whatever mixed things a host can find around the house!”

“What’s it this time?” Katara yelled over the heavy music and the thumping bass line. Or, it might have been the thumping of her own heartbeat echoing in her ears. She couldn’t tell.

“Er, probably just Everclear and Kool-Aid.” Toph decided after a sip.

“Great.” Katara laughed and drank a large swig.

By the time Zuko appeared at the party, Katara was nearly trashed. It was okay, a little since by the time Zuko found Katara, his own friends had roped him into enough shots to be caught up to her.

“You look great,” He said, but Katara didn’t hear the first time.

“What?” She asked.

He leaned in, just by her ear, “I said, you look great. Though, what I should say is, you look sexy.” His voice just made Katara bit her lip and tug him closer to her, grasping the front of his shirt.

Katara wouldn’t call herself an exhibitionist, but at a party so large, it was so easy to be intimate. There were a whole host of couples plastered to the wall like flies, in the darker corners of the old creaking house, locked in a sloppy embrace. Katara was determined not to be sloppy, but all the rest of it she’d go for since she had to kiss her boyfriend right now.

His lips were warm and moist, and from the hunger in his kiss, it seemed like he’d been thinking along the same lines as Katara. He locked his fingers into her braids, his other hand skimming up the open skin of her upper legs, tracing the place where the end of her jean shorts met her thigh.

Damn it, but thank you Azula. Although, Azula probably didn’t want to know that her tips were helping her brother get laid. Was she willing to sleep with him? Well, not on this dirty wall, obviously, or anywhere near the Bone House, although the name would be strangely appropriate and-

“Don’t think so hard when you’re drunk. You’ll just get a worse headache,” Zuko chuckled as if he could see the gears churning away. His teeth caught the bottom of her lip, “Just feel.”

That was something Katara could do. She was more than happy to allow Zuko to press her against the wall, pressing her slightly upward, enough so she got the memo and allowed his leg to slip between hers. The music faded away, the buzzing vagueness that the alcohol was causing her faded away and all that was left was Zuko’s fingers skirting over any open skin that was there for him and Katara’s own hands slipping underneath his button-up that he still had on from his internship.

“Oh, god,” A voice interrupted them. At first, Zuko just ignored it. Katara’s mind came back enough to realize she recognized the voice, but could not place it. Zuko began nipping under her jawline, causing her to squeal in surprise.

“I’m serious you two. Get a room. We have plenty at home,” The voice insisted again and Zuko parted from Katara gently, glaring at his younger sister, “I’m just making sure that you don’t end up giving the whole party a show,” She said, eyes zeroing in on Zuko’s half-undone button-up and Katara’s blouse, which was shoved up nearly over her bra.

Katara quickly yanked it back down.

“We weren’t going to,” Zuko crossed his arms, but from the steadily rising blush, Katara wasn’t sure he’d be stopping either, “You’re so weird, Zula. Did you come looking for us?”

“No. Jet happened to be very concerned that you were going to defile this poor innocent soul.”

“Oh,” Zuko snorted, “Like Jet’s one to talk. He’s ‘defiled’ more girls than I can count.”

“Hey, just saying,” Azula shrugged, “Call an Uber. Go home.” He words were directed at Katara more than her brother, “And I swear to God if I get home and I hear you two doing anything, I will personally burn all your textbooks. I don’t want to hear you two getting it on. I may approve of this, but that doesn’t mean I need to hear anything.”

Katara’s fingers clumsily managed to get an Uber, but her head was spinning and blacking out by the time it was called. She was surprised she made it to the door, but she was mostly being supported by Zuko. He helped her into his bedroom, onto his bed.

“I’ll be right back,” Zuko said, “I’m going to go get us some water.” He said. Katara skimmed out of her shorts, and then threw her top some direction across the room, waiting eagerly. She was bound-determined to finish what they’d started. That is if she could just keep her eyes open.

When Zuko returned to his room, he saw Katara passed out on his sheets, looking perfectly comfortable. He chuckled half-expecting something like this, and drank his water. He turned out the lights and curled up next to her, equally as contented to do this with Katara as anything else.

Chapter Text

Reviewer: Blue Dynamite

Couple: Raven/Beast Boy from Teen Titans

Trope: Denial of feelings/obliviousness/instincts

----

The tone of the study room could be described in one word; studious. That is, until a horrified exclamation broke the silence- causing every student in the room to snap their heads around to where a group of six sat- to see Garfield Logan standing, palms flat on the table and mouth agape.

“What do you mean you’re not coming to the quidditch game this weekend, Rae?”

At least a few people glared and Robin looked around at the faces, trying to nudge Garfield back down to his seat to continue his History of Magic paper. It wasn’t until the study hall proctor- Flitwick- gave a disapproving ‘ah-hem’ that the Hufflepuff boy seemed to notice he’d gathered the attention of everyone and sank back down into his seat.

Raven, the object of his horrified expression, had hardly glanced up from her text book.

“Exactly what it sounds like it means, Gar.” She said in her usual monotone.

“But why?” Garfield pushed himself across the table, arms splaying over her parchment and making it impossible to continue her studies, “You know you’re my good luck charm, right?” He asked, raising an eyebrow at her. Starfire gave a quiet ‘aww’, much to Raven’s annoyance. She tried not to show it, however.

“Because,” Raven sighed, finally looking up, “I have so many assignments this weekend, it would be irresponsible for me to go. Besides, you shouldn’t either. You shouldn’t even be playing.” She said pointedly.

“Ah, c’mon,” Garfield pouted, leaning back in his chair, using a charm so he could balance it nearly all the way back without toppling, “Hootch already banned me from transforming during the game. I think that it’s just smarts to turn into a monkey or a frog to grab the snitch, but no-,”

Raven scowled at him. Vincent smirked, recalling the incident that had gotten his powers banned. Raven hadn’t been to that game (and, Garfield claimed this is why this game had gotten them banned because obviously if Raven had been in attendance, he wouldn’t have gotten in trouble), and all the stories she heard were very different, but it involved something with a frog or a howler monkey.

It was hardly surprising he wasn’t allowed to use his metamorphmagus powers on the field, since he was such a specific case. While most metamorphmagus change into humans, Garfield changed into animals at will. At first, the ministry thought he’d been just a plain old Animaguis, until he showed that he could turn into multiple animals during a very long Wizengamot hearing during his second year.

As the story went, when his mother- also a metamorphmagus- had begun training herself to become an Animagus and gotten pretty far until she realized she was pregnant. Obviously she’d stopped immediately for her unborn child’s safety, but somewhere some wires had gotten crossed. Garfield could change into any animal, but he didn’t have the traditional power to change his face into different people. When he’d morphed for his future Hogwarts classmates on the train his first year, he’d gained the nickname ‘Beast Boy’ by most of the school.

“It’s not about that and you know it,” Raven continued. Without thinking about it, Garfield’s fingers traced a bite mark on his shoulder blade, under his robes.

Robin groaned, “Yes, please forfeit! You’re nearly unstoppable per usual.” As the captain of the Gryffindor team, it would obviously benefit him to get the star Hufflepuff seeker to bow out. Wally, the team’s seeker, nodded in firm agreement.

Garfield just grinned, “Look; one good thing obviously came out of it. Can’t I enjoy it?” He said, referring to what they usually called his ‘furry problem’. Most people didn’t think twice of that, since he could turn into a great many things, most of them furry or fuzzy, but this one was...specific.

“It’s dangerous!” Raven argued.

“Rae, I’m still five days out from the full moon. I’m fine.” Garfield lowered his voice.

After being bitten his third year during an illegal romp in the Forbidden Forest, Garfield had obviously gone through a rough time. However, one part of the wolf that helped him, was his reflexes. Within a year, he’d gotten off of the backup roster of the house team and became the star of the Hufflepuff team. Slowly, the most-forgotten house was rising through the ranks to quickly and possibly gaining the House Cup this year, if they could eek out the Quidditch Cup. Garfield tried to explain to his group of friends that becoming a werewolf just made him more aware of everything. While he wasn’t the fastest flyer, like Wally was, he had the best reflexes. Then again, he’d never played so close to a full moon...games had often just fallen on weeks surrounding it, or he’d found excuses to bow out. But, being a sixth-year now, there wasn’t a seeker to fill in, only the benched third-year who was fumbling, at best.

“So you say.” Raven looked back to her studies, “Also, me being a Ravenclaw and being your good luck charm is hardly appropriate.”

Vincent snorted, “Ravenclaw’s been out of the running for House Cup or the Quidditch cup for weeks now. Everyone’s choosing between yellow or red.” He said, motioning between their friends.

“And since I like both of you, it would be mean of me to choose one over the other,” Raven skillfully argued to that point.

Garfield pouted, resting on his arms, mumbling something under his breath. “Fine. But when I win the game, you’ll be sorry you missed it.”

Raven almost smiled, an occurrence that only happened among friends, “I’m sure Starfire will drag me to the afterparty.” She pointed out. Starfire, who had been previously distracted- or more aptly, distracting half the boys in the study hall- looked up.

“What? Oh yes! I will be glad to bring to the Hufflepuff common room.” She said, shooting a wide smile. It made half the hearts of the men, and a few girls, flutter. Raven sighed. She knew Starfire was a veela and couldn’t help it, but Raven did think that maybe if she tried to be more reserved with her emotions, she wouldn’t be getting chocolate poisoned with love potions nearly every weekend. Starfire was just far to nice; smiling innocently at every boy who looked her way, never denying them a conversation. It’s probably why she was placed in Hufflepuff.

Raven gathered her things, pulling on her best friend’s robes and encouraging Starfire to come with her to the library, making sure that Clint Barton didn’t have the chance to propose to Starfire...again. She’d seen the look in his eye he’d gotten when Starfire had swept her gaze across the room and knew it would only end at the Infirmary if she didn’t intervene. Starfire waved goodbye to her study partner and let Raven tug her away.

“I wish you would come to the game,” Starfire pouted, “Gar’s going to be so disappointed.”

“There’s no such thing as ‘lucky charms’. Well, not without magic and as far as I know, no one’s cursed me yet.” Raven said, a smidge annoyed.

Starfire stopped dead in the middle of the halls, hoisting her books onto her hips. She opened her mouth, “But what if I asked you.”

Raven shook her head.

“What if I made you?” Starfire asked, twirling a piece of her hair.

“If you say ‘it will be good for you’, you’ll regret it.” Raven snapped, now all together done with this topic. As it had happened, it wasn’t as much of Starfire and Raven both agreeing together that they would be friends, as it was Starfire adopting Raven as her little introvert. Often times, being friends with Starfire was good; it got Raven out of her comfort zone. Today, however, Raven was going to drag her feet into the ground and not budge an inch.

“You really don’t know, huh?” Starfire bit her lip, causing Raven confusion, “About why Gar wants you there…?” She trailed off. Raven blinked at her blankly.

“Other than I’m a good luck charm?”

Starfire huffed, “Yes! Rae, it’s so clear!” Starfire threw up her free hand, “He likes you!”

“I like him too.” Raven frowned.

“No, Raven,” Starfire rubbed her forehead as though her best friend was giving her a headache, “I mean, he like-likes you.”

They were nearly to the Hufflepuff common room, “Don’t be stupid.” Raven said, laughing it off, “We’re just friends, no more than Vincent likes me.”

“No! No,” Starfire was positively inflamed, “Gar has been like in love with you for years, Raven! I can’t believe you don’t see it. He-,”

Raven’s wand vibrated. She flicked it up to see her alarm going off.

“Star, as much as I’d love to tell you all the reasons that ridiculous claim is wrong, I have Ancient Runes in ten minutes.”

She spun, glad to be away from that conversation.

“You know if you think about it, it’s true!” Starfire called after her, causing Raven’s stomach to churn for an unexplained reason.

---

The day of the match, Raven had the library nearly all to herself. It was the last game of the season, meaning that one of the two teams- Gryffindor or Hufflepuff- would be winning the Quidditch Cup. She even tried to work through her homework at a leisurely pace, but still found herself done much quicker than expected. Even after proof-reading it twice and making sure her magically appearing footnotes were in place, the game still hadn’t finished.

Raven had been ruminating hard on what Starfire had said. It was hard not to.

She admitted that there was perhaps a small chance that, on occasion, Garfield has found her attractive. She refused to believe, however, that Garfield was harboring a crush on her for apparently years and had never given her a singular indication.

Or had she, and Raven just didn’t know the signs? And, really, if it was true...would she mind?

If Raven had any sense that it might be true, she likely wouldn’t have gone to the game for she’d be too embarrassed to face him. As it was, she convinced herself she was his friend and, since her homework was finished, she owed it to Garfield (and her other friends on the teams too) to show up.

She wrapped herself in her house scarf, unwilling to pick a side, and hastened down to the pitch.

---

The game was going awful for Garfield.

It had started out fine, but as the hours wore on, it was just getting more and more shitty. His headaches were near unbearable this close to the full moon, but he’d taken a tonic for that and so that shouldn’t matter. It was a bunch of other things he didn’t know would happen.

“What happened to those great instincts? That bludger nearly killed you!” His teammate-Darcy Lewis- said, staring at him with a mixture of worry for her team and for their championship.

Garfield rubbed his head, shaking it in response. It wasn’t that his instincts had vanished, but quite, the opposite. They were completely overwhelming him. He heard all of the cheering like it was being fed through speakers turned up all the way. He could hear all the conversations of teachers when he didn’t want to hear it. He could see everything before it happened. He smelled all of it- blood, sweat, sand, grass, and pitch food. He could even taste the air and all the particles that were riding on it, all the way from the lake. It was too much and his brain simply couldn’t keep up with the inpouring information that was flooding his brain.

Yeah; Raven was right. This had been a mistake.

Robin was on his broom, cautiously watching Gar out of the corner of his eye. While he didn’t want to give the Hufflepuffs the game, he was very concerned about one of his best friends who was looking a little green. He called a timeout, much to Garfield’s relief.

Gar wasn’t entirely sure how to tell his team captain that he had to be excused because he was a bloody werewolf and the moon was two days away.

Just as the teams were touching down on the grass for a two minute time-out, all of Garfield’s problems seemed to just wash away. It was replaced by something else, something all consuming.

Faintly, Garfield heard Darcy calling his name and touching his shoulder. He was preoccupied by figuring out what had just happened. It wasn’t a smell, but the mixture of incense and parchment was at the forefront. It wasn’t a color in his mind, but he saw navy blue and gray. It was a feeling, if he had to identify it, but even that seemed to pale.

It was, he realized, an instinct.

His gaze flickered up to the stand and he saw Rave had joined Vincent and everything seemed to just click into place.

“Gar!” Darcy spun him around, “Woah, your eyes!”

Garfield blinked at her, frowning, “What about them?” Everything, the senses that had made him unable to focus, were gone. Even the feeling he’d just gotten, the one that had quite almost bowled him over, had settled back to just an itch on the back of his thoughts. Maybe itch wasn’t right, because it was a most wonderful feeling. It was more like a, ah, reminder. A pull.

“They’re gold,” Darcy was looking a little wary.

“Oh, I took a potion today. Headache, nothing illegal. Must be a side-effect. So, what’s the plan?” Garfield said, sharpening his senses. From the way Darcy was blinking, his eyes must have returned to their normal green hue.

His teammates paused, only for a second, before starting to lay out the last half of the most important game of the year.

--

“I still cannot believe it,” Robin muttered sourly, “And I was worried about you, Beast Boy! Was that just a trick? Arg, if I hadn’t called that time-out…”

“Not a trick. I dunno, my mind just needed a second to acclimate. I probably would have won anyway.” Garfield smirked, remembering the feeling of the snitch closing between his fingers, beating out Kid Flash (who, Gar thought, might want to re-think his nickname) by just an inch.

The teams were heading back to the castle for their victory parties. The losing team was invited, of course. Hufflepuffs were nothing if not courteous winners.

“I think I need a big shot of Firewhisky after that win,” Kid Flash ran his fingers through his hair.

“Ask and you shall receive!” Garfield said, knowing his older housemates would have no trouble raiding the kitchen for alcohol or getting it smuggled in from Hogsmeade.

The back of his mind tickled and Garfield missed what Kid Flash had said to him in reply.

“You guys all go...I’ll, uh, catch up…” He murmured.

“You sure?”

“Uh-huh. I just realized I forgot something in the locker room.” Garfield said, putting forth his best effort to his friends to be present with them, despite the tiny voice in his head very frantically pulling him down the hall.

Ten seconds! That’s all I need!

Somewhere, a second voice that was more Garfiled than the other one snapped, and for a moment, the urge vanished. But, it was still there, lurking.

“Okay. I mean, you’re the MPV. Being fashionably late is only fair.” Kid Flash patted his shoulder, and the pair of Gryffindors left him alone.

As soon as they had turned the hall, Garfield took off running toward where something was pulling him. He saw Raven in the halls, alone.

“Garfield! Good save at the end. I promise I’m coming to the party, I just thought I’d chan-,” She never got her hurried explanation out because Garfield had throw himself at her, shoving her up against the stone wall of the castle, kissing her.

When Raven squeaked in surprise, Garfield took the opportunity to slip past her lips, biting her lower lip softly. A growl vibrated low in his throat. One hand gripped her thigh under her heavy outdoor robes, helping to shove her up on the wall, encouraging her to wrap her leg around him. The other hand was at her jaw, holding her head.

Raven’s fingers hesitantly knotted in his hair, and when her left hand pulled at the roots, it was one of the most glorious feelings. Garfield let her play with his dark, curly locks as he dragged his lips down her throat. His hand followed, unbuttoning the top button of her oxford, un-doing her pristinely knotted tie and revealed the swath of milky shoulder that was hiding beneath.

Raven whimpered as he gripped her tightly between his body and the wall. Garfield kissed her neck carefully and before he knew what he was doing, he’d begun to bite down and-

A hex came right at him, sending him smashing against the other side of the corridor. Raven was panting hard, eyes wild and wand pointed at him. She looked down to her shoulder and hastily re-covered it. The pain of the stinging hex gradually brought Garfield back.

“What was that?” She demanded in a low whisper.

“I’m...not sure,” Garfield was there to kiss her, but as soon as his fingers had begun to curve around that first button, it was just a blur. It was in his mind, but it was as though he was watching it through frosted glass.

“Not sure? You were nearly biting me!” Raven stalked up to him, “Oh...oh no.” She said, her eyes locking with his.

“What? Rae?” He said, reaching toward her.

Raven wordlessly conjured a mirror in front of him. Staring back at Garfield was himself, but his eyes were more gloriously a golden color than he’d ever seen them. His wolf side.

Raven was watching him carefully. She bit the inside of her cheek. She crossed her arms and Garfield recognized this as her ‘thinking look’.

“Well, no harm done,” She replied arily, “I think I need to get back to the common rooms. Arthur is waiting for me.”

“Arthur Curry?” Garfield scratched his head, “Why would he-,”

“Oh, you haven’t heard? We’re together now.”

Before Raven could even move, Garfield had jumped in front of her. He tried to kiss her again, but she dodged him.

“No!” He snapped and Raven did a wandless charm, shoving him back. His back hit the wall and he stumbled to the ground. When he looked up, Raven’s face was unreadable and Garfield was sure he’d just blow any chance he had with the sorceress.

“Oh, Merlin, Rae. I’m not sure what’s going on! I’m so sorry!” Garfield said, head hanging and looking totally confused and guilt.

“I do.” Raven pinched her nose, “That was a lie. I’m not dating Curry.” She mumbled.

“Huh?” Garfield said. Instantly, his churning stomach and the yelling in his head quieted.

“Yes. I was just proving a theory. It’s not you that’s doing this.”

“Whaaa? Oh, c’mon, Rae. It’s me. Who else would it be?” Garfield said.

Raven met his gaze, unblinking, “Your wolf, of course. And, I think, it wants me.”

Chapter Text

Reviewer: JessClaudia18

Show/Couple: Mike/Eleven, Stranger Things

Prompt: A short about them dating

--

March 1989

“Oh, man...look at that.”

“Yeah,” Mike replied, “I’m looking.” Cautiously, he reached out, Dustin wheezing with excitement heavily behind him. His fingers brushed across the spine of the book, he could almost touch it until-

“Looking is all you’re going to do, unless you want to buy it,” The storekeeper said, raising a single eyebrow, “I know your tricks.”

Sheepishly, Dustin stuffed his notebook back into his backpack and the storekeeper gave a derisive snort. He didn’t return to his place behind the register until the pair of highschool boys had retreated to the back of the store.

“Well, c’mon, let’s go.” Dustin said, reaching around to Mike’s back pocket and pulling out his wallet.

“Hey!” Mike argued, “Give that back.” He said, snatching it from Dustin’s hand, “I don’t see you offering anything up.”

“Well, you’re the dungeon master,” Dustin shrugged, “You’re going to be the one owning the book, not me anyone else.”

Mike opened his wallet and Dustin eagerly peeked inside.

“Well, that’s at least forty! So, it’s settled,” He said, turning before Mike could stop him, “Good sir! One handbook, forthwith!”

The man behind the counter stared at Dustin for a long second before rolling his eyes and sighing.

“Wait, no, not forthwith. Pause.” Mike commanded. The man dropped the book back onto the space on the shelf, muttering a tired ‘whatever’ under his breath.

“Mike!” Dustin snapped, “Don’t hold out on me.”

Mike only tilted his head, took out one of his twenty dollar bills and very meaningfully took out a smaller pouch- something that did not look like a wallet, not until he opened it and nestled the twenty between a handful of other bills.

Dustin snatched it from his fingers before he could blink.

“Remind me again that I dislike what Lacrosse has done for your reflexes.” Mike said, shaking his head. Dustin’s eyes had widened to saucers.

“You’ve been holding out on me, Wheeler!” Dustin managed to choke out, leafing through, “Dude, you have this squirreled away and you are refusing to buy the greatest thing that ever was?”

“It’s not the greatest thing-,”

“It’s the second edition of the Advanced D&D handbook; it’s pretty great and going to sell out soon if we don’t get it now,” Dustin narrowed his eyes, “Pray tell why in the world you have…” Dustin counted it quickly, “Near two-thousand dollars in a suspicious little bag?”

“Well-,”

“Are you a secret stripper? Do you sell drugs?” Dustin began guessing, never giving Mike a second to answer, “Is the government after us again? Do we need to do something? I’ll get the bat.”

The bat, was of course, Steve’s nail-decorated bat that he had bequeathed to Dustin when he left for college. It hadn’t seen much action of late, and was currently stuffed underneath Dustin’s underwear. To be honest, Mike thought Dustin was far too excited to bring the bat out again.

“No!” Mike grabbed Dustin’s shoulders, “Dude...it’s for a ring.”

Dustin blinked at him blankly.

“An...engagement ring,” Mike murmured a little softer, a little quieter.

For a second, Mike thought he’d have to describe farther. He thought maybe he hadn’t said it loud enough, and Dustin didn’t hear. He thought that maybe he’d broken Dustin.

That is until the widest most genuine grin split across Dustin’s face and he asked a little too loud, “You’re asking El to marry you?”

His exclamation caught the attention of a couple people in the store. Mike sighed. He hadn’t wanted the fuss his friends would cause if he’d told them, he’d been trying not to. He steered Dustin out of the store.

“We’ll be back, maybe,” He said to the storeminder, because he did still really want that book.

“Do not care,” The guy replied back. Outside, Will was waiting, toting a Gap bag of items his mother had asked for. Lucas and Max were window shopping with a pretzel Max’s fingers. Lucas’ arm was swung over her shoulder and on occasion, Max would feed herself the pretzel, and then Lucas.

They saw the pair exit, “Did you get it?” Max asked excitedly, “Is it totally the bomb?” Mike, however, wanted to steer Dustin away from the main mall area, where anyone they went to school with could hear and ruin everything by gossiping it around.

He led Dustin to the mall’s food court, and sat down. Dustin, however, would not sit. The rest of the group followed with expressions of confusion to not see the white bag of the newest released item in Dustin’s arms.

“When were you going to tell us?” Dustin finally asked.

“Tell us what?” Lucas frowned, “Is it that creepy group that created El again?”

“Why is that what you spring to first?” Mike frowned.

“Well, let’s look at our history with them. Overall, shitty. And, fairly frequent,” Will said dryly.

“No, no. This isn’t how I wanted to tell you-,”

“Mike is buying Eleven a ring!” They only used her full ‘name’ when it was an epic moment and this, Mike did agree, constituted as an epic moment.  

The reactions from his friends were understandably elated. After a moment of silence in which they let it all sink it, he was met with all of his friends talking over one another to get an answer from him.

“Hey!” Mike finally snapped, “Simmer down, geeze…” He said, rubbing his temple, “I’ve been saving, ah, awhile.” He dropped the little bag onto the plastic table, trying to think of where to go next with this whole thing.

Max slapped Lucas’ arm.

“What the heck was that for?” Lucas demanded.

“We’ve been dating just as long as those two. Why aren’t you saving money for a ring?” She asked, as though just realizing it. Lucas’ face went pale.

“Well, erm, you see…”

When Max’s laugh broke through Lucas’ nervous fumbling, everyone let out a sigh of relief. For a second, they weren’t looking at Mike in question, thank god. Maybe that had been Max’s intention.

“Just joshing. I’m in no rush.” She said, holding up her hands, “Sorry to scare you, babe.”

“I’m not in a rush either,” Mike blurted, “It could be a promise ring, if she wanted. I wouldn’t want to rush her into saying ‘yes’ or thinking we have to get married before college, I just…” He pursed his lips, “If we end up at a different college, I just want her to know I’ll always want her.”

“And you have to buy her a ring to do that? El knows you’re crazy about her. She’s crazy about you. Everyone who has ever seen you two know you’re the most gag-worthy couple around,” Will said, tilting his head, “And that’s coming from me, who walked in on my brother and your sister last summer, not even having sex just cuddling and giggling .”

“Thanks?”

“It’s a compliment.” Will confirmed.

“I don’t need to.” Mike thought about his question, “I just, well, I want to. I love her. I’ve loved her since we were kids. El deserves a really, really nice ring and all.”

“When are you meeting her?” Max pulled out her watch, checking the time.

“Not ‘till 3.”

“Great! You know what that means?” She asked.

“Er, I have time to go back and get the book?” Mike squinted, safely tucking the pouch back into his inner pocket.

“No, idiot. It means we’re all going to head on over and look at engagement rings with you.” Max’s face was shining.

“That’s not necessary.” Mike said, completely red in the face, “I can pick myself.”

“I’m sure you can, bud,” Dustin slung an arm around Mike, “However, now that the cat is out of the bag, we are going to be insufferable about this. Get used to it.” He said, smiling wide.

As Mike was half-dragged to the jewelry store, Will suddenly stopped dead in his tracks.

“What’s wrong?” Lucas turned to him.

“I just realized something both terrifying and hilarious,” Will said, switching his gaze to Mike.

“Yeah?” Dustin asked, a little too enthusiastic to hear what it was.

A devious smirk curled on Will’s lips, “If Mike is going to ask El to marry him, that means he’s gotta go ask her dad for permission.”

The group broke into a fit of laughter immediately, sans Mike who was imagining Chief Hopper chasing him out of his house with a rifle.

“Thanks, man. You really know how to make me feel good.”

Will patted Mike’s head, “Anytime, bro.”

xXxX

Meanwhile, across the mall, Eleven was with some of her other friends shopping. Not that she didn’t still hang out with her group; their group. She’d never let go of any of them, they were her family. However, it didn’t mean that she- as she’d grown up- hadn’t found other friends too, and Mike fully encouraged her to spend time with the girls.

Plus, the group meeting at the mall hadn’t been a set thing. It was just frankly where the teens ended up, if they weren’t drinking out in the woods. Mike and Dustin had specifically come together to get the new Dungeons and Dragons handbook, something Eleven was looking forward to pouring over with Mike, and she was pretty sure that sometime during the day, Will, Lucas, and Max would wander in.

“God, this place is just, the best.” Her friend Susie crooned, her fingerless gloved hands flipping through the racks, “My blackened heart is squealing with joy.”

The newest store to hit the Hawkin’s Mall- Hot Topic- was nothing short of everything that Eleven loved. Black and fishnet everything, bitchin leather jackets, ripped band tees, and blaring loud metal music that Dad always told her to turn down because it gave him headaches.

A part of her father probably hoped that after integrating her into normal life, a life in which one was not being followed by the government or other universes, she’d shed the protective layer that her older sister had gave her. That she’d dress like a normal teenager, with bell bottom jeans and striped crop tops.

That wasn’t El’s style, though. When she put on her black ensemble and had slicked her hair back, it had seemed right. Nothing had ever felt as right since, in terms of fashion.

To Hopper’s credit, when he’d realized that this persona of hers was here to stay, he embraced it and let her spray paint things matte black in the backyard and started stocking hair gel by the gallon. Hopper, though not her biological dad, was a good dad. The best. It made her feel okay that she didn’t have a mom when she thought about Hopper.

Mike’s mother was caring and sweet and always welcomed her, so there was that. But if they were discussing mother figures, no one took El in too quite like Joyce Byers. She’d informally adopted the whole gang after that fateful two years, so it wasn’t surprising that when she thought of her mother, she couldn’t see her real mom’s face anymore, but she saw Mrs. Byers’ instead.

As it was, she knew that Mrs. Byers and Hopper liked each other. She had a feeling Dad was waiting ‘till she went to college, not that El would have cared anyway.

“So great,” The third in the group agreed- a girl with spiked fake red hair named Storm. Well, that wasn’t her real name, but since Eleven was a nickname in itself, she couldn’t quite judge. She was used to people badgering her about her nickname. If they didn’t know that her birth certificate name was Jane, they’d hear ‘El’ and usually say ‘Oh, short for Ellen?” and El would reply, “No. Short for Eleven.” This always gathered a few strange glances, usually wanting more info, but El would not give it. And on occasion, if someone saw her tattoo, they thought it was just a ‘thing’ and didn’t press it. Oh, if only they knew her name had come from her tattoo and not the other way around. So, anyway, El was perfectly fine with strange nicknames of all sorts.

Storm had only joined their friend group recently. She was a transfer student and El, reading her goth demeanor and recalling how it was to be the new girl once, had asked her to join them this weekend to the mall. She’d been hesitant, until Susie had chimed in about the best new store around, which had caused her to reluctantly agree. Now, it seemed she was at ease and El was happy to make her transition to Hawkins High more comfortable.

“Yeah, it is the best.” El agreed, returning to the moment in time. She had a whole stack of things in her arms she was just dying to buy, “Crap, is that the time? I gotta go soon.” She said, noting that it was nearly 3pm.

“Well, I’m good to buy. I gotta get home to change for work soon anyway,” Susie scowled.

The trio went up to the register, buying their items. The dude that was the cashier was making an attempted conversion with El, who politely responded. She knew the sort of look he was giving her, but frankly, El wasn’t interested.

Outside of the store, Storm slapped her arm.

“The worker was totally hot for you! He’s cute, you should get that.” She encouraged in a scandalous whisper.

Beside her, Susie gave out a bark of laughter.

“I have a boyfriend,” El said, because Storm hadn’t talked with them extensively so probably wouldn’t have known that. She didn’t even think the cashier was cute. Of course, just because she dressed like so didn’t mean that her tastes for men ran like that. She imagined Mike in skinny jeans and eyeliner and couldn’t help but laugh at the image.

“They’re the cutest. They’ve been dating, what, oh…” Susie counted on her fingers, “Six years?”

El nodded at her addition.

Storm’s eyes bugged, “Six years? You’re joking, right? That must have meant-,”

“Yep, seventh grade.” El agreed. She was used to this .

“But, that seems so young,” Storm continued on, “I just...hmm.” She could see the wheels working in Storms mind. No doubt was she rolling through the boys at school, trying to figure out which one she was dating, which one of the boys who hung out behind the dumpsters smoking weed was El attached to. It was a normal reaction, to assume such things, but each time it happened El couldn’t help but feel a little protective.

“There he is,” Susie saw Mike first, nudging El, “I can give you a ride home if you’d like, Storm!” She offered, turing to the new friend.

Storm’s eyes fell on Mike, “Him?” She asked, her voice tinged with utter disbelief, “That’s a joke, right?”

Oh, El was far used to that. It was the normal reaction when anyone newer who hadn’t known Mike and El saw them together. Clean-cut, nerdy Mike Wheeler with the rebellious and rocking Eleven Hopper. They said that Mike was only dating her to rebel against his nuclear family life or that El was just looking for something else but would tire of him eventually, because how could someone who liked mosh pits also like playing as a mage during day-long Dungeon and Dragon campaigns? Or, they thought that she was dating him out of pity and had a rockstar drummer boyfriend on the side.

Storm was still trying to connect the two together, so El, quite fed up with the whole thing, turned and said, “No, it’s not a joke. Mike is the love of my life and I’ve been through enough shit, even at the age of eighteen, to be able to say that without any a single cloud of doubt.”

Storm took a step back in shock at her declaration, “I wasn’t...I didn’t...I just-,”

“Yes,” El sighed, turning back around to go over to Mike and knowing full well what Storm was trying to say, “Everyone always is.”

xXxX

Mike sat on the mall bench, one arm slung across the back of the metal and one leg crossed on top of the other. His gaze led him around the space, over to the restaurant that Steve had gotten his first job at, summers ago. Of course, with Steven now graduating college he was long gone, but he still recalled the summer days that he’d come here with Nancy, Will, and Jonathan and the two groups would split up before reuniting at the end of the day to bother Steve. It brought a glimmer of a smile to his face. He should call Steve soon; they hadn’t talked in a while.

“Hey,” A pair of black-clad arms fell around his shoulders, “Sorry to keep you waiting.”

“No problem.” Mike shrugged, turning his head up to look at his girlfriend. El grinned, leaning down and grabbing his cheeks to give him a kiss that was more than a friendly hello. Not that Mike minded, of course.

She ended with a smile on her lips, before coming to sit next to him. She saw the bag from the Game store next to him and grabbed it with childlike glee.

“What a great hello,” Mike snorted.

“Just felt like it.” El said, a little airly, a little firmly. Mike turned his head around to see El’s best friend Susie standing and watching them with the new girl he recognized from his chemistry class.

“Someone else who thought I couldn’t be your boyfriend or that I could land a hot girl like you?” Mike guessed.

“Well,” El gave a long sigh, “Yeah.”

Mike slid closer to her, smirking, “Let’s make sure they’ve been set straight, huh?” He asked, grabbing her and pulling her close for a kiss that was far too passionate for a mall scene. He could feel El quaking with silent laughter and couldn’t help but feel pleased with himself.

The ring in his back pocket seemed to burn with the heat of the kiss and Mike pulled back to look at El closely. She raised a curious eyebrow, but soon was engrossed in the handbook, flipping through the pages.

No doubt about it, Mike Wheeler was going to marry this girl.

Chapter Text

Reviewer: Lucel18

Couple: Jane Foster/Loki

Request: Continuation of other Lokane Short (ch 2 on here)

SPOILERS FOR INFINITY WARS

-- 

Out of all the unbelievable things of late, hearing that Loki Odinson- Loki, who defied death on a daily basis- was the most unbelievable.

And, there had been a lot of unbelievable things lately.

Thor had come to find her. He’d been in anguish, his shoulders low and his whole face twisted into a frown. His hair was shorter.

He’d told her about how after losing everything, he’d then gone on to lose even more...something that Jane had thought impossible, for Thor to have more pain, especially after the horrors that Loki had shown her.

Jane’s words when Thor told her died on her lips. She nearly said, ‘but I just talked to him’.

She didn’t say it for a couple of reasons.

First a foremost, it hadn’t been ‘just’. It had been a couple weeks. To someone like Jane, who once holes up for twelve days straight after making a breakthrough and had honestly thought it was only about three- ‘just’ was a relative concept.

Secondly, even if she had ‘just’ talked to him, she should have known that this meant nothing. Especially after the world, basically, half-ended.

If she was going by that logic, then Darcy should still be here. Dr. Selvig should still be here. Some of her colleagues should still be here.  Darcy, who she literally had ‘just’ talked to, and as she was in the middle of talking to her gregarious friend when she’d just faded into dust. As half of the people around Jane, in the same room as her, faded and blew away.

So, no, she didn’t say that to Thor, despite that being the one thing that whirled around around as she just stared at him.

What she ended up saying was some strangled variation of ‘I’m so sorry’.

“I know you two never got along,” Thor had replied, looking down, “But I just...needed someone to talk to. I was pleased to hear you had not vanished too.”

Jane rubbed her shoulders, wondering if she should tell Thor that they had talked and even had a semi-pleasant conversation in the past couple months, and that she’d even wished- in quiet moments- to talk to Loki again. That, when she wasn’t thinking hard about it, there would be a moment in which she missed Loki that would be different from how she missed Thor. She wondered if that would help at all to tell Thor this, however, and voted that it wouldn’t matter anyway.

They didn’t talk about the rest of the people that had been killed, not for the rest of the night. They did sleep together, but they both knew this wasn’t a re-kindling of their relationship. It was more a way to mourn with someone that they both once knew so well. It was a way to get frustrations out without having to say anything. It was a time for both to just feel.

“I don’t know what I’m going to do now,” Thor admitted later that night, once they were both dressed again, sitting on the roof of the lab with cups of coffee, staring at the stars. She hadn’t expected Thor to follow her out here, but he did see a bit...lost.

“What do you mean?” Jane furrowed her eyebrows. He was an Avenger, for gosh sakes. Shouldn’t there be a plan B somewhere? Plan C? Plan X, if it took to get to that?

“I…” He let his breath catch, “We broke up because I would always put my people, my title first, correct?”

Jane narrowed her eyes, “Yeah.” She didn’t like dredging up these old scars.

“What people do I have left?” He asked, his voice breaking, “Asgard is destroyed. My people are...most are dead. I don’t know where they are, even if I wanted to. There’s a good chance the snap killed them all,” He ran his fingers through his short hair, “Can you truly be a prince if there’s no one left for you to lead?”

“I thought you were a king?” It was a stupid distinction, but Jane couldn’t help but say it.

Thor gave her a smile that was almost warm, “Oh, dear Jane.” He murmured, nudging her shoulders.

“What then? You wish you’d chosen me over them?” She asked, staring at her cuticles. From Thor’s grand pause, she knew that he’d at least considered this question once.

“I have a feeling you wouldn’t have let me. You’re more noble than you care to admit.” Thor replied, which wasn’t an answer to her question, but was still a valid response.

“Yeah, I would have dumped you anyway. No one likes a man who can’t be faithful, especially to an entire world.” She said, half joking. If Thor was offended, he didn’t show it. His eyes were watching the skies.

“I know I could not have seen Asgard from your stars, but I know enough that if I could have, I would have still been seeing it here. A part of me wishes I could see that light, even if it was only a distant memory.” Thor said.

“Thor, you always have a place with me.” Jane said, sincerely. She wasn’t asking to take him back, but they’d gone through too much for her not to offer it.

“I know, and when I figure out my place, the same to you, dear Jane.” Thor said. Jane let him slip his arm over her shoulder as the watched the day rise on the world that was missing half of its population, yet another dawn where Jane had to face how many people she loved were just gone.

Thor left in the morning, murmuring something that Tony was calling them back together with another hair-brained scheme to ‘fix things’. From his tone, Jane was unsure if Thor thought it could be fixed.

She returned to the labs, staring out at the empty seats in frustration. Thanos was a major dick. Yes, half the population was killed, but in doing so...randomly...a lot of people that were doing great things had just poofed out of existence. A kid out of college that was onto something to cure cancer and no one could follow his notes, an old and weathered professor that had been around so long he just knew everything and his absence made everything a little more difficult, a woman who had been working with Jane on her wormholes who Jane had come to see as a friend. So many people that were never coming back.

So many more funerals to go.

“Was that Thor, an Avenger?” A voice startled her. She jumped up to see one of the lab guards staring at the doors in which Thor had just vanished from. She hadn’t taken much notice of him; this guard. He was newer, had only appeared a week or two ago, right after what the Avengers were calling ‘The Snap’. He had the most inquisitive green eyes, Jane decided, now that she was staring at him.

“They used to be an ‘item’, Mullins,” The older guard said, as though his question had been asked to his superior and not Jane, “Don’t you know?” He accompanied his phrasing with a semi-lewd hand motion.

Jane felt her cheeks burn. Instead of flying off the handle, she just spun sharply on her heels. She wasn’t embarrassed that she’d had a night with Thor of late, or that they used to be two people in a relationship. She was, however, angry that out of all the bullshit happening lately, men like that still managed to survive.

“I’d think it would be impolite to speak of Dr. Foster so crudely,” Mullins said, his cool edge to his warning surprising Jane. She did not stop walking, but did try to walk quieter to hear the rest of the interaction.

“What, you have a crush on her or something? You think once she’s been with a literal god, she’d want the likes of a mere moral like us? You can see it in the way she walks, the way she acts.”

Mullins laughed darkly, a strange response, Jane decided. However, she’d heard enough from the other guard and really just had better things to be doing.

She collected her composure behind a wall, holding back tears. She was suddenly just very overwhelmed. It was, because, in that moment she was thinking of Darcy. If Darcy was here, she’d go and punch that guard in the face, consequences be damned. And, she’d been just considering of if she should tell Darcy or not before she realized that Darcy was...gone. Dr. Selvig, who she considered to be her father, was gone too. The people she cared about most were gone; even Thor, who although was not dead, had such a haunted and far-away look that he might as well be.

She drew in her shaking breaths, dabbing at her eyes with her sleeve before rounding the corner.

“Oh!” She jumped as she almost collided with another body, “Mullins you...scared me.” She croaked.

Mullins scrutinized her in a sort of way that felt familiar, although she could not place it. Mullins had always been polite to her, at least these two weeks or so past, and he seemed like a decent man. She’d had small conversations with him, enough to decide he was alright.

“Are you okay, Dr. Foster?” Mullins was always very careful to call her by her title.

“I, auh, yeah. It just gets a little overwhelming when you want to talk to someone and they’re not around anymore.” Jane said, “But I’m sure you know how that feels.” Not a single person walked away from The Snap unscathed.

“Yes,” There was a dark, deep sadness in Mullins’ eyes. It was not an unfamiliar sight of late, “If you don’t mind me asking, why was Thor here?”

“A visit between old friends,” Jane put on a forced smile, “We might not be together anymore but I don’t hate him. He’s...we’re…” After a second, Jane wondered why she was rationalizing this to him, “He was informing me of a death of a mutual, um, acquaintance.”

“His own brother he considered an acquaintance of yours?” Mullins’ eyebrows pulled up, and he gave a snort.

Jane shrugged. Many people had heard Thor’s news in the lab’s lobby, so it wasn’t strange for Mullins to know this, “I guess...I’m not sure what Loki was. Thor loved him, and I...well…”

“I’d think you’d hate him,” Mullins threw in.

Jane rubbed her arms, shaking her head, “Not anymore.”

“Ah, speak no ill of the dead?” Mullins guessed, which under different times would have been fair. Jane didn’t like to disrespect the dead.

“Not even that. He’s not all bad, but I guess the people’s opinions of him are rather set, huh? The Invasion didn’t make him a lot of friends around. And, I guess I don’t know when it happened- I guess when he started changing too- but I think he was actually starting to grow on me. And then, not even that long ago, we had a...a…”

“A moment?”

“Something like that,” Jane closed her eyes, wishing she could summon Loki back to that time, back to that place where they existed and they’d talked. He’d been so vulnerable then, so unlike how he often was. More befitting of a Prince than before.

“Is he one of the ones you miss too?” Jane expected horror on Mullin’s face and steeled herself to lose another ally here.

“Yes, I do.” She said, because the Snap had proved life to short to hate someone forever, especially when they were making efforts to be different, “I don’t know what we were, but yeah, I do miss him.”

She felt a little choked up to even say that outloud, her stomach flipped-flopped in a very uncomfortable way. She bit her bottom lip to keep it from quivering. She felt stupid to be crying of Loki, since if you had asked her would she cry over Loki years ago, she’d reply out of joy of his demise. But now? Maybe Jane was just really tired of losing people.

“I need to continue my work. Now that half the company is gone, I have to…” She started to make a joke about ti, before just deciding that it was too heavy a topic. She brushed past Mullins, forcing herself to think of anything else but Loki.

“Jane.”

She froze in her place. Her heart hammered and she couldn't breathe. She forced her body to move and turned around, just enough to see the figure oud of her pherhiperhal vision. Where Mullins once stood, a shorter and younger man, now a lean and green-clad figure stood in its place.

“Jane,” Loki said again, now looking a little unsure of himself.

“Un-fucking-believable,” Jane murmured under her breath, more astounded than upset, “You really are a cockroach, are you? Can nothing kill you?” She asked.

“I’m surprised Thor put up with your potty mouth,” Loki said, throwing out a weak smile. He was nervous. God, Loki was never nervous, or Jane had never seen him nervous.

“He used to hate it,” Jane said, and before she even knew what she was doing, she was launching herself at him, tugging him down so that she could hug him properly. Loki made a surprised noise, probably unused to being touched, but Jane just hugged him harder.

“Quite the welcome, I’d say,” Loki chuckled after a second.

Jane drew back, hitting his arm hard, “This is what, the third time you’ve pretended to be dead? You ass!”

“Oh, it’s been much more than that.” Loki looked somewhat pleased with himself.

“Yeah, but Thor really believes it.” Jane said, drawing back, “It’s killing him.”

The smile fell from Loki’s face, “Yes. I’ve seen that.”

“Then why don’t you tell him!” Jane said, hitting his chest with her fists, furious now.

“Why is it that whenever you’re touching me, it’s usually to hit me?” Loki asked, grabbing her wrist.

“Because you deserve it, obviously.” Jane hissed, “What? Do you get off on seeing your brother mourn for you like that? God, I thought you were different now.”

“Jane,” Loki paused, “I take no pleasure in allowing Thor to believe I’m dead. It’s upsetting to me too. But Thanos cannot know I’m alive. Nobody can know I’m alive. He’d kill me, for real. No tricks, no coming back.”

“So what,” Jane snapped with a hissed fury, “I’m just Odysseus then?”

Loki was ready to fire back an equally snappy reply, that is, until he thought through what Jane said. Jane’s fury lessened as she watched a look of absolute confusion settle over his face as he tried to make sense of her question.

“What?” He finally asked, a little annoyed. He had just such a look of disconnect on his face and Jane realized she’d forgotten that Loki was an alien. With Thor, she never forgot he wasn’t from around here, but Loki had a certain wherewithal regarding other realms that Thor never did. However, of course Loki wouldn’t know Greek Classics, something so utterly Midigardian, especially since it was stories that were not about he and his family or kind.

“It’s nothing, nevermind,” Jane said, easing herself back down to be able to have a true conversation, as true as it could be, “Why tell me then? If it’s so imperative.”

“Jane, you were...crying over me.”

“I was not crying.” Jane murmured, though she knew she’d shed a few tears for him, “It’s what you do when someone dies, if I did, that is.”

“Yes, however, I admit...I’ve had a great many girls cry over me. But you, Dr. Foster, it was different.”

“Well, as you said, we had a moment.” Jane leaned back on the wall of the dark hallway, “We might be having another right now.”

Loki’s lips curled up with a hint of a smile, “I think we might be.” He agreed.

“I’m glad you’re not dead, but I guess I can’t tell Thor?” Jane said, now that she had gotten down past her emotions of this reveal.

“No.”

“Right.” Jane bit the inside of her cheek, thinking as she exhaled hard, “Okay, question two...why are you here, masquerading as a guard? Don’t you want to be...off bothering Thor from the ‘afterlife’? His own personal poltergeist.” She said, “Or looking for the rest of the Asgardians, if they’re still alive?”

“You mean to say why aren’t I doing something more useful,” Loki translated buntly. Jane shrugged, raising a ‘you tell me’ eyebrow.

“Well Jane, perhaps it's because I’m highly surprised no one came to you when this all began. I feel like you can be an instrumental part of fixing this. And, it won't be long until others realize this.”

“So you're here to protect me?” Jane winced, “Uh, great.”

“In part.” There was a beat, a great pause, “Would you also believe me if I told you I was here because you had shown me a kindness before.”

“On the ship?” Jane searched, trying to recall what he meant, “Our ‘moment’.” She used quotations in the air, as though trying to impress upon him a sense of mockery of it all. It had been a three minute conversation, at most.

“Jane, I’m offended you whittle it down to mean so little,” Loki gave a bark of laughter, “I doubt you’d be as red if that were true.”

“So, what, a girl is nice to you and you stalk her? Yeah. That’s creepy.” Jane said.

“Jane, in all seriousness, after I played my illusion, I found myself here on earth and very unsure of where to go next. As you imagine, there are a great many enemies of mine on earth.”

“So I’m here to protect you?” Jane didn’t think she’d understand Loki, not ever.

“If that’s how you want to see it. I’d rather say that maybe we protect each other. Playing with those bridges are a dangerous endeavor, now more than ever that Thanos has the gauntlet.”

“But...he already killed half of everyone! What more could he do?”

“Anything.” Loki said in a grim voice that sent a shiver down her spine, “He could decide at any moment to play god again; something that, as an actual god I take great offence to, but the point is that if you make one wrong move,” Loki took a moment to swallow, “Thanos could decide to stop your life with nothing that anyone could do.”

“Yeah, I figured,” Jane wasn’t unaware of her own work, of this threat. However, sometimes science and doing the right thing were so much more important.

“It would be devastating if you were to perish, Jane Foster.” Loki said offhandedly, though Jane still felt the weight of his words settle. In an effort to defuse the way her heart had begun to beat frantically, Jane forced out a laugh.

“Uh-huh. I’d rather stay alive too.”

Just as Loki was about to say something, footsteps sounded from down the hall. Jane glanced for a second over her shoulder, and when she looked back she was blindsided by the fact that it was Muller, or the illusion of the guard, standing in front of her again.

“Muller, there you are,” The older guard said in exasperation, “Your lunch break was over ten minutes ago.”

“Sir, of course,” Loki replied, everything about him changed from a haughty prince now to a quiet and submissive lab guard. Everything was different about him in this form, except those eyes. The eyes that landed back on Jane and swooped over her figure, the eyes that made Jane forget how to breathe for just the quickest of moments. The eyes that sparked with mirth when he noticed that, “I was just about to guide Dr. Foster back to her room.” He said.

“Well,” The older guard waffled, “Make it quick. And, no funny business.”

Jane, now knowing it was Loki, couldn’t help but let out a snort of amusement. Loki raised an eyebrow her way.

“Sorry, I just, erm it would be inappropriate of me to do so.” Jane informed the older guard. Doing dirty things with Loki? It was rather a preposterous idea, although now that the thought was planted…

Jane, on her way back to her quarters, made an effort to keep her face down as she tried to banish those thoughts away.

At her door, Loki paused, his fingers brushing over her shoulder, ever so softly. She jerked her head up to look at his face, as though trying to suss out his usual angular features underneath the softness of this face he was wearing. It was only when he smirked that she saw a hint of his usual look, otherwise, the illusion was near flawless.

“Now you know,” Loki said, and hung around as though he was going to say something more, but apparently thought better of it. He left Jane standing in the threshold of her apartment setup, leaving her wondering the most important question regarding where she and Loki stood, how they’d work together from here, and how she was going to continue to live basically in the same compound as Thor’s trickster brother. How she’d live with herself by not telling Thor.

No, she told herself, one day when this is all over...he’ll be able to know.

They just had to get there first.

Chapter Text

 

Hour 0

On a Wednesday morning, approximately 9am, everyone in a generic downtown coffeehouse, after tasting their drinks, spit it out in disgust. It was of note since moments earlier, it had tasted just fine.

Bonnie knew this was going to happen, or rather, had a feeling something fishy was about to occur. She sipped her own drink, grimacing at the taste, and ungracefully spit it into a napkin. She did her absolute best not to turn her head all the way around to look at the man who was likely smirking, but instead flipped through her newspaper half-heartedly.

She checked her watch, wondering why he hadn’t made another move and then- oh, yes. Immediately, the temperature in the room seemed to magically be turned up just enough to make one’s skin crawl.

The man lingered for maybe five minutes, taking unprecedented joy in watching as people loosened their ties and patted napkins to their foreheads, in between making faces when they tried their drinks, finding it completely unpalatable and salty.

Then, he was off.

Bonnie, having only come here to follow him, chucked her now-ruined coffee, looking back at the barista who was just about to have the worst morning of her life.

She’d been stalking this man for about three days now. He was, she was sure, the one who had more or less ruined her life.

She couldn’t explain how, she mused, because in all, it seemed like a string of unconnected unfortunate circumstances, nothing awful enough like that he crashed her car or killed her boss, but it was enough items to cause her distress.

You see, she’d been working to get a promotion for almost a year with her boss. And, on the day that she was supposed to give her big presentation, she ran into this guy three times. And, all three times, something irritating happened right after.

The first, on the subway. She wouldn’t have noticed him had she not thought he was startling attractive, and might have been staring. She hadn’t known, of course, what sort of day he was about to bring her. On this ride, somehow, all the gum idiots stuck to the bottom of the seats fell to the ground and became unusually sticky, causing commuters to loose shoes and ruin socks trying to navigate through.

Bonnie herself had fallen prey, losing one of her heels. She’d watched this guy walk right through the chaos, and wondered how he managed to not get gum everywhere. Because of this, she’d missed her stop, making her late for work.

Then, rushing into work, she’d seen him again. It had been odd to run into someone so distinct twice in one day. He’d been across the street, chatting up a hot dog vendor. She almost thought about making a light joke of it, since the subway thing had been such an odd coincidence, and crossed his way.

He’d left right as she approached the stand.

And then, the strangest thing happened. The oil in the stand literally burst into flames, engulfing the entire stand. Bonnie's sleeve had caught a bit of it, and thusly she had lost her best blazer and came into work looking like a cat that had gotten caught in a lightning storm.

Then, right before her presentation, he’d been in their office, chatting up the blond and buxom secretary. An investor, her co-worker had said, a rich one too.

They’d brushed paths for just a moment, just the touch of elbows accidentally knocking each other.

And then, in her presentation, nothing worked right. All of her slides were upside down, there was weird music that sounded vaguely like circus tunes blaring at strange times, and half of the diagrams were replaced with pictures of Nic Cage.

Her boss had pulled her aside. After she’d been late to work, dressed very unprofessionally, and then more or less made a joke of her presentation? Well, Bonnie would have fired herself too. As it was, her boss was an angel and gave her a week suspension while they smoothed things over.

So, after going back through the day and finding one common denominator, and after Bonnie realized she had a week of ample time, she made it her personal mission to figure out what the hell was this guy’s problem.

At first, she thought him a bad luck charm. Though, the more she watched him, the more he was just into...chaos. And he seemed to have fun with it.

Turning all things with sugar into salt in a cafe? This caused him to giggle with glee. Move furniture in any location just about two or three inches to the left so that regulars or workers bumped into edges? He sat back with a wide grin. Put glitter in places there should not be glitter? It was like it was Christmas Day.

None of these things were malicious, not necessarily. Just...highly annoying and more than a little inconvenient.

There were also things he seemed to do by...and wow, she might be losing it but, magic. Like, how any room he walked into anywhere, the wi-fi was immediately disconnected and the passwords reset. She watched him once just stick his hand into a bowl of M&M’s and then, suddenly, it was a bowl of M&Ms and Skittles mixed together (she checked, it was a sort of gross and unexpected handful of candy). She was damn sure he didn’t have a bag of Skittles on him. Or, once, every door he walked by suddenly got a thin film of maple syrup over all the handles.

The more Bonnie watched him- Kai, if that was his real name- the more questions she had.

He didn't seem to have a job, other than causing mayhem. His days’ activities seemed to just be making problems at public places or causing people’s shoes to unexpectedly fill with water. He didn’t seem to be doing anything out of a will for revenge or because he hated people, he seemed to prank indiscriminately.

She had considered he was a YouTuber and his was his shtick, but she found out very quickly he did this for his own twisted enjoyment. No cameras, no vlogs, just...whatever the hell he did however the hell he did it.

Bonnie wasn’t sure what the end game of this was. It was something for her to do, but she hadn’t gone into this with a strong plan. Did she want money from him? An apology? For him to fix it? She honestly wasn’t sure.

Maybe, she just wanted answers.

Sadly, it seemed she was going to be disappointed since this was the most frustratingly, interestingly, annoyingly-attractive person she’d ever met. He could talk his way into any building, to any area. People seemed to just swoon over him, and he was just so damn cheery. Cheery about hearing people cuss when all of their buttons on their shirts suddenly vanished or their money turned to Monopoly cash inside their wallets.

It was, frankly, unnerving.

She watched him walk down the street, whistling. She stayed back about three or four people. She didn’t think she’d been made, not yet. She wanted to watching him a little more before confronting him.

He strolled into an alley. Bonnie followed.

She turned the corner, but he was nowhere to be found. Had he lost her intentionally?

She never got a chance to turn around, not before her vision swam with black and she collapsed.

 

HOUR 6

When Bonnie came to, she had a headache the size of Detroit. She was sort of cold, and the room was dingy.

As she lifted her head, her vision cleared to show greasy walls and ugly flickering lights. She was sitting on a really lumpy mattress, and there was a repetitive ‘clink’ of water dripping onto the ground.

And, horrifyingly, she was in a cage.

She startled upward, grasping at the bars.

Her first response was sheer panic. She felt her head go dizzy and her palms sweat. She thought maybe she was having a panic attack.

She thought of Sheriff Forbes first, and how she’d want Bonnie to be calm and think smart.

She first established that there were no windows in the room, but there was a door. A quick touch to her bob told her they hadn’t taken her bobby-pin. Okay, she could maybe pick that lock. Caroline had taught them as kids.

First she had to get out of this cage. There was...no door? That was ridiculous. There had to be a door, somewhere. Her fingers fumbled along the walls, along the bars, but there was nothing. How the hell did they get them in here? Build the cage around them?

Bonnie tested all of the bars, seeing if any were weaker than the others.

None.

Okay, uhm, crap.

Time to panic? Yes, maybe time to panic.

Real fear filled her, more intense than before. She didn’t think this was some sort of bad joke or a really elaborate game her friends set up. Something about this felt real. Felt dangerous.

“Hello? Who are you? Let me out, I...I’m just a marketing exec, I swear to god I’m not worth anything! Hey? Hello!” Bonnie yelled, waving her hands, fear clasping at her heart.

For the next five minutes, Bonnie screamed, hoping her caterwauling would bring someone in here, and she could just explain how they messed up, because she couldn’t possibly be the topic of a ransom. She was just about at the point where her throat felt sore and scratchy and she wasn’t sure if she could yell anymore when-

“Ugg, can we not yell?”

Bonnie stiffed at the familiar voice. Whipping around, pressing her back to the bars, she saw she wasn’t alone in the cage. It was a large cage, about the size of a public bathroom, but she wasn’t about to write a nice Yelp review about it. Still, at least she wasn’t shoved into a shoebox with him.

In her scannings of the area, somehow, she’d missed the secondary figure shuffled nearly under the bed. She felt totally stupid that she hadn’t seen another person in here with her.

Something felt really off about this.

“Fuck you!” Bonnie snarled, “Is this your idea of some kind of game? What are you playing at?” She asked, shoving Kai hard.

“Ow, hey,” He said, rubbing his face, “Oh...you. I should be asking you, you're the one following me!”

“Only because you ruined my life!” Bonnie yelled back, “And look, now we’re kidnapped. We’re probably going to be ax murdered and it’s all your fault!”

“My fault? I was jumped by a group of bozos, probably same as you. I didn’t ask for this!” He said, “And can you shut up for just a sec, plu-leeeze?” He snorted, “I’m going to get us out of here.”

“Oh, with what? Magic?” Bonnie snapped.

“Yes with magic!” Kai said back like it was obvious, “Now, silence.”

Although she so wanted to say something back at him just to piss him off, she was more curious about what he was about to do.

She watched as he concentrated, closing his eyes and pressing his fingers together. He murmured something under his breath and then...nothing.

“I’m waiting to be wowed.” Bonnie said dryly.

“Fuck!” He kicked one of the bars, “They must have blocked it, somehow. God dammit.”

“Yeaaaaah,” Bonnie said simply. This dude was crazy. She was sure of it, “How about this. You stay on that side and I stay on this side.”

“Your side has the bed,” He said, scowling.

“Wow, ten points to Captain Obvious,” Bonnie said, rolling over, huffing, “I hate this week.”

 

HOUR 8

“I realize I’ve been super rude,” Kai said, his fingers pittering a rhythm on the dusty ground, “My name is Malachai, but you can call me Kai.”

“I know.” Bonnie grumped, refusing to turn over.

“Oh, you know .” Kai snorted. His tone, somewhere between condescending and amused, caused Bonnie to roll to look at him, just for a second. His gaze was fixed on her. Something about it was mesmerizing. He clicked his tongue, rolling his eyes up to the ceiling, “You somehow know that, but not...well,” He trailed off, never answering his thought.

“I saw your name on the coffee cup,” Bonnie explained wearily, though he didn’t expect a reason.

“What if it was a fake name?” He countered.

“I had to call you something.” Bonnie said, shrugging, “As opposed to the asshole who has not only nearly gotten me fired, but kidnapped.”

“Maybe you got me kidnapped?”

“I’m a recent college grad! I have so many student loans, it’s not even funny. I barely have a good-paying job. The most I could give kidnappers is my archaic MacBook and my car that sometimes doesn’t turn on.”

“And I have more to give?”

“Yeah, or they're just looking for revenge.”

“Like you were?” Kai countered, “Perhaps these are your friends.”

“Then why in the world would I be in here too?” Bonnie demanded angrily, snapping her teeth as she sat up.

Kai hummed, shrugging, “True, I guess.”

“You don’t seem nearly as worried about this as I do,” Bonnie observed.

Kai gave a laugh. Not a dark laugh, not a half-laugh, but an honest to god laugh, “Oh, I’ve been in worse spots.” He said it so happily, like he was regalling Bonnie of his most recent vacation.

There was a long pause. Kai was looking at her expectantly. WHat, was she supposed to agree, saying ‘oh, right, I guess that finals were worse than being thrown in a dark, windowless room’.

“I was polite and told me my name, you should tell me yours,” He said. Bonnie nearly threw up her hands. Out of all the things he could want, he was hung up about her name?

“I knew your name,” She replied curtly.

“You assumed you knew my name. I confirmed it.”

Bonnie rolled her tongue around the top of her mouth, “It’s Elena,” She lied, lifting the name of one of her best friends.

Kai examined her hard, “No, it’s not.”

Bonnie made a huffing sound, struggling for a reply, “You just said you don’t know my name!”

“True. But I am the King of Liars. I know when it’s obviously a fake name,” He said with far too much confidence, “Hmm, it’s someone you know. Not a family member, you said it with too much of a smile on your face. Could be a significant other, but you wouldn’t want to be giving out the fake name of someone who means so much to you, if that were the case. Not an ex anything- best friend or lover- because you said it too readily. It’s not a bad memory. I’m going to say it’s the name of a best friend.” He rubbed his hand over his chin, “How close am I?”

Bonnie turned around, refusing to answer, “Wouldn’t you like to know.”

Behind her, she heard a slurping sound. She turned to see him licking his finger.

“Kai; one. Not-Elena; zero.”

 

Hour 11

She woke up to the sound of metal scratching across another plate. She sat up, dizzy and disoriented, unsure of where she was for a moment.

Then, it all came back to her.

Her eyes zeroed in on a little flap that was opened near Kai’s side of the room. It was maybe the size of a textbook, not big enough by any means to escape out of. A little tray of food was slid through, and then it was closed promptly.

“Well, they’re not trying to kill us.” Bonnie said weakly.

“There are worse things than death,” Kai said and Bonnie’s skin crawled.

Kai was rifling through the assortment. He was examining a couple items, before he started chuckling.

“What?” Bonnie demanded, coming and snatching two little packets, “Why are these written in...is that Norwegian?”

“Because these knuckleheads think they’re all comedians,” Kai said with a low laugh, “So funny! Just hilarious!”

“I’m missing something. Are you from Norway?”

“I suppose.”

Bonnie squinted at him. She scowled, settling against the wall, “Then, what do we have?”

“A couple of cakes, some crackers, some probably really bad salami, a little thing of olives...it’s not exactly a feast.” He said, cracking open what looked like a jam jar. He was more or less hoarding the food near him.

“Do I get any of that?”

“If you tell me your name.” Kai replied.

“Fuck you, seriously.”

“Hey girlie, nothing in this life is for free,” Kai said, totally unfazed by her insult, “How about this. Your first letter of your name.”

Bonnie considered it. Her stomach growled. The last thing she’d had was the salted coffee.

“B.”

Kai hummed in approval, sliding over half of the food. The crackers were sort of stale and very prone to breaking, but Bonnie emptied the plastic sleeve into her mouth.

Kai, however, was using his fingers to fish out jam and lick it from his fingers. If she didn’t hate him so much, it would be downright dirty, in the sexist of ways.

“What?” Kai asked, catching her eye, mouth full of food, “Do you see any utensils anywhere?”

Bonnie grimaced, looking away.

This, she thought, might be her own form of personal torture.

 

HOUR 21

“Bethesda?”

“That’s totally not it,” Bonnie said, screwing her eyes shut.

“Bathsheba.”

“So off.”

“Benjamin?”

“Boy’s name,” Bonnie said, “Can you shut up? I’m trying to sleep.”

There was blessed silence for maybe about twelve seconds. She thought, foolishly, maybe Kai actually was listening to her. She was seriously regretting giving him the first letter. Scratch that, she was regretting following him in the first place, but that was long passed.

In the hours since the meal, Kai had pretty much talked non-stop. About everything. About nothing.

A lot of it was trying to guess her name. Somehow, Bonnie was one of the few he hadn’t hit upon yet.

When she was unresponsive to his game of three-hundred questions, he’d tried to encite her in a rousing game of I-Spy. It was, to say, about as boring as playing I-Spy in a snowstorm.

Bonnie let her body relax, thinking maybe she’d actually get some sleep.

“Bennett?”

Bonnie stiffed.

“I’m close, aren’t I?” Kai gushed, sprawling on his stomach, inches away from the invisible boundary where Bonnie had drawn the line. At least he’d respected that.

“That’s a boy’s name too,” Bonnie finally managed to say, “Don’t you dare,” She threatened, hearing him lick his finger again.

“But I’m right!”

“No, you’re not.”

“Half-right. Last name,” Kai said. Somehow, her face gave it away, because Kai grinned.

“Do you ever sleep?” She demanded.

“I can sleep when I’m dead.”

 

HOUR 27

When Bonnie woke again, she was filled with a sense of dread that couldn’t be stopped. It was dark, darker than before. She glanced over her shoulder to see Kai’s figure on the ground, motionless. The gentle rise and fall of his shoulders told her he was asleep.

It had to be over a day since she’d been captured. Who was missing her, she wondered? Not her boss, since she was ex-communicated from work. It wouldn’t be Monday, or maybe even Tuesday, when she didn’t show up to the pre-set meetings to discuss her future there. Not her friends, since it wasn’t weird for Bonnie to go days without texting someone. They might catch on a bit sooner, since every Friday, Bonnie, Caroline, and Elena did a three-way FaceTime, but it wasn’t unusual for Bonnie to miss a Friday call. She always explained it by Sunday, but that was still days away. Her parents were not exactly on speaking terms with Bonnie. She was lucky to call them more than once a month. She had no significant other. There were a couple guys she was chatting up on Tinder, but it was unlikely any of them would call the police over her disappearance. In all, no one probably even knew she was gone. The only person that would have noticed was her grandma, who had passed a year ago.

She remembered the starting fact Sheriff Forbes taught them back when they were in middle school; nearly 90% of child abduction cases- by 24 hours- were killed. Sure, it was a sorta morbid thing to tell a group of thirteen-year-olds, but Sherrif Forbes was nothing if not pragmatic. And, to this day, Bonnie remembered it.

Yes, she wasn’t a child at 23, but it  stuck with her. The chances people were going to look for her frantically had passed. People would say ‘oh, Bonnie? How sad, never found her again’. She’d be a faceless person on the back of milk-jugs and a memory whenever someone went back to Mystic Falls or if they ran into her parents.

Then, a sliver of hope emerged. If they hadn’t killed her yet, maybe that wasn’t their intention?

She hoped so. She had to keep some sort of promise in her heart, otherwise she’d never make it.

 

HOUR 29

“Do you know why we’re here?” Bonnie was the one to ask Kai, her worry and curiosity wearing down her personal promise not to encourage him any more than needed. They’d been fed once more, still weird Norwegian airplane food. Bonnie couldn’t even tell what time it was, how long they’d been in here. She guessed somewhere around a day and a half, but couldn’t be sure at all.

“I have ideas,” Kai said. It was one of the few times he dropped his casual and smirking persona, actually looking apologetic.

“Well, I mean, I know you have enemies,” Bonnie said blithely.

“Oh?”

“You seem to spend your days just causing utter mayhem. Not everyone appreciates that. Enough to kidnap you? I guess some people- like you- are just crazy.” She said.

Kai shrugged.

“What do you do, anyway.”

“It’s hard to describe,” Kai waved a hand, “I guess you could call me...a professional jokester.”

“Oh, god, you’re a circus clown, aren’t you?” Bonnie moaned.

“No, nothing like that. Amatuers,” Kai was scowling, “Like I said, it’s hard to describe.”

“Well, we have nothing but time.” Bonnie said, waving her arms around.

Kai seemed to think about it. He was playing with one of his shoelaces, twisting it between his fingers. He’d come in wearing a pair of jeans, a band-shirt, and a zip-hoodie. The hoodie was on the ground as a pillow, his shoes scattered on his side.

“Or, at least tell me how you did...that.” Bonnie asked, leaning forward.

“Did what?” He said, but there was a small grin.

“You know exactly what I’m talking about. Changing the sugar to coffee, the M&Ms to skittles, the general tomfoolery you seem to be able to do with just a snap,” She snapped for effect.

“Would you believe up-close illusionist magic?”

“Not really.”

“Then you won’t believe the truth,” Kai said frankly.

“Then, okay,” Bonnie tried to keep her levels steady. This man was absolutely infuriating, “Why do you think you’re in here?”

“They probably want to find my brother.” Kai said, holding a large knot of lace on his palm, before throwing it up and catching it, again and again and again.

“Is he someone important?”

“You have no idea.” Kai said seriously, “But, we’re not...on the best of terms, I’d say. I wouldn’t know where he is to begin with.” He looked around the room, “I doubt they’ll care. Or maybe they’ll settle for me.”

“What could they possibly want from you? From your brother?” Bonnie asked, seeing nothing special about him.

Kai shrugged again, “What everyone wants. Power.”

 

HOUR 33

“Beth?”

“Still not my name.”

“I’m sorry. That you got caught up in this. You didn’t deserve this.”

“Sorry doesn’t get me out of here. Sorry doesn’t fix this.”

“I know, I know. I just...I still thought I should say it.”

The pause hung between them.

“I...you...uhm, thanks…”

“You’re welcome, Belinda.”

 

HOUR 36

“B. Bennet. Sounds like a superhero name,” Kai considered out loud.

“Nothing special about me. Average, sadly,” Bonnie said with a wry smile.

“I think there’s more to you than meets the eye,” Kai said, throwing his makeshift ball to her. She was surprised, but caught it and threw it back. It was, at the very least, something to do.

“Really?” She asked, “You know that after, what being trapped with me for however long we’ve been in this hell-hole?”

“I’ve been watching people for a very long time. I know when I see someone that is so much more than they exhibit themselves as.” He said honestly. Bonnie felt a blush creeping across her face.

“You’re not getting the bed, no matter how many compliments you give,” She snapped, “And ‘a very long time’. You’re, what, 18?”

“You could say I’m 25.”

“You could say…” Bonnie echoed, “Just when I think you’re normal, you get weird again,” She gave a shake of her head.

A part of her remembered her tween year obsession, Twilight , and was nearly tempted to ask how long he’d been 25. However, she realized this was ridiculous and didn’t press it further. He would probably just enjoy it if she did.

 

HOUR 40

“Bo...thman?”

“You’re just making up words now,” Bonnie said.

“Bunny?”

“Do I look like a rabbit to you?”

“You’re cute as a bunny, that’s for sure,” Kai said cheekily.

“Ha. Stop.”

“I think you’re not used to people flirting with you,” Kai said.

“Do you pick up all your chicks in dark confined cages? My god, did you orchestrate this just to get close to me? You’re a sociopath, aren’t you.”

“I might have tendencies some would call sociopathic, but I didn’t do this,” Kai answered honestly, “If I wanted to ask you out, I’d just do it.” Kai was running his fingers through his hair, “So.., Bailey, any plans after we get out of here, if we make it out of here alive?” He asked her with a salacious smile.

“Not the time or place. At all.”

 

HOUR 44

“Six-hundred and thirty two.”

“Huh?” Bonnie asked, looking up from where she had been going around the cage bars again, praying that maybe she missed something the first time around.

“Six hundred and thirty two tiles in the ceiling.”

Bonnie turned to Kai, “I counted seven-hundred and twelve.”

“One...two...three…”
“You’re not going to count out-loud, are you?” Bonnie moaned into her hand.

“We gotta see who’s right. I’m right, you tell me your name, Bianca.”

“And If I’m right?” Bonnie asked, her tone slipping into slightly teasing territory, just for a moment.

“You get an IOU from me.”

Bonnie harrumphed, “Real good that does in here. You think we’re getting out of here?”

“I have it on good authority I at least will. And trust me, this is a super-good prize.”

 

HOUR 46

Three times counting through, from both Bonnie and Kai, along with math scratched into the floor just to be sure, Bonnie was declared the winner.

“Anything else you want to bet on?” Kai asked, eyes gleaming.

“For now, I’m good. If we’re in here much longer…” Bonnie trailed off, looking at the grime under her fingernails, “Who knows, you might end up owning my first born son or something.”

“What would I want with that?” Kai asked, “I’d rather just get your bra or underwear.”

“Yeah, you just assured that I’m not going to be placing any more bets with you.”

 

HOUR 49

“Were you really going to use magic to get us out of here?” Bonnie asked in the darkness.

“Do you believe in magic?”

“Not really,” Bonnie admitted. Kai just shrugged.

“Then you’ve answered your own question, I suppose.”

 

HOUR 53

The sound of a door handle jiggling on their single way in and out caused Bonnie to startle. She’d taken pity on Kai and let him sleep on the bed. He’d been...well, nice to her. And maybe it was just to sleep on the mattress, as lumpy as it was, but Bonnie wasn’t a monster. She wasn’t sleeping much anyway.

They were fucking with them. It had been, though she couldn’t be sure, about a day since food. It didn’t seem like food was going to come anytime soon. They were going to go mad or starve, or both.

She was trying to open the little food door. She wasn’t sure if it would help anything, but she would go mad if she didn’t try.

She jumped across the space, shaking Kai.

“Someone’s coming in.”

Kai was up immediately. He scanned the area. His next move shocked Bonnie. He motioned for her to get on the bed and then...stood in front of her? Like he was protecting her?

A trio came into the room, all wearing dark clothes. They looked like the sort of thugs a bad Mafia movie would utilize. They were just really hitting all the cliches, Bonnie considered. It didn’t make it any less terrifying.

“So nice of you to finally welcome me,” Kai sneered, seemingly not afraid at all, “It’s in bad form to leave guests waiting so long.”

“Still just as mouthy as ever,” Thug 1 said to Thug 2.

“Hey, gotta have something, right?” Kai said. He walked over to the bars, slinging his arms through the slots, “So, are you going to explain to me why I was ever so rudely snatched from the streets?”

“Where’s Odin?”

“Hell if I know,” Kai snorted, “You are barking up the wrong tree. Brother dear and I haven’t talked in at least thirty years.”

“I don’t believe you don’t know where he is at all,” Thug 3 laughed.

“Oh, I really don’t.”

Bonnie’s mind was whirling. Odin, as in like...Anthony Hopkins in the Marvel movies? Thirty years? Kai was not thirty, or over thirty. THey were all crazy. Or, this was a really fucking bad dream. Goddamn.

“Hey, uh, so…” Bonnie piped up. Kai sent her a ‘shut up’ sort of look, but Bonnie wasn’t really going to listen, “I think there’s been a huge mistake. I don’t know him at all. So, maybe, could you let me go?”

Thug 2 laughed. Kai winced, but recovered.

“So, she’s right. This isn’t anything having to do with her. She has no idea what’s going on. Seriously, you buffoons, let her go.” He asked.

“Or what?” Thug 3 taunted, “You’re gunna ‘magic’ us?”

“Oh, I’m going to rip your spines out though your noses when I’m out of here,” Kai informed them with a wide grin on his face, “And maybe throw in a poof of glitter, just for you.”

“Empty words when you can’t even get out of here,” Thug 1 pointed out.

“True. I don’t know how you did it, but…” Kai patted the bars, “But trust me, there’s not a prison in the world that can hold me.”

“We beg to differ.” Thug 2 said, appraising the structure.

“Maybe I’m just biding my time.” Kai shrugged.

“You keep telling yourself that, trickster.” Thug 3 said, “Now, are you going to do this the easy way or the hard way?”

“Good cop, bad cop? Oh, wow, I’m so scared,” Kai said in faux terror, clutching his chest, “I’d love to see what sort of bad cop you’re gonna bring up to get me to talk.”

The thugs gave each other looks. They took a little...well, it looked like a piece of metal and pressed it against the bar. It opened.

“The fuck?” Bonnie whispered under her breath.

Thug 1 grabbed Kai’s arms, slapping on what looked like overly large bracelets. Thug 2 started coming for Bonnie

Bonnie squeaked, trying to jump away. Thug 3 managed to grab her. She started kicking and clawing, pulling anything she could. This wasn’t going to be the end.

“Feisty. I see why you like her.” Thug 1 said to Kai.

“Her? Please, I couldn’t care less,” Kai said, shrugging.

“You followed her for a month. No mortal has ever held your interest so long.”

Bonnie opened her mouth, eyes burning. He had been following her? Then there was a good chance all those meetings were on purpose? How dare he? How dare he?

“She looked like someone I knew. I was wrong,” Kai said simply, “You won’t get me to say anything by doing anything to her.” Kai said.

“We’ll see about that.”

“Kai, please, please,” Bonnie begged, glancing at him. Stony-cold displeasure even. No trace of warmth of joking that had been there before.

The first punch to her gut was hard. The second was excruciating. The third, forth, and fifth? They all just bled into each other, until Bonnie was moaning on the ground, trying not to cry in front of these people, in front of him . It could have been hours, it could have been days, but eventually Thug 1 stopped Thug 2.

“He’s not cracking, boss. Maybe he doesn’t care.”

Bonnie felt blood drip down her face. She went to clutch her stomach, gasping a little.

“Hmm, unfortunate.” Thug 2 more or less just pushed her the caged area, the lack of circumstance demoralizing.

“Boss says he wants to see us.” Thug 1 sighed.

“We’ll be back for you, Loki.” Thug 3 threatened, taking Kai’s head and slamming it roughly against the wall. Maybe Bonnie was totally out of it, but the force should have cracked his skull open, “You’d best be willing to talk.”

Kai just gave a toothy smile, “Come back with some real threats next time. Tooda-loo!”

As soon as the door clicked behind them, Kai was lifting her onto the bed.

“Don’t...touch..m…” Bonnie began to protest, but the dizziness was making her swim, and before she knew it, a veil of black was sinking across her eyes.

As she passed out, she might of heard Kai’s voice calling her real name.

 

HOUR 58

“I didn’t mean for this, I’m sorry. I couldn't...I didn’t think they’d...fuck.”

Kai was talking. Just talking, to her. Bonnie couldn’t lift her head, but she heard him.

She was so tired.

“If I would have showed them that I...well, we can’t let that happen. I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry-,”

Bonnie succumbed to the sweet coldness of sleep once again.

“It’s better this way.”

 

HOUR 61

Bonnie woke up to the sound of someone being punched and...laughing. She lifted her head to see Kai on the other side of the cage, the same three thugs all tag-teaming Kai. He seemed to be...enjoying it? Or, doing a really good job of pretending.

“Thank you, sir, can I have another?” Kai taunted as they hit him across the face with a baseball bat. The sounds were absolutely horrifying. Yes, the force being exerted should be killing him, snapping his neck clear off. Instead, it was...he was…

Bonnie was seeing things. That’s the only solution, she thought.

“Wow, did your baby sister teach you to punch?” Kai asked as Thug 3 used him as a human-beating bag.

“Contact Odin.”

“Yeah, I’d rather not,” Kai said, as though they were giving him a choice.

“If you hate him so much, you won’t mind telling us where he is.”

“Oh-ho-ho, you betcher ass it’s complicated, I mean, what family isn’t, but you’re very mistaken if you think I’d do anything for you idiots. Kidnapping? Maybe if you’d taken me out to a nice meal, maybe a movie- oooh! Captain Marvel just came out, and you know what, I’ve been wanting to see that-,”

“You talk to much.” Thug 2 said, punching his mouth. Kai’s mouth filled with bloody.

“Mhh, coopery,” He said, licking his lips.

The next blow to the side of his head knocked him out.

Thug 1 hit Thug 3’s arm.

“He was getting real annoying!” Thug 3 defended himself, “Plus, this isn’t working.”

Thug 2 literally dropped him into the cage, wiping blood on his pants with a scowl.

Once they were gone again, Bonnie got out of bed. Her side hurt a ton and her head had a cut, but she was in a lot better shape than he was.

“Kai?” She whispered, nudging him.

Kai groaned.

“You okay?”

“Uhm, not really,” He said, “I mean, I’m a masochist as much as the next guy...but…” He spit out on the ground, “Ugg, at least one broken rib, maybe two. Punctured lung. Ohh, that’s gunna scar,” He said, starting to feel over his body.

“Oh, my god.” Bonnie said, all her anger sort of draining away.

“Hey, hey, it’s worse than it looks,” He assured, sending her a smile that was almost...warm?

“Kai’s not your real name, is it?” Bonnie whispered quietly.

Kai looked up, seeing her head. His fingers almost traced the cut. He grabbed the bottom of his shirt, ripping off a piece and offering it to her.

“You’re in far worse shape,” Bonnie said, her mouth dry, confused at his kindness.

“Yeah, but you’re…” He winced, “So breakable.” He said, lurching forward a bit to press it to her forehead.

So mortal, it seemed to be said without his lips moving. Bonnie’s fingers gingerly took over the makeshift rag, shaking her head.

“You didn’t ever answer me.”

“Kai is my name. Or, my name chosen for the last 25 years. Kai Parker is only 25.” He said, “That wasn’t a lie.”

“Semantics,” Bonnie said, “You’re...they called you…your brother...the food…”

“You’re not dumb,” Kai said, but it wasn’t a ‘yes’.

“Loki?”

Kai’s eyes flashed, just enough to show recognition. The sort of recognition when you heard your name called across a busy mall.

Bonnie wanted to be pissed at him. She had every right to be. She should be.

Instead, she was more or less, confused.

Confused in the way things were starting to make sense, but left her with even more questions.

“I need help,” She spoke quietly, dangerously, “You need to explain this to me. You owe me that.”

Kai’s shoulders fell and he ran his hand over his chin, wincing as it passed over a soft spot, “Okay, Bonnie, you’re right.”

“I never…” Bonnie trailed off, but then stopped. Of course he’d know her name.

“I was just messing with you. Sorry. It’s what I do.” He said, seemingly actually apologetic, “Well, here I am, in the flesh. A god.”

“How old are you, really?”

“Past a thousand.”

“And you were stalking me for a month?”

Kai might have blushed a bit, she couldn’t tell, “I was telling the truth. You did remind me of someone I knew. I thought maybe...ah, nevermind what I thought. I’m also truly sorry. I honestly didn’t mean...well, any of this.”

“Okay, okay. Is there some way for you to, I dunno, prove it?”

“That I’m Loki? Uh….” Kai lifted his arms, “But just...think about it. I know that you know it’s the truth.”

“So they’re looking for...well, they said Odin, but Thor’s your brother, isn’t he?” Bonnie said, frowning, “At least that’s what-,” She broke off, a little embarrassed.

“You probably think Disney’s version of Pocahontas is factually accurate too,” Kai said, “Nope, Odin is my brother. Adopted, but eh. I haven’t seen him in like fifty years. We...we just never really got along.”

“Why do they want him?”

“He’s super powerful. Whatever they want him for, it’s not good. I don’t really want to start Ragnarok, thank you, next.”

“So you’re...immortal.” Bonnie said, eyes tracing over his many scars.

“Lucky for me, eh?” Kai asked, “Oh, damn, that stung.”

“What do you think they’ll do if you don’t tell them?”

“We hold out. Eventually, Thor or Sif will notice I’m gone. I may not be the favorite of the gods, but they won’t let me be killed, or let me blab about Odin. We’ll be rescued.”

“Will I make it that long?” Bonnie asked pointedly.

Kai got that same weird soft look on his face again, “Hey, hey. I’m not goign to let you die.”

“You...you’re a god,” Bonnie choked out, “You can’t honestly promise me that. What kills me is hardly a bruise on you.” For some unknown reason, Bonnie’s fingers reached out to trace a nasty bruise at his temples that would have had her brain matter spilled everywhere. His skin was soft. He was so...human.

“I promise, really,” Kai said, his fingers almost reaching up to hers. He hesitated at the last second, “I should sleep. I’ll heal better.”

“We both should.” Bonnie paused, “Look, the bed, it’s a queen size. I think we can both...because...yeah.”

“You sure?”

“No cuddling,” Bonnie said sharply.

“Cross my heart.”

 

HOUR 70

He was warm. He felt like a human.

Admittedly, Bonnie didn’t really know the physical makeup of a god, but he felt sort of like her.

And, when she brushed her fingers along his skin, she could have sworn his heart sped up.

He for sure responded like a human male, she could feel that.

The only stories of gods she knew well were of Zeus. And Zeus was known for, well, sleeping around. Kai, however, didn’t try anything.

A part of her wondered if she’d stop him if she tried.

She began to wonder if his lips would be soft.

She told herself it was because she probably had a concussion, not because she thought he was cute or because he was a literal god.

 

HOUR 72

“I dunno, yeah, a normal day is just to fuck shit up, I’d guess,” Kai’s voice was an inch above a whisper. They were holed up on the bed, both still reeling from the tortue, but neither tired. Or, at least not tired enough to sleep, “Best thing I ever did? Hmm, once I charmed a marching band to follow President Kennedy around for two days straight, playing themes for everything he did.”

Bonnie thought this might be the only time she ever got to question a god, so she did.

He seemed more than happy to talk. It seemed to be one of his favorite activities.

“Chaos? That’s your ‘gig’?”

“Chaos,” Kai confirmed. No, Loki. Ugg, it was too confusing and she kept thinking of Tom Hiddleston. Kai. He was Kai to her, “Wherever I can. Life is so much more fun that way.”

“Most would disagree.”

“When you’ve been around as long as I have, you learn not to take life so seriously,” He said in a light tone.

“If those shackles weren’t on you and we weren’t in here, you’d be able to do magic too?” Bonnie’s fingers traced over the jagged edges of the armlets.

“I could show you the world and the world beyond,” Kai whispered, “I don’t go home often, but I could take you back to Asgard. We could jump through the stars. I would show you magic that could make you speechless for days. I would give you the entire world if you wanted.”

“And if I never wanted to see you again? You lost me my job and got me kidnapped,” Bonnie asked, but there was no real threat behind her voice.

“I could get you any job you wanted, you know. You get that, no matter what. As for the rest,” His eyes trained on hers, “I guess I couldn’t fault you.”

“And why would you want me? A breakable human?” Bonnie countered, which was perhaps the more important question.

“I told you. You’re so much more than you think you are,” Kai said honestly, “So...plus, everyone would be shocked I brought a girl home.”

“More into horses?” Bonnie teased. Okay, she’d heard that one about Loki. Who hadn’t?

“Ha-ha. Human myths are so weird. No, I don’t have an eight-legged horse kid. I guess I...I’ve only ever done one-night stands. Not brought anyone home. Not made anyone a queen.”

“So what? You’d live another thousand years and I’d just wither away and die, get maybe fifty years?” Bonnie said, “That hardly seems fair to you.”

“I’d take it,” Kai said, linking his fingers in hers, “But, I’d probably petition to give you an Apple of Idunn. To become immortal. Like me.”

Bonnie could only laugh, “Kai, god-I mean, ugg,” She shook her head, “You’ve known me all of three days. Three very long days, I guess, but we’re...we haven’t even… kissed…”

“I’ve known you a lot longer. We both feel that much, even if you don’t remember. I do,” Kai said, fingers brushing over her knuckle, “As to the second? Easily fixed.”

Bonnie almost didn’t believe it was happening until his lips pressed to hers. His fingers laced in her hair, pulling her against him on the small cot. She whimpered, wanting him closer. His breath was short already, and he seemed to hold her with a possessiveness that felt almost familiar.

“Kai,” She whispered, “Are you a good kisser because you’re a god or because you know what you’re doing?” She asked. Admittedly, her only other frame of reference was Elena’s younger brother back in high school, but damn .

“Both.”

“You’ve been looking for...me? The spirit of me? Am I it?” Bonnie asked, her fingers fisting in his shirt.

“I think so,” Kai whispered, “I’m not going to let you go again. Made that mistake once.”

“This is crazy,” Bonnie said, but couldn’t bring herself to extract herself from him, “So crazy.”

“Maybe,” Kai murmured, lips brushing against hers again, “But some things are just written in the stars.”

Bonnie pushed him away. She pulled a face.

“Too cheesy?” He asked, chuckling.

“I’m not a frilly romantic type,” Bonnie said warningly.

“Right.”

 

HOUR 80

Now not hating him, the hours seeped by easier. Kissing and wandering fingers certainly helped, but Kai was also just someone to talk to.

It was such a bizarre experience, and Bonnie wondered if she’d still feel this way once freed.

Somehow, she knew it with the same certainty that he did that it wasn’t going to happen. He frustrated, made her angry, wooed her, and made her dizzy all at the same time.

The Thugs didn’t return for a long time. Kai was confident they wouldn’t kill her. Bonnie wished she could share his aboslute sureness.

Kai said he wasn’t going to let her slip by him again.

It was weird to be compared to another love of his, one that existe eons ago, but Kai calmed her by saying they were light years apart. Different people. Kai was falling for Bonnie, not this other person. Even if their soul was similar...Bonnie was still Bonnie.

This eased her a bit.

The next time the Thugs came back, they did the same routine with Kai.

He still didn’t talk.

He looked at Bonnie with no passion, scoffing at her importance. To protect her.

And so it went, on and on for the next two or three days. Bonnie couldn’t tell.

She was given meager food, not nearly enough to survive for a long time on.

Kai told her they were coming.

Who they were, Bonnie wished she knew.

She wished a lot of things.

 

HOUR 152

“Right on time, guys,” Kai said, “I’m ready for my daily beating. Part of every nutritious meal.”

“Oh, we’re doing something a little different. Beating you near death clearly isn’t motivation enough.” Thug 3 said.

Kai’s eyes flashed, just an inch, toward Bonnie. She could see him stiffen. She could see him preparing to fight. She got ready too, as weak as she was.

They didn’t even look at her.

They grabbed Kai, roughly throwing him to the ground right next to the outside of the cage. Thug 2 grabbed Kai by his neck, pushing him up against the wall. Thug 3 stripped him, leaving him in just his boxers.

“Hey boys, uh, buy me chocolates first,” Kai said, but there was a tinge of nervousness to his voice.

“I’m going to enjoy this,” Thug 1 said, flicking open a knife.

Kai began to struggle with real concern, “Look, look…”

“You gunna talk?” Thug 1 asked.

Kai put his mask of indifference back on, “Sorry to disappoint.”

Thug 2 nodded to Thug 1.

Thug 1 took the knife, pressing it to his stomach and...holy hell.

Bonnie turned around, vomiting hard. Thug 3 grinned at her, looking pleased at her reaction.

Kai was screaming.

Bonnie couldn’t look. She felt bile rise in her throat again as his blood started seeping toward her, red and scarlet and hot.

“You’re going to kill him,” Bonnie choked out, having thought that this experience could get no worse. Oh, how she was wrong.

“He’s a god, sweetie. He can take it,” Thug 1 said dismissively, “I’d like to see him poof out of this one.”

Thug 2 was attaching his shackles to the bars of the cage and to a pipe, stretching his arms out. Kai limply hung, heaving and spitting up blood. His front was just entirely red.

“Looks like modern art, donnit?” Thug 2 asked, looking back to admire his handiwork.

“Belongs in a musume,” Thug 3 agreed. He took out his phone, snapping a selfie.

Bonnie wanted to kill these men. She wanted to destroy them, erase them from existence.

“Oh! Nearly forgot.” Thug 1 said as they were leaving. He reached up, poking a tiny dime-sized hole in the pipe above Kai’s back, “We’ll leave ya there a bit, see how you feel the next time we talk.”

“May Fenrir eat your souls for breakfast,” Kai snapped, but his usual fire was gone.

“I’m shaking in my boots,” Thug 3 said.

Then, they were gone.

Bonnie watched as a drop of whatever was in the pipe pooled at the opening, before dripping directly onto his back.

Kai yelped as it burned, eating away at his flesh, leaving a bright welt.

“At least,” Kai said, looking at Bonnie, “They got a little creative.”

“Kai, how can you even…” Bonnie felt sick, “They used your intestines as rope!”

“Overkill, wouldn’t you say?” Kai said, “Since I’m already wearing cuffs.”

“How can you be so...so...casual about this?” Bonnie demanded.

“Oh, it hurts. Don’t get me wrong. But If I let it show it breaks me, I won’t be able to save face. It will all be over,” He said honestly, the starkness of the truth seeping down into her heart.

“Could you die?”

“I don’t know,” Kai said, “Don’t worry about me.”

“Sort of hard not to.”

Bonnie pushed aside her revulsion to reach for the hand closest to her. He took it.

Another drop splattered on his back. He gripped Bonnie’s fingers so hard she thought he may break it.

 

HOUR 159

“Fuck it,” Bonnie muttered.

“Hey,” Kai whispered, head lagging. His strength was ebbing away moment by moment. He was fading. His skin was sallow, his whole body quivered.

“I won’t...I need to help,” Bonnie said.

“There’s not much you can do, star-dust,” Kai murmured, his tone indicating he was more than a little delirious.

Bonnie spied the can in the back of the room they used to relieve themselves. She emptied it, gagging at the smell, and slammed the metal into shape until she could shove it through the bars of the cage. It was a stretch, and none too comfortable to extend her arms out, but she was just able to hold it above his back. The liquid plinked into the metal can, but it did not dissolve the metal.

Kai gave a sigh of relief.

“You can’t do that forever,” He whispered quietly, all of his jokes done.

“I can and I will,” Bonnie said stubbornly.

“It looks uncomfortable for you.” Kai murmured.

“You’re one to talk.” Bonnie said. Nothing could be as bad as his situation. If he arm hurt a little, so what?

“Bon..” Kai whispered. The way he said her name sent a shiver down her spine. She’d never had someone look or speak to her with the sense of absolute reverence that Kai was. It made her feel like the goddess, instead of just an average mortal.

“Hmm?”

“Thank you.”

 

HOUR 164

“Kai?” Bonnie nudged Kai’s arm. He was sweating, but at least no longer being burned.

“Yeah?”

“I gotta empty it. It’s nearly full. I don’t want to dump it right next to you, so I’m going to have to move it away.”

“I’m a big boy, Bonnie. I’ll be okay.”

Bonnie waited until another drop plinked into the bucket, and she carefully withdrew it, being very aware of how full it was. If it did that to Kai, she shuddered to think what it would do to her.

She moved it slowly, slowly to the edge of the cage, moving it between hand and hand. She tried to dump it facing downward away from her, but it took nearly twenty minutes to not get any near her.

As she was emptying the bucket, another drop fell on Kai.

The whole room shivered.

“Was that...you?”

“Told ‘em no cage could hold me,” Kai said proudly, “Unless they got a god to make these, they’ll wear out,” Kai said, motioning to the shackles that were inhibiting his magic.

“How long?” Bonnie asked frantically, coming back over to him.

“Another couple days.” He looked up to the bucket, “Really, you don’t have to-,”

“Kai?” Bonnie said, “Please, shut up. I mean that lovingly.”

Kai managed a grin.

 

HOUR 212

Bonnie’s arms felt like jelly. She hadn’t slept more than short spurts of an hour at most since she started this, because she wasn’t going to let Kai suffer more than needed.

She’d been fed once more.

She carefully rationed the food, offering some to Kai. He staunchly refused.

“Can’t die of starvation,” He simply replied.

She had maybe dumped out the bucket thirty times. She would do it another thirty times if it meant keeping Kai alive, keeping him okay.

Okay was relative, she supposed.

“How are you?” Bonnie asked as she put the bucket back over his head.

“Oh, just hanging.”

“That’s an awful joke. I should be more upset, but maybe it’s a good sign.”

Kai looked to his shackles. He looked back to her, a devilish smile on his lips.

“You have no idea.”

 

HOUR 214

There was a sound that sounded like the very earth breaking in half. Bonnie startled to see one of the shackles gone.

Kai laughed, waving his wrist.

“Oh, yes, baby!” He air-punched, “Bon, stand back.”

“Do you have your strength enough?”

“I’m so ready to get out of this, you have no idea. I don't want you to get hurt.” He said, motioning her back, “Oh, cover your eyes too.”

Bonnie did so, and the entire room lit up in white. THere was the same cracking sound. When she looked up, he was free. Or, his shackles were gone. He was very casually sort of shoving his innards back inside of him. It definitely should have hurt way more than he was letting on.

“You okay?”

“Just...ugg, that feels weird. Lemme try to heal myself a bit,” Kai said, shuffling away from the pipe.

As he was running a green light over his stomach, the door burst open.

Bonnie jumped up, expecting the thugs, but instead...it was a pair of blondes. They were beautiful in the way Kai sort of was.

Kai looked between them.

“Awe fucking dammit it. They knew I wouldn’t talk. I was bait, wasn’t I? Goddamnit! You’re far too much of a do-gooder,” Kai cussed, “And an idiot.”

“I wasn’t very well going to let you stay here after seeing that selfie,” The male one blistered, “God, you’re not actually upset we came to rescue you, are you?”
“A little late,” Kai shrugged, “You just walked riiiight into their trap, Oddy.”

“Hardly,” The girl laughed, “All dead. Dead as doornails.”

“Damn. I really wanted to get my revenge,” Kai actually pouted.

“We left you the one that took the selfie.” The male, Odin, said. But he didn’t look like a wise old man. He looked like a kid Kai’s age. Same with the girl.

“Oh, goodie!” Kai said, a bouch to his step, “Decapitation, maybe? I dunno, you think that’s too easy? That’s too easy. Could I bring him back to Asgard? Torture devices are much more fun there. Humans don’t have things nearly as good enough. I think, perhaps, I’ll spread his soul across the nine realms and-”

The girl turned, looking at Bonnie. She made a startled gasp.

“Sigyn?”

Kai’s eyes snapped back to Bonnie. He stopped his plans, tilting his head.

“No, Bonnie,” He corrected the girl, “But I see what you mean. Weird right?”

Bonnie rolled the name over her tongue. It felt familiar. Sort of like a dream she once had, that she didn’t remember she had until now. She knew, sort of, she was this...other girl, but she hadn’t heard the name until this moment. It, despite the fact Bonnie didn’t think she’d be able to pronounce it if she saw it, felt like a second skin. Warm, but also dotted with pain. She hadn’t realized that she was starting to hyperventilate until Odin had placed a comforting hand on her shoulder.

“She’s a…” Odin trailed off uncomfortably.

“Mortal. But she’s worth more than every Aeseir,” Kai snapped, reaching for her hand, “And I don’t give a damn what you say, if she wants it, she gets an apple.”

“Oh, I see,” The girl whispered, “How cute.”

Kai held up the  middle finger to her.

Kai was unlocking the door as Odin stepped back, examining her with a weird look on his face.

“How...unexpected.”

“Yeah, you can say that,” Bonnie mumbled. She was very aware of her humanness.

“Bonster, meet my siblings; Freya and Odin.”

“Freya and Odin? But aren’t they…” She trailed off before she offended two gods.

“Ew, no!” Freya spat.

“Never trust the myths. Say it with me,” Kai rolled his eyes, “The myths will also tell ya he’s the older brother, but I’m the eldest. I’m just a little unreliable, so dear old dad said. Skipped over succession right to him. Rude, right?”

Freya rolled her eyes. Odin gave a long sigh. They were clearly very done with their brother’s antics and dramatic speeches. Bonnie snorted. Odin gave her a welcoming look.

“You can call me Lucas,” Odin said, holding out a hand, “Odin is so...formal. Malachai here started that trend, but I rather like picking new names.”

“Liv,” Freya offered up, “You look so awful!”

“Way to make her feel welcome, for the love of-,” Kai sent Liv a nasty look, “We’ve sorta been stuck here for like a week.”

Wow, had it truly only been a week? It felt like eons to Bonnie.

“I didn’t mean it like that. I feel bad for her,” Liv rushed to correct herself, blushing.

“Look, as cool as this is...maybe…” Bonnie motioned for the door.

“Right, yes, yes,” Lucas agreed.

“Ready?” Kai asked, slipping his fingers into hers.

Bonnie nodded. They walked out into the warm summer sun. Bonnie turned to ask Kai something, but he kissed her again. Bonnie melted against him. It felt like home; like the stars across the universe, like the taste of laughter, and like the promise of a never-ending tomorrow.

Chapter Text

Reviewer: KnightOwl247

Fandom: Avatar: The Last Airbender

Couple: Zuko/Katara

Request: Zuko with accidental child acquisition 

--

“So does everyone know what their role is today?” Sokka asked, putting his hands on his hips, staring the gathered group down. 

“Who made you in charge, Snoozles?” Toph asked, crossing her arms and staring him down. Well, staring him down in his general direction, that is. 

“He’s not,” Katara said shortly from where she was very carefully counting out their coins, “But let him think he is,” She added in a quiet stage-whisper. Sokka stumbled over a couple offended sounding noises, and Zuko sent Katara a smile of amusement. She caught it, looking to him for just a second before she blushed and went back to divvying up the money. 

“He’s just making sure,” Suki came to her boyfriend’s rescue, kissing his cheek, “It doesn’t hurt to check.” 

Katara began to go around, depositing a small pile into everyone’s waiting fingers. 

“I’m buying the fruit and veggies for the next week,” Katara offered up, patting her brother’s cheek in a near-patronizing way. Sokka stuck his tongue out at her. 

“We’re buying the meat,” Suki said, patting Sokka’s arm. 

“I’m gunna poke around, go into some shops, ask if anyone’s heard anything about the Avatar or the banished prince. Use my super-skills,” Toph said, “And maybe buy an ice cream while I’m at it.” 

“Toph,” Katara gave a long sigh, “We only have so much money and-,” 

“What! It’s gunna be hard work!” 

“And I’m going to stay here and work on my bending,” Aang finished, hoping to cut off an argument before it started. 

Sokka turned to Zuko, raising a questioning eyebrow. 

“I don’t get why I have to stay here! I could go with one of you, like Katara-,” 

“You’d like that,” Toph coughed under her breath. 

“We’ve talked about this. No, nope, no way,” Sokka made his arms into an ‘x’ motion, “Aang would a better choice to go into Ember Island Town than you!” 

“Oh, and his arrows are totally unrecognizable,” Zuko said sourly, pouting.

“But I have a hat.” Aang said, rubbing his head, “You can’t easily cover your scar. Sorry, bud,” He added after a moment. 

“As we explained yesterday,” Katara added, “It’s for the best,” She said, but her lips didn’t show she meant it. Zuko wondered- and hoped- if she wished him to come along with her as well. 

“Okay, okay! Good! We’re set,” Sokka pointed a finger toward town, “Sun is wasting, people! The sooner we get back, the sooner we can eat delicious dinner. Mhh, fish stew...pork pot stickers....chicken-cow rice…” His stomach growled, “See?” 

“We’re going,” Suki said, dragging him toward the path to lead them to town, “We’ll be back! Meet you all here.” 

Toph walked away without so much as a goodbye. Aang gave Zuko a half-apologetic grimace before retiring down to a clearing to work on Earthbending. Soon, only Katara remained, although only for a moment. 

“I’ll see you back here tonight, right?” She asked quietly, uneasily shifting her weight. 

“Yeah, tonight,” Zuko replied back, settling himself down on a stoop, “Go, before Sokka comes and drags you there,” He said. Katara hesitated, seeming like she there was more she meant to say, but eventually just gave a sharp nod. 

Zuko sat feeling sorry and angry about this whole situation for maybe about twenty minutes. He could have sulked longer, sure, but honestly...it was a lot more boring to sulk when you weren’t in a palace where people could bring you things like food or drinks to attempt to make you feel better. And, frankly, Uncle Iroh would have given him some sage advice early into his sulking, and he sorta missed that.

He decided to walk along the beach. He had the passing thought of maybe finding a pretty stone or shell for Katara, before realizing he’d had the thought and blushing bright red. He wondered if he did find it, if he set in on her bed, if she’d notice? Would she find it weird? Would she be enchanted? Agni; he’d only ever dated Mai, and she was not like most girls. To be honest, Zuko was awful at flirting...As a prince, most girls had just thrown themselves at him, making it fairly easy. 

Actually trying to get a girl to like you outside of all that was so much harder. 

Zuko kicked his way down the beach, pausing every couple moments to dig in the sand for a shell or something. He kept looking back at the position of the sun, frustrated to find it had moved little since he’d forced his way down. He imagined Toph bullying her way into a tavern for information, Sokka sniffing each piece of meat before picking, and Katara gently weighing mangos in her hands. Honestly, he might be awful at all those things, but he was still upset he couldn’t have come. 

“Hey! You! Hello!” A woman was frantically waving him down. Zuko at first felt a flash of fear; surely was someone who had realized who he was, and was here to arrest him.

Zuko pulled his hood up, trying to speed-walk away, but the woman caught up with him.

“I was waving, didn’t you see?” She asked. She looked frazzled. Her eyes were wide and she was hyperventilating. 

“Uhm,-” 

“Look, I really need you to watch my daughter for a little bit! It’s an emergency. My brother, he’s-” She stressed, and it wasn’t until now that Zuko noticed a young black-haired girl clinging to her leg. The girl looked no older than two, and shyly hid when Zuko looked down at her. The woman was holding back tears, “She doesn’t need to see it.” 

“Yeah, I don’t think-,” 

“You’d be a lifesaver,” The woman picked the girl up, handing her rather forcefully into Zuko’s arms, “I swear, I’ll be back by sundown!” 

“Wait, wait,” Zuko tried to make sense of what had just happened, “You’re going to leave your child with a random stranger?” He yelled after her. 

“You seem trustworthy! I have a sense about these things!” She yelled back, “Thank you so much!” 

Zuko blinked, his chest warming at her words, even if she just said that to be able to leave the girl with him.

The girl was staring up at him, trembling. 

“Uh, I’m Zuko?” Zuko began, “What’s...your name?” Could this age talk? Did she even know what he was saying? Great Roku, it had been a long time since he’d been around little, little kids. 

“Zohi,” The girl whispered a single word, before sucking on her thumb, cheeks red and eyes glistening. 

“Oh, that’s a nice name,” Zuko hummed, “Erm, your mother will be back...soon, so uh…” 

He looked back toward his house. He couldn’t very well take her back to the cottage, especially because he wanted the mother to come back and take her. Babysitting was really not what he’d set out to do today.

He sighed; he surely wasn’t going to leave Zohi unattended, and to be honest, he felt sorta bad for her. It wasn’t her fault, whatever had happened. She was probably terrified of him, he realized. 

“Do you want to play in the water?” He asked, starting to set her down. Zohi shook her head, and Zuko clicked his tongue, “Uh, the sand?” Zohi nodded. 

Zuko found a nice patch of soft sand, leading her to it. He didn’t exactly have toys for her, but how much stimulation did a kid this age really need? 

Zohi set to work immediately. He noticed that she kept taking furtive glances back at Zuko, though he wasn’t sure why. 

“What are you making?” He asked after watching her make little piles, a moat of mud, and flat grass disc things for about an hour.

“Tea party.” 

Something in Zuko’s chest warmed. Uncle Iroh would be thrilled to play with this little girl. He’d always loved young children; Zuko always thought he should have had more than just Lu Ten, for he’d been the willing nanny to him and Azula whenever Ozai and Ursa were busy. He’d gleam and glow at the little girl’s efforts, throwing himself into it. 

“You know, my Uncle loves tea parties,” Zuko couldn’t help but say, smiling, “He loves tea more than anything else in the world.” 

“I like tea too,” Zohi declared, patting the circles. She seemed more relaxed; she’d obviously deduced that he wasn’t going to leave her, nor hurt her.  After it seemed she’d made more tea and finger cakes, and made weird lumps of clay as people sitting in the uneven circle, she started unblinking at Zuko. 

“You, uh, need something?” 

“You sit here.” Zohi said, pointing to a space between a blob with a feather for hair and a blob with five eyes made out of sea rocks, “Drink tea.” 

“This is all very nice,” Zuko rubbed the back of his neck, “But I think-,” 

“Sit. Drink.” 

Something about being told in a very authoritative tone by a toddler had Zuko standing immediately. He didn’t even think at this point he could honestly say no to her. 

So he sat. 

Zohi took a seat at the head of the table. 

She lifted a rock, which seemed to be a teapot, and poured ‘tea’ into Zuko’s little sand pile...his teacup? Probably. 

“Did you get your scar by pouring tea on yourself?” Zohi asked, “Because if so, that was stupid.” 

“What?” 

“My Auntie burned her arm with tea and it looks sorta like that.” 

“No, uh, well, yes,” Zuko furrowed his brows. He wasn’t about to tell this little girl the horrors of its truth. 

“It looks sorta neat.” 

Zuko blinked, “Really?” Something about her approval made him feel nice. 

“Yeah. You look like a hero from a story or something.” 

Zuko looked down, sighing, “I’m trying to be.” 

Zohi just tilted her head, “Is the tea good?” She said, poking the sandy cup she’d made. Zuko exaggeratedly lifted the invisible tea-cup to his lips, sipping. 

“Mhh! This is delicious! What flavor is this?” He asked, grinning. It had been so long since he’d played like this. For a second, everything seemed easier. Less stressful. The most stressful thing to Zohi was how to make a table out of the sand, but she’d managed. To slip into her pretend world, while he had this time, was something special. 

Zohi giggled, “Fish guts.” 

Zuko pretend to spit, “Yuck! Fish guts? Fish gut flavored tea?” 

Zohi dissolved into laughter, “Yep! I made you drink it.” She said in a sing-songy lit. 

Zuko took another sip, “Well, it’s not awful.” 

They spent the next two hours at this fake tea-party, Zuko meeting all of Zohi’s very established guests at the table, as she began to babble about her life, about her friends, and about the tea at this fake date. They perhaps would have done this all day, were they not interrupted. 

“Zuko, is that a child?” 

Zuko jerked, not even having heard them approach. The Ga’ang stood before him, staring incredulously at the scene before them. 

“Yes.” 

“Should we say ‘congrats, papa’?” Toph sniggered.

“She’s not mine! I’m just...minding her,” Zuko said, standing and brushing the sand from his robes. 

“You...with a child?” Sokka still looked like he didn’t believe it. 

“We were worried,” Katara exhaled, “We’ve been looking for you for half-an-hour!” 

“I’ve been here. With Zohi.” Zuko said, but it didn’t really need to be said, “Her mom, uh, well something happened with a brother and...she said she’d be back.” 

“So you, Zuko, agreed to watch a child?” Sokka asked for the third time, in a different way. 

“Zohi. Yes.” Zuko said firmly. 

“Oh.” Sokka said after a very long second. 

“Well, I’m out,” Toph said, throwing her hands up, “Me and children don’t get along. I’ll see you back at the house.” 

“I’m glad you’re alive,” Suki patted her chest, “I’m starting dinner. If you’re not back by the time I serve it, we’ll bring some out to you...and Zohi?” She asked, grinning down at the girl. Sokka gave a quick wave, bounding after Suki, badgering her about when exactly dinner would be done. 

“Thanks,” Zuko smiled. 

“Hmm,” Was all Aang said, “Hey, Katara, do you want to watch the moves I’ve been working on?” 

“Maybe after dinner, Aang,” Katara said kindly, “I think that maybe Zuko deserves some help here.” 

“I...well, sure,” Aang gave a long sigh, looking a little crestfallen, “I’ll, uh, see you back up there then.” 

Once Aang was gone, Katara turned to Zohi. 

“Well, hello there! I’m Katara...can I join in this...is this a tea party?” Katara asked. 

“You may,” Zohi patted down one of her blobs into a seat, “Here.” It was right across from Zuko. 

“Why thank you,” Katara arranged her skirt to sit. 

Zohi ‘poured’ her a drink, and handed her a crabgrass patty cake. 

“Are you two married?” Zohi asked, looking suspiciously between Zuko and Katara. Had Zuko been drinking actual tea, he probably would have spat it out, or choked on it. 

“No, sweetie,” Katara recovered first, “Why did you ask?” 

“You two keep looking at each other with moon eyes like my mom and dad do.” Zohi said, but looked thoughtful, “While you’re at this tea party, you’ll be married.” 

“What?” Katara startled, “I don’t think-,” 

“C’mon Katara,” Zuko said, his voice rough and a little bit teasing, “I think if she tells us to do something, we sorta have to do it. You’re seriously gunna tell her no?” 

Katara turned to Zohi, who was grinning up at her with big innocent eyes and a wide smile. 

“I guess we can be,” Katara said slowly, unsure why the idea was making her stomach explode with butterflies. It was all pretend, wasn’t it? 

“Hold hands,” Zohi waved a stick at them like it was a magic wand, “Married people hold hands.” 

“Yeah,” Katara said, offering her open palm out, “I suppose they do.” 

Zuko took it. It was warm and soft and made him shiver. Katara was looking at him with an expression he couldn’t trace. Then, she was looking away. Zuko squeezed her fingers gently. 

“So, what sort of tea is this, Zohi?” He asked, pointing to a half-buried bottle Zohi had found in the surf. Zohi began to bounce where she sat, excitedly explaining the new flavors. From across the table, Katara squeezed back. 

Together, they shared a secret smile.

Chapter Text

REVIEWER: Cherlynne

FANDOM: Riverdale

COUPLE: Sweet Pea/Betty Cooper

REQUEST: Anything (Free choice for me! An AU where Betty got cast as Veronica Sawyer in 'Heathers' with Sweet Pea as her musical love interest) 

WARNING: This chapter is extremely 'E' rated ;)  

--

Betty ran her slightly ragged nail down the fluorescent yellow list, pinned to the cork-board with far too many thumbtacks than necessary. She bit her lip as she searched for her name, hiking her backpack onto her shoulder. Cheryl got her wish to be Heather Chandler, she saw. Honestly, if she were in Kevin’s shoes, she’d choose the same. Cheryl embodied Heather Chandler, which wasn’t what most sane people would try to mimic, but Cheryl wasn’t sane. So, probably for the best. She wouldn’t exactly have to dig deep for this character.

Moving on, Betty kept searching for her own name, if she were lucky enough to land a spot at all. 

Veronica brought up the second Heather...Heather McNamara. She’d do good as that. 

Betty was getting distracted. 

Heather Duke was played by Melody. What had Veronica Sawyer said about Heather D? No discernible personality? Well, it was cruel, but strangely somehow fitting. 

She’d been sure that she’d be one of the Heathers, if not her namesake. Betty Finn was cast to be played by Toni, however, which left Betty more unsure of anything. Maybe she hadn’t made the cut. Maybe she’d just have to cheer her friends on from the audience. 

She continued to search for her name, and there it was...right at the bottom, next to the male who would be playing ‘JD’, the other lead. 

Betty was cast as Veronica Sawyer. 

She was sure that Josie was going to get it, but apparently not so. Josie wasn’t listed anywhere, until she recalled that Josie had been waffling about trying out at all. She was just starting to take off with her solo career, she’d lamented at lunch, and while she loved musicals, it wasn’t exactly the spotlight she was looking for anymore. Apparently, she’d chosen a different kind of stage. Betty, staring at the call sheet as her throat went dry, was suddenly overcome with a mix of conflicting emotions. 

She’d nabbed the main role in the musical. Only one person truly got that, so she should be thrilled, right? 

Just...why her? 

She tapped her finger one down to see who would be playing Jason. 

Sweet Pea Karan. 

Betty took a step back, tracing the inside of her cheek with her tongue. She didn’t really know him, other than that she was aware he was a Serpent and a year her senior. She hadn’t even known he could sing, let alone enjoyed musicals. 

She had little occasion to hang around any Sperents ever since her and Jughead had broken up. In fact, apart from Toni, Betty had tried her hardest to stay away from them. She didn’t need the reminder, nor the added trouble they all seemed to bring. She had enough trouble falling into her own lap, thanks. 

Apart from catching glimpses of Sweet Pea as they exchanged classes in the halls, Betty honestly didn’t think about him all too much previous to this. She wasn’t even sure (no, that’s not true; she was like 99% positive) that Sweet Pea was his real name, but even the teachers called him by this moniker. Stranger real names existed, but still. Somehow, suddenly having no idea what Sweet Pea’s birth name was rattled Betty entirely. Perhaps it was her brain just throwing something out there to latch onto, as she realized her romantic co-star was someone that was a virtual stranger. 

Betty fished a pen out of her backpack, marking her initials small and neatly, her fingers pressing a little too firmly into the paper. Her eyes kept straying down to Jason Dean’s character below. 

Well, she was sure as hell going to watch Sweet Pea now. Or at least, considering doing so. That is, if she could manage it. 

XXxxXX

Betty leaned on her locker, the door half-open, scanning the halls. She usually saw Sweet Pea exit math with Fangs and another Serpent she was pretty sure called himself Lann, but she didn’t see him today. He hadn’t put his initials by the sheet by the time she’d seen it, so maybe he was sick or skipping today? 

This would be the first time she could get a glimpse of her co-lead since finding out about the casting, and to be honest, she felt as though she’d been picking her brain to absolute pieces. Trying to think of any little wisp of characterization of Sweet Pea; what was he eating in the background of her lunchroom laughs, what sort of pens did he use when he was studying in the caf, when he was zoning out in the auditorium did his eyes glaze over or was he constantly moving? Even being able to recall one of these would give Betty a better idea how to handle him. 

There were some facts that came to her quickly. From what she remembered, Sweet Pea hadn’t been too welcoming to Jughead. Rather, seemed to hate him most of the time. So at least there wouldn’t be any awkward conversations. Jughead luckily was the last person they’d both want to talk about. 

As long as he was serious about this, Betty had come to terms with accepting him as Jason. She had thought of her other options; Archie, but she doubted he could pull off Jason’s mood. Reggie, but he was a little too dumb for the complicatedness this required. Fangs, maybe, but he was a little shy. Clayton? If it was Chuck, she’d drop out. Kevin, but kissing him even for a fake scene would feel like kissing a brother. So really, her choices were limited. Sweet Pea was seeming to be a better choice the more she thought about it.

And was Betty ever thinking about it. 

She knew Jughead had teased her before about overthinking everything, but hell, it was hard not to. The only way she could present herself to practice tonight was to figure out this unexpected casting now. 

She had hoped to see Sweet Pea. She wasn’t sure, but for some reason, being able to watch him covertly would have helped smooth the process. But he was M.I.A.

She closed her locker, turning, and let out a squeak. 

“You looking for somethin’, or rather, someone Cooper?” Sweet Pea asked, leaning on the lockers next to hers, a shit-eating grin on his face. He’d absolutely caught her, “You were staring down that hall for a long time.” 

“How long have you been standing there?” Betty demanded, face flushing. 

“Long enough. So?” 

“No,” Betty lied swiftly, “Just...a little out of it.” 

Sweet Pea was examining Betty carefully. She was absolutely sure he’d seen the casting, since he’d never started a conversation- or even looked her way- before. Even when her and Juggie had been a thing, he’d looked right past her. Back then, it had infuriated her. She didn’t back down or avert her own watchful eyes, though. She held her ground. If he was looking at her, she was going to look at him.

He was...sort of hot. In a way that she hadn’t realized before, but there were worse choices to have as a love interest. The way his hair was messy, the sharpness of his jawline, the sinfully casual way he leaned against the lockers, the tattoo peeking out from under his shirt collar…

“So,” He said, “I like cinnamon gum.” 

“Erm, great?” Betty said, jolting from her thoughts to stare at him. 

He threw something at her. Halfway in the air, she realized it was a pack of gum, unopened. Cinnamon, like he’d said. She blinked at it, turning it over on her hands. 

“You know,” Sweet Pea leaned in close, inches away from her. She could smell his cologne; something that was close to sandalwood, evergreen trees, and upturned earth after a storm. It was nothing she’d ever smelled in combination before, but all together, it was near intoxicating. She inhaled it, letting it flood her brain, “For our kissing scenes.” 

Betty’s eyes snapped up toward his, “I don’t think we’ll be doing that at our first practice,” She said hoarsely. Sweet Pea was still smirking, and he rubbed his chin.

“Shame.” He plucked the gum from her palm, and at first she thought he was going to take it for himself, until he was smoothly sliding it into the back pocket of her jeans. His fingers brushed the waistband where her shirt met the top of her skinnies, sending a shiver up her arm. For such a simple touch, something about it was almost sexy, “Keep this ready, then, I guess.” 

Betty tried to sputter out a reply, but Sweet Pea was leaning back. 

“I’ll see you tonight,” He said, giving her a two-finger salute. 

“Yeah,” Betty finally found her voice, but he was already sauntering down the hallway. 

XXxxXX

Near the end of the first practice, Sweet Pea slinked away. Betty tried hard not to notice, she really was trying not to be as nosy as she usually was, but they’d been placed sitting next to each other for the whole night. They were supposed to get used to each other, get used to the idea that her character was in love with his character and that his character loved her so much, he’d literally die for her.

Betty wished that she had no idea what those things felt like, but alas, the town of Riverdale had damaged all of them. There was a time she would have died for Jughead, or she thought she would have. She knew that in a way, Jason had died for Polly. People were killed often. Heathers was supposed to be a horror fantasy, not something that touched so close to reality.

Perhaps Heathers was more appropriate than she’d originally thought.

She was squished between Archie and Veronica currently as Kevin and Evelyn droned on about the upcoming month of practices. Sweet Pea had been lingering near the back, until he wasn’t. It was only when she saw the auditorium closing that she realized he’d bailed.

His absence had bothered her the rest of the session. Was he quitting? Was she so awful a partner that he up and left already? Who was going to replace him? He was already such a perfect JD that Betty almost couldn’t imagine anyone else. 

As Betty returned to the female dressing room to mark her locker with a neat little square of tape, there was a shadow behind her.

“Greetings and salutations,” Sweet Pea said, causing her to jump again. Goddamit, you’d think someone so tall wouldn't be able to sneak up on her so easily! 

She turned, seeing a red slushie in his hand. She frowned. 

“There’s not a 7/11 anywhere in this town, but there are slushies at the gas station near Main,” Sweet Pea said, and offered it out to her.

Betty took it, the coolness on her fingers making her hold it between both hands. 

“You’re not...quitting, then?” Betty asked slowly, “Or is this a goodbye present?” 

“Christ, no,” Sweet Pea snorted, “It’s...well, you know.” 

Betty had seen the original Heathers and listened to the musical enough to understand the reference. 

“Guess you could say I’m a method actor,” Sweet Pea said as Betty sipped the straw. Her mother would hate her having something so sugary, but it was all too enticing. Especially considering the gift-giver. 

“So you’re gunna blow up the school? Or are you already a pyro?” Betty questioned. Sweet Pea smiled, realizing she was teasing. 

“I’m not that much of a method actor. I can fake all that shit, but this,” He motioned between us, “Deserves to be fostered. We’re the ones selling it, babe.” 

“It’s just a high school musical,” Betty replied back, “But I like your enthusiasm I suppose. So, lemme get this straight, you’re sort of method-acting crushing on me?” She said. 

“Would that really be the worst?” Sweet Pea asked, crowding into her personal space again, which Betty realized she enjoyed far too much. She should be shoving him back, but instead she wanted to pull him in.

Sweet Pea caught her eye and leaned down to sip the slushie. 

“Hey! That’s my straw,” Betty said, grasping it away, using her sleeve to wipe it off. 

“We’re going to be sharing a lot more saliva, Cooper,” Sweet Pea said realistically, to which Betty just nodded, stopping her cleaning, “Want to start practicing now?” 

Betty, fearing how much she already wanted to, pushed him slightly, rolling her eyes. 

XXxxXX

“We’re going to block ‘Dead Girl Walking’ today,” Kevin said one day, tapping his pen on his clipboard. 

Betty took a deep, sharp inhale. 

When she’d heard that they were keeping that number in the show, she’d gone straight to Kevin. She recalled how Kevin had only tutted almost apologetically.

“Betty,” He’d said, “If Cheryl is going to strong-arm me into doing Heathers, we’re doing all of this beautiful, sinful musical.” He’d replied. So yes, that song had made her pause quite often, but they’d gone nearly two weeks without touching the movements of it. 

They’d said that Betty’s intonation of singing just the words, sitting in chairs with Sweet Pea across from her, was fantastic. Betty had decided early on what sort of ‘Veronica’ she was going to be, and all the preliminary read-throughs had gone smoothly. Sweet Pea had proven to be a good castmate; he cared about actually learning his lines, he wasn’t an awful singer, and Betty could not deny the chemistry between the two of them. It had been commented on by most of the other actors and actresses, just said that they really seemed to be faking it well. Faking it. Ha. 

Still, Betty could not help but feel unduly nervous about this scene. 

“Blocking means that we-,” Evelyn began, standing slightly in front of Kevin, eyes a little bit too bright. 

“I know what blocking means, Evelyn,” Betty snapped, locking eyes with that frustrating fake bitch, “I’ve been in musicals before.” 

Veronica made a deep, tired sigh and Cheryl rolled her eyes at Betty. Kevin looked a little annoyed at Betty’s tone. Only Sweet Pea, who was flipping through his lines, gave a badly-hid snort. Betty wanted to glance at him, share a pleased smile, but held her ground. Evelyn’s face changed, just for a moment, to that furious expression. Then, she just smoothed it back over, but her features were still pinched like she’d gotten bad botox. 

“Not everyone may know the same things you do, Betty.” Evelyn said in the most deprecating tone she could, like she was talking to a child. 

“Of course,” Betty plastered a smile, “Well, then thank you, Evelyn,” She replied sarcastically with an overexaggerated bow. She didn’t give a damn what everyone else thought; something was off about that girl. 

“Always a help,” Sweet Pea said, the same sarcastic tone as Betty. She felt her body warm the way he sent her a ‘I got your back’ sort of look, mixed with a ‘this will be fine’. It was almost...soft. Something she didn’t expect from him. Or hadn’t; Sweet Pea was shocking her a lot lately. He’d brought her a slushie every Monday after practice, he hung out with her between takes, he joked about mass murder with her. Sometimes, she wasn’t sure where JD ended and Sweet Pea began. Well, she sorta knew. Sweet Pea wasn’t a psychopath. But there were defiantly moments Betty was having to remind herself that Sweet Pea was trying to act the part of a boy besotted with her, that likely his affections were fake. Each time, she couldn’t help but feel a little bit more disappointed.

JD stuck up for Veronica. Thus, Sweet Pea stuck up for Betty...that’s what this was, right? 

Yet, there were moments when no one was watching, when he seemed so relaxed with her. That had to be real. There had been traces of realness. Betty sure as heck new there was something on her end, and that in turn made their scenes together burn warm and real.

Kevin strode forward, breaking her trance. He walked right between them, she wasn’t sure intentionally or not, starting to point and gesticulate, “Okay, so...scene opens here and…” 

XXxxXX

Betty sat in the girl’s dressing room, face in her face. The door locked firmly behind her. 

That had been nothing short of a disaster. 

The song itself had been going good, right up until the point where she was supposed to...ride him. To, mount him. Pretend to have sex with him, right there on the stage. No one ever claimed Heathers was completely tasteful. 

At first, her fingers had been all fumbling. That was considered a-okay, since this song was about a girl losing her virginity, so it just added to the authenticity of it, you know? And when she’d continued to have her fingers act like they were made of lead, they decided it was first practice jitters. 

The problem was that some point in the song Veronica and JD were supposed to start having sex and not look so awkward and unsure. Veronica was supposed to take charge and fuck JD into the mattress, moans and all. Veronica was supposed to rip JD’s belt and shirt off, and he was supposed to tear her blouse open. Veronica was supposed to dissolve into her emotions. And, it was hard for Betty Cooper to act out something she’d never experienced. Therefore, it became blaring obvious to everyone gathered that Betty Cooper was a virgin and had no idea how to make sexy sounds or ride him convincingly or any of that other stuff. 

Sure, everyone and their mother thought her and Jughead had done it before their huge break-up. She knew that it was just assumed. It wasn’t for lack of want; there had been plenty of times Betty had been pushing Jug’s hand under her shirt or trying to unclasp his pants, but the timing had just never panned out. Then, after the breakup, Betty wasn’t looking to do something rash, not that rash at least. So yep, here she was, virginal Elizabeth Cooper.

What perhaps made it worse was that Sweet Pea was so kind about it. He’d tried to offer little tips while they were on their eight and ninth and tenth practice through the song. His words had been genuine and quiet, words for her only. Ideas of where to put her hands or how to lock her knees or faces to make. There’d been no judgement, no japes as she may have assumed. In fact, he seemed not to care at all. It had helped, some. It had made her feel less like a fool up there, under the scrutinizing glare of Kevin and Evelyn who were giving her less helpful suggestions, but overall, it had just been completely mortifying. She maybe could have dealt with Sweet Pea being an ass about it. That would have been easier to wrap her head around. This kind, almost protective Sweet Pea? She wasn't even sure where to begin with him. 

On the last try before the break, Kevin had looked at Betty, “Just fake it. Or, do what feels natural .” 

That in itself was a problem. If Betty wasn’t completely faking it, going with her gut instincts could land her in a lot of trouble. The sort of trouble where she was very concerned she’d really ride Sweet Pea on that stage and suddenly their school musical would turn into a live porno. Every touch from him on the stage had been easy to keep under wraps, to compartmentalize. This song blew all that out of the water. If she let her ever-growing crush creep up at all, take over just an inch, she was sure it would all come pouring out. How badly she wanted him, how she’d started having dreams about him, how his smile distracted her all during the day. She hadn’t felt such butterflies since Jughead, and that had been nearly a year ago. 

There was a knock on her door, and Betty jumped straight out of her seat.

“Betty, hey, it’s just me.” It was Sweet Pea, probably leaning on the door. It wasn’t until they’d started in the play together that Betty had noticed how tall he was, and how he always seemed to be slumping against walls or door frames to compensate. If he stood straight all the time, he’d tower over everyone. When he was standing in front of Betty, he was like a giant. On stage, their size difference was almost comical, if it didn’t work so well. 

Betty stood up, slowly making her way to the door. 

“You okay in there?” He asked, “Look, about today, I didn’t…” He paused. He was rarely so inarticulate. He didn’t talk a lot, so he usually was very specific about what he did say. He almost sounded flustered. Betty was unsure if she’d ever heard him so unsure, “Look, I just wanted to make sure you were fine. Just...yeah.” 

Betty pressed herself on the other side of the door, listening through the wood to his footsteps fade, and she felt like she stayed there for a long time after. He waited for an answer for a little, as though holding his breath for her words before he left. 

Betty had a moment of realization. She was Betty Cooper, and she always went after what she wanted didn’t she? And call her crazy, and yes she’d been wrong before- but she thought that maybe Sweet Pea wanted her too. Damn the method acting, there had to be a point where it was real or it didn’t work at all. She was going to take that chance. 

Betty was a planner. She had things to do before tomorrow. 

XXxxXX

The next day, Betty came more prepared. She wasn’t better at ‘Dead Girl Walking’ today, persey, but she was more...confident. Kevin mentioned it, probably thinking she’d thought through whatever the blockage was. That was true, sorta.

Last night, she had made a detour after practice to the local drugstore. She’d stood in front of all the perfumes and scents for a long time, carefully reading each of the labels, spritzing samplers on her wrist, until she found just the perfect one. 

She needed to be sure Sweet Pea wanted her before she went forward. She thought of Archie and winced; been there, done that. 

Before Dead Girl Walking, Betty had requested a quick break. She’d sprayed herself with the one she’d picked out; just faintly, faint enough so that you had to be up real close to smell it. 

“Okay, so now at this part,” Kevin continued, chewing on the end of his pen, “If you sort of...straddle him, grabbed his shirt and pull him up to you- remember, you’re in charge here, Betts,” Kevin said, nodding to her. 

“I know,” Betty said, staring at Sweet Pea. Kevin made a waving motion, a ‘have at it’ sort of motion, and Betty climbed on Sweet Pea. He touched her sides, trying not to overstep his boundaries with her. 

“I noticed you were chewing peppermint gum today,” Sweet Pea murmured today. She usually caved with the cinnamon. Betty had little preference on gum flavors to kiss him, so it wasn’t like she was sacrificing something. 

“Mhh, was I?” Betty asked, trying to sound seductive. She grasped his shirt, pulling him to her. As his forehead pressed against her shoulder, the grip on her waist became harder. He smelled the cinnamon, the spicy perfume she’d dabbed just behind her ears. 

Underneath her, she felt him harden.

“You…” He breathed, just one exhale, “Jesus.” 

Betty pursed her lips to keep from grinning as his fingers tightened on her sides. Yeah, he wanted her.

XXxxXX

After practice, as soon as they were released so that Evelyn and Kevin could do some in-depth practices with others, Sweet Pea made a quick getaway. She felt a thrill of satisfaction when she realized why. She went to the bathroom to freshen up before giving herself one last firm nod in the mirror. She was so ready for this. She opened the door quickly, going to the men’s dressing room.

“Is Sweet Pea here?” She asked, a little breathless, though they were only across the hall from each other. 

Fangs blinked at her, “Uhm, no?” 

Betty spun on her heels so fast she nearly slipped, eyes peeled in the backstage area for him. Right now, the three Heathers were out working on one of their numbers, but Sweet Pea wasn’t with them. 

Above, in the storage area loft area, there was movement. Betty jumped on the metal ladder, climbing quickly. Sometimes, in between practices, she’d seen Sweet Pea lounging up here, away from everyone, per his usual ‘JD hates other people’ reasoning. She was also pretty sure Sweet Pea hated most other people. They kept the heavy, difficult furniture up here, the stuff that they didn’t use in every play. It looked like a strange antique store that no one wanted to shop at, with all the heavy wooden chairs and cabinets, mismatched lamps, plastic bins of clothing from all eras, and a whole other assortment of random things. If you liked thrifting and were naturally curious, it was like a dream come true to loiter up here, sifting through badly organized bins and tubs. Sweet Pea was currently pursuing through a bin near the back, humming to himself. He was always humming something; some song, some melody. 

“Sweets-Sweet Pea,” Betty said softly. Sweet Pea spun around, hastily putting a lid back on whatever he was looking at. The label said ‘1930s prop guns’, which sure, was pretty cool. 

They were wearing the ideas of their characters today. Not the full-on costumes, but the influence of it. Because of that, Sweet Pea had shed his flannels and Serpent jacket for a gray t-shirt, a long black coat and a pair of jeans.  To be honest, this wasn’t far from his end costume. Betty had picked out a blue denim skirt and a white button-up from her own closet, and left her hair down instead of putting it up in her go-to pony. She thought she looked strange like this, but she had decided that Sweet Pea was drool-worthy when he’d walked into the auditorium in this quasi-Sweet Pea/JD ensemble. 

“Betty, you-?” He began, face worried. 

Betty didn’t think. If she did, she’d talk herself out of this. Instead, she just grasped Sweet Pea’s shirt, pulling him in to kiss her. Not the stage-kisses they’d done once or twice, but this was different. 

She attacked his lips, pressing herself up against him. Sweet Pea grabbed her arms, and for a second she thought it was to stop her. Instead, he just pushed her against one of the shelves, his tongue warm on her lips, trailing on the inside of her mouth, invading her now. Betty moaned in his mouth, feeling her limbs shake in his arms. 

When they both came up for air, gasping hard, Betty was cornered against something hard and the wall of the shadowy, lofted area. Her plan may have been half-baked while searching for him, but it was clear now. In the dim light, she could see his pupils dilated, and an expression on his face that someone couldn’t fake. It was enough acknowledgment to keep Betty going through with this plan. 

She pushed Sweet Pea back, not hard enough to hurt, but enough to knock him off his balance. Right back onto an elaborate dark wood and burgundy fainting couch. He stared up at her with stars in his eyes, laughing lightly to himself. He opened his lips, his tongue flicking out as though to taste the last bit of her there. His expression was excited, but also cautious, questioning. 

Betty pressed upon her heels, settling herself in his choice. 

Before Sweet Pea could get back up, Betty climbed on him, just like she was supposed to do in the song. She pushed him back until he was lounging fully, and that’s when she started to undo his belt buckle. 

“Betty, you sure?” 

“I don’t think I can fake something I’ve never done. Besides,” She added softly, so no one heard, “I can have real-life experience fresh in my mind of the first time. Make it real believable on stage,” She whispered, tilting her head. 

“This is what you want?” Sweet Pea asked, grasping her fingers firmly. She knew he was turned on, aching, so she could appreciate what he was attempting to do, “Your first time...on a hundred-year-old couch, up on a loft with all those people below?” He asked, “I can...we could...make it good. You know, flowers or something or shit.” 

“It will be good because it’s with you. I trust you, you won’t hurt me. You know what to do, right?” Betty asked, licking his earlobe. Sweet Pea shivered, groaning. 

“I mean, yeah, but-,” 

“Sweet Pea, please,” Betty said, “Don’t make me beg,” She whined, dipping back in to kiss him, hoping that would make him stop asking questions. It was a nice sentiment, but she was sure what she was trying to do. She’d thought about every pro and con last night, under the grayish light of the store, and she’d decided yes...she wanted to lose her virginity to Sweet Pea. 

“Just making sure,” He said, his fingers flicking off her buttons and ties to her shirt, “I’ll stop anytime you ask me to, but I’ll be fucking disappointed,” He warned.

“I don’t intend to,” Betty said, placing a finger over his lips, “I think I don’t need to tell you we need to be quiet,” She warned, tilting her head back down to the stage. They were completely obscured from sight, but that didn’t mean that someone couldn’t come up looking. The thrill of it made it all the more enticing. 

Betty moaned as Sweet Pea moved his hips up against her, his hand tracing up under her shirt to grasp her breasts in his palms. He moved aside her bra, flicking her nipples with his thumb. Betty whimpered, slapping her hand over her mouth at her own animated response. She looked over her shoulder, glad that she didn’t hear someone climbing up to investigate. 

“Quiet, Betty,” He teased, biting her neck and licking, which made it real hard for her to stay quiet. She’d could let it go, since she knew he was just as into this as she was though. Still, he let her take the lead, or at least part of it. 

“Pants off,” Betty demanded, scooting to the ends of his legs to finish unbuckling his pants, “We’ll do sweet and long another time,” Betty gave a breathless moan. 

“Another time, I like that,” Sweet Pea said, helping shimmy his pants off at the same time that Betty slipped her underwear off. Even if Jughead and her had never had sex, she’d still seen a penis (and, no, not just in anatomically correct books), albeit not one as large as Sweet Pea’s. She supposed she only had one to compare it to…

Sweet Pea shifted to a half-sitting position, grasping Betty’s legs deep under her skirt, pulling her to sit comfortably on top of him. He leaned forward, kissing her again. There was no such thing as the awkward unsure kisses that Betty had been planting during the practice. There was only the warmness of his hot, rapid breaths and her fingers, snapping out his belt. Then lifting his shirt off; and the lack of contact for even a second felt unbearable. Sweet Pea’s hands, pulling her onto him in a wave as he kissed back with wolfish fangs and wanton thrusting, not quite yet having sex, but she could feel him, right there. 

Sweet Pea flicked her bra off with practiced ease, his tongue swirling as his fingers crept between her legs. Betty’s own hand was grasping for him, pulling him completely out of his pants, rubbing her fingers over it. 

Sweet Pea tested her with a single finger, groaning against her sweaty collar-bone. 

“You’re so wet,” He said, as though he’d just felt nirvana for the first time.

“It’s not like you’re not just as turned-on,” Betty replied, pretty sure he couldn’t have gotten harder, but wiggled against him teasingly. 

Betty started lining him up until he stopped her. She felt a flash of hurt, until she saw Sweet Pea dive for his pants. 

“Here,” Sweet Pea said, grabbing something from his pocket. A condom. She’d brought them too, but she was glad he was prepared. That he’d remembered. She was on the pill, but Polly had also supposedly been on the pill, and that clearly hadn’t worked out as splendidly as her mother had hoped. Then she thought about it; she’d planned this, but Sweet Pea? Did he always just carry a condom around hoping to get lucky? She hadn’t seen him with other girls, but that didn’t mean they didn’t exist. He seemed to see her face, kissing her cheek comfortingly, softly, “No, it’s not...Ever since we got cast. Not that I’ve wanted to get into your pants, that it’s been my only goal, I just-,” 

“It’s fine,” Betty whispered, understanding. She felt the sincerity leaking from his worried tone, “It’s fine.” She assured again. His nervousness cute, endearing. She tore off the edge with her teeth, sliding it onto him. She’d seen a teen pregnancy up close and that wasn’t for her, thank you very much. Thank God one of them had a brain during this. 

Sweet Pea helped Betty line up, looking up as she paused, a moment of hesitation passing across her face. She tried to lean forward, trying to soak into Sweet Pea, and that helped ease the sudden spike of concern. Veronica had told her that she’d hardly felt it, she’d been in too much pleasure. She’d heard from Polly it had hurt, and there’d been some blood, but she too focused more on the after. Betty just didn’t know what sort of pain to expect, as much as she didn’t want to be afraid as something as trivial as this. 

“On three,” He said, feeling her momentarily tense up, “Mhh?” 

“Okay. One...two-oh!” Betty exhaled, “Liar,” She bit her lip. 

“You never heard that trick before?” Sweet Pea asked, letting her adjust to him, his forehead slick with sweat as he rested his cheek on her chest. He breathed with her fluttering heartbeat, and for a second, they felt so connected. Tied together with red string; between him and her, limitless. She could feel the anxiousness in his whole body, pulled taut and tense. When she began to move, twisting her hips, Sweet Pea muffled his moan with a deep kiss. His fingers shook, like he was trying to keep himself from hurting her. He was large everywhere, she felt tiny pressed against his body. She was sure he could leave bruises if he was too rough, but somehow everything she’d learned about Sweet Pea so far fit with this scary bark, gentle giant persona. 

Betty fisted his hair as he pulled her infinitely closer, trying to get up in her as much as possible. Every thrust was hitting her deeply, hard. At one particularly satisfying thrust up, he spun them so that he was above her. Betty wrapped her legs around him, her denim skirt ruching around her waist. Sweet Pea’s fingers were everywhere, on the small of her back as she arched into him, on her breasts, and finally at her thighs, pulling her legs up to position himself between her legs while the other cradled her head to protect her skull as the motion pushed her against the headboard. There was a light thumping, and she prayed to god that no one heard it, but she was too far gone in the pleasure to stop. 

They silenced their moans with wet, adventurous kisses, tounges tracing the caverns of each other’s mouths. 

“Ugg, that was tragic,” Betty could hear Cheryl saying, “I need a moment to moi! Move, plebs.” 

“Look, Cheryl’s just-,” Kevin started to sigh, but he couldn’t say anything that hadn’t been said before. You had to learn to not take Cheryl’s comments personally, or one would go mad. 

“No, I know. You seen Betty?” Veronica’s voice echoed from the stages below, “If you don’t mind, I’m going to grab her for a Pop’s run. Clear my mind.” 

Sweet Pea began to slow his movements.

Betty whined, shaking her head, “Don’t you dare stop,” She commanded firmly, moving against him to show him how sure of it she was. She was so close, she could feel the burning in her stomach, threatening to explode. To stop now would be cruel. 

“Yeah, but,” Sweet Pea’s eyes flickered to his left, to the area that Veronica would clamber onto if she came up here. 

“Then you better move faster, cowboy.” Betty wasn’t sure where that came from, but it seemed to be enough for Sweet Pea. She used to raise an eyebrow at Veronica, who seemed to bone anywhere, anytime. Now that she was having sex, she understod the appeal, the way one could lose themselves in this unending pleasure. The smart thing would be to stop, but Betty wasn’t thinking with her brain for once, she was thinking with- excuse her sappiness- her heart. And also her vagina. Mostly that. 

It was freeing to let go of all her usual anxieties and to let herself start to drown in this. 

Sweet Pea’s fingers pulled on her hair, almost enough to hurt, but still protecting her skull from harsh knocks against the back. She could feel something building and from how frantic and needy his kisses and movements were, she got the feeling he too was starting to crescendo toward something great. 

“Well, she’s not in the changing room,” Veronica sighed. Betty leaned her head back, cheeks flushed. Sweet Pea saw the change in her expression, and pressed a hand firmly against her mouth to keep her from making noise. She felt her bones ooze out as she rode her peak, almost too hazed to realize that Sweet Pea had finished as well. 

As sticky as they were, Sweet Pea seemed unwilling to let her go completely. 

“Sweets is gone too,” Toni echoed with a confused tone below.

Sweet Pea pulled out, but instead of getting up, rushing for their clothes, he grasped his jacket off the ground, pulling it around them. His arms rested across her, his cheek pressing against the crown of her head. 

“Probably off buying Little Miss Sunshine another Slurpee,” Cheryl sneered. Betty could imagine her hair flip and her eye-roll. Betty relaxed into his embrace, curling her legs under the coat and molding against him. It felt nice just to be held, to be touched. 

“It’s a little desperate if you ask me,” Cheryl continued, “I love my dear cousin, but he should know by now that she’s not exactly the kind to reciprocate. She’s been useless since the hobo and she broke up.” 

Betty would be far more offended were she not bathing in the afterglow of an orgasm, pressed up and cuddling with Sweet Pea. 

“Hmm,” She whispered, “So are you just plying me with Slurpees?” She asked with a warm smile. Sweet Pea pressed a silent kiss to her temple, shaking with laughter.

“I dunno, will I get lucky if I do?” He asked, fingers running down her spine. 

“Not sure. I’ve heard I don’t really reciprocate well,” She replied, raising an eyebrow to him. 

“Well, I can assure you, before we make a mistake like sleeping together-,” He said, voice highly sarcastic. 

“Yes, that would just be the worst-,” 

“Know that it’s not just acting or trying to add another notch. It’s real,” His shaky confession caused her to turn, “If you wanted it to be, I mean-,” 

Betty gave him a soft, chaste kiss. 

“I know.” She said, “I do.” 

Sweet Pea’s fingers twined in hers. 

“Should we go down?” 

“Not yet,” Betty quietly sighed, “Let me just rest here, with you.” 

Sweet Pea relaxed, fingers playing softly in her hair, a contented hum escaping his throat, “That works for me.”

Chapter Text

Katara Uki had hardly gotten the lock to close on the hotel room before she had torn off her white-blonde wig, peeled away her false eyelashes, smudged her dark red lipstick, and blotted off the blood on her collarbone, in that order. 

She stood in front of the mirror, a wet cloth running under the warm water to assure that the sanguine liquid all down her front did not stain. Not that she didn’t know how to get blood out of fabric, but honestly she wasn’t in the mood to meticulously clean this hotel’s linens tonight. 

It wasn’t hers, this blood, it rarely was. 

Katara tilted her head, brushing her hair to the side to gain access to some areas where it had begun to dry. It bled into the low-cut dress she was wearing, although she wasn’t frustrated by this. The dress had been cheap and useful for its cause, never meant to survive past the night. What she was irritated by, however, was that one of her favorite lacy bras had managed to get caught in the cross-fire, nearly irreparably red. One would think that on black it wasn’t noticeable, but it was. Katara’s eyes were good. Plus, it started to feel crusty. 

She filled the basin in the sink with lukewarm water, threw in a cup of detergent and ammonia and left her bra to soak for exactly 15 minutes. 

She knew what two actions would surely cheer her up. 

The first was checking her bank account.

Katara flopped onto her back on the soft, luxurious fabric of this ditzy hotel, curling herself in the dark blue sheets. She opened her account with a finger swipe and a retina scan, warmth curling inside of her when she saw that her lump sum of what she was worth was now a couple more zero’s bigger. She liked this; a client who paid quickly and without any issues. She prayed that they were never in a situation to need her services again, but if they did, she’d take that assignment any day.

The second item Katara swiped to on her phone was a fairly innocuous-looking App for some stupid mindless game, but if one purposely failed the first level three times (which, honestly, was near impossible to do on accident) it brought the user to a login page.

The connection was secure. Katara never used the hotel wi-fi, too big of a risk. She wasn’t about taking any risks. She could be richer in the long run, maybe, but she might also be dead. Katara would rather amass her fortune with a calculating carefulness. 

That’s not to say she never shied away from a challenge, particularly the opposite. Katara was known for being the most daring out there, which she took very seriously. It was just where other brutes took only a day, eager to check off another assignment to get to another payday, Katara was about the long game. 

The app was Dark Web based. No names, no identities, just lists and lists and lists of people wanting to hire people like Katara. She was a woman for hire.

But ew, not like that . Honestly, if you paid the right money for Katara, you should pray to god you never have to see her face. Because, if you were, sometimes it was the last thing you were seeing. 

Becoming a mercenary had been accidental, but Katara wasn’t quick to change professions.

She’d do near anything people needed. Lots of it was death; she wasn’t claiming to have a perfect ledger. She always preferred when it was a good warning though; snapping a knee-cap, burning down a lake house, a kidnapping for twelve hours. There was even the occasional wholesome job; watching a politician's daughter in Europe for two weeks behind the scenes, tracking down a child that had never been recovered, stealing some Nazi-confiscated art from World War II and returning it to it’s rightful owners...it was once a year that one of these pinged, and Katara always was thrilled to take them.

There were a lot of sickos out there, and not just those requesting jobs. There was a lot that was, well, co-workers, for lack of a better word. She knew that while the price tag was a huge point of interest for a lot of those, the violence that came with the job was like being paid to do your favorite thing in the world.

Katara did not consider herself a violent person. She compared herself to an actress. An actress wasn’t everything she played. Once the cameras were on, she was transformed. When she went home, she wasn’t a serial killer, even if she’d played one for her job. Through careful compartmentalizing, Katara had been able to keep the unsavory things she’d been asked to do strictly on one side of the fence. 

There had been a job assignment, though, that Katara had been itching to take. She’d seen it when she’d logged on three days ago to download the information about this case. Rule was that you couldn’t take a second until you’d finished the one you previously committed to. Katara had been confident it wouldn’t budge, however. It was political, high-risk, and extremely precarious. Plus, worked better with a girl, not that a boy couldn’t have done it, but it would be difficult. She had been sure it would be waiting for her.

173 successful jobs, never once caught, never once come close to ruining anything. She was a master of her craft. She sometimes took a break in between ‘big’ ones, but she was itching to get onto this number 174. 

As she scrolled through the job listings, considering ordering a grilled cheese from room service and grinning at the green ‘check’ next to her username, she realized the job in question wasn’t there. 

Her timer dinged in the background, so Katara went to wash out the blood from her bra. Once she was back, she meticulously combed the wanted three more times.

Missing.

Katara dialed the webmaster’s phone immediately. 

Her signal bounced off at least thirty towers and was auto-voice modulated, same as the webmaster. Katara didn’t know much about her, other than it was a ‘her’. She knew that her old codename had been The Acrobat until she’d chosen to give up and take over as the one who ran this whole thing. Katara also knew she was unreasonably cheerful and was the type to probably frequent yoga classes and gem-stone healing sorts of stores. So, basically, the least likely person to be running an underground murder ring. 

“I thought you reported no issues with your case,” The Acrobat answered in one ring.

“There wasn’t,” Katara said curtly. Both of their times were far too valuable to spend small talking, “The case involving the English Prime Minister and the goat; was that taken?” 

“Yes.” 

Katara mentally flipped through the faceless profiles. When you got to a certain level of prestige, you sorta started getting to know your contemporaries. Even if only by their username. A sort of respect, she decided, to acknowledge those that could do your job for you, if it so came to it.

Immediately, Katara mentally waved away all the men, as well as the women she knew unquestionably could not do this task. 

The pool didn’t leave her many options. Besides, just because these girls could don’t mean they would have. Still, she considered each one.

There was The Blind Bandit, real name Toph Bei Fong. She was the only one Katara knew in person. She was Katara’s best friend and the one who had gotten her into this business. Katara was also the only person in this circle, including The Acrobat, who knew that Toph was actually a girl and not a boy.  It wasn’t her. Toph’s jobs were thief and muscle, she wasn’t great at the stealth ones. It just wasn’t her style. Plus, Toph was currently on her honeymoon...with Katara’s brother. So yeah, not Toph. 

There was Knives. From all the gossip, she was sullen and deadly and preferred the usage of flying metal objects. She mostly took out so-called revolutionaries and didn’t usually touch politicians or upper-class members. Most likely not her either. 

Smellerbee; the exact opposite of Knives. Liked to kill politicians, but Katara knew she was currently on a long-con with her usual partner, Longshot, somewhere in Canada. It had been expected to take six months, and they were only two and a half in. So, probably not her. 

Geisha may have taken it, though she usually wasn’t one for violence. Well, she was, but not the bloody, kill someone in cold-blood violence. She might have offed someone once or twice, but they probably really deserved it. She preferred protection details. 

Dark Era had all the necessary skills to pull it off, but she strictly was in the business of finding people, not making them vanish. 

Luna had the resources, but she like Geisha wasn’t about blood and guts. She was best used to smuggle out intel. Katara always assumed she was unassuming or easily blended in, or at the very least looked like someone who wasn’t about to rob you, and then did. 

The Puppet Master, who had trained Katara via the internet, might have...but she’d retired last year. Katara was pretty sure she was sipping Mai Tai’s somewhere, god bless her soul.

Katara wracked her brain to try to figure out who could have taken this. All of this filing and vetoing took maybe three seconds of a pause. 

The only person and Katara meant only, that Katara could have really seen having taken this job was The Phoenix. And, yeah, it would have fit. But The Phoenix had been caught three years ago and locked up for life, without parole, in a high-security prison. The only way that girl was getting out was in a body bag, dead as dirt. Katara had it on good authority she was still there too...the world was simply a better place with that girl locked away. Katara checked often. 

Like a bolt of lightning, it hit Katara. She cussed. 

It hadn’t been a girl, it had been a boy. One, actually, that was the equivalent of a thorn dipped in arsenic in her side ever since he’d joined. 

“It was The Blue Spirit, wasn’t it?” She asked. 

There’d been whispers that the Phoenix and the Blue Spirit were connected. Some said as twins. Others said just as siblings. The rare few said lovers, but Katara didn’t buy that one. 

“Painted Lady, you know I can’t tell you,” The Acrobat sighed. However, the slight pause and the quiver of her voice had been enough. 

“That fucker.” Katara snapped, ending the call abruptly. 

She took a low-hanging fruit of a job, something simple and non-threatening, stewing about it the whole night. In the three years that The Blue Spirit had been active, he’d snatched up more jobs than anyone else from under Katara’s nose. Whoever this idiot was, Katara had never so vehemently hated a fellow merc. 

XXxxXX

There was something Katara had been told many times she was not good at; letting go of grudges. Katara was voted, back in High School, most likely to simmer over something minor for a month. She was also voted most likely to end up in Congress, but hey, sometimes High School kids are stupid.

Though they weren’t too far off. As a kid, Katara had held high-reaching fantasies about going out and changing the world. Becoming the first female president. Finding a cure for cancer. Saving thousands of children in Uganda. That sort of thing.

She would argue she wasn’t too far off the mark. Most of the time, the people she took out were pretty awful people. It was unorthodox, but Katara felt- on the whole- she was still making the world a better place.

But she digressed; point being, Katara was willing to hold this grudge against The Blue Spirit for years if she had to. And that grudge? It only grew. 

Katara found herself in a mini-battle with this mysterious Blue Spirit, either attempting to grasp onto assignments before he could or checking back into her frustrations to see her favorite ones gone. Did this guy even know what he’d evoked? Did he realize that Katara was more or less out to piss him off, or was he wholly unaware? 

If he wasn’t already, Katara was going to make it aware.

Was this the smartest move, teasing another very good mercenary? No, likely not. Katara was super intelligent, right up until the point you insulted her. After that, Katara would burn down any towns if she thought it would help her win. 

Toph, once she returned from her small break, had no words of wisdom. The Blue Spirit wasn’t taking her sorts of jobs anyway, and she frankly thought Katara had lost it. When she did offer advice, it wasn’t very good.

“Maybe you just need to sleep with him, not paralyze him or whatever you want to do.” 

Katara was affronted on many levels.

“I’m not trying to...I don’t want to…” She startled, “Never mind. And god, he infuriates me! Why would I want to sleep with him?” 

“I think I see some sexual tension.” 

“You can’t see anything,” Katara muttered sourly. 

“Well I can feel it then,” Toph had crossed her arms, “Look. This little thing you two are doing around each other- you see he takes one of your jobs in Bosnia, you take a job in Bosnia. You take a job in Kent, he takes a job in Kent- hasn’t worked yet. But when it does, there are going to be two outcomes. A) you obliterate each other. B) ya fuck each other. Feel?” She’d said. 

Katara had grumped, and to prove a point, hadn’t taken the job in Cape Hope she’d been about to take, precisely because The Blue Spirit had beat her to a ‘quadruple break’ (two broken legs, two broken arms) from a dude in the region who owed someone money. Instead, she took a rather boring job in Ibiza stealing a fancy sports car. 

She could only resist the urge to hunt him down for so long, however. It was hardly a week after Toph’s little talk with her that Katara was back, itching to find a way to cross paths with him somehow and ask a very frank ‘What the hell’? Who did he think he was? What right? Katara had been in this eight years, so how dare he stroll in and only after three years have the skill set to be taking jobs that were rightfully hers? It was a matter of principle, it was! 

XXxxXX

Things came together in Rome. 

Katara had just finished up an assignment up in Germany, in which she had been gathering intel about some money laundering business for a competing money laundering business. She’d hardly gotten back to her hotel when her phone binged, indicating a new job posting. 

When she went to click, she noticed it wasn’t on the generic posting board. Instead, it was DM’d to her in-app inbox right from The Acrobat. 

You in? The message read, They asked for you specifically. 

This, in itself, wasn’t unusual. Katara was pretty well-known in her circle of work. About every three months, a person hearing about her services from a second-cousin or a drunk boss would ask her to handle things, cutting through all the tape of the ‘first come, first claimed’ of the messaging board. They also usually paid a premium to get their chosen pick, but it always made Katara feel gleeful to receive this. It made anyone feel nice to feel wanted in your chosen profession.

This was right up her alley. She was being asked to infiltrate a bougie Italian Gala premiere party, locate a target, steal a watch on his wrist that apparently had sensitive and secret information hidden within, kill him, and then do a drop with the watch. None of it was difficult. Precise, yes, but not difficult. At least not to Katara. 

Plus, this dude was offering mad money for the completion. There was also a ‘extra’ that she could possibly get, usually given out by the requester if mercenaries got the job done quickly, quietly, and covertly. Katara almost always managed to snag those. With this job, she could probably afford to take the rest of the summer off to spend time with family somewhere warm and sunny. 

As she punched the ‘accept’ button, there was a secondary glee rising inside of her, one that took her over. She had been specifically asked to do this. The Blue Spirit wouldn’t even come close to this. 

XXxxXX

Katara hopped the next train down to Italy. She arrived in town twelve days before the function, a little early for her. Usually, for big assignments, she got there around a week before. Give or take.

No matter, Italy was always a joy for Katara to visit. This time, though, she was extremely focused. She got a hotel near the Hotel de Russie, where the gala was taking place. Never get a room at the same place as your mark. Rookie mistake. 

She picked up a cheap-looking dress from one of the local markets; floor-length, deep blue, and plunging. She also bought a bag full of shimmering beads and sequins. She spent the next two days hand sewing them all up and down the fabric while watching Gossip Girl on Netflix. She made a five euro dress look like a million Euro dress.

One of the things she’d picked up in her years. Katara picked up a lot of things; it came with the job. By adding a couple of pieces of glimmer, it was amazing how you could make even the most fashion-aware think you got that handmade for you. That, and wearing it confidently. 

Katara has often considered that if life had been different, with her aptitude for this and how quickly she can pick up skills and languages, she may have been a fair spy or FBI agent. She thinks that what she does now isn’t too far away from those jobs...except not quite as...well, good. It’s like that stupid alignment chart for D&D her brother Sokka always talked about...she figured she was basically Chaotic Neutral, to be frank. 

With the dress done, Katara wandered around the hotel, canvassing. Not as herself, duh. She threw on a short blonde bob, some oversized eyeglasses, and an ensemble that swallowed her. Something that would obscure her whole being. 

She walked down the hall that the party would take place, mapped out exits, and managed to sneak up into a couple of the suites that the Ritzy-rich people would be staying for the night. Back at her hotel, she read and reread and reread the mission, until she could memorize the exact words. She made sure she had everything she would need. 

Then, on her fourth night, she went to the Gala hotel’s bar for a drink. In her experience, bartenders and waitresses were the best sources of insider knowledge. Give anyone the chance to vent about their work, and they might take it. And half the time, they told Katara exactly what she needed to hear; what co-workers were sleeping together, where they took their breaks, what boss was riling them up lately...while it all might seem innocuous to them, it was anything but to Katara. 

She didn’t dress up or down, she simply came. Just another bar patron, just another tourist. 

She surveyed the bar as soon as she came in. In the bar area, six other people. Three British tourists in a corner, one very drunk American (probably 19 or so, legal in Italy but not so much in America, thus her drunkness), one sad looking local Italian (from the way he was playing with a worn wedding band, she guessed someone had just cheated), and one patron she couldn't tell, but damn he was attractive.

She took a second to admire, but had to move on. She was here for a job. She wasn’t opposed to little flings, but that’s often as far as she let them get. She couldn’t afford anything else. 

At the bar, Katara put on a bubbly, gregarious persona and began her work.

Three glasses of wine in (When in Rome, right?), a fourth came sliding down the table to her.

“It’s from me.” 

The handsome man she’d clocked right away. His voice was low, rough. It sent shivers down her spine. She looked up; dark, unruly hair hanging into his face, nearly obscuring the most beautiful eyes Katara had ever seen. Nearly...golden. A casual smile, but a light blush. Quietly endearing, almost shy. His suit was expensive. He was probably a business traveler, for sure not a local. About her age, maybe a handful of years older. Someone that Katara could absolutely lose herself in for the night.

She’d gotten enough from the barkeep to allow herself this enjoyment. 

“Well,” Katara said, lifting the glass, “I accept. But I’m sorta a feminist. Therefore, can I buy you a drink?” 

When he flashed a smile, something in her stomach crawled with need, “With pleasure.” 

A couple more glasses of red, lots of giggling and laughter, and one possibly bad decision later, Katara was climbing the sexy stranger like a tree. More than a smidgen drunk off the best that Italy had to offer, Katara found herself in an Air-BnB a corner away from the hotel, moaning and gasping and getting lost within Mr. Mysterious' eyes. He told her his name was Dante, which Katara wasn’t sure if she 100% believed. It was fine, since she’d given him a fake name too, Mae. She almost never used real names anymore, and if it weren’t for Toph or Sokka continually calling her such things, she may have shed it a long time ago. 

It was an entirely pleasurable night. It loosened her up and relaxed her for her big upcoming mission. It was clear on both their parts neither were looking for anything serious or lasting, so in the morning Katara left expecting to never run into ‘Dante’ again. 

XXxxXX

The moments in between that night and the night of the Gala were spent hard-core preparing. Katara had to get into the ball somehow, since it was invitation only. She had already decided on a guest. Lots went the spy-movie typical worker route, which Katara thought was dull and uninspired. Doing that didn’t give anyone much mobility; if your ‘boss’ caught you not working and trying to poison a dude instead, you’d be lucky if you weren’t just thrown to the curb, if not handed over to the police. No, no. Once again, amateurs. 

She just had to steal the identity of someone long enough to get into the building. Scrolling through the list of invitees, Katara found a woman about her size and skin tone, about four years her senior. She had strawberry blonde hair, however, but that wasn’t a big deal. Someone far away from her natural hues only worked in her favor. When things went sideways, and they were looking for the killer, she could take off a light hair in a totally different cut for her natural roots, and bam. Few would even look at her. 

With a semi-cheap wig, a couple of bottles of hair dye from the corner store, and some paint, Katara passed for the identity she was taking. 

She was one of the first few to arrive. Didn’t want to get there to have her chosen lady already having checked in. She flashed a fake-ID, gave her best thousand-watt smile, and was waved in. It was amazing how easily duped people were. Some liked to think they were smarter than that. Katara wholeheartedly disagrees.

Once inside, Katara had her secondary identity at the ready. 

No longer needing to give an important name to gain access, she became Sofia Bianchi. Her goal was to blend in, become forgettable. Her dress, which would have turned heads elsewhere, was hardly the most ostentatious if even a little dull. Her make-up was just enough to look expensive. Her name was utterly common. She spoke with a perfect Italian accent and, if need be, flawless language skills. There was hardly anything less exciting than an Italian woman in Italy. She didn’t drink at all, though she made it look like she was politely sipping on champagne. She was quiet and unassuming, talked when spoken to. Not too funny, not too weird. Just enough so that as soon as they walked away, Katara was all but forgotten in their minds. 

As she was chatting up some trust-fund kid who thought he might be able to get lucky with her tonight, Katara nearly spit out her drink.

She was consistently scanning the room, waiting for her mark to appear. He was going to be well-dressed, probably fawning over girls far too young for him, and making a scene. Since none of this had happened, Katara assumed he hadn’t arrived yet. She recognized a lot of the guests here because of her furious studying, but one stuck out and nearly caused her to choke. 

Dante. Or, whatever the hell his name was.

“Excuse me, do you know who that is?” Katara asked, pointing to Dante. 

“I think that’s General Lee, or something,” The boy talking to her scratched his head, “Some war somebody. Dunno.” 

Katara bit down on her lip hard. As long as they didn’t talk, this wouldn’t put a dent in her plans too badly. Who would have known he’d be important enough to actually get an invite to this? Typical. Just her luck.

She tried to give Dante/Lee/Mr. Gold Eyes a wide berth the entire night. 

Her mark appeared fashionably late, already very drunk, a girl under each arm. Katara didn’t know what of importance was in that watch, and frankly, she didn't care. She wasn’t the type that was going to try to do something stupid, like hold her client’s request hostage, try to get more money out of this. That’s how assassins were killed by other hired assassins. Nope, safer to just do the damn job and get paid, move onto the next one. 

She had a feeling that she could use his grossness to her advantage. 

She didn’t go up to him. Instead, she made sure she was in his sight-line and would look shyly his way every couple seconds, forcing a blush on her cheeks. She was always aware of everyone else in the room, all the staff and Dante. Even if she was focused on the mark, she was prepared for anything.

Dante was talking with him. Damn it. What could they possibly be talking about? 

Luckily, her feminine charm distracted her mark enough to cause him to pat Dante on the back, before abandoning him. He sat in a chair close to the bar area in the gardens, but not right next to her. Katara continued to act like an innocent doe-eyed virgin, just incredibly caught up with the attractiveness of this man. She was, she wanted to remind everyone, a very good actress. 

Soon enough, she’d reeled him in. 

From where they were sitting, they were just outside of the camera shot. She wouldn’t appear on any video surveillance tonight. 

“Can I buy the pretty lady a drink?” He asked in very broken, very bad Italian. 

“I speak English, sir,” She whispered, giggling and seeming totally besotted. 

“Oh, thank god,” He breathed, “Your accent is very good, you know.” 

“I learned from the best,” Katara said, putting that ‘sexy’ lit on her Italian that she was sure would drive him wild, “I, uh, well…” 

“Look, doll,” He put his hand on her thigh. Ugg, gross, “My time is important, so small talk isn't my thing. I know you’ve been watching me.” 

Katara pretended to seem mortified. 

“It’s cute, hun,” He lifted her chin, “So...are you…?” He raised an eyebrow meaningfully. 

“My boyfriend is in the crowd, so I can’t go with you right now. But meet me in my room in twenty. Here’s the card. Don’t make it obvious you're leaving right now.” 

The card, which Katara had stolen off a pair of drunk patrons who she knew with certainty were still in the garden party. The room number was written in sharpie on the top of the plastic card. Katara wiggled it out of the sleeve, careful not to touch the actual card. No fingerprints would be found. 

“I’ll be waiting, kitten.” 

“Uhm, also,” Katara gulped looking down, “I just want to say, well, it’s my first time...so…”

He leaned in close, his breath noxious, “Oh, I’ll love you right, bunny.” 

Yeah, she had him. What a fucking perv. For sure old enough to be her father, if not her grandfather. Also, if Katara was taking a shot for every gag-worthy nickname he used, she’d be hammered. Did he think any of that actually worked on girls? Yuck. 

She watched him weave back through the crowd, rubbing elbows with a few chums as he stumbled to the hotel lobby. Katara waited, slipping along the edges, making sure not to step into any of the areas the cameras were on. 

By the time she killed him in someone else’s room, got the watch, and made her getaway, chances are it would be hours before anyone noticed anything. By that time, Katara would be extremely richer and on her way back to her home base of a quaint and secluded house in Alaska. 

Once out of the party, Katara changed into a black ensemble. Not any of that ridiculous leather catsuit things on movies. No, this was simply a good old pair of black yoga pants and a black tank top. Easy to move around in, easy to disappear into the night in. 

She zipped her balled up dress and wig into the suitcase of a couple who were entirely unaware. 

She checked her tool kit, which had her chosen poison. Fast-acting, extremely hard to detect. For safety, she had a knife too, but she rarely needed it. In the mirror of the elevator, she looked at her reflection, grinning at the bright lipstick still on her face.

The Painted Lady, she thought with a sly grin to herself, was about to strike again. 

The door to room 1455 was already slightly ajar, waiting for her. She nudged the door open with her shoulder, about to raise her voice to a sexy but unsure purr when a dark figure caused her breath to catch.

Katara slammed the door closed behind her.

“What are you doing here?” The exclamations escaped them at the same time. 

“Me?” Katara sputtered at the figure, “I was about to have sex with him! What are you?” 

Dante gave her one look up and down, “Yeah, I don’t believe that for a second. Not like that, you aren’t.” 

Katara stalked up to him. He was no longer wearing his military uniform, but something scarily close to her own getup. It was only then she noticed a couple other key pieces of information; the mark, slumped unconscious on the ground and currently loosely tied up in his own clothes, a watch dangling from Dante’s fingers, and the open window that led to a porch that was good for a getaway, as Katara had specifically planned. Then, she recalled a tattoo she’d seen on him when they’d been doing the dirty. A little blue dragon mask. At the time, she’d hardly thought anything of it. But now…

“You're fucking kidding me.” 

Dante’s whole demeanor changed. In the time she was analyzing him, he’d been doing the same to her. 

“I take it you’re The Painted Lady?” He asked, his voice even, deadly, and almost sexy. No, dammit, not sexy. Irritating. 

“Blue Spirit.” Katara spat back, crossing her arms, “What the hell are you doing here. I accepted this. They asked for me .” She held out her hand, “If you please.” 

The Blue Spirit’s face shifted into utter confusion. And, well, Katara knew an act when she saw one. This...this wasn’t one. He was actually confused about something. 

“No, they asked for me. You’re the one who’s not supposed to be here.” He said through gritted teeth. 

“Well, that’s obviously a lie!” Katara fished her phone out, “Look!” 

The Blue Spirit was doing the same. 

“And here I thought you’d given me the perfect opportunity. I mean, I was going to feel bad when you came and saw your lover murdered,” The Blue Spirit was almost laughing. Like this was funny. It wasn’t. Ass. 

They exchanged phones. 

The message had been sent to The Blue Spirit the same time it had been sent to Katara.

“Something’s fishy here,” Katara announced.

Behind them, their mark groaned. Katara kicked his head, knocking him out again. Usually, it would be in and out, but they needed to unravel this. 

God, she couldn’t believe she’d slept with him! Her worst nemesis! Oh, dammit...Toph was going to be insufferable if she ever found out. Did it count that Katara had no idea who he was? It had probably been the same for him.

He’d been at the bar doing the same she had. She was almost irritated that he was equally as intelligent about this whole thing. Which, made sense. Granted, but she still hated it. 

“No shit,” The Blue Spirit groaned, pinching his nose. 

He took back his phone and typed a familiar number. Ah, yes, The Acrobat. She had to get to the bottom of this with them. Katara wasn’t giving up that money any time soon. Especially if it was some system glitch, but she knew The Acrobat better than that. 

“Yello?” 

“Blue Spirit here,” He rasped into the phone, a quiet fury simmering beneath the surface. He side-glanced to Katara. There were frustration and anger in his eyes, but also...lust? “With the Painted Lady.” 

“Hello,” Katara said, voice clipped.

There was a pregnant silence on the other end of the phone, and then a long, “Oooohhhhh.” 

“Look, start talking. This is my job, right? Mine. I’m getting that money. I took it first so-,” 

“You took it first! Acro, please tell this lady here’s she’s obviously crazy,” Blue Spirit snapped over her talking, holding the phone high above her. Darn it all, he was so tall. 

“Look, look,” The Acrobat was squeaking, but it was all but drowned out by the pair’s incessant bickering. Some things were said. Things Katara maybe wasn’t proud of, but damn, it felt good to say it. 

“You have been the biggest pain in my side in months! You are a fucking menace. How dare you take jobs that are rightfully mine! You have some nerve, pal!” Katara poked his chest with an accusing finger. 

“Pal? Me? It’s you who’s the bloody worst! It all started when you took that job a year ago!” 

“You weren’t even on my radar a year ago,” Katara spit out, “You were inconsequential. I don’t even know what you’re talking about.” 

“Hah. Likely. You remember the gig in Japan? With the Naval officer?” 

Katara blinked at him hard, “Commander Zhao? I took that over when the original merc dropped out. It was just a simple assassination.” 

“It was mine! He was my person to get revenge on, you idiot! Why do you think Knives dropped it? She was absolutely qualified!” The Blue Spirit snarled, “I was supposed to be the one to kill him, me.” 

“Well, how the fuck was I supposed to magically know that? It popped up, so what the hell, I took it!” Katara threw up her hands, “So you’re saying that you’ve been snatching up my jobs for upwards of fourteen months over me slighting you because you perceived I was somehow making a statement? That I did that just to piss you off? Buddy, get over yourself.” 

“I could say the same for you.” The Blue Spirit sneered, “Your jobs? They’re just jobs. You think you’re so talented. No one can reach you on your pedestal you’ve built to high heaven. You’re nothing special, just a sociopath.” 

Katara’s jaw hung with fury. She slapped him hard across the face. The Blue Spirit punched her. She punched back. They were full on wrestling on the floor, and maybe inches away from a heated kiss when-

“You two! Silence! Stop it!” 

Both quieted immediately from the stern commandment over the phone. Katara had never heard her raise her voice. From The Blue Spirit’s eyes, it was clear he hadn’t either. 

“Are you two going to shut up for like five mins?” She asked, aggravated. Both gave grumpy agreements. 

“Okay. So, this guy contacted me and asked for the two best mercs on my team. Really wanted to be assured that this job would get done. I told him that was silly, since were’ the best. Didn’t care. Wanted that nice feeling of knowing all ends were covered. Said he’d pay you both the same, the amount I quoted each of you, just for being there and attempting. Whoever actually finished the job and dropped the watch- that’s why you had to write your handle initials on the bag- would be the one to get the bonus. Both of you are getting paid, one is just getting...extra.” She said this all in one big breath, “And, well, you two are the best. No question.” 

The mark started to groggily wake up in the background.

“What’s...that’s...you…” He pointed to Katara, eyes swimming. 

“Shut up,” Katara growled to him, sighing and shaking her head. 

“Woah, what’s going on?”

“Be quiet,” The Blue Spirit said. The mark started to make more distress noises, so Katara reached for something to tie him up with the same time that THe Blue Spirit went for some duct tape. They worked together to shove him into a closet. At least until this whole kerfuffle was figured out. 

“I take it your name isn’t Dante?” Katara asked. 

“Just like I doubt yours is Mae.” 

The Blue Spirit hung up the phone and began to pace furiously. The threw a couple of super nice glasses out the window, breaking them. Somehow, angry outbursts suit him. Katara sat on the bed, clutching her shoulders, weighing her choices.

The smart move would be to walk away, let him finish. She was out of any implication if this ever blew up in their faces, The Blue Spirit was the one who had actually done the deed, and she still got paid. It wasn’t with the bonus, but she hadn’t been calculating that in any way. Noting lost, only gained. 

Too bad Katara was terribly intrigued and never very good of just letting things go. 

“Are you really related to The Phoenix?” She finally asked, almost timidly.

The Blue Spirit jumped, like out of all the questions, that was the least that he expected. 

Eventually, he stopped pacing and just lay down on the floor, spread out. 

“Yeah. My younger sister.” 

Katara nodded, thinking hard, “I heard she was like a...an heiress or something. Maybe I’m wrong.” 

“You’re not.” He replied, his voice strangely soft. 

“Look, you’re probably swimming in money. You might do this because you’re bored or have a violent streak. Who knows. Me, I need this to survive.” 

The Blue Spirit looked at her. His eyes were so golden, so deep. 

“So you assume. I have nothing either though,” He gave a nearly sad smile, “I’m the one that helped get her caught. Soon as my dad found out? Well, I was told I had no honor and burned out of the will. Literally. I didn’t share a lot with my sister, except this skillset.” He said, “Besides, you’re the highest rated merc on there. By this point, you have to be rolling with money.” 

Ok, also true. Katara was petty damn well-off at this point. Still. 

“What are we going to do?” 

“We can’t stay here much longer.” It was obvious, even as he said it. The real owners of the room could come back at any point. 

“We just need to get the damn watch and make the drop.” Katara huffed, “I don’t even care about the bonus anymore. I just want to…” She wasn’t sure what she wanted to do. Get out of here? Go home? Start another job? Sleep with him again? All of the above? 

“How were you going to…” 

Katara showed The Blue Spirit her pack of poison. He nodded approvingly. He showed a pair of curved swords. So sharp she was sure it would cut the hair off her arm cleanly. Defiantly flashier than her method, but she liked it. It was a statement. 

“Let’s split it.” Katara wasn’t sure what possessed her to say this, but once it was out there, it was out there, “Let’s just finish this damn thing. I hold him, you kill him. Or vice versa. We make the drop. Whoever puts the initial on there tells The Acrobat to split the bonus with the other. We both should have been out of here ages ago.” 

The Blue Spirit kicked the closet door open. The mark spilled onto the floor, furiously making noise beneath the mouth gag. Katara felt no sympathy for this man about to die before her. Yes, the world- and women of it- would feel a little better with him gone. And, she hoped whatever lay within the watch didn’t cause more problems. 

Disposing of his body in the bathtub didn’t take much time. He died quickly, cleanly. Just as they always did. They skirted out of the window, down the patio, climbing the ivy and jumping to the streets below, far away from the happy Gala lights shining behind them. 

At the back of the Trevi Fountain, The Blue Spirit thew the watch in. Katara watched it sink to the bottom, lower and lower. 

In unison, the pair of mercenaries clicked the ‘done’ button on their apps. They looked at each other. The Blue Spirit’s lip was split open and Katara’s cheekbone smarted. He reached a finger out, ghosting over where he’d landed a good punch on her.

“It’ll bruise,” He murmured, “Look, I’m sorry.” 

“Yeah. My emotions got the best of me,” Katara agreed. Around him, that seemed to be a recurring event. 

They held their eyes for just a second past normal. Katara blinked snapping out of it. She saluted him. But, she felt like she couldn’t leave it at that. 

“If it makes you feel better, he suffered,” She blurted, “Zhao. I might have not made it so cleanly. There wasn’t any time for someone to save him, so he bled out, right there...in immense pain. He was a monster.” 

The Blue Spirit’s eyes were sad, but almost brighter at this, “Good. He deserved every moment writhing in hell. It does. He’s gone now, but, yeah, that helps.” 

Katara turned. The Blue Spirit grasped her wrist, pulling her back toward him. His lips captured hers in a heated battle for dominance, needy and frustrated and confused all at the same time. Katara tugged on the nape of his neck, trying to swallow him. She licked over where she hurt his lips, swallowing the taste of his blood as his hands caressed over her cheek. 

They broke away like they had been electrocuted. 

“What’s the chance you tell me your real name?” Katara asked, heart pounding. 

“You’re smart,” The Blue Spirit said, backing away, “I’m sure you’ll figure it out, eventually.” 

“When I do, I’ll come find you,” Katara said, “That’s both a threat and a promise.” She added, a breathless rumble to her tone, teasing. He grinned, realizing this. 

The Blue Spirit’s eyes gleamed, “Not if I find out your name first.”