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Of Parties, Cheat Codes, and Fully Clothed Models

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Text guide: Lucy Skully




(10:23) Yo have you managed to get that blood out of my shirt yet?

(10:24) Dickerstaff’s gonna chop my head off if I turn up in a ratty t-shirt again.

(10:36) What.

(10:36) The fuck.

(10:39) …

(10:40) I’m guessing you’re not my sister?

(10:43) I really don’t think so.

(10:44) Oh.

(10:45) You can just ignore that blood thing.

(10:47) Believe me I’m trying too.

(10:48) L8erzz random stranger.

(10:50) …

(10:50) I’m not even gonna respond to that.

“Who was that, Luce?”

Lucy glanced up at Lockwood.

“Just some weirdo with the wrong number,” she replied, shrugging.

Lockwood hummed in reply and went back to pouring over his textbooks, his brow furrowed slightly as his dark eyes darted over the words. They were currently sat in the living room of the student house they shared, trying in vain to do some work. George, Lucy’s other housemate, never being one to start work before the absolute last minute, was lounged on the sofa nearby reading comic books.

When Lucy had first moved in back in September, Lockwood and George had been complete strangers to her; just two boys in need of a housemate to help pay the rent. She hadn’t really been in a position to be picky about her living situation, after the people she was supposed to be living with dropped out of uni suddenly, and every other house share she’d looked at involved weirdos, smokers, raging alcoholics, or the house was just plain filthy. Lockwood and George were the best option, though George’s manner and hygiene were questionable, and after only a few yelling matches with George that may have included saucepans being thrown, she got on with them rather well (George had since agreed not to wash his pants in the dishwasher).

The house was a narrow, rickety little thing. The bedrooms were small, the boiler acted up constantly, the oven burned everything no matter what temperature you set it to. But Lucy loved it. The independence mostly; being away from her mother and crowd of sisters. And even if the boys drove her mad sometimes, they really were good company.

Especially Lockwood.

Lucy shook her head to clear her thoughts. She locked her phone and set on the carpet beside her sketchbook, going back to staring at the blank page and gnawing at her pencil. Try as she might, no ideas were coming to her. The assignment was stupid anyway. ‘Nightmare’, the prompt was. There was plenty of things out there that were nightmarish, but she couldn’t seem to think of a single one she could do an art piece on. She gave a great huff of frustration and slammed the book closed. She still had a week to think of something, at least. But for now, she had a class to get to. Life-drawing would calm her down a little; just her and the subject, no imagination required. Just draw away and relax.

“I have to get to class,” she told the boys, “Meet in the café for lunch at two?”

“Oh, we’ll walk with you,” said Lockwood. “George and I have somewhere to be, too.”

George grunted and kept on reading.

Lockwood sighed. “You head off, Lucy. We’ll catch up.”

George waited for the sound of the front door closing.

“Are you sure about this, Lockwood?”

“We need money, remember? All we have to do is stand there. Easy peasy!”

“For you maybe,” George huffed. “I don’t exactly have the best body image.”

“You look fine,” Lockwood insisted. “A little variety never hurt anyone. Besides, I doubt the artists will mind. We’re just subjects to them!”

George just grunted. Lockwood was impossible to argue with. Whatever you said, he always had a countering response, sharp and quick and near impossible to argue against. It was probably why he was studying Law.

George much preferred the science labs, no public speaking necessary. And no having a bunch of art students staring at you either. This was going to be hell. But Lockwood was right; the money was good and he was broke. Better to get this over with.

“Today, class, we’ll be moving on from bowls of fruit and starting our study of human anatomy.”

Please don’t say naked people, please don’t say naked people.

“Don’t worry, they’ll be fully clothed,” the teacher continued. “I thought it best to ease you in.”

Thank God, thought Lucy, though drawing clothes wasn’t exactly the easiest thing. At least it wouldn’t have the awkwardness.

There was a hush as the door opened and the teacher ushered some people in, then a breakout of whispers and giggles. Lucy, stood at the back, couldn’t see what the fuss was about.

“Shame we’re not drawing him naked” Lucy heard one girl whisper to her friend.

Lucy rolled her eyes at their immaturity, then stood on her tiptoes to peer over her classmates’ heads to see what all the fuss was about. And froze.

“This is George Cubbins and Anthony Lockwood” the teacher informed the class. “Fellow students of yours at the university.”

Lockwood caught sight of Lucy. His face showed shock at first, then he grinned at her. She shoved her way to the front of the crowd.

“What’re you doing here?”

“This is your class?” Lockwood said, grinning broadly. “This should be fun!”

George crossed his arms over his chest and huffed.

“Ah, I see some of you already know each other,” the teacher continued. “Now, let’s see. Boys, you can draw Mr Lockwood, and girls, you can draw Mr Cubbins, here.” She placed a hand on George’s shoulder and guided him to the other side of the room amidst much disappointed muttering from the girls. George took his glasses off and wiped them on his shirt.

“Just ignore them,” Lucy told him as she walked alongside him, though, honestly, she would have liked to have had a go drawing Lockwood. He was a natural model; tall and slim, with a mop of dark hair and striking features. Everything about him - his nose, cheekbones, eyes, jawline - wouldn’t have been particularly attractive individually, but together, with him, his smile lighting up the room and his dark eyes twinkling brightly, those features seemed beautiful. Any artist would jump at the chance to draw that face.

But George would be fine to draw, too. A challenge, in fact, to try and truly capture how uniquely slapable his face was. Still, as she set up her easel and set about her sketch, she couldn’t help casting glances over to the other side of the room, where Lockwood perched on a stool, somehow looking completely relaxed and elegant. But eventually, her mind drifted, caught up in the motion of pencil against paper, and the hours seemed to slip by.

“Wow! It looks just like him!”

Lucy jumped, startled out of her stupor. She hadn’t realised how long she’d been stood there drawing, and now the rest of the class was packing up to leave as one Anthony Lockwood peered over her shoulder at her drawing, his eyes shining as they scanned the page with interest.

“You captured him perfectly, Luce!” Lockwood continued. “Can we keep it? In fact, I’ll buy it. How much?”

“What?” said Lucy dumbly, still a little dazed.

“Remember we’re here to make money, Lockwood,” George said, cleaning his glasses on his shirt as he walked over. “Plus, she lives with us. It’ll be coming home with her anyway.”

“But we have to display it!” Lockwood insisted. “So, how about it, Luce?”

“Lockwood, you’re my friend, I’m not making you pay,” said Lucy, coming to her senses at last and beginning to put her art supplies away. “Here, just take it.”

“But you haven’t signed it yet,” said Lockwood. “You need to sign it.”

“Fine,” said Lucy, taking a pencil from behind her ear and scrawling a quick signature on the paper. “There you go. A Carlyle original.”

“It’s perfect!” said Lockwood, grinning at the drawing before rolling it up and tucking it under his arm. “You’re so talented, Lucy!”

Lucy flushed at his praise. “Oh, thanks.”

George rolled his eyes. “Can you two stop flirting? I’m starving.”

“You’re always starving,” Lucy grumbled, trying her best to ignore his comment.

“Come on, it’s about time for lunch anyway,” said Lockwood

“I’ll catch up,” said Lucy. “Still got some clearing up to do.”

“Alright, see you in a bit, Luce,” said Lockwood, slipping out of the classroom with George.

Lucy shoved the remainder of her pencils in her bag, waited a few minutes, then headed after them, pulling out her phone as she did so.

Back in October, Lucy’s sister, Mary, had visited for a Halloween party and had teased Lucy mercilessly about her apparently obvious crush on Lockwood. Lucy had ignored her antics, as they were usual for Mary, but now, as her heart continued to race, and her face took forever to cool down, she had to concede there may have been some truth in the matter.


(13:04) Ok. You were right. I might have a tiny crush on him.

(13:06) Oooh who???

(13:07) Wait

(13:07) Fuck

(13:07) No

(13:07) You are not Mary

(13:08) Clearly.

(13:08) I mean I’m a guy for one thing.

(13:08) Sooo tell me who the lucky fella is?




(13:11) Harsh.

(13:11) I’ll have you know I’m great with advice.

(13:12) Goodbye.

(13:13) NOOOO

(13:13) COME BACK!!!!!


(13:48) …………..

(13:49) Dammit.


Lucy was about to message the real Mary when she paused. Sure, Mary was helpful, but it also came with a lot of teasing. Lucy just didn’t have the energy to deal with that right now. What she needed was food and a good cup of tea from her favourite café.

The cafe in question sat in a quaint little corner of the city within walking distance of the university and was a refuge to LGBT+ youths. As the owners had pointed out, some people just weren’t fond of bars. But cake? Everyone liked cake.

As Lucy walked in she was bathed in the pleasant aroma of cakes, cookies, and freshly ground coffee, as well as the comforting smell of books drifting from the little second-hand bookshop upstairs. Each table was assigned a miniature pride flag, with matching bunting surrounding the walls along with twinkling fairy lights. Potted plants and succulents were dotted around in various odd places, and colourful artwork covered the walls.

Lucy ordered a sandwich and cup of tea, then headed over to her usual spotted by a wall covered in a blackboard that customers could doodle silly drawings on or suggest various LGBT caked-themed puns that could be included on the menu. Lockwood and George were already there, along with Quill Kipps, a transfer student who was once a member of their rival university before he had a bit of a meltdown, switched courses from politics to criminology, and changed universities. Lockwood knew him from fencing classes, and they’d apparently hated each other at first, but now, after Quill’s disastrous first year had humbled him somewhat, and seen as his friends, Kat and Bobby, still attended his previous university and Lockwood was the only person he knew, they now got along fine, and Quill was good company once you got to know him.

Lockwood smiled warmly at Lucy as she took a seat in her favourite armchair, and she felt her heart skip a beat.

“-and he seems exhausted all the time even though I keep telling him to get to bed early,” Quill was saying, and Lucy assumed he was talking about Bobby who he fathered constantly. “Uni’s just not the place for a fifteen-year-old, I don’t care how smart he is. He’s not even old enough to drink!”

“He is if he doesn’t get caught,” said George, sipping his tea.

Quill scowled at him. “Don’t you dare corrupt him.”

“Tea and a jam sandwich?”

“Oh, that’s mine, thanks,” said Lucy.

“Holly!” Lockwood cried as the waitress set the food down. “I didn’t know you worked here! Guys, this is Holly Munro, she’s an old friend, just transferred here. Holly, this is George, Quill, and Lucy.”

“Just started here,” Holly replied. “It’s nice to meet you all!”

Lucy looked up at her properly. Holly Munro, even in a waitress’s apron with her hair tied tightly back and flour dusting her cheeks, was undeniably beautiful, and Lucy’s heart sank when Lockwood stood and greeted her with a hug and a peck on the cheek.

“You should join us for lunch, Hol,” Lockwood said.

“I’d love to, but I’m supposed to be waiting tables right now,” Holly laughed. “Maybe I’ll pop round for tea sometime. Get to know you all.” She smiled at the rest of them, eyes lingering on Lucy for a moment. “I have to get back to work. Enjoy your meal!”

She walked gracefully away. Suddenly, Lucy didn’t feel that hungry. Lockwood now sat telling George and Quill all about Holly Munro, and Lucy didn’t have the energy to converse. She sat back in her chair, suddenly feeling like an outsider, and fiddled with her phone. She needed someone to talk to, but she couldn’t be bothered dealing with her sister’s teasing. She’d fallen out of touch with her friends from home, and the only friends she had at uni were the ones sat right in front of her, talking about how perfect Holly Munro was. She unlocked her phone. Talking to a complete stranger would be easier, right?


(14:12) How old are you?

(14:15) Excuse me?

(14:15) I wanna make sure I’m not talking to some creepy middle-aged man.

(14:16) I thought you weren’t gonna talk to me at all?

(14:16) Are you seriously sulking right now? Just tell me.

(14:16) Fine.

(14:16) 19.

(14:17) Huh.

(14:17) I’m 18.

(14:18) And there I was thinking you were some 12 year old girl.

(14:18) Oi.

(14:18) Only the girl part is right.

(14:18) So are you at uni?

(14:19) Nah apprenticeship. Boss is having me fix a computer but it only took me like 5 minutes so I’m free.

(14:19) Sooo what’s the hot goss?

(14:20) If you keep calling it that I really am gonna stop talking to you.

(14:23) I think he likes someone else.

(14:23) Who?

(14:24) You know.

(14:24) The guy.

(14:25) Your crUuUuuSh?

(14:25) I am this close to blocking you.

(14:26) What makes you think he likes them?

(14:26) Because he’s sat here gushing about her.

(14:26) And she’s pretty much the most beautiful girl I’ve ever seen.

(14:26) Why wouldn’t he like her?

(14:27) Wow. You sure she’s not the one you have a crush on?

(14:27) Shut up.

(14:28) Ok ok.

(14:28) Well first things first you gotta find out if he actually likes her.

(14:28) And if not you can use your allure.

(14:29) My WHAT?

(14:30) Allure. Keep up.

(14:30) I know!

(14:31) Steal his wallet and then deliver it back to him and be all like ‘I found your wallet senpai. I hope losing it didn’t cause you too much trouble UwU.’

(14:32) I am definitely not gonna do that.

(14:32) Ask him for undertale cheat codes.

(14:33) Why?

(14:33) And then give them to me. This genocide route ain’t going well.

(14:34) No.

(14:35) Well I’m all out of ideas.

(14:35) Wow. Helpful.

(14:36) idk I’m aro what can you expect?


(14:36) May have been an ickle white lie on my part.

(14:37) Great.

(14:38) Gotta go I have class soon.

(14:39) L8er m8

(14:40) Seriously. So close to blocking.

“Hey, George, do you know any Undertale cheat codes?” Lucy asked casually during dinner that night.

George gave her a curious look. “Why?”

Lucy shrugged. “A friend asked me if I knew any.”

George raised an eyebrow. “I didn’t know you had other friends.”

Lucy punched him.

“Play nice, children,” said Lockwood, not looking up from the gossip magazine he was reading at the table.

George went back to eating. “I’ll send you a pic of them later.”

(20:03) [Image sent].

(20:03) You owe me.

(20:03) You literally could have just googled these.

(20:12) [Image received].

(20:12) :OOOO

(20:12) Fuck yes!

(20:13) We’re best friends now btw

(20:14) No we are not.

(20:15) (~ 3 )~

Lucy awoke in a cold sweat, the image from her nightmare still burned in her mind. She lay there, waiting for her breathing to even out, then she grabbed her sketchbook.

(11:32) Bored

(11:32) BORED


(11:35) Do you not have actual friends to pester? I’m trying to work.

(11:36) They fucking blocked me.

(11:36) They had the right idea.

(11:37) How was I supposed to know they were doing exams???

(11:37) They just don’t appreciate my memes.

(11:38) How terrible for you.

(11:38) btw what am I saved in your phone as i’m curious?

(11:39) I haven’t saved you as anything.

(11:40) Rude.

(11:41) You’re saved as ‘teen angst girl’.

(11:42) -_-

(11:43) You can change it to Lucy.

(11:43) Teen angst girl Lucy.

(11:44) No.

(11:44) What is your name anyway?

(11:45) Guess.

(11:45) Hmm.

(11:45) Garry?

(11:46) No.

(11:46) Kevin?

(11:47) You’re bad at this.

(11:47) Just call me Skully.

(11:47) What kind of name is that???

(11:48) When I was a little kid I dug up this skull and carried it around everywhere.

(11:48) You know until the police took it off me coz it turned out I accidentally dug up some murder site.

(11:49) Wow.

(11:49) Anyway.

(11:50) Kids started calling me Skully and it stuck.

(11:50) I use it more than my real name anyway.

(11:51) Huh.

(11:51) What?

(11:52) I had a dream last night that you were a talking skull.

(11:52) Seriously???? How’d you know it was me???

(11:53) It was exceedingly annoying.

(11:54) And kept asking me for undertale cheat codes.

(11:54) Ah.

(11:55) The rest of the dream wasn’t that great.

(11:55) Rest in pieces.

The dark, harsh red blended into black as the paintbrush swiped over the canvas. Stroke by stroke, the figure came to life. Or death, as was the case. It stared out of the painting with hollow eyes as dark shadows swirled around its figure, the edges undefined, blending into the grey haze of a background. Its face was pale and gaunt, its fingers long and thin, dark hair plastered to the forehead with blood, and across the chest, bright against the torn white shirt, a bloody gash ripped the figure open.

A nightmare.

“Wow, Luce. If you have any grievances with me, you can just tell me, you know?”

Lucy blinked and looked up from the canvas to where Lockwood was staring at the painting laid out on the kitchen table, face a little paler than usual.

“Oh, don’t worry, it’s just a bad dream I had,” said Lucy, going back to painting. “It’s for a project.”

“A very graphic one,” said Lockwood, still frowning at the painting. “I did hear you stirring last night. Are you okay?”

“Fine,” Lucy mumbled. “Probably just ate too late before sleeping or something.”

“If you have anymore bad dreams and can’t sleep, feel free to wake me up,” said Lockwood. “I don’t sleep much anyway.”

Lucy felt herself blush. “I’ll think about it.”

“I need to get to class,” said Lockwood, checking his watch. He took a last look at the painting. “You sure you don’t have any violent thoughts towards me?”

Lucy smiled. “No. Though you could try doing the dishes once in a while.”

Lockwood laughed. “I’ll do them when I get home,” he said as he slipped out of the door.

(13:08) How’s your crush coming along?

(13:11) I painted him as a dead guy with a huge gash in his chest.

(13:11) Think I might have freaked him out.

(13:12) Well.

(13:12) That’s certainly one way to get him to notice you.

A few weeks passed, during which Lucy received an A* on her art project and Lockwood and George posed for a few more life-drawing classes. Then came the Christmas holidays. Lucy only went home for a few days, not wanting to spend too much time with her mother, and stayed at uni for the rest of her break. It was quiet without the boys, though they called to wish her a Merry Christmas and thank her for their gifts, and she still exchanged frequent texts with Skully who she’d grown rather fond of speaking to, not that she’d admit it.

The boys returned in time for New Years, bringing with them gifts from their parents; a woolly jumper from George’s mum and an authentic dream catcher from Lockwood’s parents.

“I might have mentioned the painting to them,” he told her.

On New Year’s Eve, the trio gathered in the garden alongside Quill and Holly. They drank and sang and when midnight hit they sent fireworks - provided to them less than legally by a student by the name of Flo Bones - into the sky. Lucy was the only one who remembered that night with any clarity, being the only one who didn’t drink, and was, therefore, the only one who remembered Lockwood pulling her into a hug and kissing her sloppily on the cheek when the countdown reached zero.

With January came an onslaught of exams and assignments. Holly had popped round for study sessions and tea a few times, and it became quite clear that she, at least, had no interest in Lockwood, after she mentioned she wasn’t into guys and admitted that she had a bit of a crush on a girl she’d seen around at the cafe.

(17:03) Yeah so turns out the girl he may or may not be interested in is gay.

(17:04) Uh huh.

(17:04) The girl who works at that cafe you mentioned?

(17:04) The gay cafe?

(17:04) What a shocker.


Despite the fact that Holly was no threat, it still took a while for her to grow on Lucy. She was just so… neat. The binders she carried around for her course in Nutrition were all carefully colour coordinated with separate tabs for each section. Whether she was in her waitressing uniform or casual clothes, she was always tidy and put together. Lucy, on the other hand, sported messy hair that you could often find a pencil or two stuck in, and was constantly covered in paint splatter or graphite smudges. They were two very different people, to say the least. But they got along well enough after only a few arguments.

One night, Holly and Quill were both round for a sleepover in celebration of them all getting through exams. Lucy was busy arguing on the phone with Skully. Usually, she would stick to texting, but her computer had been acting up and George had been no help. He sat nearby, recording the one-sided conversation on his phone.

Yes. I typed in the code exactly.”

“Well, it didn’t work.”

“For the last time, I’m not giving you control of my computer.”

“Because you’ll just change my profile pictures to bumcracks or something, that’s why!”

No, it would not be funny!”

“Did you hear about that post-exams party Penelope Fittes is having on Saturday?” Holly said over Lucy’s arguing.

“Wait. The Penelope Fittes?” said Lockwood. “Vice-chancellor Marissa Fittes’ daughter Penelope Fittes?”

“That’s the one,” said Holly.

“Doesn’t she live at her mum’s house?” said Quill.

“She’s out of town for the weekend,” Holly replied.

“Oh, my god,” said George, “we have to go trash the place.”

“That seems a little harsh,” said Holly.              

“Hol, have you ever met Marissa Fittes?” said Lockwood. “She’s the one who got rid of disability funding and wouldn’t allow lectures to be recorded.”

George nodded. “She’s the worst. And Penelope’s not much better.”

“We are morally obligated to go trash the place,” Quill agreed, “on behalf of the entire student population.”

“Ooh, I’ll invite Flo,” said George, grinning sadistically. “She’ll cause some damage.”

“Hey, Luce?” said Lockwood, raising his voice a little so she could hear him over her argument.

“Oi, shut up a sec,” Lucy said into the phone before turning to Lockwood. “Yeah?”

“Party at the Fittes house on Saturday.”

“Are we trashing the place?”

“Hell yes.”

“Nice.” Lucy turned back to the phone. “Yeah, that was Lockwood.” A pause. “I am not repeating that.”

“You should invite your friend, Lucy,” said Holly. “Does he live nearby?”

“You live near London?” Lucy said into the phone. “Oh cool. Wanna help trash the bitchy vice-chancellors house? Uh huh.” She covered the receiver with her hand. “He wants to know if there’s a theme?”

“I think it’s fancy dress,” said Holly.

Quill scoffed. “Does she realise Halloween was months ago?”

“Ooh, I love fancy dress!” Lockwood gushed to the surprise of no one.

Lucy repeated the information into the phone along with the address.

“What’s he saying now, Luce?” Quill asked.

“He says ‘suck a dick and mind your own business, Quilliam’,” said Lucy.


The day of the party rolled around. Lucy stood in the hall in a cheap skeleton costume, waiting for the others to show up so they could walk to the house together. Skully said he’d see them there, though she had no idea what he looked like apart from a description of ‘tall, dark and handsome’ which she didn’t much trust, and he’d said his costume was a surprise.

George came down the stairs. “Ready.”

Lucy looked at him and frowned. “You’re supposed to be in fancy dress.”

“I am,” said George. He turned around and revealed a piece of paper stuck to his back with gaffa tape that read ‘Error 404. Costume not found.’ “See?”

“Ha ha,” Lucy monotoned.

Quill showed up next, in a dress shirt, blazer and long coat.

“You haven’t dressed up either?!” Lucy exclaimed.

“Yes, I have,” Quill said. “I’m a straight guy.”

Just then, Lockwood barged into the house and headed up the stairs, dressed in pretty much the exact same thing as Quill. “I’ll be changed in a minute!” he called over his shoulder.

“See?” said Quill.

Lucy scowled at him.

Then came Holly, in a shimmering dress of aquamarine blue, a cape that mimicked peacock feathers, and glittering makeup done to perfection. She gave them a twirl, making her cape glide around her, glistening in a million shades of blue, green and gold as it caught the light.

“What do you think?”

“At least someone dressed up,” Lucy huffed.

Lockwood bounded down the stairs, black cape whipping out behind him dramatically. The collar was pulled up, his hair slicked back, and fake blood dripped from the corner of his mouth. He grinned at them, showing fake vampire fangs.

“Everyone here?”

“Just waiting for Kat and Flo,” said Quill.

When Kat showed up, she was not alone.

“You brought Bobby?!” Quill exclaimed. “He’s far too young!”

“No, I’m not!” Bobby protested, though the dinosaur costume wasn’t making him look any older.

Kat adjusted one of the bandages in her mummy costume. “It wasn’t my fault he overheard you inviting me.”

Flo was late, which surprised no one, and hadn’t bothered to dress up. Lucy hadn’t had many dealings with her, only on the few occasions George brought her round to hang out. She was sort of a campus cryptic; no one knew what year she was in or what course she was doing, and everyone was pretty sure she sold drugs.

By the time they arrived at the Fittes house, it was clear that word had spread about the party. The place was already crammed with people in costumes varying from elaborate to what could only be described as lingerie. Students could be seen on the way to the door throwing up in bushes, and the garden was already littered with alcohol cans and toilet roll.

“No wandering off,” Quill told Bobby as they walked through the door.

Lockwood grabbed a few beer cans from a crate within the doorway and handed them around. They pushed their way to the kitchen and found a fridge containing cans of fizzy pop which Lucy pinched a few of, handing one to Bobby. Music blared from somewhere they couldn’t see, students danced and shouted and tackled their friends, a few couples snogged each other in corners.

“Keep creepy guys away from the girls!” Lockwood yelled to the others over the noise. “And if anyone overly sweaty tries to hand you something, don’t take it! NOW, LET’S SEE HOW MUCH DAMAGE WE CAN DO!”

They all gave a whoop of agreement and those with alcohol gulped down half their drinks.

“Is your friend here yet, Luce?” Holly called over the noise.

“Hang on, I’ll text him,” Lucy shouted back. She reached for her phone, realised her pocket was empty, and patted the other pockets before remembering she’d left her phone charging in her bedroom and swore. “I told him what my costume was, so hopefully he’ll find us,” she told the others.

The party became a blur, even without alcohol in Lucy’s system. It didn’t take long for them all to split up and get lost in the crowd, in spite of Lockwood’s order to keep an eye on the girls. Lucy wound her way through the mass of bodies, sipping her drink and watching in amusement as cups were broken, alcohol spilt on fancy carpets, food smeared over the pristine walls, and students disappeared upstairs to do god-knows-what. She caught sight of Penelope Fittes a few times. Usually cool and put together, she was now frantically trying to keep some semblance of order, but there were far too many people, and they all hated Marissa Fittes with a passion. Penelope was fighting a losing battle.

Lucy caught glimpses of her friends among the crowd, but they seemed to be fine so she let them be. She leaned against a counter in the kitchen and watched a couple dressed as Shrek and Fiona play beer pong against a nun and Wonder Woman. Students were dressed in every costume from Squidward and the girl from Finding Nemo, to an avocado and a box of tampons. Students were always being called lazy by older generations, but it had to be said, when the opportunity for fancy dress arose, they went all out.

George and Flo slipped through the crowd, eying over everything and trying to figure out what the most damage they could do was without a criminal lawsuit. They wandered upstairs, avoiding the rooms where a few suggestive noises emanated, and came across an office.

“We could piss on the computer,” Flo suggested with an evil grin.

“First of all, that’s disgusting and you should definitely do that,” said George. “But first… I wonder what dirt we could find on it.”

Lucy pushed through the crowd in time to yank away a beer that was being offered to Bobby. “Where the hell is Quill?”

“He started crying and it got awkward so I left,” said Bobby, making a swipe for the beer and missing by miles, which suggested he’d already tried alcohol somewhere.

“Already?!” Lucy asked, incredulously. “We’ve only been here an hour!”

Bobby just shrugged. Then Lucy caught sight of Holly through the crowd, among a group of overly friendly guys. She shoved the beer into the chest of some guy dressed as Neo from the Matrix, grabbed Bobby’s arm and pushed through the crowd.

“Oh, my god, Hol! I haven’t seen you in forever! We gotta catch up!” she cried with false cheer upon reaching Holly.

Holly looked confused for a second before her eyes widened in the realisation that Lucy was getting her away from the guys. “AHH!! Luce! It’s so good to see you!” she screamed, hugging Lucy tightly. “Sorry, gentlemen, gotta go.”

The guys looked ready to protest, until Lucy shot them a look that made them cower before she walked off with Holly and Bobby, who were both extremely giggly.









Lockwood slammed the empty pitcher on the table to cheers from the crowd and burst out laughing, then his knees buckled and he fell. Luckily someone caught him and hoisted him back up to where he could lean on the table, still a giggly mess.

“Hey, thanks, man!” he slurred, patting the guy on the shoulder and nearly falling over again.

“Uhh, maybe we should get you to a seat,” the stranger told him, tugging Lockwood arm around his shoulders and half-carrying him through the crowd towards the sofa, where Lockwood collapsed gratefully, not paying much mind to the dampness of the seat.

“Hey… you… you’ree that guy. The one from the matrix,” Lockwood said, waving a finger in the vague direction of the stranger who’d helped him. “See, George! III underssstand pop culture.”

“Uh huh. Hey, if you wanna throw up anywhere, there’s a lovely vase next to you, see?” said the stranger before turning away.

Lockwood spied a bob of brown hair passing through the crowd. “LLUCYYY!” he called. The stranger stopped. Lockwood stuck out his bottom lip as the head disappeared into the crowd. “Awww. She didn’t hear me.”

The stranger took a seat on the arm of the sofa beside Lockwood, tilting his glasses up so they perched on his head among his spiky hair. “You’re Lockwood, right?”

Lockwood frowned at him. “I know you?”

“Oh, we go way back, don’t you remember?” the stranger said, giving him a grin.

“OH! Yeah, yeah, yeah,” Lockwood said, though he was still confused. Maybe he’d had a bit too much to drink.

“So,” the boy propped his chin on his hand, “how’s life been? What’s the hot goss?”

“Hmmmm.” Lockwood swiped a hand over his hair, and was a little disgusted to find that is was now sticky. “Not much.”

“No drama? No crushes?”

Lockwood frowned. “Umm… maybe… I guess…”

“Oh, really?” said the boy, his grin growing wider. “Anything to do with that girl? What was her name…? Lucy?”

Lockwood felt his face flush. “She’s just a friend.”

The boy raised an eyebrow. “Uh huh. Sure. You know what you should do? You should ask her out.”

Lockwood shook his head violently, loosening strands of his slicked back hair. “Shee… she might say no… and then it’ll be all awkward and she’ll wanna move out and-” He started sobbing.

“Oh, Christ. You have had a lot to drink, haven’t you, Locky?”

Lockwood sniffed. “Maybe a bit.”

The boy rolled his eyes. “Wait there,” he said, standing. He paused before adding, “You never know. She might say yes.”

Lockwood blinked and watched as the boy disappeared into the crowd.

George pulled the memory stick out of the hard drive. “I got it all. Let’s go.”

“POLICE!” someone downstairs yelled. Along with a chorus of drunken kids yelling “FUCK DA POLICE.”

Flo swore, removing something from her pocket and stuffing it in a weird looking pot. George went into the hall and peered over the bannister.

“Oh, it’s just Barnes,” he told Flo upon seeing the head of campus security in the doorway having a word with Penelope Fittes. “But he’ll call the cops soon, we should get out of here.”

Lucy had found Quill sobbing in the middle of the road and dragged him back into the house. Kat had been yelling at some guy when Lucy hauled her away. She scanned the heads of the crowd, trying to find the others.

George appeared a moment later, crashing down the stairs with Flo. “Holy shit, Luce! You’ll never guess what we found!”

“It can wait,” said Lucy. “You two sober?”

Flo scoffed. “Everyone here is a lightweight.”    

“I was too busy stealing the snacks to drink,” said George.

“Good, then you can take this lot home,” Lucy told them, gesturing at the group of drunken idiots she’d ordered to hold hands so they wouldn’t get lost. “I’ll find Lockwood.”

Lucy tipped the remainder of her drink in a plant pot and shoved the empty can under a chair cushion on her way to hunt down Lockwood. She found him slouched on the sofa, with the matrix guy encouraging him to down some water.

“LUCCYYYYY!” Lockwood called upon spotting her. “Hometime now?”

“Yes, hometime,” she told him, pulling him to his feet. He leaned on her heavily.

“He’s a bit out of it,” the matrix guy told her with an amused smile. His voice sounded familiar, but she couldn’t worry about that now.

“Thanks for looking after him,” she said. “I’ll take it from here.”

Penelope Fittes and Mr Barnes intercepted their path halfway across the garden.

“Don’t happen to know anything about missing antiquities do you, Ms Carlyle?”

“Including my mother’s favourite bracelet,” Penelope added. “She’ll kill me if I don’t find it.”

Lucy shook her head, hoisting Lockwood up a bit more. “Sorry. Just trying to get this mess home.”

Barnes swept his eyes over Lockwood and sighed. “Get him to bed soon. And don’t lay him on his back or he might choke. Now, off you go before I change my mind.”

“Thank you, sir,” Lucy said, slipping past Barnes and down the path.

Lockwood swayed them both from side to side as they walked down the pavement, almost toppling them over a few times as he sang a random song from a musical very off-key.

“You know, Lucy… Y-you-you are like… my best friend in the whole world!”

“I thought George was?” Lucy said, laughing.

“He’sss… also my best friend,” said Lockwood. “I will have… ALL the best friends! But you… you’re like… my favourite friend.”

“You realise you’re making no sense now, right?”

“I make perfect sense shhhhhhh…”

It was a mighty feat to unlock the front door, get them upstairs and into Lockwood’s room all while holding the drunk man in question with one arm.

“Oh, god. What are you doing?” she said as Lockwood started stripping down with no shame.

“Clothes sticky,” he whined.

Lucy turned to face the door before she saw anything too bad, and waited until she heard Lockwood climb under the covers before turning back.

“Sleep on your side, Lockwood,” she reminded him. He hummed and rolled over. “Need some water or anything?” Lockwood just stared up at her with wide eyes and a faint smile. “What?”

“Your eyes have little green flecks in them,” he mumbled. “Never noticed before.”

Lucy felt her cheeks burn and ignored it. “Get some sleep, okay?”

She set the bin next to his bed, filled a glass with water and placed it on his bedside table along with painkillers, and closed the curtains tight shut.

“Goodnight, Lockwood.”

“N’night, Luce.”

She slipped out of his room and gently closed the door behind her.

(01:37) I thought you said you were coming.

(10:53) I did come.

(10:58) What? I didn’t see you.

(10:58) What were you dressed as???

(11:00) Matrix guy.

(11:01) THAT WAS YOU??????

(11:01) WHY DIDN’T YOU SAY ANYTHING?????????

(11:02) You seemed a little preoccupied.

(11:02) How is Lockwood btw?

(11:03) Raging hangover and barely remembers anything.

(11:03) Shame.

(14:12) Hold on.

(14:13) Skully?

(14:17) Hm?

(14:18) There were apparently some antique objects missing.

(14:18) Please tell me you had nothing to do with that.

(14:19) I had nothing to do with that.

(14:19) …

(14:19) You stole them didn’t you?

(14:20) Yep.

(14:20) WHY

(14:21) It’s the one thing they can’t replace.

(14:21) -_-

(14:21) :))))

Her friends were talking in hushed voices when Lucy arrived at the cafe for lunch a few days after the eventful party.

“What’s going on?” she asked them, taking a seat.

“See this?” George whispered, dangling a memory stick from his hand. “This stick contains a lot of interesting information from Marissa Fittes’ computer.”

“Like what?”

“Like the fact that she’s taking all the funding she denied disabled students for herself,” Flo said, sipping her coffee. “Along with a bunch of other illegal shit.”


The others hushed her and waited until curious customers turned away again.

“We have to take this to the police as soon as possible,” Holly whispered.

“And tell them what?” said Lockwood. “George stole the information, that’s gonna make it very tricky for the police to hold Fittes for long.”

“Maybe we could send it anonymously?” said Quill.

“They might think it’s fake.”

“I have an idea,” said George. “I just need a few days. Luce, mind if I borrow your phone?”

“What for?”

“Left mine at home,” George replied. She handed it over with a warning of what she’d do to him if he messed with anything, and he stepped outside.

Lucy sat back in her chair. “Is this for real?”

“As far as I can tell,” said Lockwood. “Think we’ll be in the papers once it all comes out?”

“You’d just love that wouldn’t you, Tony?” said Quill. “Having your face plastered in magazines for everyone to see.”

Lockwood grinned. “You know me well, Quill.”

Lucy was with Quill and George when it all happened. They were just walking back from the pub after catching up with Flo. It was late. Holly was on cleaning duty at the cafe. Lockwood was visiting his sister. So it was just Lucy, Quill and George who took the shortcut through the alleyway and were intercepted by a group of men.

Lucy stiffened, Quill swallowed loudly, George gave a short laugh.

“If you’re looking for money to steal, students aren’t your best bet,” he told them.

One of the men stepped forward. He was fair-haired, with a ridiculous moustache, and stank of aftershave. A short, muscular man stood at his shoulder and sneered at the students.

“Oh, we’re not after your purses,” the moustached man said. “Just something a little more valuable than that. I think you know what I mean.” He held out his hand. “Now, hand it over before this gets any more violent than it needs to be.”

Lucy exchanged glances with the boys. This man couldn’t know about the memory stick, surely?

“I won’t ask again,” the man said, voice cold as ice.

George clenched his fist, stare cold. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

The moustached man’s lip curled. He made a gesture with his hand, then Lucy felt her arms being yanked behind her as someone grabbed her and held her in a lock. Quill gave a yelped as the same thing happened to him. Lucy cursed; she hadn’t even heard them approaching.

“Hand over the memory stick unless you want your friends getting hurt.”

George had paled. Slowly, he reached into his pocket and pulled out the memory stick, the only evidence they had of Marissa Fittes’ misdeeds, and held it out.

The moustached man took it from him and inspected it. He gave a slow, cruel smile. “Thank you. But I hope you realise, we can’t really let you go off in one piece, knowing what you know.” He turned his head slightly to the other men. “Make sure he never tries to talk.”

“NO! GEORGE!” Lucy screamed, thrashing in her captor’s arms. She knew Marissa Fittes was bad, but she never thought she’d hire people to do something like this. What had they gotten themselves into?

George tried to defend himself at first as the men began to lay blows, but there were just too many of them. Quill had managed to wrench himself free and was now grappling with a few men including the moustached man.

Lucy continued to struggle. She threw her foot back and was satisfied when she felt it connect and the man grunted in pain, loosening his grip. She slipped out and aimed a kick at one of the men attacking George. Another swiped at her with a pocket knife and she yelped and staggered back as it cut into her arm. With her uninjured arm, she punched the man in the stomach hard enough that he dropped his knife, and kicked another guy away from George. But they were like leeches, numerous and ruthless, and they just seemed to keep getting back up.

Quill let out a cry of pain. Lucy caught sight of him stumbling back from the moustached man, hand clutching his side as red seeped through his fingers.


A man shoved her into the wall and she felt something in her pocket crack as pain erupted in her side. She struggled back to her feet. She was so tired now, her muscles ached so much. And there were so many of them. George was curled in a ball on the floor as thugs continued to kick at him. Quill collapsed against the wall.

Then came the sound of a car screeching to a halt nearby, and relief flooded Lucy’s chest as the moustached man yelled for his men to retreat and they rushed away, leaving the three injured students alone in the alley.

“Kids! Are you alright?”

Lucy turned to see Mr Barnes rush into the alley.

“I heard a commotion-” He caught sight of George on the ground and Quill against the wall. “Oh god. Ambulance. I need an ambulance,” he shouted into his walkie-talkie. “Lucy, help Mr Kipps, over there.” He knelt down by George as Lucy rushed over to Quill.

“Hey,” he greeted. His voice was faint, his breathing fast and shallow. “Did we win?”

Lucy clutched her bleeding arm with one hand, grasped Quill’s hand with the other and sat beside him against the wall.

“I don’t know,” she said, watching as Barnes felt George’s pulse and wiped blood away from his forehead. Quill squeezed her hand weakly. They huddled close together and waited for the ambulance to arrive.

“Oh, my gosh, Lucy! Are you alright?” Holly pulled Lucy into a tight hug. “Barnes called me about what happened. How are the boys?”

“George is still passed out,” Lucy told her, her voice coming out hoarse. “Quill’s been stitched up, though.”

“Is your arm alright?”

“They bandaged it up okay.”

The door to the hospital waiting room opened, and Anthony Lockwood came rushing in. “Barnes called me,” he said. “What-?” He caught sight of Lucy’s bandaged arm. His expression turned cold. “Who did this?”

“I’m fine,” Lucy told him. “The boys are in a way worse state than me.”

Lockwood ran his fingers through his hair and cursed. “Lucy, you could have all been killed. We’re in way too deep, here.”

“That doesn’t matter now,” Lucy sighed “They got the memory stick.” She slumped down in a chair and went back to the task she’d been doing before Holly arrived. Her phone had been smashed and dented badly when she’d been thrown into a wall and was no longer working, and she was trying the get the sim card slot open, hoping that could be salvaged at least.

“I’m going to check on the boys,” Holly said.

“Flo’s already in there,” said Lucy as Holly left.

Lockwood took a seat next to her and put his head in his hands. “What are we going to do, Luce?”

Lucy didn’t reply. She’d stolen a ballpoint pen from reception and was using it to try and jimmy the sim card slot open.

“Do you have to do that now?” said Lockwood.


“Lucy, it’s just a phone. You can get another.”

“No, I-” Lucy swallowed, fixing her eyes on the phone, afraid that if she looked at Lockwood her emotions from the day would finally overflow and break. “I don’t have Skully’s number saved anywhere else,” she whispered, not expecting him to understand that after all she’d been through in the past few hours, she couldn’t lose her friend too.

Lockwood was silent. Then he held out his hand. “Let me try,” he said, gently.

She passed him the phone. His nails were much longer than hers due to her bad habit of biting them down to stubs, so he slid his nail into the crack and tugged open the slot easily. He paused, then he pulled out the sim card. The three cracked pieces of it, anyway.

Lucy stared at the pieces nestled in Lockwood’s palm. Her only form of communication with Skully, gone. She started crying.

“I’m so sorry, Luce,” Lockwood whispered, shuffling closer and pulling her into his chest. She clutched his shirt, letting her tears flow freely, needing to let out every bit of pain she’d experienced when she watched her friends get hurt by those horrible people. She sobbed until her tears dried up, until her breathing evened out, then stayed holding onto Lockwood for a few moments longer, breathing in the scent of laundry detergent and fresh tea bags as he held her close. “It’s going to be okay.”

Lucy listened to those words and felt a cold, stony determination settle in her heart. It was going to be ok. She’d make sure of it. No matter what, Marissa Fittes would pay for hurting her friends.

Lucy, Quill, and George had been questioned by the police about their attackers and informed that the policed department would do everything in their power to detain the men responsible.

George’s mother took him home with her once he was discharged from the hospital, so it was a few days before they saw him again, and when they did his bruises had darkened to ugly purple and yellow welts, which he said looked a lot worse than they were. His gate was stiff and awkward as they walked him from his mother’s car back up to the uni house.

“Take good care of him!” Mrs Cubbins called after them.

They gathered in the kitchen and Holly fussed about making tea. “I can’t believe she’s going to get away scot-free after what she did,” she seethed, almost cracking the teapot as she slammed it heavily on the table.

“Oh, I wouldn’t give up so soon, Hol,” George said, helping himself to one of the doughnuts that Lockwood had bought specially as a welcome back present.

Quill frowned at him. “Are you saying me getting stabbed wasn’t completely for nothing?”

George smiled. “Oh, I always have a back-up plan, Quill,” he said. “In fact, he should be here any minute.”

“He?” said Lucy.

There was a knock at the door. Lucy slipped out of her seat and went to answer it.

“Was my dramatic entrance on time?”

Lucy stared. The spiky hair, dark eyes and mischievous grin she only vaguely recognised from the party, but she’d definitely heard that voice before.


“Hey, Luce! I think you looked better in the skeleton getup.”

She tackled him with a hug. “What are you doing here?!”

“Georgie boy invited me.”

Lucy turned and stormed back into the kitchen. “YOU KNEW SKULLY’S NUMBER AND YOU DIDN’T TELL ME?”

George seemed a little startled. “Um… Surprise?”

“And you!” Lucy whirled around to point an accusing finger at Skully. “You are adding me on facebook or something so this doesn’t happen again.”

Skully shrugged. “Fine by me.”

“You have it all set up?” George asked him.

“Ready to go,” Skully replied, pulling out a laptop from his bag and taking a seat at the kitchen table.

“What’s going on?” said Lockwood, looking between George and Skully. His eyes settled on Skully for a moment, then widened in recognition. “You’re the guy from the party. Matrix guy.”

“‘Matrix guy’ is my full name, yes,” said Skully.

“You told me to-” Lockwood started, then cut off.

“What?” said Lucy.


“Will someone please explain what’s going on,” said Quill impatiently.

“Well,” George started, “I knew from Lucy, here, that Skully was good with computers - better than I was anyway - so when I found all that juicy stuff on Marissa’s computer and figured the memory stick wouldn’t be enough evidence, I got his number from Lucy’s phone and asked him to program a little virus.”

“And what exactly will this virus do?” said Lockwood curiously.

“Oh, nothing much,” said George, “just release all of Marissa’s files into the good old internet, and automatically email them to everyone on her contacts list, which should be the entire student population and staff.” He helped himself to another doughnut.

“But how are you going to get it into her computer?” said Holly.

“Oh, please,” said Skully, tapping away at the keyboard of his laptop. “The software she uses is so easy to hack into. You still owe me that fifty quid for this, Cubbins.”

George’s smile faded a little. “I might need to borrow fifty pounds,” he said to Lockwood in a hushed voice. Lockwood sighed but nodded.

“If I hit enter, these files go live,” Skully announced. “You sure you wanna do this?”

They all exchanged looks. Not only had Marissa Fittes seen to it that we were beaten and bloodied, she’d taken away money from the people who really needed it for her own selfish purposes. They couldn’t let her get away with those crimes any longer. Lucy saw in her friends’ eyes the same stubborn determination she felt.

“Do it,” she said.

Skully hit enter.

A crowd of students watched from the window of the main university building as Marissa Fittes was lead away in handcuffs. A new vice-chancellor was instated over the Easter holidays, and disability funding returned to those who needed it along with much-deserved compensation.

After interrogating Marissa Fittes, and using fingerprints found on one of the men’s discarded knives, the police had managed to track down most of the men, including, to the group’s delight, the moustached man and his stocky sidekick.

Lockwood wasn’t featured on the pages of any newspapers, much to his disappointment, as the leaked files had been put down to an accidental virus. Lucy, Quill, and George were mentioned as heroic students who stood up to a group of formidable muggers, however, and Quill was very smug about it.

To everyone’s disdain, exams were not cancelled, and the students were forced to still battle through late night study sessions despite their protests of how ‘traumatised’ they were from the shock of Fittes’ misdeeds coming out. Lucy and her friends managed to scrape on through and came out the other side still kicking, despite their severe lack of sleep and their blood being now 90% caffeine.

“Are any of you going to the summer ball?” Holly asked them one night, while they celebrated the end of exams with a Mario Kart marathon. “Lucy, I found a dress that would look lovely on you!”

“We might as well go,” said Lockwood. “It’ll be fun! How about it, Luce?”

Lucy fired a red shell in George’s direction and spurted past him across the finish line. “Sounds fun,” she said as George cursed loudly.

(19:34) If I invite you as my plus one to the summer ball will you actually speak to me this time?

(19:38) Oooh a date? I’m so flattered! UwU

(19:39) Oh look at that I’ve changed my mind and you’re uninvited.



(19:41) Fine.

(19:41) You have to wear a suit.

(19:42) Ok but when everyone faints at the sight of how attractive I am remember it’s your fault.

The day of the ball rolled around. Lucy sat cross-legged on the floor in her bedroom in front of the mirror while Holly did her makeup for her.

“You taking anyone special to the ball, Hol?” Lucy asked her.

Holly shrugged. “There’s this girl who works with Barnes part-time. She’ll be my new flatmate next year. I invited her to get to know her.”

Lucy smiled. “Is she pretty?”

Holly flushed. “I suppose.” She put down the blush brush and adjusted Lucy’s hair a little. “There. I think you’re ready.”

Lucy looked in the mirror and blinked. She had to admit, Holly had done a good job of making her look semi-decent. Her short hair was ever so slightly curled, forming elegant beachy waves. Her skin looked flawless, her eyeliner on point, the eyeshadow somehow bringing out the green in her eyes.

“You look stunning, Lucy,” Holly told her.

She felt it. For once in her life, she really felt beautiful. If only her mother could see her now.

“I’ll wait downstairs while you change into your dress,” Holly said, before slipping out of the room.

The dress Holly had picked out for her was simple but elegant. A deep midnight blue with minuscule white flecks embroidered over the bodice to mimic stars. She tugged it on and attempted to zip up the back, but couldn’t quite reach to zip it all the way. There was a light knock the door.

“Come in,” Lucy called, thinking it was Holly and that she’d help her with her dress. Instead, Lockwood walked through the door.

“Hey, I’ve been meaning to- Oh. Need some help?”

“Um, yes please,” said Lucy, feeling her face heat as Lockwood came up behind her and did the zipper up, his fingers lightly tickling the bare skin on her back, lingering for a few moments longer than necessary. “What did you come to say?”

“Oh.” Lockwood fumbled with something in his pocket. “This… um…”

“LOCKWOOD!” George called from downstairs. “OUR PARENTS ARE HERE TO TAKE PICTURES!”

Lockwood swallowed. “Right. I… I should go and say hello.” He pressed something into Lucy’s hand. “Wear this tonight,” he told her.

As he disappeared through the doorway, Lucy looked down at the object in her hand; a black velvet box. Carefully, she opened the lid and gasped when she caught sight of the object within. A necklace of shimmering, polished silver, the circles of interlocking metal tiny and delicate, with a teardrop-shaped pendant encrusted with a single diamond. It was with shaking hands that she tied the chain around her neck before heading down the stairs to join the others.

Lockwood’s sister, Jessica, had come too, it seemed, and had Lockwood’s cheeks smushed between her hands when Lucy reached the bottom of the stairs.

“Aww, isn’t my ickle baby brother so cute with his fancy suit that actually fits!”

“Geroff!” Lockwood complained, swiping her hands away.

“Leave the boy be, Jess,” their father, Donald, chastised. He was fiddling about with a digital camera. “We don’t want his cheeks all red in the photo.”

Lockwood’s mother, Celia, spied Lucy at the foot of the stairs. “Oh, don’t you look lovely? I see Anthony gave you the necklace. Belonged to my mother, you know?”

“Did he actually give it to you or just thrust it into your hands and run away?” Jessica asked.

“The second one,” Lucy admitted.

“Anthony, that’s no way to treat a lady,” Donald scolded. “When I first tried to woo your mother-”

“Please don’t,” said Lockwood, face glowing scarlet.

George’s mother stood nearby, fussing over her son. “George, look at the state of you! Do at least try to keep your shirt tucked in.”

Mum,” George complained, “stop fussing. You’re acting like this is the prom all over again.”

“It’s a ball, dear.”

“They just call it that,” George told her. “When really it’s just a bunch of kids dressing in fancy clothes, going to a nightclub and getting drunk.”

“Responsibly, I hope,” Mrs Cubbins said, raising an eyebrow.

“Yes, mum.”

The adults - well, adultier adults - ushered them all - Lucy, Lockwood, George, Holly, and Quill -  out into the overgrown garden and made them all group together while pictures were taken. It was a good thing Flo was late, because when she turned up it was in baggy overalls and a ratty hoodie, insisting they were her best clothes. Holly almost had an aneurysm.

The ball was held at the uni-owned nightclub. A live band played cheesy nineties music that Lucy actually recognised, buffets were laid out on long tables that George immediately made a detour for.

Skully met them in the doorway. In all fairness, he did look quite handsome in his dark green dress shirt with the sleeves rolled back, and several people giggled as he went past. He insisted on having a dance with Lucy, seen as he was her ‘date’, but, as it turned out, Skully’s idea of dancing was grabbing Lucy’s hands, spinning her around in a wide circle with increasing velocity, and releasing her suddenly so she crashed into a cluster of rugby players, who were actually rather nice and made sure she was okay before letting her go to chase Skully through the crowd, shouting insults at him as she went.

Lucy took a few twirls around the dance floor with both Quill and Holly, before joining George at the buffet table for some food. She leaned against the wall next to George and ate a sausage roll, watching the crowd for glimpses of her friends. She caught sight of Holly a few times, spinning around the dance floor with a pretty girl, smile wide and face flushed. Flo milled about on the sidelines, looking suspicious as usual, and Quill stood by the door that led to the patio outside, face bright red as he spoke to a handsome gentleman. Skully leaned against the wall by the band stage, shamelessly flirting with a crowd of people who all seemed very giggly.

“Not gonna dance, George?” Lucy asked her friend as she swallowed her last bite of sausage roll.

“I’m not the dancing type,” he replied.

“I am.”

Lucy looked up. Lockwood smiled down at her and held out his hand. “Care for a dance, Luce?”

She felt her face flush and glanced back at George. “Don’t record this.”

“Can’t promise anything,” he said with a grin.

Lucy placed her hand in Lockwood’s and let him tug her over to the dance floor, where the music changed suddenly to something much slower. Lucy looked towards the band, and caught sight of Skully giving her a slow and atrocious wink. She was going to kill him later.

Lockwood cleared his throat. “Let’s just go with it, shall we?” He placed a hand on her waist and tugged her closer to him, using his other hand to take hers. She placed her free hand on his shoulder, and together they swayed in time to the music.

“Quite the uni year, huh?” said Lucy, trying to defuse the tension a little.

Lockwood grinned. “Just a bit.”

“We were quite good at the whole criminal justice thing, though.”

Lockwood nodded. “We should open up an agency when we graduate. Criminal investigators.” He grinned down at her. “‘Lockwood and Company’. What do you think?”

“That sounds ridiculous,” Lucy laughed.

They swayed some more in silence, content with each other’s company. Lucy took her hand from Lockwood’s so she could wrap both arms around his neck. He pulled her in a little closer.

“Thanks for the necklace, by time way.”

“Just something I had,” Lockwood replied.

“Your parents put you up to it?”

Lockwood smiled. “I might have asked them for some advice.”

“Aww, you old romantic, you,” Lucy teased, nudging him lightly on the shoulder.

“I’m not so good with the words when it comes to stuff like this,” Lockwood admitted.

“I think you’re better than you think you are.”

He smiled down at her, dark eyes twinkling brightly in the lights that danced around them. “You look beautiful, Lucy.”

“You can thank Holly,” Lucy said, shrugging.

He tilted her chin up slightly with the tips of his fingers so she met his eyes. “You always looks beautiful,” he told her, sincerely.

Then he leaned down and kissed her.