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Caspar von Halle Sungkou International Airport, Sungkou, Free State of Sungkou
November 10th, 2024

he fans packed the gate, eager to catch a glimpse of their idol. In the rear of the crowd, paparazzi fumbled with stools and stepladders, their cameras ready at a moment’s notice. Passersby looked on incredulously, their baggage in tow. Murmurs had grown into full-blown commotion; the mob shuffled as if it were one restless organism. Where was she? Was this the right gate? Had her security moved her to another gate?

He could almost pick out his footsteps reverberating down the concourse. It always felt a bit odd being here; a part of him felt at home with all the Bakanese signage and whatnot. The rest of him felt eternally confused, left stumbling around for any sort of solid ground; it felt like Alva again, only much greener. And more wet.

Nonetheless, there was work to do here.

The doors opened swiftly. At last, the energy was released to the sound of high-pitched cheering and the snap and flash of cameras. It hurt her eyes.

He stopped; a confectionery shop had caught his eye.

She smiled; it was hollow, but nobody seemed to notice. Soon, blank sheets and black markers stuck out from the crowd, voices begging her to grace them with her autograph. Her security glanced at her, their faces taut as if expecting the worst. The worst had yet to happen, but she was all too aware of the consequences of getting too involved in crowd work. She could barely hear her own inner voice over the swarm of fans, reporters, and paparazzi as she walked down the ramp. They chanted a name that wasn’t hers, and they loved someone that wasn’t her.

It hurt to think.

He sighed; this was definitely coming out of his paycheck. He glanced down inside the bright pink bag, admiring the multicoloured macarons resting neatly in an intricately shaped box. The receipt danced between his fingers, the price tag very clearly burnt into his retinas. His partner seemed baffled at his decision, eyeing him up and down with concern and confusion. To soothe his worries, he reassured him that it wasn’t a bribe of any kind. It didn’t help much.

This'll be one hell of an anniversary gift, he thought to himself.

The van was within sight; the horde of fans and media followed closely behind, albeit restricted by metal barriers. She took care not to rush her steps, controlling her breathing. The last set of doors swung open; a rush of humid air filled her lungs.

Something stuck out from the corner of her eye. Something familiar. Something pink. Something sweet.

He could see his ride; there was a commotion nearby. He picked up his pace, wondering if he could catch the center of attention in the process. He thrust his knee into the automatic door opener, eventually slipping through the gap between the door and the metal frame.

His subconscious gambit had won.

Surprise, at first. Then a sigh of relief.

Surprise, at first. Then a warm smile.

Happiness would have to wait a little longer.

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