Mystic Messenger Fanfiction | VanderwoodxOC Cerise – Tagged | Reparations

Vanderwood felt his breathing still. She was fine. Cerise was just fine without him. Maybe it was better if he waited for her shift to be over, gave her phone back, said his piece, and walked away. Just tell her it wasn’t her fault – then, let her live her happy life. It was too late for him, but it wasn’t for her.

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***From angst to resolution…if things can be resolved. I have a certain love for the calm after the storm. With technical difficulties now taken care of, all of my accounts are up to date with current chapters and posting should be much easier! Woo! ~Let’s Connect! FFC***

*Remember, this is a sequel to Vanderwood Backstory, and Cerise has a bio. You can support my writing on patreon and get access to my VIP Discord Server or other goodies like early chapter releases and hidden scenes.  Tagged Chapter Directory*

As his feet hit the ground, the thought struck him that she probably didn’t want to be found – not by him anyway. Pure panic flowed in his veins. Breathe. Idiot. Breathe. Vanderwood was forcing himself to move – a gloved hand closing around the ring in his pocket. She was leaving him. Did he even deserve to find her? He wanted to make sure he found her – to make sure she was safe, to tell her it wasn’t her fault. Maybe, just maybe, he could convince her to come back home with him. Or maybe it was better this way. He shook his head. No, he was going to find her and set things right. Vanderwood knew he was being selfish, but he couldn’t live without her anymore – not anything that could be called living.

***

Cerise had no idea where she was even going to go. First, she’d headed to the park – sitting on the swing and leaning her head against the chain as the seat swung gently back and forth. There wasn’t any real way she could describe how she was feeling. Hurt was only a small piece of the very messy puzzle – both the physical and the emotional pain. Cerise knew that he hadn’t meant to hurt her wrists like he had, but the fact of the matter remained that it had still happened. It shouldn’t have happened.

This man used to kill people for a living. She’d seen him so easily break someone’s wrist on a whim. Couldn’t things have gone so much worse? He had been right that night on the stairs all those months ago. What was she compared to someone who wanted something from her? He had demonstrated twice now that she was powerless. Cerise shook her head and sighed – warm puffs of breath visible in the cool air. It was going to be dark sooner or later, and that meant it would get colder. She stood up and began walking towards the shopping district.

Cerise didn’t exactly wear the most functional of winter clothes, and in her haste, she hadn’t grabbed an actual jacket to boot. Still, at least her arms were covered with the light jacket she had already been wearing. Even that wasn’t going to do much good for her if it got colder. Luckily for her, she had stashed a pair of gloves into the pockets of that particular jacket. At least some luck was on her side.

She walked and walked, admiring all the colorful lights and decorations of the various shops. Everything was so festive and warm. People were so cheerful and welcoming if she decided to walk in and take a look around. It almost made her forget about her own troubles. In another stroke of luck, she had actually had her wallet on her from when she had to pay the delivery boy the rest of the money for the cake. She found a squishy little keychain of a new character that was so ridiculous that it was kind of endearing. Pastelle the Prissy Poo – it was so silly that she managed to giggle upon seeing the softly colored, glittery, anthropomorphic cartoon character of the poo emoji.

As she walked around, she kept one hand in her pocket squishing on her new treasure – finding it somewhat relaxing. Cerise stopped walking as she came across a heavily decorated cafe. There were lights in the window, a toy train, a Christmas tree, and tinsel – the whole nine yards. It looked like something straight out of a dream, and she couldn’t help but find herself inside at a table looking at the menu.

The inside was decorated similarly – the atmosphere warm and inviting. Christmas music played in the background, and there was even a simulated fireplace with stockings hung over it. It put a smile on her face. As crappy as she felt, this was the type of thing that could still make her smile. In no time, one of the wait staff was at her table to take her order. Cerise looked her over; the woman was dressed in the cutest Christmas themed uniform, and not to mention, she was super nice. “What’ll it be, sugarplum~?”

Cerise realized that she was staring at the woman and laughed awkwardly. “I’ll take a gingerbread hot cocoa and a slice of your special Christmas cheesecake.” What she needed right now was something sweet she could enjoy – to help take her mind off things. Before she knew it, her order was in front of her – delivered with a smile by the sugarplum waitress. The taste of the hot cocoa was like heaven, and it definitely warmed her to her core. It almost helped numb the emotional turmoil. Cerise shook her head again, trying to chase the thoughts away – push them into the back of her mind. That wasn’t important right now. What was important was this adorable cheesecake in front of her that had gumdrops, little candy holly, other various candies, and sprinkles on it. Man, it tasted like heaven.

She almost didn’t notice the sudden rush around her. It looked like the sugarplum waitress and an older man were practically running around trying to keep up. The place was packed now. Cerise really felt bad for them; they were such nice people. A thought crossed her mind. She wasn’t really doing anything – didn’t have anywhere to go…maybe she could help?

Cerise got up and made her way to the older man who was frantically trying to decorate an order of some sort. “Excuse me? Hi…I was wondering if you needed some help?” The man looked up in surprise. There was a strange air about him but not in a bad way. It was more whimsical than anything. “Oh! Don’t worry, you don’t have to pay me or anything…I just noticed you guys were busy, and I don’t have anything to do. I’d really like to help you!” She bowed, trying to show some respect. Sometimes she forgot the cultural nuances when she was in Korea – bowing wasn’t something they really did in Paris, but it felt appropriate now.

The man looked her over, seemingly deliberating. “What a nice young lady~ Who am I to deny such a heartfelt request?” He smiled at her – his eyes twinkling under the lights above him despite the rush he was in. “I don’t have any extra uniforms on hand right now, but there’s an apron behind the counter. If you could take orders, you can leave the rest to me.”

Honestly, Cerise had never worked a day in her life. She didn’t know how to take orders, but she was going to do the best she could for these people who seemed so warm and joyful even under stressful circumstances. She found the apron in question and put it on – taking a pad of paper and a pen that was in close proximity. Cerise found out from Ms. Sugarplum which tables she hadn’t gotten to yet and decided to start there. She was a quick learner; she would get this. It was a welcome distraction from the train-wreck that was her life. As hours passed, she found herself actually having fun and laughing along with the owner and his daughter as well as the other customers – who obviously appreciated her efforts a Hell of a lot more than other people had that day.

***

He’d made it to the shopping district, chestnut-brown eyes scanning the area for any sign of his Cerise. Vanderwood had realized that he couldn’t call her fiancée right now – a sting going through his heart. Every worst-case scenario that existed was flitting through his mind. Panic wasn’t just a feeling; it was a living breathing entity that swallowed him whole, and he’d found himself running throughout the streets of Korea – full out running, bumping into a few people and then doing something he’d sure as Hell never done.

“Have you seen her?” He looked like a madman pushing his phone at strangers. “She’s really short, super short, absolutely beautiful. Please tell me you’ve seen her!” Every person he tried was more intent on running away from him than helping him. A 6ft tall, dangerous-looking maniac. A young man was taking off from him again when Vanderwood plopped himself onto a bench, putting his head in his hands and sobbing.

His heart was being wrenched from his chest – his very soul being torn in two, and then he dropped his hands – looking ahead through the blur of his tears…There she was. She looked happy – smiling and talking to customers. Why was she in an apron? Seemed like she’d managed to get a job in a matter of hours. Vanderwood felt his breathing still. She was fine. Cerise was just fine without him. Maybe it was better if he waited for her shift to be over, gave her phone back, said his piece, and walked away. Just tell her it wasn’t her fault – then, let her live her happy life. It was too late for him, but it wasn’t for her.

Cerise could be happy without him. At least she wasn’t choosing drugs like his mother – just a better life without him in it. He was crying again. It was really surreal. People always seemed to think that men didn’t cry – that crying was a feminine phenomenon, yet he was one of the most masculine guys on the planet. He snorted at himself – ever the cynical asshole. Always a cynical asshole. Vanderwood looked up to see her again – the smile on her face, and it was like a shard of glass had lodged itself in his chest. He couldn’t sit and wait here; he couldn’t. It hurt too much. People be damned. World be damned. God or whatever was out there be damned.

Vanderwood’s breath left his body in a rush, and then he was up and running again – into a café covered in Christmas decorations. Uncaring of the people around, he grabbed Cerise up into his arms and held her tightly as he buried his face in her hair. Was that the smartest choice when she was probably terrified of him now – wanted nothing to do with him? No, but he was too busy sobbing into her hair. There was a constant stream of, “I’m sorry,” leaving his lips between the sharp intakes of breath his sobs were causing.

She had barely noticed Vanderwood rush in due to talking to one of the few customers left in the café before she’d been swept up in his arms. It took a moment for her brain to process what was going on. Vanderwood was here in the café. How had he even found her? Right…former secret agent. Her body tensed up automatically, and her wrist suddenly felt like it was on fire – a not-so-gentle reminder of what had happened earlier.

Cerise wasn’t sure how she was supposed to react. She wanted to cry; she wanted to be angry – to lash out at him, but that wouldn’t make her any better than he had been. It was impossible to find the words to say as he sobbed into her hair – apologizing to her over and over. How was she supposed to react? Her chest felt tight, her heart hurt deeply, but she just didn’t know what to do…What was happening right now? Was this even real…?

Her eyes followed him as he collapsed to his knees in front of her. By now people were staring. She was probably causing trouble for the owner. Cerise flashed the man an apologetic look – earning an understanding nod. All she wanted was to cry, to tell him that it was okay – to forgive him. That was what her heart was telling her. The words were in her mind. Even so, Cerise knew that he had a problem – knew that it ran deeper than she had imagined. Things could have gone much, much worse for her, and she wouldn’t have been able to stop it. She considered herself an understanding person, but there was only so much she could take – only so much she could have tried to break a barrier that he didn’t want to be broken.

Cerise’s voice was a soft murmur. “Let’s…go over here.” With little effort, she was able to urge him into a nearby booth where she sat opposite of him. Ms. Sugarplum quickly brought over some coffee and put a cup in front of each of them, leaving with a concerned smile. All Cerise could do was stare at the broken man in front of her as she absentmindedly rubbed at her wrists. He had moved along with her with seemingly no struggle at all, even. Seeing him weak and dejected just seemed so wrong. She could at least hear him out.

Vanderwood knew he looked like an idiot, and he was just causing problems for her again, too. He wasn’t one to act out like this – certainly not for an audience, but too late now. What was most important was that he told her what had happened, that he explained to her the truth about why his birthday and Christmas were so painful for him, and why it wasn’t her fault. Vanderwood sat hunched over in the booth – barely able to meet her eyes as he tore his gaze away from the table.

“When I turned six years old, my mother said she was coming for Christmas. I sat in front of the tree with Caleb for four hours before Caleb fell asleep in my lap and dad went to bed. I woke up the next morning, and she still wasn’t there. Turns out she got so high that she forgot or just couldn’t make it. Either way, she chose drugs over me on Christmas.” He had to pause, taking a breath – feeling winded and his throat raw from the crying.

It was all bubbling out now – too fast to even notice the way she was rubbing at her wrist. “On my seventh birthday, I waited all day for my dad to remember. I thought he was kidding around, had some surprise for me…but nothing happened. Mom was supposed to come again, and I waited…I guess she forgot, too, because when the doorbell rang, it was dad’s friends. I put Caleb to bed, and when I came back downstairs…” His voice broke, and he had to shove the rest of the words out like he was pulling a tooth without medication. “My birthday present was finding out what your dad shooting up heroine looks like.”

Cerise was silent still as she listened to him – nursing on her cup of coffee. It was a lot to take in; there were a lot of walls coming down. It wasn’t the ideal situation or place, but he was finally telling her why he had been so grumpy, so distant – colder than the air outside. Hearing everything just made her hurt more, although almost in another direction. He had been dealt such a bad hand – both him and his brother. It was really no wonder to her that he could be so cold and rough on the outside.

Vanderwood hung his head in shame again as the memory of the way she’d looked at him from beneath him after his snap came back – far more painful than even the childhood ones. “I was trying to shut those memories out – completely shutting myself down…when I…when I treated you like…” He simply couldn’t say it; he just couldn’t. Bloody Hell, what a fucking prissy ass wimp he was. “I told you to get away from me, because I didn’t want to hurt you any further or go down that slippery slope of sex. You are so much more than that to me. You’re the only truly beautiful thing I’ve had in my life for almost a decade. You didn’t do anything wrong. In fact, you were doing everything right. Granted, I don’t like being woken up, you almost lit the house on fire, and there were sparkles bloody everywhere, but you cared so much more than any other human being ever has – even my parents. You are quite literally the best thing that ever happened to me…I just couldn’t handle it.”

So many words, so much to say, Vanderwood just kept going, because if he stopped, it wasn’t going to come again. He would just be walling up all over again, and nothing would be different. She needed to know everything – whether she was going or staying. Cerise needed to know. “I’m so much better since I met you, but I’m still a broken man, and I…forgot that I needed to watch myself. I forgot that I’m an addict. I’ve been doing so well that I’ve been laboring under the delusion that love is a miracle cure, but it isn’t…It’s the support that I need to reach being healthy, but as magical as it feels – it isn’t the cure. I was stupid. I didn’t pay attention, and I should have told you everything from the beginning. This…it’s all my fault…and I can’t ask you to forgive me, because I wouldn’t deserve it. I just wanted to be happy, and I didn’t want to ruin all the hard work you went through to make this day something other than the pain it’s always been…so I didn’t tell you…and I didn’t tell you when it was getting to be too much…and I’m sorry, Cerise. I’m so sorry.”

Cerise couldn’t quite come up with her own response yet – still trying to sus everything out for herself. It comforted her to know that he hadn’t been telling her to leave because he had actually wanted her to, but because he recognized what was going on with himself and didn’t want to put her through anything worse. He hadn’t trusted himself; he was trying to protect her. She had also been living under the delusion that love was the cure for everything – that that alone could fix everything just like in the movies. Life didn’t work that way. Life was a big, fat, bully full of harsh realities.

She was young and didn’t have a lot of life experience. For all intents and purposes, she shouldn’t get involved with him again. They should just go their own separate ways. Cerise was way too young and inexperienced to be what he needed her to be for him. Maybe he was too broken to be fixed. It was delusional of her to think she could turn around so many years of pain that ran much deeper than she had known.

Vanderwood couldn’t stand the silence – waiting for her to tell him what she wanted to do, that she couldn’t forgive him, just anything. He felt like a failure – like far more than a failure. It was getting to the point where the talking was just as painful as the silence. Reaching into his pocket, he removed her phone and lightly pushed it towards her on the table. “You’ll…need this…if you go…” The ring came out next, but he left that in the palm of his gloved hand – the rose gold standing out against the harsh black leather. “You…probably don’t want this…That’s why you left it, right?”

Moment of truth, a doomed half-life without her or picking up the pieces. His eyes slowly met hers again – chestnut-brown to honey-gold as he closed his fingers around the ring. “Just tell me, and I’m gone. I won’t so much as breathe your name.” Although, because of how completely insane he was, he would probably follow her to the ends of the Earth – watching like some fucked up version of a guardian angel. If he had the energy, he would have snorted at himself. Bloody cynical asshole.

Her eyes locked with his – those chestnut-brown eyes that she loved so much. The look in his them was pained but full of so many other emotions. She couldn’t pick them all out. He did care, and he was sincere. She could see it. Tears began to well up in her eyes again. Too bad she loved him way too much to let him go – to let him continue to suffer alone. There was no way she could bear being apart from him. They needed each other – as broken as he was and as inexperienced and young as she was. She could have handled this so much better, like the adult she was supposed to be. They both could have handled this situation better, but that was part of life, too.

“Marion…” She hadn’t meant for his name to escape her lips, but it had, and now the tears were spilling over and running down her face as she began to sob. Cerise found herself moving out of her side of the booth and all but throwing herself into his arms – sobbing into his chest. She needed him; she would always need him. Obviously, neither of them was perfect, and they still had a lot to learn about each other and themselves. For better or for worse – that’s what she was promising him when she had agreed to marry him. There were things she could have probably said = like apologizing for going too overboard and for running off instead of trying to calm down and understand. Sometimes she felt like she was still a kid. There was no doubt in her mind that she still had some growing up to do. All that she could get out was that she wanted him to stay – just like she had after that first kiss. “Stay…please stay.”

He tensed as her tears began – his entire being in pain to the point that even breathing was a struggle. Vanderwood was fully expecting her to turn him away. That was what he deserved and what was best for her. His heart tore at the sound of her sobbing. Vanderwood held her tightly to him as she cried. She was asking him to stay…She wanted him to stay. He buried his face in her hair; it was all he could do to keep from starting to cry again himself. Damn, it was a good thing she hadn’t cut it weeks before. Cynical asshole. He held her tighter.

Even with what he’d done, she wanted him to stay. Then, he would stay, but he would be damned if he didn’t do a better job. “Let’s do Christmas…the lights, the decorations, the tree…everything. I want to do everything with you.” Words were just coming again, but at least this time it was a positive thing. “New memories…with the woman who loves me like no one else…If that’s what you want, too.” She was trying to calm herself down when he pulled back and cupped her face in his hand. He wanted to celebrate Christmas with her – the right way. Cerise had stopped full on sobbing, but she couldn’t help the tears that were still coming down as he brushed them away with his thumb.

“I love you…I want this happy life with you. I promise this time…this time, I’ll tell you what’s going on in my head.” Should he kiss her? He sure as Hell wanted to, and he didn’t care whether people were watching. Fuck, he hadn’t scanned the room even this entire time, but he was too busy staring into her eyes to be bothered. What a useless agent he would be right now. Good thing he wasn’t one anymore – thanks to her. Better to wait…hear her answer first before he did anything.

All she had wanted was to understand him, to get him to talk to her and let her in. He had told her once that he would try, but it had still been hard for him. Now he was promising her. “Yes…I’d really like that.” Cerise managed a small smile. She would do her best to try and not overwhelm him – maybe ask him how he felt before she went all out; she could at least do that for him. “I love you too, ma moitié…” Cerise had long ago forgotten all about the people in the room with them. It didn’t matter. She’d make it up to the nice man and his daughter somehow, but for right now, she was just a little lost in his eyes. He very much so looked like he wanted to kiss her – which was fine by her, because that’s what she wanted, too. Cerise closed the gap between them and pressed her lips against his.

Just like when they’d first started their relationship, she was the one to remove the space between them. Vanderwood held her to him as he kissed her back – nothing rough, but the kind of kiss that made it seem like the world had stopped spinning. Why did it feel like she was putting his heart and soul back together? That’s exactly what she was doing. When the kiss ended, he pressed another to her forehead as she nuzzled into him. “Ma moitié…”

Now he finally scanned the room, and there were quite a few onlookers – each averting their gaze when his swept over them. Was he really that frightening after sobbing like a child in the middle of the place? Apparently, yeah. He shifted to open his hand – looking at the ring that had left a small indent in the leather of his gloves and showing it to her. “I’m going to keep this…for now…and I’ll propose to you again…um if you’d like that.” That was a cheesy thing to do, but it seemed fitting. Maybe this time he’d remember the right words in French. There was another part of him that wanted to whisk her away and say, ‘Marry me right now.’ But that must just have been from the rush of relief he was feeling.

She hadn’t cared to look around herself but turned to eye her ring as it sparkled in the light. He wanted to propose to her again; he was such a cheese-master, but she couldn’t complain. Nodding, she gave a brief, “Mhm,” as confirmation. Vanderwood felt like he could finally breathe again. The world seemed more peaceful to him now – quiet. Every time he told her what was on his mind, it seemed like he was lighter – like living was easier, even if it hurt like Hell coming out. So…maybe he was on the right track.

He wasn’t about to drop his guard like he had earlier. “Do you…want to come home now?” Could he trust himself in a bedroom with her…Yeah, but he wasn’t going to do anything other than holding her – for tonight at least. Best to be on the safe side. Cerise let out a tired sigh of relief – feeling like all of the stress had washed off her rather suddenly. “Yeah. Please, let’s do that.” She was exhausted – both physically and mentally.

Cerise pulled on Marion’s hand as they were walking out, going to the old man and his daughter to thank them and apologize for the chaos she might have caused. Vanderwood made his own apologies to the owner and waitress. He was awkward and stiff about it, but it was the right thing to do – even if interpersonal stuff wasn’t his forté. They assured that it was no problem and had even asked if they could call her if they ever needed the help. She was more than happy to give them her number. The old man sent them off with to-go boxes of something he had insisted on making for them. It looked to be a pasta of sorts from the glimpse she got before he closed the box. That was good, because she was starving, and she was sure that Marion had to be, too. He was probably way too tired himself to cook.

Vanderwood tucked the to-go boxes under one arm – wondering where he’d even put Cerise’s dinner plate down from earlier before he went out the window. It was going to be freezing in the house. He wrapped his other arm around Cerise as they walked – in part because he needed the contact, but also to keep her warm. She never seemed to dress for the weather. It was surprising to see she had her gloves with her, but that had probably been sheer luck – knowing her.

Looking up at the stars, he snorted softly. “You know…where I lived in Britain, the ground would be covered in slush right now, but in all the time I’ve been in Korea, I’ve maybe seen it snow once. I kind of miss that.” Once the floodgates were opened, apparently sharing got easier. “That sounds pretty…it didn’t really snow in Paris. If it did, it never stuck.” There was a small smile on her face as he shared just a small piece of his life with her…something normal and small, but just as important to her. Vanderwood looked down at her with a small smile in return.

He gave her shoulder a light squeeze before he let go as they reached her house, pausing before opening the door. There were thoughts burning on the tip of his tongue, and it was best to share them. “Thank you…for everything you did today. I’m sorry it became…the mess it became…” She’d done so much work, and he’d wanted to appreciate it all earlier but couldn’t, because he was so busy trying to keep his feelings under wraps. Cerise shook her head in response. “I should have checked with you to see how much you could handle…You did warn me before that you wouldn’t be in a good mood on your birthday. I should have been more sensitive.” She looked to the ground, kicking her feet a little. “There are things we both could have done differently, you know?”

That was something he wasn’t going to argue. Still, he was impressed by her. He’d always known she was strong – always known she was maturing. Cerise had proved not only her strength to him today but her ability to grow, too. Even if he thought he didn’t deserve that she was doing so much for him. “You’re amazing; you know that?” She looked up, flashing him a little smile. “Yeah…amazingly cold.” Cerise tried joking, poking at him a little. “Let’s get inside where it’s warmer?”

***

They’d chowed down on the food the café owner had made them, Cerise feeling slightly guilty as she saw Vanderwood putting away food that he’d made earlier. It was just like him to make food for the both of them even if they were fighting. As she looked in the bathroom mirror, she could see that her eyes were still a little red from crying. They would look perfectly bright and cute in the morning.

She threw on her pajamas – quickly brushing her teeth so she could get to bed faster. It wasn’t normal for her to forego her nightly routine, but she was just so exhausted. The bed looked so inviting. Sooner or later, he’d wander in and join her, so she decided to get on her phone to wait. The angle that she tried to hold it at was a little uncomfortable. It hadn’t really bothered her before, but that’s when she noticed that her wrists had bruised darkly from when he had grabbed her earlier.

It was all an accident. He hadn’t meant to hurt her. Sure, she knew her wrists hurt a bit, but she didn’t think they’d gotten bruised. She rubbed at the left one – which was the worst of the two and sighed. If he saw this…she really didn’t want to make things worse than they had been. Cerise plugged her phone in and decided to lay on her stomach with her arms under the pillow. She didn’t think she could hide it from him for forever, but at least he wouldn’t have to deal with it that night. “Marion? Are you coming to bed?”

He’d finished up the dishes rather quickly – standing outside by the door to the bedroom as he took a moment to be by himself. Was he absolutely certain he wasn’t going to behave like he had earlier today? Vanderwood heard her call for him, replying immediately. “Yeah, just a second.” He felt fine…other than being exhausted, so yeah, he was fine. Vanderwood opened the door and laid his jacket on top of the dresser for now before grabbing his pajama pants from off the floor. He’d thrown them on the floor and not in the hamper – a testament to how freaked he’d been. The way she was positioned wasn’t lost on him – making him tilt his head at her. That was…a new one?

After ducking into the bathroom, he went through his usual routine in the exact same way he did every day. The repetition was comforting for his OCD – giving him some semblance of control after a day with virtually everything going wrong. Now that he was more right in the head, everything ended up neatly placed in the hamper like it was supposed to. He crawled into bed and reached for her to pull her against his chest like usual, but it seemed like she was a little reluctant to get out of her current position. Had he scared her that badly that she didn’t want to sleep against his chest? It would make sense.

Vanderwood bit at his tongue for a moment as he relinquished his hold on her waist, moving to lay on his own side and staring at the ceiling before he remembered that he was supposed to say what was on his mind. “Are you afraid of me now?” She mumbled softly that she wasn’t, but he couldn’t blame her if she was. Vanderwood had told her before that not watching his strength was a dangerous game, and he doubted he’d been watching it when he’d pinned her. Wait…his breath stilled, he rolled once more onto his side, and chestnut-brown eyes met honey-gold – pleading for an answer. “Did I hurt you?” The way she was laying her hands under the pillow in front of her – it was like she was hiding something. Guilt was already washing through him again – already knowing the answer. “Please…Cerise…show me…”

Cerise was kicking herself that she had tried to pull away from him. The man was too perceptive, and she should have been more careful to act normal if she was actually going to hide this from him. As he caught her eyes, asking if he had hurt her, it made her chest twist up into a knot. She had hoped that he wouldn’t notice for at least that night; she should have just acted normally. It wasn’t like she could just tell him ‘no’. Not when he looked like this. Cerise felt like he probably already knew the answer to his own question anyways. Slowly, she turned over onto her side – averting her eyes as she held her hands out to him.

A sharp intake of breath was the only sound as he took her hands in his – his eyes taking in the dark bruising. Her left wrist was much worse, but that observation didn’t make him feel any better. “Cerise…” He lightly ran his thumbs over the bruises before he bent his head to brush his lips over them. In his head, he was wondering what he could do to make it better – at least to make them not hurt so much. Vanderwood knew her pain tolerance, but he also knew her medication intolerance. Surely a numbing cream would go over fine. She couldn’t get high from that.

He let go of her hands to dig for his kit under her bed – finding what he needed quickly. “This won’t hurt…and it won’t get you worked up either. It’ll just numb any pain.” Cerise nodded, trusting he knew what he was talking about. Even if it could affect her, she’d be asleep soon anyway. She still couldn’t bring herself to look his way – not because she was scared of him or anything, but she didn’t want to see his reactions to this. Cerise couldn’t bring herself to look at the hurt in his eyes. This was something she knew he was going to beat himself up over.

At the moment, he wasn’t touching on how guilty he was feeling – more worried about making sure he could help her feel better. Almost as soon as he had the cream on his fingers and was lightly brushing it over her bruising, though, there was a lump in his throat as his voice cracked. “I really hurt you…” Bloody Hell, he felt like shit. He’d bruised the love of his life. Fantastic. That was just…never again. He’d sworn never again with that first kiss, but this was a whole different ballpark. This…never again. Vanderwood would rather shoot himself in the foot.

“It’s…it looks a lot worse than it feels, really.” She felt like his birthday was memorable in all the wrong ways. They both definitely had a lot of things they needed to work on when it came to themselves and each other. Cerise knew that from now on, he would probably be extra careful when it came to his recovery. For her side, she would know that when he said he needed to be alone – it wasn’t because he didn’t want her around. This sort of thing would never happen again, and she knew it; she trusted him.

She still wasn’t looking at him. Cerise had said she wasn’t scared of him, but the way she was avoiding his gaze made him doubt that. “This won’t happen again.” His voice was a little harsh as he said it, and that just made him worry more. Vanderwood bit his tongue before he decided he had to know – slipping his fingers under her chin to tip it. “Please, Cerise…look at me and tell me you’re not afraid of me. I want to be sure.” Relationships were far more complicated than his life before.

Cerise let her eyes fall on his face at his urging – looking into his worried eyes. “I’m not afraid of you, Marion…” The cream he had put on her wrists did help the pain, but it wasn’t very prominent in the first place. It only hurt if she tried to squeeze it or she was holding her hands in an awkward way. Cerise tried to give him a reassuring smile, but it probably came out all tired looking. She certainly felt tired, and her feet were killing her. All that running around and waitressing really took it out of her – not to mention the emotional parts of it all. “Tomorrow’s a new day.” Cerise cuddled back into the bed and towards him, so he could easily hold her if he wanted to. “So, let’s get some rest, ya know?”

His eyes had searched hers, and she was telling the truth. “Okay…yeah.” Once again, he pulled her hands to his lips – brushing feather light kisses over her wrists, so soft he wasn’t even sure if she could feel it. “A new day with new memories – just for you and me.” A little cheesiness to fall asleep with. Vanderwood pulled her close against his chest – taking the offered invitation and placing her where she belonged. “I love you, shortcake.” He nuzzled into her hair, his voice coming up much smaller than usual – like it had a few times already that day. “Thank you…for not leaving me.” He had some bloody major abandonment issues, but he’d be lying if he said he was surprised. Cerise barely heard him, lightly nodding before she completely conked out – dead to the world.

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Mystic Messenger Fanfiction | VanderwoodxOC Cerise – Tagged | Happiest Birthday

“Happy birthday to me…I’m older…yay…” Okay, so maybe there was a little bit of happiness there. His fiancée’ had given him far more of a birthday greeting than he could ever remember having received before, and he was actually enjoying life lately.

Cerise could hear the dripping sarcasm in his voice after he had glanced at the clock. “Yes, yay! The most yay, because I’m sure glad you were born.”

***Things have been so soft and quiet – Vanderwood struggling with his recovery but feeling like he’s got it under control. The lack of communication over this issue is about to bite both him and Cerise in the ass in this angst-fest chapter. I hope you don’t cry too hard. ~Let’s Connect! FFC***

*Remember, this is a sequel to Vanderwood Backstory, and Cerise has a bio. You can support my writing on patreon and get access to my VIP Discord Server or other goodies like early chapter releases and hidden scenes.  Tagged Chapter Directory*

Vanderwood hadn’t been looking forward to his birthday. When he’d first told Cerise about it, she’d obviously been far more into it than he was. So, okay, maybe he was a little excited – just because he’d get to spend it with her, but when they went to bed that night he’d had a sneaking suspicion she had more plans than he wasn’t ready for. This time of year wasn’t a good time for him at all. If he could sleep the next week away, that would be heaven. That probably wasn’t going to happen, but hopefully Cerise would make it a little easier, or at least dull the pain of Christmas somewhat.

Cerise had been counting down the days. She absolutely loved holidays, and you better believe she considered her fiancé’s birthday a holiday. So far, she had put up a few decorations that Marion really hadn’t reacted to, but she didn’t want to overdo it that year with it being the first time they would spend his birthday together.

The night before, Cerise had set her alarm to vibrate once it hit 11:58 pm – hiding a confetti cannon under her side of the bed for when it hit midnight, AKA his birthday. She was actually really surprised he hadn’t noticed that she had gotten it. Then again, she made sure to be super sneaky about it. Marion would see that she totally did not forget his special day. Cerise had also set for a cake to be delivered later that day – since she couldn’t really go out and get it, seeing as he would know what she was up to. Thank goodness for internet shopping.

When Cerise finally woke up, it was actually a few minutes before her alarm would go off. Perfect! Now she didn’t have to risk the vibration waking him up prematurely. Honey-colored eyes glanced towards his face. Good, he was still asleep. If she moved too much, she would most likely wake him. She had to time this perfectly. When the clock hit 11:58, it was the moment of truth. As softly as she could, she removed the oversized confetti cannon from under the bed. 11:59 now. “Hey, Mariooo~ooon~” Her voice was a sing-song whisper as she was poking at his face. Marion grumbled, something along the lines of, “What is it, mon amour?” That was awake enough for her.

Now it was 12:00am, officially December 23rd – officially his birthday. Cerise took that chance to unceremoniously pounce on him, pulling the string trigger to her cannon – which launched small paper bits and glitter everywhere. “HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!” She squealed – looking really excited and proud of herself. On top of everything, her phone began to play some strange reggae version of the birthday song. All Cerise knew was that it was in English, and it sounded catchy. Truly a celebration song.

Oh, bloody fucking Hell! There was a rather loud popping sound, his fiancée pouncing on him, and it took him about ten seconds of gripping her to him protectively on instinct before he realized what the Hell was going on. It was lucky he had realized it was her pouncing on him and not an attacker, because he could have killed her. His eyes searched the room and saw the now empty canon – its contents everywhere. There was confetti and glitter, otherwise known as Satan’s bloody tears, everywhere.

“Cerise..” His eyebrow started up, dancing along to the birthday song as he let go of her slowly – his voice tight with anger. “Do not jump on me when I’m half asleep. I could have hurt you.” Was he being a little harsh when she was just trying to be nice to him? Yeah…probably, but he was a former secret agent and could have accidentally harmed her for much less. He was being grumpy, but she wasn’t having it. “But you didn’t.” Yeah okay, so pouncing on a former secret again, probably not the best idea in retrospect. Still, birthday.

Bloody Hell. What time was it? His eyes found the digital clock, and that just made him all the more irritated. Great. No sleep for him. “Happy birthday to me…I’m older…yay…” Okay, so maybe there was a little bit of happiness there. His fiancée’ had given him far more of a birthday greeting than he could ever remember having received before, and he was actually enjoying life lately.

Cerise could hear the dripping sarcasm in his voice after he had glanced at the clock. “Yes, yay! The most yay, because I’m sure glad you were born.” Why did she have to be so cute? She was glad he was born? Vanderwood snorted softly, but that little moment was short-lived. Though his eyebrow only slowed a little – his body relaxing only minutely, his voice at least sounded even. “Thank you, shortcake…Please go back to sleep.”

He needed to clean up; he needed to clean up. Not because it was compulsory and otherwise there would be glitter in places no one needed glitter. She just giggled and nuzzled him. “You sleep, too. We can clean up later~ Besides, haven’t you always dreamed about laying in a bed of sparkles?” Cerise loved glitter. She loved anything shiny and cute, really. There was confetti and glitter all over her – even embedded in her hair. Flecks of glitter could be seen on her skin and clothes. Marion fared no better. They both looked like a magical rainbow fairy had puked its glorious sparkles all over them. “A little glitter never hurt anyone, Marion.” Cerise shook her hair a little, sending more glitter flying about.

She wanted him to sleep in this? No fucking way. If he found even a single spot of glitter near his nether regions, he was going to put his fist through something. He wasn’t about to let this mess sit until morning – no matter how excited or adorable she was. “I would rather sleep on a bed of nails. I can’t sleep now that I’m up anyway. You know that.” He did his best to disentangle himself from her, nearly an attempt to run away as she was shaking out her hair.

When he pushed his bangs back as he was sitting on the edge of the bed, glitter fell into the lap of his pajama pants. His eyebrow was trying to escape his forehead now – practically flying away. “I need a shower, and then I’m cleaning.” So, great, he was 29. That was older than he’d thought he would make it to. It was certainly older than he’d wanted to make it to, but it also meant Christmas – which meant memories, which meant pain. All of that just made the glitter and confetti that was covering him more irritating.

Was he even breathing anymore? His chest felt tight. He headed off towards the bathroom as Cerise huffed – rolling back onto her side of the bed. “Don’t be such a grumpy face, Marion.” The glance he got of himself in the mirror made his eyebrow twitch even more. There was a part of his hair that was practically pink thanks to all those damn sparkles. This was it. He was going to die today. Just spontaneously combust.

She watched him as he escaped to the bathroom. Maybe after a shower, he would get tired again. Well…at least he’d remember this birthday, right? Sure, he looked a little irritated, but it was probably just because she woke him up so early. Once he was out of sight, Cerise began to smack random places on their bad, watching as the glitter flew up and fell back down. There was so much, and she couldn’t help but giggle.

He couldn’t be angry with her when she’d put in this much effort. All she wanted to do was make sure he didn’t have another painful birthday alone. At least they had the entire rest of the day. Marion would probably tire himself out sooner or later if the shower didn’t relax him. Letting out a yawn, Cerise curled up in the middle of the bed and fell back asleep – cuddling on the pillow that she had given him earlier in the month. Hopefully, he liked what she had in store for the rest of the day.

***

The shower had only helped in relaxing him so much. At least his hair wasn’t pink anymore, but his pajama pants…Yeah, it would take way too many washes to get the sparkles out of that, so at this point he was pretty Hell-bent on throwing those away. Vanderwood dried off and peeked out into the room. Good – she was asleep. He padded out and grabbed a different pair, getting those on quick and quiet before he realized. Not good – she was asleep. How was he going to clean this up with her asleep? He couldn’t use the vacuum.

Vanderwood wanted to smack his head into the wall a few times, but instead he got the broom and dust pan – getting everything that he could. Fun fact, he was going to need a new broom and dust pan. He snorted before looking at the bed. So many sparkles. Now he just felt sick and exhausted on a different level. Vanderwood bit his tongue as he watched Cerise sleep. All the pillows were covered in sparkles, too. He knew for a fact without the sound of her breathing to comfort him it was going to take him a lot longer to sleep, but without her scent on a pillow, yeah. There would be no sleep until he passed out from exhaustion.

He sighed and left the room, stretching out on the couch and staring up at the ceiling. Vanderwood reached for his phone on the coffee table – habit making him think it was the nightstand. Actually. It was probably better he didn’t have it on him, not today. Not that he thought he was going to call anyone. The thought made him want to hurl…cheat on Cerise? No way…but it was such an old habit at this point, especially during this season, that it was just better this way. He couldn’t remember falling asleep – just the constant rolling over and changing positions.

***

Cerise woke up on her own much later. Marion hadn’t woken her up? She looked around to see that he wasn’t in bed with her and frowned. Where was he? And Jesus, was she cold. Cerise threw her feet over the bed, grabbed some cute clothes, and padded into the bathroom. He was probably off doing something in the house. Right now what she needed was a warm shower to chase the chill away. As she got ready to hop in, she noticed glitter falling everywhere. Oh, right. The confetti cannon. The memory of earlier that morning made her laugh. Obviously, she’d have to make sure to wash her hair extra well that morning…which would take forever.

She was all clean and glitter free within an hour and a half. Her eyes scanned the area as she stepped into the living room, and she still didn’t see her fiancé. “Where did you go?” It wasn’t until she got closer to the couch that she saw him sleeping there. Honestly, it made her a little sad. Why hadn’t he slept in the bed with her? And holy crap…was she actually awake before him? Cerise made her way over to him, kneeling beside the couch. Marion was such a beautiful man, especially when he slept. Usually, she was asleep before him, and he was awake before her. She didn’t get much time to ever admire his sleeping form. “Hey, Marion.” Her voice was a soft whisper as she nuzzled him. “Wake up, birthday boy~”

He startled awake at the nuzzle, but at least it wasn’t like this morning. Bloody Hell, he was tired. So, he had slept and not just rolled over all night. That was good, although he couldn’t be sure how much sleep he’d ended up getting. “Hey, Cerise…I’m awake.” Her hair was wet. That meant she’d had a shower – which meant he could clean the bedroom. Vanderwood pushed himself up on the couch, and with as tired as he was – it seemed to take effort. That’s when he just felt…old.

How had he even made it past 25? He had been sure he would die at 25, or right around there. But no, when he’d turned 25 he’d just spent virtually an entire month seeing Crystal every day instead of being dead. Might as well have been being dead. Vanderwood sighed and looked at his fiancée. At least she was having fun with today – even if it meant cleaning up after her. She was the one beautiful thing in his life, and he really was grateful that she cared, deep down.

It was just that it was difficult. He wanted to have a good day; he really did…so he sure as Hell wasn’t about to ruin whatever she had planned and dump his feelings on her. That would probably just make her cry anyway. He reached for his phone out of habit again, but it wasn’t there, of course. “What time is it?” His stomach felt like it was crumbling in on itself, because he was so damn hungry.

“It’s eleven thirty. You really slept in today~” He deserved to sleep in every now and again, and what more perfect day to do so than his birthday? Cerise gave him a look when she audibly heard his stomach growl. “Hungry?” She stood up with a smile on her face. “It’s your birthday, so I can make us something! I’ll be back in a jiffy!” Before he had a chance to protest, she was gone. Cerise knew that she didn’t stand a snowball’s chance in Hell actually cooking, so she had preemptively bought an assortment of pre-cut fruits. Instant oatmeal was pretty easy, too. All she had to do was add hot water.

Okay…so she was cooking. Vanderwood looked out into the kitchen after her, and from what he was seeing, she wasn’t trying to make anything overly ambitious. Maybe he could relax a little. If only he could. He grumbled and pushed out of the couch, going into the bedroom. After quickly taking care of that glitter problem that was the bed, he returned to the couch – feeling at least a little better with the sheets and pillows in the wash. He would still need to vacuum, but with as hungry as he was – eating came first.

She grinned widely as things came together perfectly. Cerise arranged the fruit on a plate around the bowl of instant oatmeal – which she added cinnamon to, like any sane person would do. Now, for the finishing touch. She took out a pack of sparklers and put the ends of them into the oatmeal bowl. That should be exciting and memorable, right? The package had said not to light them indoors, but Cerise took that as more of a suggestion than anything as she took a match and lit the sparklers up before making her way with the food to where her husband-to-be was. “Surprise!” Who didn’t like fireworks?

He was rubbing his face when she came back into the room, and he pulled his hands away. “Cerise!” His eyebrow was twitching again, and he grabbed the sparklers. Cerise frowned as he blew out the sparklers so fast without admiring them.  “Are you trying to light the house on fire again?” He did have a point. It could have sparked a fire if she wasn’t careful, but luckily, she was – or so she thought.

Now that the danger was gone, chestnut-brown eyes fell on what she’d brought him. Just as Cerise was about to open her mouth to argue, he cut her off. “Oh…shortcake…that’s just great…” Had his heart melted in a second? “Thank you…” There was still a lot of irritation, but she was really trying. His praise caused a blush to build on Cerise’s face. “You’re welcome! I’m not a good cook by any means and couldn’t do anything amazing, but…I hope you enjoy it all the same!”

As he started on the food, Cerise ran back to the kitchen to grab something for herself, too – returning to sit down next to him on the couch. She munched on her portion happily, starting a ‘birthday playlist’ that she had made. It was the perfect mix of songs that would hopefully last all day! Most of them were very festive, so it was nice to eat breakfast with such a cheery atmosphere. “Hope you’re enjoying your day so far~” The day hadn’t really even begun; she was just too excited.

“Um…as much as I can, so far.” Maybe that had been meant to be a rhetorical comment. Vanderwood wasn’t sure. It was like his tension and exhaustion were making him even more awkward than usual. He ate in silence, the music far livelier than he was. It was nice though, having someone who cared again. With Caleb they’d just sat in the living room and watched TV. They never tried to do birthdays or Christmas. Caleb had grown up without it anyway, and Vanderwood…the memory of sitting there waiting for his mother to come home, then the tree, his father and his friends.

His face became a dark mask as he grabbed the dirty dishes that Cerise seemed done with and heading out of the room. “I’ll just wash up, then I’ll vacuum.” He was being so curt. It wasn’t fair to her; it really wasn’t. Vanderwood grabbed a hair tie and put his hair up – running his fingers over his serial number per the usual before he turned the sink faucet on.

Cerise stayed silent as she watched him. He had warned her that he might not be in the best of moods – which he certainly wasn’t`, but that only meant that she needed to try harder, right? She was going to make this memorable and fun for him no matter what. It looked like it was going to be a little harder than she’d even thought. As he worked on washing their dishes, Cerise quickly darted back to her room and pulled out a massive amount of decorations from under the bed. She’d have to be quick to decorate while he vacuumed if she wanted to surprise him.

After grabbing all the stuff and stashing it in the guest bedroom, she waited until he began making his way to the room to vacuum. Perfect. With an overabundance of energy, she put the mess of decorations up: streamers, balloons, colorful tableware. Now all that was left was the cake. Cerise checked her phone. It was set to be delivered any time now. She went to peek out the window, and sure enough – there it was. As quietly as she could, she opened the door and brought it in – thanking the delivery driver. The sound of the vacuum would probably drown out anything she had been doing, thankfully.

She set the cake down on the table and opened the box. It was a relatively small cake, because she knew that he wasn’t a fan of sugary things – especially in large quantities. Cerise had given the baker specific instructions to make the cake as healthy as she could without sacrificing the festivity of it all, and she had to say…it looked pretty darn good. All she had left was the presents she had gotten for him – deciding to buy him things he could use instead of something that would just sit out forever and a day.

Mostly, she’d bought him clothes she thought he would like, coordinating the outfits carefully. It was hard to find his size, but she had somehow managed – while avoiding anything that he might think was too restricting. After everything was set up and the apartment looked all sorts of bright and colorful, she snapped a picture with her phone before sitting down on the couch to wait for him to emerge from his vacuuming. Boy would he be surprised! And there wasn’t even fire or glitter involved!

***

The vacuum hurt his ears. He should have had his ears looked at a long time ago, but going to a doctor wasn’t something he was particularly interested in. Vanderwood finished up and looked around the room. He wasn’t sure how he’d managed it, but it was clean. No glitter. Praise whatever God fucking existed. Vanderwood would have crawled around with strips of tape if he had to, but that had thankfully been unnecessary. He turned off the vacuum and went to put it away, getting a good full view of vibrancy as he stepped out of the bedroom.

“What the fuck…when? Oh.” Vanderwood stared at the colorful mess. This was too much for him right then, but that wasn’t just something he could say out loud. So, what should he say? At least nothing was going to light on fire, and there wasn’t any glitter, but he was still going to have to be the one to clean up, wasn’t he? He preemptively put a hand to his eyebrow. It was too vibrant and lively for his taste, but…Cerise had clearly tried so hard. It wasn’t like he could just be a douche over it. “This is…Wow, Cerise.” Okay, that wasn’t too horrible, because it really was wow.

He approached her on the couch and caught sight of the cake, glancing over that to see gifts. She’d really gone all out. Vanderwood felt a little choke in his throat. No one ever gave a shit like this. Least of all his parents. Yeah, that was making him both happy and making his chest sting with pain – his muscles tensing up. You weren’t supposed to finally find someone who cared at 29…or apparently just he was.

She had been excited as he first got a glimpse, but now she was scrunching her nose at his…praise? Marion had seemed to be getting choked up for just a second, but now things seemed just as quickly to be getting bad again. Cerise looked concerned. This was somehow having the opposite effect on him, and she wasn’t sure why. Was she not doing enough? Did she need to try harder? She bit her lip. Think, think…Cerise still had a little trouble reading him completely when he was like this.

Maybe talking about Christmas festivities would cheer him up? Their first Christmas together…all snuggled up together on Christmas eve, drinking warm drinks. That sounded like a dream to her. “Hey Marion…erm…” Cerise put a smile on her face. She needed to stay positive for him, show him a smile. “Cheer up!” As she patted him enthusiastically, she widened her smile. “Christmas is just around the corner, you know? It can only get better from here. Ooh! ” She started to bounce around on her feet all excitedly, taking his hand into hers. “I can totally get out the Christmas decorations tonight aaaaand…tomorrow we can put up the tree together! I have all sorts of cute ornaments just waiting to be used~”

Cerise realized she was babbling and laughed nervously before she looked up to him, and…he didn’t look too enthused. In fact, he wasn’t reacting at all? “Hey…” There was a hint of concern in her voice. Was he closing himself off? That’s probably something he normally did around his birthday, or so she thought. She could only imagine how lonely he had been. “Marion…I’m here now, you know? You’re not alone anymore…You don’t have to shut down,” Cerise gave him a small smile and patted his arm again, trying to comfort him. “Talk to me…how can I make this better?”

Vanderwood loved her – he really did, but she was digging him into a pit of pain. It wasn’t her fault. She didn’t know any better. In fact, she was just trying to help. He didn’t feel angry; he didn’t feel sad, but that was only because he was shutting himself off from the thoughts that swirled around in his head. It was all too much. Vanderwood already felt like he was so tense – as though someone were trying to break a pencil with their bare hands. He realized she was saying his name, patting his arm, but nothing she was saying was reaching his ears.

All he could hear was the sound of his heart going way too fast. The next thing he knew, she was under him – pinned down onto the couch with her hands above her head. Vanderwood blinked, taking it in before he let go, the rush of guilt like a dam breaking for the second time in his life. He hadn’t realized how close he was to breaking, how much he needed his body to relax, how much he wanted… “Get away from me.” His voice was brusque and dark, and he looked towards the ground as he scrambled away from her to the other side of the couch. He hadn’t meant for it to sound so terrible, but he couldn’t make the words come to say anything better. Vanderwood couldn’t be around her right now. He’d pinned his fiancée to the bloody couch. His fists balled up, and he wanted to put them through something – clenching them so tightly that he was shaking.

It had all happened so fast. Marion had grabbed her wrists hard, causing her to yelp out in pain before he’d pushed her down beneath him. He was off of her again, but her eyes were still wide with fear as tears began to pool in the corners. Cerise was scared – terrified, and the person she loved the most was the cause of it. He was supposed to be getting better; she was helping him get better, so why was this happening? Why now? Had she not tried hard enough?

She began to rub her wrists. They hurt so bad. The cheery music playing in the background was a stark contrast to the current situation. There was an explanation…there had to be an explanation. She hadn’t gotten the chance to say anything, ask him why before he was telling her to get away. The tears finally spilled over, rolling over her cheeks silently as she quickly ran to her room, slamming the door behind her. When she was in the safety of her room, she let herself cry into the first pillow she could grab. She had only wanted him to feel better, share his feelings with her. Cerise wanted to make happy memories with the man she loved to the moon and back. This wasn’t supposed to happen.

How much time had passed? An hour? Two? She didn’t know; she’d been too lost in thought. Eventually, she had come to the harsh conclusion that nothing she could do was going to heal him completely. She was nothing but a temporary reprieve from the downward spiral that was his life. Cerise loved him – loved him so much it hurt, but she couldn’t help him. He’d come so far, but there was only so much she could do for him. Just loving him couldn’t make him better, and she wasn’t about to sleep with him just to make him feel better. That would only contribute to the problem.

Cerise wasn’t going to be that person for him. He didn’t need her; he just needed his fix. That’s how it would always be. Nothing she did, no matter how much effort she put in, no matter how much she cared – it wasn’t going to fix him. She was nothing more than a silly little girl who cared too much for her own good. Cerise eyed her ring, the ‘proof’ that they were promising their lives to each other. The promise of a better, brighter future. Psh, yeah right. Someone was going to come along. They were going to be able to make him happy – do what needed to be done so he could heal. It just wasn’t going to be her.

She slid the ring off her finger and left it on the bed, heading towards the window. Cerise didn’t even bother to grab her phone; she honestly just didn’t care. All she knew was that she needed to get away. She’d snuck out more times than she could count. This would be easy. He wanted her to go away? Fine. She would. Vanderwood wouldn’t have to worry about her ever again.

If Vanderwood wanted to be alone and miserable so badly, she wasn’t about to stop him or get dragged down into it. She was going to live her life – whether he was a part of it or not. As soon as she was able, she would find the next flight back to France. Right now, she needed to breathe and get out – away from it all. Away from him. Cerise carefully slid the window open and slipped out into the cool winter air.

***

How long had he been sitting there since the door slammed? He was breathing too hard, a ragged sound. What had he done? Vanderwood bit his tongue and tasted blood, but at least now he could release his hands. His mind flitted to the image of her beneath him – the fear, the pain, the tears. He’d done that.

Vanderwood felt crushed. His heart felt like it had crumbled. Cerise. What he needed was to calm down. He needed to relax, and then he could…would…What? How could he even make up for what he’d just done? He’d have to tell her everything. Why? Bloody Hell – he’d thought he had been doing so well. Now he’d just snapped. He hadn’t been paying attention – hadn’t been watching his behavior. Well, apparently, he wasn’t as well as he’d thought he was.

The sun was low in the sky by the time he got up off the couch, moving slowly, feeling like the lowest scum of the Earth. Really, that was all he’d ever been anyway, right? Vanderwood internally slapped himself. If he was going to get better, he was going to have to stop thinking like that. Right now, he needed to make sure he and Cerise got dinner – then make sure she was alright, and…hopefully, explain…If she would want to hear it.

He’d managed to tune out the music until now but turned it off as soon as he realized it was still going. The silence was more deafening than the sound had been. The only thing he could think while he was cooking was that she was probably scared of him now. It was either that, or she just wanted nothing to do with him. He kept trying to shove those thoughts away, but he could only do so much.

Once he’d made dinner, he went to her door, knocking softly. No answer. “Cerise…you need to eat.” Not a sound. Now anxiety swept up on him, and he opened her door slowly – a cold breeze chilling him to the bone. An open window. There was an open window and no Cerise. “Mon amour…?” Why was he even asking for her like she was there? She clearly wasn’t. Chestnut-brown eyes searched the room to find her phone and then her ring. The choked sound that escaped him was hardly human, and then he was scrambling, throwing on some clothes, his gloves, and grabbing his jacket – shoving her ring and phone into the pockets.

It was getting so dark. Any shops would be closing soon in anticipation of the day tomorrow. If he was going to find her, he needed to move quickly. Vanderwood decided to go out the window. Where would she have gone? He bit his tongue – feeling the sting from the barely healed bite earlier. Vanderwood decided to head towards the shop area. She loved people, and if she wanted to hide and get away from him – he had a feeling that she’d seek out some place warm and inviting. That was just who she was.

 

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Mystic Messenger Fanfiction | VanderwoodxOC Cerise – Tagged | Cut It Out

She came across her best friend’s new haircut. Originally, Anette’s hair was rather long…not longer than her own, but pretty long still. Now it was so much shorter than it had originally been, and it looked so amazing on her…Cerise ran a hand through her own hair now.

***Last week I got super duper sick and completely lost my voice, so I just didn’t have the energy to get a Tagged chapter up. I’m healthy, now, though! ~Let’s Connect! FFC***

*Remember, this is a sequel to Vanderwood Backstory, and Cerise has a bio. You can support my writing on patreon and get access to my VIP Discord Server or other goodies like early chapter releases and hidden scenes.  Tagged Chapter Directory*

The week flew by much quicker than he would have liked, and now he was spending time at Seven’s again. There was really no reason for him to be with the kid anymore, as he no longer had to monitor his work to keep the both of them from being killed, and he felt a little underfoot as Seven…Saeyoung…was helping his twin brother recover. Maybe it was about time he moved out again? Especially since he and Cerise were getting married. It wasn’t just because he couldn’t bear to be apart from her because he worried she was going to get herself into some sort of trouble. Okay, so maybe it was that a little bit.

Vanderwood snorted at himself and opened his phone as he was lying on the bed, sending her a quick selfie, feeling a little like an idiot doing it still, but knowing that she liked it. He also just loved to get hers back. Now he was scrolling through Fakebook. Wait…who was posting on her wall besides Cerise? Vanderwood groaned as he read the status. `We should get together and do this again sometime.` It was that one annoying rich boy with the stupid hair again.

His eyebrow twitched, and then he opened the video. Dancing…Cerise was an amazing dancer, but his eyebrow apparently was, too. This kid, whoever he was, was way too physically close to his Cerise. It seemed like the video was a few years old, but Vanderwood didn’t like it. He posted in the comments, that little jealous monster in his chest. `Should make a video of us together instead.`

He almost wrote that he was far more attractive, which was true. Vanderwood didn’t have idiot hair, and he didn’t look like a teenager, but that was a little too douchey to point out in public. No matter how true it was. He grunted and sent Cerise another text. `I’ll be over for breakfast tomorrow. Who’s Fortun?` Vanderwood didn’t want it to seem like he was judging her, but at this point he genuinely needed to know. She hadn’t dated anyone other than that one when she was in grade school, so whoever this idiot was, he hadn’t heard much about him.

***

With Marion out of the house, Cerise had decided to run around town by herself the past week. Not that he didn’t let her go out without him when he was there, but he was such a worry-wort. Cerise heard her phone ping and checked it to see that he had sent her a selfie. Each time he did it, it made her extremely giddy, because she knew that he didn’t particularly like taking them…or having his picture taken at all, really. Yet, he still did it, because he knew it made her happy. It was a good thing she took a pre-emptive selfie before she left the house that she hadn’t posted yet.

She sent that selfie back along with a ton of heart emojis. Normally, she wouldn’t try to lie to him or hide the fact that she had gone out, but she wanted to get him something as a surprise and she couldn’t do that if he was looming over her. Probably, if she would have sent a selfie of her out and about, she had no doubt he would worry over it, find out where she was, and be there in an instant. It wasn’t like she was going to be shanked or kidnapped on the street or anything. Cerise shook her head. He was a little ridiculous sometimes, but she still loved him.

Her phone was going off again, but she was used to receiving multiple notifications at once. It was a good thing she had a different ringtone for her texts. She had just entered a store when her phone went off again. “…Fortun?” Why was he asking about Fortun? How did he even know Fortun? He had probably seen him commenting on something. Cerise stopped to send back a quick text, making sure to stand out of the way as she did so. God, she hated when people stopped in the middle of somewhere to text. `1 of my best friends from home. Can’t w8 2 c u~ ( ˘ ³˘)♥ ` With that sent, she began wandering around the store in search of the perfect something.

***

His phone pinged. One of her best friends? The dancing eyebrow returned. One of her best friends was a flirty male? Okay, so he was probably being ridiculous, but he’d come to accept that he was possessive at this point. `Me either. I’ll miss you until then.` Eventually, this Fortun guy would just have to figure out that Cerise was beyond taken. Vanderwood got back on Fakebook only to more irritation. Cerise must be busy if she hadn’t seen any of this yet. Fortun had typed back `You haven’t danced with your fiancée yet? Funny. I’ve danced with her a lot.` There were more videos linked now as well.

`I was too busy dating her and getting engaged. Sorry.` What was it this guy wanted other than to be annoying? Vanderwood bit his tongue and just continued scrolling only to a few minutes later see another thing from Fortun on his fiancées wall – an outfit of sorts. He had to admit it would look great on her, but he didn’t like Fortun asking her address to send it to her. Cerise wasn’t responding to any of it right now, which made him wonder what she was up to.

Maybe he was just paranoid, but he got the feeling that she wasn’t in the house. Granted, it wasn’t like she wasn’t allowed to be out of the house, but he was anxious wondering what she was doing. `Your friend seems particularly friendly today. What are you up to shortcake?` That wasn’t too horribly anxious or overbearing…nor too descriptive on how much he wanted to smack her little friend upside the head. She had to be home and probably just busy with something, based on the cute selfie she’d sent him back. Vanderwood grumbled at himself. He was just being all around irritable.

***

It wasn’t long before she found something that just spoke to her. Cerise carried the item around until she came across a kiosk in the store. It was some kind of quick photo developer. She read the instructions to find out that it operated via Bluetooth once a fee was paid. Her eyes lit up. That would be perfect. She began to look through her gallery to decide what she wanted when her phone pinged again.

Cerise read the message and laughed a little. `Yeah, he’s pretty nice. 🙂 I’m just looking thru sum pix~` Okay, not a complete lie. She sent the text and then settled on developing the very first selfie they had taken together. It would look really good in a frame, she decided. After getting it developed – which was amazingly easy! – she picked out a nice frame and went to check out. Cerise was out the door and to her home again with no incident. Putting the stuff aside to mess with later, she took her boots off and plopped on her couch, scrolling through her notifications.

Oh, so that was why he’d asked about Fortun. Her friends back home must have missed her. She looked through the exchange between the two and grinned, not really realizing that her friend was being overly flirty. All her mind was focused on was, omigod, does Marion wanna dance with me? Cerise squealed and began to message him immediately. `Let’s dance 2gether sometime!! <3` She didn’t know the extent of what he knew, but something she had fantasized about was a nice slow dance between her and the person she loved. Now she was feeling absolutely giddy; she couldn’t help but to kick her legs in the air in excitement. Cerise didn’t even look at her other notifications; she had a picture to put in a frame!

***

Pictures? He could imagine she had a lot to get through with as many as she took in one day. Vanderwood smiled and sent something back. `Guess I’ll do the same, since I miss you so much.` Cheesy, nice, but he wasn’t wrong. It was pleasant for him to look through the pictures they had together, not that they had so many, but each one carried a memory. The only problem was always when he got to her shower selfie and the wink.

Their latest picture together didn’t bring up the cleanest memories either. Vanderwood could see the marks he’d left on her and subsequently the one she’d made on him. His fingers brushed lightly over the spot, but by now it had faded away. He’d need a new…his phone pinged with a text. As he went to open it, he was blushing like an idiot, somewhat happy to have been interrupted, since his mind had been about to wander. Now he read her text and realized she must have finally seen her notifications, or at least the dancing.

Shit…he’d gotten jealous and offered to dance with her. That was not the best of his ideas. The only dancing he’d ever done was a forced middle school shuffle. Vanderwood had used to go to the school dances just because it was better than being at home, and he’d stand in the corner. Sometimes girls or teachers had still insisted he dance. Incidentally, this was also how he ended up with his first kiss at 16 and promptly denying the girl. Yeah…dancing…good times. Still. It had been his idea, and now she was probably beyond excited. `Whenever you want mon amour. You will have to teach me.` What had he signed up for?

Maybe now she was replying to her other notifications, so Vanderwood decided to go back to scrolling, but he didn’t see anything. Bloody Hell, she must have been really excited. He came across a photo from another one of her friends that he’d added simply because of Fakebook friend suggestions. Adding her friends had been a mistake, because that meant a bunch of people he had no idea how close they were to her were on his ‘wall’, but this one must be a little closer, because she seemed to be having a fight with Fortun in the comments now. Good. He deserved a fight.

The woman had posted a before and after picture of her haircut. It looked stupid, too, asymmetrical, completely annoying. Her status that accompanied it said, `Single feels good! Got a haircut #goodbyedeadweight` Vanderwood was glad Cerise wasn’t cutting her hair, because he loved that beautiful long hair. Even if it took forever to keep up with, she looked amazing with it, and running his fingers through it was always a highlight of his day…if he wasn’t digging his fingers into it for other reasons.

***

Cerise finished putting the picture in the frame and placed a cute bow on it for a finishing touch. A little girly, but she had no doubt that he would like it. She had also picked up his very own pillow. Of course, she was the one who adored pillows, but she had figured that if he had to be surrounded by them all the time, he might as well have one that he could call his own. It was a large leopard printed one; if he would choose for that pattern to be in his jacket, then he must like it. What’s more was that it was incredibly soft, and she was almost jealous that he was going to be the one to get to cuddle with it. He was lucky she loved him so much.

She was so into her project that she hadn’t noticed her phone until she took her spot on the couch again. The noise she made upon reading his text was almost inhuman. She was going to get to teach him! Cerise could only imagine it and how romantic and completely adorable it would be. He’d taught her how to shoot a gun; she could teach him how to dance with her. It was the perfect exchange in her mind. They could both lend each other a little something that they were good at.` the student bcomes the teacher~ u better b rdy ;)` Maybe she would put together a routine just for him. Would he even like that?

Once Cerise was able to finally calm down a little, she went back to her notifications. Fortun had posted an outfit and wanted to send it to her? Now that she thought about it…she hadn’t given her friends her new address. She ended up privately messaging him, giving him her address, asking him to share it with her other friends as well. Fortun didn’t message back right away, so she decided to look at her friend’s accounts to see what they were up to.

It wasn’t long before Cerise found out that Anette had dumped Fortun again. That wasn’t really a big deal to her; they would always end up back together anyways. They always were a rather odd couple, but they did suit each other, in her opinion. Then she came across her best friend’s new haircut. Originally, Anette’s hair was rather long…not longer than her own, but pretty long still. Now it was so much shorter than it had originally been, and it looked so amazing on her. Not really paying attention to the fighting going on in the comments, she dropped her own. `omg!!! that looks soooo good on u! #killingit`

Cerise ran a hand through her own hair now. She hadn’t really cut it besides shaping her fringe or trims since she was little, so…maybe it was time to take the plunge and chop it off? The only reason she’d even grown out her hair was because of her uncle Emil, but change was good, and short was in. Sounded like a good idea to her. She went through her instafram and searched for short hairstyles. “Pixie cut, huh?” That sounded cute, looked cute…she could totally pull it off. Plus, it was shorter than her friend’s hair was.

She didn’t know how many pictures she hearted before it began to become late. “Oh…crap.” Cerise needed to get in the shower and get to bed if she was going to get up early enough to surprise her fiancé. After getting that shower, doing her nightly skin care routine, and getting ready for bed, she sent Marion a few good night texts and a selfie or two before she was asleep. She might have decided to cuddle up to the pillow she’d bought him. So soft…

***

Surprisingly, Cerise woke up before her alarm went off. She grabbed for her phone and checked the time. Okay, so it was only about thirty minutes before it was going to go off anyways; she would live. Besides, she was way too excited to go back to sleep. Marion would be coming back to her today.

Cerise hopped out of bed and ran to the bathroom to go through her morning routine of moisturizers, exfoliation, brushing her teeth. She didn’t bother to style her hair, because she was just going to cut it all off anyways. After setting the gifts she was going to give him out on the coffee table in the living room and neatly arranging them, she went off searching for a pair of household scissors. Any scissors would work, right? All of them cut, so it shouldn’t be a problem.

She connected her phone to some bluetooth speakers she had and turned on some music as she watched a few video tutorials. It didn’t look too hard; she would totally be able to pull it off. There was really no reason to get dressed yet, since she didn’t want hair all over her clean clothes, so she just stayed in her pajamas. Giggling as she put down the phone, she picked up the scissors. Marion was going to be so surprised; she couldn’t wait to see the look on his face. “Here goes nothing~”

***

He woke up way too early. Vanderwood grumbled, not able to fall back asleep, of course. It would have been much easier if he was with Cerise. After getting up for his morning run, he decided to waste some more time on social media. It looked like Cerise had been ‘hearting’ a lot of short haircuts since last night. That was weird. Her text last night had been the last thing he’d read before falling off into a fitful sleep, and he didn’t see a reason to respond since he would see her soon, but damn it made him blush like an idiot.

Vanderwood sighed and checked the time again. Still early, but…he missed her. She would probably still be sleeping when he got there, but that was fine. He could just let himself in, and then her food would be ready when she did wake up. Cerise wouldn’t mind him showing up out of the blue since she was expecting him later in the day, anyway, right?

***

As Vanderwood got to the apartment, he could hear loud music from outside of the door, meaning she had to be up and either dancing or doing chores. He knocked and rang the doorbell but got no response. After trying the door, he found…it was unlocked. That better have been intentional. He walked in, calling out her name to again no response. There were some things on the table, a leopard print pillow and a framed picture…their picture with a bow on it. Cerise had apparently been up to more than she’d let on the day before, but he could hardly be mad. Although, he was pretty interested to know why the door was unlocked and the music so loud she wouldn’t hear an intruder.

Where on Earth was she? The music was starting to give him a headache, too. It was far too loud for his damaged ears. Vanderwood checked every room before finally pushing at the bathroom door and there she was with scissors to her hair. He reached out to grab her wrist, stopping whatever it was she was up to. “What on Earth are you doing?” His voice was loud, trying to speak over the music. Was she really trying to cut her hair with house scissors? Why was she doing that in the first place?

Cerise squeaked when he grabbed her, causing her to drop the scissors. She hadn’t heard him come in. How did he even get in? He probably had a key…or picked the lock…either of those made sense for him. “I erm…decided to cut my hair? To surprise you?” Cerise laughed nervously, talking a little louder than normal so he could hear her over her music. “I looked up tutorials, so it’s going to turn out so cute!” She looked up to him a little sheepishly, “Surprise?” Now Cerise grabbed her phone to turn off her music with her other hand, so she could talk to him a little better. “How’d you get in, anyways? Do you have a key?”

Oh, thank fuck, the music was off, but now his eyebrow was twitching. “I don’t have a key.” So that settled that. “You didn’t lock your door. Anyone could have walked in here.” Just the thought of it was enough to make him want to move in right this second, but that wasn’t reasonable. Her response was a simple, “Oops.” Well, at least nobody did. But if someone really truly wanted to get in, wouldn’t they find a way? Cerise was pretty sure she’d locked the door the night Drawl got in. The thought made her shudder, and she pushed the memory to the back of her mind

He hadn’t even touched on the hair thing yet. It was one big ball of irritating in the morning. Vanderwood loved her hair, absolutely loved it. All the pictures she had liked. Is that what it was about? “You look cute with your hair the way it is, Cerise. I love it long.” He reached out to run his hand through her hair, deciding to bite his tongue on the door subject for now, at least until he was sure she wouldn’t take scissors to her hair the second he turned his back. “If you really want to get it cut short, I’ll pay for a professional. You definitely can’t use these.” He bent over to pick up the house scissors and place them on the sink. Granted, he would cut her hair himself but hers needed to be perfect unlike when he’d used to cut Seven’s and was just trying to make it even.

Marion’s words made her blush, a blush which only got brighter when he’d run his hand through her hair. She had to admit, the feeling of his hand in her hair was soothing and made her heart flutter. Could she really experience that with such short hair? Moreover, he said he loved it long. “Okay…I won’t cut it. Since you love it so much~” His opinion was worth so much more than those of strangers on the Internet. If he liked her hair the way it was, she liked it, too. Besides, there was so much more you could do with hair as long as hers was, even though it was a pain to take care of. “You’re just gonna have to help me more often when I wash it.” She smiled at him brightly, her sing-song tone making her words lilt.

There was a little shock of victory at her deciding not to cut it. What else would he pull in bed? Okay, not a thought to be having. With as many pictures as she’d liked of short hair, maybe he should have expected this? Was this what it was going to be for the rest of his life? A life of ‘Oh, Bloody Hell, Cerise, don’t do that?’ To whatever trend she was liking at the time? He looked at her for a moment. Yes, it was…but it was worth it.

He only now realized he hadn’t responded to her suggestion of helping her wash it, blush evident in his cheeks. “Yes, right…gladly…breakfast time?” Bloody fucking Hell, he needed breakfast after a morning already so busy. “I’ll make whatever you want this morning…since you got me those gifts.” In the ruckus, he’d almost forgotten about the gifts she’d set out for him. His face was starting to turn a darker red. “Um…thank you…for those, by the way. I saw them already.”

Right, the presents. There had been so much chaos that she’d forgotten, too. “You’re welcome…I erm…I hope you like them.” She really hadn’t meant for him to see them just yet, but oh well. Time to think about food. “Whatever I want?” Her tone lilted even more, and then she had to think for a moment. What sounded good to her? “How about yo— PANCAKES. I WANT PANCAKES.” Oh, dear God, that was a good save. What even?? She began to fidget with her hair, hiding her face behind it. Oh, right. She couldn’t save face if she had short hair. It was great that he’d stopped her before she could make such a bad decision.

What had she been trying to say? Vanderwood was trying to piece it together but decided to just leave it be, not wanting to tire himself out more. “Pancakes it is, then.” Bloody Hell, he loved this excitable woman. It took him a moment to realize she was hiding her face from him with her hair, and a massive blush becoming noticeable on her face as she made a move to kiss his hand. That was when it dawned on him that she’d almost said, ‘You,’ and he almost died choking on air.

Cerise nearly dropped his hand but placed the kiss on his palm quickly first. She was internally screaming. That choking noise meant he had realized…oh God. Cerise couldn’t just say those things, not to him. He was a recovering sex addict, and stuff like that didn’t help in his recovery at all when he was frustrated. Stupid filter not working. Stupid her and her hormones. Vanderwood swallowed hard. Alright, they needed to get out of that bathroom and get him cooking before his imagination went nuts with all the ways she could have him for breakfast. Okay, no. Stop.

He held the door to the bathroom open and indicated for her to leave first, heading off to the kitchen after she was out and starting on the pancakes. Cerise was out of that bathroom so fast and decided to busy herself on her computer until food would be ready, leaving him to cook in peace. That at least made it easier. He made a good amount, probably more than they were going to eat, but warmed up pancakes weren’t so bad and meant she would have something proper to eat if he had to leave her place again. Vanderwood’s mind was thankfully well occupied with this task and didn’t wander.

As soon as he was finished, he set the plates on the table, grabbing some maple syrup and fruits after that to place there, too. “Breakfast time.” Damn, sometimes he was a real housewife type…but breakfast looked great, so whatever. She jumped away from her computer, heading to him when he’d called out and checking the table. Whoa did it look good. Something was missing though…Cerise padded over to the fridge and took out a can of whipped cream before sitting down in her seat. “This looks so yummy!” She praised him before she turned the can upside down and proceeded to put what seemed like nearly half of it onto the top of her pancakes before drizzling it with maple syrup. “Perfect~” Cerise admired his (and her?) handiwork before happily digging in.

He had wondered what he’d missed when she went to the fridge, and he tried not to cringe. That was about as unhealthy as it could get. In fact, it was a miracle he’d even bothered to bring out the maple syrup, preferring the healthier choice of fruits for what was not the healthiest of breakfasts. Ever since he’d been with Cerise, his meals weren’t quite as carefully managed and planned out, but he didn’t mind. He just worked out a little harder, and oh holy shit, how long had she been putting whipped cream on those pancakes?

It was like a mountain of fluff. That was even further from healthy. How was she even as thin as she was? Vanderwood just kind of nodded at the praise she’d given before deciding to address the mountain of cream. “You…want some pancakes with that?” Okay, maybe a little bit of an asshole comment, but at least he hadn’t meant it as an insult. Vanderwood sighed and dug into his own, the strawberries a good addition for a pop of flavor.

Cerise just kind of stared at him for a moment in mid-chew before swallowing it and narrowing her eyes. “…want some smily-o’s for that attitude?” She retorted, before shoving more of the overly sweet breakfast in her mouth. Vanderwood had accepted her response as fair, although it did make him snort and nearly choke on a strawberry.

Luckily for Cerise, she had an amazing metabolism…and maybe not so luckily, because that was probably contributing to her lack of boobs, too. Maaaaybe she could…implants! Of course. Cerise dropped everything she was doing and began searching on her phone. It couldn’t be that expensive, right? Why hadn’t she thought of this sooner? She was a goddamn genius.

Almost as soon as he’d gone back to eating, Cerise was on her phone again. What was more important than breakfast? Vanderwood peeked over to see what she was up to, naturally curious when it came to her. What. the. fuck. Was his fiancée looking at implants and false-breasted ladies? Bloody Hell. What the fuck was his life? “Cerise…what are you doing?”

It didn’t seem right to just mention that he’d seen it, and it would be nice to have his suspicions confirmed before his eyebrow started with morning exercises again. How many times did he have to tell her that he preferred her just the way she was? Besides, implants were just…Vanderwood actually shuddered a little. They were awful, in his opinion, just awful. More than once he’d had sex with a woman who had them, and every time, he couldn’t bear to touch them – the separation between the true breast tissue and the plastic was too obvious for him or his OCD to handle.

Without looking up, Cerise simply replied with, “Research. ” It didn’t take long for her to find an ‘enter your email for more info’ box, giving her email happily. Finally! A beautifully busty bosom would be hers! Honestly, she should have thought of this sooner. Wouldn’t she be so much cuter is she had curves in all the right places? Well…namely, her chest. She was okay with her bottom and wasn’t as lacking in that department. Once she requested more info, she put her phone down and continued eating again. Man, this stuff was good, and she finished it relatively quickly.

Great. Vanderwood wanted to slap his hand to his face. She wasn’t being forthcoming. He watched as she put her phone away, waiting as she was finishing her pancakes. “What kind of research?” This was not shaping up to be the greatest morning of his life. If he had to, he would just have to hack her phone to check. He was nowhere near as fast as Seven, but he did know how. “I’d like to know. Maybe I could help?” By convincing you not to get implants. The inner thought thankfully stayed inner.

God, he hated those things, they were just so…lifelessly plastic. Their appearance as well as the way they felt, just no. Not on his Cerise. She was absolutely beyond perfect physically, no modification needed. Alright, so again maybe not a good thought to have, but, yeah. “If it’s anything important…I feel like I should know, as your fiancé.” The fiancé card, not a bad one to pull. Bloody Hell, just let her tell him already, so he could deal with the problem. His eyebrow was having a grand old time.

“It’s a surprise for my fiancé. You’ll find out soon enough~” He was going to absolutely love the new look! One time she had imageshopped a picture of herself to have a large chest, and she had to admit, it was pretty great. She looked at him, and the giant grin she’d had on her face turned to an expression of confusion. “Something wrong…?” Cerise had by now noticed that when he was getting irritated, his eyebrow would twitch. So, Marion was obviously irritated about something. Maybe not knowing what the surprise was…was getting to him?

If…she could give him a little hint, would he feel better? He was a former secret agent, so he would be happy with small clues, right? “Okay, okay. I’ll give you a hint, because you’re so cute. So, calm that eyebrow!” Cerise scooted closer to him with her chair, the grin now back on her face as he covered his eyebrow. “Okay, so you know how a desert is barren and flat and generally unpleasant? But on a mountain, it’s so huge and beautiful, and life flourishes? People go sight-seeing in the mountains…take vacations there. Well…I wanna be a mountain, you know? Nobody wants to take a hike through the desert, Marion.”

His eyebrow only moved harder under his hand when she’d started talking. He almost felt like he was talking to Seven, and he did not need that this morning, or ever. Would it be too obvious if he claimed he knew now? She seemed so damn happy that he almost felt bad with the fact he had to tell her that her idea was idiotic, but that’s what it was. How did she make big decisions like that on a whim anyway? Cerise was a product of her generation, obviously.

“I don’t want mountains, Cerise. Let alone a man-made one. I would far rather walk through the desert.” Now he was the one scooting closer, and it was a bad idea, but he had to illustrate his point. Vanderwood pulled her into his lap and hugged her tightly, letting her body be flush against his as he turned his head to murmur in her ear. “Mountains would only keep us apart…” She remained quiet, tensing slightly as she was completely and utterly trying not to die. She hadn’t expected him to figure out so fast or react like this – pulling her into his lap…he didn’t even seem to be done. How would she survive?

It was ridiculous to Vanderwood how hard it was to resist nibbling on her ear, but he bit down on his tongue hard before letting her go to pull back and catch her eyes. “You’re perfect the way you are.” His hands found her face. So, he was pretending he was the world’s greatest detective, but anything to make sure she didn’t try to do something stupid…for the second time today. “That sensitivity of yours…a lot of that would go away because of surgery, and I would miss it. Not to mention how much the cold feel of mountains is just…”

Maybe it was better he didn’t tell her how much he hated that feeling, because he’d have to admit how much he’d touched a pair of fake breasts. She didn’t like to hear about that shit, and he couldn’t blame her. He wouldn’t like to talk about it either. Vanderwood mentally slapped himself to keep talking instead of looking dumb. “I love your desert. I love you, and I want this body, not anyone else’s.” His hands lightly squeezed her sides before, yes, he needed her out of his lap now. He carefully shuffled her back to her own chair. Bloody Hell, his face was redder than his forgotten strawberries.

Cerise Couldn’t even make a response. The way he’d pulled her into his lap, murmured in her ear, squeezed her sides, the little twitch of something appearing in his pants…Pancakes. She needed more pancakes. Good thing he’d made so many, because she was about to eat the shit out of them. “I…yes. Breakfast…pancakes, need more…yeah.” Crap. Why couldn’t she just be a normal human being? Cerise piled more pancakes onto her plate and sat down, foregoing the whipped cream because, Jesus, she needed to stay occupied for the moment.

Vanderwood felt like he was dying as much as she was. It was time to get back to the food. He noticed that she didn’t put more whipped cream on. They were both dying. It had been a bold move on his part, one that left him blushing like an idiot where for others it would not, but hopefully she got the gist now and wasn’t going to go onwards with…mountains. His eyebrow twitched just a little as he ate in silence. What a morning…was it going to be calm for the rest of the day, then? Probably not. His eyebrow was fine now, but, right, she’d be teaching him to dance. That would probably be awkward and irritating, too. Yeah…his life with her was special.

Every so often, Cerise would glance at him, noticing that his eyebrow was still twitching just a little. Okay, so…he definitely didn’t like the idea of her getting implants. He’d made that perfectly clear. Her heart fluttered a little at the thought of him liking her just the way she was, even if she didn’t have a sizable chest or amazing curves. She really did feel lucky.

Cerise finished the rest of her pancakes and noticed that he had finished, too before she dared to actually speak up again, happy to actually find her voice coming through and not some weird strangled gurgling or something. “Marion…were you serious about what you said? You know…dancing with me? I erm…don’t expect you to be able to do what I can or anything, but…” Why was she being all flustered? Where was all that God-given confidence? “…I thought maybe we could try…something really easy? Like…slow dancing–just one song!” Cerise was back to hiding her face in her hair, bringing her hand up to fidget with the fringe.

He had pretty much zoned-out after finishing his food, her voice bringing him out of his little self-induced trance. Vanderwood had watched her as she was fumbling around with her words. She was…surprisingly flustered, and then when she mentioned the dancing, he understood why. It was obviously a very big deal to her, not something he should have offhandedly commented, and that was why his discomfort about it didn’t matter. He couldn’t back out now and hurt her. “Yeah…yeah, that’s fine…just uh…I’ve only ever done the middle school shuffle. If you even know what that is…”

Did the middle school shuffle exist in either Korea or France? Hell if he knew, but dancing a slow song with the love of his life, maybe he could get into that idea. “One song is fine…” Vanderwood felt the cheesy comment coming on, but he was powerless to stop it, “or a hundred, I don’t care. I just want to dance with you.” Well. He’d cursed himself to a lifetime of dancing. At least Cerise would be happy. Knowing that he would be dancing with her…maybe he would end up enjoying it, too.

“Middle school what…?” She tilted her head and looked at him in confusion. Was that a dance move British people were taught? He didn’t sound so confident, whatever it was. Her face lit back up though at his subsequent offer. Of course, she knew that he was just being cheesy, but she was happy that he would at least dance with her for one song. Really, she had never slow danced before, but…she knew the theory behind it.

Fortun had once invited her to slow dance with him, which she promptly rejected. To her, that was something that someone should only seriously do with the person they were dating…or in her case, getting married to. Maybe it was a little silly of her, but there was a difference between being close to someone when you danced and being close to someone. Cerise had had crushes before that she would imagine it with, but she – of course – had never asked. So, he would again be her first, and she would be his, too – for once. That seemed perfect to her.

He realized that he’d been right that the term didn’t translate for her. “Middle school shuffle. Here…I’ll show you.” Vanderwood stood and reached for her hand to help her up. If he wanted her to wrap her arms around his neck, he’d have to bend over, but instead he just put her hands on his shoulders and placed his hands on her hips. It felt ridiculous. Her fingertips were just over his shoulders and there wasn’t a lot of space between the table and the couch. “Just kinda…um….” Vanderwood took a small step to the side and pushed on her hip to get her to do the same before repeating it, shuffling back and forth. “It’s lame…and you’d get in trouble if you got any closer than this.” There was practically space enough for another person between them.

His fiancée’s noses had scrunched up, signaling she really wasn’t a fan and it wasn’t long before he was explaining himself. “I went to a few dances in middle school and high school just to get out of the house. Though I mostly watched from the sidelines, the teachers would force me to dance with the girls sitting without anyone.” Vanderwood realized he was still holding her hips, having shuffled a little closer to her naturally, because he didn’t like space between them. Now he let go, his face bright red as he rubbed the back of his head awkwardly. “So…that’s my dancing experience…teach me to dance?”

Cerise made a little frown at the story, shrugging it off a moment later as he asked her to teach him again. The dance itself wasn’t so bad. It was actually kind of cute and simple. Her disappointment was mostly with the teachers he’d talked about and the idea of being forced to stay apart. It wasn’t that big of a deal with her that he’d danced with others before her after all, really. At least she got the honors of being the one he wanted to dance with, and that made her feel all warm and fuzzy. “Dancing is dancing, mon amour. There’s no right or wrong way.” Cerise thought she could actually use that ‘shuffle’ to her advantage. Marion didn’t look all that confident. “If you say so.”

She grinned and led him to the other side of the living room where there was more space. It was early still, for her anyway, but she was just so excited that she couldn’t help it. This was happening now. Cerise moved things around for some more space, Marion watching her seemingly as though he was at a complete loss as she found a rather soft Playlist on a music app – louder stuff always bothered his ears. “We’re gonna start with that shuffle thing and advance from there~” At least with that, it would help him become more comfortable, and she figured it would help him pick up a rhythm faster. “I’ll lead for now.” She beamed up at him before all but yanking him to her, opting for more closeness than he had shown her. No doubt he was nervous, but even that was somehow fun for her.

Vanderwood’s face turned about as red as it could get as she pulled him close. He hadn’t been expecting it at all, but followed along, thankful for his reflexes – otherwise there would have been no way she could have done it with his low center of gravity. Then again, it was Cerise. She seemed to figure out how to do everything he thought was impossible. At first, he just felt so…weird. it was nice being close but, he had no idea what he was doing. Even following her, all he could think was, What do I do next?

Cerise could clearly tell how tense he was. She needed to figure out what could help him to relax. This was the part he knew, but he was still so incredibly stiff and rigid. It was like when she’d tried to play with her plastic fashion dolls when she was a kid. That only made her giggle, though. Whether he was getting the hang of things or not, she just enjoyed that she got to be close to him. “Don’t focus on how you’re going to move your body. Listen to the music and let it help.”

Her comment and giggle relaxed him some, but it was going to take a bit.  Once she felt he was slightly more comfortable with things, despite how rigid he was, she moved on to something that resembled dancing a little more. Baby steps. Cerise showed him where to position his hands before she tried to lead them again. He was so incredibly out of his element, and she couldn’t help but laugh more.

The more Cerise got him to do, the more Vanderwood felt himself relax, starting to enjoy himself – well, enjoy the moment of being close to her. These little moments…they were things he’d thought he could never have, and now he had them. Cerise had the sneaking suspicion that Marion was enjoying himself a little more now; he was certainly a lot less stiff. Over a little time, she felt herself leading him a little less and relinquishing it on him without him realizing.

At some point, Vanderwood just got completely lost in her eyes – those beautiful honey-gold eyes. It was almost like being in a trance. He bent his head to give her a kiss, slow and sweet like the music. Cerise had been thinking he was actually doing rather well for being so out of his element, and then before she knew it he was kissing her. How could a kiss feel like music? She didn’t know, but he had managed it. It was amazing. Her heart felt as though it was swelling, her body warm as time didn’t seem to exist.

The music stopped or switched, Vanderwood wasn’t sure, but he broke the kiss – the trance breaking along with it. “Sorry…I uh…zoned out…a little bit.” How long had they even been dancing? Vanderwood felt sure he’d at least managed a good bit without being too utterly ridiculous. He hadn’t stepped on her, so that was a win – even if he did zone out at the end. Cerise just stared up at him a little speechless.

It took her a minute to catch up with the fact that he had spoken. Words were a thing, and she should use them. Sound it out, girl. “It’s…that’s okay. You did so well.” She had gotten to dance with her fiancé, and she was so overjoyed – and a little emotional. Cerise moved closer to embrace him as little tears welled in her eyes, happy that the moments they had were theirs and theirs alone to share. “Thank you, Marion.” Even if the rest of the day was normal and boring, that’d be okay with her. They’d had enough excitement that morning, and it wasn’t even noon yet.

His arms wrapped around her tightly on impulse, her praise making his face turn completely red. Vanderwood loved these little moments, probably a lot more than he should. Just another good memory to accompany all the bad. “You’re welcome shortcake…let’s maybe do this again sometime?” He wasn’t about to admit that he’d loved it. In a way, he already had, and he would be lying if he didn’t concede that he would be making a status later about dancing with his fiancée – hoping Fortun would see it and seethe. Was he a bit of an asshole? Yes, he was, but Fortun was the one trying to encroach on his relationship.

If he ever met Fortun in person, Vanderwood had a feeling that asshole side of him wouldn’t be so much a side as a wall. Vanderwood pressed a kiss to the top of Cerise’s head before he let go. “I should put away the pancake stuff.” She just grabbed right onto him again, not ready for the moment to end. He really wasn’t either. As irritating as the morning had been, it had ended up turning out for the better…best. It always seemed to be that way with Cerise. That was just part of why she was so worth it all. Even though sometimes he wished she would just cut it out with some of her antics. Maybe that was a bad choice of words, because he sure was happy she hadn’t cut off her hair.

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Mystic Messenger | Vanderwood Playlist

Vanderwood Playlist

***Today I will be sharing something with you that I spent months compiling and deliberating on. I scoured the world of Youtube to find songs that not only would be on my version of Vanderwood’s playlist but also could be laid out into a cohesive story-line for his life. It follows along the plot line of my fanfiction Tagged – VanderwoodxOC Cerise part way through.

The way my Vanderwood listens to music is that he prefers to find things that he can relate to. He likes to pay attention to the lyrics, as it helps him with expressing emotions/remembering to feel and so on. So! Without further ado, I give you the thing I have kept private for so very long…my Vanderwood playlist! Note that all of the videos used are from a Youtube playlist that connects to the original author of the video. I do not own rights to either the videos or the songs. ~Let’s Connect! FFC***

This playlist is essentially a progression of Vanderwood’s life from teenager-dom to adulthood when he meets Cerise and falls in love. A lot of the songs were songs he already listened to even before he met her, those will be marked, but the songs are placed in order of what time period in his life he identified with them.

As a note on the progression: we’re starting out with a very angry teenager followed by a grieving and struggling adult which is closely followed by him finding something to handle that pain which causes him to turn inwards even further and hate himself. There’s at least two songs representing his relationship with fellow agent Green after which you’ll see him starting to ask for a way out of the system he currently is living. These cries for help are followed by calls specifically to Cerise. As a yandere, you’ll also see some songs centered around his devotion to her and need to keep others away from her.

Without further ado.

1. Vanderwood has an intense aversion to and hatred for liars. In this song, the liars are his parents. They’re supposed to love you, and it seemed like in the beginning of his life to him that they did, but they turned out to be wolves in sheep’s clothing to him. What he really wants to know is how they live with themselves. In some part it also represents his feelings about his parents’ relationship. As he gets older, this song is still one of his favorites, applying over and over again to the new ‘wolves’ that enter his life.

 

2. This song is supposed to be a love song, but for Vanderwood it represents his mother. Whenever the song refers to leaving ‘us’ as in the relationship, Vanderwood hears ‘us’ as in his brother and him. The song also talks about saying goodbye to love, that’s read as maternal love, his love for her as his mother that he wants to say goodbye to. Unfortunately for him, he can’t seem to let that love go. He’s essentially lamenting that she chose drugs over her sons, and trying to separate himself from her and the love that he still has for her simply because she’s his mother.

 

3. Another of his teen anthems, if you want to think about any event in particular> when the school counselor suggested to him that he chill out on the art and not freak people out about his life. So, he puts across this idea that he’s fine, but the song points to how he feels like everyone is just watching him as he’s lost in the make believe of being fine and he’s just tired of that existence. Vanderwood is just adding layer after layer to his wall to keep others out.

 

4. This song represents his life pre-Caleb’s death, but post-Caleb’s attitude change. His brother is on drugs, Vanderwood doesn’t know what’s wrong with him, but he is trying to give his brother support in what he considers the only way and that’s being available to him. He’s begging him to ‘say something new, I have nothing left, I can’t face the dark without you’ because he feels Caleb is pulling away from him and he needs to figure it out before he’s lost him completely. So far, Caleb has been his only plan in life, and he’s given everything to get Caleb out of the life they had before, so the idea of being in ‘the dark’ without Caleb sounds like an impossibility.

 

5. This song relates most to the stage of his life where he is numb unless he’s feeling anger or pain. Right after Caleb’s death, Vanderwood throws himself into street-fighting just to actually feel an emotion other than the emptiness and sadness he now feels all the time. It was clear to him already that he didn’t have a future after Caleb was an adult and had his life in order, but now that Caleb isn’t going to reach that level, his life is pretty useless. The thought of suicide may have crossed his mind, once, but he soldiers on with his pain like a punishment for what happened. Vanderwood is in the end, afraid to die and punishing himself.

 

6. Again, we come to a love song that Vanderwood interprets completely differently. What he gets out of this is that Caleb was the only one who ever meant anything real to him, the only one to ever care about him or give him real company. Vanderwood is so lonely at this stage of his life. He always tries to forget the pain with his addiction, but he can’t make the thoughts and memories go away. There’s also the ‘I can’t regret you’ portion of the song which for Vanderwood points more to that he can’t push Caleb out of his memory because then he’d lose the memories of the only person who ever truly stayed with him. That being said, he wants the pain to stop haunting him.

 

7. This is that same struggle. Vanderwood wants to know if he’ll be consumed by his addictions and pain. If you had to place this song in a certain point of his timeline, it would fit into just before he gets recruited to the agency. He’s drowning in a haze of sex, but he refuses to go under completely because he ‘will not let go.’ There’s really no reason for him to hold on, but he is just continuing on waiting for the end. He’s both too afraid and too set in his own personal punishment to let go.

 

8. A lot of this one is pretty self-explanatory on how Vanderwood would relate, but I’m going to point out how it relates to him as an agent. Thinking about it from this perspective, the devil that he’s dancing with is the agency which can lie to him or leave him for dead at any point in time. It has ‘cold dead eyes’ because it’s unfeeling to everyone who works for it as its pawns. This pretty much becomes an anthem that he won’t let himself be tricked, even as he dances with the devil, while still respecting his belief that ‘I won’t stay long in this world so wrong.’

 

9. We’re walking towards Green territory now. This song again points out how he can’t get out of the Hell of his own mind and pain, but now we have the added element of him referring to himself as an animal thanks to his addiction and working for the agency. He’s talking to himself a lot to tell himself that even though Green is saying she understands and has discovered his addiction ‘the dark inside of me’ that she can see, no one can change the animal he’s become, although he’s starting to really wish that someone could. So, he keeps crying out for someone to do it. Green just isn’t the one who has any interest in letting him escape the animal side of him. She’d much rather put him under her own ownership.

 

10. A Green specific song, although he still enjoys it afterwards. He found this song specifically to counter music that Green would play around the house talking about how they had this relationship or bond that was cemented by sex. Vanderwood is just a bit of a petty asshole. The song both points out how he feels about their relationship ‘good sex, no love’ but also makes a jab at her for not realizing how much pain he’s in and how much of his life he’s revealed to her and yet all she gives him is sleeping alone. Even though that’s what he wants, she doesn’t give him any reason to want her around otherwise.

 

11. This song applies most heavily to how he reacts to other people attempting to get close to him after Green. Even more so than he used to, he keeps the truth of his life to himself. The only people at this point that he reveals his addiction to are Seven and Crystal, but he still doesn’t reveal any personal information about his rage or much about the reasoning behind that anger and addiction. Later in his timeline, this song can apply to his yandere side both as how he feels when it ducks up and as a threat to those who try to get near Cerise.

 

12. Woo! He’s making changes in his life here! Vanderwood takes a couple meanings from this, in part the agency, his smoking, and finally his sex addiction. It starts out with him understanding it as a girl who wants nothing from him except that he’s a piece of meat and then broadens out to the bigger meanings. He wants to ‘burn the bitch down’ and separate himself from his former life.

 

13. Vanderwood is trying towards really wanting to break free from the pain and dependence on that pain and addiction to find an escape from his loneliness now that he’s met Cerise. He realizes that he needs to break away from all of that if he wants to be with her and feel love that he thought wasn’t real or possible for him.

 

14. Considering the life that Vanderwood has lived, it’s not hard to understand what this song means. After he meets Cerise and decides to change his life, he’s facing everything that he’s done and the person he was in order to let go of everything he’s done, including the things that he’s blamed himself for despite them not really being his fault. (i.e. Caleb’s death.) This is a crucial part of what helps him to move forward, and this song applies to that part of his life as well as just being one of his favorites.

 

15. This song best illustrates how Vanderwood feels about humanity and himself in general even after he’s with Cerise. The world is in his eyes mostly an evil place, and he still acknowledges the dark parts of himself. He asks Cerise to look inside, and not to get too close. As if she’s going to listen to that.

 

16. This song is another anthem for Cerise. He had this song in his music list already, but it applies for the timeline in his life after Cerise. It both plays on the fact that she moved him out of his former life by giving him the support he needed as well as his yandere said calling her ‘mine’ and saying he’ll ‘vanquish any foe.’

 

17. Let me tell you, you’ve pretty much gotten into the sappy stuff that he listens to because he’s so in love. And also, you know, has a Hella libido too, there’s those sexual elements in this too, but he takes it less as the ‘make you glad you came to this party’ and more of ‘make you glad you’re with me.’ If Cerise did a dance to this song for him he would literally melt like the flustered little romantic we all know he secretly is. The sun has gone down and the stars have come out making all that counts their relationship in the here and now.

 

18. So, this is kind of his yandere anthem. Pretty much the way he views this song is any guy trying to nose his way in between him and Cerise. As far as the wanting him to ‘stay away’ and ‘gonna get my baby tonight’ he’s pretty much viewing this song as they’re already together but the guy wants him to leave and stay away from Cerise or other such tricks. Just a good general thought here though, don’t fuck with Cerise or attempt to take her away from him.

 

19. This is not a song he ever would have applied to anyone but Cerise. Normally, Vanderwood has little to no patience whatsoever when it comes to sex, but this song follows his sexual progression now that he’s not actively addicted to sex. It shows his praise and the way he loves what she’s learned since they started their relationship as well as asking her to ‘slow down’ and ‘relax’ so as to actually drag it out and enjoy the whole situation rather than just getting it over with and relaxing his muscles with a fix or even just getting a quick solve for his high libido. It’s very much a song that represents how much he enjoys his sex life now that he wants to drag it out and really enjoy it.

 

20. There are two meanings he attaches this song to for his life. It’s both a yandere anthem as well as a body worship song. Cerise is his and he’ll show her and the rest of the world that she belongs with him. She is a wild spirit and he appreciates that she needs to go out into the world and live, but he’s absolutely ‘tying down’ her to him as her one and only. Not that she’s complaining.

 

21. Vanderwood’s anthem for their relationship. Even though it’s meant to be a Christian rock anthem, Vanderwood takes it as Cerise walking with him and showing him, he doesn’t have to be lonely and lost. Before Cerise he shoved everyone out, but she’s the one who found him ‘in the dark’ and taught him he doesn’t have to do everything by himself. This song is one of his absolute favorites simply because of the message it conveys for him.

 

Here is the full playlist~

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Mystic Messenger Fanfiction | VanderwoodxOC Cerise – Tagged | Round of Growth

Yep, and now she was fully crying. Cerise wasn’t sad or anything, just incredibly happy. Happy for him, for the life they would soon share, for the future and whatever it held. What would their next round of challenges be like?

***Last week was certainly quite the experience. As promised, this week will be a smut chapter. Cerise and Vanderwood are finding their connection and really proving just how they’ve been growing for and with each other. Look forward to some Cherrywood commissions that will start being posted soon. ~Let’s Connect! FFC***

*Remember, this is a sequel to Vanderwood Backstory, and Cerise has a bio. You can support my writing on patreon and get access to my VIP Discord Server or other goodies like early chapter releases and hidden scenes.  Tagged Chapter Directory*

One moment he was asleep, and then he stirred to feeling her cuddling up against him more. But when she moaned his name, his eyes flew open. He looked down at her in confusion. She was still asleep, but she was definitely moaning. Oh, Bloody Hell, that was such a sexy sound. Vanderwood considered if he should let her sleep, but she was still making that noise, and he needed her. He stroked her cheek before catching her lips with his, capturing another moan. Damn. Vanderwood was beyond turned on at this point. He stopped kissing her to mumble into her ear instead. “Wake up, shortcake…wake up.”

Cerise slowly came to when he had mumbled into her ear, urging her to wake up. Knowing him, it was probably still pretty early. “…Marion? Something wrong?” Her voice was still a little breathy, and she was definitely still feeling the after effects of that dream she’d been having. It wasn’t helping that he was right there.

“Nothing’s wrong…you were moaning my name.” He slid his hand along her shoulder and then traced down her body. Cerise paled for a moment before he was grinding against her, letting her feel how turned on he was. The way she reacted under his touch, that was always his favorite thing. His hand went to her hip, tracing down her leg. “I’ve missed being close like this…have you?”

She had literally freaked out on him before for the same thing, waking her up like this. Now, she’d done it to him. Thankfully, Cerise didn’t really have time to feel guilty about it, because the way he was acting and talking…it was much better to have the real thing in front of her. God, did she want him right now after that dream. “Yeah…I have.” Their dry spell had been extended by Crystal, food poisoning of each of them, but by now all of that should be done. By now, all of that was over. Vanderwood squeezed her thigh, perhaps just a little roughly before his hand travelled back up. “This is okay? You’re okay?”

Cerise grabbed his hand and kissed it before moving to kiss him slowly, using her other hand to slide down and lightly grab at the evidence of his arousal. She broke the kiss after a bit and caught his eyes with hers. “More than okay, mon amour. I need you.” It had been a while for both of them, due to all that craziness, so she had no doubt that he needed her as much as she did him. Not that the raging erection he was sporting didn’t already make that painfully clear.

He’d groaned against her mouth as she kissed and gripped him, feeling like he was far readier for this than he had been in his life. That was probably an exaggeration, but still. Her voice was incredibly sexy when she was just waking up, but it was even sexier when she was just waking up and telling him she wanted him. “I need you, too…” Vanderwood’s hand shoved into her hair, tangling in the silken locks as he kissed her again, this time further deepening the kiss with a little tug to make her gasp and let his tongue in.

Ever since the time she’d asked him not to treat her like a china doll, he’d been allowing himself more freedom with her. She appreciated that he wasn’t treating her like she would break. Cerise knew he was still holding back, always ready for her to push him away, but she was comfortable when he was. His kisses only made her need for him grow stronger and stronger, using her tongue to push against his to encourage him to give her more.

Marion now untangled his hand from her hair to press his hand against her heat over her shorts, rubbing at her through the fabric. Cerise couldn’t help the long moan that escaped her as she pushed herself against his hand for the added friction and pressure. She could feel how incredibly hard he was through his pajama pants, too, palming his length through them. The air around them was cool, yet her body felt like it was burning up with every touch he gave her. Being with him like this was like a breath of fresh air.

He didn’t want anything between them anymore, absolutely nothing. Maybe that was just impatience, but it had been too long since they could be together like this. Vanderwood pulled back to nip at her neck and downwards to the edge of her sleeping top’s collar, Cerise letting out small moans as he did so. His hand pulled up her shirt a little. He wanted to kiss along her entire body, mark her up and remind himself who she belonged to.

Cerise quickly got the hint and removed her shirt for him, just dropping it wherever on the floor. By now, she was mostly used to letting him see her topless, though sometimes she still did get the urge to cover herself. Her upper half was completely bare to him now, and she couldn’t help but tease him. She gave him a wink and asked, “Like watcha see?” Oh, God, why did she do that, though? Cerise was screaming at herself internally, but oh well. They were literally about to be in the process of making love, so it wasn’t like that was the most mortifying thing she could say or do.

Not the wink. His breath was already hitching at seeing her topless, like it always did, but the wink was not helping. Vanderwood didn’t trust himself to form words, so he just nodded and decided to show her that he liked the view. He nipped at her skin lightly, pressing soft kisses after each nip before he felt like he could talk again. “I love what I see.”

The nips and kisses were making her skin tingle. One of his hands found hers and laced their fingers together, so Cerise squeeze backed lightly, tilting her head to give him better access as he found that spot in the crook of her shoulder that he liked so much. He ran his tongue over it before giving a bite and suck, causing her to moan out his name. Marion seemed dead-set on marking her all over as he repeated the process over her collarbone and breasts, somehow managing despite the fact that she wasn’t exactly gifted in that department. Each mark earned him whimpers of pleasure, which only got louder as he grazed his teeth over her nipple.

Vanderwood always loved how noisy she seemed to get when he paid attention to her nipples. There was so much more teasing now that he hadn’t been used to when they’d first started sleeping together. He loved it, despite how much he wanted her all the time. It was nice to take at least a little time just to be intimate and enjoy each other. By the time he was done teasing her nipples with his tongue and teeth, she was crying out and squirming, her free hand bunched in his hair.

It was her turn to get impatient, because now she realized they both were wearing way too many clothes for her liking, and she needed them off. Now. She was already quite needy for him when she’d woke up, thanks to that dream. Paired with his teasing, it was almost like she couldn’t think straight. “Off.” Was the only thing she managed to get out before she was using her feet to hook his pajama pants and pull on them, signaling to him what she wanted, or rather, didn’t want.

He snorted at the irony of it all. Here he was being slow and teasing, and now she was so horny that she was the impatient one. Vanderwood wasn’t about to fight it, though. Every time she told him what to do, it was incredibly sexy. With ease, he removed his pajama pants and tossed them away, fingers hooking into her bottoms to do the same for her. No more clothes, just skin to skin. Bloody Hell, she was so fucking gorgeous, and his breath hitched. It would never fail to do that. “You’re so beautiful. I can’t stand it.” He ran his fingers over her bare skin, knowing that it would drive her crazy. Knowing that she was impatient for him the way he was for her…it made him want to waste time, even though his body was pretty much begging for hers.

Cerise was used to receiving praise, but it was praise from him specifically that made her blush. People normally called her cute, adorable, pretty even, but he called her beautiful. She could be a pain or handful sometimes, but Marion saw her for the woman that she was. They’d been sexual for some time now, but she could never get over how amazing he looked fully unclothed. At first, she had been a little shy at letting her eyes wander, but now she cared less. He was hers to look at if she wanted to, just like she was his. Despite how impatient and turned on she was, Cerise playfully blew him a kiss before replying how she always had. “You’re not so bad yourself~” Vanderwood couldn’t help but chastise himself as his face lit up with red. Damn. It shouldn’t affect him that way, yet she did.

Now that there was nothing between them, Cerise just felt like she needed him even more than before. He had to know that the way he was touching her, running his fingers over her skin, was driving her absolutely mad. Marion was still teasing her; he had to be. Jerk knew what he was doing. There was an internal dilemma in her mind. On one hand, she really needed to feel him buried deep inside of her like two minutes ago, but on the other hand…he was actually taking things slow on his own accord. She shouldn’t let her hormones interfere with progress.

She took a deep, shaky breath before she captured one of his roaming hands and guided it down to her heat. Cerise leaned up to give him a deep kiss as she ran her nails lightly along his side and grinded slowly against his hand – which she was still holding in place. Now she broke the kiss and locked her eyes with his. God, she couldn’t help but think that his eyes were absolutely captivating when they made love, even more than normal. “Touch me here…” Her voice sounded a lot needier than she had intended, causing her face to flush red. Oh well… It seemed like the more they did this, the better she was getting at handling herself. She squeezed his hand lightly and pushed against it one more time before letting go.

The way she touched him, kissed him, even her eyes as they locked gazes, it all took his breath away. It seemed that the more they had sex and the more he teased, the more she was able to take the lead and show him what she wanted. That was beyond sexy on some strange level. Vanderwood pressed up against her heat as she placed his hand there, just the feeling of how hot and ready she was making him want to groan. Her request had him smiling as he moved to kiss the fingers of the hand he was holding. That shouldn’t make him blush either, yet it did. Now he moved to tease his fingers along her slick folds before he slipped a finger inside of her, enjoying the way she wrapped around him and wishing it was something else her muscles were tightening around.

The fact that he was blushing made her crack a smile, but she couldn’t really talk, because she was blushing, too. It was really hard to think with his fingers teasing at her like they were, making her bite her lip pretty hard. She wasn’t sure if she was feeling more relieved or tortured. He was taking his time, and as he moved his finger more swiftly inside of her, she couldn’t help but cling to him and cry out. With the way just a finger felt, and the way she felt her muscles automatically tightened around just that, Cerise could only imagine how amazing it would feel when he finally took her.

As he moved over her more to kiss along the side of her face, she lifted her leg to press it against his own arousal, prompting a grunt. “Fuck, Cerise..” She never failed to make him cuss during sex, no matter what they were doing. He used his thumb to brush over her sensitive bud as he continued to move his finger within her. As much as he was enjoying teasing her to the edge, his patience was wearing thin after how long and frustrating a wait they’d had. “I need you, Cerise…” Vanderwood removed his finger to taste her off it before he moved, murmuring in her ear. “I missed this…” As much as he wanted to be rough and get what he needed, with Cerise he felt so different.

She loved the husky tone his voice always seemed to take when they made love, thinking it was beyond sexy. It was even sexier, because he was saying her name. Cerise found herself rather lucky that he was hers and hers solely. The way his fingers had teased had been great and felt amazing, and she’d thought she might lose her mind when he’d used his thumb to brush against her, but she was starting to crave something a little more. She desperately needed all of him. Of course, they were on the same page. “I need you, too.” How could someone be so sexy? God, she couldn’t even begin to explain the things he did to her, how he made her feel.

“I love you, shortcake.” The words slipped out like a prayer, and the way he was now grinding against her made her let out a gasp. It was so torturous to have him so close to her but not at the same time. Cerise had missed being able to do this, too, missed being close to him like this. The reply was caught in her throat. How did words work? After a few seconds she was able to form a coherent sentence. “I love you too, Marion.”

With that, he moved to enter her, his moan being caught against her lips as Cerise shifted to kiss him. With their fingers still laced together, he could feel her ring against his fingers. Vanderwood was giving this one person everything he was, heart, body, and soul. He didn’t regret it for even a second. Cerise was his soulmate and was giving him the same. Vanderwood could only hope to make her as happy as she made him and try to be worthy of her love. He wasn’t being rough with his pace, but he was thrusting deep, tongue now roughly exploring her mouth as his other hand delved deep into the hair which he loved so much. Vanderwood just loved her so much.

Her free hand mirrored his and found itself buried in his hair. Cerise’s own response to the way he was roughly exploring her mouth with his tongue was a little delayed, because it was incredibly hard to focus on much when he was thrusting so deeply into her. It was impossible not to notice how his grip on her hand pressed her ring into his fingers. There was no way that Cerise could even imagine her life without him in it. Knowing her luck, she’d probably get into trouble and end up in some deep crap or worse. Luckily for her, though, she had no doubt that he would always be there for her, just like she would for him. They were promising each other their entire lives, after all. Marion wasn’t being overly gentle, but he wasn’t being rough with her either. It felt absolutely perfect.

Apparently, they both kinda forgot they needed air and that breathing through your nose was a thing. Sometimes it was still such a sensory overload for her with so much going on at once. He broke the kiss to grab more air, allowing her to do the much-needed same. For Vanderwood, it was a little surreal, how good she was making him feel both physically and emotionally at once. As her hips automatically met his, it only made it that much better. Vanderwood found himself wanting to see her eyes, to lock them with his, so he nuzzled her nose gently before murmuring his request against her lips, voice low and rough dragging out into a moan at the end. “Please…look at me Cerise…”

Cerise forced her eyes open as soon as she could process his request, focusing on his own chestnut-colored ones. Her hand moved from his hair to caress his face, surprised that she could manage even that. She certainly couldn’t manage forming any kind of sentence at the moment. When she tried, it would just come out as a moan or gasp, which by now, she should have known would happen. Instead, she opted to shakily trace, ‘I love you’ in English with her thumb into the palm of his hand that was holding hers.

Her eyes were beautiful, almost seemingly darker and warmer than when they weren’t having sex, but equally as pretty. Every moan and gasp made it impossible to understand anything she’d try to say, but he noticed the way she was tracing into his hand, trying to discern what she was tracing before he realized it was, ‘I love you’ and in English. He murmured the words in English to her over and over again as he was starting to near his edge, muscles winding tight as heat built up hard.

She was happy that he’d been able to tell what she had traced. Hearing him actually say it made her heart soar. Cerise didn’t know if it was because they were having sex or not, but when he had repeated it to her in English, his voice sounded even deeper to her. Either way, she knew this was the language that he’d grown up with, and that made it all the more intimate to her. His accent was its own little slice of Heaven. Now Marion was untangling his hand from her hair, sliding it down her body to press against her extremely sensitive bud, and a whole new layer of pleasure swept over her.

Vanderwood was trying to bring her over the edge with him, breaking their eye contact to kiss her now, passion overflowing for this woman who fit him so perfectly no matter how unlikely that had seemed. That familiar warm coiling feeling was becoming increasingly tense for the both of them. Cerise knew that she was beginning to be right on that edge. She had wrapped her arms around his neck, nails digging into his shoulders as it coiled tighter and tighter. Vanderwood let out a light groan at the pain of that, but he felt a thrill that he was pleasing her so thoroughly.

Cerise broke their kiss suddenly, attempting to warn him that she was right there, but she wasn’t able to properly do so before the feeling let go all at once. She came hard as she clung to him and cried out his name. The orgasm that hit her felt more intense than anything she had experienced so far, and she wasn’t sure if it was possibly because it had been a spell since they had really done anything or not. All she knew was that this felt amazing.

He’d known what she was trying to communicate to him, moving his hips more roughly to help her along. As her climax rolled over her, the way her body coiled tight around him made sure he went over the edge, too. The sound of him calling her name mixed with her cry of his. Vanderwood stilled his motions, trying to catch his breath as they entered the aftermath. He felt exhilarated from their lovemaking and nuzzled into her hair before he pulled away to lie next to her and pull her close.

She was still trying to catch her breath even as he was pulling her to him. Why was it that every time they had sex, she felt like she had just run a marathon? As Marion nuzzled into her hair, he mumbled softly, speaking in English to her still. “I love you, Cerise…” Smiling, she moved to place a kiss on his nose. “I love you too, Marion.” Her own English wasn’t what one would call perfect, but she knew enough to get around. Cerise could type in English arguably a lot better than speaking it, thanks to her accent. She hadn’t really had to speak to someone in English before, but she was glad she was able to at least respond to him.

Cerise’s thick accent just made him smile more. Being close to her like this was everything he felt he’d ever needed. Vanderwood stroked her hair softly, his hand continuing down over her body to shape it before he bit his tongue softly and returned his hand to her hair. It would be best if he didn’t get himself worked up again. Come to think of it, Cerise probably didn’t even know he could go more than one round.

Were his hands wandering again? Before she could really finish the thought, his hands were stroking her face as she held his gaze, his thumb grazing over her lower lip lightly. “Your accent is pretty…Did I ever tell you how much I love the way you say my name? Or just how much I love you?” Oh, how he loved being cheesy right after sex. She had turned him into a cheese-master with her love, so he might as well let her have it. Cerise didn’t seem to cringe about it like he did.

His compliment made her blush. She wasn’t aware that she was saying his name any certain type of way, but apparently, he liked whatever way she was saying it. Cerise grinned and took his hand, kissing his thumb. “I’m not sure…you didn’t say it quite enough times before. I might need to hear you say it a few more times~” Her tone was teasing, and she finished off with a giggle, nuzzling into him. She would always love his cheesiness. At first glance, she wouldn’t have thought he was even capable of words like that.

The way she was teasing him made him blush like only she could do to him. But if she wanted him to say it, he would say it. “I love you, more than I could ever explain. The way you look at me, the way you smile, how beautiful you are…” He traced along her jawline before moving down to stroke her neck. She hadn’t been expecting him to actually take her seriously. It made her chest feel warm and her heart skip a beat nonetheless. Cerise could tell that he really meant these things, that he wasn’t saying them just because he could. They came from a place deep inside of himself. How could someone be so sweet and loving yet have had such a rough start? He’d been through so much he hadn’t deserved, so she took just a little pride in being something bright and happy in his life. She was happy that she could help him learn how to be a normal person.

It seemed like he wasn’t quite done even. “But more than all those things…I love the person you are…as annoying as she can be. She has me wrapped around her little finger, and I can’t ever let that person go…you go…” Those were a lot of cheesy sentences, but he just couldn’t help it. Vanderwood nuzzled her nose lightly before he gave her a slow and languid kiss, trusting his actions a little more than his words in getting the point across. She couldn’t help but to smile into their kiss, feeling like she was on cloud nine with their recent lovemaking and his heartfelt words to her. Cerise felt like she could lose herself in it. It was slow and loving and just perfect. He himself wasn’t anywhere near perfect, but he was perfect to her.

Vanderwood could feel himself getting worked up again, a product of how good the last round had been and the dry spell they’d had. Now his hand was wandering again, tracing down her back and over her side and hip. Maybe she wouldn’t notice? Although, he really wouldn’t mind if she did. Cerise had more than noticed, wondering what exactly he was up to before she broke their kiss, because she couldn’t help giggling. He had brushed over a place where she was a bit ticklish, making her squirm a little. “Looks like someone didn’t get enough the first time, huh~?” Her teasing was intermingled with laughter. “I don’t blame you, I’ve been told that I’m beautiful and impossible to let go, you know?” Cerise gave him a quick kiss and grinned, continuing. “I even have this one really gorgeous guy wrapped around my little finger~”

Vanderwood couldn’t help but chuckle as he lightly traced little designs over her thigh. “Someone has been telling you those kinds of things? Who do I need to beat up?” He gave his own little tease back as he nuzzled her nose and feathered a few kisses along her jaw down to her neck. Cerise loved him teasing back at her. He did have a sense of humor; it was just normally a little strange, but she enjoyed it either way. “You can’t beat him up, I love him~” His actions seemed completely innocent to her, giggles excaping her until his next sentence made her wake up to reality.

“If you love him…I’ll have to make you love me more. If you give me just another couple minutes or so, I could go again…nice and slow and show you what I can’t tell you with words.” Cheesy and smooth at the same time. That was a weird thing to him. His face was heating up with a blush as he pressed kisses to the marks he’d left on her neck and shoulder earlier, pulling back to make eye contact with her just to make sure she was on board with it. No need to get himself going completely again if she wasn’t up for it. It felt good to be able to say that he could stop if she needed him to.

Cerise’s face heated up to match his as he pressed kisses to the marks he had made before. That…was a thing? He could even do that? It would be a lie if she said she wasn’t interested in doing it again, though, no doubt she was going to be really exhausted afterwards. “You’re…able to do that?” He was watching her as she talked, making her already self-conscious before he snorted the way he always did when he was amuse. She blinked and then looked away from his gaze, turning even more red. “Okay…I haven’t lost that feeling yet anyway…I’m still kinda…” Cerise caught herself before she could finish that sentence.

Wow. At least that hadn’t slipped through her filter. “What I mean is, yeah. I’d love to.” Smooth recovery! Marion really looked amused with her now, and she felt pretty silly. At least it was only with him. “Yeah…I can go a few rounds. I just…need a little more time with you.” Her response came in her regular sing-song tone even though she felt ridiculously flustered. “We have all the time in the world, mon amour.” That was much better, as much as it didn’t make her feel any less embarrassed, but as he accepted her answer, she found that she was still going to be at a loss. He was continuing his kissing of the marks he’d left on her body, setting off that familiar fire under her skin wherever his lips made contact.

When he got to the marks on her breasts he lightly nipped those before he teased over one of her nipples with his thumb, first tracing and then rolling over it in light circles. She noticed he was really taking his time with this, but she wasn’t complaining. Cerise squirmed lightly underneath him at the touch. Being close to him like this was like a dream, and she enjoyed their time together whether it was when they were being intimate or just doing sometime simple like sitting and watching television.

Now he moved to kiss her in that same slow and languid fashion he’d been travelling over her body with. Her heart already felt like it was going to try and beat out of her chest again, his finger continuing to trace over her sensitive nipple. She couldn’t really control the small moans that escaped against their kiss as she used her own hands to slowly trace over his body, admiring every part and tracing over the numerous dents and raised areas on his skin caused by the scars he’d received over his lifetime.

He loved her sounds, probably more than a person should, but he couldn’t help it. Her touches to his body had his skin heating and tingling under her fingertips. This was something he was fully intending to enjoy. With this next round, he had promised to show her how he felt, so that was exactly what he was going to do. Vanderwood stopped teasing at her nipple in favor of moving to stroke her cheek, managing to remember to breathe thanks to the languid pace of their kiss. Now he grinded against her leg with his new erection. It wasn’t as ridiculously hard as the first one had been, but he was certainly ready to go.

Upon feeling him grind against her leg, Cerise moved her knee so that it pressed up against him, giving him even more delightful friction. Despite the fact that Cerise had remembered to breathe during their kiss, she still found herself breathless when he broke away. It was difficult trying to catch her breath as he feathered kisses along her jawline. “You’re beautiful Cerise….so beautiful, and all mine.” Cerise could feel something stirring within her at the last part of his praise, the way it had seemed darker and more intense. That hint of possessiveness was undeniably sexy coming from him. “All yours, now and always. Just like you’re mine.”

He pulled back to catch her eyes with his as his hand traveled down her body all over again. “I love you, shortcake…and I’m going to show you just how much for the rest of our lives.” Blushing, she brought her hand to stroke his hair as she held his gaze. “I love you, too, and…I can’t wait.” Vanderwood felt like Cerise knew just how to make his heart go crazy and melt at the same time. “Ma moitié.”

Thanks to the earlier round, he wasn’t nearly as impatient as he normally felt. That was just making this more enjoyable. He moved to grind against her entrance, testing her readiness for him in part and enjoying the way it teased them both. Vanderwood was feeling the light sting of it being his second round, too, but it wasn’t so bad; his pain tolerance was high anyway. He lightly pressed a kiss to her lips before stroking her hair back away from her eyes. “Are you ready?” She hopefully had the stamina for this.

After their short kiss, Cerise gave him a nuzzle. “More than ready~” The only difference she noticed now that they were trying again was that she was significantly more sensitive, biting at her lip as he ground against her more. If she felt more sensitive with just the teasing, she could only imagine what would come next. Cerise put her arms around his neck and gave his nose a little kiss. God, she loved this perfectly imperfect man, and she couldn’t wait to spend the rest of her life with him.

The little kiss to his nose made him blush like an idiot. Maybe he was an idiot, but he was so happy here with her. She made him this happy, and for her love he would forever be grateful. Seeing him blush only made Cerise blush harder. It was probably so ridiculous that they would blush at such a small sign of affection when they were both completely nude in each other’s arms. Cerise chalked it down to that just being the way things were when you were so in love with someone.

Vanderwood moved to press inside of her, going a little slower, not because she really needed to adjust, but to watch and enjoy the way she reacted. He lightly winced at the sting of pain he felt before he could ignore it. Once he was as far as he could go, Vanderwood started a slower pace, paying attention to the way things felt on a whole new level. Sure, he’d thought the times they’d had sex up until now were making love, but this was even more intense. They were sharing their bodies with each other in a way that just further illustrated their trust and appreciation for one another.

Cerise was biting her lip hard, not wanting to ruin the moment by making too many unnecessary noises as she clung to him, adjusting to the heightened sensitivity. The way things were now, it felt so much more different…and not just because it was the second round or because she was more sensitive. There was a new kind of intimacy between them which she couldn’t quite place.

He nuzzled into her neck as he moved, going for deeper strokes rather than faster, wanting to feel her completely. Cerise nuzzled into his hair, taking in his intoxicating scent. It was like she was more aware of him. She couldn’t exactly explain it in words. With her legs now firmly wrapped around him, it felt to her like their bodies were in a perfect sync. This was definitely more than sex; it was something a lot more intimate than that…a little like baring their souls.

Vanderwood felt like he couldn’t get enough of her, moaning soft and low against her neck as he moved. Everything about this was a far deeper experience than he’d ever had, and he couldn’t imagine a better person to do this with. There was and would be no one else. Cerise was his one and only. He couldn’t stop holding her, couldn’t stop mumbling her name. It felt almost like they were one and the same at this point.

This was ecstasy. Cerise was enjoying every second of their time together. Every movement felt meaningful and completely euphoric. They would probably remember this day for a long time. How long had it been? She didn’t really know. Time was a little lost on her, but she did know that this was the longest they had been together. It was both welcomed and disappointing as the heated feeling came back, telling her she was getting closer. If she could stop time, that’d be great. As cute as she was, there was no charming father time into getting what she wanted.

As with every additional round, it was taking Vanderwood just a little longer to get to the end. Every moment was bliss. From the way she was wrapped around him to the sounds of their voices filling the room, this was right in every way. The build was coming slowly but surely, but he wasn’t pushing it, simply enjoying her and this moment for what it was. “Mon amour…” He almost wanted it to last forever, but that’s not how life worked. When it finally felt like the fire was building high in his body, he found her lips with his, his tongue pushing its way into her mouth.

“Marion…” his name was almost a whisper on her lips as she caught his eyes for a moment before he was kissing her, effectively stealing her breath away. She responded to his kiss deeply and enthusiastically, pushing her own tongue up against his and raking it against his teeth. Cerise still had no clue what any of it had to do with the French, but she did know she was getting kind of good at it thanks to him. More than that, she felt like she was growing more as a person thanks to his help.

Her legs around him tightened, and she found herself clinging more. Just a tiny bit more and she would reach her limit. She didn’t bother telling him this time; he always seemed to know anyway. Instead, she broke their kiss, placing another urgent but gentle kiss to his shoulder before she bit down hard, although not enough to cause him any serious pain. Cerise wanted to leave her mark on him, a reminder of the time they had just shared together for days to come.

Vanderwood had intended to stroke her cheek as they kissed, but then she’d broken away. He didn’t really have time to process what she was doing before she was biting him, making a grunt escape him. His hand went to the back of her head to hold her there, wanting the mark she was leaving. Further evidence of whom he belonged to and this moment in time. And then he couldn’t hold it in any longer, letting the orgasm wash over him, that sting of the second round noticeable again. He didn’t care at all.

His moves didn’t slow, continuing on just enough to have her muscles tightening around him as she was hit with her own climax. She was a moaning mess, her face completely buried in his neck. Vanderwood’s vision seemed to be blurring at the edges as he stopped to breathe, relaxing his grip on her and then staying where he was, soaking in the vision of her, the way he felt, this moment. Life couldn’t possibly be this good could it? But the sting on his shoulder told him he wasn’t dreaming.

“I love you, Cerise…” His voice croaked up, a lump in his throat. Was he starting to cry? Cerise pulled back to search his eyes at the tone of his voice, her own widening when she realized that he seemed to be on the verge of crying. Her hand found his cheek, a smile forming. She was starting to get emotional, too, and her tears started well up in her own eyes. “I love you, too, Marion. So so so much.”

Marion had snorted, seemingly at himself before snuggling into her, and she stroked his hair. Cerise was so proud of him. He’d been through so much, had so much damage and baggage, but he was pulling through. He was so much healthier now than when she had first met him. She couldn’t help but to be emotional. Yep, and now she was fully crying. Cerise wasn’t sad or anything, just incredibly happy. Happy for him, for the life they would soon share, for the future and whatever it held. What would their next round of challenges be like?

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Mystic Messenger Fanfiction | VanderwoodxOC Cerise – Tagged |Sickly Dry Spell

Vanderwood was so happy as he walked in the house, knowing that Crystal would be out of the house after a day of ‘girl time’ with Cerise. God it was great. Finally, he would have Cerise all to himself again.

***Seeing as I took the last week off, I’m setting you up for what will be a glorious smut chapter next week. That’s right. You heard me…read me? Anyway! We return to the Cherrywood goodness! There are two hidden scenes in this chapter for my patrons including Cerise getting her period and thinking that Vanderwood is gay (somehow, they connect) and Cherrywood planning their wedding after watching the ‘world’s longest sex scene’ in one of Vandy’s movies. LOL. It certainly adds to the sexual frustration. ~Let’s Connect! FFC***

*Remember, this is a sequel to Vanderwood Backstory, and Cerise has a bio. You can support my writing on patreon and get access to my VIP Discord Server or other goodies like early chapter releases and hidden scenes.  Tagged Chapter Directory*

This wasn’t good. It wasn’t good at all. One moment, Cerise had been innocently commenting on her friend’s picture that her top was tacky, and then the next, she found herself in a mad dash for the bathroom where she had started to throw up. It was such a gross feeling, being sick. How even had she managed to get sick? Nothing really jumped out at her. Just when she thought she was done, she found herself retching again. This was horrible.

Vanderwood was so happy as he walked in the house, knowing that Crystal would be out of the house after a day of ‘girl time’ with Cerise. God it was great. Finally, he would have Cerise all to himself again. With as much stress as Crystal had brought him, too, it wasn’t so weird for him not to want her living in Cerise’s house, was it? She was nice enough, but as soon as she had made up with her baby daddy, he had avoided her little stays at Cerise’s place to hang out, because her observational skills were stifling. He locked the door behind him as he came back into the house. “Cerise, I’m back!” Now, where was his wonderful fiancée so that he could sweep her into his arms and kiss her like there was no tomorrow?

Cerise heard the sound of her fiancé coming home, and she scrambled to close the bathroom door, accidentally slamming it. She couldn’t let him see her like this, no way. After she’d barely gotten the door closed, she was throwing up again. Where was it all coming from? Cerise hadn’t really eaten that much. She groaned when she was done and turned to lightly bang her head against the wall, still feeling nauseated.  This sucked.

He heard the door slam, rushing to find which one it was and that’s when he heard her…vomiting? Not good. He lightly rapped his knuckles on the door to alert her to his presence outside. “Shortcake, I’m coming in.” There was no way he was about to leave her sick by herself. How had she even gotten sick? Vanderwood opened the door slowly and walked inside. She shot a quick glare at him for coming in and was about to protest before she was violently interrupted by another round of unpleasantness. Ugh…she really hadn’t wanted him to see her like this. At least he was keeping his voice soft as he bent down to rub her back. “Hello mon amour…Think you’re done?”

Cerise was pretty sure she was done after this time, at least for now, but she didn’t have the energy to give a proper reply. She groaned a little and just slinked down, resting her head on the sink cabinet. Now she managed a pitiful, “Go away,” and pretty much accepted that she was going to let the bathroom be her home for a while. If he wanted to use one, he could have the main bathroom. This was home now. It wasn’t that she was ungrateful for his help. She was just gross and really horribly not cute at the present moment. Cerise made a motion with her hand to shoo him away, convinced that he had seen more than enough now.

He ignored her instructions and gestures to leave. Instead, he grabbed one of her bigger scrunchies from the upper cabinet and put it around her hair, just in case any more vomit was going to make its way up, before he returned to rubbing her shoulders and back. Vanderwood wasn’t applying much pressure, just a soft stroke that he hoped was comforting. “I’m not going anywhere until you feel better, Cerise.” While his voice was still gentle, he made sure to be firm, so she understood there was no point in wasting her energy on trying to get him to leave.

That stupid, amazing, helpful jerk. Cerise knew that arguing with him right now was not going to do her any good, and she really didn’t have the energy to keep it up. As long as he continued to stroke her back, maybe she’d permit him to stay. It really was soothing and helped her to feel a bit better. After sitting in silence with her for a little while, Vanderwood looked towards the shower. “Do you think you’d like a warm shower, help you feel a little better? I can hold you up if you need me to.” He was fully intending on taking care of her in every way possible. Seeing her ill…it made him feel ill, just in a different way.

Cerise considered his offer. A warm shower did sound really nice, because she felt so super icky. She stood up, and although she was shaky, she managed it. “I think I can do it…A shower sounds like heaven right about now.” How could throwing up take so much out of her? It had taken no time at all to go from feeling completely fine to feeling like she’d used up two days’ worth of energy in one go. Slowly, Cerise turned on the faucet and let the water warm up, almost tumbling into the tub from reaching for the faucet. Luckily, she was able to catch herself before that could happen. “This sucks…so much. ”

He’d made sure to flush the toilet for her, looking up just in time to see her almost falling as she reached for the faucet. Vanderwood wouldn’t have been able to catch her in time, so he was glad she was able to do it. “Yeah…I bet it does.” It really did suck. He’d been looking forward to spending time alone with her again, but it looked like their cuddles would be the comforting the sick kind. He could only remember doing that for Caleb as a child, swallowing a little lump in his throat before going to stand just behind her. “Are you sure you don’t want me in the shower with you? I could at least hold your hand.” If she was nearly falling with trying to turn the shower on, he wasn’t all that comfortable with leaving her in the shower without support of some kind.

She was grabbing for the bubble bath when she wobbled a bit again. Maybe he did have a point. Cerise sighed and turned towards him, feeling and probably looking more pale than normal. “…Fine. Can you please help me?” She had enough issues being sick without throwing a concussion or twisted ankle into the mix. Now that would truly suck. “Of course.” He would love nothing more than to help her with this, because he felt rather helpless just seeing how pale she was. Vanderwood watched her carefully as she went through her ‘Shark ritual’ as he called it.

Cerise unscrewed the lid to the bubble bath and squeezed some down the drain to ward off any potential sharks. She could never be too careful. After securing herself from attack, she slowly and carefully began to get undressed. As she glanced back at Marion, she wobbled in the process of trying to get rid of her stockings. “May as well take one, too, ya know? Kill two birds with one stone…or something like that.”

Vanderwood started to pull off his gloves, nodding at her suggestion. “Yeah…that sounds like a great idea. I probably need one anyway.” It was impossible for him not to notice that she was struggling a little, so he moved to lightly push her so that she was leaning against the sink before bending to peel away first one stocking and then the other. It took everything in him not to run his hands over and shape her legs. That was not what she needed right now. Internally griping at himself, Vanderwood removed his own clothes as well before getting into the shower on the side furthest from the water and offering her his hand to help her in.

How pathetic and helpless was she that she had needed help with her stockings? He seemed to understand, though…not that she hadn’t expected him to. Now that she was finished undressing, she took his hand and finally made her way into the shower, sighing when she felt the warm water hit her. Cerise pulled out the hair tie before it was impossible to remove from her soaked hair and carelessly tossed it aside. The water felt as good as she thought it might. “Thanks…sorry about this.”

She was feeling way too sick and puke-y to even care about their nudity, resting her head against his chest as she felt another wave of nausea wash over her. Cerise was pretty sure she was done throwing up for now, so she was just gonna let the warm water and her fiancé’s company help her feel better. Medicine was certainly out of the question for her. Eventually, she’d have to actually try and bathe as well as let him do so, but for now, she just wanted to stay like this and let the warm water hit her.

He wrapped his arms around her, lightly brushing his fingertips along her skin, not trying to do anything except comfort. “You don’t need to apologize for being sick.” Vanderwood couldn’t remember the last time he was sick, but he could imagine it felt awful. They could stand under the warm water for a while if that’s what would make her feel better. After they were done, he’d need to blow dry her hair. He had no idea what it would look like air-dried; he was concerned with the fact that she’d be cold while her hair took its time drying. Cerise would need to eat something, too. Vanderwood would have to figure something out that she could keep down.

Cerise wasn’t sure how long they had stayed like that. She had kind of zoned out and focused on him and the warm water. Somehow, even though the water was helping with her nausea, it was making her feel more tired and lethargic. It had even managed to make her forget that she needed to actually wash off. Once Vanderwood felt like the hot water was starting to run out, he reached and turned it off, keeping her firmly held with his other arm before grabbing a towel and wrapping it around her as well as he could manage. “Sit on the edge of the tub for me while I get you a chair, so you can sit while I dry your hair.” He’d need a few instructions on what he was doing, but they’d figure it out. As he gave her instructions, Cerise nodded, sitting on the edge of the tub as he had asked and waiting while he brought a chair.

When he finally showed up with one, she moved over to it, instructing him on how to turn on the hairdryer. She gave him the basic instructions. It wouldn’t be as meticulous as she normally was about it, but she was too tired and ill to care. The way she had him do it would leave her hair slightly wavy, but it would at least be dry. Maybe at some point she’d try to explain exactly how to do it, but right now, she couldn’t be bothered. “Even if my hair is just slightly damp, I don’t care. I just wanna lie down asap.”

Vanderwood was certain that her hair wasn’t coming out quite the way that she normally would do it, but he could always do this again for her sometime when she wasn’t feeling horrible. It was even taking a little longer than usual, but he was doing his best. “I just want it dry enough that you won’t be cold…You can lie down soon.” Her hair was just lightly damp as he ran his fingers through to check for any wet spots he’d missed. A part of him was annoyed by the fact that it wasn’t entirely dry, but he was going to have to suck it up.

There was something almost therapeutic for Cerise about him drying and running his fingers through her hair; she almost found herself dozing off and relaxing despite feeling absolutely crummy. She was definitely awake though as Marion made his next move. Vanderwood picked her up from the chair, still wrapped in the towel like she was, because he didn’t want her trying to walk any more than she needed to. Cerise seemed like she was about to argue, but apparently decided against it. “Let’s get you into bed.” There was really no reason for her to be walking around or to get dressed, anyway. She was staying in bed. He left the chair in the room and focused on getting her laid into the bed and tucking the blankets in around her.

Despite being sick, Cerise could still feel her heart melting at the way he was taking care of her. She did like being carried in his arms, even if a part of her wanted to argue that she was perfectly capable of walking. Marion was just being so sweet, though, and she was so tired. He was literally tucking her in and making sure she was comfortable, and it made her feel just that much better. Her fiancée was so amazing, and she absolutely adored this man. “Will you stay for a little while?” She grabbed for a pillow to hold as he finished tucking her in, looking up at him and feeling somewhat like a whiny child.

He brushed her hair back from her forehead gently. Vanderwood was so concerned for welfare that he wasn’t even thinking about the fact that she was completely naked under the covers. “I can stay as long as you want.” Lightly, he checked her forehead for fever, but didn’t feel one, which was good. “If you can take a nap, you should…” He would get her some food when she woke up, since she probably didn’t want any at the moment.

“That sounds like a good idea.” If she was asleep, then she didn’t have to feel sick. Plus, maybe sleep would do her some good, since she was feeling so tired now. “Please stay until I fall asleep, ‘kay?” She was already feeling drowsy, and being under the covers after a shower was one of the best feelings in the world. “Maybe I can sleep this off or something…” Cerise buried her face into the green fuzzy pillow she had, finding it to be weirdly comforting before settling more into the bed.

Marion was earning himself a lot of points, even if he had gone into the bathroom without her permission earlier. He mumbled a soft agreement to her request as he stroked her hair. She knew that he wasn’t really one to nap, but she also knew that if she’d asked him to stay until she fell asleep at least, he would do it. Cerise felt another wave of nausea come over her right as she began to fall asleep, but she wasn’t so worried about it. It would probably be over by the time she woke up. She muttered a small, “Love you,” as she fell asleep.

Vanderwood kept up with stroking her hair until he was certain she’d fallen asleep, and then he pulled his hand away, not wanting to disturb her as she slept. “I love you, too…” He watched her sleeping for a little while, listening to the sound of her breathing. This wasn’t how today was supposed to have gone, which was irritating on some level. It had been a pretty stressful week for him as well as having been a while since they’d last slept together, but maybe that made her illness well-timed. Since he shouldn’t be looking forward to it to relieve his stresses.

He decided he might as well go make sure the bathroom was clean and put away the chair while she was sleeping. Vanderwood hated things out of their place. Right now, he just wanted her to get better, and that’s where his focus should stay. He realized that this was the second time they’d showered together, and he still hadn’t made that moment into a sexual one. Maybe he really was getting better from his addiction. After he finished cleaning up, he checked on her, finding that she was still sleeping peacefully and pressing a little kiss to her forehead before murmuring to her softly. “I’ll be here when you wake up.”

 

***Hidden Scene available as patron – Cerise and Vanderwood watch a sex scene movie together and talk about their upcoming wedding ***

She had eventually woken up from her nap in the afternoon, and Vanderwood made her some porridge which thankfully stayed down and did actually taste better than it looked. After a movie or two of his, unfortunately with one of the longest sex scenes he’d ever seen and her head in his lap not making life any easier on him, Cerise went back to bed once more to keep sleeping it off. He woke her for dinner, but her day consisted of on and off sleeping. Eventually, he joined her. Vanderwood simply slipping into bed, wrapping his arms around her, as usual falling asleep to the sound of her breathing and her warmth against his chest.

His sleeping was anything but peaceful, dreams of kissing Cerise turning into making love, and then even sleeping he was grinding up against her. Vanderwood moaned rather loudly in her ear, completely unaware of what he was doing. Cerise woke up abruptly and didn’t have time to fully process what was happening before she bounded away, was chucking pillows at him. She eventually rolled off the side of the bed with a loud thunk, getting up and rubbing at her elbow as she proceeded to send him a glare. Did he really…? She was sick! Cerise paused…Wait. She wasn’t feeling horrible anymore! It must have been some weird twenty-four-hour bug.

The pillows hitting him had woken him up rather abruptly, making him scan the room and nearly grab for his weapon stashed just between the mattress and headboard, but apparently, he’d just woken her abruptly, too. Vanderwood just sort of stared at her as she glared, his mind taking some time to catch up and try to figure out what he was supposed to say. Cerise hadn’t realized that he had been asleep and was just having a rather exciting dream. “You could have just asked, ya know.” She gave him another glare for good measure before running off to the kitchen to heat up some leftovers, not waiting for an explanation. Cerise was starving and didn’t want to wait for him to get up and make anything. Hell, she didn’t even know what time it was.

She was gone in a second, and he was calling out after her. “I’m sorry! I was dreaming!” Bloody Hell, he was painfully hard, too. Vanderwood flopped back onto the bed. Maybe it would just go away? His thoughts slipped to the dream he’d been having, and no, it was not going away. Bloody fucking Hell. He pushed out of bed and peeked out at her in the kitchen. She seemed to be feeling better, but he ended up deciding that she would just say no if he asked now, considering. Better to just take care of it himself, and then maybe some of the frustration would be gone for a while, too, so he wouldn’t be dealing with it like earlier today.

“I’m taking a shower.” What he really needed was a cold shower, but he really needed to get off if he wanted to be able to spend time with her like a normal person for the next few days. Vanderwood went into her bathroom and turned on the water. It was normal for him to get hard-ons in the shower as it was, and it was easier cleanup. Damn, he was ridiculously hard, but considering that he’d dreaming about Cerise doing something very similar to what had seen on that secret agent movie they’d watched in the past afternoon, and…No, time to stop thinking about it. Just get it over with, and get some relief.

Cerise took out some of the leftover Indian takeout she had ordered when she and Crystal had decided to try the Indian soap operas out the day before. It seemed like a fun little thing to do, but the portions had been so big that she hadn’t been able to finish hers. Crystal, on the other hand, had ordered what seemed like three entrées and ate every bite. That woman was a monster. Cerise dumped the meat and vegetables on a plate and put it in the microwave. She closed it and pressed some buttons but…it wasn’t doing anything?  Frowning, she tried again. Nothing.

So far, her morning was not that great. Marion had woken her up from a dead sleep to moan in her ear and grind her, and the microwave was being a butt. Whelp. Maybe Marion would know how to fix it. She’d heard him call something out about the shower and all of it having been from a dream but hadn’t really paid much attention. At any rate, the shower was running, so she had a good feeling that was where he was. Cerise made her way to the bathroom and knocked on the door loudly. “Mariooooonnnn! The microwave isn’t workiiiiiing. Can you fix it?” He could take a shower whenever, but she wanted food now.

He was just pulling off his pajama pants when she called him. For the sake of all that was or wasn’t holy, why did the microwave have to be not working now? Vanderwood turned off the water, stuffing his unfortunate arousal back into his pants. “Give me a second.” Bloody Hell. He leaned his forehead against the doorframe for a bit before he made his way out to the kitchen, not looking at her so as to not get his imagination going again.

Finding the problem turned out to be much easier than expected as he plugged the microwave in with an exasperated grunt. “How about you make sure it’s plugged in next time?” Yeah, he was being a bit of an asshole. Cerise just huffed at him. Did he have to be such a jerk? All she had asked was to figure out what was up with the microwave. It wasn’t like she was asking a lot of him.

Vanderwood sighed as he started walking away back towards her room, giving her a noncommittal wave. “Sorry, ignore me.” She called out after him, not caring about the half-apology. “How about you shut your face!” Psh. Cerise shook her head and heated up the leftovers. The aroma from it was wafting off of it, and it smelled as good as it had when she got it. Once Vanderwood was back in the bedroom, he just sat on the edge of the bed breathing. Fate clearly didn’t want him to have relief, because now he wasn’t at the level of hardness to do anything, and he wasn’t about to intentionally get himself there, least of all when he was getting frustrated.

When her food was done, Cerise took it out and mixed up the sauce that had settled to the bottom of the plate. Before she decided to dig in, she had an idea. If she had Marion taste the dish, maybe he’d be able to recreate it for dinner sometime. As much as he had been acting like a jerk all morning, he could at least agree to do that for her, couldn’t he? Cerise grabbed her plate and took off after Marion to the bedroom, finding him sitting on the edge of the bed, looking a little miserable. Her assumption was that he was just being grumpy after not getting any that morning. She took a little bit of everything on a fork and held it up to him. “Taste this…maybe you could recreate it sometime for me?”

He looked up when she came in and raised an eyebrow at her suggestion. She’d heated whatever it was up in the microwave, and he was not a fan of microwave food. Then again, she’d just been pissed at him for him being a dick, so he might as well make her happy. “Alright…” He looked it over first, trying to discern what was in it and then took the bite offered. It didn’t taste so bad. Then he swallowed, and his stomach lurched a little. Okay. Weird.

Vanderwood locked eyes with her before his stomach did it again, and now it made sense. Cerise looked back at him confused as his eyes widened somewhat at the pain he was now feeling before his tone came out clipped and fearful. “Do not eat any more of that.” Was he trying to discern the different flavor components? “Don’t–why not?” His stomach was very audibly growling, so maybe he was just hungry and wanted some more. Cerise was about to say that he could just have half before he was up and making a mad dash for the bathroom. She followed closely after him, worry etched across her features. Oh no, he was throwing up now.

He had gotten up quicker than he had ever before in his life, getting to the bathroom to lose everything into the toilet. Oh, Bloody fucking Hell. This was the first time in ages that he was throwing up, and now he remembered the taste and smell of bile. That was fucking fantastic. Vanderwood started to dry-heave after the actual food was out of him. It just wouldn’t stop, barely giving him enough time to breathe between. Well. If he died from this, at least it was a lot less painful than other ways. Except, he didn’t want to die, because he had a reason to be alive…even if she was the reason he was vomiting.

Realization hit Cerise as she watched him in horror. It was probably the Indian food. That was probably what had had made her sick, too. She wasn’t sure what to do other than do what he had for her, rushing to his side and holding his hair out of the way as she rubbed his back. “Ohmigosh Marion…I am soooooo sorry. I didn’t know, I promise!” She was going to call and have words with the place she had ordered from, because whatever it was that had made them so sick was in that food.

Okay, so the dry-heaving was slowing down, enough to let him breathe normally. It still burned like Hell, but he was happy to be breathing. Vanderwood had no idea what Cerise was saying, because he just wasn’t processing anything. He felt suddenly exhausted and leaned back against the side of the cabinet. At least her hands on him felt good, soothing. “I’m going to pass out…” His nose and throat were burning, and he needed to wash out the acid, but he felt so incredibly lethargic. It wasn’t possible that he had lost that much oxygen to his brain, was it? No…probably not…What the Hell? It seemed to be affecting him way worse than it had her, and now his body was cramping up as he broke out in a cold sweat. Maybe his years of getting beat up were catching up to him, that and his age. Vanderwood all but whimpered and closed his eyes as his stomach clenched painfully.

Cerise felt a little frantic. He was really sick. “Come on, Marion. You should lie down.” She couldn’t do much in the way of moving him, but she helped to urge him up. “Let’s get you over there, and then I’ll get you some water and a cool cloth…It’s not far, mon amour.” At first, when she told him to get up, he just shook his head, but then she was pushing at him, urging him out of the bathroom, and he followed, slow and sluggish. Somehow, they made it over to the bed, and when she got him to lie down, she disappeared before coming back with a glass of water and a cool rag.

“Here.” She gave Vanderwood the glass with a straw and dabbed at his face some with the rag until he was done with his water. The bed felt like heaven, and the first thing he did when she gave him the glass with the straw was to swish out the bile in his mouth and swallow. His stomach protested a little, but he managed to drink the entire glass before laying his head back and letting her dab at his face even more with the cloth. She was some kind of angel right now.

It really sucked seeing him so ill, and maybe she understood why he hadn’t let her shoo him away the day before. “Try to rest, okay? Is there anything you want? I’m soooooo so sorry, Marion.” He shook his head no to her question. “It’s not your fault…” Right now, he just felt tired, but he still attempted to lift an arm to rub at her back to comfort her, managing a pat before he stopped trying. Bloody Hell, he felt like Hell. “I’m…going to sleep…” He closed his eyes and was out like a light, something that never happened with him unless he was at the edge of exhaustion.

Cerise felt terrible for being the reason he was sick. He was even out as soon as he’d closed his eyes, which was so totally not normal. She told him that she loved him and placed a soft kiss to his forehead, resigning herself to now being the care-taker. Cerise stayed there lounging on the bed to monitor him while playing games on her phone for a while before she got up to call the Indian place they had ordered from.

She was on the phone with them for a good while, and after feeling like she was getting nowhere, she finally hung up. “No wonder we would get this sick with idiots like that working there, ugh.” Cerise was grumbling and talking to nobody in particular as she paced through her living room. She decided to unwind by watching random videos on her phone, even coming across people who had taken dance routines that she had come up with and decided to try them out themselves. There was something so wonderful about that, a smile on her face as she watched people she had never even met before doing her dances.

Vanderwood’s eyes opened slowly before he turned his head to see his clock…lunchtime. He made a move as though to get up, but his body just wasn’t letting him. Everything felt sore and heavy. Oh good…How was he supposed to eat or do anything? He was going to have to figure it out somehow. “Cerise?” Where was his fiancée? Hopefully at least she was feeling alright.

A video had just ended when she heard her sick fiancé’s voice from her room, and she was there in a flash. “Marion?” She made her way to his side and lovingly caressed his cheek. “Feeling any better, mon amour? Are you hungry?” Could he even keep anything down? She offered him some more water from the bedside that she had refilled for him.

He was grateful that she was there so quickly. “I feel like shit…Are you alright?” She looked a lot better. Vanderwood tried to sit up and grunted at how sore he was, somehow managing. He likely looked a sight in among all her pink and her horde of pillows, but that was the same as always, just now with him sick as fuck. The water she offered him went down surprisingly well, and then he leaned his head back against the wall, reaching for her hand. His stomach felt ridiculously empty other than the water, but he wasn’t nauseous, so maybe food would work out okay. The only issue was he’d have to make it, seeing as they didn’t have any leftovers after Crystal’s visit. That woman was an eating tyrant. “I’m starving…I need to get up.” As wonderful as Cerise was, he still didn’t trust her in the kitchen, and he did not want anything microwaved. Fuck no to that.

“Oh no, you’re not getting up.” She shot a glare at him and held it to make a point. “I can make something, and before you argue, you’re in no position to be up, much less up and cooking. Nope. No sir. ” Cerise narrowed her eyes at him, holding a finger up as though she were going to put it on his lips to silence him if he tried to complain. “I won’t use the microwave. I know you hate that. Just shut up and trust me.” She had an idea of something she could make for him, and she was fairly confident that she could pull it off. No matter what, there was no way she was going to let him get up and move around when he was sick. “Wait here, and don’t move, okay?” She placed a kiss to his forehead and disappeared into the kitchen to cook.

Vanderwood’s mouth almost fell open as she griped at him. Cerise seemed to have predicted his thoughts all too easily. Guess that was the problem with having a soulmate; she just knew what he was thinking. It was equal parts irritating and marvelous. The kiss to his forehead was very welcomed, but damn it, he wanted her to stay. Was that weird? He was sick as fuck, and he just wanted her in his arms, certainly not in the kitchen. He couldn’t stop worrying about what she was doing in the kitchen, listening for anything happening just in case. There was nothing quite as panic inducing as wanting to be right by his fiancée’s side and not being able to be.

Okay, so what Cerise knew she was able to successfully manage was broccoli. You could make soup out of that, right? Cerise looked up some stuff on her phone and then went to work. They already had the things it was asking for. The only issue she had was washing the broccoli, naturally ending up completely soaking herself. Well…at least the broccoli was nice and clean? She wasn’t wearing anything important, just a plain white tank top. Had she been wearing some of her more expensive and cute clothes, she might have been just a little bummed out. It was worth it, though, if the end result was good.

She found it was surprisingly easy to make the recipe, and it seemed like she was done in no time. Cerise made sure to double check to make sure everything was off before pouring the soup into a bowl. Looking around, she realized that the only major incident that had happened was that there was water everywhere from her attempt to wash the broccoli. Other than that, she deemed this a success. Cerise cleaned the water up off the floor so she wouldn’t slip and then took a cloth to clean up around the sink. She was still rather soaked herself, but she could grab a towel after she gave him his soup. After grabbing the bowl carefully, she walked slowly back to the room with the soup in hand and sat down on the edge of the bed with it, urging him to sit up more, so he could eat. “Here, I followed a video recipe…and don’t worry, I turned everything off.”

Vanderwood had closed his eyes as he listened for anything, but nothing had happened, seeing as she was now back in the room with no major noise or sound of distress. When he opened his eyes, he immediately averted them up to the ceiling. Holy shit. Her white tank top was wet, and she wasn’t wearing a bra. What she was saying registered a few seconds later. “Good…thank you…that’s great…” He was doing anything he could not to look at her again, as tempting as it was, because he could swear his imagination was already slipping. Vanderwood did not need a hard-on when he was too sore to get up. “Shortcake…your tank top….” Hopefully, she would change it, because he couldn’t look at her until she did or it dried.

She raised an eyebrow at him. “My tank top?” Oh, he was probably talking about how she had accidentally sprayed herself. “Yeah…I might have had a little issue with washing the broccoli. Oopsie!” Cerise laughed nervously. “But don’t worry! There weren’t any issues with the actual cooking.” She gave him her trademark wink and smile. He was probably concerned with her getting a cold, considering she had just been sick herself. Marion was so considerate. “I should probably change into something dry. Be back in a flash!”

He had caught the wink, his eyes naturally seeking hers as she was talking before he averted his eyes back up to the ceiling. His face felt so hot with blush that it was ridiculous. A guy like him shouldn’t blush or get so easily caught in thoughts like that. Cerise got up and placed a kiss on the top of his head before running over to her dresser and grabbing an old oversized t-shirt before heading into her bathroom to throw it on and peel off the wet tank top. It was literally stuck to her skin and completely cold. She was so glad to be out of it. Once she was done changing, she threw her wet top into the hamper and made her way back to him. “So, how’s it taste?”

 

Honestly, he had completely forgotten about the food until she spoke to him again on her return. Oh, right. He had soup in his lap. Vanderwood took a little bit to breathe before he took the spoon and actually tried the soup. Looking at it for a moment before trying it seemed to help his stomach settle into the idea of accepting food. It was…really good. He wasn’t sure what he’d been expecting, exactly, but it was good. “It’s great…thank you, mon amour.” He realized he sounded really astounded, but he was.

Vanderwood looked at her shirt and realized that, sure, she’d changed, but apparently, she was still a little cold. Now he was back to staring at his soup. Why…why today when he couldn’t have sex? He wanted her so badly. Vanderwood had wanted her so badly earlier when she was sick, too, and he just wasn’t going to get any. The world was not making it easier. He focused on eating his soup. Better not to think about it. When he was better, right?

Cerise’s face had lit up. She was absolutely ecstatic that he actually enjoyed something that she’d made without his help. It even looked like he was really focusing on it, and she couldn’t be happier. “I’m so glad you like it, Marion!” Grinning, she sat back on the side of the bed. “There’s more if you decide you want seconds. ” Maybe if this dish wasn’t a disaster, she could make more than just this. She watched him enjoy his soup for a bit before speaking up again.  “Hey, Marion? I know you’re sick, but…while you’re lying down, do you mind if I cuddle you?” She knew she enjoyed cuddles when she was sick, maybe he would, too?

The idea of seconds was good and yet he didn’t want to risk upsetting his stomach, placing the bowl to the side. Her question wasn’t out of line or anything, but Vanderwood felt like he needed to think about it. “Give me a second.” He winced as he moved to lie down, trying to decide whether he wanted her that close as she rubbed his arm in an attempt to comfort him. On the one hand. Yes, please. He wanted to hold her and just be close. On the other hand, he’d gotten some visuals recently, and those were not helping him any with his sexual frustration problem.

Vanderwood looked at her for a few seconds before deciding that he’d rather be cuddling and dealing with potential horniness than having her so close but so far when he wanted her comfort. “Please?” Oh, and good, he sounded nice and whimper-y too. But he felt nice and whimper-y. His body was so sore; he was just plain miserable, and he needed her affection almost as much as he needed air. What a childish thing, but that’s the way it was.

She couldn’t help but wonder if the reason he was taking so long to answer was her fault. Was it selfish of her to want to be close to him while he was sick? Especially considering it was her fault? He just looked so miserable, and she couldn’t help but to want to snuggle up to him. Cerise was delighted to hear that, yes, he did want her company, and she took no time at all giving it to him as she took her place beside him, snuggling up close and throwing an arm around his torso.

Even while he was sick and out of it, she felt the safest and most relaxed while she was next to him like this. After what was probably a few minutes, she spoke, pulling back to look at him. “Too bad you’re sick now.” Cerise moved to kiss his cheek before burying her head in his shoulder. “If you would have asked me before, I would have said yes.” She talked against his shoulder, her voice slightly muffled. As much as she had been surprised by the little slip-up when he’d woken her, it did make her want it, despite her irritation at the time. Oh well. It had been a while, but she could hold out until he was better again, and she was sure he’d have no qualms if she asked him for sex.

He had nuzzled into her hair like he liked to do. It always made him feel close to her, surrounded by her scent since she was too small to surround him physically. Then she talked, and he made a soft groan that nearly sounded like a begging moan. Cerise just stifled a giggle, knowing he was kicking himself in the butt over the situation. Beautiful. Vanderwood had to tell himself he’d be better soon. No need to stress. Soon, very soon, they would be able to have sex again. His sexual frustration would be taken care of, and he could be with Cerise in the way no one else could. Which was his favorite part about it now, whereas before it had all been sensation. Vanderwood bit his tongue and moved to roll over painfully slowly, pulling her against his chest. “I think I need a nap…”

She let him pull her to him, helping him so he didn’t have to work as hard. “Yeah…sleeping really helped me, so that’s probably a good idea.” Cerise reached up and gently stroked his hair. “Let me know if you need something, and I’ll do my best.” She wasn’t really tired, but she decided that she was going to go ahead and take a nap alongside him. Marion seemed to sleep better when she was there with him anyways, and he really needed to rest. “You’re gonna feel better in no time, mon amour. Let’s get some rest.” Vanderwood murmured softly in response. Why was it that they always had unfortunate dry spell because either one of them was injured or sick? Maybe that was just the only way to keep them from it. He suppressed a snort as he closed his eyes and went to sleep.

 

*** (Hidden Scene available as patron – Cerise has her period and dreams of Vanderwood being gay resulting in a number of hilarious and unfortunate circumstances for Vanderwood.) ***

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Mystic Messenger Fanfiction | VanderwoodxOC Cerise – Tagged | Bonds Are Formed

Talking to Crystal felt a lot different than talking to her friend back home. It was like Crystal actually cared about what she had to say. That was actually a really nice feeling.

***Get you some Crystal Backstory hidden scene by becoming a patron. She is by and far one of my favorite OC’s of all time. I’m sure I’ll get her OC bio up soon, too. She’s…affiliated with another MM boy, and in the end, I’ll end up publishing an OC story with her, too. SO stay tuned!!***

*Remember, this is a sequel to Vanderwood Backstory, and Cerise has a bio. You can support my writing on patreon and get access to my VIP Discord Server or other goodies like early chapter releases and hidden scenes.  Tagged Chapter Directory*

Vanderwood woke slowly and checked the time. Damn, he’d kind of slept in? It was already 10, and he needed breakfast. He untangled himself from Cerise, looking at her for a moment, thinking about the night before. Maybe a little dangerous to do, but his thoughts were interrupted anyway as he heard shuffling in the kitchen. So, Crystal was probably up and searching for food. What the Hell was going on with his life right now?

He made his way in there, grumbling a good morning. “You should sit down. I can make breakfast.” She had an amused look on her face but just leaned against the counter, hands cupping over her small baby bump before he looked away. He did not want to think about kids right now. “So, you’re a gentleman and an idiot.” Vanderwood snorted at her. “Sure, I am. What are you insulting me over now?” He figured she would probably need something a little heavier, so omelets were the way to go, even though Cerise wouldn’t be cutting the broccoli for him today. He couldn’t help thinking that she shouldn’t be anyway. Bringing his old life back into his new life with her, he didn’t deserve her.

Crystal’s voice had his eyebrow twitching. “She said yes, you know. To all of it.” He didn’t like people nosing into his life, but Crystal continued as he tried to focus on preparing food to stay relaxed. “Doesn’t mean I should bring it home.” The woman sighed heavily. “Doesn’t mean she doesn’t love you, more than anything in this world.” Vanderwood bit his tongue.

Alright, so maybe she was right. Cerise had fought him on a similar situation before, and he remembered her saying that she was ready to accept everything that came with being with him. Still, he couldn’t help thinking that maybe she didn’t fully understand what that meant. He shook his head, too tired and annoyed to want to think much more of it. “Why am I taking the advice of an escort who probably got pregnant by one of her johns? Whose is it?” That was none too polite, but if she was nosing, he was going to nose in, too.

She narrowed her eyes at him before she smacked the back of his head, not hard, but enough to get the point across. “Absolutely none of your business, you ass, but my baby is no john’s.” Crystal huffed as he turned to stare at her over his shoulder. Had she just? She had. Granted he deserved it, in hindsight. She just ran her hands over her belly. Calling Zen’s baby that of some john’s…it was insulting to him in a weird way, insulting to the baby. She didn’t so much care for being insulted herself, but not Zen and not her baby.

Cerise had woken up by now and walked into the kitchen, following the voices she was hearing coming from it. She arrived just in time to hear Marion asking Crystal a really inappropriate question. Cerise had opened her mouth to say something to him, but Crystal’s swift smack to the back of his head beat her to it. Stifling a laugh, she made her way beside him to start some coffee. “You deserved that, you know.” With a yawn, she set a pot of coffee to brew. ” …Morning, by the way.”

Well, she wasn’t sure if Crystal liked coffee or not, but if she did, there would be more than enough for the two of them. Marion would probably end up drinking his usual breakfast tea. When she passed Crystal to go sit at the table to wait while the coffee was brewing, she grinned at her and uttered a, “Good job.” Her fiancée definitely deserved the smack. “Marion, don’t be such a jerk, by the way.” She called to him from her place at the table.

“Yeah, I know.” He sighed and focused on breakfast. Vanderwood was not about to have an easy life for a while, it seemed. Crystal gave Cerise a wink before going to join her at the table, mostly to get away from the enticing smell of coffee, although it followed her. Maybe she would just have a little, although a doctor would probably say it was best not to have any. That was, if the baby was even okay after a certain stunt she’d pulled recently and all the stress she’d managed to put herself under. It was far easier to focus on the problems of others rather than her own, so she redirected her attention to watching.

Once the food was done, Vanderwood set down a plate for each of the women and himself, placing his plate next to Cerise’s before going to get her coffee. Maybe he could get some bonus points by making it just the way she liked. “Did you want some, Crystal?” The lavender haired woman looked up from the food she’d apparently been too hungry to resist starting on to mumble past her hand, thanks to her full mouth. “Just a little. Not good for the baby to have too much.” He nodded and got her a smaller amount, setting it down before getting tea for himself.

Oh, Cerise didn’t even think about coffee not being good to have while pregnant. Cerise guessed that caffeine wasn’t so great for the developing baby, then. She was also guessing that Marion was trying to earn points by making her coffee. Cerise took a sip once he put it in front of her. Okay…so it was good. Really good. She took a few more sips. He was safe. For now. As he was making his tea, she may as well get to know Crystal a little better, but once she put her coffee cup down to do so, Cerise scrunched up her face.

Crystal was really going at that food. It was all over her mouth, and she looked a bit wild, really. For such a gorgeous and seemingly elegant woman, she sure ate like she hadn’t been fed in years. Was that a pregnant thing? Her hair was already put together into a neat ponytail, and she was even dressed in a tight blouse and a pair of pants that looked really good on her, even if they were pants, and her jewelry was stunning on her. Someone this put together couldn’t possibly eat like that on a regular basis…Unless she was the weird one. Cerise eyed her food. Should she shovel it in?

It took the kettle a little while, and the women were quiet as they ate, so he had plenty of time to think. Cerise was right, he really was being a douche. He didn’t exactly have a relationship of any kind with his former escort, but…the least he could do was be decent and apologize. Vanderwood filled his mug, making his way back over to them and sinking into his chair next to Cerise, who was looking at her omelet a little oddly. “Hey…I’m uh….sorry for that question by the way.”

The lavender-haired woman just shrugged, accepting his apology. God, he was an ass for having asked her, but more than anything Vanderwood was just happy it wasn’t his. He looked over at Cerise, still looking at her omelet, before leaning to give her cheek a quick kiss that made her almost jump. She gave him a little peck and started on her food, finally. If he was having children with anyone, it would be her, although he still wasn’t sure he could handle it. Not now anyway. More than likely, he’d be an absentee father, too worried about screwing the kid up to do much. He picked a little at his food, earning himself a raised eyebrow from Crystal who was observing him again. It made him uncomfortable, but obviously he was going to need to get used to it.

Cerise had been totally zoned out before his kiss to her cheek had brought her out of her stupor, unable to keep from giving him a little peck in return. That just started her to thinking about how wonderful he was and all of the snuggling she wanted to give him when they got the chance to be alone. She just couldn’t help it; she loved him, and she loved the affection he showed her. It made her feel warm and giddy, like she wanted to dance around. Cerise found that she couldn’t really stay upset with him for a long period of time. She reached over to give his arm a squeeze, still smiling. “Thanks for breakfast~ It’s good!” To make her point, she speared some of her breakfast onto her fork and put it in her mouth with an audible, “Omph!” sound, winking and giving him a thumbs-up of approval.

Vanderwood’s smile grew wide at her behavior. She was adorable, and she was his. He wrapped an arm around the back of her chair as he ate. Crystal seemed to be enjoying what she was observing….as well as the food… “Crystal, slow down before you choke, Bloody Hell.” The lavender-haired woman shook her hand at him before covering her full mouth. “I’m pregnant, I’ll eat as much and as fast as I want.”

Cerise had never really encountered a pregnant woman before, so she didn’t know whether or not Crystal was just like this or it was something the pregnancy was making her do. Holy crap, this woman put away some food. It was kind of impressive…in a way. She glanced between Marion and Crystal during their exchange and noticed that he backed off. Smart move.

He had opened his mouth as though to argue before deciding better of it. Probably best not to argue with a potentially hormonal pregnant woman. Vanderwood wasn’t risking it. “So, uh…you want to watch some TV after this, or?” He wasn’t used to social interaction, let alone with Crystal. She just swallowed hard and looked between them with excitement. “Either of you heard of telenovelas?”

After Crystal’s question, Cerise’s eyes widened, and her face lit up. She had the most ridiculous smile on her face, and she felt like she could jump out of her seat. “Do…do you watch them, too?” Her tone was pitched with excitement. It would be great to watch them with someone who appreciated them as much as she did. Marion would watch with her, but he just wasn’t into them as much as she was, and there were some times where he wouldn’t tell her what they were saying, even though she knew he could understand.

Vanderwood just stared, his cup with tea still up to his lips. Oh, dear God. Crystal watched them, too. Not that he really disliked them, other than the stupid donkey ones, but now there were two super fans in the house. Did Crystal speak Spanish? He really hoped not, because there were plenty of times he just couldn’t translate for Cerise, because he felt the things being said weren’t appropriate.

Crystal was overly excited. “You know them!!! Ever since I learned Spanish, I started watching them all the time. They’re just so exciting!” Vanderwood felt like he had a headache, and besides that…translating was his thing. Maybe he was being childish, but helping Cerise understand what had been going on in her favorite shows…when they’d first started dating, it had made him feel…proud, like he could offer her something that was important to her. He bit his tongue. Yeah, that probably was childish.

“Yes! But…” Cerise smiled a little sheepishly, “I can’t really understand them. Luckily, though…” She gestured towards her husband-to-be. “I have this cutie to translate for me! It’s been a lot more exciting now that I know what’s going on.” This was so exciting…to meet someone who loved these things as much as she did. Cerise wondered what her favorite one was; she’d have to ask. Her friends back in Paris just didn’t understand. Telenovelas were like an art form. Other similar programs from other countries never came close…Though, she’d heard that there were some interesting ones from India. She’d have to try them out one day. “We should watch after breakfast! I think my favorite one is going to air soon! Ahhhh~ I think today we find out who the maid’s mystery lover is!”

Vanderwood’s face turned bright red at Cerise’s comments and he coughed softly, wrapping his arm around the back of her chair again. Crystal was too excited to notice the deep blush on his face, at least for now. “I think I know which one you’re talking about! I’ll have to fill in whatever gaps this one leaves for you.” He was still red, and she managed to catch it now, chuckling a little. “I’m sure I’m a better translator.” His eyebrow twitched. “Try it.” How had Crystal even learned Spanish? Vanderwood’s total immersion probably won out over however she had learned it.

Crystal just rolled her eyes at him and went back to chatting with Cerise about their favorite telenovelas. Cerise’s honey-gold eyes had been flicking between them as they seemed to get into some sort of competition over who would be the better translator. While it was exciting to have a new friend to watch with, nothing could replace the time she spent watching with him and letting him translate for her. Plus, he let her snuggle into him while they watched television. No way was Crystal going to take his job; Cerise was just thankful to have someone to fangirl with. She was going to speak up and tell them it didn’t really matter, knowing that Marion was clearly getting frustrated, but just as quickly, she and Crystal were discussing their favorite shows.

The lavender-haired beauty of a woman loved a lot of the same shows she did; plus, she went in being able to understand them from the get-go and was able to talk about them more in depth than Cerise could. They had been talking for a while until the conversation led to the awful rapping donkey. Was it just her or was there a chill in the room? He was totally tuning it out until he heard something about the rapping donkey. Immediately, he was paying full attention. “I hate that stupid donkey. It’s the worst plot I’ve ever seen. Completely senseless.”  Cerise was happy as well to find that Crystal also hated the dumb thing, responding to Marion. “I have to agree. It’s a bit of a disaster, and I usually love weird things like that.” Well, maybe it was a little concerning that she tended to like ‘dumb things like that,’ but Cerise wasn’t about to split hairs. “Yeah…I have no idea who thought that was a good idea…”

Cerise got up to clean up the plates and put the dishes in the sink before setting off towards the television in the living room. She turned it on and switched to the promised station, delighted to see that her favorite one was on the opening credits. Crystal was already up and positioning herself on one side of the couch while Vanderwood stretched and started to head towards their bedroom before Cerise caught his attention. “Hey, you wanna come watch too, Marion?” She called out to him. Maybe he wouldn’t mind watching with two women.

He had been intending to just let them do their thing, but it was also tempting to out-translate Crystal. That and he did enjoy the way Cerise curled into him when they watched together. Although he wasn’t sure how comfortable she would be doing that with someone else watching. Vanderwood thought about it for a moment before Crystal spoke up, holding her hand out to the side with a smirk. “Don’t you want to find out who the better Spanish speaker is?”

His eyebrow twitched briefly. How did she know exactly what would bother him most? Was she a mind reader? No. He’d asked himself that millions of times before, but she was just irritatingly observant. “I mostly just want to spend time with my fiancée.” He grumbled a little before taking his place on the couch, the middle, so he could leave room for Cerise to snuggle with her feet over the other armrest if she wanted to. That and he just wanted to keep the women a little more away from each other. It made him uneasy that they were forming some sort of camaraderie. Before he knew it, he would have two women bossing him around and only one that he could tolerate it from. “Let’s watch.” His voice was a little gruff, but he softened up pretty easily once Cerise took her place. She just had that calming effect on him. Even the night before when he’d almost slipped, she was his saving grace.

Cerise threw her feet over the armrest and took her place snuggled into him as the opening credits on the show faded away. It had opened with a dramatic close-up of a lady’s face, who she had realized, thanks to Marion, was the employer and not the maid’s sister or friend or anything else that Cerise had made up in her head. In the long run, it did make sense as to why the lady was so bossy.

The woman had pointed accusingly towards the maid, yelling something or other before picking up a shoe and throwing it towards the maid, which hit her in the shoulder. Offended, the maid threw it back, and it began to look like a weird game of hot potato….except with a shoe. More yelling once the shoe was dropped, and then this guy came bursting through the doors. Both ladies looked completely shocked, because another guy who looked exactly the same followed. Cerise furrowed her eyebrows and instinctively looked up to her fiancé, waiting for him to explain, because…what was even going on there?

Vanderwood was maybe a little hyper focused. So, a challenge could maybe get him a little hyped up. Usually, he had nothing to prove, but he rather liked the job of being Cerise’s translator. When Cerise looked up at him, Crystal looked over at him expectantly as well, although he knew she was more interested in seeing how good his Spanish was. “The boss lady says she saw the maid together with her husband again last night, so this is just the same fight again. They’re insulting each other. The boss lady is saying the maid is stealing the love of her life, and now the twin brothers enter. It seems that the maid is not sleeping with the man of the house but with his far richer brother.”  They watched a little further before Vanderwood’s stoic face turned a little gruffer. “Now the boss lady is going for the brother, so she’s pretty shallow.”

Cerise listened and the scene made a lot more sense than anything she would have thought up in her head. It seemed that she was always way off when it came to figuring out what was going on. So, to the lady…it seemed that she didn’t care as long as the guy was rich. That was really rude of her, and Cerise did not like her one bit. “That’s really crappy of her…” She mumbled as she watched what was going on now. More yelling and screaming. Cerise looked up to Marion again, whose face had begun to turn red. It must have been one of those times that he didn’t feel the need to translate.

The boss lady had shoved her husband towards the maid before attaching herself to the richer brother. Now the maid started screaming at the richer man and the boss lady, and Vanderwood’s face filled with color. “I’m not translating that.” Crystal started to actually laugh at him, soft and dainty but definitely laughing at him. “I never pegged you for a prude, Vanderwood.” She flicked her ponytail before beginning to translate, looking at the TV, and there was nothing he could do about it.

For him, it was like watching a car crash. Also, his fiancée was in his lap, so that didn’t help, because as usual the problem was his imagination more than anything. “She’s telling them that she is far better at satisfying a man and can deep-throat far better than any other woman out there. The boss lady seems to think that she’s better, because she’s the woman on top.” Thankfully, Vanderwood knew Cerise wouldn’t understand any of that, so he relaxed somewhat.

Cerise hadn’t expected Crystal to start translating and had pretty much accepted it that she wasn’t going to find out what was being said. Now, Cerise scrunched up her nose at Crystal’s translation. Okay, so the boss lady thought that she should be with the guy, because she was powerful, and the maid…had something lodged in her throat? That didn’t seem helpful at all. How in the world did she think that would be helpful to the guy? “Wouldn’t…erm…” Cerise was trying to find the right words. “…how does that help anyone? Wouldn’t she need to go to the hospital?” She stopped to think for a moment before a light went off in her head. “Oh! I get it now!” That’s where the doctor guy comes in!” Now that made sense. How scandalous.

Crystal was looking at Cerise like she had two heads before she figured out that apparently, she didn’t know those phrases. Vanderwood caught her too late before she was explaining. “Being the woman on top means you’re on top of the man when you’re having sex. Deep-throating means his dick deep into your throat, so you can take more in.” His eyebrow was now twitching like crazy, and he was biting his tongue, focused on not letting his mind wander anywhere. “Could you not? I liked it much better when I paid you to be quiet. How much would that be now?” That was way inappropriate, but he was not in a good mood. Crystal looked over to lock eyes with Cerise’s before she smacked the back of Vanderwood’s head, who just grumbled and accepted it, sinking back into the couch. “She has as much of a right to know as you do, and I have as much of a right to talk.”

Okay, so that wasn’t anything Cerise had been expecting. She’d just kind of stared at Crystal before Marion spoke, saying something again that he really had no business saying. Cerise was starting to get a little irritated that he kept alluding to the fact that he used to pay Crystal for her ‘services.’ Was he dense or something? In what world did he believe that if he kept mentioning it, she wouldn’t get at least a little upset? The smack to the back of his head delivered by Crystal was so well-deserved, but it didn’t really make her feel any better.

Cerise took out her phone and typed up a message. `Just bcuz I’m ok w/ evrythng doesn’t mean u shud continue 2 bring it up.` She wasn’t quite ready to have this conversation in the same room with the two of them, so Cerise got up from the couch, announcing that she was going to chill in her room for a little while. Once she was inside and the door was locked, she hit send on the message. Cerise had no issue with Crystal being around; she actually liked her. What she didn’t like was Marion’s constant reminder of what he used to do with the person who was sitting right there. That was a little too uncomfortable for her. She just knew that it happened; she didn’t need specifics, nor did she want to be constantly reminded…yet this was the second time he had alluded to it just that day. She loved him but jeeze. Cerise grabbed a kitty-shaped pillow and squeezed it to her chest. That jerk…

Vanderwood had known almost immediately as it had left his mouth that he’d said something way beyond propriety, but he hadn’t expected Cerise to walk off and lock herself into the bedroom. He sat there in silence with Crystal glaring at him before his phone pinged, and he checked the message. Damn it… Vanderwood bit his tongue and looked up at the ceiling. It made sense, he just hadn’t thought about it, not in the moment. Should he reply? He really didn’t know how to.

“You know you’re not making it any easier on her.” Vanderwood grumbled in response before sending back, `Sorry.` Crystal just kept talking, and although he was irritated, he had to admit, she was pretty good with this stuff. Certainly, a lot better than him. Taking advice from a whore, imagine. “She’s obviously insecure. Not that anything is wrong with her; she’s lovely, and I’m certain you feel more for her than you ever have for anyone else, but she doesn’t look like your type or act like your type and continuing to point out what you did with me, not helping that either.”

Crystal looked towards Cerise’s room with a sigh. Was Vanderwood even listening to her? From his body-language, it seemed like he was. His head had slightly tipped in her direction, even if he was staring at the TV with his arms folded. “Yeah, you slept around, you’re a bit of a screwed-up guy, no pun intended. She knows and accepts that, but you don’t have to push it in her face.”

Vanderwood furrowed his brows momentarily before he returned to his stoic expression. It already made sense to him that he shouldn’t be making reminders of what Crystal used to do for him, but he hadn’t thought about her insecurity before. Now that Crystal pointed it out, the last night had been a little odd. The way she responded to Crystal’s presence as she’d come into the room, it hadn’t been the way she normally responded to other women.

He felt really fucking stupid, and Crystal seemed very aware of the fact that he was actually listening to her. “So. Talk to her. Oh, and let her know I’ll gladly watch more of these with her when you’re done.” Crystal gave him a little push which had him glaring at her again. She hadn’t ever touched him in their interactions before, other than when he’d requested it, which was basically never. Still, Crystal gave him a little wave to make him keep going. They didn’t have that kind of situation between them anymore, and whether he liked it or not, she cared about what happened between him and his sweet little bride-to-be. God, he hated being touched, but it wasn’t like she wasn’t pushing him in the right direction. Vanderwood lightly rapped his knuckles on the door to Cerise’s room. Would she even want to hear him out right now? Usually, she was pretty good about it, but he was acting like a shit lately, so he couldn’t blame her for not wanting to deal with it right now. “Hey, Cerise…can we talk?”

Cerise looked up from her pillow and towards the door. She had a feeling that he would have wanted to talk sooner or later, although she hadn’t expected it right away. Cerise didn’t answer at first, choosing to remain quiet. It’s not that she didn’t have anything to say or that she didn’t want to talk and get things settled. Cerise just knew that it would bother him if she didn’t answer right away. It was petty more than anything, but she didn’t even care.

Vanderwood had known why she wasn’t opening the door. That was a habit of hers sometimes, making him stew in it. Cerise knew he wasn’t the most patient person in the world, but in this case, he wouldn’t blame her if she made him wait all day. He leaned his hip against the doorframe as he waited until she opened the door a few minutes later.

She let this go on for two or three minutes before finally getting up and going to the door. If she knew him, he wouldn’t leave so easily. Sighing, she opened the door to let him in. “You really are a jerk, you know that? She turned around to take her place on the bed, pulling another pillow into her arms and holding it close to her chest.” His response came out as a sigh. “Yeah, I know…” Vanderwood closed the door after he entered, not wanting Crystal as a fly on the wall, even though she seemed to know when to butt out. Cerise eyed him for a moment. “So…let’s talk

He watched Cerise for a little while, the way she was hugging her pillow a long-familiar pose now. Words didn’t come easily to him. Vanderwood wished he could just hold her, but they really did need to talk, or at least he did. He chose to sit on the floor so as not to loom over her. It always felt more right to talk on level ground when they were discussing important things, although like this she was just a little above him. That was fine on his end; he’d just rather not be the one looming.

Her eyes silently followed him as he sat down on the floor, waiting for him to say his piece with a hard gaze. At least he realized what a jerk he was being. She could tell that he was having a little trouble finding words to say, which wasn’t unusual for him. Cerise waited patiently while he debated with himself. She could wait all day if she had to, but it wasn’t long before he did start talking. “I’m sorry for being an ass. I don’t really know how to act with her in normal situations, since my life has never been normal…not that that excuses it. I didn’t mean to…dangle the situation in front of you. I’m just irritated and confused about a lot of things.” He wrapped his arms around his knees, feeling like he looked and felt a lot like a small child, but so be it. “I’m sorry. I’m just bad at this…but I’m trying. I didn’t mean to hurt you.”

She listened and tried to take it in. At least he was apologizing and realized what exactly it was that made him an ass mcvanderjerkface. Being irritated did tend to make him act out, and usually, she found it kind of funny, but there was a line that he had crossed that was not okay today. Cerise waited for him to finish before asking a question of her own, making sure to look him in the eye as she spoke. “I get why you’re irritated…but why are you confused? What’s there to be confused about?” She was trying not to focus on how adorable he looked right now, because she was mad, dammit.

Her question had him confused again. What was it really that he was so confused about? Everything was the only thing he could think, but that wasn’t right. His whole life was just weird. “I went from one lifestyle to a completely other one. I love you, I love our relationship, and I love our life together, but it’s confusing when the two lifestyles mix. It’s making keeping myself calm the proper way difficult…I think that’s what’s confusing. My brain is telling me two things.”

Vanderwood felt even more like shit admitting it, that he felt like he was slipping a little. “I’m sorry…It’s not that I’m not happy or that you don’t satisfy me…I’m just a mess of a person…” His addiction was a barrier, one he was doing everything he could to get rid of. “I won’t ever use you like that…but the mix is…that’s what’s confusing.” Did she understand? It felt like he was drowning. He didn’t want to hurt her any more than he already had, but she needed to know. Above all, she needed to know he wasn’t going to step out of line that way. She was all that mattered to him now, and he would do anything and everything to protect her and their relationship.

Cerise’s eyes widened for a moment. So, the issue was that his addiction was starting to try and complicate things? She thought she followed. Having someone around from that past was probably hard for him…especially if it was the person he would rely on the most. As much as she understood what he was telling her, why it was hard and confusing for him…she couldn’t help but to feel a good deal of self-consciousness. It wasn’t his fault; he was just a victim of circumstance. At first, she wasn’t quite sure what she could say; she loved him and understood that it was a difficult situation.

“Marion…” Cerise sighed and put her pillow to the side, crawling down onto the floor with him. “I trust you…okay? I think you’re stronger than you realize.” She made her way to sit beside him, leaning against him a little. “It’s going to take a while…but look how far you’ve come in such a short time. How about…during these times, if you feel like it’s becoming too much, text me. We’ll come in here and just talk.” Cerise looked to him to study his face. It was such a childish solution, but in this particular case, she felt that maybe isolation from the situation could be the way to go, not wanting to overexpose him to his past and stress him out further…which would stress her out, causing arguments aplenty.

He’d tensed just a little when she moved towards him to lean on him, but he was really trying to listen to what she was saying, pay attention to her words rather than the tenseness of his body. Vanderwood leaned his head lightly against hers before turning his head to kiss the top of hers. “I just don’t want to hurt you…” He pulled back to see her studying his face. Her suggestion, while helpful, also raised worries for him. “But I don’t know if I should be alone with you when I feel that way…last night…holding you made it go away, but I wanted to…and I shouldn’t think of you like that.” Vanderwood bit his tongue and moved to wrap an arm around her, needing the closeness. “You deserve better. I’ll work on better.”

Cerise could see why he was concerned, but she also did really trust him to do the right thing. Ever since the first time he’d kissed her, he had been very good about controlling himself around her. “If…you feel like you need to get away and be by yourself, that’s okay, too. Even if you don’t feel like you can be alone with me…” She held up her phone, letting him get a good view of it to get her point across, “…I have this. You can call me or even text me; even if I’m in the other room. I want to help you. You don’t have to do it alone.”

If he thought that he needed to better himself, she wasn’t going to stop him. She knew what she was getting into when she’d agreed to be in a relationship with him; she was prepared for bumps in the road. Cerise knew it would be hard for both of them, mentally and physically. Now she leaned into him, enjoying the warmth of his arm around her. “Don’t try to rush things…Go at your own pace. I’ll be here no matter what. I love you, Marion. Nothing’s gonna change that.” As much as Cerise enjoyed annoying him and poking at him, she did have a lot of respect for how hard he was trying, what he wanted to be for her. Again, she couldn’t stay mad at him for long. Even if he was a jerkface.

He squeezed her a little tighter as she talked, his other hand coming around to take her chin once she was done, pressing a soft kiss to her lips that he let last. Cerise seemed to know him better than he knew himself sometimes. When he broke the kiss, he lightly nuzzled her nose. “You’re the best thing that ever happened to me…” He let the moment stand on its own, leaning his forehead against hers for long enough to just soak it in. This was what he loved most about his new life, taking the time to just exist.

She enjoyed the moments after they had a disagreement where they would make up. For whatever reason, it just felt sweeter. He was so soft and gentle with her, and a part of her was happy that only she really got to see this part of him. Nobody would ever know him like she did; nobody could even come close. Cerise took pride in that fact, as weird as it was. She muttered something in French, not realizing she had changed languages as she nuzzled him back after their kiss. Vanderwood just smiled, loving the sound of her native language.

After a while, he remembered Crystal’s offer, and felt like maybe he should tell her about it at least as some sort of…show of being able to handle the situation at hand. “Crystal said she wanted to watch more telenovelas with you. I’m okay if you want to make that a girl thing. I feel a little…awkward, as much as I love watching them with you.” She would probably understand what he meant. At least he hoped so. It just felt like he wasn’t going to be able to relax with Crystal translating the parts he couldn’t…well wouldn’t.

Cerise blinked and stared at him as he mentioned Crystal and her offer to her. Okay, so, she guessed that was fair. Guys, Marion or otherwise, didn’t tend to like being around ‘girl talk’ or during a female hangout session. Plus, she just didn’t want to stress him out further by having both herself and Crystal around when they both seemed to have big personalities. “It’s okay, I understand ~ Don’t worry. We’ll have to watch another secret agent movie later to make up for it though, okay? I need some chill time with my future hubby.” Cerise giggled and kissed his nose, getting up from her place on the floor and dusting off her clothes. Jokingly, she held out her hand as though to help him get up, finding it more amusing than probably a normal person would.

Vanderwood’s heart positively melted at her suggestion of watching one of his movies alone together later and the way she said ‘Future hubby’ would always get to him. She was so good at that. When she offered him her hand to help him up, he laughed and kissed it gently, holding it as he stood on his own. He had a feeling he would break her if she really tried to yank him up, thankful that she wasn’t the type to try something there was no way she could manage. Vanderwood couldn’t help but to bend and give her another kiss, slow and long. These kisses were what he liked to remember when he wasn’t with her, the moments he cherished more than anything else.

She’d giggled as he humored her and took her hand when he got up. It actually made her feel rather giddy, especially so after he bent down to kiss her. She loved when they could take their time with it, really feel that moment and take it in. Sometimes, she would randomly recall those moments in her head and end up a little blushy for seemingly no reason. It just had that effect on her. He broke the kiss before he opened the door for her, walking out into the living room to see Crystal patiently waiting, looking their way with a smile. “Thought it was about time you were done. So, are we watching more?” God damn it, was she actually a psychic? Cerise shot Crystal a smile and replied with a, “Yep! I think Marion will be heading out to do man things, though.”

With a soft snort, Vanderwood went to get his jacket and gloves on, which were hung by the door. “I’ll be…out getting more groceries for a little while, since we have another mouth and a half to feed. I’ll be back soon.” Cerise had followed him, and he gave her hand a kiss before she grabbed onto him for a hug that just melted his heart all the more. It took him a moment before he actually broke away from her, making it a point not to look at Crystal, who was smiling into her hand. Almost as soon as he got into the car, he was sending Cerise a message. `Text me. Otherwise I’ll miss you.`

Crystal watched him go before looking over at Cerise. “So, I guess the big guy is capable of apologizing after all?” It wasn’t really her business, but she felt on some level she was actually making a normal friend. Far better than Marie, anyway. Cerise had been smiling before from their interaction, but her smile widened when her phone went off, knowing it was him before she could even check it. She took a quick selfie to send as a response before she was looking over towards Crystal who had started talking. “Huh? Oh, yeah.”

She made her way back to the couch and plopped down beside the elegant looking woman. “Actually, he’s really good about it.” Crystal had noted the way that Cerise replied to her phone nearly immediately with a selfie, guessing the recipient easily and smiling. They were really a cute couple. That would probably drive Vanderwood insane to know, but that’s what they were. “That’s good. I always thought he was a good man. Not the brightest when it came to talking to people, but a good person, whether he wants to admit it or not.”

Cerise nodded to what Crystal was saying as she looked around and then grabbed for a nearby pillow to hold before turning towards Crystal again. “Are you comfortable enough? Do you need anything before we start watching again?” She wasn’t really sure how to act towards someone who was pregnant, especially when they were a guest in her home. Crystal shifted a little in her place on the couch before she cupped her hand over her stomach and shook her head. “No, I’m just fine. Although you might have to fill me in on what I missed when I go to the bathroom every five minutes.”

She joked about it, but being pregnant really was rather a rough gig, particularly doing it alone. There was a way to not do it alone, she knew that, but it just…wasn’t a viable option. Crystal sighed and flicked her ponytail back over her shoulder before she managed to throw up the facade of perfection again. It seemed more difficult to pretend that everything was great and she was perfectly calm when around someone else for extended periods of time. She was a social person, but even she wasn’t used to being around people for much longer than a couple of hours.

Honey-gold eyes widened a little. “Every five minutes?” that seemed rough, and she knew it was an exaggeration, but still. Being pregnant seemed like a hassle, always having a bump in the way and going to the bathroom so often. Plus, she had seen something on TV about this woman demanding pickles smothered in peanut butter, and that alone just sounded like a bad time. Cerise mentally shuddered and went to turn the TV up so they could continue watching, making sure to keep in touch with her fiancé every so often via text.

Cerise didn’t exactly know Crystal’s situation, and it wasn’t her place to ask, even though the sigh and the way the woman seemed so flippant made her feel like there was something more to it. Crystal seemed to have a good head on her shoulders and had an air of maturity around her that Cerise didn’t think she’d ever be able to achieve. Still though, she couldn’t help but think it was probably hard on her in some way. Something happened on the show that made her frown. One of the twins from earlier was hitting on who she had found out was the maid’s grandmother. “…Wow. What a douche…and she’s so old!” She stuck out her tongue in disgust as she watched the main character present the old woman with a rose and take her hands while kneeling. “Wow, okay then. “

Crystal was honestly really enjoying how Cerise reacted to things. It was almost too good to bother translating and resolving the misunderstanding, but she did anyway. “Actually, he’s asking her if he can marry the maid. Since her father is deceased, he has to ask the mother. Common courtesy, I guess.” She gave Cerise a smile before she was shifting again. That made so much more sense than what Cerise thought was going on. Now she didn’t have to be so disturbed at what was going on. because otherwise that would have been so gross.  Cerise shook her head to get that imagery out of her mind. She let her eyes shift over to Crystal who was beginning to look uncomfortable.

It was a little annoying, the way her hips were aching, and she had a stitch in her side that wouldn’t go away. God, it hurt, and oh, God, no, hormones. This was not the time, but now she was crying. Everything had a tendency to hit her all at once when pregnant, and fate had decided that now was the time. Crystal was suddenly crying way harder than she needed to be in front of this person she’d just met. Thank God Vanderwood wasn’t home, because that would have been way worse. “I’m sorry. I…hormones…and life, and I’m sorry.” Not classy at all.

Cerise had been about to ask if there was anything Crystal needed again before she…started to cry. Her eyes widened, and she had no idea what to do. Was there something wrong? Did she need to call a doctor? Oh God, she couldn’t even function in the kitchen correctly, so how was she going to deal with a sick pregnant woman? Her panicking was cut short when Crystal said it was just hormones and apologized. Oh, so that’s what it was. It didn’t surprise her that pregnancy would put your hormones on the fritz. She didn’t know Crystal well, but she liked her well enough.

“Hey, it’s okay.” Cerise scooted just a little closer and gently patted her back. “I would think that you had every right to cry, hormones or not. It seems tough, so I don’t blame you one bit…Just let it out if you need to. I’m not about to judge you…” There was a look of concern on her face. Crystal probably didn’t have many people to talk to, and considering everything, she probably had to mask her emotions pretty well. “You know…I cry over really dumb things. At least you have a reason to. Like, ummm….” She laughed nervously before she spoke. It was embarrassing but maybe it would help Crystal take her mind of things at least a little? “I might have cried because I ran out of bubble bath…because I like to pour it down the drain in the bath. You know…so the sharks won’t get me.” Oh God, she knew how ridiculous this sounded, but she kept on anyways. “I got in the tub before I realized it, and I just lost it. I made Marion run to the store to get more before I could calm down.”

Just a second ago she had been crying, sobbing really, but now Crystal was laughing. “Sharks?” Could she really think that was a thing? Cerise seemed to realize how ridiculous it was. Crystal wiped at her eyes, thankful that she hadn’t bothered to put makeup on that morning, since that would have been everywhere by now. “You’re fascinating, you know that?” She finally calmed down enough from her laughter to talk like a normal human being. Cerise laughed and nervously pulled her hair over her shoulder. At least Crystal was laughing again, she had a beautiful laugh, too, looked beautiful laughing. How was that fair? Oh well, Cerise knew that she was pretty darn cute herself, even if she was lacking in a few certain areas. Still though…some people got all the luck.

The stitch in Crystal’s side had seemingly disappeared, so that was fantastic. Crystal made eye contact with Cerise, golden eyes to grey, and now she was spilling her feelings, God knows why, but that was what was happening. “I’m just scared of doing this alone…” She coughed and sat back up, clicking her nails together lightly to distract herself. “I’m sorry. I think we were watching a show.” That’s right, deflect. This was the way she was used to dealing with her problems lately. There was no reason for her to be afraid of being alone now.

Cerise blinked as Crystal began to talk again, letting out her true feelings. Crystal probably really needed to talk it out, and honestly, Cerise didn’t mind listening. “That kinda thing can wait, you know?” She turned down the television, so she could better hear Crystal’s soft and airy voice, turning towards her. This really wasn’t any of her business, but she knew that at least for her, talking about things tended to make her feel somewhat better. “I think that’s a normal thing to be afraid of. I know we don’t know each other so well, but if you need to get it off your chest, you can. It’ll be just between us.” Cerise put her phone to the side to show Crystal that she had her full attention. “No boys allowed~”

Crystal eyed Cerise a little warily. The younger woman was willing to listen, but Crystal wasn’t sure if she wanted to let her in. She’d never let anyone in, no one but the man she’d fallen in love with, and this woman was a virtual stranger. Then again, she seemed to have some sort of connection with her. Besides that, she’d been sticking her own nose into Cerise and Vanderwood’s business the entire time she’d been staying with them, so it was only fair if she at least told her a little.

She chuckled a little about Cerise’s comment of no boys allowed, patting her stomach as she deflected with humor once more. “I have no idea what this one is, yet. I try not to think too hard on it.” Cerise laughed lightly at Crystal’s joke. It was probably hard for her to talk about, and she wouldn’t blame her if she didn’t want to. Cerise would have been a little wary herself to talk about her personal problems with a complete stranger. Crystal bit at her thumb nail lightly before she took a breath and decided to let it out.

“So…I know exactly who the father is, and he’s not just some random john…I met him through my job, though. First, I stripped, and then I became an escort. I’ve paid off all my loans and even built myself a house, have tons in savings, and at this point that’s just all I’ve been working for…” So, she was telling Cerise more than she’d meant to, but now it was too late to stop. “Anyway…I met him at a gala party, and we started talking. Not only was he attractive, but he cared about me. He wasn’t trying to just sleep with me.”

There was a small pause as she took another deep breath before continuing on. “I love him…At first I tried to pretend he didn’t mean a thing to me, that it was just a little fling, but I was hopelessly smitten from the moment I met him, even if I didn’t realize it at first. When we met up…I was fully intending to sleep with him, that was a given, but I wasn’t expecting to get pregnant. When we parted ways, I started to ignore him again, because I had to. It hurt more, since…I’d figured out how I felt about him, that he feels the same way, but we can’t be together because of his job. Obviously, I’ve quit working as an escort, and I have plenty of connections, but…He’s…” Could she really trust Cerise with this information? For someone like Vanderwood to be with her, Cerise had to be good at keeping secrets. “Zen, a musical actor…Even if I didn’t have the history I do, a baby would kill any chance he has of making it unless I gave him every connection I have.”

Honestly, Cerise had been a little surprised when Crystal began to talk, and she made sure that she was giving her her full attention. She soaked up the information that Crystal was giving her. Wow, she had a hard life. Wasn’t it good, though, that she knew the father? Even loved him? She continued to listen, letting Crystal take her time, nodding where it was necessary to show that she was still listening and paying attention. Cerise could tell that Crystal really cared about this guy, and she really felt for her. It sounded, in a way, similar to the way her own parents had ended up together. She’d caused her father’s retirement from K-pop music, because he loved her mother. They had all been happy…for the most part.

Cerise took a moment to collect her thoughts before she tried to offer any sort of comment. The name ‘Zen’ sounded a little familiar, but that wasn’t really the point at the moment. “Does he know at least?” When Crystal shook her head, Cerise sucked in her cheek, thinking before she spoke again. “I’m not really an expert on these things, but…he should at least know about his baby, even if it might cause the end of his career. Doesn’t he have a right to know that he’s a father? Especially if he feels the same way about you as you feel about him.” Would it do any good to talk about her own experiences? She did on some level have experience with this situation, obviously not exactly, but close.

“My dad was a K-pop star before he married my mom. They only got married because of me. Surprise!” Cerise giggled for a moment before she continued. “Anyway…my dad chose my mom and me, because he loved us both, and we’ve been happy. My dad found his ways to still work in the music industry, and it’s not like it’s impossible or anything. Things will be hard, that’s for sure, but you know, I’m sure you can face things a lot better together than you can alone.”

Crystal had gone back to biting at her thumbnail as Cerise talked, not because she wasn’t listening, just because it was a nervous habit. Cerise wasn’t stupid by any means, and her family history had its similarities. What Cerise was saying, it wasn’t unlike things she’d told herself several times. Just…telling yourself and trying to build up the strength to actually face the results were two different things. “I’ve told myself plenty of times that at the very least he deserves to know, and my baby deserves the chance to meet their father, that there’s some way to keep his career going…but actually telling him is a completely different beast.”

“Yeah…I could see that. Honestly, if I were in your shoes…I’m not sure what I would do. I think that all you can really do is let it play out. At least trying it and knowing is better than not knowing, you know?” Having that looming overhead seemed like it would be killer. Cerise was the type of person where she would rather get it over with and know rather than trying to worry about it and go through the what ifs over and over in her head.

Cerise watched as Crystal played around with her phone, seemingly aimlessly as she continued to chomp on her poor thumbnail. That made Cerise wince a little. Crystal’s nails were so well-kept, too, and a manicure needed to be respected. “Maybe…you should text him?” That got Crystal to stop playing with her phone, actually turning it over to check the screen. Really, that wasn’t the worst place to start, and Crystal had honestly been playing around with that thought much like she’d been doing with her phone.

“Alright…” Crystal took a deep breath before she typed something up, asking Zen if he wanted to meet and talk, preferably at his place if they could manage it. He almost immediately replied, although he seemed way more excited than her heart could take. He’d understand soon enough. “Okay…so…that’s going to be taken care of.” She felt relieved and nervous at the same time, but she had a day or so to think through what she was going to say to him, what she could do with the situation.

Crystal rubbed her stomach lightly as she felt that little stitch in her side again. “God, I have a little wiggler in there.” Cerise just giggled at the comment about the little one. Crystal would probably have a really cute baby. Even if its father were super ugly, Crystal’s good genes would more than make up for it. “I dunno…but I have a feeling things will somehow work out.” Talking to Crystal felt a lot different than talking to her friend back home. It was like Crystal actually cared about what she had to say. That was actually a really nice feeling.

The lavender-haired woman laughed somewhat nervously. If anything, at least she would have the baby, and now she felt like she had a friend. “You’re a much better friend than Marie…” Crystal had meant to muse that to herself in her head, but it had slipped out. At least it was true. Cerise probably didn’t even know who Marie was. When Crystal mentioned the name “Marie”, Cerise was pretty sure who she was talking about and scrunched her face up. Cerise wasn’t really a fan of Marie, considering what went down the last time they had encountered her. “I…don’t think that would be hard.” She couldn’t imagine being that woman’s friend, if Crystal had to put up with her…she felt even worse for the poor woman. Jeeze.

She was surprised by Cerise’s reaction. “Wait, do you know her?” Come to think of it, it was right about the time that Vanderwood stopped calling that Marie had come to her complaining about her broken wrist. She had blown the girl off, thinking she probably deserved it. If it had anything to do with Cerise, she definitely thought Marie had deserved it. “You’re right, it’s easy to be better than Marie. She’s a complete dunderhead.” Crystal flicked her ponytail as she continued. “The girl kept trying to touch me all the time once she found out that I was pregnant. Not that I would have minded if she’d asked, but she was just all over me touching me. I am so glad I won’t have to deal with her anymore. She nearly told my boss before I could.” How Marie had any clients, Crystal had no clue. Maybe some guys just loved that complete bubbly idiot vibe.

“That really doesn’t surprise me.” Cerise shook her head, recalling the incident from before. “She doesn’t seem to know how to keep her hands to herself. ” Aaaaand that’s how you get a broken wrist. She thought to herself. Marie kinda deserved it. “Ya know…I don’t blame you. I never knew people like her could exist, really.” That woman seemed like a complete idiot who didn’t know when to quit. How did she even get into the escort business? Did guys really like girls like her? Honestly, she didn’t understand. She knew that at some point Vanderwood had seen her, but for the sake of her sanity, she wasn’t about to ask him about it. “Silver lining though, right?”

Crystal shrugged with a chuckle. “Fair point…There’s a lot of silver linings.” Not that her job had been so terrible really; it was a dangerous occupation that had become boring, but she’d made a lot of money, and that was the whole reason she’d done it in the first place. Sex had never really mattered to her, had always been a regular biological need, so that hadn’t been an issue for her. Still, all in all. “I’m glad it’s over…Would be nice to be a normal person for a while.” Crystal gave Cerise another smile. “Well, as normal as I can be.”

Cerise shrugged with a smile. “I wouldn’t say that you weren’t ‘normal’ before. There was nothing wrong with you.” Everyone had their different circumstances; Crystal just happened to have some that were more uncommon than others. It didn’t make her weird or anything. At least, she didn’t get that vibe from her at all. Crystal actually had a fairly pleasant aura. In fact, it was a little reminiscent to that of her Uncle Emil’s.

The lavender-haired woman was surprised at how quickly she’d let Cerise grow on her. Cerise seemed to have that effect, and it was probably part of the reason that she worked so well with Vanderwood. Crystal couldn’t imagine getting that guy to open up, but Cerise had done it somehow. She moved her hand up higher on her stomach. “Would you like to maybe touch?” That wasn’t something she offered lightly, because it was still her body, and she was very clear on who got to touch her and who didn’t.

Cerise’s eyes lit up and she nodded. She’d never been around a pregnant person, much less gotten to touch their tummy. “If you’re okay with it, I’d love to!” Very gently she reached out to touch Crystal’s mildly protruding belly. She wondered if she could feel anything from the baby; Crystal had said the baby was active. She was entirely fascinated by it, and it felt so weird. Her stomach wasn’t hard, but it wasn’t soft either. Cerise looked up towards Crystal with a curious look on her face. “Erm…this might seem like a weird question but…does it hurt? Doesn’t your skin start stretching and stuff?” Hopefully, Crystal wouldn’t mind her asking possibly dumb questions. She’d probably never experience these things for herself, well…maybe at least not for a long, long time. Cerise might as well ask someone currently experiencing it.

Her questions weren’t all that weird, and honestly, Crystal might have asked them herself if situations were reversed, but she shook her head. “It mostly itches, but if you use moisturizer religiously you can avoid stretch marks and the itchiness. The only thing that really hurts is your hips adjusting. Then as you get bigger, your ligaments stretch. I’ve heard that can be painful, but I’m only around ten weeks pregnant, so I haven’t experienced it yet.” Cerise moved her hand around a little more. There was really a baby in there, huh? That was so weird, but life was weird. Crystal, as much as she was nervous and maybe even afraid, Cerise was pretty sure she, her baby, and the dad would come out of things okay. Maybe that was just wishful thinking, but that’s what she was hoping for. Either way, she felt she’d made a good friend, and she was totally up for giving babysitting a try.

 

Don’t forget you can get you some Crystal Backstory.

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Mystic Messenger Fanfiction | Tagged – VanderwoodxOC Cerise | Solutions

It felt like he was going to say something completely rude, so he just opened and closed his mouth a few times before he could finally jumble something together properly. Her tone with him had his eyebrow twitching.

***It’s barely Thursday…I had a day off with my hubby yesterday, but here’s the update~ Guess there’s going to be a dryspell ending. ;3c ~Let’s Connect! FFC***

*Remember, this is a sequel to Vanderwood Backstory, and Cerise has a bio. You can support my writing on patreon and get access to my VIP Discord Server or other goodies like early chapter releases and hidden scenes.  Tagged Chapter Directory*

Vanderwood startled awake, putting a hand up as though to stop the carrot that had been launched at him in his dreams. He blinked a few times. Oh, good; he was in her bedroom and not the kitchen. A sigh of relief escaped him as he looked down to see Cerise still snuggled into him. She was so beautiful when she slept; well, she always was. Vanderwood watched her for a little bit before he carefully untangled himself from her and found his phone. If he could let her sleep in a little longer, that would be best. Stretching, he noticed just the tiniest twinge of soreness, but that seemed to be his usual morning soreness and not related to his now-healed injuries.

He was definitely back in commission. His eyes flitted to her, noting the way the blankets had wrapped tight around her, and then he had to look away. Really? It had to react that way now? He had just woken up, and she wasn’t even awake yet. Granted, it had been almost a week since he’d had sex last, and he was incredibly attracted to her, but still. Bloody Hell, he was some sort of mess. He decided to check his texts. Nothing new.

A smile crossed his face as he decided to read through his texts with her, and that was a bad idea, because he’d forgotten about her shower picture. Oh, holy fuck, that wasn’t going away. His eyes flitted to her sleeping form again. Maybe she wouldn’t mind being woken up? Vanderwood rolled over and wrapped an arm around her, pulling her closer and kissing her nose gently. “Shortcake?” If she didn’t wake up, he’d just have to figure it out himself.

Cerise stirred from her sleep at the sound of his voice. She’d been having a rather pleasant dream involving something to do with cotton candy and other fluffy things. Keeping her eyes open was proving to be trouble, but she eventually managed it. Why did she feel like he had woken her up at the buttcrack of dawn? “…What time is it?” She asked sleepily, bringing her hand up to rub her eyes.

Obviously, she was still a little tired, but he hoped he could get her to wake up a little more. He hadn’t really paid much attention to the time. “Maybe seven? I think.” Cerise groaned, but Vanderwood nuzzled her before he snuggled in closer under the blanket, his hand at her upper back taking a slow trip lower, down to the edge of her top. His fingertips ducked just under the fabric to tease lightly over her skin.

She wasn’t even paying attention to what he was doing. Being up this early wasn’t something she enjoyed in the least. What was with him? He kissed her gently, feeling like maybe he was being a little forward for what was probably early in the morning to her. “I’m uh…I miss you…” Maybe she could understand that? She could probably feel his erection against her by now, so it should be clear enough.

Cerise furrowed her eyebrows. He missed her? What even…“…Mon amour, I’m right here.” She only realized what he meant a moment later after feeling him against her. Cerise started to turn red but sighed and kissed his forehead. “You’re still injured. It’ll probably be another week or two.” It’s not that she didn’t want to; she just didn’t want him to make things worse for himself.

Vanderwood groaned softly. He didn’t think he’d feasibly survive another week, certainly not two, without being in a completely different room from her, and that wasn’t happening. “I’m perfectly fine. No soreness from my injuries.” Vanderwood slid his hand down over her hip to shape her thigh. For such a short woman, she really had nice legs. “I need you.” His voice had a bit of a pleading tone, but that was definitely how he felt; he needed her. Not just sex, but her. If it were just sex he needed, he’d be more willing to take care of it himself.

“Are you sure…?” She was trying her hardest not to respond to his touches and somewhat failing. “Because…maybe your erm…’need’ is clouding your…judgement?” It was getting a bit harder to formulate words. Cerise had to talk more slowly to keep herself composed. It made sense to her; it had been a while for him. That and being turned on was probably making him forget about the pain he was in. Vanderwood was now nuzzled into her neck, pressing soft kisses there. “Please, mon amour.” Never had he begged for sex, but Cerise tended to bring out those new experiences for him.

He could feel her resolve weakening as he kept up with his gentle kisses there. “I am fine, Cerise.” She did have a good point, but he’d stretched before, and that had felt just fine. It was touching that she cared so much, but right now, he really wished she wasn’t so stubborn. “I think you should admit you ‘need’ me too.” Wow, he was actually managing to talk like an adult again with her, although he still felt that little bit of redness in his cheeks. Vanderwood leaned back to lock eyes with her. “Really, I’m fine…I just need you, badly.” Impatience was a problem, but if she didn’t agree, what was he going to do? He’d probably have to take a shower. But he’d much rather have her.

Cerise blushed harder at his words. It’s not like he was wrong…”I…” She really didn’t have an argument for him. Cerise fidgeted slightly under his gaze, able to tell that he was serious. Breaking their eye contact, she turned her head, unable to look him in the eyes. “I guess…I mean…” Words. Use your words. Why could they never spill out when she wanted them to? “…prove to me you’re okay?”

A smile spread on his face. “Gladly.” Vanderwood flipped her onto her back, taking care to be gentle with her, but she’d asked him to prove it, and he was accepting that challenge tenfold. He was actually managing to be a little more like himself and less flustered, probably just because he needed her so badly. Well, he certainly wasn’t wasting any time. Cerise had let out a soft squeak when he flipped her onto her back and now stared up at him. She was terribly red, but she noticed that he was quite a bit, too, and that made her feel better.

His tongue tied just as he tried to be smooth again. “I can…I can do that.” And there was the fluster. Vanderwood shrugged it off, catching her lips with his as the hand that had been shaping her thigh before now gripped it and moved her leg over his hip, so he could grind against her for some relief. As much as it felt like he wanted to bury himself deep right now, a part of him wanted to take his time, enjoy her, please her, make the time they had together something special rather than what he had been used to before. Vanderwood’s other hand buried itself in her hair, breaking their kiss and tugging lightly to trail more kisses down her neck.

Just the kiss alone made her heart beat faster, but then he had moved her leg and grinded against her, and she felt like her heart was trying to escape the confines of her chest again. Her body was certainly reacting, and she couldn’t help but to move against him as he did so, providing more friction. He seemed to be fine so far…maybe he really was okay now.

She felt him tug at her hair a little as he broke their kiss. Like it had many times before, it felt too soon for her liking, but she decided she didn’t mind this time, especially with his lips on her neck instead. She already felt a little breathless thanks to him. Cerise let her own hands trail along his chest and torso as she used her nails to gently glide across his skin. She made sure to watch for any signs of discomfort, as hard as that was to do in this situation.

He groaned against her neck at the feeling of her nails across his skin and the way she was moving back against him. Vanderwood had really missed this, her touching him, the closeness. It was as close as anyone could get, and she was all his. He slid the hand that had been holding her leg in place up her pajama shorts instead. This part of her he hadn’t been so fortunate to really explore yet, but now he gave her ass a light squeeze, knowing it would make her move up against him even more.

Cerise hadn’t been expecting his hand, the slight squeeze making her jump, her hips moving up to meet his even more and eliciting a deep moan from him. Based on that sound alone, she figured that that’s what he had been after. After the initial surprise, she made a point to push up against him even more, knowing that he’d like it. Hell, she liked it, too and was more than happy to oblige.

His teeth grazed over her shoulder, telling her without words what he wanted, waiting for her okay. They easily communicated like this, no words needed, which was good, because sometimes neither of them could manage to talk properly anyway. He was too completely occupied with thoughts of her for words to make much sense. Cerise slid the strap to her pajama top down her arm and moved her hair over to her other shoulder in answer, giving him better access. Her hands found their way into his hair, and she let them entangle into it as she braced herself for what she knew he was about to do. Last time, she had surprisingly enjoyed it, despite her general aversion to anything that might seem painful.

Having her hands in his hair had him pausing just a moment to enjoy that feeling, another that only she had ever given him. He pressed a soft kiss to her shoulder before he bit down, being slow to apply more pressure and sucking at the spot. This one was going to last, but he didn’t want to outright hurt her. She winced a little and let out a soft sound, but it didn’t hurt all that much. Marion always tended to be very careful with her, not doing anything that he knew would hurt her, and if he had thought it might, he would tell her.

The mark was dark when he pulled away, and he nuzzled it lightly before moving to mumble in her ear. “Please don’t ever leave me…ma moitié.” His words made her smile, and she nuzzled into him in turn. “Never, I wouldn’t dream of it~” She figured it went without saying that he promised her the same. What would she do if one day he just up and decided that he had made a mistake–that she was a mistake? There was no way he would do that. Cerise knew that he was as in love with her as she was with him. They needed one another and they both knew it, as weird as their relationship was.

His impatience was starting to get the better of him, and he pulled back to help her out of her top, the familiar hitch of his breath when he saw her beneath him making him smile. She couldn’t help but to turn red. It was the third time he’d seen her completely topless, but it didn’t make it any less embarrassing for her. It took everything in her not to cover her chest on instinct, but he was moving on already. The way Marion had looked at her didn’t help much either paired with the way he loomed over her. Even that image alone had the ability to make her blood run hot.

Vanderwood slid his hands down her sides with a light touch, feeling her shiver beneath him. He made quick work of her shorts before he kissed her again deep and passionate, his tongue pushing its way into her mouth and roughly teasing against hers. He wanted her so badly now that it was nearly painful, but he didn’t care. Vanderwood needed this kiss like he needed air.

Cerise was thankful for the kiss, because for one, she really wanted it, and two, if he was kissing her, he wouldn’t be able to see the raging blush on her face. This was the third time they’d done this – should she still be blushing like this? Should she still be this embarrassed? She was brought back from her thoughts when she felt him push his tongue into her mouth, roughly teasing against hers.

This was probably the first time he’d been so rough when kissing her…not that she minded it in the least. Cerise could feel his need through it, and she teased his tongue back just as roughly, then pushing past to rake hers against his teeth. She let her hands trail along his body and found the edge of his pajama pants. It wasn’t fair that he still got to keep his pants on while she didn’t.

It was too bad she wasn’t able to slide them down much due to their statures being so vastly different, her reach could only get her so far. She decided to improvise and ended up maneuvering to use her feet to get them the rest of the way off. Cerise couldn’t help but smirk against their kiss. She was a fricken genius. He was going to have to finish the job though, but she figured he would just kick them the rest of the way off.

Bloody Hell, that was a new feeling for him as she was working on getting his pants down. Never before had he let a woman remove any of his clothing for him. Certainly, he hadn’t let them take off his pants. Thanks to their size she ended up using her feet, and he was just kissing her more deeply now, completely and utterly hungry for her, her little smirk not helping his impatience much. Vanderwood broke the kiss to get his pants off the rest of the way. His eyes trailing over her body, all his, his sweet Cerise.

She’d known that she really needed a nice, long kiss between them, but she didn’t know that she’d needed one like this until now, rough and passionate, filled with raw emotion. His eyes were taking her in again after he broke their kiss. It was during those times she felt the most vulnerable. Cerise was trying to catch her breath after that searing kiss, but her breath hitched when he pressed against her entrance.

It was taking everything in him not to just take her now as he was pressed against her. She was right there for the taking, but he had a point to make. “You think I’ve proved I’m fine?” He was absolutely certain she needed him as much as he needed her, but he just couldn’t resist making his point, as much as he had a feeling that would bite him in the ass later.

Cerise could feel her need for him growing stronger and stronger by the second. It was getting to be almost uncomfortable with how much she wanted him, and then he decided to open his mouth. Was he seriously taunting her right now? She gave him the most unamused look she could manage in her current state. “…I dunno. ” He really thought he was going to play with fire and not get burned? Of course, she needed him, wanted him badly, but she was also positive that she could wait a lot longer than he could.

A smile spread across her face as she pulled him down to give him a deep kiss, arching herself so she grinded up against him roughly. Well, fuck. Vanderwood had watched her face as a smile grew across it and before she implemented her plans, eliciting moans into her mouth. That was not what he had expected, but he was more than willing to take it.

She let it go on for about a minute or so before she broke away, scooted back, and grabbed one of her fluffier, bigger pillows which she then covered herself with. Cerise was grinning, knowing that he was going to be incredibly frustrated with her. She felt that he was getting too impatient anyways. He needed to be knocked down a few notches. That’d teach him to tease her. “I think I’m gonna need a little more proof.” Now she eyed him snuggling into her pillow. He was the one who’d started it, he only had himself to blame.

Now she had again done something that was completely new to him. Vanderwood was left there with an aching need and a stunned look on his face, which quickly turned to frustration. God damn it, he was in pain, but not the kind of pain he was proving against. Frustration had his eyebrow twitching. He’d known he was playing with fire, known it would bite him in the ass, but he’d been banking on her needing him too much to fight him. Big mistake. Vanderwood was frustrated, not with her, but with himself for being a dumb ass.

He eyed her just like she was eyeing him before moving towards her again, taking one of her hands that she’d wrapped around the pillow and positioning himself to sit next to her legs, his hip to her thigh. “More proof, huh?” Vanderwood kissed each individual finger before nipping at the pad of her thumb and kissing down her forearm, following up along her arm to her shoulder and neck as his other hand slid up what of her leg he could touch before the pillow got in the way.

His lips found her ear, mumbling softly before he dragged his teeth along her earlobe. “What if I take care of you first then, mon amour?” Would he be able to manage that without getting carried away? Yes…as much as he was throbbing for her, he knew he wasn’t going to take anything she wasn’t willing to give him. That kiss on the stairs had been it. Vanderwood would never go further than that. He wasn’t about to give up now, though, and this was the only thing he could think of.

She had to commend him on his persistence. Cerise probably would have mentally kicked herself if he had given up, as unlikely as she thought it was. The way he was treating her so lovingly, even though she had purposefully irritated him, made her feel slightly guilty for it. The kisses made her gasp involuntarily and flush red…and then his voice and his lips and teeth on her earlobe. Cerise was certainly reacting to it, and it only made her ache for him more.

The way she was reacting had him smirking a little; he just couldn’t help it. Vanderwood was going to win out in the end, knowing he was the more experienced one and the one to actually make a move. Her hard-won edge was being lost. She threw the pillow to the side and easily climbed into his lap, straddling him and pressing her body flush against his. Cerise caressed his face with the back of her hand and the smirk was back. “Oh~? And how would you do that?” Her eyes were challenging him. It was only fair, he had teased her after all. What an ego he must have to attempt something that dumb. Cerise didn’t even think about how she should be screaming at herself in embarrassment, because revenge was so sweet. This experience would definitely teach him that she was the champion of teasing.

Holy shit, she was in his lap now. Granted, she’d been in his lap before, but not naked. Vanderwood’s face was so damn red, and he couldn’t talk at first to reply to her question, looking at her like a deer caught in the headlights. “I…how…do you want me to do it?” Any control he’d had, all of the confidence of his experience, it had flown right out the window thanks to her teasing. How was he supposed to function, exactly?  He mentally slapped himself, getting somewhat out of his stupor, at least enough to run his hand down her back to cup her ass, the other stroking through her hair. “I’ll do whatever you want, ma moitié…” Vanderwood was suddenly not in control for the first time in his life, and he felt like he should be panicking, but he was surprisingly comfortable…probably because it was his Cerise. Not that any woman before really could have hurt him, but he’d never have given control to any of them.

Victory tasted so sweet to Cerise. Marion seemed to be at a complete loss for words, and she could almost physically see any confidence he had melt away. It was beautiful, really. “Whatever I want?” She repeated the question before she kissed him, torturously slow, feeling his hand bunching in her hair. What did she want him to do? Well, she knew what her body wanted, but her experience was pretty limited to what he had previously shown her.

She broke the kiss and moved to his neck, placing soft kisses to it down to his collar bone. “What I want…” Cerise debated momentarily before nuzzling into him. “Show me…can you show me what you like? Without treating me like I’m a piece of China. I want…to learn…how to make you feel good, too.” She was supposed to be teasing him, but she couldn’t help but to feel flustered as she said those words. His breathing had hitched, and he didn’t think his heart would be able to restart, but somehow, he was surviving. Her request had him a little flabbergasted. “What I…like? I like you.” First response, as true as it was, also was not helpful. There were things he remembered enjoying from a purely carnal point of view with other women but thinking about her doing them…

Cerise shook her head at his response. That wasn’t what she meant at all. At the end of the day, she was terribly inexperienced and wasn’t sure yet exactly what all she liked or disliked. They would find out what she enjoyed doing with him together, but he had so much that he could teach her. She found her way back to his neck and trailed kisses to his shoulder where she bit down hard, giving him the same treatment that he had given her earlier. Cerise left a rather dark mark in her wake as she moved up to his ear, whispering, “Teach me, mon amour~” before nibbling softly on the lobe.

Vanderwood’s mind blanked completely when she bit him, arms tightening around her as he let out a groan. He needed her so badly, and every little thing she did only made it worse. Bloody Hell, he wasn’t going to survive today. What mess had he gotten himself into? It was a good death at least. Her whisper had him shivering in anticipation, and if she wasn’t trying to kill him, he’d be surprised. “Okay…Okay…” Vanderwood pulled back to look into her eyes, thoughts going to even worse places than they had when he’d woken her up.

He removed his hand from her hair and brought it around to take her chin, his thumb tugging at her lower lip. “Remember the new thing I showed you last time?” Would that be too much for her? Thanks to the intensity of his current need, the other things he had in mind for her were all too much like being with one of his whores, and she was far more than that. Maybe he could manage those things another time, when he felt it would be less of him just taking what he wanted. “Would you…want to learn something like that, but for me?”

She nodded, no resistance despite that he was holding her chin. Oh, she definitely remembered. Cerise had found it to be so weird at first. If you really thought about it, sex in itself was bizarre. He was asking her if she wanted to learn something similar. “Of course~” She took his hand and kissed his thumb before moving to brush his bangs back with her hand and placing a kiss to his forehead.

“Marion,” She started, leaning back so she could properly look him in the eyes. “I want you to know…just because I want you to teach me…and handle me a little more roughly…” She pulled him closer, burying her head into his shoulder as she ghosted her hands along his back and moved her hips to grind into his again, creating a blissful friction between them both. “…Remember…that I’m the one in control.” He’d lost that right when he decided to challenge her, the jerk. It was exhilarating for her to have that kind of power over him…someone twice her size who could literally break her if he wanted to. Cerise gave him one more kiss, this time quicker and more on the rough side.

She had no idea what was coming over her, maybe just being in this sort of mood made her feel incredibly powerful and bold? Cerise felt like the longer she waited this out and played this game…the more she needed him. It just made her forget any insecurities, and it made it harder to think about anything but how much she was aching for him. This was a mess.

Her tenderness was in stark contrast to the way they were both clearly feeling, but it had had Vanderwood blushing nonetheless. And then the tenderness was gone. She was really taking control, and he wasn’t going to stop her. The feeling of her hands on his back, the way she ground her hips once more against his, he was putty in her hands, whether he wanted to admit it or not. Even her kiss was rougher and more demanding than usual, some sort of new confidence having slipped into her system.

There was just one thing worrying Vanderwood now. “Just stop me if I hurt you…” That was his only condition for this whole mess. He was a lot stronger than her and twice her size to boot, if she wanted to not be treated like a china doll, she was going to have to be prepared for potentially getting hurt. “If you don’t want me to be careful…you’re going to have to stop me when it’s not okay.” Honestly, he was a little nervous about it now. Hurting Cerise…just the idea had him tightening his arms around her.

Cerise raised an eyebrow at him. It wasn’t like she was going to let him manhandle her. “Trust me, mon amour. I’ll definitely let you know. I’m not saying use your full strength, ya know.” She had seen what he was capable of, and she was not about that life. All she wanted was for him to throw some of his caution into the wind, much like he had shown her with the rougher kiss just a little earlier. Cerise wanted that but with everything. With her low pain tolerance, she’d be insane if she were to request that he just completely let loose on her. He was just so worried about her that she couldn’t help but to be touched.

He locked his eyes with hers, this woman that he loved so damn much, that he wanted to protect, the other half to his soul; and he just relaxed, putting his faith in her that she would stop him if she needed to. Cerise felt herself blushing harder under the intensity of his gaze. There was just something about his eyes that made her feel like she was baring her soul to him.

Vanderwood moved carefully to lie back onto the bed, trying to breathe properly despite the view he had of her still in his lap. After a second, he realized that, right, he had to teach her. “So…move on downwards…Take your time if you need to.” His brain was simultaneously yelling at him that no, she shouldn’t take her time, because he needed her right now, but he ignored that thought as best he could.

She watched as he laid onto his back with her still straddling him. The view she had of him was nothing short of breathtaking. Cerise had to take a moment to compose herself, because God, she loved this man and God, was he absolutely sexy…and hers. She really was lucky. Her thoughts were once again broken by his voice. “Oh! Okay then.” Cerise had a pretty good idea of what was happening, but she wasn’t all too sure of things execution-wise. She moved downwards as he had instructed her to do, looking to him for confirmation when she had.

Bloody Hell, that was a sight. Vanderwood bit his tongue. Okay, so she was down there, now what? He had never had to instruct anyone on sex before, and he wasn’t even sure how well he could trust his tongue and head to function properly at the moment. Right now he really just wanted her to touch him. “Um…good…now just…the bottom side is more sensitive, and the tip is the most sensitive.” Good information, functioning brain, internally screaming mostly quiet, so far so good. “Now…if you just…well you should play around, but I can um…tell you a couple things I like…” Okay…so maybe not good, but he was at least able to talk? “You can…lick up from the bottom to the top and then…swirl your tongue around the tip…anything you want to do with your hands is fine…” Good start, right? Bloody Hell, his face was red. He was going to die today; he knew it. Vanderwood was already dying, but he had a feeling that as soon as she touched him it would be even worse…or better, really.

Him being nervous was going to make her feel super nervous. She listened to the information he was giving her with a flush. Cerise noted that his face was pretty red, too, which only added to the nerves. If anything, he looked a little…worried? If he didn’t calm down, she was going to lose her nerve. “Marion, just relax…okay?” Just a moment ago, he had been completely calm, but now he felt so tense. Cerise moved back up so she could give him a soft kiss, lingering there for about a minute before she broke it and moved onto his jawline, and then to kiss neck, placing kisses all along his body.

Obviously, she could feel the nerves off of him; it’s not like he was doing a very good job of hiding it, but then she was back up to him kissing him gently and making his heart melt even in a moment like this. Her travel downwards had him closing his eyes, focusing in on breathing, which got just a little more ragged the lower she went. It was something she ended up finding enjoyable, getting to explore his body that way.

Eventually, she found herself back where he had instructed her to be. She placed a kiss to his hip bone as she gently took his length in her other hand, trailing her thumb along the underside, his soft sound at the touch making her feel more excited than nervous. Cerise took note that he was very hard. It was no wonder that he had been impatient with her. Too bad he was going to have to wait longer now. His hands now tightened on the sheets below them.

She figured that maybe he should learn to take his time anyways. Cerise didn’t exactly know everything about those days in his life, but with as impatient as he had been with her…it must have been so much more prominent back then. A little patience could be good for him. Vanderwood was just watching her now, his breathing feeling labored. Cerise was taking her sweet time, and he didn’t even think she needed any direction if her just touching him had him this messed up.

Finally, she moved to kiss his tip, moving her hand out of the way enough to then gently trail her kisses down to the bottom before trying what he had suggested, licking back up again and slowly swirling her tongue around the tip when she got there. She could taste the bit of fluid that had built up there, but it wasn’t bad. Better than black coffee, at least. When she finished, she kissed the tip again and looked towards him, a heavy blush apparent on her face. “…Was that right?”

“Fuck…” He groaned out the word when she did as he’d instructed, and he was in some sort of heaven, even if he could feel that little bit of tentativeness. “Yeah…that was right.” His voice was so low and breathy that he wasn’t even sure if she’d heard him. She felt a little more confident to see his reaction and to hear she had done it correctly, even if she had to strain to hear him. The look he had about him was most definitely worth cutting things off earlier. Somehow, she enjoyed seeing him at her mercy. Cerise could hear her own heart beating hard in her chest. Doing this kind of thing with him also felt like she was closer to him, because she got to experience this level of intimacy with him.

Vanderwood cleared his throat and looked down to her again. Yeah, that sight was getting burned into his memory. “Now you take me into your mouth and suck. If you want to use teeth…drag them along lightly. Be careful. And don’t bite.” It would be so much easier to say ‘Just lick it like a lollipop’ for his embarrassment, but he knew that wasn’t how it worked, and she’d asked him to teach her what he liked. Cerise nodded only slightly before repeating the same action as before and then seamlessly transitioning to taking him into her mouth, giving him an experimental suck before pulling away to glance at him for a moment. Yeah, she definitely enjoyed seeing him like that.

Bloody fucking Hell, it felt so good. She wasn’t experienced, yet this was the best he’d ever experienced. It couldn’t just be that it was her, could it? Vanderwood pushed up on one arm so he could watch her, his hand finding her hair and tangling into it, bunching tight. Cerise was being so slow, and it took him a moment to realize that he was feeling her touches skin to skin. That’s right…this was the first time he was experiencing this without a condom. Either way, though, he had a feeling he would have been putty; he was putty. She had him right where she wanted him right now, and no matter what she did, he was moaning her name and curse words.

It was still such a weird concept for her, but she was finding she didn’t mind it. Plus, the reactions she was getting out of him were golden, and she wanted more of them. There was no way she was going to attempt to fit all of him in her mouth, and she wasn’t about to make herself look like a moron and try to. As inexperienced as she was, she had a pretty good idea of how to go about this after being given some general instructions.

She licked at the tip again before taking him back into her mouth, figuring she could use her hand to touch him where her mouth couldn’t. Cerise was purposely slow about it, being sure to take her time, because she was enjoying it and wanted him to as well. That and she wanted to make sure she could easily change if she did anything that made him uncomfortable. She tried alternating between both licking and sucking to see what would get the most response out of him, periodically using her teeth to graze him like he had suggested, careful to be gentle and not accidentally bite him or anything.

How the Hell was he supposed to make it through this? Vanderwood felt like with as hard and needy as he was, just a few quick moves and she’d have him over the edge. It didn’t seem like she was about to let that happen too fast. He bunched his hand tighter in her hair as he felt her teeth, leaning his head back towards the ceiling. “Fucking Hell…Cerise” Anything he said seemed to slip off into a long moan.

Should he warn her about how close he was? She seemed like she was just fine going slow at the moment. “If you…move too fast…” Damn, it was hard to talk past the sensation of her mouth on him. “I’ll cum…” All of his experience was crap compared to this, her in control and him as just the suggestion box. “You can…suck on my balls…or rub or play with them.” Now he wasn’t even really helping himself get to the end goal, but he was actually enjoying this way more than he’d ever have thought he could.

The reactions and sounds she was getting from him were exactly what she wanted and urged her on more. His hand in her hair let her know that she was doing something right, too. The better she did, the more his hand would grip her. It was like she could feel his every word, every moan in her very core. He was telling her how close he was, warning her, really. Had he been giving her suggestions on how to prolong it? That was a little surprising, to say the least.

Cerise didn’t want him to cum just yet, so she gave one more light suck to his tip before moving slightly more down at his suggestion, keeping her hand on his length for slow, light strokes to keep him from going over the edge. She used her mouth to suck on him first for a bit as per his suggestion and then switched to using her other hand to gently massage while she kissed and nipped at his inner thigh, ending up leaving a few marks there. Cerise couldn’t help but to want to leave more marks on him. Vanderwood had closed his eyes again, choosing not to bite his tongue for safety reasons. She had taken his advice, and as much as he was wound so tight and wanted to finish, there was just something addicting about her being in control like this. He let up on her hair as she tapped his hand to let him know that he was pulling too hard, glad she’d directed him.

There was far too strong of a heat for her now, the way he was clearly lost in the pleasure of what she was doing to him intoxicating in a way. Now she moved back up to place a kiss on his lips. She buried her face in his neck, nuzzling there, “…I need you to touch me. I don’t care where; just do it.” Her voice was low and needy. The way her body had been reacting made every cell in her scream out to be touched by him, and if anything, she wanted them to be able to finish together.

The new hickeys on his thigh had only made him moan her name and want to pull her up to him, take over. He kept that feeling back, thankful that she now was back up by him, giving him a kiss which he returned eagerly. Her request sounded so needy, but he wouldn’t have refused anyway. Vanderwood moved to roll her onto her side, his hand moving along her body to find her legs, giving her thigh a rough squeeze as he caught her lips with his, a rough kiss to steal her breath. The change in position had caused her to gasp out, but it was cut off by the rough kiss he was giving her. It seemed he had taken her request to heart, which she loved, but there was still a certain carefulness to him which she also appreciated.

Impatience was like a living thing now, but she was in charge. It was irritating and yet surprisingly sexy. Vanderwood broke the kiss to nuzzle her nose. “I’d like to take you now…” He moved to grind against her a little. “If my Cerise wants…” The fact that he had to ask her permission, it was so strange, and yet he loved it. His body almost seemed to be pissed at him, muscles tight and body hot as flames, all thanks to her.

Cerise was finding it harder to breathe when he broke the kiss, nuzzling her and asking permission to take her. Half of her wanted to ask, ‘Where?’ That thought shut up quickly once he grinded against her even just a little. The movement had soft moans escaping her lips. There was no mistaking what that meant. She bit her lip and replied by grinding against him in return slowly. Her body felt so hot, and her need for him felt like it was driving her crazy. All in all, it was worth waiting it out. Cerise got to spend more time with him like this, got to know his body better and more about herself, too. “Marion…please take me now…” She breathed it out, placing a kiss to his jawline.

Fucking shit, just the words were enough to drive him crazy. Vanderwood used the grip he had on her thigh to move her leg over his hip, so he could enter her. He moved slowly, not because he had to for her, but because he was skirting the edge. Vanderwood wasn’t about to finish without her. He took a moment to breathe as he felt her slick heat wrapped around him, his other hand now burying itself in her hair, pressing against the back of her head to pull her in for another kiss. This kiss was much slower but every bit as passionate as he began to move, using his grip on her thigh for more leverage. It was heaven. She was heaven.

Her breath had hitched when he entered her, and she clung to him tightly. She knew he was rather close and didn’t mind the slowness of it, knowing he was being considerate of her. Even though their statures were vastly different, like this, she thought it felt like they were made for each other, just another thing that screamed that they were meant to find each other. Anywhere he touched her, it felt like fire. Cerise wrapped her arms around his neck to keep him close to her, even joined like this, she always wanted him closer. The way he kissed her was slow and passionate, which she had returned in kind as he finally began to move, causing her to hold on to him more tightly.

He broke the kiss to moan against her lips. “Je’ taime, mon amour.” Cerise had him wrapped around her little finger from now until forever, and he didn’t care one bit. In fact, he wanted it that way now. Vanderwood had apparently been waiting for it all his life. After he broke the kiss, she was barely able to get out a reply, every attempt turning into a moan before she was finally able to respond to him in a broken-up manner…but still a response nonetheless. “Je…taime aussi…ma…rion.”

Cerise’s body seemed to automatically move against him on its own before she realized she was even doing it. He felt absolutely amazing, and she was wound up so tightly herself that it wasn’t taking all that much to bring her closer and closer to the edge. All the teasing and the way she had dragged things out seemed to have just primed her for a quicker finish. It worked out in her mind, because she was almost positive he was right there with her.

He wanted to keep her close like this forever, not just on the sexual level, but the intimacy of it, being close to her like no one else ever would be. The way she couldn’t quite answer him past her moans, fuck. Vanderwood was going to completely lose it, but she was right there with him. The way her body clenched around his and the few words she managed to get out, she was definitely right there with him. That now familiar feeling was slowly building up inside of her, threatening to unfurl, “Marion…I’m…” She wasn’t able to get much more out, the intense pleasure she was feeling seemingly stealing away her words, only allowing her to moan out his name. They didn’t always need words anyways. Cerise was sure he’d know, especially with the way she could feel herself involuntarily begin to clench around him more.

Vanderwood couldn’t respond to her, all he did was hold her tighter, the tightening of her heat around him finally driving him over the edge. His groans were trapped against her lips, one hand was clenched in her hair, and the other had its grip on her thigh. How wasn’t he hurting her? He let his grip go as he tried to catch and even his breath. Pulling back to look at her face, his own was flushed just as much as hers. He couldn’t help but for once praise whatever God there was, for this perfect woman he’d been blessed with. No matter how irritating, she was his, and he loved her more than anything. “You…okay, shortcake? I…didn’t hurt you?” Gently he ran his hand over her thigh, rubbing lightly at the spot he’d been gripping onto for dear life. Should he have remained more careful despite her request that he not treat her so gently?

She wasn’t too sure who reached their climax first, but it was almost simultaneous as they both clung to each other, letting it wash over them. Cerise was pretty sure her thigh was going to bruise at least a little, but she didn’t really care. Marion was rubbing at the spot, but she didn’t really feel any pain. Now she was just appreciating the way he looked right after they’d finished making love. He was breathtaking. She couldn’t help but to stare up at him as she tried to catch her own breath. “I’m…yeah. You… didn’t hurt me, mon amour. It was…you were amazing.” Her voice was still breathy.

There was now a slight dull pain on her thigh that she hadn’t noticed before, but it wasn’t anything she couldn’t handle. It was worth it, and she had liked it. Cerise nuzzled into his neck after she composed herself a little more, “Are you going to let me sleep a little more?” As much as she enjoyed the surprise sex, it was still way too early for her, and what she wanted was to examine the back of her eyelids for an hour or two.

Vanderwood didn’t realize his face could get any darker, but her compliments sure had that happening. “I…you too…” He kissed the side of her head lightly as she snuggled into him before he moved just enough to look at her thigh. She would probably bruise just slightly, but if she said it was fine, then it must be. Vanderwood pulled her as tight as he could, snorting softly at her request. “Sure, mon amour…you take a nap. I’m not letting you leave this bed until I’m done holding you anyway.” Well, he was certainly at maximum redness, but after their time apart and the long time since they’d last done this, yeah…he needed her close, almost as much as he needed air. “You’re not going anywhere for a while.” He nuzzled her hair lightly.

“Sounds…good.” She yawned and closed her eyes, feeling completely relaxed. Cerise didn’t care enough to get dressed again, and it seemed he didn’t either. That was ok by her. She wasn’t about to argue with being kept in the bed, because that’s exactly where she wanted to be. Cerise mumbled something before her breathing finally evened, and she was asleep.  She suspected that if he let her sleep in, she could very well make it until the afternoon just sleeping the day away. He laid there listening to her soft breathing and lightly stroking her hair for a good while, staring off into space, thoughts traveling to the idea that they were engaged. Someday soon…ish? They would be married. Karma hadn’t earned him that right, but he had it, and he wasn’t going to waste it.

He looked over at the clock. Wow, maybe he’d been laying here for over an hour thinking, because now it was already nearly noon. That was like losing a whole day for him. Vanderwood shuffled a little to gently nudge Cerise. “Shortcake…I think we should wake up and get ready for the day. I know I need a shower, do you?” He was personally wide awake, and even though he knew how hard of a sleeper she was, it was still amazing to him that she could sleep so well when it was already so late in the day.

The only thing she responded with was an uninspired, “Mmph…” as she grabbed for one of the numerous pillows around her and put it over her head. If she didn’t wake up on her own, it was obviously not the time to wake up. Marion was an early bird it looked like while she was nothing of the sort. The only way she’d be up that early was if she stayed up until that early instead of sleeping the previous night. It took her all of a minute to completely fall asleep again, another thing she was obviously talented at.

What was that noise supposed to mean exactly? Vanderwood looked at her for a little while before deciding that he wasn’t letting her sleep in any longer. Cerise could probably sleep the day away at this rate. He picked her up carefully, trying not to focus too much on the fact that they were both still naked. Vanderwood turned on the warm water in the shower, surprised to find that she was very much still asleep before stepping in with her. He had to turn around a bit or he would be stealing all the water, but now they were each getting hit by the warm water.

As soon as Cerise felt water hit her, her eyes shot open, and she began to flail around wildly. “You can’t just–where am–” There was a moment of stillness and silence as she processed what was going on, and her eyes widened. “OH MY GOD.” There was more wild flailing as she struggled to get away from the water and shower. “YOU DIDN’T POUR THE BUBBLE BATH DOWN THE DRAIN, MARION!” This was not good, not good at all, at this rate…”What if sharks come up the drain now!? THE BUBBLES KEEP THEM AWAY. IT BURNS THEIR EYES.”

Okay, so she was flailing. Thanks to the water, she was rather slippery, but Vanderwood did his best to tighten his grip and hang on without hurting her. “What? Cerise, calm down!” He tried to keep an even tone as she was freaking out, but he really wasn’t sure what to do in the moment. What would bubbles keep away anyway? The shark comment made no sense whatsoever. Vanderwood moved to position himself between her and the water. “Cerise, everything is fine. You’re fine. There’s nothing in the drain.” He figured it was best just to try to dissuade her fears right now rather than trying to understand what she was talking about, because obviously he had no idea, and he wasn’t going to come to a conclusion on his own.

“Oh my god, Marion. Don’t just stand there!” Cerise was finally able to get an arm free and grab the impressively large bottle of bubble bath by her shower, pouring some down the drain. Only then did she relax and look at Vanderwood, frowning. “Sharks, Marion. Sharks.” Okay, so she knew that sharks couldn’t come up the pipes, but she still felt like maybe they could. Maybe they could find a way. Even if there was a microscopic chance that they could, she was not about to let some fish chomp on her while she was naked and vulnerable in the shower.

Bubbles hurt when they got in Cerise’s eyes, so they must hurt the sharks. Cerise had been shark-free for her entire life by pouring just a little bubble bath down the drain or by taking bubble baths; she wasn’t about to risk it now. She would survive. “…Even if there’s a tiny chance they could come up the pipes, it’s a risk I don’t want to take. You said you wanted to protect me, Marion! Jeeze.”

Vanderwood could actually feel the confusion fall off of and be replaced by some mixture between irritation and just…He could literally not understand how on Earth she would think that there were sharks in the tub. It felt like he was going to say something completely rude, so he just opened and closed his mouth a few times before he could finally jumble something together properly. Her tone with him had his eyebrow twitching. As though he should have known that he needed to protect her from sharks in the fucking shower. What the Hell?

Finally, he managed to as least get to a more gently brusque tone. “I do and will protect you, but there aren’t any sharks in the drain. That is impossible.” Now that she was awake and not flailing around anymore, he gently placed her down, finding her chin with his hand. Thankfully, his broad back blocked out the spray, so he could have her look in his eyes. “There are no sharks, bubble bath or not.” Vanderwood wasn’t intending to, but it sounded just a little like he was talking to a child, and then the question he’d really been meaning to ask just slipped out. “Why in God’s name would you think that anyway?”

Cerise stared at him, stone faced. When he placed her down, she straightened herself up and ran her fingers through her hair briefly before he took her chin with his hand. “Yes, I know there aren’t sharks. I’m not dumb. I’m concerned with the possibility of sharks.” What wasn’t he getting? It seemed simple enough of a concept to her. It was a little irritating that he seemed to be talking down to her like she was an infant or something. At his next question she shrugged. “I think…someone mentioned it in grade school? Ever since then I’ve been open to the possibility.” Cerise suddenly realized that she was still kinda naked and quickly brushed her fingers through her hair again to strategically cover herself with the long locks. “I erm…” Words, use them. Oh no…now her face was turning red. Cerise quickly turned her back to him, “I–maybe the better question is why are we in the shower…? Did you need help or…?”

Vanderwood bit his tongue. Better to just drop the issue than to start fighting about it. She obviously seemed to understand it wasn’t possible, and yet somehow it was still a problem? It didn’t make much sense but whatever. Cerise looked like she’d realized something and then she was blushing and using her hair to cover herself somewhat then actually turning her back to him. Vanderwood coughed and started to turn red as well. “I mean…no…You were going to sleep the day away otherwise, and I figured we both needed a shower after…this morning’s…yeah.” Wow, he couldn’t even say ‘after having sex.’ Such a wonderful talent with words he had, really. He rubbed the back of his head, his hair already good and wet. “Now that we’re in here we might as well shower together…If uh…that’s okay?” She seemed a little uncomfortable, so if it was too much for her, it wouldn’t take him long to get done and get out. “I’ll finish up and leave…if that’s easier.”

Well, he did have a point…and considering that they had had sex not that long ago…Why was she even being so shy? There was literally nothing that she had that he hadn’t already seen before. What time even was it? She didn’t feel like she’d slept all that long. Somehow, she figured she was going to have to get used to being up early in the morning. Oh well…”Wait!” She turned around again and went to hug him, deciding not to care, as much as she could, that they were both naked. “I’m…It’s fine. Please stay.” Showering together could be fun. Cerise could totally wash his hair for him! She stepped away and took a look at him. Okay…maybe not. At least she could comfortably wash his back for him? If he’d let her, that is. “My shampoo and body-wash smell kinda girly…that okay with you?”

He was a little surprised when she actually turned back around and hugged him. Vanderwood bit his tongue, maybe a little harder than he’d meant to, and winced before he wrapped his arms around her, too, giving the top of her head a small kiss. This could be really nice, honestly. If she’d let him, he could easily wash her hair, or help anyway. She had so much of it that he wondered how she managed it on her own. Her question had him snorting a little. “Yeah, girly is fine. I probably smell like you at this point anyway.”

His face felt as warm as the shower water, and he let go of her to rub the back of his head again. “I uh….you know because of…your sheets and stuff…Anyway, I don’t mind. You always smell amazing to me, so…” Good, some cheesy compliments in the shower, too. “I’ll…move so you can get some water. I think I’m blocking it all.” He shifted carefully to let her take up the space closer to the shower head. “Would you mind if I helped you wash your hair?” It seemed silly, but he really wanted to. Her hair was something he absolutely loved about her appearance. Granted, he loved everything about her, even that tone when he didn’t know about the damn sharks.

She almost didn’t hear his question because when he moved, she was sprayed in the face by the shower. Now she turned and rubbed her eyes, letting the warm water wash over her hair instead of attacking her in the face. Cerise’s eyes lit up for a moment. He wanted to wash her hair? That sounded amazing to her. She gave an enthusiastic, “Yes!” and grabbed a shampoo bottle. Cerise had a few different ones in an array of scents and chose a honey vanilla scent for that day, handing Marion the bottle. “Lemme get my hair wet…might take a second.”

Maybe he should have given her more warning before moving, but then her mood changed completely. Cerise was far more up for it than he had thought she would be, but of course he didn’t mind. Vanderwood was just happy she was actually going to let him. “Take your time.” It took her what seemed like way too long to him, but obviously all the hair care was worth it, or she would have cut it a long time ago. He took good care of his own, somewhat obsessing over trying to make it look neat but never able to do so. It looked much neater long than it did when it was short, so he kept it on the longer side for the sake of his sanity.

Cerise focused the next two or so minutes on getting her hair completely wet. That was the downside of having long hair, it took forever to do anything with, but to her, the look was well worth it. She glanced at Marion. He actually had long hair for a guy, at least nowhere near as long as hers. It actually suited him somehow, and she definitely didn’t mind it. When she was confident that her hair was completely wet, she gave him the ok. “Be careful not to get any into my eyes…that would suck.”

He snorted a little at her comment before he put some of the shampoo she’d chosen in the palm of his hand, setting the bottle aside. “Yeah that would suck. Don’t worry, I used to…” Vanderwood bit his tongue just a second as he processed what he was saying. “I used to wash Caleb’s hair. When he was little.” He looked at her for a second, trying to swallow the lump that had built in his throat and then slid his hands into her hair to lather it. That was a welcome distraction from the sting of grief.

“I’m sorry…” If she didn’t hear that over the sound of the water, he wouldn’t be surprised, but he felt rather guilty, making something happy tainted with something so…bittersweet. He cleared his throat roughly as he worked on her hair before apologizing again. “I didn’t mean to make this…I’m sorry.” The shampoo smelled amazing. He hadn’t checked the label before he’d started using it, but it smelled like vanilla and honey, which was soothing.

Cerise’s heart sank listening to him, seeing the sad expression on his face as he talked about his late brother. She couldn’t imagine how it must have felt, how it must still feel now. Cerise couldn’t pretend to understand what he was going through or went through before. All she could do was be there for him. “Marion…it’s okay. There’s nothing wrong with missing him.” She reached up to cup the side of his face, rubbing her thumb there. “You never need to apologize…I’m sure it’s hard.” Cerise had the thought that at least he was coping by talking about it instead of going off the deep end.

Talking through things, to her, seemed much better than resorting to sex and cigarettes all the time when the going got tough. “Please…just let it out when you feel like you need to. I’m here for you, and I’ll be here tomorrow and each day after that.” Cerise knew that he still had a lot of healing to do. Marion was a broken man. He was surely healing, but he was still broken. She didn’t think the sting of Caleb’s death would ever go away, but she thought that at least one day he would stop blaming himself and come to terms with it. Cerise would be sure to be there with him every step of the way.

Vanderwood turned his head to lightly kiss her hand. He felt vulnerable, maybe even a little weak. Recently, for the first time in ages he had cried, and now he felt like doing it again. Yet, he was okay. It felt like he could do this, could handle it. After a deep breath, he nodded. “I’ll try…” His heart had positively melted when she said she would be there for him, that she was there for him. It was also just a little panic inducing, because what the Hell would he do without her now? Vanderwood didn’t want to think about it. If he had anything to say about it, nothing would happen to her.

Cerise gave him a warm smile. Trying was all he could really do; he just needed time to finally properly heal. She closed her eyes and enjoyed the feeling of his hands in her hair. It felt like heaven. He resumed his lathering of her hair, probably a little longer than was strictly necessary before starting on helping her to wash it out. “As long as I’m with you…I think I’ll be okay.” They hadn’t been together that long, and he’d already quit smoking. He certainly wasn’t sleeping around, although he still worried when he got irritated, but he felt better, healthier, more like a normal person.

When it came time to wash out the soap she felt a little disappointed, but then she figured that if she really wanted it, she could perhaps request for him to massage her head at some point…or just run his hands through her hair continually. Either worked for her. “I know you will~” Cerise moved to grab a bottle of conditioner and then put it in her hair. It could sit there while she did other things before she was ready to wash it out. “I kinda…I wanna wash your hair, too but…” She gestured at him and then towards herself. “You’re a giant.”

Vanderwood didn’t question her about the conditioner, knowing that it would make her hair much softer to leave it in. There often wasn’t time for him to do the same when he was cleaning off after a mission, but whenever he got the chance to, he would. His face had cooled down previously, but now he was blushing again, his heart seemingly having just put itself back to normal before melting once more. She wanted to wash his hair? No one had ever done that for him.

He always loved it when she had her hands in his hair, even just lightly playing with it…so it seemed like it would feel wonderful. Vanderwood snorted softly at her comment on his size, though. “Yeah…I guess I am.” Thinking about it, he figured he could sit comfortably in the shower, not for too extended a period of time but certainly long enough for her to wash his hair. “Just a second…” He moved to sit with his back to her. “Does…this work for you?”

“That’s perfect!” She was excited. Now she could wash his hair, too. Cerise grabbed the same bottle of shampoo that she had chosen for herself and squeezed some into her hand. Shortly after, she realized that it might have been slightly too much, since she was used to the amount it took to wash her own hair. Cerise decided to shrug it off. At least his hair would smell extra good?

She went to work on lathering his hair, making sure to massage his scalp well as she hummed happily. It was much easier to wash his hair than it was to wash her own. Sometimes hers seemed like a chore, but his felt delightful, and she loved doing it. Plus, she just kinda liked having her hands in his hair. It felt so good. He hadn’t quite expected it. Vanderwood closed his eyes and just enjoyed it. Usually he loved her hands in his hair, but somehow this was even nicer. It was just…intimate somehow, and he loved it. Her humming had him smiling, too and humming along just a little. Was that a normal thing to do? This was just a wonderful moment. Never had he thought he would get to experience something like this, but now it was going down in history as one of his most treasured memories.

Cerise rinsed his hair now, passing her fingers through his hair to get all the soap out before adding some conditioner. “You should keep this in at least while you bathe, makes your hair feel softer, and the smell stays better~ Trust me.” He softly grunted in acknowledgement of her comment about the conditioner, not feeling like explaining that he already knew. Vanderwood moved to stand up carefully and then bent to give her a light kiss, ignoring the fact that they were nude as best he could. “Thank you…I really enjoyed that…”

Now she flashed him a smile. “Me too~ Let’s do this more often, ‘kay?” Cerise did enjoy showering with him; it was something so simple, and yet it made it feel like they were closer, like everything was and had been normal. She decided to grab a vanilla scented body-wash that complimented the shampoo and conditioner she’d used and lathered it onto a sponge. “I have different scents, pick one you’ll like~” Vanderwood just shrugged at first. “Sounds good to me, but whatever you’re using is fine.” He was confused as to why she needed multiple scents, but maybe that was a girl thing. At any rate, she always smelled great, so he wasn’t complaining.

She began to properly bathe and was actually rather quick about it. It was normally just her hair that would take forever and a day to take care of. Cerise looked to him and grinned, “Wanna wash my back too~? Kinda hard to reach, ya know.” She didn’t really wait for him to answer before shoving her sponge at him and turning, moving her hair over her shoulder to expose her back to him, a soft giggle in her tone. “I can get yours after; I can at least reach there.”

Her question had him blushing like an idiot as he looked at her bare back. She was beautiful. Vanderwood had taken the sponge she’d shoved his way, but now he kissed her shoulder gently before he started to wash off her back. “I guess you can reach there.” She was short in comparison, but even as small as she was, it’s not like he really was a giant. He finished off and handed the sponge back to her before turning his back to her, so she could start him off. Earlier he’d mostly just been staring at her instead of washing up. “I’ll just wash off after you get my back.”

Cerise nodded but then realized that he couldn’t see her with his back turned. So smart. “Yep, I gotcha!” She added more soap to the sponge and started. There was a lot more area to cover for him, but she enjoyed that. Luckily, even if her head couldn’t reach anything, he hands could, and she didn’t have to make too much of a fuss washing his back. Cerise finished up his back and made sure he was in front of the shower, since it would take him less time. “You can wash the conditioner out now. ”

Vanderwood had shuffled in front of the water now, per her nudging for him to do so. Having someone else wash your back it was…well, he didn’t know much about romance really, but he thought maybe that’s what it was? Romantic? He should listen to some romance music or watch some romance movies soon, just to get some knowledge on how to do more of that for her rather than being cheesy. He washed off the rest of his body before he finished off with the conditioner as she’d suggested.

He gave her a little nudge to warn her he was moving out of the stream before he did so again, not wanting her to get sprayed in the eyes like earlier. This was the best shower he’d ever had, even if it seemed to take over twice as long. Cerise was happy not to be sprayed in the face again when he moved, starting on removing the conditioner from her hair, which was always a more tedious task than rinsing out shampoo. “Once you’re done, I think we should dry off and get lunch. We kind of…missed breakfast.” He coughed softly thinking about what they’d done instead of breakfast, and he had to look away from her up at the ceiling just to keep his mind from wandering.

She had just finished when he spoke. “Yeah, I think I’m done…” A small blush rose to her face. Oh, they’d missed breakfast all right. “I…think it was worth missing breakfast.” Why. Not the time, yet again. Ugh. Cerise shook her head and hopped out, grabbing three towels. Two for herself and then one for him. She wrapped one around herself and handed him one before towel drying her hair with the other towel and then taking care to wrap it up, so she could dry off the rest of herself. “You need another towel for your hair?”

Bloody Hell, she knew how to make him blush. “Uh…good.” He’d followed her out of the shower, taking the towel offered. Vanderwood was already drying off his hair before he would move on to dry his body when she asked that question. “No, why?” Oh. She had one wrapped around her hair. He’d always just used the one towel. How had she even gotten her hair wrapped up in that? Vanderwood looked at her for a moment before he responded again. “I think I’m good with the one.”

He finished drying off before wrapping the towel around his waist and going to the sink, deciding he might as well brush his teeth now. As he was brushing, he looked at her using the steamed over mirror, her blurry form there just as beautiful as the genuine item. It dawned on him that he’d just showered with her, been completely naked for at least the past forty-five minutes with her, and he hadn’t even thought about having sex with her. In fact, he’d even remembered a moment with Caleb and still he hadn’t wanted anything more from her than her presence.

Vanderwood rinsed his mouth and toothbrush as happiness welled up in him. He was getting so much better, and his chest felt so full, like his heart was growing in size. It was such a great feeling. Vanderwood bounded over to her to kiss her, grabbing the small of her back to pull her close as he did so, but missing her mouth and kissing the corner of it instead before he let go and hopped off into the room to get changed. Damn, he was happy.

She had been taking a moment to watch him as she got some of her post shower items out of a cabinet, and the next moment he had bounded over to her and planted a kiss on her…Except he horribly missed and got the side of her mouth and then just as quickly ran off into her room. Cerise just stood there for a minute in a confused stupor. That was strange. She thought it was adorable, but strange, for him at least. Cerise shrugged it off and made sure she was completely dry before putting on lotion and going to the sink and brushing her teeth.

Today felt like it was going to be a great day. It didn’t take him long to get dressed, but it was taking her quite a while to blow dry her hair. It made sense why she would, though. His hair was already starting to dry at least a little, but considering how much hair she had, air drying it would probably take an eternity and a half. While she was in the bathroom, he got out his phone and started looking through her posts from the past day.

They were getting quite a bit of attention, and he couldn’t help but smile at the reactions of her followers. Then he read a particular comment from a rather snooty looking asshole saying he was going to sweep Cerise back to Paris and marry her himself. That little dark feeling he was just starting to get some grasp over bubbled up in his chest. Nope. Vanderwood responded `Try it.` Anyone trying to take Cerise away from him was going to meet with an unfortunate end. That was a little intense. He took a deep breath and just focused on the more positive comments, astounded by the sheer number of them.

As Cerise finished on blow-drying her hair, she gave it a quick brush before heading into her room to change. Checking her phone, she saw that the weather was still pretty cold…not cold enough to wear pants, obviously. She opted for a rather oversized sweater with a cute skirt along with her leggings and some flat boots. After getting completely dressed, she found him and pretty much kamikazed him with a hug.

Vanderwood was interrupted in his reading by her practically attacking him, and it took him just a second to recognize that, no, she wasn’t an enemy, not that he’d been about to hurt her, but he had immediately scanned the room for an escape route. Nice. “So! What’re the plans for today, mister fiancé?” Cerise asked in her familiar sing-song voice as she looked up at him, grinning widely. Her voice had the worry that had just built up slipping off him almost immediately. “What would you like to do, miss fiancée?” Damn, she was perfect.

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Mystic Messenger Fanfiction | VanderwoodxOC Cerise – Tagged | Proposed Cooking Lesson

Cerise shot him a smile before she was headed back to the couch with her omelet, waiting to start on it until he joined her. Not only had she gotten the cooking lesson she was promised today, but she’d gotten a proposal for something much better.

***My apologies for last week’s lack of post. My puppy was diagnosed with a dreadful disease which we are lucky he survived followed by myself getting a terrible cold. I hope this week’s sweet fluffy chapter will help. There is a deleted scene chapter before this available to my patrons. It’s called ‘Preparations Apart,’ and is all about Vandy gettin that ring and there are shower selfies involved. ~Let’s Connect! FFC***

*Remember, this is a sequel to Vanderwood Backstory, and Cerise has a bio. You can support my writing on patreon and get access to my VIP Discord Server or other goodies like early chapter releases and hidden scenes.  Tagged Chapter Directory*

They had spent the last day apart, and boy did he feel it when he woke up. Vanderwood pulled away from the mass of pillows that he’d cuddled into because they smelled like her, grumbling softly as he hadn’t slept nearly as well without her. He’d gotten her ring yesterday, that and hurt himself again by exercising after their exchanged after-shower selfies had caused him a pants tightness problem. Jesus…by now she’d probably also gotten her pills, too, not that that would do him any good. Yet. Bloody Hell, what kind of a man was he that that was what he was focused on?

He sent her a good morning text, assuming she would still be sleeping. It took him a while to get up and make breakfast, opting for toast again and some juice to wash down pain pills. He felt exactly like he had yesterday now, so he really had set himself back a day. At least it wasn’t horrendously painful. Vanderwood didn’t have much time left before he was going to be asking the love of his life to marry him. It was all so fast, but he knew she was the one for him, and he knew that she felt the same way, even though he was still anxious and nervous. He snorted at himself, only because he’d gone from, ‘I’m going to ask her someday’ to, ‘Now.’

Vanderwood kept practicing the words, hoping they would come out right. As much as he had practiced, ‘Will you go out with me,’ he had found that, ‘Will you marry me’ sounded incredibly different. At least it had been good practice in learning more words? Vanderwood showered and got dressed, opting for his v-neck shirt and black shirt over the top rather than a t-shirt. He should look at least a little nice, right? They were going to stay together tonight, so he packed up a little bag and grabbed the ring box, placing it in his pocket with a deep sigh, trying to release all the nerves that were building in his gut. It was nearly time. Vanderwood sat on the edge of his bed as he watched the minutes tick by, sending her another text. `I’ll see you soon, shortcake. I miss you.`

***

Cerise was woken up by the sound of her phone going off. Groggily, she unlocked it to check her messages. It had been from her boyfriend…He was going to come over soon. Cerise stretched and hopped out of bed, scattering a few pillows about as she did so. She padded over to her bathroom and discovered that she somehow looked like an absolute mess. Her hair was all over the place. “…Did I fight a fricken leopard in my sleep?” She mumbled to herself as she tried to tame her messy locks with a brush. When she was satisfied, she clipped off a section of her fringe to keep it out of her eyes and set off to find something to wear.

She opted for a pair of shorts instead of a skirt and a tank top with tennis shoes. Cerise threw a cute jacket over the top and didn’t skip the stocking, because it was still winter, after all. Finally, she brushed her teeth and put on lotion before plopping down on her couch in the living room and turning on the television. Now she pulled out her phone to reply, a smile on her face. `Miss u 2. I’ll b waiting <3`

***

His phone pinged, and by now he was tired of waiting around. Surely, she wouldn’t mind if he came a little early? The anxiety was eating at him, and he felt like he needed to ask her now. Hell, he probably wouldn’t make it through the front door at this rate. Vanderwood sent her a quick text before grabbing his things and tossing them in the car. `Can’t wait. Coming over now.` The drive seemed even longer than before. It wasn’t really that long, maybe 20 minutes, but eternity stretched out before him before he had finally parked and was at her door, taking a deep breath as he knocked, hand finding the little box in his pocket. This was happening, and it was happening right now.

***

Her phone pinged and buzzed again, causing her to grin. It was cute that he couldn’t wait to see her; she felt the same way. Cerise was eager to see him again after spending a night apart. Judging by how her hair had been that morning, she’d probably tossed and turned all night. She decided not to text him back, since he was driving, and she didn’t want him to be tempted to check his phone while on the road…Not that he would. He was so much smarter than that.

She didn’t know how much time it had been before she heard a knock at her door, causing her to jump up and all but run to it. Cerise flung it open and threw her arms around him, forgetting that he was sore. “Oops!” She let go and laughed sheepishly, “I kinda forgot…I just missed you.” Cerise tried for a hug again except a lot gentler that time. She just felt like she was brimming with so much affection and excitement just by him being there; she felt like she could burst.

Vanderwood grunted at the pain of her embrace, but it was swiftly followed with one much gentler. He wrapped an arm around her as he kept his other hand in his pocket. “I missed you, too…Cerise….I have to tell you something.” He stepped away from her just a little, his hand finding her chin and holding it, so he could keep his chestnut brown eyes locked with her honey gold. Cerise was about to complain that it was really cold out there and that they should probably head inside if he wanted to tell her something, but the look in his eyes were so intense and captivating she couldn’t find the words. All she could do was stare up at him, the cold making her breath visible in the air.

“I can’t remember being so happy as I am with you. You’ve given me everything, and I can’t help but want to do the same. You’re ma moitié, my everything, the only woman I’ll ever need.” The words were coming so easily, flowing perfectly even as blush rose in his cheeks. “I need to ask you something…something really important.” Here it came, he’d practiced over and over and now was the moment of truth.

The words that came out of his mouth made her blush, he was being so sweet this early. Did he really miss her that much? She nodded when he said he needed to ask her something important, but she got worried for a moment when he suddenly dropped to one knee and visibly winced. Marion was in that much pain? He should have stayed in bed. Cerise was about to interrupt him and tell him that he was in pain and needed to come inside to rest, that they could talk later, but his next question threw her off.

“Iras-tu sortir avec moi…No….wait…” No, no no, that wasn’t right. A look of confusion washed over her face. He…was asking her to go out with him. For the third time now. Was this some weird British thing? Vanderwood bit his tongue as he tried to remember. He had royally screwed this up, beautiful. Think, you dunderhead. “Veux-tu m’épouser….Yes…veux-tu m’épouser?” God, he couldn’t blame her if she said no and made him ask again later, because that really sucked. Vanderwood felt stupid on many levels, but he produced the little ring box anyway.

Before she could try to interrupt again, once she broke out of her confused daze, he had asked his apparently corrected question. Did he realize what he was asking her? Apparently, he did, because he also produced a ring box. So here he was, proposing to her in her apartment doorway. Tears began to brim in her eyes as she dropped down with him and threw her arms around him, hugging tightly and forgetting again about his soreness. This wasn’t something that she had expected this early in their relationship or…at all, really. She would have been happy just being by his side. “Of course…yes. Yes, I’ll marry you.” It didn’t matter to her that they’d only even known each other for a short while, Cerise already knew that she and him were meant to be together. Why prolong the inevitable?

He saw the tears first and when her arms wrapped around him just a little too tightly, he knew. Vanderwood knew she was saying yes before the words left her mouth. Even though he was a cheesy, rather blunt, damaged idiot, she still wanted to marry him. Vanderwood wrapped her up tighter in his arms, despite how much it was hurting his back and leg to sit there like this. Cerise was going to marry him, and he couldn’t be happier. He shifted just a little to open the ring box for her and take out the ring to place it on her finger. “This was my errand yesterday…I’m so happy you liked it…” And he was, probably happier than he’d ever been.

He kissed her ring softly before nuzzling her nose, his hands on her cheeks, wiping away a few stray tears. “Je’taime, Cerise…You’ve made me the happiest man in the world already.” Vanderwood really hadn’t made it past her doorway after all. The relief and joy washed through him now; the joy he could see in her eyes, that was worth making a fool of himself on her doorstep, even though his leg was starting to cramp up.

So, that had been his errand…he did say that he thought she’d like it. Cerise absolutely loved it. The ring he had picked out was simple but completely beautiful. He really knew how to pick something out to compliment her. As much as she annoyed him and wasn’t good at much of anything, this man had asked her to marry him. Her, out of all the people in the world. “I love you too, Marion.” Cerise sniffled a bit before standing up, holding onto his hands to motion for him to follow. It was really cold outside, and she didn’t want him to get sick on top of all the pain he was in.

Vanderwood tried not to wince too much as she pulled him along into the house. He really had cramped up, but with how happy she was, it was so incredibly worth it. Once they were inside and the door was closed, she was embracing him again; she didn’t want to let go. Cerise was still trying to wrap her head around the fact that the man currently standing in front of her was going to be her husband and was now officially her fiancé. There was such an intense feeling of joy that she had never experienced before now, and she wanted to remember it for the rest of her life.

If Cerise had been taller, she would have just kissed him, but she wasn’t going to ruin the moment by hopping around like some deranged bunny just to reach him. “Thank you…for choosing to stay with me. And for putting up with me.” She nuzzled her face into his shirt, still holding him. “You make me happy~ I don’t think there’s even an emoji that can express what I’m feeling right now. ”

His heart wouldn’t stop fluttering, all thanks to her. “Cerise…” She just kept holding him, and he didn’t want to stop holding her, although he did want to kiss her. Could he manage the pain to do that? Cerise was his fiancée now. It almost seemed surreal, but there it was. This woman, who for all intents and purposes should have run away from him, should have turned him away the moment they met, had agreed to become his wife.

Her comments had him smiling and pulling her closer. “I would choose you over anyone. And I’ll ‘put up’ with you for the rest of my life.” He gently stroked her hair, his heart warming further. Of course, she would want to use emojis to describe it. There was no resisting it now. To Cerise’s absolute delight, it seemed he was going to kiss her.

Vanderwood pulled away from her solely so his hand could cup the side of her face as he kissed her, deep and slow. He poured his love for her into that kiss, wanting her to feel just how much it meant to him that she cared for him, that she wanted to take care of him at all, the joy that she brought to his formerly bleak world. His Cerise, immature and irritating, but wonderful, strong, caring, open-minded; Vanderwood couldn’t come up with enough praises, because nothing would ever be enough. His body was reacting to her now even past all of the excitement, so he pulled away, blush hot in his cheeks.

Just from that one kiss–their first as an engaged couple, he told her wordlessly how much she meant to him and how much he loved her. Cerise loved these intense moments where words weren’t needed. She poured her own heart into her kiss, getting lost in the flood of their shared affection. It felt like he’d pulled away far too soon for her liking, but she could understand why…She was starting to get worked up, so she could only imagine how he felt. The blush on her cheeks matched his as she took his hand and led him to the couch. “Sit here while I make some warm tea for my future hubby~” Just saying it made her heart leap.

He was thankful to be sitting down, and now he was blushing even harder at being called her future hubby with such a sweet voice. He was a little cold; he realized that now. The winter air had sunken into him but not been felt past his excitement. Vanderwood watched her as she made the tea, taking in her appearance. She was wearing shorts and a thin top with only her stockings and jacket to really provide any true warmth to her. He bit his tongue looking at her. His future wife didn’t know how to dress for the weather apparently…but she sure dressed in a way he liked. Vanderwood internally slapped himself, sinking into the couch instead.

As she made her way to the kitchen, she examined the ring he’d gotten her. It was real. He had really asked her to marry him. That cheesy vanderjerk. The blush was still taking up residence on her face as she brewed a cup of tea. She added only a little ginger to some green tea with lemon and a small bit of honey. While she was at it, she made herself a cup, too, sans the ginger and with a lot more honey. When she was done, she carefully brought his cup to him with a smile. “Here~”

Her sing-song tones would be the death of him. “Thank you…future wife.” Vanderwood reached for her, gently tapping her lips with his pointer finger. “I feel like I don’t tell you enough just how beautiful you are.” Attack of the cheesiness. She really was, though, and the outfit only made her look even better. He shifted to indicate he wanted her to snuggle up to him, not worrying about soreness, just wanting her close to him. After their night apart, he didn’t want to be away from her at all.

Cerise felt like she was on cloud nine, and nothing could bring her down. Him calling her his future wife made her feel like she was falling in the best way. The color dominating her face was redder than her namesake. The word ‘wife’ felt like it couldn’t apply to her quite yet–she was only twenty. People got married that young, right? How old was he, even? She figured he couldn’t be that much older than her, even if he did act like such a stick in the mud sometimes. Cerise couldn’t help but giggle a little. He was being so very cheesy today…Though he had every right to be, especially if he was as elated as she was.

“Oh~?” Cerise took him up on his offer, snuggling up to him closely. “If you think I’m so beautiful, maybe we should start going out or something.” She teased him and carefully reached over him to where she’d put her own cup of tea on the side table. Vanderwood wrapped an arm around her as she snuggled into him. Her tease had him coughing softly in embarrassment. “Yeah, I think I really would like to go out with you.”  He was about to say something to her about how much he liked her outfit, his hand at her hip so he could reach out and touch the soft fabric of her top. Vanderwood started absentmindedly playing with it, but then she completely broke his train of thought. “You know what, though?” Cerise took a sip of her tea and looked up at him, grinning. “I still think you look better in a skirt than I do~”

Fucking Seven. “I…” Vanderwood felt his eyebrow twitch just a little in irritation at the redhead. Someday, somehow, he would get that little shit back for showing that picture of him in a maid’s outfit by embarrassing the kid. If that were even possible. “I have to disagree with you.” He bit his tongue before having some of the tea she’d made for him. There was a bit of ginger in it, but it wasn’t nasty like the last time, and he would have been grateful for it even if it was. “Did you want to help me with lunch after we finish our tea, fiancée?” It felt ridiculously silly to keep repeating that she was in fact going to be his future wife, but it also gave him that warm fuzzy feeling he was coming to enjoy so much.

“Oh, but I think you’re mistaken, dear Marion~” Cerise was definitely going to have to ask the red-headed man for any copies of that picture that he might have. She was sure that Vanderwood would protest as soon as he found out, but she’d find some way to convince him to let her keep it. He had repeated the word again; he was definitely as excited and giddy as she currently was. “I would love to help you, but I can’t believe I get to have such an attractive teacher. Good thing I’m the only student, huh?” She took another sip of her tea. “Can’t have the others getting all jealous that I’m marrying the teacher.” Cerise glanced at her ring again, unable to get over how pretty it was or how well it had fit on her finger. How did he even know her size? She didn’t even know her size.

Vanderwood snorted softly. “I’m more worried about me getting jealous if someone else were teaching you.” That was most certainly true. It was a new thing for him, but he was definitely more jealous than the average person, and he had a feeling that his jealousy could be lethal in the right situation. Cereise nodded, talking into her cup of tea. “Would suck to be that person, huh?” She had already seen small glimpses of his jealousy, and there was no doubt he’d be quite a force under the right (or wrong) circumstances.

His eyes fell to her ring. It suited her so perfectly, and that just made him smile all the more, not only because she seemed to love it, but also because he felt damn proud of himself for picking something that matched her so well. “Does the ring fit okay? I made an educated guess.” His fingers had continued absentmindedly playing with her shirt as he drank his tea, by chance slipping just under the fabric to brush against her scar.

“It fits perfectly, actually. I was surprised, it was a really lucky guess.” They both sat there in silence for a little while just drinking their tea and enjoying each other’s company after their time apart. While cuddled up to him, she could hear him breathe…it was such a comforting sound along with his steady heartbeat. She felt his fingers brush over her scar once more. Did he feel guilty?

Cerise tried not to think about that day, the words he had said. He didn’t mean them, yet they still came out of his mouth. She shook her head and pushed those thoughts away. Of course, he didn’t mean them, it probably hurt him to say them as much as it hurt her to hear them. Marion wouldn’t have asked her to spend the rest of her life with him if he didn’t want her around, if he didn’t care for her–didn’t love her.

Vanderwood had been tracing her scar for some time now, but then his fingers slipped down over the much smoother skin of her hip. He moved his hand, placing it up on the couch. Even just that one small touch to her skin had made him react to her. It had been too long and too stressful since the last time he’d had sex, clearly. He bit his tongue before taking a big swallow of tea, trying to hide just how red his face was.

When his hand moved from her scar to her hip, she began to automatically respond with a blush. Just as quickly as he had done it, he’d pulled his hand away. She looked up at him with a questioning expression, finding his face was totally red. Cerise was happy that he was doing so well, that he had so much better impulse control now. If he hadn’t been so sore, she might have tried at teasing him just a little. Instead, she opted to just let him have his moment, pretending she hadn’t noticed how flustered he was…which in turn made her more flustered.

He placed his tea to the side. Why was it that he already wanted to put his hand on her again, wanted the contact? Addiction based or just because he loved her? Really, he was doing much better than he thought he would ever be able to at controlling himself, although he still worried. She deserved the best of this world, and he only hoped he could make that happen…only hoped he would be able to keep her from getting hurt in his presence any further than the times she already had.

Just a day before after her brush with painkillers he’d said…some things. In the moment he’d meant them, and it was a fear for him that he would ruin her life, but…Vanderwood looked down at her. He would keep that from happening, and she was willing to risk everything to be with him, just like he was to be with her. She had that right just as much as he did.

Cerise kept her head down and focused on her tea. The silence was starting to be a little uncomfortable for her.  “Marion…I never really asked you. How old are you? I guess it’s kinda silly asking that now considering…” Cerise found the hand that he rested on the couch and began to play with his fingers. “I’m twenty…but I’m sure you already know that. Being a super-secret agent and all.”

Her question pulled him out of his thoughts. “Oh…well…” That’s right, he’d never told her. “Yeah…I’ve known since the day after I brought you to the first hotel. Seven sent me a file…but I could only read the first sentence. Didn’t feel right to read the rest.” She probably had some idea of how old he was already, so it wouldn’t be a huge shock right? “I’m 28. I’ll be 29 soon.”

Okay, so he was eight years older than her, that wasn’t bad. At the mention of the word ‘soon’ her eyes lit up. “Soon? When is your birthday?” Cerise loved celebrating things. Holidays and birthdays made her so excited, but the birthday of her fiancé? Sign her right the Hell up! She was totally going to learn how to cook by then, so she could surprise him with something she made that wasn’t terrible and burned. By now, she was pretty much hovering right next to his face, eyes sparkling with excitement.

Holy shit, why was she so excited? He leaned away just a little, furrowing his brows at her. It was just a birthday. Hell, he’d never even done anything for his birthday. “It’s…December 23rd. Just about a month from now…but I’d rather not dwell on it.” Vanderwood couldn’t even remember people saying happy birthday to him. No wait, he could. Caleb. Caleb was the only one who remembered. Vanderwood wrapped his arms around Cerise, pulling her into his lap tightly and burying his face in her hair. His heart had felt like it was being suddenly crushed, her presence in his arms easing it somewhat.

She didn’t even have a chance to ask him why he seemed so upset before he was pulling her into his lap. The atmosphere felt sort of…gloomy all the sudden…Had something happened on his birthday? Did he just not like celebrating it? If it was bad memories he had…she wanted to do her best to replace them with good ones. He was twenty-eight…and probably hadn’t celebrated his birthday in a while. Cerise had a lot of work to do if she wanted him to look back fondly on it, but now she figured they had their entire lives ahead of them to make that happen. He had buried his face into her hair, probably not wanting to talk right now, so she just nuzzled into him, letting him enjoy the silence as he held her there.

The silence and just her warmth, it was comforting. It was exactly what he needed. After a few minutes, he felt like he could talk again. “I’m sorry…” He mumbled into her hair before he released her slowly. “That was a little sudden…Just…unpleasant thoughts.” Vanderwood gave her an apologetic smile and a soft kiss to her forehead. “You do whatever you want for my birthday…but I can’t promise you I’ll be in a good mood.”

Cerise shook her head and gave him an understanding smile. “Don’t worry, you know? We’re gonna make happy memories.” God help him if she forgot. Vanderwood internally winced at the idea, but Cerise wouldn’t forget…judging from how excited she had been…she wouldn’t forget. His hand found the side of her face, cupping her cheek as he had a tendency to do before he gave her a kiss, nice and slow, pulling away to kiss her nose. “Now…is my beautiful fiancée ready for her first lesson? I’m a little hungry.”

He didn’t really feel like talking about it right now, as much as he had promised her his honesty…it could wait. Those childhood memories were more painful than the stories of his scars and were overshadowed by Caleb’s death in ways that made him feel like he couldn’t breathe past the pain in his chest. It was strange; usually he’d never think about those memories, they were just locked up behind a wall of pain, but this memory, as painful as it was, it also felt good. His brother had loved him. Vanderwood bit his tongue to keep from turning into a mess again.

She didn’t think even in a million years she would get tired of his kisses. Each one never felt like the last, but all of them were enough to always take her breath away. “I’m so ready.” She hopped up off the couch and towards her kitchen at an incredible speed. Not only was she really hungry, but she was really eager to learn from him. Cerise turned around and motioned for him to follow. “Come on, slow poke! At this rate we’ll be celebrating my birthday before you get your butt over here.”

“Alright, I’m coming.” He snorted softly at her enthusiasm, that and her birthday was almost a full year away, and he couldn’t possibly be that slow, even injured. Vanderwood couldn’t help but smile like an idiot as he looked at her, thinking about just how much she meant to him. “Let me go get the groceries. Wash your hands while I’m gone…And maybe find me a hair-tie?” Cerise teasingly saluted him and found him the hair-tie he had asked for before washing her hands. They were going to be cooking, so she made sure to wash them extra well.

He had left the groceries in the car in his excitement to propose, so now he went to get them before entering her house again and placing them on an open space of counter. “Alright…so we’re making omelets with some vegetables, not too difficult and pretty healthy.” Cerise was drying off her hands when he reappeared back in the house with the groceries, nodding as he spoke. Omelets sounded pretty easy, and vegetables weren’t that scary either. She could totally impress him with how quickly she could pick this up. Eggs and vegetables were nothing. “That sounds delicious! I can’t wait~” Cerise handed him his hair-tie. “So, what’s first, Teach’?”

“I’m probably going to start by teaching you how to wash and cut the vegetables while I whisk up and cook the eggs.” Vanderwood chuckled at her enthusiasm. Cerise was a marvel to him sometimes. He put his hair up before looking her over. She had a Hell of a lot more hair than he did. Considering the mess she’d made the last time she cooked, it was probably better for her to have her hair up, too. “But…I think you should put your hair up first, too.”

He was not risking her lighting that on fire. Vanderwood loved her hair, more than he really cared to admit. “Oh, my hair too?” Cerise nodded and disappeared out of the kitchen and into her bedroom before returning with a thicker hair scrunchie and handing it to him. “You do it~” She didn’t give him a chance to answer before she turned around, shaking her hair out with her hands for a moment.

A light blush appeared on his face. He loved messing with her hair, really, so putting it up, as dumb as it sounded, it was a little on the intimate side, at least for him. “Alright then.” Such a simple task shouldn’t really make your chest feel warm and fuzzy should it? Vanderwood took the hair scrunchie and put it on his wrist as he gathered her hair up carefully before sliding the scrunchie from his wrist to around her hair, making sure to get it tight enough that it would stay but not so it would hurt her head.

He gave her a quick kiss to the top of her head then moved to grab some carrots and broccoli from his grocery bag, handing them to her. “Alright…so, first we get them out of the bags. Then we wash them off. The carrots will need peeling, but the broccoli just needs a good wash.” Vanderwood washed his hands quickly, leaving the water running to wash the veggies. “So…let’s wash the broccoli first, since that doesn’t need peeling.”

Cerise bounced in place excitedly as he talked before taking the broccoli from him. “You got it~” Easy stuff; she was practically a broccoli-washing pro! Cerise hummed excitedly to herself before turning the broccoli over. He watched her, shaking his head a little. Lord, she was in adorable form. At least he could trust her to wash broccoli, right? That wasn’t so hard.

Vanderwood had gone to open the bag of carrots, so they could wash those as soon as she got the broccoli cut up, and then his thoughts were violently interrupted when he was splashed with water. She had managed to somehow make the stalk fling water at the both of them, getting in her eyes. “Sorry!” Cerise apologized and rubbed her eyes. She didn’t know broccoli could be so…rubber-bandy and flingy. He looked over at her to see that, yup, somehow she had managed to mess up washing, but at least the broccoli was clean? He carefully took the broccoli from her and placed it on a cutting board, trying not to be bothered by the fact that there was a wet spot on his back. “That’s alright.” She really was rather clumsy.

Did he trust her with a knife? Vanderwood cut the stalk of the broccoli off himself before motioning for her to stand in front of him, demonstrating cutting the broccoli apart from the little cluster. He hadn’t expected her proximity to be a problem for him, but she was so close, and he needed to get away before problems arose, so to speak. Vanderwood did just that, shifting away from her directly after showing her how to cut the pieces apart. “So…just cut them away from the bigger portion while I wash the carrots.” She could get that, right?

“Yessir!” She answered with another salute, trying to ignore how close he had been to her. Cerise had cut things before. That shouldn’t be hard…At least she couldn’t get splashed. Except with blood once you manage to cut your finger off. Cerise froze. Whoa, what a terrible thought. She shook her head; she wouldn’t be cutting any appendages off today. Carefully, she did as he’d instructed and managed to successfully cut the florets away from the stalks without much of an issue. How in the world could she do that but not wash the goddamn thing correctly?

Vanderwood had started on washing the carrots, snorting at her salute. Thankfully, cooking was a good mind clearer, but he kept glancing at her to make sure she wasn’t cutting herself. Her voice got his attention. “I think I did this right.” As he looked over, his eyes widened. “Yeah, you did great. And no blood.” That was supposed to be an internal thought, but now it was out. “Um…I wasn’t expecting any.” He resisted the urge to rub the back of his neck, because then he’d just have to wash his hands again. “So…um…put that in a pot, and let’s wash and peel some carrots.”

Cerise couldn’t help but feel a little flush in her cheeks as he, apparently accidentally, pointed out the obvious. “It’s okay…I’m actually surprised too.” She confessed with a nervous laugh. That probably wasn’t reassuring at all, but there it was. Cerise deposited the broccoli into the designated pot. “Okay…carrots.” He seemed to be busy with washing them…which was fair considering how she had treated the broccoli, so she could just start on the peeling.

She grabbed the peeler and a carrot. He hadn’t really shown her how to do it, but it couldn’t be any harder than chopping broccoli. Vanderwood was surprised to see her grabbing the peeler already, apparently wanting him to wash the carrots while she peeled. Did she need to be shown how? Probably not…Holding the carrot, Cerise applied pressure with the peeler and peeled the top skin off. Well…it was more like half the carrot…which as she applied pressure to get the chunk of carrot off, suddenly shot across the room. Cerise just stared blankly and she watched the orange torpedo hit the wall and then the floor. Why? Why was she so bad at this?

He had been watching what she was doing, a little confused by how she was choosing to hold the carrot, but he wasn’t expecting the orange missile situation. Vanderwood just kind of stared at the carrot on the floor for a minute. “Um…let me help you with that.” He tossed the carrot, grabbing another, a little wary as he took her hands from behind her again. His head bent to lightly press a kiss to the spot just behind her ear, an easy task with her hair up, before he bit his tongue and returned to the task at hand.

No time for nonsense…Vanderwood took the carrot and placed it in her hand, showing her how to properly hold the damn thing, because apparently that was too difficult for her clumsiness, God, she was cute…and slightly terrifying. Cerise cooking could probably be weaponized. Vanderwood had to suppress a snort as well as control the little side of fear that gripped at him as he envisioned her shooting carrots at someone. He shook his head before he helped her peel a few lines off the carrot. “It can peel both ways, but I think you should peel in the direction away from your body…To be safe.” His concern for her safety was outweighing his concern for how close he was pressed to her like this.

For a moment, he seemed to be thinking, maybe in more reverent silence over what had happened to that poor carrot. Cerise was still having her own little moment of silence over that, quite frankly. It was becoming apparent to even herself just how bad at this she was. His comment about peeling away from herself for her own safety made her scrunch up her nose for a second before her face relaxed. “You know…that’s fair.” She peeled the carrot like he had shown her away from herself, and once she had started, she found it rather easy, as long as she held it correctly.

He stepped away to start on the eggs, but Vanderwood had found himself mostly watching her rather than dealing with the eggs out of worry. After the first carrot, it looked like she was doing okay. She managed not to maim any more defenseless carrots and successfully peeled the rest he had washed as he cracked the eggs into a pot for stirring together.

Cerise figured that cutting them was next as she finished, placing the peeler aside along with the final carrot. “Done with this part~” She sang out and went to go and grab her knife. Unfortunately, she had completely forgotten that she might not have peeled them over the trash can, causing her to slip on the orangey peels. The kitchen was not her friend. Cooking was not her friend. The Gods above obviously hated her.

He had snorted softly at her sing-song tone, having moved to place the eggs on the counter, and then he noticed her slipping. Vanderwood’s heart was in his throat as he reached out and grabbed her hand, pulling her into his arms successfully before she could hit the ground. Cerise had closed her eyes in preparation of hitting the floor, but it never came. She opened one eye to see that he had grabbed her before she could. It was a good thing she hadn’t managed to grab for the knife; that would have been a disaster. Vanderwood was about ready to curl up in a ball in the corner. The mess too…the carrot peels on the floor he hadn’t noticed out of concern for making sure she didn’t launch the carrots about the room.

Obviously, she simply wasn’t meant to cook. It was fate, clearly. Life had prepared him to be the housewife for her, because his future wife sure as Hell wasn’t one. He realized he was holding her rather tightly and let go slowly. “Are you alright?” When he finally let go, Cerise looked down to see what it was that made her slip. Yep. That figured. She knew she should have peeled the orange traitors over the trash can. Cerise looked back at him and blinked. “Yeah, I’m fine…”

Despite her saying so, he still felt the need to check her over, apparently. His hands went to her shoulders, moving down her arms and then to her waist and over her legs as he searched for any sign of injury, his face slowly turning redder. It was sweet how much he worried over her, even for super simple things. God, she was so clumsy…Maybe cooking would never be her thing. In theory, it seemed so simple, but she just was not able to pick it up. Maybe in time…who knew?

When he was done checking her over, she noticed that his face was at a new level of red. The touches were innocent, and she thought nothing of them, but the way his face was flushing only made hers match it, and she couldn’t help but to look down at her feet, letting her hair obscure her face again. Marion moved to press a soft kiss to her forehead, which didn’t make it easier. “I think you’ve learned enough for one day, shortcake…Please go sit down before I have a heart attack…”

Cerise wanted to argue with him, tell him that she wanted to stay in the kitchen and learn more, but he did have a point. If she stayed in there today, she was either going to kill herself or kill him in some ridiculous freak kitchen accident. She didn’t even blame him for shooing her away. Cerise stalked over to the couch and plopped down with a bounce, turning her head so she could watch him in the kitchen. It made her feel bad that she sucked at cooking so much that he basically had to do everything. Maybe she was just good at other things and hadn’t realized it? Cerise let out a sigh and pulled her phone out, stopping to glance at her ring. If she was going to be someone’s wife…his wife–shouldn’t she be better at these things? Some woman she was…but she didn’t think he was the type of person at all to ask her unless he was absolutely sure that she was what he wanted. She had time to learn things.

A smile played on her face as she opened the camera and took a selfie of herself with her ring in view, making sure to angle it to where Vanderwood could be seen cooking in the background. Cerise had her doubts about being a good wife, but she wasn’t going to let that dampen her excitement. She figured she must have added like fifty tags to that photo and surprisingly opted not to put stickers all over it. It was a great picture how it was and didn’t need any decorations–Cerise’s ring was decoration enough.

As expected, as soon as she uploaded the picture, her phone began to blow up with messages and notifications. She couldn’t help but giggle and read through the well wishes and congratulations. There were a few salty people, but she tended to ignore them. They were going to have a beautiful relationship, haters or no.

Vanderwood really wasn’t sure he could take more kitchen mishaps, focusing on taking care of the mess that was making his skin crawl before he could start cooking again. Occasionally, he peeked at her from his periphery. It looked like she was on her social media. A little smile crossed his face. How had he, a guy who had tried all his adult life to avoid having any online presence whatsoever, fallen in love with a woman who was virtually famous?

It struck him as incredibly ironic. On top of that, it was a bit dangerous, but…Cerise was the love of his life, and he wasn’t about to let any more danger come to her. It might show up at the doorstep, but he would take care of it. Vanderwood let the veggies cook while he worked on the omelets, adding a little cheese, which hopefully she liked. “Lunch is almost ready.” He looked at her there on the couch. That woman, that perfect little obstinate woman, was going to be his wife.

Cerise perked her head up at his announcement. No doubt if she had stayed in there, it would have taken ten times as long. This incredibly domestic setting made her feel warm and fuzzy inside. There were no issues to worry about, no secret threats to speak of. Cerise hopped back up off of the couch and made her way back to the kitchen, coming up behind him to wrap her arms around his torso as he’d turned around. It could have waited, sure, but she just really felt she needed to hug him right then.

Vanderwood was portioning the veggies onto the plates with the omelets when she wrapped her arms around him from behind. He hadn’t been expecting that at all, but his heart flipped in his chest, and his hands found hers as he hung his head and closed his eyes. It was such a simple little thing, just a hug, but he felt so happy, a moment of peace and quiet with his soulmate. His finger stroked lightly over her ring, the ring that said she was his wife to be. She felt him relax into her arms and they were able to share a quiet little moment. It was nice to just be near him, especially when they had recently spent so much time apart. Cerise decided she hated being apart from him and hoped that there was never another situation that he had to be away for so long, because his absence was definitely noticed.

How long did they stand there like that? It felt never ending, and maybe that’s just what it was like to be truly happy. Vanderwood gently moved her hands away to grab her plate and turn to hand it to her. “I love you, shortcake…I’m so glad you said yes.” He felt blush in his cheeks again, but that was just how today was going to be, it seemed. It was the best day of his life so far. “I love you, too.” A light blush dusted her cheeks. Marion sounded so soft and sincere, and it made her heart flutter. “I’m glad you asked me. ” Cerise shot him a smile before she was headed back to the couch with her omelet, waiting to start on it until he joined her. Not only had she gotten the cooking lesson she was promised today, but she’d gotten a proposal for something much better.

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Mystic Messenger Fanfiction | VanderwoodxOC Cerise – Tagged | High as a Kite

It was strange; she was lying down, but it felt like she was floating on the ocean, on a boat. Everything else around her was cloudy and hard to see.

***Just a couple days until my birthday, and here is your update for the week. Obviously, my birthweek has to be filled with Cherrywood goodness. There are going to be quite a few hidden scenes next week, but this week I deliver a hidden chapter to my patrons. It’s called ‘Preparations Apart,’ and is all about Vandy gettin that ring and there are shower selfies involved. ~Let’s Connect! FFC***

*Remember, this is a sequel to Vanderwood Backstory, and Cerise has a bio. You can support my writing on patreon and get access to my VIP Discord Server or other goodies like early chapter releases and hidden scenes.  Tagged Chapter Directory*

Cerise had been grocery shopping with her mother plenty of times, so it wasn’t something that was completely new to her. While walking to the store, she tried to think about stuff her mom would make. Her mother was such a good cook, and she regretted not learning anything from her now. Cerise would always brush her off whenever she offered, insisting that when she was on her own, she would just order food. She didn’t expect to ever want to cook for someone, to care for them. Looking back, Cerise felt that she was a total brat to her parents. Maybe she would call them soon, they were probably worried about her, since she hadn’t really been keeping in contact after the move.

Strangely, as much as she’d wanted to get away from them, she also found herself missing them a great deal. Apologizing to them was something that she was going to have to do, as much as she wasn’t looking forward to it. She realized now that they were just trying to raise her right…not that she’d turned out to be a particularly bad adult. Although, maybe if she’d paid attention more she would be a little more mature and put together.

Before she knew it, she had arrived at the grocery store. She had spent so much time thinking about what a little shit she had been to her parents that she had totally forgotten to formulate what she should get to cook. Cerise shrugged and just figured she’d figure it out along the way. Chicken was easy enough, right? All she had to do was put some spices on it and throw it in the oven. So easy! The sides would be the hardest. She shopped around and picked out anything that looked like it could go together. Some of the vegetables she had no idea even what they were, but she could probably make a pretty bomb soup thing if she just threw it all together. That’s how stew worked, right? Could you even serve that with chicken? Oh well, food was food.

Luckily, the store had a simple medicine section where she picked up some actual pain killers and hot/cold packs. They would probably be a lot more help to him than the stuff her parents had her keep around. When she was satisfied with what she had picked out, she went to the counter to pay for it. While the clerk was checking her out, she sent a quick text to him to let him know that she was okay and that she was about to head back.

In retrospect, she should have remembered that she had to walk back to her place. She struggled to carry all the bags, so it took probably twice as long to get back than it did to actually get there. Hopefully, that didn’t worry him too terribly much. He’d be okay once she got home, anyways.

After what seemed like forever, she arrived at her door and was somehow able to get it open. “I’m back!” She loudly proclaimed as she headed to the kitchen to dump off her supplies. Before she did anything, she dug into her bags to retrieve the medicine she’d bought and fixed a glass of water. “Here, I brought you something back. It should help you a lot more than the ginger tea.” Cerise gave him the bottle, so he could decide how much he needed. “I’m going to go start cooking~ Please relax!”

Vanderwood had laid on the couch trying not to be too anxious. He’d sent Seven out to do things before, and that had been lightly worrying but this was much different. It wasn’t that he didn’t trust her to be safe, he was just so used to being with her and couldn’t bear the thought of losing her. Was he just going insane? Now that she was home, the stress melted off him instantly. “Welcome back, mon amour.” The pills and water were a welcome relief, and that fuzzy feeling from her caring for him had him smiling. “Thank you.” He took the pills and downed the water, nodding at her request for him to relax.

Cerise wasted no time getting back to the kitchen, where she put the hot/cold packs in her freezer for him to use later. Where to start…? She figured that maybe she should start the chicken first, so she went to a labelled box in her kitchen and pulled out some spices that her parents had bought for her, since she had no clue what to get. Cerise opened a few of the bottles and sniffed them. Some were stronger than others, but in the end, they ended up tasting good on anything, right? She shrugged, and after prepping the chicken, she dumped various spices on it, not really reading the labels.

The packaging said, “giblets included”. What even were giblets? Must have been something special, she guessed. After turning her oven on, she popped the chicken in to cook. Wow, this was so easy already! Next, she chopped up some of the vegetables she had bought and threw them into a pot all together, adding water and some more spices. She remembered her mom putting something in stews to make them thicker…What was it? Flour? That had to be it. She added a generous amount of flour to the ‘stew’ and added the lid. So easy.

It wasn’t normal for Vanderwood not to be the one cooking. He’d been feeding himself and Seven for years. From the couch he watched her, furrowing his brows at what she was doing. Chicken and stew? She seemed a little unsure of herself, but surely, she knew what she was doing at least enough not to burn the house down. Vanderwood decided he needed to stretch and got up, doing just that, although very slowly and carefully. He made his way over to the kitchen. “I know you told me to relax, but I need to stand for a bit…” Vanderwood nuzzled the top of her head and gave it a quick kiss. “Would you mind if I helped just a little?” He just couldn’t help it, this was usually his job.

Cerise pouted, “Helping is not resting. I have this.” She made the motion to shoo him away. Things were going so well so far. It was nice that he wanted to help her, but all she really needed to do was stir the stew periodically. Being adorable wasn’t going to earn him any brownie points. As if the universe was trying to prove her wrong, smoke started to come from the oven. “What in the…” Cerise opened the door, and the chicken was literally on fire. She panicked and opened and closed the door a few times which only fanned the flames, making them flare up. Bad choice.

She was fussing at him, and he was about to open his mouth to fuss a bit back but then she was opening and closing the oven, fanning the flames inside. Vanderwood looked around for a fire extinguisher, but of course, there wasn’t one. He was quick to reach over and turn the oven off, moving her out of the way and holding the door closed. Making sure that the oven stayed closed would remove the oxygen it needed to keep the flames going.

At least he seemed to know what to do, so Cerise moved out of the way to let Marion do his thing. Now she looked towards the pot on top of the stove. The stew was still–nope. There was an ominous smoke coming from that, too. She groaned in frustration and picked the pot up by the handles to move it to another burner in hopes of keeping it from burning further. Cerise hadn’t realized that the lid wasn’t on very well, and it slid off onto her hand, causing her to yelp in pain and drop the pot onto the burner (which luckily didn’t spill much). She ran to the sink to run water over the angry redness on her hand. Okay…so maybe cooking was harder than she thought. Oh…and her oven was kinda on fire. Great.

He noticed almost immediately as he’d contained the flames inside of the stove, that Cerise had managed to burn herself with the lid of the pot. Shit fuck. Vanderwood couldn’t deal with the potential stew problem and help her, so the newest hazard came first. Now he turned off the stove top, using a cloth to push the pan away from the hot portion of the stove. He felt a little sick as he turned toward her where she was treating her burn by the sink. Seeing her in pain was not something he had any interest in. “Let me see, love…” Vanderwood carefully took her hand away from the water and examined the burn, hissing softly. It wasn’t horrible, but it definitely needed some treatment. His mind was too busy to notice any pain, and he was on painkillers, so now he moved, picking her up bridal style.

After she’d taken her hand from the water, she’d immediately felt an intense burning sensation. Marion seemed to know what he was doing, but he was still injured, and she wasn’t exactly pleased with him taking it upon himself to intervene right now. Cerise wanted to protest being picked up, but she ended up brushing the burn against something and hissed in pain. She felt terrible that he was so injured and fussing over something like a burn that she had stupidly brought upon herself. He set her on the couch. “Do not move.” He didn’t need her getting herself more hurt, pressing a long kiss to her forehead before going to his bag and rummaging for the first aid kit he had brought.

Vanderwood found what he needed quickly. He hadn’t brought up the kit earlier, since it was really only for emergencies, but this counted. After grabbing bandages and ointment, he walked back over to the couch and sat down on the floor in front of her, taking her hand again with a gentle touch. He gently brushed his lips over her fingertips, hoping to cheer her some. “How badly does it hurt?” The ointment should help some with that, but if it was bad enough, she’d probably need some painkillers, too.

“It hurts bad, but…” She leaned forward and kissed him, short and sweet, “I think I can manage thanks to you.” Cerise’s hand was hurting quite a bit, but she didn’t want to agitate Marion’s injuries by having him worry over her for something that was her fault. He was so much worse off than she was. If she could keep a happy face on, he wouldn’t notice. His hand tightened on her wrist for a moment, and she had to cover a wince, playing it off as a wink.

That little kiss was great, but as his hand tightened on her wrist, she seemed to attempt to hide a wince. He was getting frustrated and irritated, and she was lying to him about the pain. She hated pain, and he knew from experience that her tolerance for it was incredibly low. Well, he simply wasn’t going to let her play it off and was going to take care of her. Vanderwood bit his tongue to relax before taking the ointment and putting a generous amount on his fingers then applying it very carefully, not wanting to hurt her further. “This will numb some of the pain and make it easier to bandage.”

The bandage came on next over the ointment. He wrapped it slowly around her hand before tying it off and kissing the bandage over the burn. It was stupid, but it seemed like a good thing to do. His pain was starting to eat at him just a little from sitting in this position, but he needed to get up anyway and calculate a dosage of painkillers for her height and weight.

She didn’t know exactly why, but when he kissed the bandage, it made her flush hard. The gesture was so sweet that she felt like her heart was swelling up and threatening to explode into a million tiny pieces. He kissed her soon after, sliding his hand along her cheek, which she was thankful for. He wouldn’t have the chance to see right then how much of a mess she was at such a small gesture. He pulled away from her, and it left her heart beating much faster than normal…It almost made her forget about the pain on her hand.

After the kiss, which he’d needed…Well, he wasn’t sure why he’d needed it, but he just had, Vanderwood made his way to the kitchen with his empty glass to fill it with water, taking the bottle of pills she’d given him earlier with him. “Shortcake…I need your exact height and weight, so I can give you some pills.” Her fluttery and pleasant feeling was a little short lived when he asked his next question. “You want…what? I’m not telling you my weight.” Didn’t he know that was something you did not ask a woman? Cerise twisted her body away from him, frowning with a huff while she carefully crossed her arms to not disturb the bandage.

Vanderwood raised an eyebrow at her as she refused to tell him. What was wrong with her weight? She couldn’t be that underweight, her body seemed perfectly fine on that front. Maybe that wasn’t a good thing to be thinking about when she was irritating him. He loved this woman, but holy…he just needed her weight. Vanderwood sighed and put his hands on the counter, trying to just breathe.

Was it his imagination or was he even more needy for her when he was irritated now than he had been before they’d slept together? No…it wasn’t his imagination, so he’d need to be more careful. “Shortcake…I just need to give you some medication…If you don’t tell me, I’ll have to guess, and I might under-dose you.” He was bad at guessing weight, considering most weight felt like nothing to him to lift.

Cerise turned her head just a little bit, so she could see him out of the corner of her eye. He seemed kind of irritated? She shrugged and turned away again. “Marion.” she quipped back, “No. I’m not telling you my weight. I don’t want medicine.” To make her point clear, she turned towards him and stuck her tongue out before she turned back and went to typing something on her phone, wincing when she figured out that flexing her thumb hurt.

This was bad, terrible. How was she supposed to keep up with things if she couldn’t text right? Cerise groaned and pulled her knees up to her chest, hugging them while she rested her head on her knees. Maybe if she relaxed, the pain would go away. She thought briefly about drinking some of the ginger tea, but the thought of it made her stomach lurch. Cerise would rather suffer through it.

He bit his tongue. She was going to keep fighting him unless he found some sort of leverage. Vanderwood watched as she attempted to get on her phone, and that was the opening he needed. “If you want to be able to text, you’re going to need some meds.” If there was one thing that was more important to her than being stubborn, it was her social media.

“So, what’s it gonna be, Cerise.” Vanderwood repeated her name the way she’d said his with the tiniest of smirks. Damn it, she was attractive when she was fighting him, and it felt damn good to feel like you were winning. What he should really be focused on was getting her medicated. God, he really was an ass sometimes. He bit his tongue again.

She tensed up at his words. He did have a point…Her honey-colored eyes looked at her phone longingly, and then she turned her head towards him again, pouting. Her followers did need her, but at the same time, it was rude to ask her weight. Weren’t there directions on the bottle? She didn’t know. For whatever reason, her mom wouldn’t let her take normal medicine. She may have explained it once or twice, but honestly, Cerise hadn’t listened. Her mom was just kinda weird. “…Vanderjerk.”

Cerise mumbled before sighing and straightening herself up. “I’m…” She paused and looked him dead in the eyes, “…I’m five foot four and ninety-two pounds.” Cerise had given him her actual weight, but as for her height…there was no way she was going to admit how tall she was. He was so massive that maybe he wouldn’t notice. Everything looked small to him. Who really wanted to admit that they were just under five feet tall?

Okay, the 92 pounds he could believe, but her height was an outright lie. Vanderwood was really trying to breathe, not wanting to listen to the little voice that was nagging in his head that he needed some sort of something to calm down. This really wasn’t so bad; she wasn’t that irritating. It was probably just the combination of dealing with the stress of the fire as well as his injuries that was making it worse. “You’re lying to me about your height.” He said it as a simple statement, choosing to believe her on her weight, because he really didn’t want more fuss. With her alcohol tolerance, she probably had plenty of tolerance for this, too, and that gave him a little bit of leeway.

Crap. He caught her…of course he would. He was a friggin’ secret agent, and he wasn’t at all stupid. Too stupidly good looking for his own good…but not dumb. Telling him something wrong again would probably only serve to irritate him further, and as much as that amused her, it probably wasn’t a good idea while he was still trying to recover. Besides, she really wanted to be able to use her phone like normal.

Medicine was supposed to help…right? Cerise kept her eyes on Marion, silently challenging him and still pouting. Maybe he would just drop it. They stayed like that for about a minute, but Marion’s gaze never wavered. Damn, he was really good at this… Finally, Cerise lowered her eyes to the side and mumbled, “…I’m four foot eleven.”

She was really attempting to stare him down. His tiny, injured girlfriend was attempting to stare him down. Vanderwood nearly felt blush rising into his cheeks as he’d met her gaze but kept his eyes on her. Not now. He had to get her some medicine. That pout…He wanted to kiss it right off of her. Jesus, her reply was more than welcome, although he had to suppress a snort. So, she was even shorter than he’d thought. After a pause, he nodded. “Okay. Four foot eleven and 92 pounds.”

Vanderwood checked the back of the pill bottle for exact dosage on each pill before deciding to give her one and a half. That should do it for her, just to the point where she could move her hand without extreme pain. He didn’t want her too numb, or she might hurt it more, but she’d at least be able to text. Vanderwood took the glass and the pill dosage and brought it to her. “Here you are, Cerise.” As she took it, he looked towards the kitchen and the mess that would need to be cleaned up. “Do you have a hair tie I could borrow?” Generally, he liked to clean with his hair up, that way he didn’t have to push it back and end up getting it wet or getting cleaner in it, which was a pain.

She took the glass and medicine from him, “Thanks, Marion.” Cerise stared at the pills. She was supposed to swallow these things without choking? Cerise was about to try when he had asked her for a hair tie. “Yeah…hold on.” She got up and disappeared into her bathroom for a second before returning with one, and instead of just handing it to him, she stretched it and shot it at him. It would have been funny, but she forgot about her hand, which now throbbed in pain…yeah. The medicine was going to be needed.

Vanderwood was caught off guard by her shooting the hair tie at him, but it just hit him in the arm and he bent to pick it up, peeking over at her to see her nursing her hand. His stomach turned a little. He really didn’t like to see her in pain. It seemed every time he did, it was his fault, too. Cerise grabbed the pills again and examined them. You can do it… She gave herself a small pep talk before throwing them in her mouth and taking a big swig of water. Cerise was happy that she didn’t choke. It would probably take a little while to kick in, so she settled on watching whatever her boyfriend was currently doing.

He’d stayed bent as he put his hair up before standing back up properly and tightening the tie, so it would stay. Thankfully, the pills were working really well for him, so he would be able to handle the cleaning, but obviously she wouldn’t have anything else to cook, so he’d have to figure out how to order something. Vanderwood absentmindedly ran his fingers over the tattoo on the back of his neck, the familiar feeling of the raised serial number and his last name not really comforting but just something he tended to do whenever his hair was up.

After some searching, he managed to find an app where he could order pizza, and he just got a cheese, since he didn’t know what else to do. It was going to take a good bit of work to exercise all that crap off after he recovered properly, but it was better than either of them cooking right now. Vanderwood looked over at Cerise to double check that she’d taken the pills. “Those should kick in pretty quickly.” He raised an eyebrow at the way she seemed to be zoning out. What was up with that?

Cerise had been so totally mesmerized by him putting up his hair that she didn’t hear what he had said. She had just been blankly staring at him for who knows how long. “Oh uhh…yeah.” That seemed like the right thing to say, and now he was putting his phone away, going into the kitchen and starting on cleaning the pot. When he turned around, he’d given her a glimpse of a tattoo she had never seen before on the back of his neck. It made sense, since Vanderwood always had his hair down.

Somehow, the unfamiliar sight of him having his hair up made her heart beat just a little faster as pink dusted her cheeks. This man was gorgeous. Cerise was rudely interrupted from her thoughts by a rather painful stomach cramp followed by a few smaller ones. It wasn’t a big deal; she decided that it was probably because she hadn’t eaten anything that her stomach was upset. She looked towards him to watch him clean. Was it just her or was it getting a little harder to focus…? It was probably just her hunger speaking. “Sorry I…kinda ruined dinner.”

Vanderwood could feel her eyes on him as he cleaned and turned his head to look at her as she spoke. His girlfriend was a little odd sometimes, but he loved her tremendously. “Don’t worry about it, shortcake. I ordered some pizza. Never cooked before?” Her face had that hint of blush, and that caused one of his own.

When he said he had ordered pizza, it was like music to her ears. She was familiar with pizza. Pizza was safe and didn’t spontaneously combust. “I…no. Not really…” Cerise liked to pretend that she was a good cook, though. She would take pictures of her mom’s dishes and put them up on her instafram, cleverly omitting that it wasn’t actually her who’d cooked it.

She was still looking at him funny, and Vanderwood furrowed his brows. “Is…something wrong?” Her stomach was still cramping up, and she was beginning to feel nauseated. “No, I think I’m just hungry. I’m gonna…lay down here for a sec.” Cerise straightened herself out to lay on the couch, staring at the ceiling as she rubbed the area over her stomach that hurt. Hopefully, the pizza would be there soon.

He still had his brows furrowed as he watched her. Was something up with her? Vanderwood sighed and busied himself with cleaning, hoping the pizza would get there sooner rather than later, so that she could get some food. Her pills weren’t necessary to be taken with food, but it would probably help. After a while, he managed to clean out the pot and moved on to the oven, setting off the smoke alarm as the leftover smoke billowed out. Vanderwood coughed and reached up to press the button to turn off the alarm.

“Sorry about that shortcake.” Cerise couldn’t be bothered to react to the smoke alarm or his voice. She was feeling woozy, and it was like her mind was wandering off into weird places. Cerise thought for a second that she was feeling incredibly happy, but she didn’t know why. It was strange; she was lying down, but it felt like she was floating on the ocean, on a boat. Everything else around her was cloudy and hard to see.

Vanderwood was caught up in what he was doing, going back to cleaning out the stove, his arms ending up covered in black. The doorbell rang, and he figured that must be the pizza. His eyes traveled to where she was lying. He wasn’t about to make her get it, not with how zoned out with apparent hunger she was. The pizza boy looked at him strangely as his eyes saw the black all over his arms and hands. Vanderwood just tipped the kid and took the pizza with before closing the door and setting the pizza on the side of the couch.

He certainly couldn’t sit down and eat with her until he got this black muck off his arms, his skin already crawling. “Gimme a second to clean up. You just eat, alright?” To his announcement to eat, she just gave him a non-committal “Hnnn” as she continued to lay there, unmoving and staring at the ceiling. What was up with her? She was just lying there. Had she tired herself out? Probably…with the stress he could certainly believe it.

It was quick work as Vanderwood washed off his arms and hands before walking over to the couch, she was short enough that all he had to do was pick up her feet and pop them on his lap. “Want me to hand you a slice, or?” Was she basically gone to the world, or was it just his imagination? She really had gotten tired out. Considering nearly lighting the house on fire and getting burned, it wasn’t so surprising.

Cerise gave him the same answer as earlier. It kind of seemed like the ceiling was getting closer and closer, but she couldn’t bring herself to move. She couldn’t really bring herself to care about anything at the moment, so let the ceiling crush her. As she turned her head slightly, she could see the wall coming at her, too. Oh good, she was going to be crushed from all four sides. Cerise shrugged and turned to stare at the ceiling again. That bastard. She’d find a way to get her revenge if it smushed her. Cerise reached up to swat at the ceiling to see how close it was now. She couldn’t feel it. Oh well.

Vanderwood was so confused. Why the Hell was she acting like that? He bit his tongue, and then it slowly dawned on him. He’d calculated for her height and weight, and he really doubted she’d lied to him, but she was high as a kite. Vanderwood’s heart slammed hard in his chest as he moved to pick her up and place her in his lap carefully, looking into her eyes to see dilated pupils. High as a fucking kite.

Oh. Now she was moving on her own. How strange. “Shortcake…what day is it?” She tried to focus in on what was being said, the voice that said it. It was…It was Marion. God…What had she done now? Instead of an actual answer to his question about the day, all he got from her was a, “Yes”. Vanderwood was realizing that her tolerance for meds was clearly nothing like her tolerance for alcohol. Why hadn’t she told him? She felt limp and heavy in his arms as he held her, and panic set in hard.

That heavy feeling…it wasn’t quite like Caleb’s body had been, but…he’d gotten his girlfriend high. Vanderwood needed to get some food and water in her fast. He fumbled with the pizza box, so worried that he couldn’t quite think straight. Vanderwood bit his tongue. If he was going to take care of her, he needed to be calm. After a slow breath, he managed to get his hands on some pizza. “I’m going to feed you, okay, Cerise?” There was more talking, but she couldn’t zero in on it. It was like her mind was taking a vacation, hidden somewhere deep, dark, and unreachable. What she did know was that she was hearing Marion’s voice. It was soothing. The best voice.

He cradled her carefully in one arm as he brought the pizza to her lips. “Here you go, shortcake, open up.” Vanderwood nuzzled her gently, feeling like he was about to start crying for the second time that day. What if when she came out of this she decided she liked it? No…Cerise wasn’t like that. He couldn’t let himself think like that. She wasn’t like that. Why was he even thinking like that? His arm tightened around her as he managed to get her to eat the pizza. “Let’s get you some water…” He didn’t want to put her down, but he had to, so he laid her down on the couch and went to get the water. “Don’t move darling…” If she even could move.

So, she guessed she was eating now. What was it…? Pizza? That’s what it tasted like. Oh, right…Marion. He said something about pizza. She was happy to eat it, though it felt like she was doing so way too slowly for her liking. It didn’t matter, she was done now, and the ceiling was coming for her again. Cerise closed her eyes and anticipated its arrival. Goodbye, cruel world.

Vanderwood laid her back down on the couch before he went to get her the water, trying hard not to let his anxiety over the current situation overtake him. His muscles were starting to grow tense, making the soreness reappear despite the pills he was on. How did he always manage to cause terrible things to happen to her? The person he loved most in the world was cursed by him. He brought the water back to her, sitting on the floor as he helped her to drink it, stroking her hair softly and kissing her forehead.

“Everything’s going to be okay ma moitié.” Was he telling her or himself? He didn’t know at this point. “Everything…okay.” She repeated and leaned against him with her eyes closed. Cerise felt incredibly heavy and tired. Her limbs might as well have been lead, and her brain felt scrambled. A nap is what she needed. After a minute or two, she was out like a light, sleeping off the rest of the high.

He sat there on the floor next to the couch as she slept, stroking her hair and humming softly. What else was he supposed to do? Vanderwood felt useless, a feeling he’d only become more familiar with now that she was around. “Je’taime…” He kissed the side of her head softly. To pass the time, he started telling her stories. Obviously, she was asleep, but what the Hell else could he do?

Vanderwood talked about the pranks Caleb used to pull and then about meeting Seven for the first time and how difficult it had been when he’d started acting like Caleb. It was a good way to pass the time, he thought. He followed that up by telling her about how much he loved her, telling her everything, that he wanted to marry her and keep her by his side forever, even though he wasn’t sure he deserved to have her anymore. Did it seem like she was finally waking up? Good…

Cerise stirred from her nap, bringing her hands up to rub her eyes before she sat up and stretched her arms out. Man, she must have been pretty tired to have fallen asleep like that. She opened her eyes and searched the room, finding her boyfriend sitting on the floor beside the couch. That was…confusing a bit. “Hey, dummy…there’s like an entire couch here. Why would you sit on the floor with your injured butt?” Cerise poked at him as she talked. She felt like she had a headache and remembered her stomach cramping up. That must have been why she had lied down in the first place.

Wonderful as ever. Vanderwood snorted, at least she seemed back to herself. “I was taking care of you. You didn’t tell me your tolerance for meds was so low. I…got you high….How do you feel?” Come to think of it, his ass and leg really were hurting now, as well as the rest of him. His meds had worn off, too. Mostly, he was just panicking that she’d say something along the lines of ‘Can I have some more?’ That was such a stupid thought, but it wasn’t one he could help. His tongue was even sore at this point from all the biting. So far, she didn’t seem to remember much, at least.

Her face scrunched up. He was taking care of her? She got high? Off of that amount of pain medicine…Did that explain the grogginess and headache? Now that she thought about it…”I’m fine, but…maybe that’s what my mom was talking about when she told me not to take medicine. I just kinda thought she was a freak.” Cerise scooted over and patted the couch for him to sit next to her and–Oh my God, was that pizza? She hopped up and grabbed some before sitting back down and happily munching on it, despite the fact that it was somewhat cold.

Vanderwood groaned and rubbed his face. The relief that she was okay and didn’t remember much had only helped so much to loosen the tenseness in his body. Looking at her now, he wanted to pull her against him and take what he needed. That made him sick. Cerise was so much more than that, along with the fact that she was in no state for that herself either. Vanderwood pushed off from his place on the floor, removing the hair tie from his hair now and shaking it out. Maybe he should go for a run…No…He wasn’t physically capable of that right now. He agitatedly flopped down onto the couch. Vanderwood still hadn’t eaten, but right now he didn’t care. He needed to calm down, figure out what was going on with his head.

Cerise glanced at him from the corner of her eye. Was he…annoyed? She got back up and grabbed some more pizza, handing it to him. Maybe he just needed to eat. She was feeling quite guilty about the whole thing, though. Really, she should have listened to her mother more instead of regarding her words as not being valuable. There was obviously more there than just her being an overprotective mother, and Cerise felt terrible that she had just brushed her off. “Hey,” She started before scooting a little closer and putting a hand on his arm. “I’m sorry if I worried you. I honestly didn’t remember…”

He took a deep breath as she touched him before he let it out, staring up at the ceiling. “You don’t need to be sorry for anything, Cerise. I do.” Vanderwood took a bite of the slice of pizza she’d given him. He wouldn’t have bothered if she hadn’t handed it to him, but he might as well not further be an ass than he already was. He was really great at being an ass when he was like this. Vanderwood closed his eyes. “I’m sorry…I’m tired and injured and just overall stressed right now…” To anyone else he would have said nothing, but Cerise wasn’t just anyone.

She couldn’t help but feel that a lot of the reason he was stressed was because of her. If she had just remembered, if she hadn’t almost set her kitchen on fire or burned herself…It was her fault no matter what he tried to say. Cerise got up and went to the kitchen to pull out the ice packs she had put in there hours before and walked back over to him. Vanderwood watched her, trying not to think how nice her legs looked, how beautiful she looked under him with her hair spilling around her. He bit his tongue even with the pizza still in his mouth. That wasn’t even a possibility with how much pain he was in, but it was still completely not okay to be thinking about under the circumstances. She handed him some ice packs, and his heart just melted to mush. “This should help with the more serious spots…right?”

Why did she have to be taking care of him while he was thinking like this? While he was constantly causing her pain? She sat back down and gently leaned against his shoulder, nuzzling into it slightly. “If there’s anything I can do or get for you…please just ask. I want you to rest. Don’t hesitate to call me for even the smallest of things. ” To make a point, she pointed ahead to a picture she had hung above her TV. “For instance, if you told me to go and fix that frame because it was just slightly crooked and was annoying you, I’d totally do it. Just ask.”

“You’re too good to me.” And for me. He turned his head to nuzzle her hair, breathing in her heavenly scent. Cerise…Could he even let her go for her own good? Losing her wasn’t on his list of things he ever wanted to do, but he did want to protect her. She grinned at him and nuzzled into him more. Being near him and having contact with him made her feel completely relaxed and at ease, like nothing was missing from her life. “Just think…I’ll be even better once I learn to cook!” Cerise giggled and leaned up to press a small kiss to his cheek. “Just you wait~ I’ll make the most awesome thing and it’ll make you completely forget about the time I set the kitchen on fire!”

Why did she have to be so incredibly perfect? “Cerise…” His heart was floundering, and he didn’t even know what to do with the thoughts in his head. Cerise felt like maybe something was a little…off with him. Maybe it was the stress or something on his mind. She didn’t want to pry…well, she did want to pry, but she decided that since he said he would try to be more open with her, he’d come to her eventually with whatever it was that was bugging him. She’d just have to play the waiting game for a bit.

A portion of him was melting right into her, relaxing to her presence, another was panicking that he couldn’t stay with her, that he would hurt her, and the final portion wanted him to…Vanderwood slid a hand along her cheek, down to hold her chin and kissed her deeply. The warmth of his hand on her cheek and then her chin as she anticipated his kiss spread throughout her entire being, and it made her heart swell with love and adoration for this man. He could have had literally anyone of his choosing, yet here he was kissing her, staying with her.

He’d put behind his old habits, so he could be with her. There was no doubt in her mind that he was still struggling with it somewhat. She imagined how it would be if suddenly her social media was taken away from her. When she thought about it from that perspective…she felt so proud of him. He was doing so well and had gotten so far. Cerise put as much effort into their kiss as he had–she liked to think she was getting the hang of it.

Her lips and her love were what he had needed right now, even though his brain might be saying he needed other things too. Those parts, he was completely ignoring. They would need to talk, but right now, this was what he needed to truly relax, her in his arms, her lips against his. He pulled away slowly, locking eyes with her, his own probably showing some of his desire, desires that would go unfulfilled tonight, but also that unmistakable devotion.  Just that kiss had left her breathless when he pulled away.  As much as she wanted to continue, to go farther, she knew they couldn’t. Judging by the look in his eyes, he felt the same way.

There was something else, too…it made happy to see it. It was such an intense gaze of so many emotions, that she wanted to etch it into her memory forever. She had no doubt that he could easily read her eyes, not only was he trained, but she wasn’t exactly a closed book. Her love, adoration for him, her desire…she was sure that he could see it all. His breath hitched just looking at her, his Cerise. “I’m sure I’ll forget before long…” Cerise couldn’t help but smile at him. “You probably will. Knowing my luck, I’ll probably end up doing something a lot more stupid.”

His heart clenched hard again. “Well…I’ll have to teach you to cook, for sure.” Should he really be planning long-term things with her right now? Vanderwood sighed and kissed the top of her head before moving the ice packs she’d given him around. They really were helping, and she was relaxing him slowly, even with that anxiety still there under the surface. Cerise was amazing like that. “I uh…Cerise…how’s your burn?” It was getting hard not to just blurt out his thoughts as they plagued him. Cerise blinked and brought her hand up to examine it. She flexed her fingers a bit, and while it still hurt, it wasn’t as bad as it initially was. “It’s okay, it doesn’t hurt that bad anymore. I think I’ll live, Dr. Vanderwood, sir!” She joked with a laugh. “How are you doing, though?”

A smile broke the dreary look he’d had on his face. “I like that name…” Her next question had him internally battling with himself again, though, but what was he going to do? Let his anxiety fester? He’d promised to tell her things. “Physically…I’m just really sore…Cerise I….” His chest felt heavy. “I keep hurting you…Even when you’re with me, I can’t keep you safe.” Vanderwood pushed his bangs back, trying to bite down some of the anxiety, so he could get his thoughts out.

“I’m not good for you. It’s dangerous for you to be with me…and I should let you go…” There was so much pressure in his chest; it was unfamiliar to him. Just how much was this supposed to hurt? What would he do without the only happiness in his life? Could he even manage to let her go for her own safety? He wanted to be with her forever, wanted to marry her, grow old together…Maybe they could even start a family…maybe….She was light and life and breath to him now, taking that away, could he even survive it?

Cerise furrowed her brows as she listened to him. Was he…was he really telling her this? She could feel the anger and sadness bubbling up inside of her and tried to push it back down. He was coming to her with his feelings, after all. It wouldn’t do to get angry at him for that. Still, it was hard to manage when these words were leaving his lips so easily. “Don’t you think…that maybe I should have a say in that?” She spoke slowly and concisely. “If I wanted to leave…if I thought that you were a danger to me…I would have left a long time ago. I would have tried to escape.”

Her hands grabbed at the cloth of her skirt, bunching the bottom of the fabric in her fists. She was trying so hard to remain calm, to not cry or go off on him. “I really…I don’t give a damn whether or not you think you’re good for me. That’s my decision to make.” Cerise let out a careful breath, trying to control her breathing. “I want to be with you. Ever since you came into my life, I felt like everything was right. There’s been some missteps along the way, sure, and there’s probably going to be plenty more. Don’t you think…it makes life kind of exciting? Worth living? How boring would it be if nothing ever went wrong?”

She was angry, hurt, and he couldn’t blame her. Vanderwood watched her as he always did, the pain in his chest not helped by the fact that he was hurting her again. But what she was saying to him, it made sense…It really did make sense, but could getting stabbed by a psycho killer really be just called a misstep?  He mulled over how to respond. It was new to him, discussing your feelings, and no wonder he hadn’t done it before, because it was damn difficult and painful.

“You make life worth living.” It was true, he’d just been going through the motions for years. He couldn’t even remember a time that he was truly happy since Caleb’s death, not until he found Cerise. “And I can’t go back to living without you. That is a fact, but it doesn’t make it any easier knowing the way that I’ll hurt you over and over again.” She tried to remain silent as her grip on her skirt loosened. He was finally spilling out his feelings to her, truly opening up. Marion looked troubled, but at least he was letting it out. Cerise couldn’t understand completely how he felt, he had had a much tougher time in life than she had. All she could do was listen and be there for him, but what she did know was that she couldn’t go back to living without him either.

Words started to just spill over, but he let them. “I’ve never been so happy in my life. I haven’t genuinely smiled or laughed in 8 years, and then you….You mean everything to me…I just want to protect you, Cerise…and I want to be with you. Then…seeing you high…knowing I did that…seeing…essentially thinking I was going to be finding your body like I found Caleb’s…I just…I’m panicking.” And there it was, the real reason he would even try to process the thought of leaving her.

Finally, he’d gotten to the actual reason he was freaking out so badly. He was worried that he was going to lose her like he had lost his brother. “Marion…” Her body moved almost automatically to embrace him, holding him while she stroked his hair. “We live, and we learn…That wasn’t your fault. You couldn’t have known. The important thing is that we know now, so it won’t have to happen again…” Cerise held on to him a little tighter, but not tight enough to disturb his injuries. “I promise you, I’m not going anywhere. I’m going to stay right here by your side for as long as you’ll let me.”

She was holding him now, stroking his hair and instinctively he pulled her closer. “I never want to lose you…” The thought of it tore him up inside. How could he have even thought of letting her go? Hell, she wasn’t even going to let him. Vanderwood felt the burning of tears in his eyes again, but he just nuzzled into her hair. “Stay with me. I want you to stay with me.” How had she done that? Twice in one day now she’d taken his pain and made it bearable, gotten him through it rather than letting him pull a band-aid over it and pretend it didn’t exist.

He didn’t even need to ask her to stay with him; even if he pushed her away, she would keep trying. She was stubborn like that. “Yes, always. ” Cerise couldn’t imagine herself being with anyone else, being a serial dater like her friends had been. This was someone she wanted to hold on to and never let go of. She didn’t care how damaged he was, how moody he could be, because she loved all of him, the good and the bad. Cerise knew she had her moments too. She wasn’t exactly the picture of maturity, but he accepted her and loved her anyways. They needed each other, there was no mistake.

“Cerise…” He found her lips with his, skirting the edge of danger somewhat with how needy for her he felt, but she had relaxed him to the point where he thought he could trust himself. The kiss was long, slow, and unmistakably hungry for her affection and presence. Vanderwood felt he was meant to be with her, there was no other explanation for the way she made him feel. Even his kiss told her how much he needed and wanted her by his side. She responded by pouring her feelings into it, her love and affection for him. Cerise kept her arms wrapped gently around him, holding him while they shared their affection for one another.

Marion broke the kiss, looking into her honey colored eyes once again. “Je’taime, Cerise…I don’t think I can be without you.” His soft brown eyes were filled with a kind of reverence, leaving her breathless for the second time. She leaned her forehead against his and smiled. “I know that I can’t be without you, Marion. I’m never going anywhere. Je t’aime aussi. ”

The overwhelming urge to ask her to marry him right now flooded him. No. He was going to wait…He had to wait, but from the way she spoke, Vanderwood somehow knew she would say yes, without a single care for how early it was in their relationship. She would say yes. Now he was a mess in a whole lot of ways. Vanderwood wanted her, to hold her and never let go and to make love to her.

At least it had calmed from the rough and needy desire from earlier, but it was still a hard pill to swallow that that’s what he wanted right now for one and for two that he couldn’t. Vanderwood closed his eyes, enjoying the feeling of her forehead against his. “Good…I won’t go anywhere either…I belong with you.” He wasn’t looking forward to being apart from her for another day, not after what had happened today.

She was extremely happy that he was listening to her, that he wanted to be with her as much as she wanted to be with him. “Good.” Cerise repeated after him. “And I belong with you, ma moitié.” She literally felt like he was her other half, the person written in the stars for her. Cerise closed her eyes, too, just enjoying the feeling of his presence. All her life, she’d heard stories of women who spent forever looking for their one and only, and she was so thankful that, despite the circumstances in which they met, they had just kind of stumbled upon each other. Fate had plans for them both, it seemed. She wouldn’t change any of it for the world.

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