fallen angels — chapter 3.19: inferno

warning: coarse language, mild sexual references, and themes of death, violence, + self harm. i recommend reading this chapter in my blog, not reader, for the best quality. 


The winter is strangely tender tonight, coaxing the city back into glittering life under a intoxicating sheen of rain. Date night, for Luc and I, when we are free to explore the heart of Bridgeport together, shimmering with neon and breathless laughter and wicked smoke of a city in feverish half-sleep. Not my scene, I suppose, but there is a temptation in wandering through the dizzying lights, walking the edge of losing myself in the drunken tide that pulls so many others under, just anchored by the weight of Luc’s hand. It must be almost midnight when we leave the cinema — a romantic comedy this time — and stumble happily into a late night diner, sliding into an empty booth. Cracked linoleum, burger grease, an echo of a time gone. The diner itself is quiet, save for the crackling of popcorn and neon signs, the latter of which douses the place in red and blue.

I hum over the menu before ordering a strawberry milkshake and fries, while Luc asks for a glass of water. “Don’t you want any food? You didn’t eat anything for dinner.” I tip my head at him curiously, but Luc just raises an eyebrow. “I’m surprised you noticed.” “Or lunch. Are you okay?” “I’m fine, Cherry. Just not hungry.” He shrugs, a careless jerk of his shoulders. The order arrives before long, and I smile at the cherry and pocky sticks on the milkshake. “Look, it’s a cat!” I turn the glass towards my boyfriend, who doesn’t respond. His gaze is turned away from me, watching the rain drip down the glass. Spacing out again. I can tell he is pulling at his sleeves, steadily fraying the hems; an odd habit that has been confusing me for the past couple weeks. “Luc.” “Hm? Oh, cute.” He gives me a faint smile. I have learned to predict Luc’s tempers over time, like the tides, but this is new. Not his sharp-tongued arrogance, or mellow kindness, but something else entirely, a quiet that barely flickers with life.

Ever since Ebony had stumbled across us — if a woman like her could stumble — under the fairy-light trees, Luc has been different. His presence not quite here. As if… he is pulling away from me, slowly, subtly. This thought flits anxiously around my head, and no matter how many times I try to reassure myself, that he still kisses me with that same love, I can’t help but worry. For myself, yes, but mostly for him; now, as I nibble on fries, Luc doesn’t spark the flow of conversation that used to be so easy for us. There are shadows underneath his eyes. “You look exhausted,” I point out in concern. “I told you I’m fine,” Luc suddenly snaps, and I blink in surprise, the rough edge of his words startling when I have gotten used to his soft-spoken sweetness. The last time he spoke to me this harshly feels like ages ago, but I can remember the cigarette and tense muscles and me sleepily thinking something was wrong. Regret flashes across Luc’s face a moment later. “I’m sorry.”

“It’s okay,” I say quietly. “No, it’s not. Sorry. I’ve been so out of it.” He takes my hand after that, his thumb softly tracing my knuckles, and focuses his attention back on me with a smile. The rain has eased to a whisper once I finish the fries, with the begrudging help of Luc, and we finally begin our walk back home. This district is a sort of artsy gathering of shops which come alive at night, tattoo parlours and music stores and stranger things, casting a electrifying cocktail of colours. I think the tattoo shop Raphael works is along this lane, and I smile to myself, suspecting where the inspiration for his dyed hair comes from. I almost don’t notice the familiar tall figure sweeping past me. “Oh, James! Hi…” I trail off when Lilith’s boyfriend passes by me in silence, just with the swish of his black coat. Perhaps he didn’t notice.

***

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small hiatus.

Just a quick note to say that I won’t be posting anything until around November 12 (so like a month… not a long break for my story haha), and I may not be commenting on your stories as well. I’m going to be very busy with end of year portfolios and exams, you know the drill lmao. Here’s a random picture for now. This is Kiara, the last toddler I made (in 2016, hence the low af quality) — I lost her file but she makes me excited for the time I can begin to create the Gen 4 kids!

fallen angels — chapter 3.18: burn

warning: this chapter includes coarse language, mild sexual references, themes of domestic abuse, self harm + suicide. please do not continue reading if these topics may trigger or offend you. disclaimer, these topics may not be written in an entirely realistic light, but i do try to write them fairly accurately. i recommend reading this chapter on my blog, not reader, for the best quality. 


3½ YEARS AGO

LUC

The penthouse was oddly quiet when Luc hurried in, anxiously clutching a box of chocolates. The worry in his chest tightened as he carefully opened the lounge door, steeling himself for Ebony’s questions — to his shock, however, when he slipped into the room, his girlfriend turned around with a smile and leaped up to meet him. She threw her arms around his neck, crushing her lips against his, and a moment too late he reacted with a stiff embrace. “Why…” His question trailed off. Luc had meant to ask why are you so happy to see me? but he’d bit down on his tongue, not wanting to tear this surprising bloom of affection. Ebony’s hands ran down his shoulders, smooth as satin, and she wound her fingers around his wrist, taking the chocolate box from his grasp. “Come sit down with us, Luc.” She pulled him along and he followed without question, keeping his confusion to himself. He had a good look at the gathering in the lounge; Lilith and Raphael were sitting together on the knit ottoman, and Gabriel on the sofa, hands clasped and talking happily with his girlfriend, Maria, who had arrived at the penthouse a week ago.

Maria was hyperactive; after a couple days of fearful quiet and shyly sticking to Gabriel, she had opened up, like a flower in springtime. Lilith tucked the younger girl under her wing immediately, patiently explaining her cooking as Maria flitted excitedly around her. For a rich girl, she fell into the messy rhythm of the penthouse easily. A change of clothes helped — Lilith’s drab, unfussy style was quite the leap from the opulent silk and skirts of high society, but Maria liked the borrowed sweaters and leggings, delightfully commenting on how easy to move in they were. Other than her elaborately braided updo and her fine way of speaking, she looked right at home on the sofa, comfortably leaning against Gabriel. Every once in a while, the couple would bump shoulders and smile at each other, exchanging a silent message. They both turned to say hi when Ebony pulled Luc onto the sofa, and he awkwardly leaned against the squishy arm as his girlfriend slit open the chocolate box. “Would you like one?” Ebony sweetly offered the box to Maria, who brightened and picked a hazelnut praline. “Oh, thank you!” No one batted an eye at the kind gesture, but Luc drew in a shocked breath.

Ebony was full of secrets and surprises, and one of them was that she got along so well with his family. Lilith, for all her stern coldness and mistrust, befriended her quite easily; often, the two girls sat together and whispered and talked and laughed, with the recent inclusion of Maria. Gabriel seemed to like Ebony, too, and even Raphael was okay with her. It was not uncommon for Luc to arrive home from work, bones aching from exhaustion, and find his girlfriend in the midst of a lively conversation, her honey-gleam eyes warm and soft. Like always, Luc quietly sat on the edge of the conversation, the words flickering in and out of focus. He could barely hear what they were saying, and his gaze drifted away in a tide of weariness. He was tired, of dealing with Ebony’s venomous bite, of never being good enough. He was ashamed of that tempestuous, stormy night he had first met Ebony; the night she had first kissed him, tempting him into a shadowed bedroom, the thundering rain drowning out his poison-hazed thoughts on why he was letting a stranger unbuckle his belt, pull him onto the bed. He regretted offering the penthouse when she had complained about not having a place to stay. And now, Luc felt guilty — hearing how kindly she spoke, how everyone loved her, and he wondered if he had just been misreading how she acted towards him.

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fallen angels — chapter 3.17: sear

warning: coarse language and moderate sexual references (nothing major, you know me). i recommend reading this chapter in my blog, not reader, for the best quality. this super long chapter is dedicated to pi and all you hopeless romantics ❤ 


The Torres penthouse is full of secrets. One of them is a library, a hidden nook I stumbled across just a week ago. Perhaps it is more storage room than library, for there are just mismatched piles of books crowding the floor, gilded leather pressed — like dried flowers — by glossy volumes. It is quiet and peaceful; from the windows, I like watching October dance sleepily through the city, in a sweet dazed lull, picking out golden threads from the sun and weaving them into trees, gathering the season’s last apples and acorns. It is a hideaway to write music, for me to tuck my legs underneath me and hum, carefree, as my pen glides across the paper. Often, I discover myself inking the melody of fall instead; fiery, rustling leaves, maple and oak and chestnut.

I am alone in this library, spending quiet mornings in the embrace of sunlight. Lilith sometimes whisks through to say hi and dust off a recipe book; Luc pops in with coffee and kisses before he presses into the cold. So I am surprised when my boyfriend arrives today with Starbucks, despite being off work. “Morning.” He kisses my cheek, and carefully places a beautiful coffee cup beside my sketchbook. “Good morning. Ooh, thank you!” I perk up when he gives me waffles, coated in silky white chocolate. “You need to let me pay you back,” I say after nibbling at one, “I must owe you about one hundred by now.” Luc settles on the window seat, clasps his hands, and smiles gently. “You don’t owe me anything.” “Okay, Mr. Gentleman, but I have the money here.” I fish the notes out of my pocket, and my boyfriend tips his head. “I’m not going to take it. Don’t even bother trying.” At his calm reply, I huff and reach for the coffee; it is black with caramel syrup and cream, my favourite.

I notice that Luc’s gaze is drifting over the books. “Do you know who all these books belong to?” I ask curiously. “Some of them are Lilith’s, but most of them are mine.” “Really?” I blink up at him. “You sound so surprised.” Luc raises an eyebrow, and my cheeks redden. “Oh! I’m sorry, I didn’t-” “It’s alright.” He gives me a small smile. “I know I act like a dumbass most of the time.” “No, you don’t. At least not anymore,” I remember, and both of us wince. “God, I was such a dick.” Luc groans. “Yep,” I agree with a laugh. The idea of Luc reading is rather odd, but then I remember something, and I fetch the black case that I discovered last morning. “So, I found these.” I open the little case and show him the glasses. “Are they also yours?” “Um… yeah.” Luc looks down at his hands. When I pop up, unfolding the slim frame, his gaze darts up and he shakes his head. “No.” “I want to see you with them on,” I beg, and he bats halfheartedly at me, leaning away. “No- Cherry, don’t-” He groans when I manage to slide the glasses onto his face. There is embarrassment in that pretty green gaze of his. “I look stupid.” “On the contrary, you look smart.” “That’s not what I meant,” Luc grumbles. “Well, I think you look adorable,” I smile. He ducks his head in reply, pulling off the glasses and cleaning them on his sweater, murmuring something about his eyes getting worse. For all his past arrogance, my boyfriend gets awfully flustered when I compliment him.

Once the glasses are tucked away, Luc pulls me onto the sofa, much to my indignation, and we tussle for a moment before he gathers me in his lap. He bends his head to kiss me gently — it always surprises me, how softly and sweetly he can kiss. No longer forceful and rough-lipped, no hard pressure behind his kisses. “You know, for the longest time, I thought you were the bad boy type,” I suddenly wonder, when he pulls away. “Mm?” Luc cocks an eyebrow, his fingers cheekily sliding under my waistband, and I feel my body warm up at his touch. “Let me continue,” I chide him, blushing furiously. He nods and his hand comes to rest on my hip instead. “I thought you were an asshole who learned to be nice,” I muse, “but now… I think you’re a nice person who is learning to be himself again.” There is a long silence. “Do you really think that?” Luc asks slowly. I poke him in the chest, teasing. “Yep, I think you’re a sweet fluffy marshmallow inside.” I smile up at him, knowing exactly what reaction he will give — a scrunched up nose, the adorable little sign that means he is embarrassed. He is silent after that, and so I snuggle into him, resting my head in the crook of his arm. This easy flow of wild-running conversations and quiet cuddling is a balance we both like. Luc is surprisingly content with just spending time together; he is happy to simply be in my presence. And to think I assumed that all he wanted to do was sleep with me.

My boyfriend has been waiting for me to get comfortable, with gentle hands and patient eyes. He stopped pushing that night he noticed my fear; instead, he spends hours finding the most sensitive, sweet spots on me that he can kiss, leaving tiny bruises for me to discover the next morning; and I explore the muscles in his back and torso, mapping out the scars that cross them, until I know every inch of his skin. And now, I am blissful, knowing I am safe in his arms. “Tonight,” I whisper. Confusion flickers in Luc’s eyes before clicking into understanding. “Are you sure?” He asks softly. I nod and when he kisses me, smoky with passion, I feel him smile against my lips. I am happy to stay in his embrace until I remember something and shoot up, bumping my forehead against Luc’s. “Sorry! What’s the time?” I glance around frantically and he laughs, sliding his phone out of his pocket. “11:35.” “Crap! I’m meeting up with my cousin at 12.” I lean down to kiss my boyfriend, lingering for a moment too brief. “Have fun.” Luc waves me off with that cute, lopsided grin, and when I leave, he is picking up a book.

***

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fallen angels — chapter 3.16: scorch

warning: this chapter includes coarse language, mild sexual references, themes of crime and domestic abuse. please do not continue reading if these topics may trigger or offend you. it is recommended you read this chapter in my blog, not reader, for the best quality. 


3 ½ YEARS AGO

***

LUC

Pancakes, Luc decided, were much harder than they looked. How Lilith effortlessly flipped and fluffed the pancakes escaped him; the heavy iron skillet was temperamental and liked to burn anything that it touched. He carefully spooned the batter into the sizzling pan, trying his best to spread the batter in a perfect circle. The pancakes roughed up at the edges, but when Luc arranged the apple pancakes on a plate, they were soft and golden, and a tiny flower of pride bloomed in his chest. “Good morning.” He looked over his shoulder to smile at Ebony, who had just padded into the kitchen — she looked beautiful, like always, even in a baggy hoodie and messy hair tucked into a beanie. While he drizzled the pancakes with maple syrup and fall-market blackberries, she perched on a barstool, scrolling through her phone. “Here, I didn’t burn them this time.” Luc slid the pancakes to Ebony. “Wow. Congratulations.” Sarcasm dripped from her words like honey, and he felt his pride wilt. Her sarcasm was a different brand to Raphael’s — while the latter’s washed over in a bored, harmless wave, Ebony’s stung, her coy smile hiding a sharp thorn. Luc tried to ignore the prickle of hurt, and as he poured coffee into two cups and sat beside his girlfriend, he silently chided himself for being too sensitive.

Luc sipped his coffee as Ebony shifted between bites of pancake and typing on her phone. There was something he wanted to ask, but every time he opened his mouth, the words faltered and he swallowed them, trying to figure out what to say. He drummed his fingers on his knee, anxious. For the thousandth time, he cursed his awkwardness, something he had discovered in the month of his first relationship, and something Lilith and Gabriel never inherited. It was off-putting, realising he had no idea how dating worked, but he tried his best to do what Ebony liked — she was the one who initiated their relationship, after all. “Hey, so… I’m off work today, and I was wondering if you want to stay in and watch a movie?” There was quiet before Ebony sighed deeply. “I’ve already made plans.” “Um, that’s okay.” He raised the coffee cup to his lips, for the sake of something to do in the stretched silence, but discovered it empty and hurried off to wash it. Questions bubbled up in his throat as the soapy water warmed his hands. “Who are you going out with?” Luc asked, once he returned to the stool. “Why are you asking?” Her brows pointed in annoyance. “I’m just curious.” “I’m going out with my friends, if you can understand that concept.” Ebony said slowly, and he felt his cheeks burn. “Maybe… I could meet your friends some time.” “They wouldn’t like you.” “Oh. Right.” Luc glanced down at his clasped hands, where the sleeves of his hoodie were frayed from pulling at the edges. He only looked up when Ebony curled her fingers around the back of his neck, and leaned in to give him a brief kiss. “See you tonight.” She ran her hand over his shoulder as she left, and Luc smiled softly. “Have a good day.”

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fallen angels — chapter 3.15: flame

warning: coarse language. i recommend reading this chapter in my blog, not reader, for the best quality. 


The evening is sweet, whispering of cinnamon and apples and falling leaves. It is that soft, dreamy hour, where the sunlight is caught halfway between the lustrous day and sleepy night. Today, I am visiting a Sunday farmer’s market with Luc and Lilith. The market is in a quiet country town, just a half hour drive from Bridgeport — it is hard to think of the smoking city and gritty harbours when I’m standing here, amongst the rolling hills and gentle pastures and leafy trees.

Lilith scatters herself through the market — much like the leaves skipping over the pavement — gathering warm loaves of bread and freshly picked vegetables. The smart click of her heels and the nip of her black coat stand out sharply, against the lazy ebb and flow of the crowd, but she looks right at home as she muses over apples and late-season strawberries. I am happy to just wander along in her wake. Luc matches my steps, his hand squeezing mine whenever I point out something in excitement. Pumpkins, delicately painted with gold and amber leaves; tiny glass jars of honey, bow-tied with ribbons; cranberries and pomegranates, burnished in the dusky light; and sprigs of fragrant herbs — bouquet garnis, as Lilith notes.

As Lilith darts along the maple leaf path, Luc and I take our time. There isn’t just farm produce, but little things like homemade dog treats and knitted scarves. One stall catches my eye — the cutest little animal plushes, hand-crafted with felt, I think. “Aren’t these adorable?” I lean down to look at them, and while my boyfriend doesn’t answer, I see him smile. I pick out a dog with a red scarf, and Luc fishes out his wallet. “I’m paying you later,” I tell him. “Nope.” The corner of his mouth lifts as he tucks the wallet back into his pocket. There is no point arguing with him. As we resume wandering, I cradle the tiny dog in my palm. “I’m going to name her Pumpkin.” At my declaration, Luc raises an eyebrow, amused. “You’re naming it?” “Is that weird?” I say defensively. He shakes his head, although the twitch of his lips says otherwise. “You’re so damn innocent.” “I am not.” I poke him in the ribs, indignantly. Luc just smiles and briefly presses his lips against my forehead.

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rambling — cc creation.

Hello! As I mentioned in a previous post, I decided to learn how to create cc. Well, I have successfully made my first object, and a few people were curious to see how I go, so I’m sharing what I did and my thoughts on the learning process! You can skip reading if you have zero interest in cc creation, but if you are thinking of it, this may be helpful to preview and understand the basic process 😀


To begin learning from scratch, I followed Orangemitten’s Start-to-Finish Object Tutorial. This walks you through the process of creating a simple end table, which means you learn all the basics + terminology of cc creation along the way. It’s very thorough and helpful, although it does have small issues: it’s old, which means I had to figure out how to do things on newer (changed) tools, and there’s a few typos/errors, though I could work around them using common sense. Also, there was the issue of me being an idiot. Time and effort could have been saved if I just read the steps properly, because I somehow missed out on installing a few things, which caused me much confusion later on. If you are careful to follow the instructions, however, the process is quite straightforward — you just need to be patient, because for this one small table it took 5-6 hours (of course it will take much less time in the future).

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rambling — picture tutorial.

note: please read this post in my blog, not reader, as the galleries do not show up properly. 


Hello, friends! Here is the promised tutorial for how I take my screenshots.

The way this tutorial is set out will sorta be in a ‘bad and good examples’ manner, based on how I used to take pictures compared to now. However, this tutorial is purely my opinion for what makes a nice picture — my ideas will probably change in later generations —  and this a creative process, so there is no true right or wrong. The things I say are ‘bad’ only refer to my pictures, not anyone else’s! My intention is not to say my way of taking pictures is right, because it really isn’t, and I hope I don’t sound patronising. This is just a collection of personal tips. Also, since most people don’t use ReShade, I will include pictures without the software in the examples, so you can see my game without ‘makeup’ for the first time in a while 😀 You can click on the galleries to expand if you want to examine the pictures more closely.


COMPOSITION

I’m an amateur photographer so don’t take my tips too seriously. Here’s a great photography article that covers every composition technique I use, and probably explains them way better. Remember, though, that sometimes purposefully breaking the rules can achieve striking images. Composition is the most crucial element in taking a picture, so here are my key tips:

  • Eye Level 

I always try to keep the camera at a level that a person could take photos from. That means eye level for portraits, and generally for story pictures as well — I never go above eye level unless I absolutely need to. Aligning the camera to look straight into the characters’ eyes is my top technique to inject humanism into them. Here’s a cinematographic theory I learned in English: high angle (above eye level) makes the character look small/weak and the viewer feel like a ‘god’. That’s basically what Sims is, so I tend to avoid this shot because it makes the pictures look obviously from a game, although there are times that high angle is effective. The low angle shot (below eye level) makes the character look big/powerful, which is great for evil characters.

 

  • Balance

The way I balance pictures is how ’empty’ and ‘full’ areas are distributed inside the frame, the ‘full’ usually being the people and light sources. I always aspire to achieve a sense of symmetry. If there is only one person, I either put them smack bang in the centre or angle the camera so the person is to one side and a distinct background feature is on the other side. If there are any bright light sources (like lamps) I try to balance them out in the same way. In this example, Lilith is the focal point, with the distinct background features being Raphael and the bright green plant. Currently, both features are to one side of Lilith, with Raphael being mostly cut off. To balance this out, I move the camera so there is one feature on each side and both aren’t cut off (+ down to eye level). Now the ’empty’ and ‘full’ areas are evenly distributed.

 

  • Rule of Thirds 

The Rule of Thirds is a fundamental aspect of balance. For me, balancing your pictures is simply a natural instinct you gain with time, but the Rule of Thirds is a good point to start. Essentially, you imagine a 3×3 grid and align focal features to the lines and intersections. With the same example for balance, we can see Lilith’s eyes and Raphael are located on lines (the plant maybe should have been taller).

 


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tag — genderbend challenge.

gbenfinal (1)The wonderful Amy tagged me in her genderbend challenge! Quick note, I haven’t changed anything except for hairstyle, makeup and clothes.


Luc

Yeah… his features are definitely more suited for males. *wince*

Raphael

Also meh. I was kinda expecting him to turn into a hip, cool looking girl but she turned out looking rather awkward haha.

Michel

Now this one I like! It makes sense because Michel has the most feminine features of the lot. I think I actually like his girl version better (+ I love the outfit and hairstyle, so I will be using that for Maria next chapter).


I have missed out on Cherry, Lilith and Gabriel because when I changed their genders, it was horrifying. I jumped right out of CAS but my eyes are still forever scarred. However, I did do something quite exciting to make up for it!

As you can see, this simmie looks a lot like Luc’s girl version. Now I’m going to release a big spoiler here because I was way too excited when I played around with his genderbend and came up with this girl (lets call her E). She is actually a WIP of the Generation 4 heir! And NO, she’s not Luc’s kid lmao, even if my version looks more like what his genderbend should look like, smh game. Anyway, E ended up more accurate than I expected to what she is supposed to look like (I based her on Jessica Lee Buchanan). I’m definitely going to tweak her before I get started on her story, but this is a pretty close representation of her. Here’s a picture of E in CAS:

I love her 😀 She’s very different from delicate little Cherry, and I’m very excited for her story, also to make the other seven Gen 4 kids (not all Cherry’s of course) but first I need to get through Gen 3. So see you next year, E 😛

Thanks again Amy for tagging me ❤ I had so much fun doing it. If anyone wants to try out this challenge too, go for it!

fallen angels — chapter 3.14: singe

warning: this chapter includes coarse language, mild sexual references, themes of violence, drugs, and crime. please do not continue reading if these topics may trigger or offend you. it is recommended you read this in my blog, not reader, for the correct layout. this chapter is set four years after the previous flashback. 


4 YEARS AGO

A storm was brewing over Bridgeport, the weather forecast had said. It was predicted to arrive with the night; in the late hours of the afternoon, however, cold rain simply fell from the grey winter sky, drumming a steady beat against the windows of Evangeline’s new self defence gym. She had moved to a slightly nicer part of the city, to a bigger warehouse with two stories, flanked by evergreen trees. It was where Gabriel worked, no longer just exchanging free classes for cleaning, but being paid to help Evangeline with classes and maintenance, and recently, run his own class in the evenings.

Lilith and Luc — and sometimes Raphael — often came along to the classes, or when Gabriel was free to teach them privately. Over the years, they had all built up their strength and reflexes, and Lilith particularly enjoyed learning the sharp, powerful moves of Muay Thai. “Loosen your stance, Luc,” Evangeline called out from beside Gabriel. Although she was usually quite busy, she liked to pop in during her breaks to watch the siblings train and offer her advice. The four all got on very well, with Lilith latching onto the tough older woman at once, and Evangeline was really the only adult they trusted — she was that sort of warm, honest person everyone could not help but like. Evangeline’s own children had flown the nest many years ago, and she was always happy for the enthusiastic youngsters to come in.

“Damnit.” Luc suddenly groaned and stopped throwing punches, making his siblings look over with concern. “What’s wrong?” Gabriel raised an eyebrow, and Luc rubbed the back of his head, embarrassed at his outburst. “I can’t get this move right. I just… I feel like I won’t ever be as good as you two,” He confessed quietly. This was something he had been silently worrying about for a long time. Fighting came naturally to Lilith and Gabriel, but he found himself struggling to pick up the moves as quickly, and the more he thought about it, in terms of everything. What bothered him wasn’t so much that his siblings were smarter, tougher and far more talented than him; it was that Lilith and Gabriel were like that together, both intelligence and fierceness controlled under those silver eyes and fine features. Sometimes Luc felt like he wasn’t even related to them at all. He kept this worry hidden, however, and when Lilith spoke, it was in her usual sharp fashion. “Luc, you can defend yourself really well now. That is all that matters, right?” She pressed, and he nodded slowly. “Um, I guess.” His tone was still quietly unconvinced.

Evangeline rubbed her chin thoughtfully. “I have an idea.” She gave him a scrutinising sort of look. “Why don’t I have you learning a simpler form of kickboxing? One that focuses more on strength and defence, rather than speed and offence. Your build is more suited for that, anyway. What do you think?” At this proposal, Lilith perked up. “Ooh, that’s a great idea!” She looked towards Luc with an encouraging face, and he smiled, his tense shoulders relaxing a little. “Yes please.”

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