***I had to take my bestie to the doctor’s yesterday, my parents were here last week, and then our server got a little cray cray, so today’s chapter is just a tad late, BUT things should be settling back to normal here soon~ I promise the naughty bits are coming, but you’re gonna have to put up with a bit more angst and fluff first. ;3 ~Let’s Connect! FFC***
*Remember, this is a sequel to Vanderwood Backstory, and Cerise has a bio. Don’t forget to subscribe to the email list for access to R-Rated Scenes and my monthly newsletter. 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*
Her scream was playing in his mind, and he knew that he needed to call Seven to send someone to take care of Drawl, but Cerise was more important right now. He didn’t care about anything else except making sure she was okay. Vanderwood carefully cleaned the acid away, the cauterization of the wound meaning he wouldn’t have to stitch her up. Did her skin feel too hot? It was probably his gloves. Vanderwood pulled them off with a wince. His right hand was fucked up, probably a boxer’s fracture, but whatever. It didn’t matter. Nothing mattered, except her. He stroked her forehead gently after he’d bandaged her wound.
“Cerise…pretty birdy…won’t you wake up for me, please…” Fear and tears and pain were choking him so hard that he couldn’t do much else. “Please…” Who was he really begging? Her or God? Whatever God it was that existed…taking Cerise from him…no…This was definitely his own fault. But Cerise…It didn’t need to go out over Cerise.
She thought she heard someone calling out her name. It was hard to make it out with the pain she was feeling. Cerise slowly opened her eyes, her hands automatically moving to her wound, noticing it was dressed now. Her eyes eventually found him. He was stroking her forehead and…was he crying? Marion looked pretty rough himself. The feelings from what he had said started to rush back to her, and she wanted to cry again. “…You. Why…would you say…” Cerise winced a little as a wave of pain hit her. It hadn’t seemed like a particularly deep cut. “…why would you say those…things?”
She was awake. The relief of that washed over him, but it seemed like she was still in a lot of pain. How could he answer that question? “I didn’t mean them…You’re my one and only, Cerise…but I had to. Drawl is…was insane. He wanted to watch me in pain for you. But I needed him not to be watching me. This…” His hands trailed to the dressing he’d placed on her. “It’s all my fault…I should have remembered the taser, then you wouldn’t have come. I shouldn’t have gotten distracted…and there should have been another way.” His voice broke several times. He didn’t even know himself anymore. For well over a decade, he had trusted in his skills and abilities, the anal-retentive perfectionism that kept him and those around him safe, sticking to his duty and following orders without question because that was his purpose. This time he had failed, and he’d failed the one person who meant the most to him. “I love you, Cerise…” Vanderwood didn’t deserve her. He never had. And why…why was he only realizing that now?
There was no doubt that the man had been insane…that was true. Marion’s reasoning made sense to her, but it didn’t make his words hurt her any less. Of course, she still loved him…that feeling couldn’t go away so suddenly. She was confused, and the pain wasn’t making it any better…plus the room was incredibly hot. It was hard to focus on anything that he was saying. She began to mumble something in French before she closed her eyes again, feeling incredibly tired. Her eyelids felt like lead, and she didn’t feel like fighting it.
Vanderwood furrowed his brows at her as he ceased stroking her forehead and instead felt it with the back of his hand. “Fuck.” She was burning up. Either she was having some sort of reaction to the acid, or it had done just a bit too much damage, and her body was trying to flush it out somehow. Not good. Vanderwood needed to find some way of bringing down the fever…Well…they had a tub in the other room and it was big enough. When fevers were this bad, body temperature needed to be brought down immediately.
Fuck. He pulled off his jacket, shoes and socks, everything else could stay on. She needed to get cooled down and quickly. The bandage would have to be redone afterwards, and he’d need to be careful to make sure that she didn’t start shivering because that would raise her internal temperature. There was a lot to think through and be aware of, but that was his specialty, if only he could keep from failing her now. Emotions and attachment shouldn’t make you lose your skills.
Vanderwood ran the bath, going back to pick up Cerise and take her with him into the tub. He cradled her carefully in the water, but he couldn’t leave her in it alone, so he held her there, praying the fever would break quickly. The water was the right temperature to even out her own, and Vanderwood hummed softly to her, not really sure what else to do. What he was humming, he had no idea, but he just hummed. It seemed like a good thing in the moment. Just as long as she wasn’t overheating anymore. As her outside temperature went down, he was able to un-stopper the tub with his foot. Vanderwood pressed a soft kiss to her forehead. Testing her temperature that way wasn’t reliable, but she did feel much more pleasant to the touch rather than burning.
After a few minutes she opened her eyes again, trying to focus on her surroundings. Someone was humming, and it was really comforting. Was there water…? She remembered she was hot before, but now she felt light, buoyant. The pain was still there, but it seemed that the water was numbing it some. Glancing up she realized that Marion was holding her, and they were in the tub. Had it been because the room was so hot? Nothing made much sense to her, so she didn’t try to think too hard about it. “You’re a jerkwad,” were the words that decided to come out of her mouth, strained and low.
He gave her a pained smile. Could he really blame her? He was a jerkwad…or whatever else she wanted to call him. “I know, shortcake…I know.” Now that she was awake with her fever seemingly under control, he could get them out of this tub. He was careful getting out of the tub with her in his arms, but it was a relatively easy feat for him with as small as she was. “I’m the biggest jerkwad there is.”
Vanderwood grabbed the fluffiest towels on his way out of the bathroom, throwing some over the bed before carefully laying her down and drying her as much as he could. His face was lighting up with color because he’d realized, he needed to get her shirt and skirt off. “I promise I’m not going to do anything inappropriate, but I need to get your clothes off of you.” Vanderwood was careful, he’d done this for Seven all the time when the dumbass got himself injured, but he was like his kid brother. She was different, and he was far more delicate, making sure to wrap the towels around her again quickly so as not to be a creep, save for the bandage on her abdomen which he redressed, peeking at the wound. It looked swollen and angry, worse than his had. He hissed softly at the sight. Cerise was in so much pain, emotionally and physically, and it was all his fault.
Cerise was in too much pain to really care what he was doing, not really aware of any of it or listening. As much as what he said had hurt her, she understood why he had said it and trusted him to do what was needed to help her feel better. He had said before that he was going to take care of her, and she was going to hold him to it. She would jump and wince every time he was around the wound, the dumb thing hurt so badly, but other than that she was in her own head. Is this what it had felt like for him? He had even helped her escape after Drawl had cut him…and here she was making a big deal out of it.
Though, she did suppose that his body had built up some sort of tolerance for this type of thing, all the scars and marks on his body. She had never been in any situations even close to that before now. It was taking some time, but now she was starting to come a little more into her own as she felt him tuck her in with some more towels and blankets. “Thanks for this…” She looked up at him now, able to keep her eyes open better this time. “Y’know…you’re…a big jerkwad but…” Cerise managed to reach out her hand to touch his arm, grinning weakly. “you’re…my big jerkwad.”
When he heard her voice again, he immediately searched her eyes with his. She was starting to be able to hold her eyes open better, it seemed, and that was a very good sign. He laid his hand over hers on his arm, snorting softly at her comment. Why did he feel like crying again? This time it was probably relief. He brought her hand to his mouth, kissing her knuckles gently, catching a glimpse of the bruising on his own. “What an honor.”
Vanderwood grabbed some bandages for himself, now that she seemed out of the worst of it. He wrapped up his hand tightly as he grit his teeth. Yup, definitely a boxer’s fracture. Now he only had a few other loose ends and his focus could be back on her where it belonged. Vanderwood sent Seven a text with his other hand, fumbling a little since his left hand wasn’t his dominant hand, but the other wasn’t in the mood for texting. Then he got up to grab some clothes to change, feeling that stiffness again from stress, that he tried to ignore.
Cerise had watched him moving around, taking in what information she could despite how tired she felt. Marion seemed to be injured somewhat too, and was doing something with his phone before slipping away. For just a split second, her mind tried to convince her that he was abandoning her or wore, but he wouldn’t have gone to all of the trouble to dress her wound and tuck her in if that was the case.
He’d returned now, moving to lay next to her and pulling her into his arms, careful to avoid the wound, although it still caused her to bite her lip. “Je t’aime, Cerise…Your big jerkwad loves you.” Despite the pain any type of movement brought her, she much preferred being in his arms. “Je t’aime aussi…Marion.” Vanderwood’s heart clenched, although not as much with pain. He loved the way she said his name…loved that she even said his name. It was almost hard to believe that was his name anymore, considering that everyone called him Vanderwood, but hearing her say it felt right. She felt right…so good in his arms. His body was tense, but relaxing. There was just his clothes and a layer of towels and blankets between them, but for once in his life his mind was clean of dirty thoughts.
Cerise tried to push the words he had said to the back of her mind as he was holding her in silence. If he didn’t care, he wouldn’t have gone this far for her. He had had every opportunity to take advantage of her had he chosen to, but he didn’t. Marion was careful and gentle with her, respected her. He had to care, his words now were the true ones. Another wave of pain hit her, causing her to whimper. Maybe she would try to go to sleep…at least that way she didn’t have to deal with it again until she woke up. She snuggled into him to the best of her ability and closed her eyes. Cerise wasn’t sleepy, she was just physically tired. It shouldn’t be too hard for her to ease herself into the world of dreams. Marion had nuzzled into her hair gently, clearly catching on to what she was doing. “Sleep tight, shortcake.”
Cerise didn’t know how long she had been asleep for. She instinctively went to grab for her phone, but quickly realized that she hadn’t been sleeping alone, nor was she in any position to grab for her phone. It was across the room. Her mind didn’t feel cloudy anymore, but her abdomen still hurt pretty badly. Cerise spotted her phone charging on the desk in the room, blinking indicating that she had things she needed to be attending to. It had been a while since she updated her status, and now that she was awake, she needed some distraction from what had happened the day before.
She tried to somehow wiggle out of his arms, but it was proving difficult. Every move she made hurt like Hell. After some careful struggling as Marion grumbled a little before his eyes flew open. She’d managed to gracefully tumble off the side of the bed, letting out a yelp as she hit the floor. The wound was starting to hurt like it did before, so she curled up a little, trying not to cry. Cerise wasn’t even going to attempt to get up now. All she had wanted was her stupid phone, not have a fateful encounter with the floor while she had a gash in her belly.
Vanderwood had been waking up slowly thanks to her wiggling in his arms, surprised that he had actually managed to fall asleep. His hand throbbed a little as he worked through what had happened before the fall and subsequent yelp of his girlfriend. He was out of bed quickly, bending to help her, his hand on her back as the other found her own hand. “You alright, shortcake?” And then he realized he was touching her bare back, his face turning red as he looked her over and realized that, yup the towels were off her.
Cerise felt her cut throbbing, even when she wasn’t moving it hurt. There was no winning with that stupid cut. Marion had coughed and looked away, causing her to furrow her brows before he was slipping his arm around her and under her arms to lift her up onto the bed again. That was when she realized that her towels were off of her, and she was sitting in her bra and panties while he was staring at the ceiling. “I’m going to grab you some clothes…What were you trying to get to?” Jesus, Vanderwood felt red in the face as he quickly handed her a towel to cover up again for the time being.
It was a good thing for Cerise that Marion probably couldn’t tell she was flushed, considering the small fever she was sure she still had. “…My phone.” She answered with her head down, pulling the covers to her to hide the exposed parts of herself that the towel he’d handed her didn’t cover. She would have just slid under the covers, but the amount of moving required to do that would not be fun with the bastard cut on her stomach. Cerise couldn’t even be properly embarrassed because of it!
Vanderwood wasn’t really surprised by her answer. Of course, it was her phone. He grabbed it before looking for something for her to wear, so she could use it while he searched, although Cerise just ended up catching a glance at his wrapped hand. Marion must have hurt himself during that encounter with Drawl. She remembered noticing it before when she was out of it too. For once Cerise wasn’t worried about her phone, she put it down beside her without checking it, waiting for him to return.
He’d decided that her clothes would probably rub against the cut too much, and it didn’t need to be further irritated. Vanderwood grabbed a shirt of his, it would be really fucking big…and the idea of her wearing something of his was kinda…Just get her the clothes, you idiot. “This should do it for now.” He snorted at himself before handing her the shirt.
Cerise had been ready to grab his hand to check on him, but he had just as quickly offered her his shirt. She nodded and slipped it over her head, pulling the rest of her hair through the neck opening. To say it was huge on her was an understatement…it practically swallowed her up. Vanderwood noted that she’d placed her phone next to her and wasn’t checking it. Her phone always seemed to have a ton of notifications, but he didn’t check them; it wasn’t his business. It was blinking pretty erratically, though, so he pointed at it. “Looks like I’m not the only one who wants your attention.” That sounded a bit cheesy…Why was he always cheesy?
She took this opportunity now that he was holding out his hand to grab his wrist and actually look at the bandages. “You hurt yourself…Are you okay?” His first instinct was naturally to tense and prepare to attack, but she was just…checking on him. Vanderwood’s face lit up with color and he rubbed the back of his neck with his other hand. “It’s nothing…just a boxer’s fracture. I kinda…broke my hand on Drawl’s face.” God, having someone actually give a shit about your injuries was a little embarrassing, not that Seven ignored him, but he certainly didn’t react with the level of care that Cerise did.
“Don’t worry about it…It’s fine, see.” He clenched and unclenched his fist, but it had the opposite effect than he’d hoped for as he winced at the pain. Okay, so it hurt to move it around too much. “Really…it just hurts a tiny bit.” Cerise raised an eyebrow at his wincing in pain. “Look at you, trying to act all tough…” She nuzzled his hand gently and kissed it. Cerise was most certainly going to worry about it; she cared about him, and he had hurt himself…but she was happy that he had punched Drawl to that degree. The creeper deserved it. She shuddered at the memory of that man’s touch, it was all sorts of gross, and she was glad he was gone. There was no telling how many people he had taken advantage of or murdered. Drawl was where he deserved to be.
Vanderwood bit at his tongue, his heart fluttering at her gentle ministrations. “I am tough…for the most part.” He was quickly realizing that he really wasn’t tough at all, at least when it came to her. Vanderwood bent to kiss her forehead gently. “I need to check your bandages…” Last time he’d looked, it had looked pretty bad. “Okay.” Cerise laid back and straightened herself out the best she could, so he could check her bandages, wincing as she moved. This was not fun, and she had no idea how he handled getting injured all the time. She watched him from where she was as he spoke to her.
“The quicker I can get you healed up, the quicker you can go back to normal life…although…” Vanderwood had been thinking about it already, but if he was going to keep her safe, he was going to need to leave the agency. He was too close to her now, and undoubtedly someone would know that he had kept her with him this entire time, figuring that she would know too much. “You’re going to need to stay with me for a little bit while I tie up some loose ends. Gotta get myself out of this job.”
Cerise had no qualms about staying with him, but she wanted him to be a part of her ‘normal life’ too. If he was just talking about this thing with Drawl, that meant their time together was coming to an end. He was her boyfriend now, though, said that he loved her, and she believed him. That had to mean he was going to quit the agency altogether, right? “Job?” She asked him curiously, “The creepy stabby man thing or…the secret agent thing?”
He chuckled a little at her question, of course she’d want the full story from him. “Creepy stabby man is dead…I’m going to find a way to leave the agency, then you can be safer being around me.” He carefully moved his shirt up her body to get to the bandage, blushing furiously the entire time. If he focused too much on how much of her body he could see right now, he’d just explode.
Cerise had gotten out her phone to mess with while he was working on her wound as a distraction, but now began to realize the situation they were in as he moved his shirt up her body. He could totally see her underwear. She didn’t have a lot of time to be embarrassed, though because of the pain she was still in. She could stew about it later, but right now she just wanted to make sure that the wound she was given was healing correctly. Marion seemed to have had enough of them to know what he was doing. His face was completely red despite how focused he looked, and she couldn’t help but to think his blushing was adorable. Since he was focused on treating her, she silently snapped a picture and tagged it #blushyvandy putting the phone back down at her side as his ministrations were starting to make it difficult to focus even on that.
Vanderwood nimbly removed the old bandage. The wound was looking angry, but most of the swelling was down. She was still clearly hurting the way she reacted as he’d touched the skin of the surrounding area, so hopefully some numbing cream would help. “This might hurt a bit, but I promise it’ll feel a little better afterwards.” His focus was too much on her and not thinking about her in her underwear for him to have noticed the picture she’d taken.
He found the cream in his bag before gently rubbing it over the wound, trying not to apply too much pressure. Cerise had instinctively tried to shy away from the touch to her wound and winced when he rubbed the cream over it, but Marion was doing his best. Then he rebandaged it and pulled the shirt back down, relieved to not have the view of her panties anymore. “Better?” Cerise scrunched her eyes closed and focused on breathing while she waited for the burning to stop until it ended up hurting less than it had before the cream.
Marion seemed to be waiting for her response, and now she was relaxing, really feeling how much cooler and less irritated her wound was. “It…actually is. Thank you~” She grinned and pulled out her phone, showing him the picture she took. “You’re really cute when you blush like that.” Vanderwood loved that sing-song tone of hers that she was using, even if he wasn’t a big fan of what she’d apparently been doing while he was taking care of her. “You’re taking pictures of me again.” He said it before sitting down and actually taking a look at it, and he had to admit he kind of liked the way she wanted his picture and her comment just made that worse. “I’m not cute…” He was muttering, not wanting to make this any worse for himself than it already was.
Cerise felt a comment bubbling up and started to mentally scream at herself to keep her filter under lock and key. No. Nononono. Don’t you dare. “You weren’t thinking anything improper, were you~?” Cerise YES. She had obviously lost this internal conflict. Again. Vanderwood choked on his own air. “I…I wasn’t…trying to…I…just…” Brain glitch, words weren’t working. Damn it… Once he was reacting, her own fluster at her weird brand of flirting faded some, and she could enjoy the way he was losing himself. No matter how much he said he wasn’t, she thought that he most definitely was cute, especially right now.
Vanderwood just laid down next to her, ending up with his face buried in her hair. “Nothing…I wasn’t thinking anything…except for how beautiful you are…” His face was only getting redder as he couldn’t control his tongue “…and sexy…” He just kept hiding herself in among her hair, feeling a bit like a child, but at this point it was too late to go back anyway. “I swear I won’t touch you…unless you want me to.” Oh good, something sensible could come out of his mouth. Well, partially sensible.
When he’d buried his face into her hair, her hand moved automatically to stroke his hair as she laughed a little…until his next comment. It was her turn to completely flush red this time. She’d gotten beautiful before…but hardly ever sexy. Blushing furiously, she grabbed for her phone at her side while he continued to hide and talk and carefully took a selfie with one hand. She examined it quickly to see the picture of herself as a blushing mess as he was still snuggled and hiding in her hair before poking at him with her phone. “Here…if this makes you feel any better…”
The poke had him coming out of hiding from her hair, and he took the phone to look at the picture. She looked so incredibly perfect…both of them blushing like maniacs as he snuggled up. Vanderwood was quiet for a moment; he hated pictures, but not this one. “Send me that.” He realized it had come out as a command and coughed softly before trying again. “Please send me that…It’s perfect, I love it.” Vanderwood snuggled right back into her. “And I love you.” She was going to take some time to recover before he could take her home, quit the agency, start a new life, but he had a feeling that there were good things on the horizon.
It wasn’t going to be easy, in fact, maybe they would always be in a bit of trouble. Vanderwood tended to be pessimistic, angry, cold…but she’d warmed him to his core. He wasn’t sex obsessed and grabbing any opportunity to fuck anymore, and that was all thanks to falling in love with her. Cerise probably deserved better than him, really…but he wasn’t about to give her up.
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