Tag Archives: Kris Norris

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Today's photo fic takes place in the world of my poor neglected serial "Your Lies".


I sat in the coffee shop, ignoring the buzzing of my phone—been doing that since the conversation with Mom earlier. When I’d told her I wasn’t going to stop seeing Maddock Roberts, that he wasn’t the enemy. Not the way Mom thought he was. Sure, his family embodied the anti-magic movement, but Maddock wasn’t like that. Yeah, when we’d met, he was leading anti-magic rallies on campus and seemed to think along the same lines as his parents, but that had changed. He listened to what I said, what my friends said. He wasn’t unreasonable.

Though he didn’t know I was a magic user. While I didn’t think he was as bad as his family or his friends, I wasn’t at the point I’d out myself that way. I wasn’t stupid. Despite what Mom thought.

I understood where she was coming from. She was worried. I totally got that. But what she was doing—calling and texting constantly to tell me I need to come home, calling Kyle so he was constantly harassing me too. It was infuriating. The last straw though? Finding out she had someone basically spying on me and reporting back to her. This morning was the first time I’d talked to Mom in a week after finding out that little tidbit. And the worst part? She wasn’t even sorry. Not even a little. Just dove right back into how unsafe it was on campus, especially with Maddock in the picture. I’d hung up on her. Felt a little guilty about that—until she kept calling and texting, and within an hour, Kyle was doing the same.

“Hey.”

I jolted and felt my face heat as I met Maddock’s clear green gaze. Shit, I’d lost complete track of time and been too caught up in my thoughts to notice when he’d walked in.

“Hi,” I said, cursing the breathlessness of my voice—though it was a regular occurrence.

Whenever I saw him, the emotions I felt for him were like a punch in the gut. Not to mention my magic swelling, practically reaching for him every time he was near. It was why I wasn’t willing to give this—give him—up with without a fight. Even if a small part of me could concede this was likely going to end poorly…especially when he found out about me. Did that make me naïve? Mom and Kyle would say yes, obviously. But I didn’t think so—not when I was prepared for that possibility. Not when I was going to protect myself for the eventuality that he was going to know that I was the thing his family hated, the very thing he spent his whole life fearing and speaking out against.

“Ready to take off?” He frowned when my phone skittered across the tabletop, even more so when I hit ignore and shoved it into my pocket.

“Yep.” I snagged my backpack, slinging it over my shoulder as I stood.

He grabbed my hand, tangling our fingers, and together, we walked out of the café into the cool night.

“So, still not talking to your mom?” he said softly, after we’d gone a few blocks toward campus.

I sighed. He knew I was upset with her. Knew it kind of had to do with him. Not the full extent of it, of course—I’d let him assume that it was because we were Sympathizers while his family was very vocal in the anti-magic movement.

“I talked to her this morning,” I admitted. “She just didn’t like what I had to say.”

“I don’t like being the cause of problems between you and your mom.”

“You’re not. Really,” I said quickly when he opened his mouth to protest. “She doesn’t even know you, so it’s not you. She isn’t happy she can no longer control what I do. That’s what it comes down.”

He hummed, lips turned down, and squeezed my hand. The hairs on the back of neck suddenly stood on end, and an energy I didn’t recognize slid along my skin. I looked over my shoulder and saw a young woman about my age, with long dark hair, dressed all in black, walking behind us, a cell to her ear. She spoke in a low tone, but now I was aware, I caught a few words—yes, with him…will see where they…will keep you updated—and anger rose swiftly, to the point I nearly gagged on it. I came to an abrupt stop and letting go of Maddock’s hand, spun around.

The woman stopped, too, just as she was pocketing her phone. She stared, wide-eyed at me, mouth hanging open slightly.

“I told her to call you off,” I bit out, shoving down the power that snapped inside me, aching to get out of the confines of my skin.

“What?”

I rolled my eyes at the forced smile and fake confusion. “Since she’s not getting the message, I’ll tell you. No more spying for my mother. Back the fuck off of me. If I see you again…”

I let the implied threat hang in the air, not willing to say more with Maddock standing right there. And honestly, I didn’t exactly know what I would do but it wasn’t going to be pretty, damn it!

The confusion—which didn’t look so fake anymore—clouded her face for a moment longer then cleared.

Before she could speak again, though, Maddock took several steps forward. “Get the—” And nearly fell back onto his ass when she had no problems revealing her power on the dark, nearly deserted street.

The intense energy radiated off her, sparking off her open palms, lifting her hair wildly. My magic nearly suffocated, pushing out, out, out. Wanting to answer the blatant show, desperate to protect. Protect the man beside me with a desperation I’d never felt.

“Don’t threaten me, Maddock Roberts,” she sneered. “I would have no problem eliminating the problem you pose to us. It would be easier than you could imagine.”

I moved forward, placing myself between them, staring into the woman’s dark eyes. “It would be harder than you imagine.”

“You would align yourself with him? He would see all of us caged like animals!”

“You don’t know him,” I shot back. “Leave now.”

In a blink, she pulled her magic back and straightened to full height. “You’re going to regret this, Delia,” she said.

I frowned at her words, at her tone. It was a warning, yes, but she didn’t sound threatening. She sounded…sad, resigned.

“You don’t know him either,” she continued. “His family. This is going to end badly—for you more than any of us. He can’t be trusted.”

I shook my head, almost violently. “You’re wrong. And you can tell my mother that.”

She chuckled hollowly, backing up a few steps. “Don’t know your mother, but if she’s trying to stop this,” she gestured between Maddock and myself, “she’s smart, and you should listen to her. Listen to Kyle. Choose who you associate with more care, before it’s too late.”

With that, she turned and walked away.

“Kyle? He sent you?” I called after her. I got no answer, except a quick glance as she turned a corner out of sight.

“Delia?” Maddock moved in front of me and cupped my face in his large hands, dipping his head to catch my gaze. “Well, that was…something. Haven’t been confronted by a magic user like that before and— Shit, you’re shaking, baby.”

“I’m okay,” I lied, eyes burning, vision blurring.

“Who’s Kyle?” he asked quietly, fingers catching the stupid tears I couldn’t hold back.

“A friend. My…my best friend.” I swallowed past the lump growing in my throat. “At least I thought he was.”

“He’s a magic user. Like her.” He jerked his head in the direction the woman had disappeared. When I didn’t answer immediately, he smiled and brushed his thumb along my bottom lip. “It didn’t take me long to figure out someone close to you had to be a magic user—you’re so dedicated, so passionate about protecting them. It’s clear that it’s not just a cause for you. It’s personal.”

Still unable to speak, because the truth—like my magic—was so close to the surface, I was terrified all of it would come spilling out, I just nodded.

“It’s going to be all right.” He released his hold on my face and wrapped his arms around me.

I gave a strangled laugh as I returned the embrace and leaned into him. Into his warmth and strength.

“It will be,” he insisted, running his palm over the back of my head, fingers massaging my scalp. “We’ll make it all right. You and me. Because she was wrong—you do know me, and I would never do anything to hurt you.” He pulled back and looked me in the eye. “You know that, right?”

“I do,” I whispered then pushed up to kiss his tempting mouth. And I did. I knew he wouldn’t do anything to hurt me—as he knew me now.

 


Bronwyn Green | Deelylah Mullin | Gwendolyn Cease | Kris Norris | Siobhan Muir

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Today's topic is kind of a fun one - An app mysteriously appears on your phone and does something amazing. What does it do?

join me on a completely ridiculous and unrealistic journey, my friends, as I write this at 3am after driving hours and hours...because I can't plan to save my life lately and did not do this ahead of time. (And tap it out on my phone while curled up on my mama's couch because I didn't bring my computer with...again with the inability to effectively plan LOL)

My mysterious app... What I need is an app that is just a big old pause button. That's it. A pause button that just stops everything around me. Just for a short time - even just a minute - so I can breathe. Just freaking breathe. I need that so badly right now.

Looking forward to seeing what the others choose for their mysterious apps!

Bronwyn Green | Deelylah Mullen | Kris Norris

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Hi all. Today is a promptly penned post. I gave it a fair shake, I swear.  It's been all kinds of crazy here. The hubs is off on a long-ass business trip, I'm sick, and life, in general, with its regular brand of madness... But enough about that. Here's what came to me. The prompt will be in bold in the story.


"Hurry! Before Gran comes back!"

I glanced over my shoulder and glared at my little sister, Hattie, who was in the window, keeping a look out. Or at least that's what she was supposed to be doing. Instead, she was staring at me, clearly freaked out.

"Shhh. Keep watching, for crying out loud!"

Once she did that, I turned back to the bookshelf in front of me. Perched on the chair I'd dragged from the desk, I reached as I high as I could. Almost there... My fingers scrabbled along the spine of one of the books I was after. So close...

They were my mom's, and I just wanted to see. She had magic, just like Hattie and me. And there had to be something in them, something more than what Gran was teaching us. We weren't like kids in books who had no idea what they were - we were witches. Or magic-users, as Gran called us. We were meant to keep it secret from everyone else but here, in Gran's cottage, she was teaching us all about ourselves and the "great power and responsibility" we had. Or so she said.

Honestly, based on what we've learned so far, magic wasn't all it was cracked up to be. For example, there were 20 spells for making tea but none to save yourself from falling off a cliff. What was the point of it all then? How was dinking around like this supposed to be a responsiblity? I didn't get it. So, I thought if I could read Mom's journals and her books, maybe I could figure some of it. And...well, I missed her and Dad. I wasn't stupid or anything. I didn't think magic could bring them back or let me talk to them from the grave. But this could make me, and Hattie, feel closer to them. Even a little.

I was able to drag the slim book closer to the edge and grasp it fully. I pulled it down and cracked it open. My breath caught at the sight of my mom's handwriting on the pale pages. Before I had a chance to read anything, Hattie squealed.

"Cody! I see her car!"

I jumped off the chair - I'd get the other books later - and dragged it back to the desk. I heard the front door open, creaking on its hinges. Hattie stared at me, face pale, gray eyes wide.

"It's fine. Sit on the couch," I whispered, tucking the book into the loose waistband of my pants, the cover hard and cool against my belly. I yanked my t-shirt down to cover it.

My sister sat on the couch carefully and faced the TV, which was playing some ridiculous educational program neither of us had any interest in, but Gran thought was worthwhile. I ignored the guilt that weighted on me as I flopped down next to her. The book was our mom's - and by all rights, it was ours now that she was gone. And I wasn't a little kid anymore, no matter what Gran thought. I was ready to know more about magic - certain there had to be more.

"Sorry it took so long!" Gran exclaimed as she came into the room. "Mrs. Miller was feeling more ill than she let on, and I wanted to be sure she was all right before I left."

"S'okay," I mumbled.

"You must be starving." She dropped kisses on the tops of both of our heads before hurrying toward the kitchen. "I'll make some sandwiches."

As soon as she was out of sight, I sprang up. I looked down at Hattie, and she nodded. We'd promised to always look out for each other, and I knew she'd keep her mouth shut.

"We'll look at it tonight," I whispered, then ran out into the foyer and up the narrow stairs to my room. Heart pounding, I pulled out the book. Unable to resist, I opened it again and ran my fingers over the words - words Mom had written - and my eyes started stinging.

"Cody!"

I nearly fell over when Gran's shout traveled up the stairs.

"Yeah?" I yelled back.

"Come on down. You can practice the new tea spell you learned yesterday while I fix lunch."

I huffed a laugh then answered, "Be right down, Gran."

I shut the book and shoved it between my mattress and the boxspring. I knew this was the right thing. There had to be more to magic, more to me than making tea. And I was ready to learn it all.


Bronwyn Green | Deelylah MullinGwendolyn Cease | Kris Norris | Siobhan Muir

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Happy Wednesday!

Today we're talking about what we wished we'd learned earlier than we did.

There have been many lessons I've learned that I wish I'd've learned much earlier than I did, this right here...

...is probably the biggest lesson I've had to learn. And is, sadly, one I've had to relearn, again and again, because I seem to forget it all too easily.


Bronwyn Green | Deelylah Mullin | Gwendolyn Cease | Kris Norris

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Happy Monday! It's time for another flash fiction. This one inspired by "Ever the Same" by Rob Thomas.

I love this song. It's one of my favorites. I went into the world from my "Albion's Circle" series for this flash fic, and wrote a glimpse into what I feel is one of the most important relationships in that series. And it isn't one of the romantic relationships.

I have delved into this world in flash fic before, so if you'd like to see those, here are the links.

"Merlin's Cave"
"The Hammer's Coming Down"
"I Will Possess Your Heart"


~Arthur~

“Arthur.”

I looked up and found Anna standing in the doorway, hand braced on the wooden frame, looking as exhausted as I felt.

“If you’re busy—”

I snorted and pushed my chair away from the desk. “I was paying bills. Nothing exciting, and nothing that can’t wait. What do you need?”

Her lips quirked upward. “Always to the point and ready to jump in without even knowing what I’m about to ask for. I'd forgotten that about you.”

“Well, It’s been a while, hasn’t it? A very long while,” I pointed out, familiar sadness weighing heavily over me.

“Yes,” she murmured. “My memories are coming back—the ones from Camelot that were hidden…” She blew out a long breath. “But I’m realizing that time may have passed, but you’re the same Arthur. And you are exactly who I need, right now. Who he needs.”

I stepped closer. “Merlin?”

“He won’t listen to me.”

I nodded, knowing things were still strained between the couple. Mostly because of Merlin’s self-sacrificing tendencies, especially when it came to the woman before me.

“And another thing I know, that I remember,” she closed the distance between us and took my hands, “is when I can’t get through to him, you always can.”

“That didn’t happen often—you not getting through.” I squeezed her cold, trembling fingers.

“It’s different now.” She inhaled deeply, closing her eyes a moment against the tears that welled up. When her bright green gaze was on my again, she continued, “He doesn’t see me as he did then. He looks at me and all he sees is his failures. Not how I look at the past, Arthur,” she said quickly when I opened my mouth. “But he does. All those lives, never finding me or being able to save me… I’m not the same Annwyl from Camelot. Not to him. Not really. So, I can’t get through to him the way I did then. But you can.”

I sighed, not exactly agreeing with her, but I wasn’t prepared to argue it. Not when there was Merlin to deal with.

“He won’t sleep,” she said before I could ask what the issue was. “He’s pushing himself too hard. For me, for you, for the Circle. He’s trying to figure out a way to find Jamie, to stop Mordred, to,” her voice cracked slightly, “to make things okay between us. He isn’t giving himself time to rest, and he hasn’t…hasn’t taken the time to grieve at all, let alone properly.”

“I’ll talk to him,” I assured then kissed her cheek.

“Thank you,” she said as we parted.

I headed out into the hallway then toward the stairway up to the third floor—Merlin’s space. I stopped and looked back at her. “You need to rest, too.”

“I will, when I know he is.”

Shaking my head, I made my way upstairs. Merlin wasn’t exactly alone in the self-sacrificing department. Hell, that could be attributed to damn near everyone in this house. Myself included. Of course, it was sort of a requirement when you vowed to come back, life after life, to fight against things most people believed were fantasy.

I didn’t bother knocking on the door and strode into the large open room. Merlin was at his desk, old books open and covering the space in front of him. His dark hair stood on end, from his habit of shoving his hands through the strands in frustration, and he was pale as fuck, with dark circles underscoring his eyes. Eyes that he could hardly keep open. Stubborn bastard.

I walked over to his side and settled a hand on his shoulder.

He startled slightly and sleepy blue eyes peered up at me. “Arthur?”

“Come on. Bed.”

Shaking his head, he turned back to his books, pulling one closer. “In a bit. I just need to—”

“You need to sleep. You can look at this with fresh eyes in the morning.”

“Arthur, I don’t need a fucking keeper,” he snapped. “What I need is to work, to figure out what to do, what to…”

And there were those hands in the hair…

I shifted and, gripping the back of his chair, pulled it back. Then, I grasped his elbows and yanked him to his feet, ignoring his protests. I pulled him around the desk, past the shelves of books and the table weighted down with even more books, to the large bed at the opposite side of the room.

I pushed him to sit on the edge of the mattress then crouched down to untie his boots. He jerked away, and I grabbed him by the calf, scowling at him.

“Merlin!” He stilled, and I pulled off both boots, tossing them to the side before standing. “If you want to sleep in something other than what you have on…”

He glared up at me, and I returned the hard look, not giving an inch. He pushed to his feet, hands clenching and unclenching at this sides.

“Don’t need a keeper,” he said again.

“Not a keeper. A friend,” I murmured. “A friend who worries. A friend who loves you.”

His Adam’s apple bobbed as he swallowed audibly. “Low blow.”

I lifted a brow and waited. He muttered under his breath, and in a blink, he was standing there in a pair of pajama bottoms and threadbare t-shirt.

“Now, you’re just showing off.” I bent, reaching around him, and pulled back the duvet and sheet. “In.”

He looked as if he was going to argue again, but after a moment, his shoulders slumped as he sighed.

“In,” I repeated, a bit more gently.

Woodenly, he moved onto the bed, laying on his back and staring up at the ceiling. I toed off my shoes and stripped down to my boxers and t-shirt before climbing in beside him.

“Turn off the lights, Merlin,” I instructed.

“Arthur, please,” he whispered.

“Lights,” I said, adding a bit what Merlin called my “royalty” into my voice, knowing what needed to be done, knowing what he needed.

He blinked rapidly, then all the lights, save a small lamp across the room, went out. His breathing quickened and became harsher with each exhale. When his trembling shook the bed, I rolled onto my side and laid a hand on his chest, over his heart.

“It’s not all on you, Merlin. Stop carrying it all.”

His entire body jerked, and he shook his head frantically.

“You need to give some of it up. Give some of it to me, so you can rest. So you can be better and do what needs to be done. The weight of it all is crushing you, my friend.”

“You’re one to talk, sire.” The snarkiness of his words was completely ruined by the tears in his voice.

“Yes, and when the time comes—because it inevitably will—when I need to give up some of what smothers me, when I need to rest, you’ll be there to remind me, won’t you? It’s what we do.”

“I can’t sleep. Every time I close my eyes, I see…”

“What? What do you see?” I asked when he fell silent. Because it could be so many things. Living the lives we did, there was no shortage of horrors to relive in the quiet unguarded moments.

“Arthur," he said, voice small and quiet. "I killed him.”

I closed my eyes as my throat tightened, the pain from that loss still a very fresh wound. “It wasn’t your fault. You know that.”

“No, I don’t. I don’t know that,” he bit out. Then, his hand covered mine. “Whose fault is it, if not mine? I should have…should’ve done it differently. Should have figured another way to stop it.”

“It was Mordred,” I said, loud voice echoing through the room. “He set that in motion. And don't start down the road of questioning or diminishing the choices we make. We all made the choice to be here, and to give our lives if necessary. He did what he believed to be right." Even as I was assured Merlin and believed everything I said, with every ounce of my being, I couldn't quite bring myself to say his name, yet. My fallen knight. The first of the fallen in this life.  "And he’d be pissed as fuck, Merlin, if he knew you were blaming yourself. Don’t lessen his choice, his sacrifice like this. Honor it. Be better.”

“How many more are we going to lose, before this is over? Before we stop him?” He gulped. “Am I going to lose her again?”

Merlin moved closer, just an inch or so, but it was enough. I pulled him the rest of the way and held him—like I had hundreds of times before, like he had held me just as many times, if not more, when I was the one in need.

“We will stop Mordred. And we’ll keep Anna safe.” I said firmly, closing my eyes, praying I was right, this time.

“I’m so tired, Arthur.”

I had to fight to keep quiet, to not cry at the depth of pain and sorrow in those four small words. Silence settled over us, and slowly, Merlin relaxed and grew heavy in my arms. I continued to hold him as sleep finally stole over him, trying to give him what strength I could, hoping it was enough.


Bronwyn Green | Deelylah Mulliin | Gwenydolyn Cease
Kris Norris | Paige Prince | Siobhan Muir

(and a big welcome to Siobhan who will be joining us for flash fics!)

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10 - Flat characters and stereotypes- Characters that don't show any growth throughout the story and/or are almost caricatures. And stereotypes....urgh. It's just a specific type of flat character, really. The super gay best friend/sidekick who is essentially there for humor, all women but the heroine are just jealous and horrible bitches, the alpha-hole hero who has no redeeming qualities but somehow the heroine loves him and so does everyone else, deep down...

9 - Inconsistent characters - I just said I wanted character growth, yeah? Well inconistent characterization is NOT character growth, though sometimes it seems to be explained away as that. I'm talking about characters acting completely out of character, with no logical or believable reason behind it. Or bam, halfway through the book, it's like reading a completly different character altogether.

8 - Too big a cast - too many people to keep track of - It drives me nuts when I can't keep track/keep up and then have to scroll/page back and figure out who the person is.

Now, I'm actually fine with a larger cast. *I* have a larger cast in my Albion's Circle series, but I hope I avoid (and try VERY hard to!) falling into the trap of making people go "Who's this again?"

So the problem isn’t necessarily a large cast (though I think there likely is a limit to how many people you can effectively have playing a decent role in the story), but more often, the issues is how it’s executed. If the cast is introduced in a style reminiscent of classical literature like The Iliad or J.R.R. Tolkien’s works, the author may want to step back and reconsider a few things.

7 - Insta-love - I know I've mentioned this in another post at some point... I want to see people fall in love. I want to see what about the characters the others love and be rooting for them. That's why I read romances. So, when it's instaneous - and not talking about immediate attraction/lust here - I feel let down as a reader. Big time.

6 - Lack of research - If you're going to write about something, in detail, then you need to know what you're talking about. An example - I was reading a book in which the hero was a private investigater. There was a murder and he's called by his cop friend. The hero then proceeds to show up at the crime scene, pokes around, takes a file in full view of everyone, touches everythign with no freaking gloves or anything, basically compomising the crime scene and evidence. I'm no expert in law enforcement or crime scene investigation, but even I know there is no way that would freaking happen!

5 - Overselling the research and/or knowledge - This is a personal one for me, and I'm sure there are people who disagree and perhaps like this kind of thing, but I don't need a run down of every furnishing and antique in the family mansion. I don't need page upon page of all the sights in the city that story takes place in so I know that the city was googled. For me, if it isn't important to the story, I don't need to be regaled with all this information and it pulls me completely out of the story.  

4 - Head-hopping - When we're bouncing from one character's head to another, when that results in confusion and having to skim back to figure out who's head we're actually in...

And falling under the same umbrella - too many POVs. Especially if it's just once in the story and it's a character who doesn't even play a large role.  There are ways to impart information to the readers without going into, say, the waiter's head for a matter of paragraphs just to let us know a tiny detail.

3 - This is more specific to paranormals.... The vamps, the weres, the supernatural beings are all drop dead gorgeous and physically perfect.

And don't get me wrong... Having pretty characters, not a problem. But being told ad nauseaum just how beautiful and stunning they all are, how they could all be models, etc., it gets old very quickly.

2 - The irresistable heroine. Everyone wants her. EVERYONE. Even her gay married dentist is re-evaluating his sexuality because omg she's just all that.

1 - This is specific to story with BDSM elements - when a character is into BDSM, it's because at some point in their life they were abused and they are broken somehow. That the character just needs to be fixed, and when they are good and whole and healthy again, they won't need to do "that" anymore. Because just being into it, just enjoying it, just getting something out of it without a terrible, horrible, no good past pushing you do it isn't enough.


Bronwyn Green | Deelylah Mullin | Gwendolyn Cease | Kris Norris

3 Comments

I clearly have issues coming up with standalone stories for flash fics... I've gone back to one of my boys... You could read this on its own but if you'd like to take a gander at the other stories in this world:

Part 1 - "The First Step"
Part 2
Part 3 - "Never Gone"

This one is another peek into Justin's head... A similar, and yet very different, spot than we last saw him in "Never Gone".

"Unfinished"


Justin walked toward the kitchen, navigating in the dark, not wanting to wake his guest. Someone he hadn’t seen in years—takeout and booze in hand, wanting a visit and a place to sleep for the night. Justin had a slight pang of guilt that he’d hadn’t had a bed to offer, not in the tiny one-bedroom he currently lived in. He’d tried to give up his own bed and take the couch himself, but had just received a smack upside the head for his trouble. Oh well, at least his couch was fucking comfortable. And after the amount of alcohol they’d downed the night before, he figured the other man likely had no problem falling asleep.

Neither had Justin. Falling asleep was never the issue. Staying asleep, however…

He sighed as he opened the fridge. He should be used to it. He hadn’t had a solid night’s sleep in the last fucking three years. Not since…

He cursed, shoving aside that train of thought, and grabbed a bottle of water.

“Wanna grab me one while you’re in there?”

“Fuck!” Justin fumbled and barely stopped the bottle from dropping to the floor. He withdrew another water and, shutting the door, walked into the living room. “Sorry, boss. Didn’t mean to wake you.”

A soft huff of laughter, and in small amount of light from the streetlamps coming in through the window, he saw Liam—his former boss—shake his head. But he didn’t correct Justin. He’d stopped doing that about an hour after arriving.

“Didn’t wake me.” He held his hand out for the water and motioned for Justin to sit next to him.

“Okay, but I don’t want to keep you up.”

“Shut up and sit down.”

“Yes, boss.” He plopped on the cushion, as ordered, but looked everywhere but at the other man.

After a few minutes of silence, a hand came to rest on his shoulder. “Sometimes, it helps to talk about it.”

“About what?” he asked flatly.

Liam’s fingers tightened. “The nightmares.”

Justin jerked his head around and stared at the older man. “How did you know?”

“That you had nightmares? How could you not?”

Liam tilted his head to the side and stared intently. Justin fought not to squirm. Damn, it’d been a long time since he’d been under the full force of that stare. And fuck him, he kind of missed it.

“Justin,” Liam sighed. “The things we see, the things we face, doing what we do, nightmares are par for the course. But having to face the…horrors, knowing that your brother did those things? Bound to screw with your head.”

Leaning forward, Justin set his water on the scarred surface of the coffee table then scrubbed his palms over his face. He didn’t want to think, let alone talk, about the nightmares. Of course his stupid fucking brain circled back to the one that had woken him less than half an hour before.

Starring his brother, Jonah, of course. He’d been standing over Justin, who had been strapped down on a table. Just like all of Jonah’s victims had been. He’d known it was Jonah from the start, even though he hadn’t been recognizable. His face hadn’t been human. It had been covered in metal and gears and...stuff. But it hadn’t been a mask—it was his face. His face was just…not human.

Justin rolled his eyes. It didn’t take a fucking shrink to figure the meaning of that, did it? Three years ago, he’d discovered his brother wasn’t human. He was a monster. This was just Justin's brain’s way of illustrating that.

The dream was starting to fade, blur around the edges as dreams often do, and Justin couldn’t even bring the particulars into focus anymore. But Jonah’s eyes…  Those were still vivid. Cold, assessing, emotionless—no sign of caring or love. No sign of a brother in those fathomless pale eyes. Only the monster he’d been. The monster Justin hadn’t seen until it was too late.

“Justin.”

Liam’s low hoarse voice brought him out of his mind and back into his dark living room.

“Sorry.”

“You need to stop wallowing in your guilt. You blame yourself and that isn’t going to lead you anywhere good. Trust me on that. You ran away, isolated yourself, wrapped yourself in the weight of that guilt, and it’s suffocating you. You haven’t even given yourself time, or permission, to grieve.”

Justin sat back and gaped at the older man. One, because that was the most words he’d heard his boss string together in one go. Two, because his uncanny ability to see what Justin tried to hide from everyone. From himself. Though he shouldn’t be surprised—Liam had always had that talent—but time had made Justin forget.

“Grieve?” he croaked. “I am not the one who needs to grieve. That falls on the families who lost someone they loved. My brother was not a victim, Liam. He was a monster who tortured and killed at least a dozen men. A psychopath unable to even feel love.”

“Ah, but that’s the thing, isn’t it? He can’t feel love. But you can. You did.” Liam cupped Justin’s cheek a moment then patted it. “You, just like those families, lost a loved one. Lost a brother. And you are allowed to grieve., Justin.

Justin forced a laugh. “Didn’t take you for the touch-feely type, boss.”

“I’m not. Never have been. But you’re family. And family looks after its own—even when they don’t want looking after. Or think they don’t deserve it.”

“Boss…don’t,” he pleaded, heart hammering, throat tight, eyes stinging.

“You may have left the team—hell, I left the team—but you did not leave your family.” He shook his head. “Can’t. Not possible.”

Justin thought of who he’d left behind. The man in front of him—the boss, the man he’d looked up to so fucking much. Adam—SIC, a second boss, really, but the one who had taken Justin under his wing from day one. Scott and Sarah—the agents who razed and supported him in equal measure. And Harris—Justin didn’t exactly know where he fit in the “family” Liam spoke of. Harris had been attached to the team during the investigation that lead to Jonah. Hell, Harris had taken Justin’s place when he’d left. He didn’t really know the kid.

His breath stalled as pale sweat-damp skin, dark eyes and tousled hair flashed through his mind.

“It’s time to come home, Justin.”

He was thankful to be pulled away from memories of what he regretted—regretted leaving behind, not having done. Because he couldn’t bring himself to regret that one night. No matter that he probably should.

“I don’t know if I can,” he whispered. “I always said I would—when I got past all of it. But I’m not sure that it’ll ever be over. Not for me.” He cringed as his voice broke and cleared his throat. “I don’t know that I can come back to the Bureau, boss.”

“It’s time to come home,” Liam repeated. “Don’t give a shit whether you go back to the job. Come back to your family. Let us help you though this. Help you grieve. Because until you do, it won’t be over.”

Justin sniffed and swiped angrily at the dampness now coating his cheeks. He froze when Liam’s arms came around him.

“You are allowed, you know? Grieving the loss of your brother isn’t a betrayal. It doesn’t lessen what you feel for those families.”

Hearing the thoughts that needled at him constantly voiced—and damn him, how does he do that?—Justin felt something deep in his chest give way. A sob forced its way up, up, up until it pushed past his lips. Liam’s embrace tightened, and Justin let himself lean into the other man. To take the comfort for the first time in three years.


Bronwyn Green | Deelylah Mullin | Kayleigh Jones | Kris Norris

11 Comments

 

Writing fears and anxieties...

All right, I'm gonna be super real and honest here. And kinda break the rules, I suppose. I'm not going to delve into all of my fears and anxieties. Not going to make a bulleted list of them and lay them all out. I'm not going to give them voice, right now.

Why? Because I live with them everyday. They batter at my skull, whispering and shouting, in turn, all the reasons I can't do this. How I can't be successful doing what I love, that I should just give it up. I'm not good enough, successful enough, just not enough. It's also hard to put into words, sometimes, what specifically I'm anxious about, what I fear - and as a writer, not being able to put something into words is a whole other level of frustration and madness.

I will say that I do have fears and anxieties. Big time. That they fuel my depression and overall anxiety, sometimes, to the point it's paralyzing. Dealing with them is a daily freaking battle. But, so far, it's a battle I'm winning. And will continue to win, day by day by day by day by... Well, you get the idea. Despite the fears and anxieties, despite how big and loud they get, I'm confident I'll come out on top. Not really going to accept any other outcome, and I may be a wee bit stubborn. Between that, the work I've already done straightening my head out, and pretty much have the best support system a girl could ask for...I've got all the tools I need to keep doing this..


Bronwyn Green | Kris Norris

5 Comments

This month's song is "What Are You Waiting For" by Nickelback. Have a listen if you like:

This fic didn't really go where I expected but I went with it. 🙂 It doesn't really go with the theme of the song, I suppose, but that's okay. It was what came from me, and that's what these flash fics are all about.


What are you waiting for?

Maddie Ainswirth stared at her resume on the computer screen as the conversation from the previous evening ran through her head—or at least her mother’s side of it, which admittedly was the majority of the words spoken.

You’re wasting your time and your talent. As a PA for a non-profit? Honestly, Madeline. With your degrees and your skills, you could be making a more than decent living, with a PA of your own, getting the recognition you deserve.

And by you, her mother meant we—we as in the Ainswirths. All of Maddie’s accomplishments, or lack thereof, reflected on the family as a whole. And unlike her siblings—Maddie was falling short. But that was her jam, apparently. She’d been an average student. Hadn’t dated the right boys. Sure, she’d earned two degrees, but what was having degrees in English and marketing when compared to two lawyer brothers and a CFO sister? And one would think she’d have a leg up on the sister who was a stay at home mom, but that was just fine because she’d married up.

Don’t you want to make something of yourself? Make your way to the top, feel the pride in that? I don’t understand how you can be happy, how you can be satisfied filing papers and bringing Leo Carver his coffee. I expected more of you.

That had, of course, been designed to shame and push Maddie to…to…to be more. But it didn’t. Because she was happy where she was. She loved her job, which wasn’t as a PA anymore, not for over a year, even if her mother refused to remember that bit. Maddie worked alongside Leo, running their small office and staff. It definitely wasn’t just filing papers and fetching coffee. Oh, she still did plenty of that, but she did so much more. She was making a difference. And she’d tried to explain that to her mother, but making a difference didn’t mean shit if it didn’t come with an impressive job title, money or public recognition. Preferably all three.

Maddie rubbed at her temple and continued staring at the screen—at her list of qualifications and skills—before clicking over to the email from her mother and staring some more. At the links to more suitable jobs.

“Hey, Mads,” Leo greeted cheerfully. Juggling a bag and drink holder, he used his foot to pull the chair from his desk over to hers. Settling in beside her, he announced, “Food time.”

She glanced at the clock, shaking her head when she saw it was already after five pm. “Hmmm, guessing that means it’s gonna be a long night?”

“Got you a double,” he said apologetically as he placed a tall coffee next to her keyboard.

She inhaled the spicy scents as he opened the takeout bag. ““And Indian food? Wow, you must really feel bad.”

“So so bad.” He held a fork out to her, his green eyes twinkling and his mouth twitching up into a smile. “Big meeting’s tomorrow, and there’s no way I can do this without you, Mads.”

With a smile of her own, she deleted her mom’s email without a second thought, then closed her resume before moving the mouse and keyboard to the side. After taking the offered fork, she also accepted the plastic container she knew would contain her favorite curry. Glancing at him from the corner of her eye, her thougths went back to her mother and the conversation they had, it seemed, every time she saw her.

Would she always be happy here? She didn’t know. Some days, it was hard and grueling. The late nights were killer. But the work they did was worth that. And hell, even the hard days, the late nights were made bearable by not being the only one running for coffee. By Leo bringing her her favorite takeout. By being needed and appreciated for who she was. And that, right there, was something that had been lacking her life until she’d started working here. Working with Leo. He’d seen potential in her, where everyone else her life had only seen flaws and disappointment. He’d encouraged her, helped her shape that potential into something more. Something solid and good.

“Mads?”

“Hmmm?” She blinked and met his gaze.

“Everything okay? You’re a million miles away.” He settled a warm hand on her shoulder, and his thumb grazed the skin on her neck.

And that… Well that was new. The subtle touches, the long looks, the not-quite-uncomfortable but heavy silences that settled around them sometimes. Maddie had no idea where this new thing would go—if it would even go anywhere—but she couldn’t deny the thrill of excitement that coursed through her when she thought about the possibility of more developing between them.

She smiled and shook her head. “All good. I’m right here.”

Leo nodded, grinning in response then shoving a forkful of chicken tikka masala in his mouth. Maddie chuckled and leaned slightly into his touch before digging into her own meal.

What was she waiting for?

Her answer to that wasn’t one that would make her mom happy, that was for sure. She wasn’t trying to make it to the top of anything or looking to increase the size of her portfolio or see her name in the news. She had what she needed and was exactly where she was supposed to be.

Yes, Mom definitely wouldn’t be happy because If Maddie was waiting for anything… she was waiting to see if that more would happen.


Bronwyn Green | Deelylah Mullin | Kris Norris